Build your home gym
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Getting gym equipment names straight can be tough and daunting. Was that a TreadClimber or an elliptical, a recumbent or upright bike?
When designing a home gym, it’s important to get the right equipment for your training goals and for the available space. While there are plenty of exercises that can be done with minimal equipment, building a home gym—whether big or small—is a great way to stay on top of health goals or maintain a regular workout routine that incorporates resistance training.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 25 common pieces of gym equipment so that you can design the best home gym to meet your training goals.
Free weights, or dumbbells, allow an individual to exercise in all three planes of motion and can be used for upper, lower, and full body work. A standard dumbbell rack allows for two rows of dumbbells to be stored easily against a wall, and some manufacturers have started to offer dumbbell weight systems that are interchangeable to add or remove weight between exercises.
A full set will likely cost $120–$500, and the weight rack might come at an additional charge. Of course, you don’t need a full set in order to get started in your home gym—it may be enough to purchase a few pairs of free weights at appropriate levels to conduct the exercises in your training plan.
An adjustable bench is a very simple piece of gym equipment—and is also highly versatile. Typically associated with free weight exercises, an adjustable bench can also be used for a variety of power exercises that focus on explosivity and performance, such as Russian Step-Ups. Adjustable benches range from $80–$545. Test before you purchase—you’ll want to check for stability, ease of adjustment, and comfort.
A power rack is an important piece of equipment for anyone seeking to complete any type of olympic lift. Power racks can be used for a variety of squats, deadlifts, barbell bench presses, and overhead presses. They’re an important part of a home gym because they provide a built-in safety feature with adjustable safety bars that can be installed when attempting a maximum weight lift.
While there are half-squat racks on the market that would take up less space in your home gym and are less costly, if you’re investing in a home gym, a power rack is the preferred option. Expect to spend $600–$800 just on the rack.
While barbells are made in a variety of lengths and weights, the standard is the olympic barbell, which weighs 45 pounds. Using weight plates, barbells can be loaded with a high amount of total weight. Weighted barbells are useful for barbell bench presses, barbell front and back squats, olympic squats, deadlifts, and a variety of power exercises that improve vertical jump height.
Plates weigh in at 2.5, 5, 10, 25, 35, and 45 pounds. You’ll also want to invest in weight clamps—these secure the weight against the barbell and ensure that the weight load does not shift in the middle of a lift. Together, you can find good quality sets for $220–$408.
If the space and budget allows, a cable pulley machine or cable cross machine could be an excellent investment. These machines require a significant amount of lateral space and are best used without other equipment stored within a six-to-eight foot circle from the center of the machine.
A cable machine is incredibly versatile and allows for a variety exercises to be completed, enhancing overall fitness better than individualized weight training machines. Some manufacturers now offer a smaller cable machine that can fit into a corner of a room, which may be worth considering, but a traditional cable crossover machine will not fit laterally into the space. Models run between $600–$2,150.
A home gym system is a piece of equipment that allows for an individual to complete a resistance training program in the comfort of their own home. The main benefit of a home gym system is that only one piece of equipment is necessary to complete basic and often complex resistance training exercises—saving valuable floor space.
Home gym systems, like any piece of exercise equipment, are an investment and require ample space within your house. Some include weight plates, cables, bands, and rods, while others rely solely on body weight. Manufacturers claim that 20–100 different exercises can be completed on home gym systems.
Whole body vibration (WBV) is still unfamiliar to many fitness professionals and exercisers, but can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. WBV was used to prepare Russian cosmonauts for space travel. The exercise imposes unique stress on the body through oscillations delivered by a centralized motor, forcing physiological responses.
While traditional resistance training uses mass to increase force application, WBV uses increased acceleration. Exercise on WBV machines has been found to increase peripheral blood flow without altering skeletal muscle oxygenation. While WBV has not been found to increase bone mass density, the machines have been found to help prevent falls, likely through increasing balance and proprioceptive response in everyday environments. Simple WBV balance pads cost $70–$120 and full WBV machines run $196–$9,500.
If you invest in free weights, barbell and weight plates, and a power rack, you’ll have the capacity to complete a wide variety of lower and full body exercises. To add additional lower body work, invest in a high quality plyometric box, or “plyo box.” The best boxes are rectangular rather than trapezoidal and offer three different heights—12 in., 14 in., and 16 in., or 20 in., 24 in., and 30 in.—and are extremely sturdy.
In addition to exercises such as the box jump or the depth jump, plyo boxes can be used to assist dips and pushups and to conduct calf raises, rear-foot elevated dumbbell split squats, and more.
If you have limited space or budget, consider investing in an over-the-door pull-up bar or chin-up rack from $25–$60. Pull-ups and chin-ups are an excellent exercise to develop strength in the biceps, latissimus dorsi (lats), and the stabilizing muscles of the shoulders. Pull-ups isolate the latissimus dorsi.
Pair your over-the-door chin-up rack with a dip station, which often does not require a lot of space and costs between $40–$200. Dips are excellent for developing the triceps, anterior deltoid, pectoralis, and rhomboids. In a pinch, dips can be done using a ledge, chair, or even a plyo box.
Another option that facilitates dips, pull-ups, and chin-ups, is to invest in a pull-up tower or dip-assist machine. If space and budget allow, you may wish to invest in one of these pieces of equipment. Pull-up towers range from $800–$1,500 and assisted machines range from $2,750–$3,175.
A standard for cardiorespiratory fitness, a treadmill can help burn calories and increase heart rate. Typically easy to adjust to specific training speeds or to begin pre-set programs, treadmills offer an exerciser the simplicity of putting on running or walking shoes, pushing a button, and beginning a workout.
These workouts are often high-impact, meaning that both feet leave the ground at the same time resulting in additional stress being placed on the joints along the lower extremities in the kinetic chain. Treadmills range from $549–$4,000.
Elliptical machines provide a low-impact and effective cardiorespiratory workout. Elliptical training results in greater activation of the glute muscles and thighs compared to walking at the same intensity, but less activation of the muscles in the calf and ankle. Ellipticals range from $400–$2,200.
Cycling on an exercise bicycle provides a low-impact, effective cardiorespiratory workout. Exercise bikes can make great additions to a home gym as they require little space, are easy to use, and provide ample health benefits.
Rowing machines provide full body workouts that enhance cardiorespiratory fitness. Rowing strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, back, shoulders, and arms, as well as the muscles of the core. Rowing is increasing in popularity, and rowing machines can be an excellent addition to a home gym. Prices range from $180–$900. Here’s everything you need to know about the best rowing machines.
Whether or not you plan to do any yoga in your home gym, a padded mat or yoga mat is critical. Mats require little space and can help provide cushion when doing bodyweight exercises like push-ups. They’re also great for stretching, foam rolling, and complete core exercises. These will range from $10–$100. Try a few to determine what size and thickness is appropriate.
The BOSU is an excellent addition to a home gym. The equipment will add challenging balance and stability components to a variety of weighted and bodyweight exercises. Expect to invest $100–$180.
The simplicity and versatility of resistance bands makes them a great addition to a home gym. Because they offer resistance, they can be strapped to a bench, anchor point, or door, and can be used for a wide variety of exercises. Resistance bands can be used instead of free weights, and are a great option for home gyms because they’re lightweight, easy to store, and versatile.
Resistance bands have also been found to increase performance compared to heavier weighted training options. Pricing ranges from $17–$120, depending on manufacturer and package.
Also known as a yoga ball or Swiss ball, the stability ball is an excellent addition to a home gym. When used correctly, stability balls build strength and endurance in the smaller, stabilizing muscles of the body like the transverse abdominis.
Stability balls are excellent for core stability, strength, and balance. A Swiss ball can also be used to add instability and difficulty to a variety of exercises that are typically done on an adjustable bench, such as the dumbbell pec fly or dumbbell bench press.
Foam rollers are the preferred piece of equipment for self-myofascial tissue release (SMR). Foam rolling can help stimulate golgi tendon organs within muscle fibers, triggering a reflexive release of chemicals that help muscles relax.
When used properly, foam rollers are believed to increase muscle flexibility and range of motion and decrease recovery time. Foam rollers will range from $12–$100. Try out a few to see which might work best for you. High-density foam rollers are recommended, as they will hold their shape longer.
If you’re not able to invest in a dip station but still wish to focus on triceps, a tricep bar is an excellent addition. When you use a barbell to work triceps, your grip would be limited. A tricep bar is built specifically to work the triceps. You can also use this bar for bicep curls and front raises, as well as the overhead press. This will range from $32–$200—consider investing on the low end of the cost range.
This piece of equipment forces focus on stabilizing balance and developing strength using body weight. If space is at a premium and you can’t invest in a power rack, adjustable bench, free weights, or a home gym system, the TRX or other suspension trainer might be a good option. The TRX was developed by a former Navy SEAL and can be easily installed in a home gym using an over-the-door attachment or wall mount. Expect to pay $170–$300.
An ancient strength-training modality, the kettlebell is an iron ball with a handle that can be used in dynamic motions to enhance strength and power. Kettlebells come in a variety of weights and take up relatively little space in a home gym. Expect to pay $1.39–$1.89 per pound for your kettlebells. A starting set will run $175–$250.
Dense, weighted balls used for rotational core exercises, floor balance exercises, and throws, medicine balls can be a good addition to a home gym. Price range is $25–$40 per ball.
Weighted vests don’t require a lot of space—they can be kept on a strong hanger in a closet when not in use—and offer an easy way to increase resistance while completing pull-ups, push-ups, and squats. Nearly every body weight exercise can be made more challenging with a weighted vest. Expect to spend $30–$275, depending on quality, weight, and fit.
A great home gym promotes regular exercise and short- and long-term health outcomes. But what equipment is essential, and how should you set up your space?
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