The 5 Essential Home Gym Requirements

I’m often asked what the best home gym equipment is. Even today I was asked by a new client if he should get weights for his home. Many people, whether due their budget or schedule, choose to work out at home rather than in a gym that requires a membership. This is totally doable, the issue is however that your home often isn’t equipped anywhere near as well as your local gym. However, you would be surprised how much equipment at the gym is either unnecessary or non-essential to strength training.

So to save you some space (and hopefully some money), here are my top picks for home gym equipment.

1.    Weight Bench/Stability ball – Okay, I’m cheating a bit by including two items here. But in this case they’re both going to be used for the same thing, that thing being a surface for free weight exercises. A stability ball can be substituted for many exercises requiring a bench. You can bench press, overhead press, dumbbell row, seated row, and split squat on a stability ball. Using a stability ball will also add an extra element of core training (hence stability ball). Stability balls are also easier to store than a bench and allow for unique core exercises and squats that can only be done with a stability ball. However a solid bench will be better for overall strength. While it will be bulkier, it will provide a more stable surface for training with heavier weights (allowing you to really focus on strength), and will assist in many lower body exercises such as step ups and box squats that a stability ball cannot. So take your pick as to which suits your home and goals best.

2.    Adjustable Dumbbells- So your ultimate goal usually in home training is to save money and space. The best way to do this is focus on dumbbell training over barbells. They’re easier to store and won’t also require a squat rack to train with. There’s all manner of adjustable dumbbells. Vinyl sets sell for pretty cheap, often going from 5-25lbs for $20-$30 a set. There’s the standard spinning screw lock dumbbells which can come in sets of anywhere from 25 to 100lbs. These are usually a more affordable way to lift heavier weight, just always be sure to check that the screw is fastened tight. Then there are the more expensive and popular brand name sets. These each offer their own strengths and weaknesses too and come in sets that range from anywhere to 45lbs, 55lbs, 75lbs, 90lbs, 120lbs, and even 165lbs! The set we have at OrthoCore I chose for its durability and design. They were a pretty penny but they are shaped like traditional dumbbells, and made from interlocking iron plates and flat steel screws. When my studio was smaller, this allowed me to use dumbbells from 5-120lbs and take up incredibly little room. So find a set that fits your goals and budget!

3.    Suspension Trainer- Some people refer to these as “TRX”, however the name of the piece of equipment is a suspension trainer. TRX just happens to be a popular brand for this equipment. However, the TRX is pricey. The clinic at OrthoCore and my old studio uses a variant that is just as versatile and more than half the price. A suspension trainer is great for the way it challenged stability in the rotator cuff when you use it for inverted rows and for suspended pushups. It can also be used for a number of unique core exercises. The reason I like them the most is for their ability to help people learn squat and lunge technique by doing assisted versions of them on the suspension trainer. This is especially useful for people with poor ankle and hip stability.

4.    Resistance Bands- I don’t use resistance bands much anymore now that I train at OC Performance. But they were invaluable to me at my old studio and when I trained clients in home. The reason is that they best allow simulation of cable machine exercises. Seated rows for example, won’t be possible without either a machine or by hooking a resistance band around something that you can use to pull it from. By putting resistance bands at different heights, they can be used to simulate cable rows and presses, overhead presses, chops, twists, deltoid raises, arm isolation, and so much more. Resistance bands come in all sizes and tension levels so you can perform entire workouts with them if you so chose. I would save them for specific exercises, however, as resistance bands will wear over time and you never have an exact idea of how much resistance they are actually giving you.

5.    Foam Roller- With everything I listed above, you actually have enough equipment now to perform hundreds, more likely thousands of exercise variations that target the entire body. But how are your muscles feeling? Are they tight in some areas? Do you get knots and trigger points in them often? If you don’t, you’ll start to now that you’re strength training regularly. Stretching will help, and like certain exercises, all you’ll need to stretch is your body and know how. But to really help mobility and to work through tightness, you’ll want a good foam roller. Foam rollers attack area in the muscle deeper than a lot of static stretching will hit. This is especially important for big muscles like your lats, glutes, calves, and quads. Your lower back will love it too. Add a tennis ball to your roller to hit the small spots like under the shoulder blade.

So there you are! That’s all it takes to have your own home gym. Now obviously, more standard equipment will make your training experience even better, but say you want to be ready for days you can’t make your gym, or you’re stuck inside due to the weather, this will be more than enough equipment to give even an Olympic athlete enough to challenge themselves with. Make sure you have a good surface to exercise on too, even if it’s just a yoga mat. If not, a basement or garage setup may be ideal to prevent damage to the floors as you jump around and drop weights everywhere.

But no matter where you set up your personal training space, just make sure you don’t let all of these items gather dust. These pieces of equipment are investments in your health, so use them to make sure you have a good healthy return from them.

Keep an eye out for our blog with great exercises for this equipment!

-        Adam at OrthoCore