You may think that the best road to getting the body you want will be to fork over a pretty penny each month for a membership at a commercial gym. But that investment just may not fit in the budget for some people, or maybe you just don't want to be hanging around a bunchy sweaty people, fighting to snag necessary equipment during peak times. Or maybe your schedule just doesn't allow for you to make it in during normal gym hours.
As much as I love being a gym rat and having access to tons of equipment (it's also my main source of social time!), sometimes going to the gym can just be a big ol' pain. Or, to be honest, I'm feeling a bit lazy and don't want to make the drive. Having a home gym can be a lifesaver in those situations. The convenience alone makes it worth every penny. And it doesn't have to break the bank.
With just a few affordable items, you can outfit your home with one heck of a personal gym. Although certain moves and loads can only be done in a regular well-equipped commercial gym or by investing quite a bit of moolah in heavy, space-hogging equipment, you'd be surprised at just how much you can accomplish with just a few key tools (bonus --- most travel well too).
Here are a few of my favorite tools for getting my sweat on:
TRX Suspension Trainer System
trxtraining.com or amazon.com
This lightweight suspension trainer can be anchored from the ceiling or with the door anchor. You can perform inverted rows, advanced planks and push-ups, chest presses, supported squats, and more. The TRX is small and lightweight enough to travel.
Mini Bands & Super Bands
performbetter.com or amazon.com
$2.50 and up
The mini bands are great for wrapping around your ankles or knees during monster walks, clamshells, squats, and more. These really get those glutes firing.
The super bands come in a wide range of strengths, and are perfect for assisted pull-ups, x-band walks, bent-over rows, lat pulls --- there is no limit to what you can use these for, and they are so lightweight that they fit in any suitcase or duffel bag for travel. I recommend starting with the 1/4" orange (5-15# resistance), 1/2" red (15-25#), and the 1/2" black (25#) for most uses. If you're looking to work on your pull-up game, try the thick 2" blue (75-100#) and above.
amazon.com, sporting goods stores
$7.95 and up, depending on brand and weight
CAP Barbell Cast Hex and SPRI Delux are two of my top picks. Pick dumbbells that feel good in your hands, as some have a rubber coated handle and some are textured and can feel a bit rough on the hands. I recommend starting with a few pairs of 5 lbs., 10 lbs., and 15 lbs. If possible, grab a 20-30 pounder for goblet squats.
DVRT Ultimate Sandbag
$79.99 and up (get 20% off this weekend with the code "change")
These bags come in multiple sizes, allowing for a range of weight to be used. I use mine for glute bridges and hip thrusts, squats, lunges, rotational movements, overhead presses, and cleans. The beauty of the sandbag is that the weight is constantly shifting, and depending on how full the bag is, no two reps are exactly the same and your core (and other muscles of course!) are working overtime to adjust. You can also add rice instead of sand to fill it up more fully with less weight to start out.
amazon.com or crossrope.com
Valeo PVC jump rope ($7.50) is a good budget option, but some fit pros recommend the Crossrope Stamina rope ($14.95 - handles are extra) for a heavier rope that gives a more consistent rope path for a better feel and response. The Crossrope also comes in multiple lengths depending on your height, making it super easy to pick the right one for you.
dragondoor.com or amazon.com
prices range widely depending on brand and weight
Choosing a good brand can be tricky, with so many out there. There are a couple of things to take into consideration. You want the handle to feel comfortable and not too smooth or too rough. If you have tiny hands like me, that's a big deal. I recommend trying a few out in person if you can, since it's an implement that can be tough on the hands. Here's an article by Breaking Muscle here comparing 4 brands, and another on how to buy and get started with the KBs.
Dragon Door is a fantastic resource for skill training, workouts, and articles, and their products are top notch. Other trainers to check out: Jen Sinkler (jensinkler.com), Neghar Fonooni (negharfonooni.com), Lauren Brooks (ontheedgefitness.com), Karen Smith (coachkarensmith.com), and Marianne Kane (myomytv.com). As far as the proper weight for swings, most women will want to start with 10 kg (~22 lbs) or 12 kg (~26 lbs).
Not only are Valslides super lightweight and small, but they add a whole new dimension to your training. Use these for reverse lunges, jackknives, mountain climbers, advanced core work, and more. Comes with a DVD and booklet to get you started.
These are just a few of my favorite toys to build your own home gym. I'm not saying that you need to run out and buy everything on the list, simply take a look at what you can afford right now and decide what's going to give you the biggest bang for your buck. And you can always add to it over time. That's the fun part. You know you've caught the lifting bug when you can't wait to add to your collection.
Happy lifting! :-)