While most of us will admit to the numerous advantages of visiting the gym (socializing, а motivational environment, varied equipment, etc.), having your own home gym is an undeniable convenience.
It saves you the commute, gives you the liberty to work out whenever you desire, and last but not least – simply to enjoy a more peaceful and comfortable environment.
An investment like that might be costly but nevertheless worth it. Once you decide to go for it, you need to be very smart and efficient with the way you utilize your (oftentimes) limited space.
For me, as a trainer, a well-rounded workout plan consists of strength training with free weights, a diversity of movement patterns and exercises, as well as conditioning and mobility work.
So, how do you even go about achieving all that at home? Here are the top 5 equipment pieces that no home gym should be without:
1. Squat rack, equipped with a barbell and weight plates
The foundation of every good program lies in resistance training and compound movements, such as the back/front squat, shoulder press, deadlift, etc.
To be able to safely and conveniently do all these movements, you need a squat rack.
I find the bumper plates to be the best option for a home gym, not only because they make less noise when they contact the ground, but also because you can safely drop the loaded bar on the ground, whenever you need it, without the risk of damaging them or your gym floor.
Furthermore, it’s a good idea to look into squat racks with a pull-up bar – another great addition to a well-rounded fitness program.
There’re no two opinions on this – dumbbells are incredibly versatile and there are tons of workouts you can do with just a single set of them (or even just a single dumbbell).
You might find yourself tempted to go for the ones with adjustable weights, and while that feature is certainly a convenience, they are usually not the most comfortable to work with.
The clips, that keep the weights locked in, get worn out over time, which leads to noisy dumbbells and the need to constantly readjust the clips.
A much better option is the rubber-coated dumbbells that come in a hex shape. Start with at least 2-3 sets, each in a different weight range for the different exercises you will be doing.
If you’re willing to further splurge – a kettlebell or two could add even more variety to your workouts.
3. Jump rope
Yes, simple as that – a jump rope.
Skipping is an extremely beneficial conditioning exercise that you can basically do anywhere.
You can incorporate it in your HIIT workouts, in your Tabata workouts, or just do it on its own.
Rope jumping develops your coordination, improves your endurance, and challenges your cardiovascular system so that it burns more calories than most regular cardio workouts.
There are tons of good options on the market – speed ropes, leather ropes, weighted handles ropes, etc.
Look for the ones that give you the option to easily adjust its length.
Speed ropes are a great challenge, as they force you to push your pace, and once you get comfortable with a faster jumping speed, you can take this further and practice double-unders (the rope makes not just one but two passes per jump).
They are not as hard as you might think!
4. Mobility set
When you train regularly, mobility work and recovery play a huge role in keeping your body injury- and pain-free.
What do you include in a mobility set?
A resistance band, which you can also use for assisted pull-ups, a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, and possibly a self-massage stick.
Myofascial release is an alternative therapy that you can perform by yourself.
It gained a lot of popularity in recent years and for a good reason.
Tools like the foam roller and the lacrosse ball help you put soft, sustained pressure on shortened or contracted muscles.
The technique is an efficient way to relax the muscles, improve the blood and lymphatic circulation, restore motion, and reduce pain.
If you are new to this, start with a relatively soft and smooth foam roller before upgrading to a firmer one with more texture.
There are tons of helpful tutorials out there, which can show you how to properly use all of these recovery tools.
5. Rowing machine
There is no cardio machine that can simultaneously work your lower and upper body, better than the rower.
In case you are not familiar with it: this machine, as the name suggests, simulates watercraft rowing as if you were actually sitting in a boat on the water.
The only difference is that you can do it safely and comfortably in your garage or spare room.
Unlike any other cardio machine, the rower provides you with both a calorie-burning cardiovascular workout and with a whole-body resistance training that involves nearly every muscle group – from the legs to the shoulders.
This makes it an outstanding way to lose weight and build muscle in a safe, low-impact way.
There are countless options on the market, so there is a lot to consider before buying one. Unsurprisingly, high quality comes at a price.
Some of the factors that you need to take into account are:
1) the form of resistance they provide (air, water, magnetic);
2) the comfort level (of the seat, the footpads);
3) the noise level (it’s a personal preference thing, some people like them noisier);
4) the row monitor; and lastly
5) the price.
Although rowers are usually on the expensive side, there are a lot of good options out there that come at a more budget-friendly price.