Thursday, October 15, 2009

Building your home gym

I've had a few consultations recently where people tell me they have equipment at home and they usually own a pair of fixed 3 lb pink dumbbells and an incline bench for crunches. I always wonder how people think it's possible to get in decent shape with these next to nothing, and sometime even possibly dangerous pieces of equipment.

Just last night I was at a sports store, buying an adjustable dumbbell for my friend's birthday, and I saw this lady confused, trying to pick up dumbbells to take home. I asked her if she needed help and she said she doesn't know what to get. After I explained to her that adjustable dumbbells are wayy more cost effective than fixed once, she informed me she just wants to 'get in shape' and buying anything over 3 lbs is not necessary. I politely excused myself.

The convenience of training at home, especially if you are busy, or a work at home person, or a mom with a small baby on her hands, are innumerable. You don't waste time in commute, you don't have to fight for space in the gym during the busy times, and you can definitely not care what anyone thinks of your style of training. Of course, some people outgrow their home gyms, whether emotionally or physically, and they move on to the commercial gym, but wait, not yet.

At home, I personally own a set of resistance bands, a 16 kg kettlebell, and a mat. In a perfect world, a swiss ball would be a nice addition, but I do just fine with what I have, given that I normally train at a gym and I use the stuff at home to make up for a day lost in work.

Let's assume you don't own anything at home, but would like to start your home gym today.
If you are new to the world of bodyweight and total body training, you will need:

1. A mat: to comfortably lay on

2. A set of resistance bands: I recommend getting a set like this one

3. A swiss ball for your height (an inflated one should be slightly taller than your knee height)

4. A set of adjustable dumbbells. I must say that the Bowflex ones are my favorites, if the most cost ineffective.

5. A foam roller and a few tennis balls

6. A jump rope or a step to jump on

If you are a bit more advanced, installing a pull up bar and investing in a couple of kettlebells should set you on the right track for future fitness.

Of course, a home gym grows as your needs do, so start one thing at a time and build happily ever after. I would love to hear what everyone has at home beyond the bare essentials.


  1. Nice article!

    I have an adjustable DB set. I like the ones with the plates because you can add more plates for about half a dollar per pound.

    A jumprope

    A chinup bar

    A medicine ball

    A foam roller

    One kettlebell is a great thing to have around for cardio, even if swings is all you ever use it for.

    Unfortunately, most people either think they need to spend a ton on equipment OR that a set of 3 pound dumbbells is all they need. :)

  2. Hmmmmmm,I've been wondering what I would need to get a good workout in at home as I'm not too thrilled with taking my infant to the YMCA daycare (do they REaLLY clean the toys/chairs/bouncers there???? I doubt it) during the flu season. Great article!

    I think the only thing I'm missing is the bands. I have a foam roller, stability ball (big enough? not sure), some kettlebells (small, not sure the weight), and I can lay on the rug. Some of this is at my parents house three doors down...what a commute!! Ha!


  3. This is awesome, dear.
    By the way, the addition of the rope and the foam roller is a good step up in gym development. A medicine ball is the next to follow :)

  4. Jump rope is a good addition.

    I have told many people a swiss ball and a set of dbs is a great cheap set-up that will allow them to do a fair bit.

    I have always liked the concept of adjustable DBs, but always found the bowlfex ones (the only decent ones I have tried) to be quite bulky.

    I will agree that are more cost effective, but I wonder if something like powerblocks might be less bulky?

    That all being said, I have a serious motivation problem working out at home.

  5. You know, many of my clients like me to work out with them at home, mainly because they lack the motivation. I find that they get distracted a lot. Phone, email, cooking, multitasking.
    It might be helpful to write out a plan then carry it out without paying attention to anything around you. I find that practice makes perfect here, the more you successfully train at home and appreciate the time you saved traveling to and from the gym, the more you are propelled to do it.

    Re the bowflex, I find them a lot more versatile than the powerblocks, simply because of the way your hand fits in the powerblock. The BF is easy to hold even for explosive stuff.


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