Building a home gym on a budget? Here are the top three items you actually need!
Even though I’m personally a workout gear addict, it’s taken me a long time to build the small “home gym” gear selection that I do have. That’s because not all of us have unlimited funds or space to build a state-of-the-art home gym.
I have read many articles about building a home gym over the years. But today I was scrolling though Pinterest and I saw a Pin that said, “Home Gym Essentials.” It was a nice pin, but it was shocking how many items the Pin claimed to be essential.
It’s not unreasonable to want plenty of options so workouts don’t get boring. If space and money allows, it’s great to build a home gym featuring a wide variety of modalities. But the truth is that there are many unnecessary suggestions for building home gyms. In my opinion there are only really THREE things that you need in the most basic of home gyms. Yep, three.
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Essential VS. Extra
These words aren’t synonymous. Essential means that you need it. Extra means that they’d be nice to have. 😉 But really, to get a great workout, very little is needed. Especially if you normally still hit the gym and only use your home gym when the kids are sick, when time is constrained, etc.
One problem I see with these articles that talk about so many different home gym “essentials” is that newbies aren’t likely to use them. Either they might not know how, or they might be following a fitness plan that requires just bodyweight exercise or common modalities like dumbbells.
Problem number two is that you only tend to use what you love. To find out what you love, you have to have access to them. That means either need buying them outright or trying them at the gym first. You can go buy everything that an article tells you to without ever having used those items. But you’re likely to find out that you don’t enjoy using some of those things. That’s when dust starts to collect on them. (For example, I get bored with workout DVDs, resistance bands, and yoga.)
Are you building a home gym after having a baby? Click to read all about c-section recovery.
So the point is that while it can be fun to build an extensive home gym, you only need a few things to get started.
Home Gym Essential #1: Yoga Mat
Whether or not yoga is a part of your workout routine, a good yoga mat is in my top three no matter what. If you have hard floors, a nice, thick mat will save you time and time again. Plus, if you have kids or pets, a yoga mat will save you from crumbs and hair. If you have carpet, a yoga mat will help you stay grounded and keep you from slipping during many exercises. Use it for any type of workout. Take it outside when the weather is nice, roll it up and store it conveniently, etc. It’s just so versatile. I have a really nice, kind of spendy yoga mat because I think that paying for a durable and thick yoga mat is worthwhile. This is the exact yoga mat I have and it’s beautiful.
Home Gym Essential #2: Dumbbells
Bodyweight exercises are great for beginners. But it only takes a few weeks of consistent work before you gain enough strength to need a little extra challenge in your workouts. Adding dumbbells in is a great way to do that. I personally have three sets of dumbbells because I feel like I need different weights for different muscle groups (my arms are wimpy compared to my legs of course) but you don’t have to. One set of dumbbells that will give you a moderate increase in difficulty during workouts can go a LONG way.
I don’t suggest getting tiny weights (like 2-3 lbs each) unless you are in recovery from an accident or elderly, because you’ll just outgrow them so fast. You want to find some weights that don’t feel challenging to use until the last 1-3 repetitions you’re doing per set. So let’s say that you’re doing bicep curls. With your new set of weights, you shouldn’t feel like the curls are difficult until you get up to 8-10 reps. The “struggle” or burn shouldn’t be really prominent until you reach this point in your set. So if you have some 5lb dumbbells and you do 10 reps without any difficulty, it’s time to try 7 or 8lb dumbbells. I hope that makes sense!
I have a set of 5lb dumbells, a pair of 10lb dumbbells, and some 15 pounders. When I’m at the gym, however, I prefer 7 or 8 and 12 pound dumbbells. That’s just what seems to be “right” for me during various upper body workouts. Legs are a whole different story.
No matter what you choose, adding any extra weight is going to intensify your burn and that’s what we’re after. 🙂
Tip: There are a lot of really cute colors available when it comes to dumbbells. However, if you are an extra sweaty person like me, I recommend staying away from the neoprene or rubber-dipped sets. They get sticky and are porous so they can harbor a lot of germs. These are my favorites.
Related Reading: How to Set Realistic Fitness Goals After Having a Baby
Home Gym Essential #3: Foam Roller
Have you ever gone so hard during a workout that you were sore for four or five days after? Just three years ago, I was a regular exerciser but still a complete noob when it comes to recovery. I didn’t know how to stretch, and I definitely didn’t know anything about foam rolling.
Related Reading: Foam Rolling 101: Tips & Techniques
But foam rolling not only feels good, it can help you recover from tough workouts faster. That means you can get back to work sooner! Foam rolling supports the circulatory system and helps to loosen tight, overactive muscles. It feels like a massage. I love foam rolling so much that I use mine almost every single day. This is the foam roller I have. Bonus: Foam rolling can help keep cellulite at bay!
Home Gym Extras
Not necessary, but totally fun to have. 🙂
What are your favorite home gym essentials? Let me know by using the comment section below!