far my “How to use X” series has focussed on how to use various pieces of fitness equipment — from the treadmill to free weights.
Today … drum roll please … the “how to” of creating YOUR perfect home gym!
Notice the emphasis on the word your!
Stay in your own fitness lane! It does not matter what equipment your sister, friend or favourite celebrity owns — what matters is what you can afford, what you have space for, what works for YOUR body, and what you will actually use. The benefits of any piece of equipment are moot if you won’t actually use it!
Also, don’t make the common mistake of only zeroing in on cost; weigh the cost against what the piece does. All your pieces of equipment should complement one another. Every workout program should include exercises from the three pillars of fitness: strength, cardio and flexibility/mobility. (I consider the fourth pillar to be balance, but not everyone would syphon balance out as a separate pillar.) Make sure you diversify — buy equipment that allows for a balanced program.
For example, if you already have four pieces of cardiovascular equipment, a fifth is not a good deal (no matter how good the sale) because you don’t need it. Instead, spend that money on a strength piece such as free weights.
On a shoestring budget
Strength: Band ($10-$30), door frame attachment ($10), and/or your own body (free).
Cardio: Your own body! Go for a walk, jog or run, do aerobics in your living room, do high-intensity intervals such as burpees and jumping jacks, and/or dance around the house (free plus the cost of running shoes).
Mobility: Lie on a towel and/or do stretches sitting in a chair or standing (free).
Balance: Play around with closing your eyes, turning your head, and/or decreasing your base of support. Your vision is hugely related to balance. Thus, you can challenge your balance by simply closing your eyes or turning your head while you do an exercise. For example, do a lunge and at the top of the motion briefly close your eyes. Or, as you do band rows lift one leg (free).
On a two-shoestring budget
Strength: Free weights and (as always) your own body ($20 depending on the weight and number of dumbbells you need). If you need heavy weights and you don’t have a lot of space, buy “stacking weights” such as PowerBlocks that fit inside themselves.
Cardio: Skipping rope ($20-30) and use your own body to go for a walk, jog, or run, do aerobics in your living room, do high-intensity intervals such as burpees and jumping jacks, and/or dance around the house (free plus the cost of running shoes).
Mobility: A mat. The towel works … but a mat is more appealing ($20 ).
Balance: Stability ball ($30-$50 depending on size and brand). The ball is awesome because it is inexpensive and you can use it in place of a weight bench. Using an unstable ball turns your traditional strength exercises into a balance and core challenge. Try traditional strength exercises such as bench press or French press with your head and shoulders on a ball and feet on the floor.
The silver package
Strength: Free weights, a weight bench, your own body weight, and a kettlebell. I love the bell because it is a strength tool that easily crosses into the cardiovascular camp. Use it as part of your cardio interval workout. For example, try a Tabata set using the kettlebell to do the “Kettlebell Swing”. Can you say fun?! Learn about Tabata in my blog post here and the 411 on the bell in my post here.
Mobility: A mat and foam roller. I love the roller because for $30-$50 you can give yourself a full body massage AND challenge yourself with fun core and balance exercises. Boredom is the kiss of workout death. So, instead of getting bored, try exercises on a roll. Learn all about how to use it here.
The gold package (the silver package with two fun additions)
The platinum package (the gold package with an addition)
A more substantial weight machine; some iteration of a “full home gym” (cables or Bowflex, etc). The options for larger weight pieces are endless — pick the one that fits your needs and budget!
For all packages, consider investing in one or two sessions with a personal trainer; have them make sure your program matches your goals and that your form is correct. Can’t afford a trainer? Split a session with a friend and/or attend some smaller-sized group exercise classes and ask the instructor before the class to watch your form.