In an earlier post, I offered suggestions for building an inexpensive home gym and provided links to some of my online fitness programs to give you some ideas on how to get started. This post will focus on where you can find inexpensive home gym equipment as well as small portables that you can take with you when you travel.
This is typically the most expensive piece of equipment for most people and also the one that ends up doubling as a clothes hanger for the folks who give up on their exercise program after a month or two. We’re talking about treadmills, stationary bikes, ellipticals, and the occasional rowing machine. Which piece is best depends on your goals (build bone density), any health challenges (poor balance, low vision), whether you enjoy it enough to actually use it, how much space you have in your home, and your budget. The best place to shop for these larger pieces are your local fitness equipment specialty store where they arrange delivery and installation as well. For others it may be better to contact the manufacturer directly, such as Concept 2 rowing machines or the NuStep seated steppers. Options include:
Any of them (and others) will improve aerobic fitness when used at the appropriate intensity, frequency, and duration. None of them are cheap – even the poor quality ones. In my experience, most of the “home gym” pieces of equipment aren’t of good quality for someone who will use it regularly or at a more than moderate intensity, or if the individual weighs more than 300 pounds. If you’re serious about building a home gym and plan on actually using it, it’s probably cheaper in the long run to invest in commercial grade equipment – even though it can be significantly more expensive up front. They are meant to take a pounding, are made with better materials, usually have more features, and have a better warranty. You can sometimes find commercial grade equipment that has been refurbished by the manufacturer, is significantly less expensive than new, still comes with a warranty, and will typically be a better investment than a “home gym” piece.
At the least expensive end, you can buy these items online or at a sporting goods store:
- jump rope
- boxing gloves with punching bag
- group fitness style DVD’s – may be free at the local library
- walking or running shoes and go outside.
A heart rate monitor can also be helpful to keep you in your target zone for each workout. More on fitness gadgetry in another post.
Strength Training Equipment
If you’re going to buy benches for weightlifting, don’t skimp – it’s a safety issue. You have the option of benches that are fixed vs benches that are adjustable. Fixed benches are typically cheaper and more sturdy, but you’d need the money and space to buy more than one bench if you want to do flat, inclined, declined, and seated at 90 degrees exercises. Adjustable benches are more expensive, but you just need one. Be sure you get a good bench that isn’t too narrow or feels flimsy when you get on / off of it. Remember – it’s got to hold your body weight plus the weight of whatever you’re lifting.
If you’re buying benches, you’re probably also looking at free weights. While I do encounter the occasional barbell in someone’s home, most people opt for dumb bells. If you’re going to get several, you may want a set and rack to hold them to save space and avoid tripping hazards. There are also some adjustable dumb bells that can be nice space savers.
Most multi-station home gyms are expensive and not very well made. Many of the stations they include (which you don’t get to customize) are those that I almost never use with my clients. They also take considerably more space in your home than you’d think, especially for the cable attachment stations.
Fitness equipment specialty stores are the best place for buying multi-station gyms, high quality benches, and heavier dumb bells. For barbells, lifting platforms and cages you’ll need to seek out stores that sell high quality strength training equipment. Most folks that use that type of gear are going to a pro gym instead of building their own. Haven’t seen an Olympic barbell or lifting platform in anyone’s basement yet, but you can get it if you want it.
At the least expensive end, you can buy these smaller items online or at a sporting goods store:
- Elastic Bands or Tubing – also great for travel
- Ankle or Wrist Weights – some have adjustable weights
- Suspension Trainers
- Stability Balls
- Medicine Balls
If you’re considering investing in home gym equipment, consider consulting with your personal trainer before making any big purchases. Your trainer can help you decide which pieces would be most useful to help you get the results that you’re looking for while also taking into consideration your lifestyle, workout space, and budget. If you live in the Minneapolis area, feel free to consult with me before making your purchase.