Fancy connected home gym systems that cost more than a mortgage payment are all the rage right now. But there is also value in going back to the basics with simple and inexpensive equipment that can add an extra challenge to home workouts.
Whether you’re on a budget or don’t have room for a large piece of equipment, there are plenty of effective options with an affordable price tag.
According to personal trainer and weight-loss coach Stephanie Mansour, sometimes it’s the basic tools that can really help supercharge a workout, especially if you are just getting back into a workout routine.
“I recommend smaller, more affordable fitness equipment to people who are just getting into working out and don’t want to invest in a pricier at-home fitness piece of equipment,” said Mansour. “These smaller options are great because they give you more variety in your workout. They also give you the opportunity to discover what form of exercise you like best without being restricted to one piece of equipment.”
Here are some expert picks for at-home fitness equipment that will help take your workout to the next level — without breaking the bank.
“Resistance bands are one of my favorite types of at-home fitness equipment because they’re lightweight, portable and can be used for various forms of exercise,” said Mansour.
Karena Wu, physical therapist and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York City and India, said that bands help target the upper and lower body, and can be used to isolate muscles as well as perform exercises that engage multiple muscle groups and joints like lunges and squats.
Free weights are “great for strength training to increase muscle mass,” said Wu, adding that they can fit into any routine regardless of your fitness level, since you can find them as light as one pound and as heavy as 50+. To start, Mansour recommends finding a weight that is comfortable for you and trying arm strength exercises like bicep curls or lateral raises.
A jump rope is a “great cardiovascular exercise equipment that travels easily,” said Wu. “It allows for continuous and increased exercise intensity while being stationary (versus running, swimming or cycling).”
“Jump roping is great for improving cardiovascular health and endurance,” agreed Mansour. “If you’re a beginner, try starting off slow. As you improve, there are plenty of moves to make jump roping more exciting.”
“This is an excellent piece of equipment for stretching and stability training,” said Wu. “This ball can be used under the body or can be held to add slight weight and stability throughout a motion.” Mansour recommends placing them against the wall and using them for wall sits. “Using exercise balls as a chair can help improve balance and posture. They’re also great for core training,” she said.
“These are fun to work on stability, flexibility and eccentric strength,” said Wu. “Control of the sliding disc while lengthening the muscle tissue is key and can help build up strength faster than shortening contractions.” Mansour uses sliding discs to turn certain exercises into a full-body workout. “Try putting one under each foot while performing mountain climbers or side lunges. You’ll need to engage your core to keep your balance,” she said. You may notice more soreness after adding discs to your routine, said Wu, but you will get stronger faster!
“This versatile piece of equipment can be used for mobility exercises of joints and soft tissue (muscles/tendons), as well as stability training,” said Wu. Mansour uses a foam roller to release muscle tension after a hard workout. “I recommend placing the foam roller under your calves (or whatever area has knots), placing your hands on the mat behind you, and using your arms to roll your calves over the foam.”
“This is my new favorite piece of exercise equipment,” said Wu. “ It works multiple muscle groups, in addition to the core for stability.” Mansour often incorporates kettlebells into routines for herself and her clients. “My go-to move for this piece of equipment is the kettlebell swing, which helps improve arm strength and cardiovascular endurance,” she said.
“Ankle and wrist weights are the perfect addition to any workout — you can add them to your walking or core routine for an extra strength training workout,” said Mansour. They are also a great addition to basic strength exercises, said Wu. And a few pounds will do the trick: “Since they are on the ends of the limbs and due to physics, you can get away with lighter weights while still getting a good core and limb workout,” Wu said.
You don’t have to be a yogi to justify adding a yoga block to your home gym. “Yoga blocks make certain yoga moves safer and more accessible. This is perfect for beginners who want to try out new moves, but may be too afraid to go for it,” said Mansour.
“It assists in limited range of motion by adding space to maintain a position,” said Wu. “It also can be used to hold a limb in place (held between the hands/knees/ankles) which activates muscles as you do another exercise that moves a different body part.” For example, holding a block between your knees while performing crunches to work the inner thighs.