So you’re thinking about working out at home and want to know what essential home gym equipment you need. I got you covered and have even included some free home gym workouts you can use with or without equipment.
The purpose of this article is to focus on ESSENTIAL home gym equipment. While things like a stability ball, jump rope, and squat rack are great pieces of equipment I don’t consider them essential for a good basic workout.
I know, I know. Did the personal trainer and nutritionist just say a squat rack isn’t essential?
Yup, I did.
A great piece of equipment but not essential for most people looking to get a good workout in at home.
Most people I know want to build a strong and capable body. One they are confident in and doesn’t hold them back from living their best life. This can be done without any equipment. However, if getting stronger, building lean muscle, and progressing with your workouts is important some equipment will be necessary.
Read the entire article or use the table of contents to skip to sections that speak to you.
Essential Home Gym Equipment If You’re Just Starting Your Fitness Journey
If you’ve never exercised before or it’s been a while, focus on building habits and routines before purchasing any equipment. You can get in a great workout and start moving your body without having to spend a dollar.
- Establish a regular walking routine
- Practice bodyweight movements like the squat, lunge, glute bridge, push-up, and an inverted row
- If you feel ready you can start with a home bodyweight routine.
✅: Recommended reading: The beginner bodyweight workout routine
✅: Recommended reading: Bodyweight circuit workout” Progressions and regressions for all levels
You can get started with household items to add resistance and increase the level of difficulty of exercises.
A towel can be used for isometric pulldowns and rows. Pull the towel apart as hard as you can. Maintain that tension the entire time you do your reps.
Towel isometric bent over row
Towel isometric pull down
Luggage and backpacks can help with squats, lunges, deadlifts, and floor or overhead presses. Fill them with sand, books, canned items, or anything else that increases weight.
A simple routine could look like this:
- Walk every day. Don’t worry about the steps, how far, or how long. Just focus on walking every day. Eventually working your way up to 7,000 steps or more
- 2-4 days per week of a bodyweight routine like this one or this one.
✅: Recommended reading: How do I start my fitness journey: Free 12-week plan for beginners
Essential Home Gym Equipment If You Have Experience Lifting
If you have some training experience with weights. Or have built a solid foundation by walking every day and training with body weight, adding some home equipment can help.
The most essential home gym equipment will depend on your fitness goals, but generally speaking, there are a few pieces of equipment that are considered essential for a home gym setup:
Dumbbells or Kettlebells
Dumbbells and kettlebells are versatile pieces of equipment that can be used for a wide range of exercises to help build strength and lean muscle mass. They come in a variety of weights and can be easily stored when not in use. Adjustable dumbbells are great if you don’t want to have a bunch of individual dumbbells lying around. There are adjustable kettlebells as well. Adjustable versions also keep you from having to buy more as you get stronger.
If you decide on adjustable versions look for ones that at least go up to 50 pounds. It may seem like a lot but you’ll progress with them quickly if you’re training consistently.
If you opt for individual weights I recommend the following dumbbell and kettlebell weights for beginners looking to get started.
- Men: 15 lbs, 20 lbs, 25 lbs
- Women: 5 lbs, 10 lbs, 15 lbs
This is enough to get you started. You’ll progress pretty quickly past these weights to be prepared to buy more soon after. You can find great deals for used equipment on Craigslist, Offer Up, and Play It Again Sports.
- Men: 12kg (26 lbs), 16kg (35 lbs), 23kg (50 lbs)
- Women: 4kg (9 lbs), 8kg (18 pounds), 12kg (26 lbs)
This should allow you to do most upper and lower body exercises. If it’s in your budget try and pick two kettlebells of the same weight.
A few other things to factor in when starting to train with kettlebells.
- Your lower body is going to be stronger than your upper body which will mean you can lift more weight. This may mean the 35-pound kettlebell deadlift is easier than a 35# kettlebell overhead press.
- You’re going to be doing more single-limb or unilateral exercises. If you only have one kettlebell you may only be able to work one limb at a time for some exercises.
- Kettlebell training often requires using many parts of your body. Kettlebell training can be very taxing. Many exercises like kettlebell swings, kettlebell thrusters, and kettlebell clean or snatches require the full body.
Check out our free dumbbell and kettlebell workouts and tutorials on how to do a kettlebell swing and how to lose weight with kettlebells.
✅: Recommended reading: How to do a Russian kettlebell swing
✅: Recommended reading: 30-minute full-body kettlebell workout: Beginner, intermediate, and advanced routines
✅: Recommended reading: Can you lose weight with kettlebells?
Resistance bands are lightweight, portable, and affordable. They can be used for a wide range of exercises to help build strength, flexibility, and endurance.
There are 3 main types of resistance bands I’ll go over quickly. All of these can be used for similar, but also different exercises.
Long loop bands
These are like giant rubber bands with varying degrees of resistance usually signified by color and band thickness. These are great for general strength training and assisting with pull-ups. You can use them for most exercises at home or in the gym. Get some here.
Tube resistance bands with handles
These resistance bands have handles that make exercises like rows, chest presses, overhead presses, and curls easy. They are excellent for travel. If you want bands to help with pull-ups these would not be a good fit. You can grab some resistance bands with handles here.
Mini loop bands
These bands are great for lower-body exercises. Specifically, training the butt. Surprisingly, you can also do upper body exercises if you get creative with them. They come in fabric, latex, and synthetic rubber. You can get mini-loop bands here.
✅: Recommended reading: Resistance band workout: Full body beginner and intermediate routines
Exercise Mat/Yoga mat
An exercise mat provides a cushioned and non-slip surface for floor-based exercises like yoga, Pilates, or bodyweight exercises. It also provides some padding if you’re doing dumbbell floor presses or anything kneeling.
A bench is optional because you can do most exercises on a floor. However, a bench will allow for great ranges of motion through some exercises. This will help with flexibility, mobility, and strength gains. An adjustable bench also allows for back support during overhead presses and often allows for more variety in your exercise routines. The example above is from Rep Fitness.
With these basic pieces of equipment, you can perform a variety of exercises that target different muscle groups and improve your overall fitness.
What to look for when buying home gym equipment
When buying home gym equipment, it’s important to consider a few key factors to ensure that you’re getting equipment that will meet your needs and last for a long time.
- Quality: Look for equipment that is well-made and built to last. Check for sturdy construction, durable materials, and good reviews from other users.
- Safety features: Ensure that the equipment is designed with safety in mind, with features like non-slip surfaces, secure attachments, and sturdy frames.
- Size and space requirements: Make sure that the equipment fits within your available space and is easy to move and store when not in use.
- Versatility: Look for equipment that can be used for a variety of exercises and workouts, so that you can get the most out of your investment.
- Adjustability: Consider equipment that can be adjusted to your specific fitness level and goals, so that you can progress over time and avoid injury.
- Price: Set a budget for your home gym equipment and look for options that fit within your budget while still meeting your needs.
By considering these factors, you can find home gym equipment that is safe, effective, and suitable for your fitness goals and available space. Be sure to research and compare different options before making a purchase, and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations or advice from fitness professionals or other experienced users.
What is the most effective piece of home gym equipment?
The most effective piece of home gym equipment will depend on your individual fitness goals and preferences. However, some of the most popular and effective pieces of home gym equipment include:
- Adjustable Dumbbells: Adjustable dumbbells allow you to vary the weight and resistance of your workouts, making them versatile pieces of equipment that can be used for a variety of exercises.
- Resistance Bands: Resistance bands are lightweight, portable, and affordable. They can be used for a variety of exercises to help build strength, flexibility, and endurance.
- Pull-Up Bar: A pull-up bar is a great tool for upper body strength training, and can be used to perform a variety of exercises like pull-ups, chin-ups, and hanging leg raises. If you can not do pul-ups Olympic rings or a suspension trainer (Trx) are great alternatives for working the back and strengthening pulling muscles.
- Kettlebell: A kettlebell is a versatile piece of equipment that can be used for a variety of exercises to help build strength and muscle mass.
- Treadmill: A treadmill is a great cardio machine that can be used for running, walking, or jogging indoors. It can be particularly useful during cold or rainy weather when outdoor exercise is not possible.
Ultimately, the most effective piece of home gym equipment is one that you will use regularly and consistently to achieve your fitness goals. Consider your budget, available space, and personal preferences when choosing equipment for your home gym.
What are the benefits of having a Home Gym
There are numerous benefits of having a home gym, including:
- Convenience: One of the biggest benefits of having a home gym is the convenience it offers. You can work out at any time of day, without having to worry about traveling to a gym or waiting for equipment to become available.
- Privacy: Many people feel self-conscious working out in public gyms. Having a home gym allows you to exercise in the comfort of your own space without feeling judged or intimidated by others.
- Cost-effective: Over time, having a home gym can be more cost-effective than paying for a gym membership, especially if you choose to buy used equipment or start with a basic setup and gradually build it up over time.
- Customizable: With a home gym, you have the freedom to customize your workout environment to your specific preferences. You can play your own music, use your own equipment, and set the temperature to your liking.
- Time-saving: With a home gym, you can save time by eliminating the need to travel to and from a gym, as well as any time spent waiting for equipment to become available.
- Increased consistency: When you have a home gym, you are more likely to be consistent with your workouts, as you have fewer excuses to skip them.
Overall, having a home gym can be a great investment in your health and fitness, providing you with the convenience, privacy, and flexibility you need to achieve your fitness goals.
How to create a home gym on a budget
Creating a home gym on a budget can be challenging, but it’s definitely possible. Here are some tips for setting up a home gym without breaking the bank:
- Start with the basics: Focus on purchasing essential pieces of equipment like resistance bands, a set of dumbbells or kettlebells, an exercise mat, and an adjustable bench. These pieces of equipment are versatile, affordable, and can be used for a variety of exercises to target different muscle groups.
- Look for deals and discounts: Shop around for sales, clearance items, and second-hand equipment to save money. Sites like Craigslist, Offerup, and stores like Play It Again Sports can help. You can also search online for coupon codes and discounts to get the best deals on equipment
- Repurpose items: Get creative and look for household items that can be used for workouts. For example, you can use a sturdy chair for step-ups, a backpack filled with books for weighted squats, or a towel for sliders.
- Use bodyweight exercises: Bodyweight exercises are a great way to work out without any equipment. You can perform exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, and planks to build strength and endurance.
Remember to start small, focus on essential equipment, and get creative with your workouts.
Can you lose weight working out in a home gym?
Yes and no.
To lose weight you need to create an energy deficit (calorie deficit). This can be done by using more energy (calories) than your body needs, consuming less energy (calories) than your body needs, or a combination of both over an extended period of time.
My philosophy is that workouts are to build muscle and get you stronger. Nutrition is for fat loss or weight maintenance. If your goal is to lose body fat, here are a few simple principles to apply while working out at home.
There is room for all types of foods in your diet.
The super “clean” ones and the “not so clean” ones – I see you pizza. Simply understanding that calories play a role in this is important.
If your goal is body fat and weight loss every single diet can help you do this provided it helps you create a calorie deficit.
A calorie deficit is created by taking in fewer calories than your body needs over an extended period of time. If you do this one thing consistently you will lose body fat and weight.
This can be done by creating a slight deficit over an extended period of time. Some days you’re under your calorie needs and other days you’re over
You can do this by weighing food portions and tracking your calories in an app like MyFitnesPal.
Or you could follow a specific diet like keto, paleo, intermittent fasting, or vegan and eliminate entire food groups (or macronutrients like carbs or animal protein) to do this.
This can be done by improving the quality of foods you eat, eating less calorie-dense foods, and controlling portion sizes by using your hands.
As you can see, there are a number of ways (and many more) to go about doing this one thing. Hell, you may find that a combination of a few works well, or that using different approaches at different times based on your goals and needs works best.
The key to all of this is finding a way that works for you sustainably.
What this does NOT mean.
It does NOT mean calories are the only thing that matters.
- Quality of food still matters
- Sleep matters
- Managing stress matters
- Exercises matters
- Your relationship with food matters
- Building healthy habits and skills matter
- Many things matter and play a role in whether you lose or gain fat.
Hell, the things above matter to more than just that. They matter to life.
But in the grand scheme of things calories matter most when it comes to fat loss. The things listed above can make doing that one thing easier or harder.
✅ Recommended reading: Getting started diet guide (improving your nutrition)
Can you build muscle working out in a home gym?
Keep in mind that you already have lean muscle. So a better question might be how do I increase my lean muscle or lose enough fat to see more of my lean muscle?
It really comes down to getting good at the basics and repeating them consistently over an extended period of time. I know, such a boring answer but there are too many “hacks” on the internet making a simple process far too confusing for most people
So what are the basics of building lean muscle or losing enough fat to see the lean muscle you already have?
- To build muscle you need to be in a caloric surplus. Eating more calories than your body needs
- To lose fat you need to be in a calorie deficit. Eating fewer calories than your body needs
- Eating enough protein to help build and repair the lean muscle you break down when resistance training (5)(6)(7)(8)
- Resistance training with progressive overload to let your body know that it needs more lean muscle
- Enough sleep and rest to allow your body to recover and repair
- Managing stress
I know what you’re thinking. So to build lean muscle I need to eat more calories. But to lose fat so I can see more lean muscle I need to eat fewer calories.
Um, this makes no sense Justin.
And you’d be right. A real catch-22 isn’t it?
It is possible to lose fat and build muscle in a home gym and I’ve worked with a number of clients who have done it.
Those most likely to both build muscle and lose fat are overweight beginners to exercise. Someone that has taken a long break from consistent exercise. Someone doing illegal drugs to help enhance performance. Or a person with fantastic genetics.
For the rest of us, it’s in our best interest to choose one goal over the other. Either focus on losing body fat first, or building muscle.
Thank you for reading. You are appreciated.
Photo of resistance bands: Expert reviews
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Photo by Elena Kloppenburg on Unsplash
Photo by VD Photography on Unsplash