So many people think that the only way to get in shape is to belong to a big fancy gym—but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are so many exercises you can do using nothing but your own bodyweight, or a few, basic pieces of equipment that will easily tuck into a closet when you’re not using them.
These affordable, easy-to-find pieces of equipment are what I would recommend to anyone just starting to build a home gym, and are the equipment I would get if I could only have a few pieces of workout equipment around.
Here are 5 pieces of home gym equipment that everyone should (eventually) own:
Doorway pull up bar
So many people I talk to about doing pull ups tell me while they would love to be able to do them, they don’t have access to a pull up bar.
In fact, there’s not even a guarantee that if you belong to a gym they will have a pull up bar—something that drives me seriously crazy. The best you’ll get at most gyms are those weirdly shaped pull up grips on the top of a squat rack, certainly better than nothing, but not ideal.
A super easy fix to this is to get your own doorway pull up bar. A good one will only set you back about $30 online, and you probably won’t ever have to replace it.
Of course, there are a few downsides to doorway pull up bars:
- They don’t fit older door frames, which is super annoying especially if you don’t live in the U.S.
- They force you to bend your knees while doing pull ups, also annoying
- They are much easier to cheat your pull ups than with regular higher bars
Yet without a doubt, doorway pull up bars are by a far better option than no pull up bar at all.
They’ll allow you to practice your pull ups even if you don’t have access to a gym or an outdoor fitness park, and just seeing it there on a daily basis will remind you to work on your pull ups.
Adding a medicine ball to various exercises is a fantastic way to make the exercise more challenging and mix up your workouts a bit. Some of my favorite medicine-ball based exercises are wall balls, medicine ball slams, and medicine ball twists.
And sure, you could certainly use dumbbells in place of medicine balls, but they’re not near as fun (and they’re much more likely to break something if you keep them at home). In my mind, medicine balls just tend to be more versatile and allow for a more athletic-style as opposed to bodybuilding-style of training.
I’m particularly partial to these giant ones made by Dynamax, mostly because they’re so big and awkward to hold that they make the exercise even harder without needing to be super heavy. But the classic smaller ones are great too.
Like medicine balls, kettlebells are another multi-purpose piece of equipment and a great addition to any home gym. Kettlebells really will last a lifetime, so once you buy one, you won’t ever have to worry about buying another again (unless, of course, you want a different weight).
And luckily, while kettlebells used to be fairly expensive due to high shipping costs, at between $20 and $100 (depending on the weight you get) and free shipping on Amazon, they’re now fairly affordable, especially compared to the cost of a gym. And once you get one, you can do kettlebell swings, front squats, turkish get ups, and more to your heart’s content.
If you’re wondering what weight to choose, I typically recommend women start with a 12 or 16 pound kettlebell, or 25 to 35 if you’re more advanced. Men can start with 25 or 35 pounds, or 50 or more if you’re already comfortable using kettlebells.
If you’ve been following 12 Minute Athlete for a while now, you’re no doubt very familiar with how much I love jump ropes as a simple, incredibly effective piece of workout equipment.
Here are just a few of the magical benefits of a jump rope:
You can use them anywhere. Jump ropes are tiny and can easily fit in your work bag or suitcase. I always take one with me when I travel.
They burn calories and get your heart rate up. Forget the treadmill, grab a jump rope and boost your calorie burn, endurance levels, and coordination anywhere, anytime.
They’re cheap. Jump ropes will cost you all of $7 online or at any sporting goods store.
If you’re brand new to jump roping, make sure to check out this beginner jump rope tutorial to get started.
Although most of the focus of 12 Minute Athlete is on exercise, that doesn’t mean you should forgot about mobility altogether. Foam rolling is a super effective, time efficient way to keep your body injury-free, and is one of the most important additions to any home gym.
Foam rollers cost around $10-20 online or at any sporting goods store, and are a great way to keep your muscles happy and boost recovery so you can kick some serious ass during your workouts. And if you’re prone to shin splints, they’ll help that too.
If you want to know how to get started with foam rolling, take a look at this article on 5 foam roller exercises you should be doing regularly.