What do you really need for a home gym?

There is a staggering amount of gym equipment available. So much so that it can be overwhelming to get started building a home gym. Is it more important to get dumbbells and other resistance equipment, or should you prioritize cardio gear, such as a treadmill?

To help answer all your questions about putting together a complete home gym, we talked to fitness expert Judd NeSmith, founder of Serious Fitness. NeSmith has detailed two home gym options that provide a full-body workout: a less expensive option and a more expensive option.

In this article: NordicTrack Dumbbells, Bowflex Weight Bench and Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

What is a good workout?

NeSmith is a big fan of working out the entire body. This includes upper-body and lower-body resistance training and cardio. When creating the ideal home gym, you should focus on equipment that covers all of these needs.  

“I’ve helped a lot of clients build out home gyms for 20 years,” NeSmith began. “So I’ll give you two versions. One is the least expensive version, and the other is a more expensive version.”

The least expensive home gym option

“I have clients all over the world,” NeSmith said. “This home gym is one I designed for someone on a really tight budget. You can get a heck of a setup that provides a full-body workout for under $300. My client had an extra room in their house that they were using as an office. I had her purchase a few pieces of equipment to turn that room into a gym.”

Stability ball

The first piece of equipment NeSmith recommended was a stability ball. A stability ball is also known as an exercise ball. It is the same piece of equipment that people sit on when they work. He recommended getting a burst-proof model for safety. 

Exercise mat

An exercise mat gives people a dedicated workout space. It must be long enough and wide enough to fit your whole body. NeSmith advised, “It should be an inch or two thick for cushioning. Especially if you have hard floors. Even if you have carpeting, you need an exercise mat because you don’t want to get sweat in your carpet.”

Suspension trainer

“A suspension trainer is all the rage in the fitness industry these days,” NeSmith explained. “I like the TRX brand. It’s a great piece of equipment that helps you do a variety of body weight exercises. You can hang it over a door, or, if you have a strong ceiling, some models come with ceiling mounts.”

Loop bands

Loop bands are elastic bands that provide varying degrees of resistance that increase the intensity of your workout. For instance, you can wrap them around your ankles and use them for many lower body exercises.

Resistance bands with handles

“I recommend a three-pack of resistance bands with handles,” NeSmith continued. “You attach one end of the band to the door or some other sturdy object. The other end has a handle on it for you to grab. You can perform a lot of upper body exercises with resistance bands with handles. 

Cardio options

To get your cardio in with an economical gym, you need to perform bodyweight cardiovascular exercises. There are many ways to do that, such as bodyweight squats, burpees, mountain climbers and more. Alternatively, you could run, ride a bike or perform some other sort of physical activity outside.

A more expensive home gym option

If you are interested in a more expensive home gym option, NeSmith said to start with all the equipment in the first option and add the following:

Adjustable dumbbells

“Adjustable dumbbells can be expensive,” NeSmith stated. “Buying a pair can cost $400 or more, but it’s worth it. Adjustable dumbbells have a mechanism that lets you select the amount of weight you want to use — usually anywhere from about 5 to 50 pounds, which makes them extremely versatile. NordicTrack makes great adjustable dumbbells.”

Weight bench

A weight bench is not essential since there are plenty of exercises you can perform without one. However, if you want the best home gym possible, you will want to add a weight bench to your shopping list. A weight bench is a fundamental piece of workout equipment that enhances the quality and adds variety to your exercise routine.

Cardio machine

“Here comes the kicker. If you want to go big, you got to throw in a treadmill. Either a treadmill, or if people don’t like running or walking for cardiovascular fitness, a Concept2 rowing machine. A quality stationary bike is a third option for a good cardiovascular workout.”

How to use the equipment

Getting the right equipment is only the first step. The second step is learning how to use your home gym. The best way is to work with a personal trainer, like NeSmith, either in person or online. Other options include downloading a personal training app that can customize a workout routine based on your needs, buying a book on the topic or looking up different exercises online. You also want your doctor’s approval before starting any new fitness regimen.

Whichever way you go, NeSmith advises striving for a goal of two to three days each week focusing on full-body strength training workouts because that will help you build, lean muscle, get stronger, move better and prevent injury. He also said to set aside two to three days each week for cardiovascular exercises to build heart health, burn calories and keep you leaner.

Essential equipment needed to build your home gym

Best UrbnFit Exercise Ball

UrbnFit Exercise Ball

The UrbnFit is a high-quality, anti-burst exercise ball with a 600-pound weight capacity. The non-slip surface provides a safe grip, and the rugged PVC material means the ball will not lose its shape.

Sold by Amazon

Best Fitness Gear 2x6 Folding Exercise Mat

Fitness Gear 2×6 Folding Exercise Mat

This exercise mat unfolds to a 6-foot long, 2-foot wide exercise surface. It is 2 inches thick, wipes clean and has nylon handles for portability.

Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

Best TRX GO Suspension Trainer

TRX GO Suspension Trainer

The TRX GO suspension trainer has everything you need for an indoor or outdoor workout. It is a total body training system that weighs less than a pound and is safety tested for up to 700 pounds.

Sold by Amazon

Best Sweet Sweat Mini Loop Resistance Bands

Sweet Sweat Mini Loop Resistance Bands

These 12-inch bands offer five levels of resistance (light. medium, heavy, X-heavy and XX-heavy). These bands come in fun pastel colors, and the purchase includes a mesh storage bag. 

Sold by Amazon

Best Fitness Gear Resistance Tube Kit

Fitness Gear Resistance Tube Kit

The three tubes in this kit offer 10, 30 and 50 pounds of resistance. You can combine them to deliver up to 90 pounds of resistance and feature heavy-duty grommets and durable plastic handles.

Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

Best NordicTrack Dumbbells

NordicTrack Dumbbells

You can’t get any better than the best. These adjustable dumbbells have 15 weight increments per dumbbell, allowing them to replace 30 dumbbells. The smooth selection process lets you quickly set the weight from 10 to 55 pounds to customize your workout.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Best Bowflex Weight Bench

Bowflex Weight Bench

The space-saving Bowflex weight bench has four angles for versatility (-20, 0, 45 and 90 degrees). It has a heavy-duty construction with a 480-pound weight capacity.

Sold by Amazon

Best NordicTrack EXP 7i Treadmill

NordicTrack EXP 7i Treadmill

This NordicTrack treadmill has a 12-degree incline, a top speed of 12 mph and a 300-pound weight capacity. It features a 7-inch touchscreen with dual speakers and a built-in workout fan.

Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

Best Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

A rower is a low-impact piece of exercise equipment that engages all the muscle groups to give you one of the best total body workouts available. This popular model has a 14-inch seat, ergonomic handles and adjustable footrests for comfort.

Sold by Amazon

Best Schwinn Fitness Indoor Exercise Bike

Schwinn Fitness Indoor Exercise Bike

Schwinn’s indoor cycle has magnetic resistance with 100 micro-adjustable levels. It features a full-color backlit LCD monitor that lets you explore over 50 global routes that auto-adjust in real time to your speed (JRNY membership required). There are dual-link SPD foot pedals with toe cages or clips, an adjustable race-style seat and adjustable urethane-dipped handlebars.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

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