It's easy to get a little jealous of all the amazing, high-tech at-home gyms you see on Instagram. But creating your own workout space so you can sweat it out in your living room, basement or spare bedroom doesn't need to break the bank.
In fact, you can do plenty with just a few key pieces of gear, like a mat and a set of dumbbells. But if you're ready to invest in more home workout equipment, pick from these affordable and versatile recommendations.
You can find a mat at just about any price point in an array of colors, levels of thickness and sizes. Mats are not only helpful for practicing yoga, of course; they also provide must-have cushion and support for Pilates, body-weight exercises and core workouts that involve lying on your back.
If you tend to sweat a lot, opt for a slightly pricier Manduka or Lululemon mat, as they're made with an easy-to-grip, slip-proof surface. However, if you want a mat that's a little more cushioned, all-purpose mats tend to be thicker and less expensive.
Shop These Yoga Mats
2. Water Bottle
It's important to stay hydrated before, during and after your workouts, and sipping on a reusable water bottle is the easiest and most eco-friendly way to do just that.
Water bottles usually come in plastic, metal and glass, but the best one for you depends on your lifestyle. Plastic is the lightest, but stainless steel, insulated ones keep your H2O cold.
If you have the space in your home gym and your budget, consider investing in one of these popular cardio machines.
Love to run or walk but can't always head outside? A treadmill can help you log miles and burn calories from the comfort of home. The machine you buy depends mostly on the space you have available. While there are plenty of compact options that fold, many are wide, tall and heavy.
Look for a machine with a sturdy frame and a motor strength of at least 3 miles per hour, which will allow you to walk or run with ease, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Ideally, your treadmill should also have an emergency stop button and an easy-to-read touchscreen with helpful measurements, including your distance, time and calories burned.
If you're looking for a cardio machine that's lower-impact and easier on your joints than a treadmill, a home elliptical may be the way to go.
Look for an elliptical that's size-appropriate for your home and stable under your body weight, says Mathew Forzaglia, certified personal trainer and founder of Forzag Fitness, and that gives you ample room to move your arms and legs through their full range of motion. (This may require testing out a few models before you buy.)
"Whether you are doing long duration cardio or short HIIT intervals, the elliptical is a solid workout for those looking for another option when doing cardio," Forzaglia says. In fact, the elliptical is best for interval work because you can easily adjust the level of resistance, working your way from an easy pace to one that'll leave you breathless.
3. Indoor Bike
There are many types and styles to choose from — like air bikes, recumbent bikes and indoor cycling studio bikes — but the one that makes the most sense for you depends on your fitness goals.
Air bikes are great for HIIT workouts, while recumbent bikes are best for those with limited mobility. Anyone looking to get the same challenge of outdoor cycling is likely to enjoy a bike with different levels of resistance.
Pick and choose your favorite weights to build up your strength arsenal.
Investing in a few sets of dumbbells for at-home strength training is a good place to start, says Maillard Howell, owner of CrossFit Prospect Heights and founder of The Beta Way. Dumbbells are versatile for doing all types of muscle-building exercises, and they are relatively easy to use — no need to switch out plates like with a barbell.
One thing to keep in mind when purchasing a set (or two): Err on the lighter side if you're not sure which weight is best for you, Howell says. After all, you can always add more reps, then upgrade once the weight is no longer challenging.
Or, consider purchasing a set of adjustable dumbbells, says Carolina Araujo, certified personal trainer. These weights are designed to easily transition from light to heavier in one set, saving you space and money.
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2. TRX Bands
If you're working out at home, the TRX suspension system is an excellent alternative for more standard training modalities, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
The TRX system is made of two bands with handles that are held by an anchor suspended from the ceiling or the top of a door. By positioning yourself a certain way with the bands, you can use your body weight against gravity to build strength and core stability.
TRX bands come in different packages and prices, depending on how many suspension attachments you want to buy. The bonus is that every purchase grants you access to the TRX app, which includes a library of instructions and exercises, so you can learn how to install it in your home and use it effectively.
Shop These TRX Bands
3. Resistance Bands
If you want to make basic body-weight exercises more challenging, resistance bands are an easy and space-efficient way to add load.
While mini bands are best for glute and hamstring work, you can also use them to strengthen your upper body, says Meg Takacs, a certified personal trainer at Performix House and creator of the #RunWithMeg app. For example, you can use mini bands to do bent-over rows, supermans and even bicep curls.
Longer resistance bands are great for upright rows or overhead presses, Howell says. You can also use the longer bands for band pull-aparts, good mornings and lateral raises. Some bands also come with handles, which can make upper-body exercises more comfortable.
Your best option is to purchase a set of bands with different levels of resistance so you can increase the load as you get stronger.
Trainers can't praise kettlebell exercises enough. Essentially a cannonball with a handle, kettlebells can be used to build strength and muscle, as well as your aerobic capacity.
As with dumbbells, start out with a lighter kettlebell. "Do not ego-buy," Howell says. In other words, don't let your ego drive you toward the heavier weight if you're not as familiar with kettlebell movements. If you're new to kettlebells, he recommends starting with a 26-pound weight. More experienced lifters can probably go for a 35-pound weight, he says.
Keep in mind that kettlebells are usually sold in kilograms. To convert the weight into pounds, multiply the weight in kilograms by 2.2.
5. Pull-Up Bar
Even though it's a bit more of an advanced piece of at-home workout equipment, a doorway pull-up bar is easy to install and great for increasing your chest and shoulder strength, Howell says.
Chin-ups and pull-ups require a good amount of strength and mobility. If you don't have these exercises down yet, you can use resistance bands for band-assisted chin-ups and pull-ups.
But your exercises aren't limited to pull-ups and chin-ups, either. Howell recommends hanging from the bar and firing up your core with some hanging knee raises or tuck holds.
Sliders or gliders are exactly what they sound like: Usually circular, oval or hexagonal, these discs allow you to slide your hands or feet along a surface to challenge your stability. While sliders may not look like anything special, they provide a deceptively challenging workout, especially for your abs and legs, Takacs says.
Like resistance bands, sliders are a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment and can be easily stored just about anywhere. Not to mention, they offer a lot of versatility for such a small tool, Takacs says.
Experiment with slider-enhanced mountain climbers by placing the discs under your feet as you drive your knees toward your chest. Other challenging slider exercises are reverse lunges, split squats and push-ups, in which you bring one arm out in front of you at the bottom of the move, Takacs says.
Mobility and Stability Tools
Most exercisers could probably stand to work on mobility, flexibility and stability. In addition to stretching and getting plenty of rest between tough workouts, you might benefit from this recovery-focused equipment.
1. Foam Roller
Although it may be the last thing you want to do after your workout, foam rolling is a must if you want to keep your muscles strong, healthy and injury-free. Even just rolling a specific area for a few minutes can help reduce soreness and increase your flexibility, according to the ACE.
Foam rollers are available in an array of sizes, shapes and levels of firmness. As a general rule, softer or medium-firm foam rollers will probably give you the best results, according to the NASM. But the best foam roller is the kind you'll use. So, if you like a firmer feel, go for a denser roller.
2. Stability Ball
The stability ball was originally used by physical therapists to improve core strength, posture and flexibility, according to the ACE. Over time, it's become widely used to do a variety of strength training exercises, including hamstring curls, sit-ups and push-ups, too. (It also makes for an ab-challenging desk chair.)
Find a stability ball that's the right size for your body: Exercise balls are usually measured in centimeters, with each size corresponding with a specific height. You may need to opt for a larger or smaller ball if you fall near the bottom or top size limit.
Cost-Effective Workout Equipment Swaps
If you're only looking to build a temporary home gym, you'll want to save as much money as possible. Try some creative, low-cost swaps using items you already have lying around the house.
- Use gallon water jugs as dumbbells or kettlebells, Araujo says. Holding onto the handle of the bottle, you can perform curls, squats or walking lunges. Or use two water bottles if you need a lighter set of dumbbells.
- Hook a jug of water on either side of a broomstick and use it like a barbell, Araujo says. A staple in strength workouts, barbells are pretty expensive, especially if you add in a rack and weight plates.
- Forgo the sliders and save that $20 for your dumbbell fund. Use paper plates, dishrags, hand towels or socks instead, Araujo says.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "What to Look for in a Home Treadmill"
- NASM: "The Ride of Your Lives: How to Help Your Clients Enjoy Cycling"
- ACE: "Investigating the Acute and Chronic Health Benefits of TRX® Suspension Training"
- ACE: "Foam Rolling 101"
- NASM: "How to Use a Foam Roller"
- ACE: "Strengthen Your Abdominals With Stability Balls"