5 Must-Have Items for At-Home Workouts

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Invest in these 5 pieces of equipment to crush any at-home workout!
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It's easy to get a little jealous of all the amazing, decked-out, high-tech at-home gyms you see on Instagram. But if you're in need of a temporary at-home gym, creating a space to sweat it out in your living room, basement or spare bedroom doesn't need to break the bank.

You can build up your at-home exercise equipment stash with just a few key pieces of equipment that are both relatively inexpensive and endlessly versatile. These five pieces of workout equipment — recommended by fitness pros — will equip you for pretty much any at-home workout.

1. Start With Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are the perfect start to an at-home gym. You can add them to a ton of different exercises to amp up the intensity. Plus, they're easy to store.

Once you master the basics, experiment a little with this run-of-the-mill piece of equipment. While you can use the bands for glute and hamstring work, you can also use them to strengthen your upper body, says Meg Takacs, certified personal trainer at Performix House and creator of the #RunWithMeg app.

Longer bands are great for upright rows or overhead presses, says Maillard Howell, owner of CrossFit Prospect Heights and founder of The Beta Way. You can also use the longer sized bands for biceps curls or lateral raises.

You can also opt for a package that includes a variety of bands in different sizes and resistance levels. Some bands even have handles attached, making upper-body exercises even easier.

Options To Try

  • Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands ($17.45 on Amazon.com)
  • Crown Sporting Goods All-Purpose Exercise Resistance Band ($7.99 on Amazon.com)
  • Physix Brands Pull Up Assistance Bands ($10.92 on Amazon.com)

2. Then Add Dumbbells

Both Howell and Takacs strongly suggest you consider investing in a few sets of dumbbells for at-home strength training. Like resistance bands, dumbbells are a versatile, easy-to-use piece of equipment that can be added to just about any exercise for some muscle-building benefit.

Need some fresh ideas? Takacs recommends scrolling through Instagram for some inspiration. "Search for hashtags in what you are interested in doing like #dumbbellworkouts, and you will be able to create your own routine with a ton of movements you probably didn't even know existed!"

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 a set of adjustable dumbbells if you're willing to invest a bit more, Carolina Araujo, certified personal trainer says. These dumbbells can be adjusted to many different weights, saving you space and the trouble of buying set after set as you get stronger.

Options To Try

  • SPRI Dumbbells Color-Coded Dumbbells ($15.98 on Amazon.com)
  • PowerBlock Sport 24 Adjustable Dumbbells ($169.98 on Amazon.com)
  • York Barbell Rubber Hex with Chrome Ergo Handle ($24.56 on Amazon.com)

3. Graduate to Kettlebells

Trainers can't praise kettlebell training enough. Essentially a cannonball with a handle, kettlebells can be used for strength and muscle building, as well as boosting your aerobic capacity.

According to April 2013 research sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), participants who completed eight weeks of kettlebell-focused workouts experienced almost a 14-percent increase in aerobic capacity, in addition to improvements in balance and increases in core strength.

As with dumbbells, start with a lighter bell. "Do not ego buy," Howell says. In other words, don't let your ego drive you toward the heavier weight. If you're new to kettlebells, he recommends starting with a 26-pound weight. However, if this piece of equipment is nothing new to your workout routine, you can go for a 35-pound weight.

You can do traditional kettlebell exercises like kettlebell swings and cleans. Or you can get creative and use them as a barbell alternative for deadlifts or squats.

Options To Try

  • AmazonBasics Cast Iron Kettlebell Weight ($20.99 on Amazon.com)
  • Yes4All Vinyl Coated Kettlebells ($25.02 on Amazon.com)
  • Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Kettlebell ($149.99 on Amazon.com)

4. Play Around With Sliders

Sliders (aka gliders) provide a deceptively challenging workout, and they're great for full-body workouts, Takacs says. Especially your abs. If you're having trouble visualizing this piece of equipment, they're two small disks you can place under your feet or hands to glide smoothly on the floor.

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, placing the disks under your feet as you perform the exercise. Or you can try a seal walk, placing the sliders under your feet, using your hands to pull your body across the room, ACE recommends.

But you don't need to keep the sliders confined to your abs. Place the disks under your hands during push-ups, bringing one arm out in front of you at the bottom of the move, Takacs says. Or use them to glide along the ground for reverse lunges.

Options To Try

5. Challenge Yourself With a Doorway 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 assemble and install and is great to increase your chest and shoulder strength, Howell says.

Chin-ups and pull-ups are challenging exercises and require a good amount of strength and mobility. If you don't have this exercise down yet, it's a good thing you have resistance bands in your at-home stash! Use these for band-assisted chin-ups and pull-ups.

But your exercises aren't limited to pull-ups and chin-ups (although these are great compound exercises). Howell recommends hanging from the bar and firing up your core with some hanging knee raises or tuck holds.

Options To Try

  • Perfect Basic Pull-Up Progression Bar ($19.99 on Amazon.com)
  • ProsourceFit Multi-Grip Lite Pull-Up Bar Basic ($22.99 on Amazon.com)
  • Garren Fitness Maximiza Pull-Up Bar ($43.98 on Amazon.com)

Read more: 10 Exercises to Help You Conquer the Pull-Up

Cost-Effective Equipment Swaps

If you're only looking to build a temporary at-home gym, you'll want to save as much money as possible. Luckily, there are some creative, low-cost swaps you can try, using items you already have lying around the house.

One of the most classic (and effective) tricks in the book is using gallon water jugs as dumbbells or kettlebells, Araujo says. With the handle on the bottle, it can be easy to perform curls, squats or walking lunges with this house-hold item. Or use two water bottles if you need a lighter set of dumbbells.

If you want to be even more creative, hook a gallon jug of water on either side of a broomstick and use it like a barbell, Araujo says. A staple in many workouts, barbells are pretty expensive and can cost hundreds of dollars after you purchase the necessary rack and plates. So, if you want a temporary, cost-effective barbell, try this hack.

Although sliders are relatively cheap to purchase, you can probably find a pair already in your home (or kitchen). Save that $20 bill for your dumbbell fund and use paper plates or dish rags instead, Araujo says. Or work out in socks on a hardwood floor.

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