Regular exercise is an investment in your long-term health, but getting fit doesn't need to break the bank. In fact, some of the most valuable fitness products are the cheapest.
We gave five different fitness trainers a hypothetical budget of $100 and asked them how they'd spend it. Below are their recommendations for the most reasonably priced gear, equipment and accessories.
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1. Lee Boyce, CPT
- Strength coach
- Fitness writer
- Owner of Lee Boyce Training Systems
Boyce's motto is "Real training. No nonsense." You won't see any fluffy trends in his programming or his cart. He's all about working hard and using timeless, evidence-based training to get strong.
If you already know your way around a weight room and prefer straightforward but challenging workouts, check out his picks.
What's in Boyce's Cart:
1. Fat Gripz Pro
"You can only lift as much as you can hold. If the goal of using the gym is to improve strength, it's going to come in handy to be able to access a strong grip during your journey," Boyce says. "Fat Gripz are great to attach to barbells or a dumbbell (or any other handles) to either challenge grip strength during pulling exercises or create a wider surface area to disperse loading on the joints for pressing exercises."
Buy it: FatGripz.com; Price: $29.99
2. Rx Smart Gear Jump Rope
The jump rope is one of the best tools for aerobic training, according to Boyce. "It's also a great way to train your calf muscles and put some spring in your jump," Boyce says.
He suggests shopping at Rx Smart Gear, which customizes each jump rope based on your height and desired cable weight (there are options for beginners and more advanced jumpers). Other notable features include ergonomically contoured handles and a "multidirectional swivel axis bearing system" for "frictionless rotation." It's basically the Cadillac of jump ropes.
Buy it: RxSmartGear.com; Price: $51.99
2. Venus Lau, CPT
- Certified trainer
- Movement coach
- Creator of VenusFit
Known for her ground-based flow workouts, Lau is the master of using just body-weight to build strength and improve mobility. But she assures us that, just like every other fitness pro, she's tested pretty much every piece of equipment available.
Here are a few of her favorite wallet-friendly options.
What's in Lau's Cart:
1. Yes4All Cast Iron Kettlebell
"I like kettlebells because the shape of the bell is conducive to flow and traditional strength exercises. So, you have options," Lau says.
If you buy just one kettlebell, she recommends choosing a weight that you can press overhead ten times (the last few reps should feel nearly impossible). If you can spring for a second kettlebell, go with a weight that's 50 percent heavier.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $29.99
2. FITINDEX Resistance Trainer Kit
Lau's a big proponent of the suspension trainer because it teaches proprioception, or the awareness of your body within its environment. "You're having to play with not only your body's weight but also understanding your body at different angles and getting comfortable with that," she says.
Plus, it's convenient and portable. "You can set it up pretty much anywhere, including your own home, and you can even take it outdoors with you," Lau says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $34.98
3. Yoga Tune Up Coregeous Ball
If you know you should be foam rolling but find self-myofascial release painful or uncomfortable, this pick is for you.
"A lot of people roll out with lacrosse balls, but those things are so hard that you actually are going to do some damage. You could bruise yourself," Lau says.
The air-filled Yoga Tune Up Coregeous Ball is soft but still firm enough to provide resistance, and the outside layer is like a cat's tongue, Lau says.
"It grips your skin, so you can actually maneuver the fascia right under the skin," she says.
Buy it: TuneUpFitness.com; Price: $12.95
4. Trideer Yoga Blocks
Lau always has a couple of yoga blocks handy, especially when working with her beginner clients. They can be used to modify movements or isolate specific muscles. "You can also use them as a bolster," she says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $14.99
3. Michael Julom, CPT
- Certified trainer and CrossFit Level 1 coach
- Founder of This Is Why I’m Fit
Good news for functional fitness devotees: You don't need a squat rig, a fully loaded barbell and an extensive dumbbell collection to crush a killer workout. Julom, who specializes in CrossFit, recommends a couple of key pieces of equipment for keeping intense sweat sessions "constantly varied."
What's in Julom's Cart:
1. RUNmax Weighted Vest
"Weighted vests are great because they can be used for just about any workout imaginable. Running, pull-ups, push-ups, squats, broad jumps — you name it," Julom says.
Depending on what movements you perform, the target muscles will need to exert more effort for each rep, Julom explains. For example, pull-ups with a weighted vest will add greater resistance to your arms and back, making them work harder, leading to increased muscle growth in the associated muscles.
"The RUNMax variety fits better than any other weighted vests I've tried in the past, and it doesn't jump around excessively as you run. At the same time, it's very affordable and weight-customizable," Julom says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $56.58
2. Vinsguir Ab Roller Wheel
"They're extremely portable and can be used practically anywhere. You also don't have to be an elite-level athlete to be able to use one," Julom says. "I would recommend one because they're a different way to work your core outside of regular sit-ups and crunches."
Julom's go-to move is the basic roll-out.
"It's amazing for strengthening not just your upper abs but your lower abs, lats, delts and upper back. This can transfer over to overhead movements and to major lifts like deadlifts and squats," he says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $25.99
4. Lauren George, CPT
- Fitness instructor
- Fitness educator
- Founder of Lauren George Fitness
In her 15 years of working in the industry, George has run fitness programs at large health clubs, private barre and Pilates studios and campus recreation centers. So, she knows a thing or two about which tools you really need to stay in shape — and which ones tend to get pushed to the back of the storage closet.
What's in George's Cart:
1. Flex Kord
"The Flex Kord is my favorite resistance band for a few different reasons," George says. "It is encased in fabric, so you never have to worry about it snapping on you. The soft round handles not only make it more comfortable to use than traditional resistance bands with hard plastic handles, but it also increases the number of exercises you can do with the band," she says. "
She loves to place it around one foot for unilateral work, loop it around a barre to mimic Pilates reformer exercises, or wrap it around both feet during core work.
"Its length and design make it an extremely functional piece of equipment at a great value. It's the first thing that goes into my suitcase when traveling," she says.
Buy it: Flexmvmtfitness.com; Price: $32.95
2. Bender Ball
"This little green ball can leave your core shaking in a matter of seconds without over-taxing your hip flexors," George says. "When placed behind your lower back, the Bender Ball can provide support for certain exercises and also allow your core to work through both the concentric and eccentric phases of muscle contraction, therefore improving efficiency and muscle engagement. I use this ball in almost every barre and Pilates workout."
But it's not just for core work. You can place it between your inner thighs in a squat to increase inner thigh engagement and help protect your knees, she explains. It can also go behind your knee in a flat-back fold over at the barre or during glute work on the mat.
"Additionally, I love to use it under one heel in a squat or lunge to increase instability and create a great balance challenge," she says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $16.99
3. Gliding Discs
"Gliding discs, aka your hamstrings' best friends, are another one of my favorite props because of their low cost, functionality and the wide variety of moves you can perform," George says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $14.99
4. Hope Fitness Gear Super Grip Fabric Mini Loops
No barre or Pilates home workout set-up is complete without mini bands, according to George.
"If you are looking for a way to increase your load for lower-body exercises without having to purchase heavier dumbbells, which can get very pricey, looped bands are the answer," she says.
George loves to place the looped band around her thighs (right above the knee) for exercises like squats, curtsy lunges, lateral lunges, single-leg deadlifts, bridges and planks. They're also fantastic for glute activation in a warm-up, she says.
Buy it: HopeFitnessGear.com; Price: $22.95
5. Mind Reader Yoga Pilates Ring
The Pilates ring is a classic piece of Pilates equipment that can help increase core engagement and strengthen your upper body, George says.
"A few of my favorite ways to utilize the ring are in your hands during the classic Series of Five core exercises, between your inner thighs in a bridge or under one hand in a side plank," she says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $10.22
5. Rick Richey, PhD, CPT
- Certified trainer
- Fitness educator
- Owner of Independent Training Spot
Richey is a celebrated trainer and fitness educator. The recently awarded IDEA 2022 Personal Trainer of the Year spends plenty of time in gyms, but when it comes to choosing bang-for-your-buck gear, he encourages people to think about what will help them live active lives outside of a handful of designated weekly workouts.
What's in Richey's Cart:
1. Fitbit Inspire 3 Fitness Tracker
Each new iteration of Fitbit's most minimalist tracker comes with new features and improved functionality, but Richey keeps things simple by focusing on a few key metrics, one of which is step count.
"Pedometers are undervalued in their importance to overall health and even our fitness levels," he says. "The majority of calories expended take place during our waking, non-exercise hours. The more active we are during the day, the healthier we are. Ten thousand steps is a great goal. If you can make at least half of those steps at a brisk pace, it's even better!"
The Inspire's heart rate monitor is also among the most useful features.
"This is a good way to quantify exercise intensity and perhaps set goals for numbers to hit or a level to maintain while walking, stair climbing or doing any other exercise modality," Richey says.
He also recommends users take note of their nightly sleep score, which measures both sleep quantity and quality.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $98.95