Just because the weather turns cold or wet doesn’t mean you can forget about getting some exercise in. These days, there’s really no excuse, and while you could always hit the gym, what happens when snowy, icy roads make it a serious challenge to get there?
There are also another load of cons that come with exercising at the gym. You probably don’t feel comfortable grunting while lifting those weights or singing at the top of your lungs while running on the treadmill. And, what about all of those germs? Gyms tend to be filled with them and it isn’t exactly pleasant to walk over to a bench and discover a little puddle of sweat where your head is supposed to go. Yeck
Having the right exercise tools at home gives you the freedom and flexibility to workout when it’s most convenient and be as loud, or as quiet as you’d like. That also means that you’ll be a lot more likely to keep up this important habit, as well as being a good way to cut costs if you have an expensive gym membership.
But which ones are the right ones? While that can differ depending on your specific goals, these home gym exercise tools are generally ideal for anyone who wants to keep fit at home. Make sure that you’re set up for exercise in the best way possible by taking a look at this list.
1. Stability Ball
A stability ball isn’t just a great replacement for your desk chair, it can also be used on its own to perform stretches, for ab workouts, combined with hand weights for a more challenging balance-lifting bench, and more. Besides developing overall muscle tone for the entire body, the ball offers many other benefits, ranging anywhere from rehabilitating a knee, back or hip injury to delivering a powerful workout to improve core stability, posture, and muscle balance. It’s one of the most versatile, and inexpensive, pieces of fitness equipment you can own.
Maintaining proper alignment on the ball stimulates the natural motor reflexes of the body while encouraging it to react as a whole, integrated unit. This type of movement corresponds to how you move about normally on a day-to-day basis. Training on it challenges the whole body to participate in order to maintain correct posture and balance and to perform dynamic exercise movement.
All of that and they’re available on Amazon for great value for money, including the highly-rated URBNFit exercise ball, available in a variety of colors and sizes. Keep in mind that a proper fit is important for a quality workout, better posture, a healthy spine and more defined abs. This ball is available in 3 sizes: 55cm, best for those who are 5’1″ to 5’7″ tall, 65cm for those 5’8″ to 6’2″ tall, and 75cm, for people who are over 6’2″ tall. If you happen to be under 5’1″, Black Mountain and a number of other fitness product companies offer a 45cm stability ball that will provide the perfect fit.
2. Yoga Mat
A yoga mat is an inexpensive tool that’s a must to have on hand at home. Not just for yoga, a comfortable exercise mat helps to cushion you from a hard floor, and provide more support than a carpet would when doing floor exercises, stretches and ab workouts. It’s essential for anyone who wants to start practicing yoga or Pilates regularly, as a non-slip mat makes it much easier, and safer to perform poses. If you’ve had a stressful day, you can roll it up and use it as a lumbar support to lie over on the floor.
Sivan Health & Fitness offers a ½” thick mat that’s 71″ long and 24″ wide in a variety of colors. It’s easy to clean, durable and has specially designed memory foam to protect your joints and knees, saving yourself the soreness that typically comes from exercising directly on the floor, while a non-slip surface helps to prevent injuries.
3. Jump Rope
You probably used to jump rope as a kid, but this is one product that’s truly for all ages as it can be used anywhere as an incredibly effective piece of fitness equipment. It offers a wealth of surprising benefits, including:
- Improving coordination
- Decreasing the risk of foot and ankle injuries when participating in other sports like running, basketball, tennis, and football
- Improving bone density
- Improving endurance
- Helping to achieve a sense of calmness
- Improving cardiovascular health
- Burning lots of calories
If you can’t afford that pricey treadmill, no worries! Get a jump rope instead. It’s extremely cheap while offering many of the same benefits. The adjustable jump rope by Fitness Factor was designed for people of all ages, heights and skill levels and currently sells on Amazon. It even comes with a carrying case.
4. Medicine Ball
Adding a medicine ball to various types of workouts is an outstanding way to make exercise more challenging and mix things up a bit too. A medicine ball is simply a 14″ ball made up of nylon, rubber or any other similar material and can weigh anywhere between two to 25 pounds.
A medicine ball workout will add strength to your core, chest, and arms, and help improve your balance and flexibility too.
The medicine ball has been around since ancient times, with Greek and Persian warriors using similar items to serve the same purpose, like bladders filled with sand for training and sacks made of animal skin to improve agility. Hippocrates even used a medicine ball to treat war and sports related injuries as it puts minimal pressure on the joints. The legendary physician was said to have stuffed animal skins for patients to toss around for “medicinal” purposes as a form of rehabilitation, hence the name, medicine ball.
The main advantage of a medicine ball is that, unlike dumbbells, it doesn’t put pressure on your joints, but if offers a similar workout. You can enhance your stretching regime by using a medicine ball to include a bit of strength training, use it in a regular push-up routine to improve balance and core strength, and improve hand-eye coordination just by tossing it around.
There are all sorts of exercises designed for medicine balls too, including workouts for the entire body, the legs and glutes, chest, back, shoulders, arms, and core. Amazon offers the classic Valeo Medicine Ball for a great price, and it comes in four-, six, eight-, ten- or 12-pound weights in addition to including a helpful exercise chart.
5. Pull-up Bar
A pull-up bar isn’t just for pull-ups. It’s actually a very flexible piece of workout equipment that offers a number of different exercises to tone and strengthen your back, arms, shoulders and ab muscles. It can be used for pull-ups as well as chin-ups, sit-ups, crunches, and hanging leg raises.
Another benefit of the pull-up bar, considering that pull-ups are especially challenging for many, with more than a few unable to perform two consecutive pull-ups without their arms giving out, is that if you set a pull-up bar in your doorway where you’re forced to look at it, it’s hard to ignore. Simply by making a point to do as many pull-ups as you can every time, you walk through, make fitness improvements that much quicker and easier to achieve.
The Maximiza Pull-up Bar by Garren Fitness is an ideal option, serving as a pull-up/chin-up bar for your doorway. It comes with three sets of screw-in-door mounts and can hold up to 300 pounds. The variety of door mounts means that you can move it around from one doorway to another with ease.
6. Workout DVDs
It can get boring doing the same old exercise on your own, but workout DVDs are a great way to change things up and even make it feel as if you’re a part of your own at-home fitness class. They’re especially beneficial for those who would like to sign up for a class, but just don’t have the option to squeeze a scheduled class at a specific day or time each week.
Workout DVDs are a great way to try something new too, like kickboxing or Zumba. You’ll find DVDs for every fitness level and interest imaginable out there, from Adri Kyser’s Empower & Renew Vinyasa Flow DVD and Kathy Smith’s Timeless: Great Buns & Thighs Step Aerobics Workout to the Island Girl Dance Fitness Workout for Beginners: Hula Abs & Buns, and everything in between. Start a collection and you’ll never get bored working out!
7. Hand Weights
Hand weights, or dumbbells, are perfect for building muscle and toning your body. All you need to get started on a strength training program is a pair of 3-pound and a pair of 5-pound weights. They’re a time-tested way to improve strength in the arms, shoulders and upper body, as well as boost your metabolism so that you burn more calories.
Hand weights allow for a lot of variety with your workouts, and they even have some significant advantages over barbells, including being great for people who train at home and have limited space and equipment. Plus, they tend to be easier on the joints than their barbell counterparts as they allow for more natural movement. Experts also say they’re safer, for example, when doing reverse lunges, it’s not uncommon to lose your balance. If you’re using hand weights, you can easily toss them, but if you’re lunging with a barbell and lost your balance, you’d risk getting injured.
For a cost, you really can’t beat hand weights either. For example, Crown Sporting Goods’ Neoprene Body Sculpting Hand Weights on Amazon include 3-pound, 5-pound, and 7-pound weights, along with a stand. As your strength improves, you’ll be able to move onto the 7-pound weights without having to invest in a whole new set.
Like medicine balls, kettlebells are another very versatile piece of fitness equipment. They last a lifetime but don’t come with a big price tag, especially considering what you’d have to pay to go to the gym.
Kettlebells are believed to have originated in Russia in the 1800s, but some say they date back to Spartan times when handles were placed into cinder blocks in order to help move them around. They became popular in the U.S. when former Soviet Special Force trainer, Pavel Tsatsouline, brought them into the spotlight. Today, a number of celebrities are big fans of kettlebells, including Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Biel, Kim Basinger and others.
Kettlebell workouts can tighten and tone the entire body while burning a ton of calories. In fact, as reported by Prevention.com, researchers at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse found that it’s on par with running a 6-minute mile. In tests, the exercisers were said to have burned 20 calories a minute.
Once you get one, you can do kettlebell swings, front squats, and much more. Yes4All offers both vinyl-coated and cast iron kettlebells in a wide range of weights, from 5- to 40-pounds. Most experts recommend that inexperienced women start out with a 12- or 16-pound kettlebell, while men start with 25 or 35 pounds.
9. Heart Rate Monitor
Monitoring your exertion level and keeping track of how many calories you burn is important for charting your fitness progress and helping you stay motivated. If you exercise too much or too hard, it can result in burnout, injury, or exhaustion, but if you don’t work hard enough, you’re unlikely to see much in the way of results. Using a heart rate monitor when you work out at home, lets you see exactly where you’re at, at all times. You’ll find out which workout focuses more on building strength, for example, and which are the most intense.
Heart rate monitors come in a wide variety of types and tend to vary greatly when it comes to quality as well. You can get one from under $50 to as much as $1,000 or more. Some are standalone, while others are built into fitness tracking devices like the Fitbit Charge HR. The most accurate seems to be standalone types, with Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor one of the highest rated on Amazon.
10. Adjustable Weight-Lifting Bench
Strength training is a must, and in order to get a total workout with free weights, you’ll need a weight-lifting bench that allows you to switch positions while still keeping proper form. This is really a standard piece of exercise equipment that every exerciser should have, as maintaining proper form is a must when working out with free weights. It should be sturdy enough to withstand the strain of all of that weight while providing a wide base for stability.
The Ironmaster Super Bench Adjustable Weight-Lifting Bench is very heavy duty, rated to 1,000 pounds and can be quickly and easily adjusted to 11 angles, from decline to upright. It’s ideal for your dumbbells, as well as racks and cages.
11. Resistance bands
There are many reasons to invest in resistance bands too, as they have multiple uses and they’re remarkably cheap too. They can also be adapted to suit a variety of fitness levels, so whether you’re a beginner or an expert, they’re ideal for your home gym. Plus, they don’t take up much room, you can bring them along when you’re traveling, and they can be used for a comprehensive, full-body workout that challenges virtually every major muscle group in your body.
Fit Simplify offers an entire package on Amazon, including five resistance bands, a carry bag, instructional booklet, an eBook and online videos. If you’re a beginner, use the extra light and/or light bands; there are also medium, heavy and extra heavy bands that allow for more intermediate and advanced strength training.
12. Speed bag
Striking a speed bag in a workable rhythm requires focus, coordination, and speed, and serves as a very effective cardiovascular workout for improving heart and circulatory health while reducing your risk for heart disease and hypertension. You’ll also benefit from better coordination, which offers numerous benefits, including helping to prevent an injury. Plus, it feels good and is a great way to relieve stress – stress relief, in addition to regular exercise, proper diet, and quality rest is a key factor in overall health and fitness.
The Everlast Elite Leather Speed Bag is available on Amazon and ranges from under $30 to around $75, depending on the size you choose.