11 Kinds of Exercise Equipment for At-Home Workouts
Fitness experts recommend must-have exercise equipment to maximize your at-home workouts, from dumbbells to an ab wheel.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Stay-at-home mandates during COVID-19 and the closure of non-essential businesses have kept most people away from gyms and fitness centers. Many regular gym-goers turned to workouts inside the home to maintain their health and fitness.
Due to space and equipment limitations, many at-home workouts focus on bodyweight exercises — things like lunges, squats and sit-ups that require nothing more than you.
“Bodyweight exercise is a good option because it’s free and you can do it anywhere,” explains Sarah Grooms, a personal trainer in New York City for Obé Fitness on demand. “I’m a firm believer that bodyweight exercises help build a strong foundation and a solid core before adding any equipment.”
While bodyweight workouts are great, you may want to buy an exercise bike, treadmill or similar piece of equipment to augment them. Why? To prevent boredom and increase intensity. “Equipment will greatly help level up your at-home workout,” say Liz Van Voorhis, founder and CEO of Fit Collective in New York City.
Here are some must-have exercise equipment options to create the ideal home gym. Or, try these under-desk treadmills to get some steps in even while you’re working.
One pair or multiple pairs of free weights can help you increase resistance for many bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, crunches and more, Van Voorhis says. “Dumbbells will help you create strength more quickly and perform compound movements that work multiple parts of the body,” she says.
A yoga mat won’t necessarily increase the intensity of any particular exercise. But it’s a sanitary way to put padding between you and the gym floor, as well as a way to prevent slipping during certain exercises.
“Yoga mats offer a slight cushion when working out at home, and they’re a great way to keep your downstairs neighbor from banging their broom on their ceiling if you’re incorporating high-impact plyometrics training into your day,” explains Grooms.
“If you’re doing a tabletop or side-saddle specific exercise, using a yoga mat will have your wrists, knees and hips thanking you later.”
Booty bands or mini resistance bands
Slip one of these small resistance bands around your ankles or knees and get ready to feel a big difference.
“The idea behind these versatile bands is that they provide an extra external force working against the body during your movement,” Grooms says. “Whether you’re using bands to activate your glutes prior to a run, or you’re super-setting an upper body workout with a resistance band, you will feel every last inch of the burn in the best way.”
Plus, these bands can go anywhere with you.
Weighted medicine ball
Small ball, big weight. Weighted medicine balls come in various weights so choose one that your body can handle.
“Medicine balls can add explosive power and also rotational power to exercises like linear and lateral slams, as well as reverse lunges,” says Trevor Franklin, a group fitness and personal trainer at Performix House in New York City. If you have downstairs neighbors, however, don’t slam them on the floor.
TRX Home2 System
A Navy Seal trying to work out during a deployment with limited space and equipment developed the TRX Suspension Trainer. It’s an ideal piece of equipment to add to any home gym.
“The TRX allows you to use your body weight at various angles, which increases resistance, therefore making bodyweight training even more effective,” Van Voorhis says.
“It’s also a great tool if you have injuries that may prevent you from doing other types of exercises, as the straps provide additional support. For example, if you can’t do a push-up on the ground, you can work up to it by starting at a lesser angle on the TRX, gradually increasing and then taking it fully to the ground.”
The TRX can also increase the intensity of exercises like ab or core-focused moves. TRX is offering its app for free over the next three months, giving you access to a huge library of exercises and customizable workout plans. Use code: YUPVKVHVRW
Upgrade from towels with this underrated gliding tool. “They’re an inexpensive option that allows you to work on both stabilization and low-impact exercises, and they’re extremely versatile during a workout,” says Grooms.
“My two favorite exercises to do using sliders are reverse lunges and plank mountain climbers. For the reverse lunge, place the slider under the ball of the foot that will be moving backwards. For your plank mountain climbers, put a slider under the ball of each foot.”
Bonus: Your core is guaranteed to get stronger with every exercise you’re doing with sliders.
If you’re able to do pull-ups, consider investing in an at-home pull-up bar that fits in a door frame.
“Aside from being able to work on pull-ups, which are arguably one of the most valuable back and grip strength builders, this tool also adds a whole new realm of leg raise movements that aren’t as easy to do with just the body,” Franklin says. “It requires little space and is usually a small upfront financial investment.”
Take your flow from the gym floor to your living room by purchasing a kettlebell or two, or even a set of them.
“You get the most out of a workout doing compound exercises that allow you to work multiple body parts and muscle groups, and kettlebells allow you to do that with added resistance,” Van Voorhis says. “They’re especially effective when performing certain dynamic exercises as well as flowing from one dynamic exercise to the next, which weights like dumbbells aren’t designed to do.”
The main exercise movement is the kettlebell swing, which is generally used to flow from one exercise to the next. You can also try several variations of the farmer’s walk.
BOSU Balance Trainer
Perform mountain climbers, push-ups or pistol squats using a BOSU Balance Trainer. This versatile tool is shaped like half of a Swiss ball — rounded and soft on one side, and flat and hard on the other.
“Whether you’re doing cardio or strength exercises, you’re guaranteed to get an extra core burn with a BOSU ball as it brings an added element of stability to every move,” says Grooms. “It doubles the bang for your buck as you’re able to utilize the tool on both the flat and round sides for different challenges.”
Van Voorhis says if she could pick only one kind of equipment for home use, it would be resistance bands. “You can use them for stretching, you can use them for strength moves, and you can vary the resistance depending on how you use the band — all with only one piece of equipment,” she says.
She recommends looping the bands once for exercises like lunges paired with bicep curls, upright rows or delt raises; looped twice for high knees holding the band overhead; looped three times for standing squat jumps with the band above the knees, or plank jacks with the band below the calves.
You can also loop the band around an anchor to perform lat pulldowns, shoulder extensions and rotations or tricep extensions. For pull-ups, use it for extra support by wrapping it around the bar and resting your foot in it.
Tired of crunch variations? Flip over and strengthen your core with this rolling piece of equipment.
“The ab wheel is a great way to help strengthen and develop the outer and inner abdominal wall, and if used correctly, it can help fire up the lats and triceps,” says Franklin. “My personal favorite trait of the ab roll out wheel is its size. It’s small, which makes it portable, so it can easily fit in most gym bags or suitcases if you ever want to take it with you.”