You don't need to take out a second mortgage on your house to get effective at-home gym equipment. Whether your goal is weight loss, athletic performance, or muscle building, you can get the tools you need to maximize your space and minimize cost. We asked three trainers for what they’d get to match the goal, all while keeping the cost around a maximum budget of $300 or less.
Home Gym Equipment for Weight Loss
The Expert: Celebrity personal trainer Ramona Braganza
Braganza trains celebs on-location, where there isn’t a ton of equipment, so she knows you can get fit without the fancy stuff.
“To lose weight and remove fat, you have to change your body composition by building muscle,” Braganza says. You’ll also need to build in cardio to drive your heart rate up and work your core in order to prevent injury, she adds.
(Related: See Cindy Crawford's At-Home Workout)
She recommends circuit training in a 3-2-1 Method, which will build strength while working your cardiovascular system, too. This means a one-minute cardio burst (dancing in place, step-ups), followed by an exercise that targets the muscles in the front of your body, another one-minute cardio burst, an exercise to target the muscles in the back of your body, a final one-minute cardio burst, and then core. To accomplish all that, here are her must-buys:
Cost: $40; try Alpha Mats Folding Exercise Mat, amazon
Use it for exercises where you need to lay on your back, core training (like planks and side planks) or post-workout stretching.
Cost: $60; try Reebok Aerobic Step, amazon
Use the step to get your heart rate up (stairs in your home can also do the trick). It also doubles as a bench for weight exercises.
Set of dumbbells
Cost: $196.64 (for all weights recommended below); try Neoprene Dumbbells by Day 1 Fitness, amazon
Buy pairs of dumbbells in 5-, 7-, 10-, 12-, 15-, and 20-pounds (vary the weights according to your strength). Because you’re going to be moving through rounds of exercises quickly in circuit training (for instance, a chest press on the step, triceps kickbacks, and dumbbell squat), you’re going to want to have the varying weights you need at hand.
Cost: $6.89; Waypor Resistance Loop Bands, amazon
Use this for upper-body exercises. You can wrap it around a pole for a reverse fly or stand on it for bicep curls or an overhead shoulder press. Sitting on the floor, you can wrap it around your feet and do a row. It’ll also assist you in stretching.
Home Gym for Athletic Performance
The Expert: Marta Montenegro, CSCS, a Miami-based exercise physiologist and adjunct professor at Florida International University
Improving your performance on the field, track, or court requires training that combines strength, endurance, power, flexibility, and agility, says Montenegro.
Related: Try LeBron James' Core Workout
These four pieces of equipment will get you there:
TRX Suspension Training System
Cost: $149.95, amazon
Montenegro likes TRX because it uses your own bodyweight as resistance, and you can adjust the resistance according to your position to the straps, she says. You may do squats and their many variations (single leg, jump squat), lunges, row to overhead press, and knee tucks. With this system, you’ll work on strength, but also flexibility and agility, she says.
Cost: Starting at $9.95/each (about $50 total); try Yes4All Vinyl Coated Kettlebells, amazon
Buy two in different weights for swings, snatches, and cleans, exercises that work your upper and lower body simultaneously. You can also use these to build endurance if you decrease your weight but increase the number of reps.
Cost: $10; try Survival and Cross Jump Rope, amazon
Excellent for working agility and endurance. Of course, you’ll need the space for this, so make sure your ceilings are appropriately high enough or take the jump rope outdoors on a deck or driveway.
Cost: $34.99; try TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller, amazon
A foam roller doesn’t address flexibility outright; it helps work the fascia (connective tissues) in muscles. Ultimately, that can lead to greater muscle flexibility, says Montenegro.
Home Gym for Muscle Building
The Expert: Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., CSCS, assistant professor in exercise science and director of the human performance laboratory at Lehman College in the Bronx, New York
Weight training (squats, deadlifts, press, and rows) will be the focus of your muscle-building program, so you’re going to want to direct your funds toward a good (and appropriately heavy) dumbbell set. Ideally, it shouldn’t take up a ton of space in your home, either:
Cost: $291.18; try Power Block Elite Dumbbells, amazon
This set can adjust from 5 to 50-pounds per hand, so it can meet you wherever your abilities lie. (And later, you can buy expander sets to get up to 90-pounds per hand.) The benefit of adjustable weights is that they store compact and easily in your home. And taking a minute to stop and adjust the weight between sets or exercises can be beneficial. “Research from our lab shows that taking longer rest intervals is slightly more beneficial than a short one when it comes to increasing strength and muscle hypertrophy,” says Schoenfeld.
Cost: $6.89; Waypor Resistance Loop Bands, amazon
Resistance bands work nicely in a dumbbell program, says Schoenfeld. Some exercises, like lat pulldowns, a seated row, or glute kickbacks, are just not possible with dumbbells, so bands fill that gap.
Hang a sturdy screw in your wall to wrap the resistance band around to make doing these exercises more seamless.
Note: Because so many well-intentioned people sprang for pricey equipment only to never use it, you can buy some good, high-quality stuff second hand by looking through Craigslist, the Facebook Marketplace, or Neighborhood resale sites. If you snagged a bargain on the dumbbells and have cash left over, get a workout bench, available on Amazon for about $40.