The Ultimate List of At-Home Gym Essentials
A few weeks ago, we talked about how you don’t need a gym membership or a paid fitness program to get fit – you achieve fitness entirely on your own, in the comfort of your home.
Aside from the cost savings, working out at home has other benefits. There’s more privacy, less commuting time, and you can blast whatever music you want without needing to channel it through headphones.
The beauty of a home fitness space is that you can design it any way you want. It can have all the bells and whistles, or just the at-home gym essentials.
I’ve tried a ton of products over the years and have compiled a list of some of my go-to brands so that you too can have an awesome, functional home fitness space! I’ve also included a list of equipment and other items that may come in handy if you’re doing a home fitness program like Bodyboss Method or BBG.
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[Updated Apr 5 2020]
If you’re only going to invest in the bare essentials, go with the next two items:
Exercise or Yoga Mat – B Mat or Yo Gorilla Mat
Even if you don’t do yoga, having a quality mat is vital for pretty much any type of exercising you do because it:
- Protects your floors
- Keeps you from slipping
- Provides cushioning for your joints
All very important if you’re doing any kind of floor or plyometric exercises.
It’s tempting to go cheap on this purchase, but I strongly recommend you don’t. You could end up with a mat that bunches up, causes you to slip, or gets destroyed after a month. You don’t need another reason to get frustrated with your workouts so make sure you get a quality mat.
I’m a big fan of yoga and so I’ve owned many mats over the years, including some from Gaiam, Jade, and Lululemon. Some of them were decent mats but none compare to the B Mat.
B Mat originally started as a company that made rubber pads for carpets, but they quickly came to the realization that the material also made for the perfect yoga mat. Grippy, eco-conscious, comfortable, and durable, this mat is everything you need it to be! It doesn’t have any chemical smell that other yoga mats have.
If you have more space and are intending to do a lot of high-impact exercise, I strongly recommend you get the Yo Gorilla Mat instead. This mat starts at 6′ x 5′, which covers more floor space so you don’t have to worry about scuffing your floors.
They are also thicker than yoga mats and can stand up to a beating, so you can wear your shoes with them. I’ve had mine for nearly a year and it still looks brand new!
Learn more about the difference between yoga and exercise mats, and how to decide which one is right for you. (This guide to cushioned yoga mats is good if you have bad knees.)
Trainers/Running shoes – Asics
I’ve run the gamut of shoe brands (having completed two half-marathons in my time) and Asics are my favorite brand. My current pair is the Women’s Gel-Cumulus 18. (Yes, same shoes in the featured picture!)
I use them for running, cycling, HIIT, and resistance training. Plus, they come in some pretty fun colors so what’s not to love about that?
A word about running shoes – more expensive isn’t always better! I have tried some of Asics more pricey models and found they made no difference in performance. Extra cushioning isn’t always a good thing.
You should replace your running shoes every 12-18 months, especially if you do a lot of running. Once the cushioning goes, you risk putting more strain on your joints which can result in injury.
That covers the basics: Shoes and a mat.
Everything else on this list you can pretty much MacGyver using things you already have around the house. However, springing for some of these items can improve the quality of your workouts.
Investing in a few select pieces of equipment for your home fitness space can make your workouts more convenient and effective. Here are the top four:
A kettlebell is one of the most useful weights you can add to your home gym. I use a 15 lb Kettlebell in place of a medicine ball. You can use it for almost all the same exercises. You can also use it for a whole host of other exercises that you can’t do with a medicine ball. (Like the kettlebell swing, for example.)
15 lbs might seem intimidating if you’re just starting out, but keep in mind that most of the exercises you’re doing with it use both arms at the same time. 10 lbs is probably too light, even for a beginner!
If you’re doing a program like BBG or Bodyboss Method, a plyo box is really handy. The stairs are a decent substitute if you don’t want to invest in a box, but that has it’s limitations. The first step is likely not high enough and it’s not as effective for lateral jumps.
You can never go wrong with a couple sets of dumbbells. I have 3 pounder dumbells that I use for reverse flys and front raises, and that seems plenty heavy. (Did I mention that arms are my trouble spot?) 8-10 pounders are a good starting point for exercises like walking lunges, renegade rows, or step-ups.
A sturdy set of resistance bands is another at-home gym essential, especially since they have multiple uses and take up very little space. You don’t have to spend a lot on them either.
I like to use these for glute exercises especially, I find it’s one of the most effective ways to target those booty muscles!
This is definitely one of the bigger investments for a home fitness space. A good bench can support your weight for exercises like bench hops, step-ups, and tricep dips! I am really grateful to have one because I personally don’t have any other piece of furniture that’s sturdy enough for these exercises.
This one by Marcy is a great choice because it’s sturdy but small, which means it works well in a smaller at-home gym space. It’s also more reasonably priced than a lot of workout benches!
We live in an age where fitness tech is now actually accurate enough to be really helpful in your fitness journey. Wearable tech has had a huge impact on my success in getting fit. After all, knowledge is power! Knowing how many calories I was burning in a workout (or not burning) helped me keep my calorie intake in check. It also helped to gamify exercise, motivating me to reach certain goals each day.
For fitness tech, I have two go-to brands that I highly recommend:
I was gifted an Apple Watch Series 3 this past Christmas by my spouse and love it. First of all, it’s sleek and looks great in the way that all Apple products do. But it’s also waterproof so the only time you need to take it off is to charge it. Battery life is about 1.5 days which is decent considering everything it does.
You have three goals to hit each day which are shown by “rings”. The Move Ring indicates how many active calories you’ve burned, the Exercise Ring indicates how many minutes you’ve spent exercising, and the Stand Ring indicates how often you’re getting off your duff to move around.
FitBit Charge 2 or Ionic
The Apple Watch is fantastic but it’s really pricey and it may have more bells and whistles than you need. Prior to the Apple watch, I had a Fitbit Charge 2, which I also loved. It’s just as accurate, and far more affordable. Fitbit is a fantastic brand because they have a tracker for every price point. And the charge on these things last forever, I think I only needed to plug in my Charge 2 about once a week.
If you want something a little fancier than the Charge 2, The Ionic is comparable to the Apple Watch in function but a good sight cheaper.
Formerly a major Lululemon gal, I have fallen out of love with this brand over the years as the price tags on their clothing continue to soar and the quality continues to plummet. (Why Lulu, why??)
In the past year, I have turned to Nike for my sweat-wicking needs, and I have never looked back. High quality, functional workout clothes that make me look like a boss? Yes, please!
I love the dri-fit tech in their clothes. No matter how sweaty you get, the clothes keep you dry. I have two pairs of their crops that blow my Lulus out of the water, in both form and function. (And who can resist that little swoosh!)
What’s a sweat session without your favorite upbeat tunes? The great part about working out from home is that – if you prefer – you can opt out of earbuds and use a speaker! For which I have one and only suggestion:
Bose Soundlink Bluetooth Speaker is a fantastic portable speaker. Big sound from a little box! These newer ones are even waterproof so it’s ideal for outdoor exercise too, like hiking or camping.
Sometimes you can’t blast your tunes out of respect for the people around you, so earbuds are your only alternative if you want to listen to music while you’re working out. (Or, if you are listening to guided workouts via Aaaptiv.)
I must have weird ears because I’ve struggled all my life to find earbuds that actually stay in my ears, (even when I’m not working around and jumping around.) Then I discovered the Apple Airpods and fell in love! They stay put no matter what and the sound quality is unreal.
Does anyone actually like foam rolling? Because to be honest, I kind of hate it. It’s like flossing for your muscles. But a foam roller can really help release muscle tension, improve circulation, and prevent injuries.
The good news is, like floss, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on it. This one will get the job done for under twenty bucks.
Now you’re all geared up with your at-home gym essentials!
I want to reiterate that you don’t need all these things to have an effective home fitness space. You can start with the basics and add the convenient, nice-to-have items later on.
What’s your favorite of these at-home gym essentials?