8 Essentials of a Home Gym

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If you don’t have the time to go to the gym, consider setting up your own personal gym in your house. This can be a huge timesaver for someone with a busy schedule. It may sound expensive, but you don’t have to purchase state-of-the-art equipment to get a great workout at home. HealthCentral talked to a few fitness experts to get their picks for the best (and most economical) products to have on hand if you want to start working out at home.


The right space

If your basement is dark, cold, and poorly lit, you probably won’t want to go there every day to workout. Look for unused space — such as a spare room or the corner of a larger room — that you can turn into a gym. I transformed my mudroom into a home gym years ago. Walking through it every day inspires me to workout. A place with windows and access to fresh air can also help to motivate you. A TV with a DVD player is a great addition to a home gym if you like workout videos.


Cardio equipment

Unless you live in a place that has nice weather year-round, you will need cardio equipment for exercise when you are unable to walk, run, or bike outside. “I would recommend an elliptical machine, treadmill, or rowing machine,” says Faith Kromer, a personal trainer in Ellicott City, Maryland, in an email exchange with HealthCentral. “I emphasize the importance of daily cardiovascular exercise with all of my clients.” Used equipment is often inexpensive — check your local paper or classifieds.


Adjustable dumbbells

“If you have a set of dumbbells and a creative spirit, you can come up with all sorts of different home workouts,” suggests Ryan Andrews, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and coach at Precision Nutrition. “Since most of us don't want to take up an entire room with dumbbells ranging from 5 to 75 pounds, I recommend getting a set of adjustable dumbbells, like Powerblocks,” states Andrews in an email exchange with HealthCentral.


Resistance bands

“To offer your body a different form of resistance, and a bit more variety, pick up a set of bands,” Andrews recommends. “These can be used in strength and mobility exercises. They can even offer assistance if you have a spot to practice pullups. If you end up getting serious with band use, you'll want to find a sturdy spot to anchor them (like a door or wall mount). Personally, I like the Superbands and Safety Toners from Perform Better,” Andrews says. Bands are also great to take along for a workout when you’re traveling.


Adjustable bench

“You can always make due with the floor or a chair, but a sturdy, adjustable bench will allow you to set up for rows and presses much more comfortably (and safely),” Andrews states. You can also use a bench to perform other kinds of exercises, such as abdominal exercises, stationary lunges, and push-ups. Look for a bench that is comfortable and offers good support.


Stability Ball

A stability ball workout requires multiple muscle systems to engage during exercise, challenging your body to maintain good posture and balance. The stability ball can assist you with a wide variety of core strength exercises, such as abdominal and lower-back strengthening. It can also be incorporated into Pilates and flexibility workouts.


Exercise Mats

Mats are essential if your gym floor has a hard surface. A padded mat can provide you with cushioning and support for abdominal and lower back exercises. If you plan on doing yoga or Pilates in your home gym, a yoga mat is necessary to provide you with adequate cushioning and grip when you are working out in bare feet.


A Workout Plan

“You need a good workout plan if you want to be successful,” Kromer states. Plan your workouts at the beginning of each week so that you know exactly what you want to accomplish in your home gym. For example, plan your work and family schedule around when you will do your cardio, weightlifting, and flexibility exercises (such as yoga). This will help keep you motivated and maximize your fitness success.