Home Gym Equipment Basics
With the new year almost upon us, we all may be wanting to get in a little better shape after having an extra egg nog or piece of pie during this time of year. I am no exception to this, even with trying to have “healthy” treats-but gluten-free cake is still cake.
One key to getting in shape is working out. So, you can can always join the gym, but Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness or Gold’s Gym may not be what you want.
These gyms are more than crowded in January, and nobody seems to know how to use any of the equipment.
So, rather than waste money going to a gym, which, according to NPR, is designed for you to join and then not visit, why not try a home gym?
Many people have flexible spending accounts through their health plan at work, where they get an annual stipend for gym equipment.
Below are some of the items that we found to be essential to a home gym. You can visit Amazon to find most of these items, or your local Dick’s Sporting Goods or sporting goods store.
- Exercise or stability balls – According to the scholars at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, stability balls have multiple exercise-related purposes. For example, if the ball is used as a chair or bench, it requires the use of core muscles for stability, which translates into stronger muscles. Of course, to really work the core muscles, stability balls can be used for abdominal exercises such as crunches or V-ups. Additionally, you can use these balls to sit on at work or in the office (if you choose not to stand). Using these balls to sit on during the day will further help strengthen core muscles, improve posture and let you wiggle around a little bit, in case work gets a little dull.
- Free weights – You can do a full body workout, and then some, with free weights or dumbbells. Chest press (possibly on a stability ball), bent over rows, bicep curls, lunges, squats, step ups and shoulder presses are just a few. Wayne University notes that free weights are not only versatile, but provide more natural movements than using expensive machines. You are working smaller stabilizing muscles while using free weights.
- Kettlebells – These items are also versatile and have a few benefits that free weights can’t imitate, due to the shape of kettlebells (see photo at the top of this page). Like free weights, kettlebells can be used for exercises such as step ups, shoulder presses, squats, deadlifts, etc. However, kettlebell swings, are something that can be used to increase heart rate in between other exercises or to improve explosive strength of your lower back and core.
- Barbells – Like many of the other items listed above, the barbell is a useful piece of equipment that can be used for a variety of exercises. Traditionally, the squat, bench press, shoulder press, row, deadlift and bicep curl are often done with barbells. With the barbell, plates are easily added to each side allowing flexibility with what exercise you want to perform.
- Resistance bands – Even more versatile are resistance bands, which are especially useful for people traveling as they can be packed in a bag or suitcase quite easily. You can do many different movements with these bands such as rows, tricep extensions, chest presses, hip bridges and clam shells. UC Davis offers some useful tips for those looking to incorporate these items into their fitness routine.
- Yoga mat – A yoga mat should be used when performing exercises such as push ups or superman exercises (for the lower back) rather than having your face planted into the carpet or floor. But, yoga is a practice that should be incorporated into one’s fitness routine for many reasons. For example, many of the poses allow one to increase his/her flexibility, which translates into being better able to perform the full range of motion for exercises when working out. Also, performing yoga can create a sense of mindfulness or awareness, which can improve one’s body image.
- Treadmill or cardio equipment – There are host of reasons to conduct cardiovascular exercises, as discussed on the Fitness page. Whether you want to burn some calories and break a sweat, or just incorporate a lighter workout through incline walking or use of a stationary recumbent bike, some form of cardio is very useful. If you live in a region where it does not snow five months out of the year (then I envy you), and you can probably just go for an outdoor jog, bike ride or walk rather than being inside.
- Optional – TV – Sometimes doing an activity such as treadmill walking or using the elliptical machine can be more exciting if you can watch the latest episode of Ozark, Narcos or Stranger Things. Alternatively, we have used fitness videos like P90x3, which can add some variety to the workout. These videos are more interval training, but are a combination of strength training as well as cardiovascular activities.
- Optional – Foam roller – These inexpensive items can enhance one’s recovery after a difficult workout. A picture is shown above on the yoga mat. The foam roller can be used on many of the larger upper and lower body muscle groups. The National Institute of Health‘s research indicate that foam rolling can help reduce the soreness one can feel after a weight-training session and increase range of motion, so the next workout can be that much more effective.
While the criteria for what made it to this list is subjective, we feel that these items mentioned above are most important. Planet Fitness, Gold’s Gym or even a Crossfit Box each have his or her pros and cons. Sometimes, it is nice to workout elsewhere. However, the convenience of working out in one’s home can outweigh some of the benefits you get from the gym. You may be more inclined to workout, but half of members at many popular clubs never go, and less than half go regularly. The price of a membership to one of these places can pay for most of this equipment in a few months (maybe a couple years, if we are not talking about Planet Fitness).