Exercise Equipment for the Home Gym
A 2010 study shows that only about 31% of people do enough regular leisure-time physical activity to get health benefits — that is, moderate exercise for 30 minutes five times a week or vigorous activity for 20 minutes three times a week.
One of the reasons people don’t work out is the cost of a gym membership. But with an initial investment of about $150, you can start buying exercise equipment to build your own home gym.
It all began in Mississippi
I started working out when my older son, now 28, was just a toddler. We lived in Mississippi at the time while my husband was stationed at Gulfport with the Seabees. When he was deployed, I had plenty of time on my hands. One morning, I turned on the television and happened to catch an exercise program.
Bodies in Motion, led by Gilad Janklowicz was the first fitness show to air on ESPN, where it enjoyed an eleven-year run from 1985 to 1996. As of 2002, the show has been airing on Discovery’s new fitness channel Fit TV and as of 2011, it is the longest running fitness show in the US. Shortly after that, I came across Denise Austin on another tv show.
It was about that time that I discovered Kathy Smith and her aerobics videos. Those were the days of big hair, leg warmers and high-impact workouts. In the late 1980s, she came out with a Step video and I’ve been doing Step ever since.
Step is great for getting in a cardio workout but if you don’t like Step or don't want to buy the bench, a cheap alternative is a jump rope.
The rest of this hub is based on the fitness equipment I have in my own home that I have accumulated over the many years I’ve been working out.
Building a home gym, piece by piece
One of the most common types of exercise equipment people buy for a home gym isn’t really what I would call “hardware” at all. They are exercise videos (ok, DVDs nowadays) and there are tons of them out there. One of my favorite sources is Collage Video. You can search their online catalog by instructor, type of workout and by type of fitness equipment. There are videos for STEP, yoga, aerobics, specific muscle groups, biking, walking -- just about anything you can think of.
There are a number of reasons why videos are so nice to have in your home gym:
- The class comes to you - you don't have to drive anywhere
- You get the feeling of being in a group with some sense of competition
- There’s an instructor to motivate and encourage you
- There’s usually one person on the program who demonstrates a modified version of the exercise so you can adjust it to your level
Dumb bells or hand weights are standard in any gym, home or otherwise. Free weights range from 1 pound up to 100 pounds. Most women will likely stick to the 5-35 pound or so range. And it’s good to have a variety of weights on hand. A punch, which uses the smaller shoulder muscles, calls for a lighter weight than, say, an overhead press.
A stability ball is a useful piece of fitness equipment to have at home. The most obvious exercises it is used for are to work the abdominal muscles, the “abs.” But it can also substitute as a workout bench. In fact, doing so will force your body to do “double duty.”
For instance, if you use it as a bench to perform a press, you’ll have your shoulders on the ball with your knees at a right angle so your body forms a bridge parallel to the floor. The act of keeping your balance is going to give your abs a workout (hint, tightening your abs and butt will help). Meanwhile, you’ll work your pectoralis major and the anterior deltoids. The “pecs” are chest muscles; the deltoids are on the shoulder cap.
Medicine balls come with or without a grip and are good for all sorts of exercises ranging from ab work and learning to throw to added weight while doing squats and lunges. The first medicine ball I purchased was by Danskin and I regretted it because it is soft-sided with a weight inside. The other ball I have is more like a basketball -- solid throughout. A soft-side medicine ball makes it nearly impossible for some exercises, such as pushups. One variation of a pushup using the medicine ball is to put your right hand on the ball, your left on the floor and do your reps. Then, switch so your left hand is on the ball and your right is on the floor. The uneveness of your hands will make you work harder.
Muscle confusion and variable resistance
Muscles benefit from variety, whether it is in your routine or in the equipment you use.
Variable resistance training is usually performed with resistance bands. When you are lifting a heavy dumb bell, you have to overcome the force of gravity to get the weight moving. Say you are doing a bench press with 30-pound weights, a bit heavier than you normally use. Executing that first lift can be the hardest. If you have someone spotting you, that person can help. Once the first one is complete, you can finish the rest on your own until you reach failure.
With a resistance band, the movement starts easy and increases in difficulty as you get to the end where the band is being stretched more. (Think of a bicep curl with a weight versus a band.)
There are a couple nice things about resistance bands. They often come with interchangeable bands, so you can start out easy and work your way up to difficult. Plus, they are great for traveling so there is no excuse for not working out when you’re away from home.
One of the advantages of going to an exercise class is that you don’t have to worry about coming up with your own routines. It isn’t good to do the same exercises over and over because then your muscles get used to them. You have to practice “muscle confusion.” One quick way you can do this without sitting down to chart out a multi-week routine is by using a Fit Deck.
I purchased several of these: two Bodyweight decks, one for me and one for my older son who is in the service; and two Yoga decks, one for me and one for younger son who has back issues. I’ve been working on getting him to practice yoga because it would really help strengthen his core.
The neat thing about these decks is the built-in variety. You can shuffle the deck, randomly pull out a card and do the exercise listed. Or you can create a sequence by pulling cards from different groups. For instance, the Bodyweight deck has cards grouped into upper, middle, lower and full body. By doing several from each, in a sequence, you’ve created a circuit.
There are other pieces of exercise equipment you can buy for your home gym – kettle bells, a Bosu ball, weighted vests, sandbags and ropes….
Building a home gym doesn’t have to take a lot of money. What it does take is determination to be part of the 31% of Americans who are actively working to take care of their health.
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Below is the equipment mentioned in this hub and their average cost. You can purchase your fitness equipment from many stores, including Target, Amazon.com, Fitdeck.com, Sports Authority, Iron Company and Beachbody.com
$5 - $20
Average $20, ranging $10 to $72
$329 – set of 5 dumb bells, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25
$10 - $15
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