Exercise Equipment for Working Out at Home
I like to work out at home. But one of the things I’ve always struggled with is finding the right exercises to work all of the different areas of the body. I, like a lot of people, don’t have the money or the space for a lot of fancy equipment.
But over the years, I have gotten some equipment, and I’ve also found ways to work out without equipment. So, whether you’re looking to start small or upgrade to something bigger, here is a list of things that can help you with those at-home work outs.
This is one of the least expensive ways to get a good workout. Jump ropes range from $2 to $50! But you can get a decent one for $10 to $15.
I never used to think much about jumping rope. It seemed too easy, like it might be good for warm-ups, but not much more. But then it occurred to me that boxers jump rope all the time, and they are extremely fit. So, I gave it a shot, and didn’t regret it. Well, my calves regretted it, but it was a good decision. :)
When I decided to give it a serious try, I couldn’t jump rope for more than TWO minutes. That’s it! I couldn’t believe how hard it was. And I was constantly stepping on the rope, hitting my feet, screwing it up... It required much more coordination than I previously thought. Once I got better at it, I was able to get a very good cardio workout by jumping rope for 10 to 20 minutes.
There are a lot of options when it comes to jump rope workouts. There’s the standard two-foot jump, the “running” jump where you alternate feet, double jumps, etc. There are entire books dedicated to different workouts.
The typical jump rope is about 9-feet, but there are other sizes. I recommend trying a couple of different lengths before deciding. If you’re still not sure, get an adjustable one! They’re about the same price, and it might be worth it if you’re new to jumping rope. I recommend getting one made of leather, or a “speed rope” that has a bit of weight to it so it will swing more consistently. Toy jump ropes or ones made with something like light nylon are too flimsy and might catch on your feet too much or could move astray too easily while in the air (some people like them; that’s just my experience with them).
Yet another option for jump ropes is weight. Some of them are weighted, and others have optional, removable weights. Removable weight is ideal, in my opinion, because you can change the type of workout you want to do. The weights will make the handles just a little heavier, but you will feel that little bit of weight in your arms and shoulders in no time. Keep in mind that the heavier “speed ropes” are made of a heavier material, and that will be plenty of weight for a lot of people.
Speed ropes have a nice heavy rope that swings more smoothly.
leather, adjustable, & optional weights
Chin-ups and pull-ups are very tough exercises that engage a lot of muscles and and can build a lot of strength. There is a reason that pull-ups are part of the official fitness test used by the U.S. Marine Corps.
This little exercise can work your lats, biceps, forearms, pectorals, and upper back. You might think you need to use some sort of lat pull-down machine, or some other expensive equipment. But for as little as $20, you can get a chin-up bar that mounts on a doorway or in a stairwell.
I’ve been doing pull-ups for a long time, and they are an integral part of my workout routine. It is a compound exercise that replaces the dozen smaller exercises that it would take to reach all the same muscle groups. They are very difficult, but there are options for making them easier. You can do “negative” pull-ups, where you jump or use a boost to bring you to the top of the pull-up, then slowly lower yourself over 5 to 10 seconds. Another option is to hold the pull-up half way for as long as you can, aiming for more and more time with each workout.
Dumbbells with Weights
If you’re interested in free weights, then dumbbells are an easy way to get started with moderate cost.
I recommend getting the threaded dumbbell handles that you add weights to, as opposed to sets of 5lb, 10lb, 15lb, etc:
- they will take up less space, because you only have 2
- it’s cheaper in the long run because you don’t have to go buy a new pair every time you need to increase weight
- it’s cheaper in the long run because you can use the free weights on a barbell in the future
- it’s cheaper in the short run because you don’t have to buy all of your weights up front; you can buy more and heavier weights as you need them
Eventually, you may end up with a couple sets of dumbbells so you can switch weights more quickly for super-sets or alternate between two exercises that use them at different weights. But if you’re just starting to gather equipment for home, one pair is usually a good start.
The great thing about dumbbells is that there are so versatile. There are hundreds of different exercises that use dumbbells, ranging from light toning work to heavy lifting. Having independent weight in each hand is considered a benefit over a barbell because you know that each side of your body is getting the exact same resistance.
My current favorite dumbell exercises are:
Many consider walking and running to be the most natural exercises you can do. Running is one of the best cardiovascular exercises you can do, and I include it as part of a well-rounded exercise plan.
There are many different kinds of treadmills available at a wide range of prices. If you are a fan of walking and/or running, then it might make sense for you to have a treadmill too. It can be especially nice to have if you live in a climate that isn’t always conducive to running outdoors. Sure, Rocky ran through Siberia in December, but we’re not Rocky, and for cryin’ out loud I have The Amazing Race on DVR!
A recumbent stationary bike can be a very nice addition to your home equipment arsenal. There are a lot of pluses:
Less stress on the back - if you have back issue, then an upright bike can potentially put unwelcome stress on your lower back. A recumbent bike allows you to recline, which eliminates that stress on your back.
More comfortable - leaning forward on a bike isn’t really the most natural position. You’re hunched over, and you’re cranking your neck the whole time. Leaning back on the recumbent is much more comfortable.
Your hands are free - Multi-tasking on a regular bike is tough, because usually you have your hands on the handlebars. Even a treadmill forces you to move your hands. But on a recumbent bike, you are sitting down, your upper body is not moving all around, and your hands are free. So, while you’re getting a workout you can also use some dumbbells to work your shoulders or biceps, read a book, play video games, feed your smartphone addiction, knit a sweater, write a letter, juggle kittens, or whatever else tickles your fancy!
When my wife suggested getting an elliptical trainer, I was skeptical. We already had a treadmill, a small home gym, and a recumbent bike. Why did we need another piece of equipment? And why would an elliptical trainer be any different than the other things we had?
Well, there are a lot of benefits to elliptical trainers that I didn’t know about:
- extremely low-impact - if you’re looking for low-impact exercises, you can’t do much better than an elliptical trainer. The “elliptical” path your feet follow while using it eliminates the impact of walking or running on a treadmill.
- better range of motion - when done properly, you are able to work out your lower body through a wider range of motion than a stationary bike or a stepper. Believe me, this makes for a very effective workout!
- safer range of motion - the movement on the elliptical is as natural as walking, and it’s just as easy on the joints and tendons. A stationary bike can put extra strain on the ligaments surrounding the knees if your seat is too low. My wife was worried about her knees, and using our elliptical trainer was not only pain-free for her, but it has helped her strengthen her knees and reduce discomfort in every-day life!
So, after some convincing, we got one. And I have to say, even though I had been working out and was in decent shape, the elliptical trainer kicked my ass. I was a sweaty, slobbery mess after 5 minutes! I’ve gotten better at it, but when I do interval workouts, 5 minutes on the right setting and at the right pace can be killer.
When it comes to safer range of motion and low-impact-ness, our elliptical trainer was key in helping me recover from a back injury. I had dealt with a fair amount of pain, and I was nervous about trying any sort of exercise, for fear that exertion of any kind would re-injure the muscles and tendons in my lower back. But I knew this was the safest exercise, so I gave it a shot. Low and behold, short workouts on our elliptical trainer caused no pain to my back whatsoever, allowed me to warm up thoroughly, and made stretching much, much more effective. The healing process sped up dramatically.
Rowing Machines (“Ergs”)
I can attest from personal experience that rowing is one of the greatest all-around cardiovascular exercises there is. It is a full-body workout and can build great strength and stamina. It works the thighs, lower back, upper back, biceps, forearms, to say the least. The complex, all-body movement of rowing results in a workout that can be more intense than almost any other type of cardiovascular exercise, even running! There are many benefits to rowing. And studies have shown that competitive rowers see benefits that surpass those of other sports.
When I was on crew back in school, I was in t
The only drawback to rowing is that the technique is not intuitive and takes some learning to get right. And while rowing, it takes a little more focus to maintain your form, unlike something like walking where you can completely zone out like a vegetable and still get it right. Like a lot of exercises, bad technique could potentially result in injury.
- Home Gyms at Amazon
There are too many hime gyms at Amazon to show in an itty-bitty box. They have a great selection in various price ranges.
Any list of home exercise equipment would be incomplete without mention of home gyms. When it comes to home gyms, there are a lot of options out there, and several brands to choose from. I have looked into BowFlex in the past, but at the time, they were just too expensive for me. I’ve owned two Weider home gyms, and they worked very well.
- No changing of free weights - if you are crunched for time, or if you do any sort of circuit weight training, then it’s a huge benefit to be able to switch between exercises without spending any time changing around weights. With a home gym, all you have to do is move the pin.
- No need for a spotter - if you work out alone, there is risk involved in lifting free weights on a barbell above you. Home gyms are designed for safety, and since the weights rest at the starting position of each exercise, achieving muscle failure only means that the weight will return to the starting position.
- Wide variety of exercises in a single piece of equipment - if you have limited space, a home gym can take the place of several other pieces, like a bench press or other types of free weight stations.
- Tough to put together - home gyms are big, and it’s quite a bit of work to put them together.
- Tough to take apart - just like they’re hard to put together, they’re just as hard to take apart. So, if you move, you’d better set aside a nice chunk of time, some band-aids, several beers, and ear muffs for the kids.
- Strict list of exercises - although home gyms are versatile, they are not quite as versatile as free weights. So, over time, you may find yourself held back by its limited number of stations.
Whatever your workout plan, having the right equipment can be a very important part of your success. Keep at it, and good luck!