These days many commercialized gyms are social clubs, having a large presence of highly fit, athletic, and able-bodied men and women, which, in and of itself, can intimate others who are less fit. So much in fact that novice exercisers oftentimes feel the need to stay outside of big chain gyms until they make some sort of physical transformation. On the flip side there are folks who just prefer not to frequent the gym opting instead for working out outdoors or in the comfort of their own home.
Personally, as one who has worn many hats (overweight member, highly fit member, group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and manager) in small and large chain gyms alike I’ve become somewhat allergic to the overall culture. Still, not exercising or engaging in some form of physical activity each and every day just isn’t an option for me. So, in an effort to maintain the motivation to stay physically active and physically fit over the long-term, I’m continuously striving to build the perfect home gym.
Whether meaningless gym culture turns you off or you simply prefer to exercise at home for free and on your own schedule, here are my five top tips for cost-effectively creating a home gym and making it work for you.
Invest in Some Free Weights
Free weights (barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells) are the most common and among the most convenient types of resistance (strength) training equipment, as they are incredibly versatile and relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to standard gym machines. For novice weight lifters, free weights are excellent for building muscular endurance, balance, and coordination. In addition, heavy lifting with free weights generally activates more muscle mass, making them an ideal choice for seasoned lifters.
For a low-cost home gym, I highly recommend starting with a CAP Barbell 40-Pound Dumbbell Set. Similar to a standard barbell, you have the option of purchasing additional plates for the set when you’re ready to step up your workout. CAP also makes great cast iron kettlebells that are built for stability and durability. For a larger investment, consider the Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbell Set, which offers resistance ranging from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds.
Purchase a Sturdy Jump Rope
Exercising with a jump rope is a practical, economical and fun alternative to using traditional cardio machines at the gym like treadmills, elliptical trainers, or stationary bikes. Plus, this high-intensity exercise burns a ton of calories in a relatively short amount of time. In fact, by performing 2-5 minute spurts of rope jumping for a total duration of 30 minutes you can burn anywhere between 350 and 450 calories.
You can keep your workouts simple with the basic forward jump or spice it up a bit with speed jumping and interval workouts (backwards, side-to-side, and criss-cross jumping). In addition to increasing your calorie burn, such workouts are highly effective for core strengthening and muscle development. Take your rope jumping session outdoors for an added endorphin boost and a healthy dose of vitamin D. Check out the Double Unders Jump Rope to get started!
Buy a Variety of Resistance Bands
Exercising with resistance bands can significantly boost your metabolism, help you lose weight, sculpt your muscles, improve your body composition, and greatly reduce your risk of disease. Even better, you’ll reap all these benefits with little impact on your joints. Resistance bands specifically allow you to incorporate high-repetition training in a manner that’s both efficient and effective. High-repetition training greatly supports weight loss while also promoting substantial gains in muscular strength and endurance.
Training with resistance bands is especially ideal if you’re utterly afraid of injuring yourself with free weights or if you’re simply looking to improve your exercise performance (distance running) or general physique without “pumping the iron”. When training this way, it’s best to perform at least 2-3 sets of 12-20 (or more) repetitions. I highly recommend the Black Mountain Resistance Band Set due to its simple functionality, high versatility, and low cost.
Get Yourself a Stability Ball
A stability (“Swiss” or exercise) ball makes a fabulous addition to any home gym. Even in the absence of exercise simply sitting on one will activate and engage your abdominal and other core muscles, which ultimately helps to improve your posture, balance and stability over time. It’s important to secure a stability ball that is the correct size when it’s fully inflated. Your ball is the correct size when your legs form a 90-degree angle when you’re in a seated position, with your feet rested on the ground in front of you.
The stability ball can be used to perform lower-body work, abdominal work, and virtually any exercise that you would normally perform with the aid of a weight bench (dumbbell bench press, dumbbell fly, shoulder press, seated biceps curl, and lying triceps extension). Having tried countless brands over the years, I’ve never been disappointed with the GoFit Professional Stability Ball. With several size options available, they are heavy duty, thick-walled, and well-built for everyday use.
Choose the Right Hula Hoop
If you’re looking to create the home gym of your dreams, purchasing a high-quality hula hoop is an absolute must. Hula hooping in general is a low-impact, high-intensity exercise that works the muscles of the core like no other exercise can. The continuous swinging motions involved in hooping specifically help in developing the muscles of the lower back as well as all the abdominal muscles including the obliques (side abdominals) and the rectus abdominis (“six-pack”).
Hooping is also excellent for improving the overall appearance of your lower-body. Since hooping involves rapid and repetitive back-and-forth swinging motions about the waist and other joints (hips, knee and ankles) you can burn a generous amount of calories (200-250 calories in 30 minutes) while doing so. Need ideas for a good hula hoop? Check out the many kits offered by FXP Fitness each of which includes a retractable hula hoop, carrying bag, exercise guide, and a DVD workout.
And there you have it – Five ways to create a home gym without breaking the bank. Let me also emphasize that your body weight is one of the most powerful, convenient and resourceful tools that’s completely at your disposal. So, to optimize your daily calorie burns make an effort to include some burpees, push-ups, dips, squats, lunges, mountain climbers, planks, and other body weight exercises in those at-home workouts.