Gym Tools

Building a home gym is a time efficient, cost friendly and a potent way of achieving fitness goals.  

Use this list of fitness equipment as shopping guide to begin building your home gym.  

Each piece of equipment has a brief description, the value, how to use it and who it may be best for.  

Kettlebells

Kettlebells are some of the most versatile training tools, which is echoed by nearly everyone.  You don’t have to be a kettlebell guru to exercise with kettlebells.  Exercises like swings, pressing, rows, carrying, lunge and squat work are in everyone’s wheelhouse. 

Kettlebells are a great tool to build strength, power, and cardio.  Though there are no miracles in fitness, I have to mention a steady volume of swings will burn fat like few other activities.  Loading up total body patterns like Turkish Get Ups integrates many different exercises into one unique movement.  Turkish Get Ups are one of my favorite exercises. 

I’ve got a load of videos on YouTube showing Turkish Get Up variations.  

Kettlebell Kings kettlebells meet industry standard for quality, at a very reasonable price.  Plus, Kettlebell Kings recently joined forces with Amazon to sell their entire portfolio of kettlebells.  Amazon Prime ships them to your front door in 2 days, for FREE.

I personally prefer powder coated kettlebells.  The texture of the powder feels good in your hands, reduces slippage and looks nice. 

Be careful about going cheap with kettlebells.  There’s a difference in design, texture and in rare cases defects in symmetry on low-cost kettlebells.  Stay away from kettlebells with a glossy finish if you value the bones in your feet.

Barbells and Plates

Many consider a basic barbell and bumper plates to be essential for a home gym.    

I mostly agree and to be honest, I use my barbell for much more than traditional deadlifts, squats, and pressing.

Accessory tools for the barbell such as the landmine trainer create incredible new exercise options. 

Innovative fitness companies are now making opposite end attachments to make pressing, squatting, deadlifts and grappling drills user-friendly.  

PowerBlock Dumbbells

Traditionally, issues with a complete rack of dumbbells for the home gym were two-fold:

  • Expensive for a complete set.
  • Require a ton of space.  

Space is a commodity for any home gym.  Your house is only so big, and you have to live in it for the other 23 hours of the day.  Having a rack of dumbbells run the entire length of your basement wall is crazy.

In this situation, PowerBlock Dumbbells are by far the best solution.  

Powerblocks are a complete set of dumbbells packed into two units.  Year after year, Powerblocks rank best in class for the adjustable dumbbell category.  

Sandbags

Sandbags are one of the most under-appreciated pieces of fitness equipment.  

Why?  Because sandbag training is HARD.

Lifting, carrying, gripping and dragging a sandbag is very similar to battling the awkward/heavy objects we encounter in everyday life.  

Each repetition with a sandbag is slightly different because sandbags lack the structure and balance of traditional iron weight.  The inner filler bags shift around as the sandbag moves, changing the distribution of weight, creating an unbalanced load that our body must adapt to.

[I avoided buying sandbags for a long time because of durability concerns and perception of a short lifespan for the investment.  Past generation sandbags were notorious for rips, tears, leaks and some blowing out completely.]  

Problems corrected.

Next generation sandbags are made stronger military-grade material, double reinforced stitching, industrial grade zippers and burst proof double velcro filler bags.

I purchased the Athlete and Strongman Sandbags from Brute Force.  I’ve beaten the hell out of both of my sandbags 3-4 days per week for the last 2 years and couldn’t be happier with the durability.

Medicine Balls

Toss, scoop, slam, rotational and chest press throws are just a few of the notable medicine ball drills to develop upper body power.  Few other pieces of equipment that can develop explosive rotational power like rotary medicine ball drills.

Medicine balls have can be integrated into push-ups, wall ball squat to press and various core exercises.  

The durability of medicine balls has improved dramatically, especially with the soft medicine ball option becoming more popular.  On impact, these medicine balls will only rebound a few inches.  Weight options span from 5lbs-30lbs, but most people will find the most value in a 10lb, 15lb or 20lb ball. 

This j/fit medicine ball from Amazon is a great option.

Suspension Trainers

Suspension trainers are the most portable piece of exercise equipment on the market, leveraging bodyweight, angles, and body position to challenge your body with multi-planar movement.  Suspension Trainers are incredible to pack along when traveling.   

5 years ago, TRX and LifeLine owned the suspension trainer market.  Today, there are several other options, though I do feel TRX and Jungle Gym are front-runners for quality, features and training education.

* The Monkii Bars are designed to be highly packable for travelers. 

Gymnastics Rings

Few other pieces of equipment can build raw upper body strength like gymnastics rings.  

Muscle ups, dips, and push-ups are just a few of the classic upper body exercises.  

Companies like Global Bodyweight Training have taken high-level gymnastics training and created a simple instructional path to build upper body strength for ANYONE.  It’s pretty cool.  

The simplest of ring-based drills can turn anyone into a believer.  

Best part?  Gymnastics rings are affordable.

Stretch Resistance Bands

Shoulder pre-hab, core training, variable resistance training drills, and warm-up activation drills are all great exercises to use with a pair of resistance bands.  Mini stretch bands are fantastic for turning on the hip muscles pre-workout.  

Large stretch bands are perfect for assisting with chin-ups/pull-ups or increasing the load for push-ups and squats.

Many advanced gymnastics exercise are also being scaled for beginner/intermediate levels by using resistance bands.

Bodylastics Stretch Bands are a great set of tube-based resistance bands that come with both door and velcro anchor point attachments, along with handles for performing various strength and rehabilitation drills.  

Relieve Body Aches and Pains

Traveling, sitting and exercising can leave your body a complete mess.  

Workout hard, recover hard.  

Taking care of your body before and after the workout is vital for long-term participation in fitness.  

If you’re working out on a regular basis, aches and pains are going to happen.

10-15 minutes of self soft-tissue work most days of the week will help keep things working as they should and keep nagging dull pain to a minimum.

We forget that training hard is a traumatic experience for the body.  We are essentially breaking it down to build it up.    

The Grid Foam Roller

TriggerPoint Therapy Massage Ball (5inch diameter)

TriggerPoint Therapy Massage Ball (2.6inch diameter)

Lacrosse Balls

Tiger Tail Hand Massager

Body Back Buddy

Fitness Trackers/Heart Rate Monitors

Assessing pre-workout readiness to train or intra-workout efforts, perception is not always reality.  

Measuring heart rate upon waking is a great way to find out if today should be a training day or a rest day.  

Tracking heart rate during steady state exercise or high-intensity interval training will give you valuable feedback on effort, rest periods, time to recovery, distance covered, speed, etc.  

Polar Heart Rate Monitors

Garmin Heart Rate Monitors

Fit Bit Heart Rate Monitors

Weight Vests

Weight vests are a hands-free, natural way to add load to a ton of different exercises.  

Progressive loading is essential to making gains.

Squats, chin-ups, pull-ups, body rows, push-ups, lunges, burpees, running and long-distance walking all work extremely well with a simple weight vest.

MIR (short weight vest)

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MIR Short Weight Vest

MIR (long weight vests)

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MIR Long Weight Vest

Cardio 

Air Bike

Air bikes are a slam-dunk piece of cardio equipment, and one of the “Cardio Triad” best cardio conditioning tools known to man. a slam dunk training apparatus.

Air bikes are a low-impact, high reward cardio conditioning tool.  Whether you ride for recovery or performance, the workout variations are limitless.  

Current generation air bikes have received vast improvements in design, material composition, and workout tracking technology.   

LifeCore Assault Bike

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Rowing Ergometer

3 years ago, I bought a Concept2 Rower and now I understand why many feel rowing is one of the best cardio activities out there. 

Concept 2’s Model D (and Model E) rowers are a go-to for collegiate and professional rowing programs so you can bet they are built to be abused.

It’s pretty cool to have access to the same rower the pro’s are using.  

I’ve written several articles about different ways to include rowing in workouts. This 250-meter article is popular, but this one and this one argil give you ideas also.  

Concept 2 Rower Model D

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Yoga Mats/Accessories

You cannot and should not train to exhaustion every day.  Your body needs time to rest, recover and regenerate.  

On days when you crave movement but want to avoid high heart rates and resistance, Yoga (and Animal Flow) is a perfect solution.  

Personally, I don’t practice Yoga for the spirituality side of it.  

I enjoy yoga for the time where it’s just my body, breath, and the mat… nothing else.  Every other stress is shut off and pushed aside for those minutes.  It’s my time.  

Yoga is a great way to shove the distractions and craziness of life away just long enough to recharge/reset the body and mind.  

30-60 minutes of simple yoga training several days per week is a game-changer for many people.

If you’re hurting for cash, you can do yoga without a mat… however… I suggest you get a mat when you’re able to.

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Manduka Pro Mat

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Yogi Toes Mat-Size Yoga Towel

Workout Timers

Staying strict with your rest periods might be a lesson in how much time can be wasted in the gym.  When the timer sounds, work commences.

The GymBoss interval timer is the simplest interval timer available, I’ve used it for years.  Set your work, rest periods, rounds, alarm volume/length and start your workout.

 

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Gymboss Interval Timer

 

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