Dropping the extra winter weight or deciding to firm up for swimsuit season takes all kinds of discipline and commitment. Financial discipline and commitment, however, are not among the requirements. For less than $125, you can afford the basic equipment you need for an overall workout at home, says Dallas trainer Pauline Stafford. Spend a little more and take your home gym to the next level.
Although Stafford has a fully equipped garage gym where she trains her Freedom Fitness US clients, she says that building a home gym is all about knowing yourself and what you’ll actually use. The Internet can provide inspiration or instructions on new ways to use what you have.
The items Stafford recommends for your home gym can be found at a variety of stores.
The basic gym
- Jump rope: The old-fashioned kind from your childhood is a great way to get your heart going. About $5.
- Resistance bands: The portable elastics help improve power and strength and can work arms, legs, back, chest and more.
Stafford has found that women are usually fonder of the band workouts than men. She suggests looking for higher-quality bands, because bands break down quickly.
Stafford recommends the Bodylastics brand, which is available individually or in a set. A good place to start is the Basic Tension set, which includes anchors, handles and bands from 5 to 19 pounds. $45.95. bodylastics.com.
- Suspension trainers: Stafford says these trainers are “the best bang for your buck.” They let you use your body weight to develop strength and flexibility.
Men are generally bigger fans of suspension trainers than women, she says.
There are endless uses for the trainers — pull-ups, modified pull-ups, squats, chest press — and you can target any area. They are portable and can be secured to trees, weights, playground equipment or doors.
Stafford says to get your money’s worth, watch the instructional DVD. Monkey Gym Brand Jungle Gym, includes DVD, $49.95. monkeybargym.com/jungle-gym.
- Pull-up bar: Maximize your upper-body workout. The Perfect Pullup bar has two swing arms and rotating handles, so it can be used as you work your way up to completing your first pull-up. The bar fits standard door frames and is easy to remove when not in use. Perfect Pullups, $29.95. perfectonline.com.
- Perfect push-ups: Skip stationary push-up equipment, Stafford says. Instead, go for something that’s going to give you a “totally different workout — even if you can already do push-ups.” She suggests the Perfect Pushup paddles. The rotating handles help target more muscle groups. $25. amazon.com.
The next level
- Kicking bag: Look for something that you can kick or hit. This can be a punching bag or a stationary kicking bag. We found a free-standing heavy bag for $100 online. Fitness items like this often show up in garage sales or on Craigslist for much less, Stafford says. Century Wavemaster II $99. amazon.com.
- Hand weights: Expect to spend about $1 per pound, Stafford says. Most women will want to start in the 3- to 5-pound range, and most men can start building their collections at 15 or 20 pounds. For gyms in homes with kids, rubber-protected hand weights are a must, Stafford says.
- Step bench: This piece, which can be used for step-ups, squats and more, requires few materials and few woodshop skills to build yourself, Stafford says. You just want to make sure that the bench is tall enough so that your knee is at a 90-degree angle when you step up on it. For those who don’t want to build, there are a lot of ready-made options. Stepper bench, high-step club. $69.95. amazon.com.
The no-cost gym
“You don’t have to have equipment to get fit,” Stafford says. “All you really need is willingness and the exercises you did in junior high.” Those include jumping jacks, push-ups, lunges and squats, she says. Use a timer and do several reps of each exercise.
What not to buy
Save your money and skip the treadmill, elliptical and rowing machines for home use, Stafford says. You’re not likely to use them enough to justify the costs.