When I used to search online for workout videos so I could work out at home, I was always so annoyed when the trainer was using equipment. I used to wonder how you could call it a “home workout” if you had to use gym equipment to do it!
I realize now that I was completely missing the point. The idea behind a home workout is not to eliminate the use of equipment, it’s to eliminate the need to go to the gym, and by extension the myriad excuses that prevent people from being as fit as they could be (time, expense, etc.).
There are lots of bodyweight exercises that can make a workout challenging and I try to incorporate them into my own workouts a few times a week. But as you build strength, your bodyweight is no longer enough to keep you moving through progressive overload.
Progressive overload is a strength/endurance building concept. It means that to progressively increase your strength, you have to continue to overload your muscles, i.e. either provide them with greater resistance, or make them perform for more reps/miles/minutes.
Let’s take push-ups for example. If I can currently do 10 push-ups, progressive overload might be adding 2-5 push-ups to a set. But let’s say I can already do 50 push-ups without breaking a sweat. At this point, it probably isn’t most efficient to keep progressing to 60, 80, or 100 repetitions per set for the exercise to be effective.
Instead I might add a resistance band to make my muscles work harder at a lower number of repetitions. With the added resistance, I might only be able to do 20 push-ups. I can go back to adding a few reps a week.
This is why it’s important to have some basic home gym equipment so that your workouts remain effective over time and you can keep pushing toward your goals. Here is a list of what I use in my regular workouts.
Kettlebell (26lb) Kettlebells are extremely versatile. Used properly, one kettlebell can get you through a full body workout. I also like them because they’re more conducive to functional movements than dumbbells.
Aerobic step. I purchased mine on Amazon during Prime Day this summer. The few inches of elevation add an extra challenge to a variety of strength and cardio movements.
Yoga blocks. A must for stretching, and fantastic for increasing range of motion. They’re extremely affordable as well.
Sliders. I love using these to engage my stabilizing muscles. Regular strength moves like lunges and basic cardio movements like mountain climbers become a bit more challenging when you have to keep your feet from sliding all over.
Swiss ball. I’ve found this effective primarily for doing core work. These days my favorite ab exercises incorporate the use of the ball. It is also handy for stretching and functional movements like single leg deadlifts and hay balers.
Dumbbells. I recommend having one heavy set and one light set so you can alternate depending what muscle group you are using. If you’re isolating muscles in your legs or back, heavier weights are better. For smaller muscles like the deltoids and triceps, lighter weights can still be effective and your muscles won’t exhaust as quickly. I also prefer ones with flat edges so they are stable on the ground.
Foam Roll and Massage Ball. If you did last week’s recovery workout with me, you already have a good idea of how we use these. Both are great for self-myofascial release (SMR) to alleviate muscle soreness.
Resistance bands. If you only have an open-ended band, you can always knot it into a circle. I like to have both so I don’t have to tie and untie a band all the time and can just reach for what I need. Some moves require resistance as you progress but weights are impractical. Hip abduction, glute kickbacks, etc. are all moves where bands are much more convenient.
Sturdy chair. I keep a chair in my workout room and use it for balance, stretching, seated movements, elevated movements, etc. I found a set of these on Craigslist. They are solid wood and incredibly sturdy which is an important feature. And since it’s not a fancy dining room chair or anything, I don’t have to worry about stepping on it.
Exercise mat. I’ve historically picked mine up in the active section at TJ Maxx, but when my current one wears out I will likely invest in higher quality. Especially if you jump around on them with tennis shoes, they can be prone to shedding. But whether you work out at home on carpet or hard flooring, a good mat is sure to increase your comfort for floor work.
If you’re someone who hates going to the gym or just doesn’t have time to get yourself there, considering investing in some of this equipment to up your exercise game at home. Truthfully most of it combined will cost the same as 2-3 months of gym membership, and the equipment will last you significantly longer than that if you take good care of it.
And if you’re someone who has already been working out at home but you feel like it hasn’t been as effective as you’d like, I highly recommend investing in something that will provide you with additional resistance to make your workouts more challenging again.
I’ll see you next week with another workout!