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The best home gym equipment to invest in according to an expert

A home gym features an elliptical, resistance bands, a balance ball, and yoga mat.
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These days, skipping the gym doesn’t necessarily mean you’re skipping a workout. Home gyms offer many people an economical way to stay accountable to their fitness goals. But  home gym equipment can get expensive, so what’s worth the money and what’s worth skipping?

According to fitness industry experts, all you need is a bit of care, consideration, and realistic boundaries to get going.

“It’s important to consider what type of exercise you enjoy, what amount of maintenance the equipment needs, and the amount of space required to operate it safely,” suggests ACE Certified Personal Trainer Chris Gagliardi.

Keeping these things in mind while shopping for your home gym equipment is the best way to make sure you’re not overspending, and when you do drop some cash, it’s for a quality, worthwhile investment piece.

In an ideal world, all of us would be able to add everything under the sun to our home gyms, but here are the pieces of home gym equipment we think are worth buying and will give you a good return on investment.

Dumbbells with a rack

A set of CAP dumbbells of various weights on a weight rack

$190 at Amazon

 

Whether you’re new to working out at home or new to working out in general, having at least one set of dumbbells is a great place to start in any fitness journey.

“I would recommend purchasing a variety of dumbbells (loads/weights based on your needs) and a rack to store them on,” says Gagliardi.

This CAP dumbbell set from Amazon may seem a bit pricey, but it comes with a space-saving rack to store your weights on, as well as five sets of weights. Because dumbbells require really no maintenance this could be a purchase that lasts you a lifetime, so we consider this a good investment from a quality brand.

Plus, not only can you limit the amount of weight you use, but dumbbells can also help you practice getting your form correct at safe weights before you move on to bigger machines like a squat rack or bench press.

“Dumbbells can be used to train all major muscle groups in a variety of ways and at a variety of intensities,” Gagliardi adds.

When using dumbbells, remember to keep your core engaged and your gaze fixated ahead of you to avoid injuries and strained muscles, and try to squeeze the muscle you’re working at the top of the exercise for maximum efficiency.

Stackable dumbbells

A Yes4All adjustable dumbbell with black cast iron plates on a chrome barbell

$56 (was $66) at Amazon

If you’re really tight on space or if you’re sharing your home gym with other people of various fitness levels, then stackable dumbbells might be a great option for you to add to your at-home workout center.

Adjustable dumbbells allow you to add or remove weight as you need — much like you would a barbell — so it’s a great choice for anyone looking to overload their muscles gradually over time while strength training at home.

This option from Yes4All is 100% cast iron with weight options of up to 210 pounds, so you can really get a lot out of a single set. The handles are textured chrome for easy gripping, and each dumbbell comes with star-lock collars to keep your weighted plates securely attached while you lift.

Exercise bench

An orange and grey adjustable Lusper brand weight bench

$60 (was $149) at Lusper

This piece of equipment may not be as exciting to purchase as say, a squat rack or an elliptical machine, but according to experts, having one is crucial, not only for versatility but also to ensure proper form when executing a number of exercises.

“Having a flat or adjustable exercise bench can add many possibilities to your home workout routines,” explains Gagliardi. “This piece of equipment adds a stable surface for sitting, lying, and stepping while being easy to clean and care for and not taking up that much space.”

We recommend adding a bench that you can adjust to incline, decline, or lay flat depending on the muscle groups you’re working, like this bench from Lusper. Laid flat, this offers support for moves like single-arm dumbbell rows, split squats, and bench presses, and inclined, you can execute crunches, good mornings, and other hip-hinge movements.

Exercise mat

A black All in Motion exercise mat that's rolled up and secured with a carrying strap

$33 at Target

While we’re on the “humble necessities” topic, now is a good time to mention an often overlooked but essential component of any home gym setup—an exercise mat.

Stretching is such an important part of exercising, especially if you’re putting your muscles and joints through rigorous activities like back squats or shoulder presses. Having a mat in your home gym makes it that much easier to add dynamic or static stretches to your routine, which can keep you strong, flexible, and mobile as you progress and age.

The best part about adding an exercise mat is that it’s one of the easiest pieces of cheap home gym equipment to find. We love this All in Motion exercise mat from Target because it’s lightweight, supportive, made of low-tack nitrile rubber, and comes with a carrying strap for easy stretching on the go.

Pull-up bar

A black Prosource Fit pull-up bar with foam grip handles

$25 at Amazon

One of the easiest pieces of equipment to add to a home gym setup is the classic pull-up bar. Not only does this offer a cost-effective way to work the back, shoulders, arms, and core, but also takes up very little space and all you need is a doorway to install it in and you’re good to go.

In fact, assuming it doesn’t disrupt the decor of your home, you don’t necessarily need to keep this piece of equipment in one designated home gym area.

This bar from ProsourceFit fits in any doorway measuring 24″ to 36″, and is fitted with foam to provide six grip positions to accommodate a variety of body sizes and movements. If you can’t do a pull-up, don’t worry—you can still use this bar to strengthen your back, lats, and grip strength by doing dead-weight hangs, and you can train your core, biceps, and triceps with hanging crunches or oblique twists.

Stability ball

A blue GoFit stability ball

$25 at Dick’s Sporting Goods

If you have a bit of room in your home gym space, then according to Gagliardi, a stability ball is a must-have for an at-home workout.

“This piece of equipment does take up space and is not easy to store but it is very versatile and allows for endless uses,” Gagliardi explains.

This single piece of equipment can offer a great way to improve core strength, add muscle tone to areas like the back, shoulders, arms, and hips, and is a great balancing exercise!

All you have to do is use the included pump to blow up the ball and it’ll be ready to go.  This particular ball by GoFit measures 75 inches, which is recommended for users over six feet tall, so if you’re shorter be sure to opt for the 65″ or 55″ option.

Stationary bikes

A Sunny Health & Fitness stationary air bike for a home gym

$200 at Amazon

An exercise bike offers a great way to get your heart rate up while warming up the muscle groups in the lower half of your body, as well as your core. Plus, you can even work your arms simultaneously with the right kind of bike!

“One of my favorite pieces of equipment to use are air bikes, which allow you to use your arms and legs at the same time,” Gagliardi says.

Stationary bikes are a great way to warm up the entire body before a workout, and they can also be used to get a full cardiovascular workout completed.

There are a lot of options to choose from when searching for a great exercise bike to add to your home gym setup, and this one from Sunny Health & Fitness offers a lot of the same benefits as others, including a performance monitor, adjustable arms, and an extra-padded seat, at a fairly low price point of just under $200. Before you use your air bike be sure to adjust the seat height to allow your legs to extend fully while still keeping your foot on the pedal, and always keep your core engaged.

 Treadmill

A black Horizon Fitness treadmill

$649 (was $999) at Horizon Fitness

If you have a bit of room to play with in your home gym and you enjoy walking or running rather than cycling, adding a treadmill can be a great way to hold yourself accountable for getting those steps in on a daily basis.

“Cardio equipment comes in a variety of options and a variety of sizes, so it should be based on your preference, space, and goals,” says Gagiardo. “Some options I like include a stationary bike, elliptical, rowing machine, or treadmill.”

While this is the most expensive piece of equipment on our list, many people find it helpful to have a treadmill in the home because it just makes it easy to get those steps in—no more excuses about the weather or the time of day. Having a quality treadmill on hand makes it easy to stay on track when you just can’t get outside and connect your feet to the pavement.

We love this one from Horizon Fitness because you can have it set up and ready to use within 30 minutes of it being delivered to your door. It is Bluetooth compatible with a USB charging port built into it, and you can fold it up in one step for easy storage when it’s not in use.

Whether your goal is to burn calories or

Suspension trainers

An adult man with grey hair standing up and using a Hammacher Schlemmer suspension trainer

$200 at Hammacher Schlemmer

Body weight exercises can be a super effective alternative to weight lifting, and there are machines out there designed to make a bodyweight workout even more efficient for an at-home gym buff — like the suspension trainer.

“This piece of equipment is versatile and can be stored in small spaces. They are also very durable and require very little maintenance,” says Gagliardi. “You can work out your entire body with this one piece of equipment.”

The Foldaway Full Body Strength Trainer from Hammacher Schlemmer is a great suspension training machine that keeps everything in one place and won’t require you to install bolts or hooks to your ceilings or walls. It comes with a resistance bar, foam-covered handles, resistance bands, and ankle cuffs to give you everything you need to resistance train the whole body. Having a bit of guidance from a fitness trainer is the best way to get the most out of this machine, and it comes with a phone or tablet stand so you can watch workouts or Zoom with a pro while you use it.

Resistance straps

A set of orange and black Moulyan resistance straps for exercising, with smaller images of a man using the straps, and the straps' packaging

$35 at Amazon

If you like the idea of using body weight to resistance train but don’t want a full machine in your space, you can always opt for resistance straps, like these from Moulyan.

For our money, this is one of the best pieces of cheap home gym equipment a person could add to their setup because you can target every part of the body for under $35.

Resistance straps are great for beginner and advanced fitness levels, they’re portable, and they’re good tools for increasing mobility in a fun way, which is such an important part of our overall wellness, especially as we get older. A great feature of these particular straps is that you don’t need a bolt to use them. Since they come with a door anchor, you can just toss the anchor over your door, close it, and start sweating.

Rowing machine

An adult woman in grey workout clothes pulling the handle of a Yosuda rowing machine

$250 at Amazon

Gagliardi listed rowing machines among his favorite pieces of equipment to add to a home gym setup, and we can see why. This one machine offers cardio and resistance in a single move to help users build muscle and burn fat.

The Yosuda Water/Magnetic rowing machine can hold up to 350 pounds in weight, can accommodate users from 4’5″ to 6’2″ tall, and offers 50 pounds of resistance, so you can definitely push yourself on this machine. While we wouldn’t consider this a piece of equipment to use exclusively if you’re aiming to build muscle through strength training, you can get a full-body workout on a rowing machine like this if you set it to high resistance and use the LCD monitor to measure your distance and time. If you need more room in your home gym, this rowing machine folds to an upright position so you can quickly tuck it into a corner until you’re ready to use it again.

If you’re looking to build a home gym but are concerned about overbuying or what equipment to invest your money in, these expert-recommended products are a good place to start.

About the Author

Krissy Howard

Krissy Howard is a New Mexico-based writer whose work has appeared in Byrdie, Well+Good, Cuteness, This Dog's Life, and Reader's Digest. In addition to reporting on pet care, skin care, and other wellness topics, her original humor can be found at Reductress, and The Hard Times. More.

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