12 Equipment Essentials You Need to Build a Home Gym for Less Than $100
There’s no question about it: Working out at home with your own home gym equipment has some serious convenience benefits. There’s no need to account for travel time to and from the gym, you never have to pack a bag, and you can blast your go-to workout music sans headphones. And for many people, home is also a pressure-free zone to exercise (because, hey, gyms can feel a little intimidating, especially when you’re new to fitness).
Of course, there are a couple of limitations that come along with picking up an at-home workout program. For one, you might have minimal workout space. Plus, gyms generally have a leg up on equipment, and it’s not exactly cheap to stock your home set with all of those bells and whistles.
That said, there’s a lot you can do with just a few cost-effective pieces of home gym equipment. (In fact, you don’t have to spend any money at all—there are plenty of ways to get in cardio and strength work using just your bodyweight for resistance.) But having some bonus equipment at your disposal gives you more exercise options, allows you to add resistance as you get stronger, and gives your workouts more variety, so you (and your muscles) won’t get bored of the same old, same old routine.
Let’s start with the basics: Here are five pieces of home gym equipment to get your home gym started for less than 100 bucks. Plus, check out seven add-ons you can invest in if it makes sense for your space, budget, and fitness goals. And by the way, not everything on this list is an absolute must-have for everyone, because your home workout space should be customized to you. So don’t think of these items as a to-buy list; instead, choose what you invest in based on your own personal workout routine and habits.
Exercise Mat, $15
At the base level (literally), an exercise or yoga mat makes floor exercises way more comfortable, whether you’re doing abs work on your back or push-ups on your knees. Look for a thicker mat for more cushioning, especially if you’re working out on a hard floor. Plus, using a mat is a great way to make sure you’ve got at least one rectangle of workout-designated space. You can also bring your mat to the backyard or beach to take your workout outdoors.
Buy it: ProSource Extra Thick Exercise Mat, $15, amazon.com
Resistance Bands, $6
“Resistance bands are great because they’re lightweight, inexpensive, and don’t take a lot of room to store,” says personal trainer and registered dietitian Nora Minno, C.P.T.
Resistance bands are a great way to add an extra challenge to lower-body exercises, in particular. “These small but mighty bands can take your glute workout to the next level, [so] try some glute bridges, side squats, or clamshells with a band around your ankles or under the knees,” suggests Minno. The tighter the band is, the more challenging it is to work with.
Buy it: Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands, set of 5, $6 (originally $10), amazon.com
Kettlebells are a more versatile piece of equipment than you might think, and they’re great for working your muscles and getting your heart rate up. “You can do traditional kettlebell exercises such as kettlebell swings or Turkish get-ups, and you can also add them to traditional strength training workouts to switch it up,” suggests Minno. “For example, you can do a goblet squat with a kettlebell or do a walking lunge, passing the kettlebell underneath your front leg every time you step forward.”
Buy it: Yes4All 15-Pound Vinyl Coated Kettlebell, $25, amazon.com
Set of Medium-Weight Dumbbells, $18
A set of dumbbells opens up a world of opportunity when it comes to at-home workouts: Use them to do isolated strength exercises like bicep curls, amp up the resistance by holding them during compound exercises like lunges, and more, says Minno. Not sure what weight to get? She suggests going for a medium set first. While this means different weights for different people depending on your fitness level, 8- to 10-pound dumbbells are good place to start.
And while it’s great to have lighter weights around for exercises that target smaller muscle groups (like triceps extensions), you can get crafty without ’em if you’re on a budget. “Lighter exercises you can do with resistance bands or household items, like cans of soup or shampoo bottles,” says Minno. Heavier dumbbells are harder to replicate around the house, so they can be a more useful investment.
Buy it: AmazonBasics 8-Pound Neoprene Dumbbells, $18 (originally $25), amazon.com
Set of Heavy Dumbbells, $31
Minno also recommends getting a heavier set of dumbbells to add extra challenge to workouts. You can use them in place of your medium-weight dumbbells when you’re doing exercises that work your bigger muscle groups (like squats or dumbbell deadlifts), since they can handle more load.
Having a heavier set of dumbbells around also allows you to progress exercises as you get stronger, even if you can’t do quite as many reps with 15-pound dumbbells as you can with 8-pound dumbbells (it’s more important to keep good form).
Buy it: AmazonBasics 15-Pound Neoprene Dumbbells, $31 (originally $44), amazon.com
Alternate Option: Set of Adjustable Dumbbells, $49
If you’re looking for a more than a couple of pairs of dumbbells, consider an adjustable set. While they’re not quite as comfortable to hold on to as neoprene dumbbells (and it can be a little annoying to change the plates), they do give you more options when it comes to switching up the weight.
These ones range from 3 pounds (just one of the bars) to 38 pounds (between the two dumbbells). You can add on and take away weight plates for different exercises, and you can increase the weight you use as you get stronger.
Buy it: AmazonBasics 38-Pound Adjustable Weight Set with Case, $49, amazon.com
Add-On: Light Dumbbells, $10
Sure, household items and resistance bands can take the place of light dumbbells, as Minno mentioned. But if you’ve got the space and the budget, a set of three- or five-pound dumbbells can round out your collection (if you’re not opting for adjustable dumbbells). Try putting one behind your knee during donkey kicks for added resistance, or hold on to them during standing cardio moves (like shadow boxing) for a little extra burn.
Buy it: AmazonBasics 3-Pound Neoprene Dumbbells, $10 (originally $13), amazon.com
Add-On: Full-Length Mirror, $43
A full-length mirror isn’t particularly basic home gym equipment, but it can help you keep an eye on your form. “Checking your form throughout your workout is essential to prevent injuries and build strength properly,” says Minno. So if you’ve got the space and the budget, it’s one of the top home gym add-ons she’d recommend. (And if a mirror isn’t in the cards, just be especially mindful of your form during each exercise.)
Buy it: Crown Mark Floor Mirror, $43 (originally $45), amazon.com
Add-On: Jump Rope, $6
There are plenty of ways to squeeze in equipment-free cardio at home (burpees, anyone?). But a jump rope is a fun throwback way to get your heart rate up—and fast. Plus, jumping rope works your arms, shoulders, core, and legs. Here’s a 10-minute jump rope workout to try. (If you’ve got low ceilings or downstairs neighbors, though, consider getting your cardio with a HIIT workout or circuit workout instead.)
Buy it: YZLSPORTS Adjustable Jump Rope, $6, amazon.com
Add-On: TRX Suspension Training System, $145
While TRX fitness classes are a popular gym offering these days, the training system itself is actually designed for at-home workouts. If you’re looking to splurge, TRX straps can work your entire body with endless exercise options, from rows to suspended planks (here are 12 TRX moves to try). All you need is a door, beam, tree, or post to anchor it to, so it’s great for getting a killer workout in when you’re traveling too.
Buy it: TRX All In One Suspension Training System, $145, amazon.com
Add-On: Gliding Discs, $9
Gliding discs, or gliders, are one of those training tools that are way more challenging than they look. You place them under your feet or hands during exercises like reverse lunges or plank-to-pikes . They’re so tough because you have to put pressure into the disc to keep it on the floor while you also move in a horizontal direction, and since they slide around, your muscles also have to work overtime to keep you stable (especially your core).
These ones can be used on carpet or hardwood, but if you’d rather DIY a pair of gliders, you can use dish towels, washcloths, or T-shirts on a hardwood floor for the same muscle-shaking effect.
Buy it: CHICMODA Gliding Discs Core Sliders, $9, amazon.com
Add-On: Stability Ball, $20
While stability balls aren’t exactly compact gym equipment, they’re a great bonus (especially if you like doing at-home Pilates or yoga). They’re also an excellent way to work your abs, since they challenge your stability. Here’s a four-move stability ball workout that hits your core from every angle.
Buy it: Gaiam Total Body Balance Ball Kit, $20, amazon.com