Everything You Need to Build a Home Gym on a Budget
Now more than ever, both fitness novices and enthusiasts across the country are looking for ways to curate an at-home gym. If you've already started this process, you've likely come across the issues of space and funds—after all, it can be challenging to round up the correct equipment that both fits into a multi-purposed room and your budget. Ultimately, it can be done. You simply need to scoop up some affordable basics, most of which can be adapted to a myriad of workouts and stored in small spaces. To help you on your search, we chatted with a few trainers to mine their best tips for creating an at-home gym on a budget. Ahead, what they had to share—plus a few equipment recommendations, from free weights to kettlebells, to bookmark now.
- Sliders: Tone It Up Slide 'N Sculpt Discs
- Weights: Crown Sporting Goods Body Sculpting Hand Weights
- Bands: MYTAGALONG Resistance Band Set
- Door Anchor: TRX Door Anchor
- Kettlebell: All In Motion 10-Pound Kettlebell
- Wrist and Ankle Weights: Bala Bangles
- Ball: URBNFit Mini Exercise Ball
- Pull-Up Bar: Pure Fitness Adjustable Multi-Purpose Doorway Pull-Up Bar
- Mat: Gaiam Essential Exercise Mat
- Foam Roller: Gimme 10 Foam Roller
Whether you're a fan of barre, pilates, or classic exercise movements (think squats and burpees), a set of sliders can make a world of difference to your home workouts. "A major benefit is that they can be incorporated into a wide variety of exercises to help build full-body strength and stability," says Danielle Cote, the Pure Barre Director of Training Operations. "When you are working through various ranges of motion on a slider, you are working your muscles differently than you would in a body weight exercise." Best of all, they are low impact, and won't put extra stress on your joints. And while you can easily find sliders online—consider the Tone It Up Slide 'N Sculpt Discs ($9.99, target.com)—Cote says you can easily make your own at home, using items like "paper plates or Tupperware lids if you are on a carpeted surface and socks or a hand towel if you are on a hard surface," she says.
No home gym is complete without a set of hand weights, such as these two-pound neoprene-coated options from Crown Sporting Goods ($22.99, amazon.com), most trainers recommend having two to three so that you have options. "You'll likely want two sets—lighter and heavier weights—so you can adjust, depending on the exercise," says Lauren McAlister, a Mindbody fitness specialist and co-owner of McAlister Training. "You can even combine resistance bands with dumbbells for an even more intense at-home workout."
Speaking of resistance bands: Mindbody fitness specialist and NASM-certified personal trainer Keegan Draper recommends a kit of large loop bands, like the MYTAGALONG Resistance Band Set ($12, urbanoutfitters.com). "They're very versatile, as they can attach to many different things around the house," he says. That said, Draper acknowledges that sometimes the big bands are just that—too big. In those instances, it's nice to have a set of miniature bands on hand, as well (luckily, most kits come with a combination of both). "These are easy to use, super light, and easy to store and transport," he says.
If you're investing in resistance bands, McAlister says that you'll probably want to invest in a door anchor, like this iteration from TRX ($24.95, store.trxtraining.com), too. "That way, you can change the angle of resistance more easily and dramatically increase the number of exercises you're able to perform," she says. "The good news is, like bands, a door anchor is easy to pack and very affordable."
While regular hand weights are particularly beneficial for strength training, kettlebells—we like this option from All In Motion (from $29.99, target.com)—can be used for resistance and cardio training. "I recommend multiple weights and, if possible, two of the same weight," Draper says, noting that they can be used for swings, pass-throughs, squats, and more.
Wrist and Ankle Weights
If you want to add extra resistance to your routine with about as little dedicated space as possible, wrist and ankle weights—give the sleek Bala Bangles (from $40, shopbala.com) a try—are the way to go. "These weights allow for you to increase your heart rate (about three to five beats per minute), while activating various muscles in a slightly different way to make exercises more challenging," Cote says, "while maintaining proper form and biomechanics. They will also help improve muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance."
More specifically, a miniature exercise ball—like the ones used in barre classes. "We utilize a ball to add variety and resistance challenges throughout class," Cote says, noting that it's an easy way to add intensity to just about any movement when placed between the thighs, behind the lower back, underneath a palm, or held at chest level. "Want some more heat in a plank? Squeezing a ball between the thighs or between the palms can add deeper flexion of the core muscles." What's more, Cote says that adding a small ball, like the URBNFit Mini Exercise Ball ($9.99, urbnfit.com), to your workout can also add instability to certain exercises (consider doing a push-up with a ball between your thighs), which makes stabilizing muscles (like core and posture muscles) engage more effectively.
Pull-Up Bar or Power Tower
If pull-ups are your thing, Draper recommends adding a bar, like the Pure Fitness Adjustable Multi-Purpose Doorway Pull-Up Bar ($20.99, bedbathandbeyond.com), to a door frame in your home—or purchasing a power tower if you don't have a stable opening to work with. "Pull-ups are a fundamental movement and it can be difficult to find a place to do them—so a power tower or a doorway pull-up bar are great tools for those back and core exercises," he says.
No one wants to work out on the cold, hard ground. For that reason, all of the trainers we spoke with recommend adding a mat, like an affordable one from Gaiam ($26.56, amazon.com), to your routine—whether it's a yoga iteration or some form of floor matting. This will give you a little cushion beneath your feet, knees, hands, elbows, or whatever else comes in contact with the floor during your workout.
Last but not least, a foam roller, such as this ridged one from Gimme 10 ($22.99, amazon.com), is an essential tool to have on hand for recovery. "But, foam rollers aren't just for myofascial release (or massaging your muscles)—they can also be used as an unstable surface to further engage the core in a variety of movements. Planks, pushups, hamstring bridges—the list goes on," McAlister shares.