Having a regular workout routine that you can do in the comfort of your own home is a great way to get in shape. It removes the need to go to the gym, or to find the motivation to go for a run on the cold and rainy days.
With so much high quality fitness equipment available, there are never been a better time to start working out at home. But this has also led people to ask “how do I find the best home exercise equipment” and “how do I know what is right for me?”
In this article we hope to address that, giving you an overview of some of the most popular fitness equipment on the market. Ranging from the big to the small, and the high priced to the highly affordable we’ve got you covered, and we’ve sought the opinion of some serious fitness professionals to help in doing so.
Use the links below to jump to the sections you’re interested in, or just scroll down to read through.
- 1 Most Recommended
- 2 Aerobic Exercises
- 3 Weights and Strength Exercises
- 4 Balance/Stretching Exercises
- 5 Don’t overlook your diet…
Elastic resistance bands
You might be surprised to hear that elastic resistance bands were the most recommended by the fitness experts that we research out to.
Josh Anderson – Founder and CEO of DIY Active said “while there are many great pieces of home fitness equipment out there, I would highly recommend a quality set of resistance bands. A set of resistance bands offers you a wide variety of difficulty levels to help build strength (especially when they are stackable) while also providing light enough resistance for burnouts and warmup sets. Not to mention the fact that you can do all the exercises you would ever want and more if you purchase a door anchor. Finally, they are relatively affordable and can easily be stored out of sight making them a great home gym addition.”
And Doug Joachim from JoachimsTraining.com said “elastic resistance bands are my favorite type of equipment for home gyms. They are inexpensive and versatile. Unlike free weights, they offer constant tension which is not dependent on gravity. Allowing users to manipulate joint angles and body positions. In single joint movements, they follow along with the strength curve with progressive tension as the joint angle advantage increases. Meaning the stronger you are the harder the band gets which optimizes muscle activation throughout the range of motion. Resistance bands are a fantastic tool for everyone. The versatility includes sports-specific speed training all the way to rehabilitation modalities and almost everything in between.”
One of the most popular pieces of exercise equipment on the planet, an exercise bike is a stationary bike with varying levels of resistance. And they’re just perfect for using at home as many of the models available can be folded up and easily stored away. The costs of exercise bikes can vary wildly from just $60 all the way up to $2,000 so options are available for all levels.
Incredibly effective at burning fat, an exercise bike provides a low impact method of exercise which is perfect for anyone suffering with joint problems in the lower body. It also offers a form of exercise which allows the viewer to read books or watch the TV safely whilst indulging in a healthy dose of exercise.
Although exercise bikes help to burn fat and provide a fine lower body workout, they provide very few benefits for the upper body. Exercise bikes also miss out on many of the benefits provided by biking outside e.g. working against the elements, change of scenery and the challenge provided by hills and different terrain.
Simulating the effect of rowing in water, rowing machines use a sliding seat on a rail which is propelled backwards by the ‘rower’ pulling a handle on a chain whilst their feet remain in a ‘foot stretcher’. Due to their design, rowing machines are very narrow so take up very little room at home and can easily be accommodated.
A major positive of rowing machines is that they allow the rower to experience a full body workout. Targeting upper, lower and core muscle groups, rowing machines also provide an intensive aerobic workout, so with the lower end of the market retailing around the $50 – $60 mark, it’s difficult to argue with the price.
When buying a rowing machine, though, you do need to bear in mind that they can be very noisy due to the motion involved, so other family members could easily become irritated by this. And rowing machines are very heavy, so they’re difficult to move and this may become a huge issue for those with strength issues.
Offering a full aerobic workout, a cross trainer utilizes two pedals which are attached to a floating link and two moving posts to hold onto. Driven by the user’s legs, a cross trainer simulates running, walking and stair climbing.
With cross trainers starting around the $100, they’re a piece of equipment which provide a full body workout yet don’t take up a huge amount of room. Cross trainers are also an amazing piece of equipment for those people who have joint problems as the motion involved in using a cross trainer is very low impact.
One of the negatives with cross trainers is that, although they do burn calories, they’re not as effective as step aerobics or using an exercise bike. They’re also very poor at building new muscle and strength, so you may wish to consider other options if these are your goals.
One of the simplest methods of exercise is by using a jump rope. All you need is a rope and the ability to jump. And, due to the small amount of space taken up by a jump rope, it’s barely going to make a dent in your available space at home. The impact on your bank balance will also be minimal with costs starting around the $6 mark.
What’s particularly attractive about jump ropes is that they offer a low impact exercise, so they’re perfect for preventing injuries and minimizing the risk to existing joint problems. They also offer a fantastic aerobic workout which will really get you sweating – there’s a reason that professional boxers turn to the jump rope over many other advanced pieces of kit.
A jump rope does, however, require a certain amount of space to use properly and this may not be suitable if the user’s home space does not have adequate room. There’s also the issue of a jump rope purely offering an aerobic workout and providing virtually no benefits to toning or muscle building.
Climbing up the stairs is always a tough challenge, so that’s why it’s a fantastic method of exercise. And, with a mini stepper, you can stimulate working against gravity from wherever you are. Using two paddles connected to a hydraulic canister, mini steppers take up very little room and are perfect for those with limited storage space at home.
Read our in depth post on the best mini steppers here
Perfect for beginners, a mini stepper embraces simplicity and is almost impossible to use incorrectly – you simply step onto the stepper and begin to push up and down. And this simple exercise is packed full of health benefits such as offering a cardiovascular workout and toning your legs. And, best of all, the price tag of mini steppers is highly attractive with costs starting around $30.
Whilst mini steppers are certainly simple, they will be far too simple for more advanced athletes due to the lack of muscle groups worked. Many people also find that the movement is very restricted on mini steppers and this leads to a less than natural motion which soon becomes uncomfortable.
The big brother of a mini stepper, a stepper machine uses two paddles connected to hydraulic canisters to help simulate the up and down stepping motion involved in climbing up stairs. And, with the lowest priced models starting at $50, they’re an affordable option for home exercise.
Helping to improve cardiovascular health through its aerobic workout, stepper machines can make a real difference to your overall health. And, thanks to the low impact nature of the exercise, a stepper machine is a fantastic method of exercise for people suffering with joint issues. The simple method of exercise on offer from a stepper machine is also very effective at burning calories and around 730 calories can be burned by a 180lb person using a stepper for 60 minutes.
Stepper machines, however, aren’t effective at building new muscle and won’t be useful for those who are looking to bulk up. There’s also the size issue to consider as steppers can take up a lot of room, so they’re only suitable for people who have plenty of spare room for a workout space.
Resembling an escalator, a stair stepper contains a series of motorized steps that the user has to climb. It’s the closest piece of equipment you can get to a set of stairs, but due to its rotating nature, it’s a real space saver and fantastic for home workouts.
Due to its realistic nature, a stair stepper also gives your lower body a severe workout and really targets the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. This hardcore workout for your legs also ensures that you’re burning plenty of calories and can make a real difference for those looking to lose weight.
Stair steppers, however, are very expensive, with even the lowest priced machines starting at around $2,000. And despite this huge price tag, a stair stepper machine only extends its benefits to the lower body, so this means that additional equipment is required to ensure you can complete a full body workout.
One of the staples of any gym worth going to, a treadmill is an essential piece of equipment for keeping in shape. Either self-powered by the user’s motion or driven by motors, a treadmill consists of a running deck and hand rails to provide stability when required. The costs for a treadmill can vary quite dramatically (from $99 all the way up to $5,000) and this ensures that there’s a treadmill available for all budgets.
Many of the treadmills available are foldable, so this makes them perfect for people who are looking to exercise at home, but have limited space. Treadmills also come complete with control panels which allow you to not only track your progress (e.g. speed, distance covered), but also adjust the gradient and speed to really challenge your progress.
Read our in depth post on the best compact treadmills here.
Although the running deck will usually be cushioned to some degree, the level of impact incurred can still pose an issue for people who have problems with their knee and ankle joints. The lack of variety offered by a treadmill (you can either walk or run) is also a negative as it can make exercise become very boring very quickly.
Dr. Becky from DrBeckyFitness.com cites the treadmill as one of the most important pieces of fitness equipment in the home:
“I work with a lot of women over the age of 50 who want to lose belly fat due to menopause. When hormonal changes become a factor, women need to change their diet and exercise routines to meet the changing needs of their bodies. The high-intensity exercise sessions of our younger years are now perceived as a stress by the body, which can increase cortisol, a hormone that’s linked to belly fat. The trick is to work out regularly and vary exercises and intensity levels. Fortunately, these fitness goals can be achieved with two pieces of home exercise equipment, namely a treadmill and a set of dumbbells. By alternating walking/jogging with lifting weights, women over 50 can shed pounds without losing muscle.”
Weights and Strength Exercises
Perhaps one of the simplest pieces of exercise equipment you can own, ankle weights are literally weights which strap round your ankle. This increases the force required to lift your leg and, therefore, works all the muscles of your lower body e.g. quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.
Ankle weights can be used in all types of settings from the home, the pool or they gym, so they’re a highly versatile piece of equipment and, starting at just $10, they’re great for those on a budget. Thanks to the increase in force that they provide, ankle weights allow you to increase the resistance of any leg exercise and this can make a real difference when you’re looking to tone the lower body.
Due to the additional stress they put on the ankle joints, ankle weights aren’t suitable for everyone. In particular, the elderly and the overweight may find that these pieces of equipment can aggravate existing joint conditions, so alternative exercises are recommended in these cases.
If you’re looking to invest in a full body workout, but without the hassle of joining a gym, a multi-gym is exactly what you’re looking for. Equipped with numerous pieces of equipment such as pulleys, sit up benches and weights, it’s a fitness station which you can set up at home and work almost every muscle group.
Due to the number of different exercises you can perform with a multi-gym, it gives you the opportunity to cancel that costly gym membership. And, in turn, this allows you to complete your exercise privately without the stress and inconvenience of having to queue up for gym equipment.
All of these benefits and exercises, however, do come at a cost. For one thing, the cost of multi-gyms can be highly prohibitive with even the lowest priced ones costing around $300. Multi-gyms are also significantly large when compared to individual pieces of gym equipment and this means they may not be suitable for people with limited space at home.
Wearing a weighted vest can really take your training to a new level and, seeing as it’s literally a vest containing weights that you wear, you can incorporate it into any form of home exercise. The magic of a weighted vest is that it ramps up the intensity of your training due to the extra demand it puts on your muscles.
Due to the position of weighted vests, their effects are mostly seen on the core and lower body (quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes). With costs starting at just $30, weighted vests also offer an affordable upgrade on your existing exercise routines. The most pleasing benefit of a weighted vest, though, is their simplicity, you simply slip it on and you’re ready to go.
Weighted vests, however, aren’t without their problems. The main area of concern is that if they’re not put on correctly, the weight can easily become imbalanced and this can lead to injuries if too much intensity is applied to specific muscles.
One of the most iconic pieces of gym equipment, dumbbells are the foundation for strength training and can make a huge difference to your routine. Available in a whole range of sizes and weights, dumbbells take up very little room and make a fine addition to any home exercise routine. Dumbbell sets start at around the $10 mark, so they also offer fantastic value for money.
In terms of muscles worked, practically every muscle in the body can reap the benefits of dumbbells be it upper body, core muscles or lower body. And despite their simplicity – essentially a bar with weighted plates on the end – the number of different exercises you can perform with dumbbells is almost limitless.
As dumbbells can be quite heavy, the downside is that there’s the potential to drop them and cause damage. And this damage isn’t just limited to breaking a toe, there’s also the damage they can cause to floors. Also, for the more advanced users, the weight and number of dumbbells can cause storage and cost problems.
According to Sean Nalewanyj from seannal.com it is “very hard to go wrong with the basics: a set of adjustable dumbbells and a bench. Those two items alone will allow for an effective and well rounded total body workout”.
Also see the quote above from Dr. Becky regarding how effective the combination of cardio and weights can be!
“By alternating walking/jogging with lifting weights, women over 50 can shed pounds without losing muscle.” Dr. Becky
Pull up bars
Consisting of a metal bar which can screw into doorways, pull up bars are so simple that, as long as there’s a door in your house, you can be performing one of the best upper body exercises from the comfort of your own home. Mainly targeting the back and shoulder muscles, pull ups may seem relatively basic, but they’re highly efficient in building strength.
Another benefit of pull up bars is their incredibly versatility, not only can you perform standard pull ups, but all the variations on this exercise and the option of performing chin ups to really work your back muscles. And with costs starting at $15, they provide amazing value for money.
When installing pull up bars, however, there’s the risk of causing permanent damage to doorways and, accordingly, many rental properties will not permit this type of installation. And there’s also the danger of pull up bars working loose which can lead to serious injuries should you fall.
With an ab roller, a whole new set of core muscle exercises are suddenly available. An ab roller is simply two wheels with a handle on the outside of each wheel that the user grips in order to push themselves up and down with a rolling motion. Perfect for home use, an ab roller is probably one of the smallest pieces of home gym equipment you can buy.
With a very low price tag – around $8 upwards – an ab roller is an amazing piece of kit as using it can work nearly 20 muscles which includes your core, obliques and hip flexors. It’s also an exercise which is much harder to perform than crunches, so you’re left with no doubt that you’ve had a rewarding workout.
Ab rollers can be rather unsafe, so it’s important to consider this as with one slip you can easily crack your face against the wheels and cause a nasty injury. And to use an ab roller effectively you need very strong should muscles to control the motion, so they’re not recommended for beginners.
Push up bars
Push up bars are simply small bars that look like handles and allow you to perform push ups with a number of different grip variations. And, thanks to their tiny size, every single home is more than capable of accommodating a pair, or even two. The cost is also highly favorable with entry level push up bars starting at just under $10.
Perfect for beginners, push up bars allow users to reduce stress on their joints e.g. the wrists. And this allows you to gradually build strength in your chest muscles and tricep muscles which are the main beneficiaries of push ups. Another major benefit is that they increase your range of motion as you can go lower than with standard push ups – this gives you a much harder workout and more results.
Push up bars can, however, spell real trouble for your shoulders due to the increased range of motion on offer. Therefore, if you suffer with shoulder pain then this could cause additional pain that you don’t need.
Balance boards are used to improve your balance and co-ordination. The most common balance board you’ll find on the market has a circular board which is placed on top of a large rubber dome. Due to this design, when you step onto a balance board, you’re immediately tasked with balancing yourself.
Check out our post on the best balance board exercises here.
Focusing on your core muscles, a balance board maximizes strength and stability in these muscles, but it also improves your posture. Due to these benefits, a balance board is also a popular choice when it comes to rehabilitation following injuries such as ankle sprains. Thankfully, balance boards are perfect for home usage as they take up a minimum of space and are available at a relatively low cost with boards starting at $20.
Balance boards do, of course, come with a number of disadvantages. First off, more advanced athletes may find they offer little benefit as their impact on the body is limited. Then there’s the fact that most balance boards have a weight limit and may not be suitable for everyone.
The various positions and stretches demanded by yoga can be rather testing for a beginner, but, with a yoga block, these movements suddenly become a lot easier. Made from either foam or cork, they are – as the name suggests – simply a block. Accordingly, yoga blocks are very low cost with most priced between $8 – £20 and mean they’re affordable for everyone.
Yoga blocks also take up an absolute minimum amount of space, so it’s unlikely that there’s a home out there which doesn’t have room for one. They’re also very light and this allows them to be perfect for any elderly users who want to transport them around the house or from room to room. And, seeing as yoga, helps you work every muscle in the body, they can make a real difference to your body.
Naturally, due to their cost, yoga blocks aren’t particularly durable and the foam blocks, in particular, can soon begin to disintegrate with regular usage. There’s also the issue of absorbing sweat which means that yoga blocks can become grimy very quickly.
Also known as a Pilates ring, a toning ring is a round piece of plastic which can be used during Pilates workouts to enhance the resistance which is required to tone muscle. Remarkably lightweight, a toning ring suits all users and, at just $20, is more than affordable for even the most restricted budgets.
Thanks to its small size, a toning ring takes up virtually no space and this makes it perfect for those who are looking to exercise at home. And using a toning ring couldn’t be simpler, you just put pressure on the sides of the ring and body works against this to give your core muscles a quick workout – this also minimizes the risk of injury.
A drawback to bear in mind, though, is that toning rings can be difficult to handle; many (particularly the steel ones) can be uncomfortable to grip, whilst the plastic ones can easily slip out of your hands.
Made of elastic rubber, an exercise ball opens up a whole new world of exercises that can easily be performed in the home. Costs start around the $15 mark and ensure that exercise balls can be afforded by even those on the tightest budgets.
An exercise ball can be used in many exercises to help increase your balance and, through the effort of balancing, engages many more core muscles than usually involved e.g. performing push ups whilst balancing your feet on an exercise ball adds a whole new dimension of effort. And an exercise ball also allows you to change up your exercise routine and prevent boredom from setting in.
Exercise balls can be quite large (up to 85cm in diameter) so this can create a storage issue and may not be suitable for those with limited space. Another problem with exercise balls is that there’s a risk you could slip off of them and cause a serious energy, so you need to bear this in mind.
Don’t overlook your diet…
All the above exercise equipment can allow you to perform some amazing exercises at home, but, these alone will not help you lose weight. It’s crucial that you live a completely healthy lifestyle to optimize your fitness and health. And key to achieving this goal is a good diet and a variety of exercises.
Food, after all, provides you with the energy required to exercise and also the necessary nutrients to repair the body after exercise. And this is why it’s so important that you get your diet right, without the right food you’ll struggle to complete exercises or build new muscle afterwards to cope with the new demands.
Also, consuming calories is easy, but burning them off afterwards is much more. So to give yourself an easier time in when it comes to your workouts, limit what you consume in the first place. Intermittent fasting is great for this.
If you can manage to combine all these contributing factors then, with a little hard work, you should soon have that body you’ve always dreamed of and never get out of breath again. And it can all be achieved from within your own home.