We never know when a global pandemic could sweep the nation and confine us all to our humble abodes. A home gym used to mean something along the lines of a state-of-the-art garage conversion only found in the homes of the most committed gym bros. But working out at home has come to mean much more for many.
Minimal home gyms are a new normal for many and maybe more favorable than going to an actual gym. Without gym memberships and early morning commutes, home workouts have become a desirable option for newbies and athletes alike.
Whether you have a squat rack in your living room or just a single set of dumbbells, you’re still one step closer to achieving a buff body from the comfort of your casa. If you fancy upping your workout game from your living room, have a read of our guide to see how you can take your home gym to the next level while keeping things minimal.
Why Should You Have a Home Gym?
A home gym could be the motivation you need to start your fitness journey or stay on track with the progression you’ve already made. Gym memberships can be expensive, and making yourself get up and get dressed to travel to your nearest gym can make the process of working out unnecessarily laborious. If you know you struggle with motivation, or even if you have a busy schedule, having everything you need at home to smash a workout could give you the boost you need.
The gym can also be an overwhelming place for people. Not all of us benefit from body confidence, and it’s easy to feel like everyone is looking at the only skinny guy pumping iron in the weights section. Trust us, they’re not. But a home gym can be a great option for the introvert who just wants to better themselves in private.
If you’re a newbie to working out, familiarizing yourself with weights and exercise can be less embarrassing and also less dangerous if practiced at home before hitting the gym. Form is everything when it comes to progression and training safely. If you don’t know what you’re doing on the gym floor, you could seriously injure yourself.
With people lifting heavy around you, it can be easy to push yourself with weights that you’re not ready for and cause yourself serious harm. Get your form and technique perfected at home first, with light and less daunting weights, and you’ll be ready to safely perform heavy lifts when you do brave the gym.
A Home Gym Should Be Versatile
Home gyms are for everyone. This doesn’t mean you need a whole room dedicated to professional machines, but it also doesn’t mean you only need one kettlebell that my grandma could swing.
A home gym could just be an array of equipment you use for training but can easily be put away. If space is something you’re short on, you don’t need to rule out a home gym. Be clever with space and keep equipment minimal by buying things that serve multiple purposes. And we’re not just talking about gym equipment here. A living room chest or an outdoor bench may serve as decorative furniture on a day-to-day basis but can be perfect for storing away gym equipment for easy access.
On another note, your garden is a great place for a home gym. If you have the luxury of outdoor space, keeping your gym equipment out and ready could make your workouts more efficient and get you even more inspired to get started in the first place. Plus, on a cooler day, you may benefit from some free aircon in the form of a cool breeze. But be careful as steel equipment like barbells, plates, and racks will rust if exposed to moisture. If you want to keep your weights outside, consider using rubber-coated equipment that won’t be damaged by the seasons.
If you are after a more state-of-the-art arrangement, a neglected garage or garden shed is the perfect middle ground. This could both protect your equipment and keep your gym separated from your living spaces. But we know not everyone will benefit from one of these options. And don’t worry, they definitely don’t constitute a home gym alone. So what is the most important thing about your home gym? Well, it’s your equipment of course.
The Equipment You Need for Your Minimal Home Gym
The equipment that your home gym needs is specific to you and your goals. But let’s look at some of the basics, and how they could help you level up your home gym game.
Adjustable dumbbells are some of the most useful gym equipment you can get for your home, both to conserve space and to suit a variety of experience levels and exercises. These weights allow you to select your desired weight, and load and unload the bar with ease, without having to keep a whole rack of dumbbells. These are popular for their versatility and so may be hard to get your hands on. For the same reasons, they can be pricey too. But their diverse usage makes them worth the investment. Use these for anything from bicep curls, lunges, lateral raises, and weight ab exercises. The options really are endless.
While heavy dumbbells can be difficult to pick up and hold on to, kettlebells are great for their maneuverability. Exercises like squats and deadlifts may be uncomfortable and awkward to position, but the bell’s design makes heavy loads easier to manage.
The shape keeps the weight more manageable, which makes a heavy kettlebell perfect for taking your lower body home workouts to the next level with more variety. This hefty equipment can rest easily on your pelvis for bridges and even slung over your shoulder for single-leg squat forms and a clean and press.
Never underestimate a kettlebell swing. They engage your lower and upper body but are also a great form of cardio too. If you can work your way up to doing these with a heavy kettlebell, you’ll have a killer home exercise that targets your whole body.
Jump ropes have risen in popularity in recent years. What was once associated with a playground game for kids is now popular for high-intensity exercise, used by athletes and cardio-phobes alike. Practicing jump rope is a great way to work up a sweat without feeling like you’re doing cardio.
Although jump rope requires sufficient space, so as not to thwack ceilings, walls, and furniture, this exercise gives a great burn with very minimal equipment. These also come in different materials, from actual rope to rubber and even weighted varieties to really up the intensity. This makes jump rope great for all experience levels, and it can be easy to progress with form and intensity in very little time.
Although, if you keep any fragile ornaments in your home, I do recommend that you keep the skipping outdoors.
We’ve all been there, layering towels or blankets on top of each other in an attempt to protect our spine from the crunching pain of sit-ups. Investing in a yoga mat will instantly make your workout feel more professional and far less painful. Don’t be deceived by the name. A yoga mat is great for all manner of exercises. Whether you’re taking your HIIT workout into your garden or you fancy doing some abs on your kitchen floor, a yoga mat is a home gym essential.
This item suits all budgets and comes in a variety of colors, designs, and textures to bring a pop of life into your home gym. Some professional gyms have padded floors so that exercise can be done anywhere. But yoga mats are a far more accessible option as they’re always easy to roll up and kept out of sight.
They are also something that can be taken anywhere with you as they’re lightweight and maneuverable. This means you could take your home workout to the park or even use your yoga mat on a camping trip, so you don’t need to bring a mattress with you.
Stop subjecting yourself to carpet burn just because you want to do leg raises in front of the TV. A yoga mat is guaranteed to save your life on home workouts.
Bands are life-changing for home workouts. They’ll have you feeling like you’re doing resistance exercises without any of the weight. This means you can also take bands anywhere since they’re one of the easiest pieces of equipment to store, plus they’re light and can even be put away in a drawer with clothes.
Bands come in all sizes, making them great for training the upper and lower body. They also vary in “weight” as they are measured from “light” to “heavy”. We say “weight” because this doesn’t actually affect how heavy the band is but rather the stretch-level of the material and how difficult they are to use.
Long bands can be stretched over the feet and shoulders to perform squats, deadlifts and shoulder presses. But they can also be attached to sturdy furniture or doors to do rows, kickbacks and even lat pulldowns. Long bands are also great for practicing flexibility and warming up, facilitating upper body and hip stretches.
Shorts bands are often tailored toward lower body exercises but can also be used to stretch shoulders and arms. Use it to activate glute muscles by adding bands to bridges, hip thrusts, abductors, and donkey kicks.
Having a pull-up bar means all you need to target those all-important back and bicep muscles is your door frame and your body weight.
Pull-up bars can be taken down and put away. But the great thing about them is that your door will still close, and you can still walk under a pull-up when it’s up, so you won’t need to reassemble it every time you use it.
Pull-ups are a great calisthenics exercise where your body weight offers the resistance rather than weights, so they’re a go-to option for home workouts. And don’t worry if you can’t do push-ups, gram with a long resistance band and you’ll be practicing assisted pull-ups from the comfort of your own home.
This is a great option if you have housemates and not a lot of space to yourself apart from your bedroom. But just be sure to ask the homeowner before putting up a pull-up bar, as they can leave marks and dents on your door frame.
Like kettlebells, medicine balls make it easier to maneuver and handle heavier loads than dumbbells. For abs exercises and floor pilates, a medicine ball can really add some extra resistance. Try adding one to a Russian twist or even elevated one arm on the ball for a push-up variation. This can really help you improve balance and form.
One-up from the medicine ball is the less inconspicuous yoga or Pilates ball. These large, bouncing inflatables may be an eyesore, often coming in unapologetic shades of pink and blues. Yet, they’re actually very versatile and can help improve mobility and flexibility.
Yoga balls aren’t just for expecting moms. They can be used to advance your range of motion by performing sit-ups on them and help improve form when passed between legs in ab raises. They’re also great for cooling down and rolling out muscles. And if they’re too assuming for your liking, they can always be deflated and put away.
If you have a bit more space, and a bit of a higher budget, then a bench is a great versatile piece of equipment to advance your home workouts. Benches facilitate everything from chest press, hip thrusts, and single-arm rows if you have the weights to perform these exercises. But they also facilitate bodyweight exercises like tricep dips and advanced ab movements.
A bench will take up a bit more room in your home than some other of our suggested items. This doesn’t make it the best option for a small apartment home gym. But benches come in a variety of materials, and rubber-coated ones can easily be kept in a garden or garage.
Alternatively, lots of things can be used to perform the same functions as a bench, like a chair or a sofa. But if you’re after the handy adjustability and weighted quality of a professional bench, you may have to part with some extra pennies. It will be worth it though.
Frequently Asked Question about Minimal Home Gym
How much equipment do you need for a minimal home gym?
This really depends on your space and your fitness goals. Only having a few pieces of equipment doesn’t mean your workouts have to suffer though. If you have a tight budget or only a small space to work with, then try to invest in the most versatile equipment you can find, like adjustable dumbbells, a bench and a mat. If otherwise, then go for goal-specific pieces like bands, and even varying weights.
What is the best way to set up a small home gym?
This depends which equipment you buy, but most of the items that I’ve mentioned require little time to set up. To stay tidy and prevent your gym from taking over your home, it may be wise to invest in something to store your equipment, like a storage bench. But any large machines should be set up by a professional.
Is it worth it to buy a home gym?
A home gym is definitely worth it if you’re serious about your fitness journey but don’t have access to a facility. You may even simply want to avoid the expense of a gym membership. Remember, a home gym doesn’t have to be such a huge investment or take up a whole room in your house. Just follow our tips to keep it minimal but still take your home workouts to the next level.
A Final Word From Energetic Lifestyle
Fitness is for everyone. Just because you’re overwhelmed by the gym or don’t quite know what you’re doing yet, nothing should stand in between you and your dream body.
As I’ve highlighted, a home gym doesn’t have to be a dedicated room of professional equipment. With just a few pieces of equipment and the right mindset, you’ll be a bro minus the gym in no time.