Even before the pandemic forced all of us to spend a lot more time at home, I think anyone who’s ever stepped foot in a gym would probably agree that it’s not always the most pleasant experience—or the best way to get fit.
While starting and maintaining a workout plan is an essential aspect of your health and fitness, in a lot of ways the gym can actually be an impediment.
For one thing, the physical act of hauling your ass to the gym always feels like a chore in and of itself.
Sometimes, the desire to avoid that task is all it takes to keep you from working out.
For another, while access to equipment can help you get in shape, surrounding yourself with large, sweaty, and often quite rude people is annoying enough to sour people to the entire gym-going experience.
(They should really add “equipment etiquette 101” to the phys ed curriculum…)
Oh, and did I mention the price point?
Commercial gym memberships aren’t just expensive, they’re notoriously difficult to get out of. Want to work out for a month? Be prepared to pay for a year—or more.
The good news is that when it comes to fitness, consistency trumps contracts. You don’t need an expensive gym membership or a personal trainer to meet your fitness goals.
You just need a few key pieces of equipment that will allow you to perform a wide variety of workouts on your entire body.
(And the will power required to use them consistently, of course.)
In this post I’ll lay out the nine most essential pieces of at home workout equipment you need if you want to get (and stay) strong without leaving your living room.
The Best At Home Home Gym Equipment
9 of the Top Home Gym Equipment Ideas for Guys
My top pick is one of the more expensive pieces I recommend for guys, but also one of the most versatile.
One of the big problems with at-home workout equipment is storage space.
Whether you live in a big house or a small apartment, chances are you don’t have room for a complete weight rack chock full of free weights in your place.
That’s a big problem, because dumbbells are one of the most important pieces of workout equipment, especially for those of focused on strength and muscle-building.
That’s why adjustable dumbbell sets are such a god send.
They allow you to quickly snap weight plates in and out to adjust the weight of each dumbbell, without having to keep a stack of heavy plates lying around, or waste time spinning a stopper onto each bar.
Plus, when not in use they only take up about one or two square feet, so they’re great if you don’t have much space.
Interchangeable dumbbell systems are expensive when compared to other at-home workout equipment.
But if they allow you to permanently break up with your gym membership, they’ll pay for themselves pretty quickly.
A Few to Try:
- Power Block Pro 50 Adjustable Dumbbells
- Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
- Power Block Sport 24 Adjustable Dumbbells
Heavy Bag/Punching Bag/Boxing Dummy
When it comes to cardio, there’s no exercise better than boxing.
Not only does it burn more calories and body fat than running, it also helps you get shredded by providing a full-body workout that builds muscle in your back, arms and shoulders in the process.
(Oh, plus it looks – and feels – cool as hell.)
If you’re not able to mount a proper heavy bag, you can opt for a floor-mounted bag or a Century Bob, which is the name for those rubber punching dummies that look like a ripped guy with no arms (aka my preferred type of opponent).
A Few to Try:
For those who live in a small apartment or any other kind of small space, a punching bag may be too loud and disruptive, even if it’s just the floor-mounted kind.
In that scenario, I recommend using a stationary bike, which is probably the most effective and efficient of all the cardio machines.
When they’re first exploring bike options, a lot of people think they need to drop thousands of dollars to get the best exercise bike on the market.
But in truth, you really don’t have to spend that much money.
(Just don’t try telling that to rich housewives who would never sully themselves by shopping on Amazon…)
You can get a pretty good at-home spin bike for less than $300, and then sign up to do the live classes on the Peloton app (or just watch free videos on YouTube) to get a workout that’s just as good.
A Few to Try:
You would think that a workout bench would be one of the last pieces of gym equipment you would need.
After all, you probably have plenty of padded furniture designed for seating at home, and you could be forgiven for thinking you could use it to perform a lot of your fitness routine.
But have you ever tried doing a dumbbell bench press on an ottoman or bar stool? Trust me—it’s not the same.
If you’re serious about strength training at home, investing in a good workout bench is a must.
I highly recommend going for an adjustable option because it will allow you to do flat, incline and decline moves without taking up any extra floor space.
A Quick Word on Racks:
If you have space in your home to get a bench that comes with an adjustable power rack, then by all means go for it.
Adding a rack allows you to pick up a barbell, which provides even more options.
But if you’re trying to use as little real estate as possible, don’t fret about skipping the squat rack.
With a good set of dumbbells and an adjustable bench, you’ll still be able to do a huge range of strength- and muscle-building moves.
A Few to Try:
- Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Bench
- Fitness Reality 1000 Super Max Weight Bench
- Body Champ Olympic Weight Bench (with Convertible Bench Press/Squat Rack)
Pull Up Bar
A good pull up bar is one of the best pieces of home gym equipment for any guy who wants to get fit at home.
They’re relatively inexpensive, easy to assemble, and give you the opportunity to do a pretty wide range of different exercises using your own body weight:
Pull ups to build your back, chin ups to help grow your biceps, and leg raises to help strengthen your core, just to name a few.
Personally I prefer the kind that use a door anchor because the assembly is extremely minor and they don’t require drilling into any walls or door frames to mount.
When I first got mine I was a little nervous about it holding up, but after more than a year of frequent use, I haven’t had any problems.
A Few to Try:
- Shamrock Folding Travel Pull Up Bar
- Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar
- Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Doorway Pull Up Bar
I’ve never been to a yoga class and, to be honest, I have no intention of ever attending one.
But for at-home workouts, I absolutely swear by my yoga mat (and occasionally at my yoga mat—I get kind of aggressive while working out).
Yoga mats are a great option because they’re soft enough to make lying on the ground for stretches easy and painless, but flexible enough to be rolled up and stuffed under the couch or in a corner when you’re done.
If you prefer to lift while barefoot or in socks, they also provide a great base that’s soft, but still lets you plant your feet firmly so you can drive through your heals.
A Few to Try:
Giving dumbbells a serious run for their money, resistance bands might just be the most versatile type of at-home workout equipment.
The best resistance bands can replace the suspension trainer at the gym and allow you to do pretty much all the same strength and muscle-building moves from the comfort of your own home.
And because they’re so portable and easy to hide, you can pick up a few different varieties and resistance levels without worrying about adding a lot of clutter to your place.
There are three key types of resistance bands: closed loops, ribbons and bands with handles.
For the most versatility, I recommend getting three of each kind, in varying amounts of weight/resistance.
A Few to Try:
- Closed loops: WODFitters Mini Bands Set
- With handles: Letsfit Resistance Bands Set
- Ribbon style: TheraBand Resistance Bands
Anyone who spends as much time hunched over a computer as I do – or as much time exercising as I would like to – needs a way to work out the kinks without shelling out hundreds of dollars for a massage.
Foam rollers aren’t nearly as luxurious, but they come at a much more affordable price, and they’re quite effective.
The ones that are made of actual foam work well for most purposes.
But if you have deeper knots that need more work, you might want to opt for one made of molded plastic, which has little ridges that dig into your back and help target tight areas.
A Few to Try:
Kettle bells started gaining popularity in fitness circles about 10 years ago, and really exploded when Crossfit blew up shortly thereafter.
The main advantage of kettlebells is that, unlike dumbbells, the weight is not distributed evenly.
This forces your body to adjust every time you use one, which helps you target and build stabilizing muscles that don’t get worked when you’re using more balanced weights.
The other reason kettlebells are great for at-home workouts is because you can buy just two or three different weights, but use them for all sorts of different workouts.
With one 10-pounder, one 20-pounder and one 30-pounder you can do a total body workout that effectively targets your arms, shoulders, back and even your core and lower body.
A Few to Try:
- CAP Enamel Coated Cast Iron Kettlebell (multiple weights available)
- Bionic Body Soft Kettlebell (multiple weights available)
- Want a kettlebell that’s even more versatile? Check out my round up of the best adjustable weight kettlebells to find one that easily adapts to any exercise (and any exerciser).
You Know the Best Home Gym Equipment
Now Learn How to Make the Most of It ↓
Adding the right at-home workout equipment is essential for any guy who wants to both get and (this part is pretty crucial) stay strong at home.
But just as signing up for a gym membership is not guarantee that you’ll actually get in shape, buying a bunch of exercise equipment to keep at home isn’t going to do the trick either.
You have to use the equipment consistently and maintain proper form to both avoid injury and achieve results. But if your goal is to build muscle mass, even that might not do the trick.
If you really want to achieve the kind of results that will turn heads and help turn a simple look like a polo shirt and chinos into a Daniel Craig-like display of strength and style, you need to nail the muscle-building details.
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