Are you wondering how you can start your own home gym and be able to work out from the comfort of your own home? It took me quite a while to figure out a sustainable way to workout at home. I started by buying a sandbag but I didn’t have enough space. Then, I had more space but not enough equipment. Then, when I had enough equipment, I started having back pain. I can certainly go on with all the excuses in the world to prove to you how hard it was to work out at home (legit excuses I promise)
I always enjoyed working out at the gym. I get to get out of the house, be social, enjoy the big space and unlimited free weights and machines. But some days, I seriously just want to workout in whatever clothes I’m in, and not have to make sure my socks match #introvertproblems. I’m sure I’m not alone.
…So when I started this blog, I had to get few fitness tools (or toys as I like to call them), so I can create workouts blog posts. I found myself working out more frequently at home and I decided to put together this guide to help you set up your unique – perfect home gym.
I say “ unique” because I believe that no two individuals are alike, and since I write for back pain warriors, I know that it can be challenging to do certain exercises. For example, a jump rope may not be the perfect tool (for you) at your gym if you have pelvic pain. Jumping can be hard on the joints if you are just recovering from a disc injury. A resistance band though would be a great tool.
Side note: If you’re juuut getting started with exercise and have no clue how to start without making your pain worse, I highly suggest you check out the Back Pain Bootcamp. It’s a 6-week program and all you have to do is follow along with me.
Let’s get started, my friend. You can start your own home gym!
HOME GYM EQUIPMENT
I’ll put a “*” next to every item that I think is important/necessary for your low impact home gym.
HOME GYM EQUIMENTS
Exercise Mat *: there are many exercise mats out there that you can get. However, if you have any kind of wrist or knee pain, and you want to be doing exercises like planks and push ups, then you want to have a nice thick mat underneath you. It would help support your joints. I personally use the Incline mat (affiliate link below) but I noticed that there are other ones that look thick enough and provide a nice cushion. Just Make sure it says “thick” in the production description
Dumbbells*: I consider these necessary for the simple fact that adding a pair of dumbbells can make a huge shift in your training. Consider the amount of exercises you can do with dumbbells. You can also check your local buy and sell website to find used free weights. Dumbbells can be low impact and easy on the joints if you are performing the exercises with a proper form. They also make your home gym look legit 😉
Resistance bands*: Resistance bands are an amazing took to diversify your workouts. You can do endless movements that are super easy on your joints while easily adding intensity and controlling the resistance.
RELATED: resistance band low impact shoulder workout
Resistance loop bands: Just like resistance bands. The loop bands are a great addition to your leg and core workouts. You can put a band around your legs to perform squats and get that nice muscle activation action. I also love adding them to my planks to active my glutes and avoid energy leaks and low back compensation.
Kettlebell : I have to say that I wasn’t sure whether I should put a “*“ next to this one, considering that I am a huge kettlebell fan, and that I have 2 kettlebells myself. I feel that using a kettlebell without improper can put a lot of pressure on your spine especially the kettlebell swings and windmill movements. With that being said, I do love using the kettlebell to correct an improper squat exercise as they help keep the back and core stable..the goblet squat is a great kettlebell exercise.
I suggest you get Pavel’s Kettlebell Guide if you are serious about kettlebell training. It will give you a great foundation and I personally have one of Pavel’s kettlebell books.
Sliders *: while these may not seem like a bonus tool, I personally love them and think they are necessary at any home gym. Did I always use them? Nope. I was hesitant to get these and only purchased them after a period of low back pain when I struggled to do exercises like mountain climbers and jumping lunges to get that cardio effect.
I have been able to substitute almost every movement that requires jumping by using these sliders. I do mountain climbers with sliders, lunges with sliders (BW), plank jumps with sliders, side to side lunges with sliders and lots of other movements that I came up with.
I have to say that I found sliders to be more challenging that I expected. I thought I had a strong core until I got them and it took my fitness to a whole new level. Now I consider them a must, low impact, jumping alternative to cardio.
Pull up bar: I don’t feel that this is a must for a simple home gym, yet it can be a great addition once you set up your home gym and want to upgrade. You can also use the bar to stretch your back. I personally have a pull up bar but I barely use it at home. I always like to leave the big advanced movements for the gym that ways I can use a box to spot myself.
Exercise ball: The exercise ball is a great intermediate tool to develop a strong core. I use it on and off at home. You can also build great upper body strength when incorporating it into your workouts. Many people struggle to stay balanced when using the exercise ball. For this reason, I like to introduce it after few weeks of basic strength training once the person has a solid foundation and can handle the extra challenge.
You can do:
Elevated push ups
Unlimited abs exercises
Chair: A free took that is found at every household (I assume). You can use a chair to assist you with movements such as the squat, or to add a challenge such as an elevated plank, push up or triceps dips. There are endless chair workouts out there and here is one you can do at home.
Stairs: Great for cardio and high intensity interval training. You can also use stairs to elevate your exercises.
Mirror: Being able to watch yourself perform exercises is a great way to notice mistakes and monitor yourself. However, this is not necessary. You can also use your phone to record yourself perform an exercise.
HOME GYM RECOVERY TOOLS
Having few equipments at home will create a nice home gym, yet you may want to complete it with tools that will help you recover and conquer muscle and joint pain. You need to be aware that recovery is just as important as exercising. While you don’t need to be buying any of the tools mentioned below, keep in mind that a single massage consultation or physiotherapy session can cost between $50- $90. Think of how much you would save if you can substitute few massage consultations every month with a DIY foam roller massage.
Foam roller*: I now officially consider this tool (and the spoonk mat) my new best friends. I used to spend money on deep tissue massage left and right before I realized I can get the same effect using these tools.
You can use your foam roller to warm up before a workout or afterwards. I mainly use it as a massage tool for my back, hamstrings, quads and even arms.
Spoonk mat*: My next best investment ever. I can’t say enough good things about the spoonk mat. While I don’t use this as a workout tool, I had to mention it here. I love using it right after my workouts or before bed. It is an acupressure mat that has a very similar effect to acupuncture, and provides an amazing feeling of relaxation. I noticed that joint pain and inflammation goes away instantly when I use it.
BONUS TIP: You can get an instant “Spa effect” when you use the spoonk right after a nice warm shower.
Massage ball*: Great tool I use to target small muscles like piriformis, delts and pecs. I consider it essential because you can easily substitute this with an inexpensive tennis ball. It will help you a lot if you have stiff glutes, hip flexors and a rounded chest. I use it every. Single. Day
TRX: TRX kits are becoming more popular at gyms and they are a great way to keep your workouts fun and engaging. Are they necessary? I don’t think so. TRX didn’t exist just few years ago and it didn’t stop people from transforming their bodies. Just look at old school athletes.
There are many additional tools that you can also consider such as an abs wheel, or a bosu ball. I don’t consider them to be necessary but I do love how they add variety to workouts.. The more you keep your workouts fun and interesting the more likely you are to keep working out.
I am sure by now you are wondering how on earth do you put all of this stuff together to start your own home gym. And if you are already thinking about why it won’t work, let’s address those concerns..
IF YOU HAVE NO SPACE
Get as little equipments as necessary: a pair of dumbbells that are challenging enough and a mat. You can easily hide these under your bed or desk. Rearrange your furniture to allow for a small space where you can place your mat. Substitute exercises such as walking lunges with stationery reverse lunges. You can also use your furniture to mix up your workouts: This is a great opportunity to use a chair/couch for elevation.
YOU HAVE KIDS
A lot of people struggle to find time to exercise because they have children. While I don’t know the real struggle of being a mom, I totally know the struggle of living with younger siblings and how hard it can be to move around and find some privacy
Remember that you can keep your children around while you workout to keep an eye on them. Make sure you are storing your equipment in a safe area (a closet, box or in the garage). Schedule your workouts when your kids are sleeping, playing, or at school. There is always that moment of silence you can take advantage of.
YOU HAVE CHRONIC BACK PAIN
Hey, shouldn’t that be a reason to actually start your own home gym? When you have your designated “wellness” area you are more encourage to move, stretch and do mobility work. You can also keep your workouts super low impact on days when you can’t make it to the gym or had to miss that heavy lifting leg workout because your back is not feeling 100%. Having tools like a resistance band, a yoga mat and a form roller can help you get moving at home without hurting your back further.
HOW TO SET UP YOUR HOME GYM
- Make sure you are always storing your exercise equipments in a designated area. This will keep your house tidy and make your home gym feel legit.
- Keep it simple: go through your typical exercise program and see how many equipment you need. Get the minimum required. I would suggest to start with an exercise mat as it symbolizes movement, yoga and exercise; and you are more likely to roll it out and use it.
- Pick challenging weights. Remember that you want to always be able to use your equipment and you also want to see results. If you choose very light weight your body will quickly adapt and the workouts won’t be challenging enough. More challenging weights will …well, challenge you, but also last longer as you progress and get stronger you can still use them to warm up until you upgrade!
- Recycle your workouts. Try to workout different body parts every time to keep things fun, and make sure you are using all the equipments you have. You can do a low impact loop band leg workout on Monday, and an upper body bodyweight workout on Tuesday, then a kettlebell full body workout on Thursday. Take a rest day on Wednesday and do some foam rolling.
- Make sure you warm up before your workouts, form roll either before or after and stretch shortly after your workouts. You can also get the spoonk mat and get that spa effect after you take a nice shower 😉
- Take notes of your workouts to monitor your progress.
Hope this post was helpful! I realize it is long but hey, may as well give you a complete guide that you can always refer back to. Leave me a comment below if you have a home gym or about to start one 🙂