Top 5 pieces of home gym equipment
Lockdown has forced us all to improvise, adapt and overcome lots of different challenges during the 3+ months we have been dealing with Covid-19. One challenge being how to try and imitate the training we were doing in the gym, at home. Some of us were lucky to have a few bits of equipment lying around collecting dust, but you may not have had anything at all and it’s been great to see people using random household items to increase the resistance of exercises.
As we start to see some light at the end of the tunnel, you may be thinking about how your training regime is going to look when we go back to the new normal. Gym environments are certainly going to be a lot different for the foreseeable future and if like me, you have actually enjoyed mixing it up by training at home you will find this article useful as I talk you through my top 5 pieces of equipment I would like in an ideal world. Over 41% of respondents in our reopening survey stated they would be continuing to train at home as well as the gym, while 12% would prefer to train at home. Whatever happens, our offer will most certainly have a digital element to it moving forward. We still want our community to stay active, if that means people staying active at home with our help, that’s perfect.
There are some bits of kit within the gym you simply cannot replicate at home, but the majority of workouts will still be highly effective. Obviously, you have to take quite a few things into consideration when training at home (such as space, budget and others alike) so I doubt many of us will be purchasing a multi-use jungle gym anytime soon, but here are my top 5 realistic options for building your gym at home.
1. Resistance bands
The king of versatility and space-saving. There are endless possibilities when it comes to resistance bands, you truly can get a complete body workout just using a band. You can get a complete set of varying strength bands that come with lots of different attachments and handles (door attachment, foot straps) that you can use to perform anything from squats, pec flys, lat pulldowns to row variations. These are great if you aren’t looking to spend a fortune and have very limited space.
2. Barbell and plate weights
If I could only have one piece of equipment to train with ever again, this would be it. There is not much you can’t do with a bar and set of plates. Every compound move is covered (bench, squat, deadlift) and when you are training at home with limited equipment you want to be performing exercises that are recruiting as many muscles as possible. Isolation moves are great, but the big compound moves should be the fundamentals of any training plan. Aside from the big 3, you’ve also got snatches, cleans, rows and presses that you can perform with just a bar and plates.
You are going to be looking around £200 for an Olympic bar and a set of plate weights, depending on how high end you look to go, but in my eyes, if you are really serious about changing the way you train at home, it would be a great investment. Bear in mind if you live in a flat or are training indoors, you may need to buy some protective heavy-duty matting as well.
3. Squat rack and bench
To allow yourself to get the best out of the big compound moves, you are going to want some form of a rack, so that you don’t have to waste your energy cleaning the bar onto your back every time you want to squat which carries an injury risk. You’ll also want a sturdy bench, preferably adjustable so that you can perform incline/decline bench press as well as the standard flat bench press.
This is also going to be a lot safer if you are wanting to squat a considerable amount of weight at home, having the rack there to catch the weight in a worst-case scenario is going to put your mind at ease, and also protect the flooring if you do have to drop the weight!
The good thing is, you can pick up a squat rack that also doubles up as a bench press, so it will save you a lot of space as opposed to having them separately. Entry-level, you are looking at £100-£150, but these can rise up to £500+ if you are going for a commercial gym standard.
When it comes to functional training, it doesn’t get much better than the kettlebell. They allow you to move in multiple planes of movement, challenge every muscle in the body and are guaranteed to get the heart rate racing. They are a staple in many CrossFit WODS because of their versatility, from swings to snatches to farmers walks. They are a great bit of kit and like the resistance bands, they take up very little space.
The cast-iron kettlebells can be quite expensive but will last much longer. Depending on the construction they can be much more comfortable on the handle too. You can pick up cheaper versions for around £30 each, depending on the weight, however, these will vary in quality and functionality. If you are looking to perform moves like renegade rows, you also need to ensure the base of the kettlebell is stable enough to hold your weight. I would recommend getting a heavier weight for your swings and lower body exercises, then slightly lighter for the upper body movements, but all with a stable flat base.
One thing you can get with Dumbbells that you can’t with a barbell is the ability to perform unilateral exercises (single arm rows, press’, lateral raises). These are great to add some variety to your workouts, as you can perform 90% of exercises with dumbbells, and they will also add a different challenge compared to the barbell, as you have two single weights to control rather than just the one so core activation is going to be vital. One difficulty with dumbbells is you generally need a range to cater for different strengths in different muscles groups.
You can pick dumbbells up relatively inexpensive, especially if you go to the middle aisle at Lidl or Aldi! They sell everything there and they are around £30 for a basic set. Alternatively, if the budget is on your side but not space you could opt for a set of selectorised dumbbells such as a pair of Bowflex, they look like a pair of dumbbells but the weight can range from 2.5-25kg a great space saver too.
In summary, if you are looking to keep the budget low and are very limited on the amount of space you have, I would opt for the resistance bands and either a set of dumbbells or a kettlebell. If you aren’t limited on space and feel that you are going to continue to train from home more often when the lockdown is over, I would definitely recommend investing in a decent barbell and bumper plates.