Looking to set up your home gym? Here are my equipment recommendations for (mostly) strength training workouts for beginner to novice exercisers in small spaces.
- This post was last updated 1/21/2021 – prices and availability may have changed.
- I do not receive any commission or compensation for these recommendations.
- I have personally used, or my clients have been using every item listed below except for starred items *
Total Cost: Around $100
If all you have in your home gym are these items, you will be able to do an almost infinite amount of exercises!
Yoga / Exercise Mat
Pros – Has grip, and not too thick to balance on
Cons – Can hurt if you have sensitive knees, hands, elbows
Aurorae non-slip mat – although it’s more expensive, I’ve had this mat for 4 1/2 years with daily use and it’s held up really, really well.
Pros – Good for sensitive knees, hands, elbows
Cons – More difficult to balance on (but this might be a pro if you want to improve balance!)
Pros – No need to swap handles when switching between exercises
Cons – More difficult to hold multiple bands if you want to double up/ triple up to increase intensity; handles on takes up more space when traveling
Pros – Can easily hold single handle with multiple bands attached for increasing resistance
Cons – Time consuming to switch out bands, which can be annoying if doing a circuit that requires 2 or 3 different resistances
Most resistance bands come with a door anchor – read the instructions closely to understand how it works.
If you have a big space between your door and the frame, it’s worth it to buy a higher quality anchor like this one.
Important Note: Be sure to only use doors that close towards you when anchoring your bands (if the door opens towards you, the door could open and the bands will come right at you!).
If you plan on adding a lot of resistance (more than the heaviest band in your kit) consider anchoring with eyelet anchors to a stud in your wall * (you’ll need one at ankle, chest, and ceiling heights).
Foam Roller – Long Size – 36″
Unless you plan on packing it in your suitcase, don’t bother buying a short/half-size foam roller. The variety of movements you can do with a long roller that you can’t do with a short roller far outweighs the slightly increased cost.
Nice to Have
All of the items below are not necessary for building strength, but are nice to have to increase variety, complexity, and challenge.
Dumbbells and Kettlebells
I much prefer dumbbells and kettlebells over bands, but they are expensive and take up a lot of space. I always recommend starting with bands, then investing in dumbbells and kettlebells as you need.
Important Note: Unless you do a ton of rehab/corrective exercises, don’t bother with buying weights less than 10 pounds. Because the bands take care of all of your resistance training needs below 10 pounds, focus on purchasing larger/heavier dumbbells and kettlebells when you’re ready.
Also note that you don’t have to buy dumbbells or kettlebells in pairs; you can make due with 1 of each in different weights if you want to save money or space.
Where to Buy
A really good deal for dumbbells and kettlebells is about $1 per pound.
I recommend you purchase these from a physical store, Nextdoor, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace since you’ll save a ton in shipping.
Look for handles that aren’t chipped, since the metal can start to rust easily at that point. If they are chipped, clean the area with isopropyl alcohol and cover with electrical tape.
Here’s a suggested order of priority in purchasing weights (assuming you already have a set of bands):
1 kettlebell or 1-2 dumbbells about 10% of your bodyweight (for pressing, rowing, beginner squats and swinging). For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, buy a single 10kg kettlebell (22 pounds) or 1 to 2 x 20 pound dumbbells.
1 kettlebell or 2 dumbbells about 25% of your body weight (deadlifts, advanced squats and swings). For example, if you weight 200 pounds, buy a single 24kg kettlebell) or 1 to 2 x 50 pound dumbbells.
1 kettlebell or 2 dumbbells in-between the weights you purchased in batch 1
1 kettlebell or 2 dumbbells heavier than batch 1
Start filling in weights needed between big jumps; start buying doubles of the single kettlebells so you can do double presses, rows, swings, etc.
If you have hardwood or tile, you can simply wear thick socks and slide.
Great for core exercises and single leg slideouts. Use the felt side for hardwood, tile, or linoleum; use the plastic side for carpeting.
If you already have large furniture sliders like these, you can use them for exercise, too.*
Booty Band / Resistance Band Loop
This small piece of equipment can make lower body and glute bodyweight exercises much more challenging (fire hydrants, bridges, clamshells)
Thick, Woven Style
Note – I have large thighs (I wear 1X to 2X pants size) and the above brand large size works well for me. If you have smaller legs, buy the medium size or try this brand in size S/M.*
Pros – way more comfortable, more resistance, less likely to slide up/down
Cons – more expensive
Thin, Elastic Style
Pros – Easier to pack, less expensive so you can buy several different resistances
Cons- can dig into bare legs, tend to roll up/down legs
This easy to store item makes conditioning exercises fun! My clients of all ages and fitness levels really enjoy doing drills on this.
The ladder I bought several years ago is no longer available, so I’m recommending this one since it comes in a few different sizes, lays flat, and has great ratings.*
Yoga blocks can come in handy with a several strength training and bodyweight exercises but aren’t essential.
Yoga Strap or Stretching Strap
If you struggle with flexibility, having a stretching strap or yoga strap can be really helpful. If you don’t want to spend the money, keep a belt, scarf, or towel handy as an alternative
PVC Pipe or Wooden Dowel
Dowels are a wonderful item to have to stretch your shoulders, practice the overhead squat, and use for assistance in balance exercises.
You can use a longer broom or mop handle, or head to the hardware store and select a PVC pipe or wooden dowel that’s 3/4″ to 1″ in diameter and 4 feet to 6 feet long (the taller you are, the longer you’ll need so your arms can fully extend).