Best Home Gym Equipment for Initial Set-Up Reviewed For The Best Start
In the not-too-distant past, home gyms were reserved for a few small groups of people. They could be found in the homes of the ultra-wealthy or they could be found in the homes of athletes regardless of the person’s income level. As daily demands have grown more constant, the ability to participate in regular sports or to make it to a gym has become a luxury that many people cannot afford. And while starting up a home gym requires a bit of an up-front investment, it is still more affordable than enrolling in a gym or joining a league. The issue is no longer whether it would be unusual to have a gym in the home, but rather finding a good guide to the best pieces of home gym equipment would be for someone setting up their gym for the first time. And this list aims to be that guide.
Home gyms in commercials tend to be heavy on large machines and light on the smaller, more affordable pieces of equipment that people are often more comfortable using. There’s no rule stating that a home gym has to have these large machines and they are often prohibitively expensive. That is why this list is focused on smaller and more versatile pieces of equipment that allow users to engage multiple muscle groups at once while letting them find the best workouts to fit their needs and not the limitations of the machine. The pieces can be purchased all at once or spread out over time to reduce the sticker shock that initial setup can cause. In the end, however, these products will help turn any space into an effective high-impact home gym.
Featured Recommendations for Best Home Gym Equipment
- CAP Cast Iron Kettlebell
- Enamel Coating
- Easy to Clean
- Sivan Extra Thick Foam Yoga Mat
- 1/2-Inch Thick
- Integrated Carrying Strap
- Everlast Heavy Bag Kit
- Comes with Accessories
- Adjustable Height
10 Best Home Gym Equipment Additions
1. CAP Cast Iron Kettlebell
Traditional weights and kettlebells are usually made of exposed iron that might have been painted to protect the metal underneath. Newer models often feature a slightly thicker coating which in this case is enamel. And while this does tend to give the weights a more finished appearance, the enamel serves several key purposes. The coating prevents the metal from causing serious scratches to the gym floor while at the same time creating a smooth surface on the weight that is both easy to handle and easy to clean.
Multiple Weights Available
One of the best things about kettlebells is that they can be purchased at almost any weight that can be carried by hand. The more extreme weights have to come from specialty companies, but the weights that best suit the majority of people are all available from CAP. Heavier weights tend to cost a little bit more because they have more material in them, but it is an investment that will last as the user become stronger and more toned.
Cost and Value
Kettlebells do not come cheap but there is a reason that this product is the first on this list. This sort of equipment is incredibly versatile, particularly when they are coating like the ones CAP offers. Kettlebells can help with bodyweight exercises, stand in for dumbbells and even play a part in pushups and planks if more than one is available. They are not limited to one or two exercises and that makes them invaluable to a home gym, particularly one that is short on space.
Multiple Weights Available
Labeled LBs and KGs
Do Not Drop
2. Sivan Extra Thick Yoga Mat
The popular idea of a yoga mat is a thin rubbery rectangle that may have small bumps on it to keep users from slipping. These mats provide little cushioning and no place to take a firm grip if a particular pose or exercise calls for one. Sivan's mat is a slightly more versatile version of these more common mats. It is a full half-inch thick which provides ample cushioning as well as a several thick points users can grab onto when the need arises.
Not only is this mat thicker than average but it also boasts a dual-surface design. One side is smooth which is ideal for workouts that will leave the mat in need of a cleaning. The other side is ridged to provide more traction for positions such as downward-facing dog and exercises such as planks and pushups.
Cost and Value
This mat costs only a few dollars more than the thinner mats that are so common in big box stores at the moment. That small additional investment can turn even concrete or wood floors into comfortable spaces for yoga and floor exercises that would otherwise be unnecessarily harsh on a person's knees. Some users may be frustrated by the integrated strap that serves as a closure mechanism when the mat is not in use, but this can be tucked away and is a small inconvenience for such a versatile product.
1/2 Inch Thick
Comes with Strap
Easy to Clean
Annoying Integrated Strap
3. Everlast Heavy Bag Kit
This bag might seem like an intense investment but the price tag does not cover the bag alone. It covers several accessories that allow the user to dive right into using their bag, whether they've spent time with one before or not. These accessories include wrist wraps and thin gloves to help protect the fine bones in a user's hands and wrists from boxer's breaks. A bungee cord is also included which can be used to increase the resistance a user feels when they hit the bag. These are valuable additions that many boxers purchase separately but Everlast chose to include with their bag for the convenience of their customers.
Everyone has their sweet spot on a punching bag. Unfortunately, this sweet spot may not be the point on the bag that is intended to take the most abuse, which is right in the middle. Everlast designed their bag with an adjustable height option to combat this issue. Users can use a chain to raise or lower the bag so that each user gets the best experience possible from their purchase.
Cost and Value
Everlast's name adds a little bit to the price tags of their products but it also adds a fair amount of value to the product in terms of construction quality and customer service. A company would not get as big as Everlast if they did not do right by their customers and this heavy big kit just reinforces that idea. And while a heavy bag might not seem that useful for the home gym of a non-boxer, practices like aero boxing are becoming more and more popular, proving that a heavy bag can help with cardio, strength training, and balance all at the same time.
Comes with Accessories
Only 70 lbs
4. CAP Standard Barbell
Barbells have a deceptively simple appearance. Most people just see a metal pole with two reinforced ends that are meant to hold weighted plates. In reality, there are several different designs for the body of the barbell and two widths for the endcaps: standard and Olympic. Standard plates have a narrower opening in the middle, which is an important detail to keep in mind when buying plates for this particular barbell. Standard is also easier to find which makes them ideal for home gyms.
200 lb Capacity
Unless someone is setting up a gym in their home so that they can powerlift more than their gym is comfortable with, 200 pounds is more than enough weight for any one person to be able to lift. The bar itself is several pounds which will give users a good starting point from which they have plenty of room to grow before they hit this bar's limit.
Cost and Value
Barbells can be prohibitively expensive but CAP is all about affordable quality. Their barbell is affordable on most budgets which leaves their customers with plenty of wiggle room to add on any extra weight plates that they may want. The bar is available in several lengths and is designed with several grip points, adding a little versatility to a classic gym staple.
Multiple Grip Points
Several Length Options
200 lb Capacity
Solid Steel Bar
No Weight Clips
5. WOD Nation Speed Jump Rope
Unlike most jump ropes that can be bought in stores, this product requires a little bit of adjusting before it can be put to use. Customers will receive their jump ropes unassembled so that they can use the included instructions to find the best length for their frame. The instructions cover the suggested lengths for adults of all heights as well as most children which makes this a viable product for the entire family.
Spare Cord Included
Jump ropes have a tendency to break after extensive use, either at the point where the cord meets the handle or at the point where the rope hits the ground. WOD Nation is a company that specializes in jump ropes and is naturally aware of this issue. Their solution was to include a second cord with the purchase of this jump rope, effectively doubling the lifespan of their product. Additional cords can also be purchased which allows customers to use the same handles even if their cord breaks.
Cost and Value
This product might seem a little pricey considering the low cost of jump ropes in most brick-and-mortar stores. Those jump ropes are not designed for high-speed use, however, and they cannot be adjusted to the ideal length based on the user's height. They are also not built with replaceable cords which means that using them for cardio and fitness can quickly rack up a higher bill than this product would have led to.
Multiple Colors Available
Storage Bag Provided
Spare Cord Included
Some Tightening Issues
6. ProSource Puzzle Exercise Mat
ProSource's foam tiles are designed to be water resistant which is ideal for any room in which someone is going to be sweating, carrying a water bottle, and using cleaning sprays to keep their equipment clean. It also means that the tiles aren't going to suffer any damage if they are put down on top of a somewhat damp base floor after it has been cleaned.
Some foam tiles have a somewhat slick texture on the top which is likely there to make it easier for rubber-soled shoes to cross the floor. This may be helpful in a classroom or general area but it can be a hindrance in a gym where people need to have a solid footing in order to avoid injury. ProSource opted for a slip-resistant surface that gives users a little more traction so they can move through their workout with confidence.
Cost and Value
Each set of these tiles is affordable for most budgets and is comparable to other products on the market. The product's price can add up, unfortunately, since many home gyms are likely to need more than one set if the owner wants to cover the entire floor. The water-resistant and slip-resistant nature of this product will make the investment worth it to most people, as will its versatility since the tiles can be easily moved from room to room as the need arises.
Includes Six Pieces
Easy to Assemble
May Need Multiple Sets
7. j/fit Dumbbell Set with Rack
j/fit's weights are coated in not one but two layers of neoprene which is a material similar to rubber that is water resistant and almost entirely impervious to weathering. This coating not only protects the metal core of the weights but also the user's hands as well as the floor of the gym, as the neoprene will help soften any dings or scratches if the weights are dropped.
Multiple Weight Options
These weight sets start out with the lightest weighing in around three pounds and the values increase from there. The company offers several sets so that users can find one with a suitable value range for their capabilities and goals. j/fit also sells individual weights and pairs of weights so that users can customize the values they keep on-hand.
Cost and Value
These weights might seem like they're a hefty investment but they are a steal compared to the cost of buying each piece of the set separately. The only real downside is that some users might find that the weight values currently offered are too low to fit their needs, but the majority of people are likely to find exactly what they need with j/fit.
Multiple Size Options
Double Neoprene Coated
Possibly Too Light
8. Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Set
This kit is ridiculously affordable, especially when the multiple included band weights are taken into account. The bands are color-coded so that users can grab the right band at a glance once they have learned the code, each band providing a little more tension than the last so that users will continue to feel challenged as they grow stronger.
Tension bands have a relatively high risk of breaking due to the way that they are generally used. It is actually recommended that users stop working out with their tension band if cracks or worn-out spots appear in the latex. At that point, Fit Simplify's customers can reach out to the company and take advantage of their lifetime guarantee, which is backed by fantastic customer service.
Cost and Value
This band set is probably one of the most affordable projects on this list and it is also one of the most versatile. Users can find band-specific workouts on sites like YouTube or the bands can be used to add extra burn to other workouts such as dance routines, yoga, and pilates. All bands have an unfortunate tendency to roll at some point though Fit Simplify seems to be better about this than most. It is a small annoyance, however, given the utility that these products provide.
100% Natural Latex
Great Customer Service
Multiple Band Weights
Might Roll Up
9. Escape Fitness Deck
This product's biggest asset is the number of positions into which it can be configured. Escape's designers took a basic bench and added in the ability to transition into a seated incline, a general incline, and a supine bench in addition to a platform for step aerobics. The included manual suggests a few other additional uses and, when the deck is not in use, it can be folded flat for easy storage beneath a bed or cabinet.
No-Slip Top Mat
Half of this product's configurations would be of no use of users were at risk of slipping off the deck altogether. Escape built their product with a no-slip top mat to help keep their customers steady throughout their workouts. The mat also includes a few pre-marked "zones" so that users can get the right footing at-a-glance so they can keep up their rhythm.
Cost and Value
Escape's fitness deck is the most expensive item on this list but that does not mean that it isn't a bargain compared to other products on the market. There is one small catch, which is the deck's 242-pound upper weight limit which rules it out as a bench for anyone using a loaded barbell. Anyone working up to that point will get plenty of utility out of this product, however. Escape even developed an app to work in conjunction with the deck in order to help their customers reach their goals more quickly. It's a product with a whole lot of value packed into one easy-to-store item.
Easy Workout Integration
Associated App Available
Anti-Slip Top Mat
242 lb Max Safe Workload
10. TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller
There is a bit of a debate among foam roller users as to whether hollow-core designs or solid-core designs are superior. Both options have their benefits, naturally. But when it comes to the TriggerPoint GRID roller, its hollow-core design absolutely sweeps the competition. It has a 500-pound upper weight limit which greatly reduces the risk of the interior tube cracking. And the hollow interior is the perfect storage spot for other equipment rolled into a towel or folded yoga mat for those who take their roller on the road or to the gym with them.
Free Online Videos
Foam rollers seem easy to use but everyone who tries it for the first time has a learning curve ahead of them. Some positions are easy enough to get the hang of, but others require a little more balance or coordination than is initially expected. In situations like these, a tutorial video can come in handy and while YouTube is sure to have a few dozen, there is nothing quite like a product-specific video to get the information across. TriggerPoint offers access to brand-specific tutorial videos to all of their customers to help them speed through that learning curve and get the hang of their new foam roller in no time.
Cost and Value
The GRID is a little more expensive than similarly-sized products on the market but the slight price bump is more than made up for in the quality and value that the product brings to the table. Foam rollers are an ideal way to treat sore muscles at home and can help prevent sore muscles if they are incorporated into a cool-down routine. They can also add a little more challenge to body-weight workouts once users get the hang of using their roller, which brings a little more versatility into the mix. There are, unfortunately, a few fakes on the market so consumers need to be sure that they're buying from TriggerPoint in order to get the best possible product.
Free Online Videos
500 lb Weight Limit
Multi-Density Foam Exterior
Beware of Fakes
Some of the products on this list will have to be replaced from time to time. The weights may become too light or the tension bands may wear out. Even with this in mind, home gyms are the most affordable option for most people who want to get in shape. And the appeal of having exercise equipment at your fingertips any time of the day or night should not be underestimated. As most experts now agree, the best time to exercise is whatever time works best for a person’s schedule and that schedule is easier to work with if the gym is in another room of the house rather than several miles away. Home gyms can also be upgraded, expanded, and customized to fit the user’s specific needs which can be difficult for even the most elite of gyms to accomplish. All of this makes the set up more than worth it, as do the results and goals that can be achieved.
Criteria For Evaluating The Best Home Gym Equipment
The Durability of Home Gym Equipment
Exercise equipment takes a lot of abuse. They are sometimes dropped or tossed at the end of a workout and most people do not clean their equipment as regularly as they should. It made sense, then to rate products based on how durable they were. This meant that any products with protective coatings, sturdier-than-average construction, or a reputation for quality got priority consideration over products that lacked these things.
Traditional exercise equipment was primarily made of metal or leather, both of which would deteriorate quickly if they were not cared for properly. Modern equipment still uses these materials but coatings are now applied to help the products last longer, especially if the core material is some kind of metal. Popular coating options are vinyl, enamel, and rubber, each of which has its own benefits and drawbacks. Most of them can reduce the amount of damage a piece of equipment does to the floor when it is dropped while protecting the metal from rusting. A few of them, like enamel, make the products easier to clean as well.
Weights have been made from a wild variety of materials from wood to plastic to hollow shells with springs inside to move the weighted plates around. All of these materials have their benefits but the traditional weight style has outlasted them all in both lifespan and popularity. Traditional weights are a single piece of metal or a few pieces welded together to create the desired weight. They are less likely to break, offer more weight options, and generally outlast their competitors. They are generally a little more expensive as well, but the investment is worth it for the return they give their users.
Not every company on this list is a household name and some of them are relative newcomers to the market. Most of them do have one thing in common, however, and that is that their products all have a positive reputation. It is hard to fake the quality that is necessary to receive positive reviews across the majority of a company’s inventory which is why the entire company was taken into account when forming this list instead of simply looking at the one product that is featured.
Longevity of Home Gym Equipment
Durability and longevity tend to go hand-in-hand but there are a few aspects of longevity that stand separate from whether or not a product is durable. There are some products on the market that aren’t designed to last for more than a year or so, not because it forces the customer to replace the product but out of either safety concerns or limitations on the lifespan of the materials used to make the product. Products with a short life expectancy were set aside in favor of products that are designed to last for a long while and products that offered guarantees or warranties were given an even higher level of consideration due to the extensions they put on any product’s pre-existing life expectancy.
As mentioned above, some products are simply expected to last longer than others. The lifespan of a product is determined by several factors which include the material it is made out of, its intended use, and how likely it is that people will put it to uses it was not intended for. And while there are some products on the market that may be better suited to home gyms in other ways, they were left off this list if their lifespan was too short when compared to their price tag or if they only had a long lifespan if they were used in a very narrow and specific manner.
Warranties or Guarantees
Warranties and guarantees are relatively uncommon in the athletic equipment market despite the reassurance and value they can add to a product. Companies that offered these types of customer coverage were given a much higher priority than similar products without the promises attached. This was done not only to ensure that customers got the most value for their money but also as a way by which companies that stood by their products would be selected over those that did not. Any company who is willing to take a loss on their profits in order to secure the satisfaction of their customers is a company that is more likely to produce a quality product in the first place.
Versatility of Home Gym Equipment
The products on this list should last their users for quite a while, but that was not enough of a reason for them to make this list. Each product needed to be suited for a few purposes in order to give customers the most value on their dollar and on the floor space they dedicate to their gym. It is also much easier to achieve fitness goals when the same piece of equipment can get someone through an entire workout that they would otherwise have to interrupt just to find the right fitness aide.
Multiple Uses for Home Gym Equipment
A few factors are involved when determining how versatile a product is but the most obvious factor is the number of uses the product has. Some of the products on this list are single-use, such as the jump rope, but most of them can be used to add resistance and weight to a wide range of exercises from weight training to cardio. Some, like the heavy bag, can be used to practice for a specific skilled sport in addition to helping users with their cardio and toning. The more uses a product has, the more value it adds to the space it uses and every inch counts in most home gyms.
Portability of Home Gym Equipment
Most people who have a home gym prefer to keep their equipment all in one spot, but there are situations where they have to travel. These circumstances pose the risk of derailing a person’s fitness goals unless they are able to take at least some of the equipment with them to create an on-the-road workout routine. Bodyweight exercises work well for people who have to travel, but products like hand weights, exercise mats, and jump ropes can all help keep their user on track when they’re away from home.
Upgradable Home Gym Equipment
A relatively modern frustration is the issue of dealing with obsolete equipment. As people get stronger, their low-weight barbells aren’t presenting the same challenge while their cardio routines are no longer leaving them breathless. People change and their exercise equipment should be able to change with them. This usually takes the form of upgrading to heavier weights and changing up the cardio method that someone uses, and any equipment that is able to upgrade along with its user was given priority over those that would have to be donated or sold to someone in order to make room for the new equipment.
An unfortunate truth about working out is that some people are intimidated by the cultural mythos that has come up around it. The machines look complicated, gym etiquette can be confusing, and there are always conflicting recommendations on how to best lose weight and tone muscle. Home gyms remove some of these pressures, but complicated products can still pose a large enough issue to keep people from using their equipment as much as they would like. The products on this list were chosen with this issue in mind and products that are intuitive to use were given priority over-complicated products that might have been more of a frustration than a useful tool.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know what weights to purchase?
A: The easiest way to find the best weight range is to go to a store that sells weights and do a few reps. Don’t take anything out of its box, of course. Many stores have free weights set out on the shelf and it doesn’t hurt to grab one and do a few curls or overhead presses to decide if it’s too heavy or too light for the goals you have in mind. A set of three weights is best for most people to start with: one weight that is easy to lift but will leave them tired after a high-rep set, one weight that they struggle to lift but is still movable, and one weight in the middle.
Q: Are these items workout-specific?
A: Not at all! Most of these products can be incorporated into workout methods ranging from martial arts to yoga to dance practice to personal eclectic forms that people put together on their own.
Q: Where can I learn how to use these?
A: YouTube is the best source for workout tutorial videos, as long as users find trusted channels. Most health and fitness magazines and most gyms have their own channels and there are countless channels run by licensed trainers as well. I have personally found Xhit to be a great channel for free weight routines that fit well into a busy schedule and require a minimal amount of equipment.
Q: Can I still use a trainer at home?
A: It’s possible, but this depends on where you live and if any trainers near you are willing to work outside of a larger company. If you find someone willing to do private one-on-one training, make sure that you check their licensing and accreditation or education so that you can be certain you’re getting the real deal and not someone who may end up injuring you without meaning to.
Q: How do I keep track of my workouts?
A: There is an astoundingly wide range of exercise trackers on the market today ranging from smartwatches to pen-and-paper options. I personally use my Fitbit tracker as well as a pen-and-paper Happy Planner to make sure that I’m meeting my goals and seeing progress. These options are especially idea for people using a home gym because the Fitbit uses an accelerometer and not a GPS signal to track the work someone is doing while a pen-and-paper option can be left in the gym and personalized so that the user’s workouts are laid out ahead of time.
Q: What products might I need next?
A: If a home gym proves to be the best option, the next step is to make sure that the equipment is up-to-date and still providing the same results it used to. Tension bands break, people outgrow their weights, and the day might come when a bike, elliptical, or weight machine may need to be added into the mix. There are also products that are more workout-specific such as dance barres, mirrors, music systems, speed bags, and rowing machines that will appeal to certain users and may add immense value to their home gym setup.