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We all know how January goes: Are you resolving to work out more this year? Setting up a small home gym can make your fitness regimen super convenient, and it doesn't have to take up a ton of room, or cost as much as you might think.
“Sometimes the first investment is overwhelming,” acknowledges strength and conditioning coach Alena Luciani, “so if you know you're going to be working out from home in the long haul, start with the basics, then slowly start to accumulate as you go.”
You can get all of the items in the starter kit we’ve outlined below delivered via DoorDash — one less hurdle to jump over in order to get your fitness journey going. “With these tools in your home gym,” says Palak Shah, physical therapist and head of clinical services at Luna, “you have the freedom to curate a versatile program that encompasses cardio, plyometrics, and strength training.”
You can find all of this gear available through Dick's Sporting Goods on DoorDash.
Start with the Home Gym Basics
Compact, portable, and affordable, these home gym basics will get you through an endless array of workouts, stretches, and even injury recoveries — no matter your experience level.
While yoga mats were designed to protect your joints from the impact of a hard floor during yoga, you don’t have to be a yogi to reap the benefits of a supportive, squishy mat. The grippy surface of the top and bottom will prevent your hands and feet from sliding around the floor, and, as strength coach Dr. Sharon Gam says: “A yoga mat is a must-have for any exercises where you’re lying on the floor, like core exercises and glute bridges.” The added bonus, of course, is that it rolls up neatly to be stashed in a closet.
“Anything a boxer uses to keep in cardio shape is excellent,” says Tina Tang, certified personal trainer and founder of Iron Strong Fitness. On top of being a fabulous cardio workout, jumping rope can improve your balance and spatial awareness — Tang says to focus specifically on coordination and getting your heart rate going — so why wouldn’t you add one to your arsenal? Dr. Gam also recommends using a jump rope as part of interval training, saying: “You might jump rope for 1 minute, rest for 1 minute, then repeat 5 times. Intervals are a very time-effective way to increase aerobic fitness and decrease body fat.” Jump ropes are a small-but-mighty aid to any fitness journey, and of course, they’ll fit in just about any drawer, closet, or storage container.
Resistance Bands and Tubes
Resistance bands and tubes are incredibly versatile fitness gear, and Tang points out that they’re great for home gyms that don’t have the space for a cable machine, and they can be used to strengthen dumbbell exercises. According to Dr. Gam, you can “use a mini band around your knees to encourage better glute activation during squats, or a long loop band to provide assistance for pull ups.” She also recommends using them “for warm up exercises like face pulls and pull-aparts, which work the upper back and are very important for anyone who wants to improve their posture or who sits for most of the day.”
No home gym is complete without a small set of dumbbells, so why shouldn’t they be aesthetically appealing? A set of three-, five-, and eight-pound dumbbells from CALIA have a streamlined look and come with a convenient stand. Plus, as Dr. Gam assures, “training with weights is one of the best things you can do for your health. There is a mountain of research tying strength and muscle mass with positive health outcomes and a longer life.”
Level Up Your At-Home Fitness
Once you’ve nailed down the fundamentals or you’ve upgraded in square footage, there are a few more basics you can add to your setup that will bring the whole thing together.
If the fitness trends of the last ten or so years tell us anything, it’s that people of all levels keep coming back to stationary bikes for low-impact, convenient workouts. Of course, not everyone has room to store a bike (stationary or otherwise), but if you do have the space, a bike like the Schwinn IC4 is the perfect thing to level up your home gym. Dr. Gam adds that cardio exercise such as biking, “can improve lifespan, decrease the risk of dozens of chronic diseases, and is great for long-term physical and mental health by boosting mood and improving mental well-being.” Peddling away at home is something you can do in any temperature, is much safer than biking on the road, and is easy to integrate into your routine.
Squats, curls, swings, deadlifts — kettlebell workouts run the gamut, and can use just about every muscle you’ve got, so having one around comes in handy. Tang prefers traditional kettlebells in 10kg, 12kg, 16kg, 20kg, and 24kg weights for “swings, cleans or snatches,” but if “you’re using them as another weight option to dumbbells (not doing ballistic movements), then adjustable kettlebells add a variety options for traditional strength training like goblet squats, one arm racked lunges, and shoulder presses.”
For those who have a dedicated gym zone, interlocking foam tiles turn any space into the real deal. They’re made from dense, springy foam to cushion your feet and joints during workouts, are much easier to land on should you take a tumble, and they’re coated in rubber to prevent slipping and skidding. “If you start to accumulate more weights,” says Luciani, “especially a barbell and plates, these will be super helpful to protect the floor.” They also have the added benefit of dampening noise in the room, so the clanging, jumping, and thumping sounds of a workout are less likely to bother others in your home.
As For Recovery…
After an extended savasana or a particularly grueling bike ride, you’ll want to have these items handy so you’re primed and ready for the next workout.
Foam Roller / Chirp Wheels
Foam rolling — or self myofascial release — is helpful, according to Tang, in preparing the body for a workout. “Rolling along the thoracic spine (where normally we hunch over our phone or computer) opens up the posture,” she says, and “a foam roller helps release any tight muscles before or after a workout.” While Tang points out that there’s no specific science that shows foam rollers help recovery, she maintains that anything that makes you feel better is useful. Similarly, a set of chirp wheels helps loosen up a stiff body by gently (yet so satisfyingly) rolling along your spine and between your shoulder blades, releasing tension and elongating your spine as you go.
Twenty percent smaller and 30% lighter than the original Theragun, the miniature model is just as adept at massaging sore muscles and loosening up knots, but it doesn’t take up a ton of precious real estate in your petite gym. “A Theragun or other percussion massager has benefits similar to massage,” says Dr. Gam, by “increasing blood flow, reducing pain and soreness, and aiding recovery between workouts.” It has three speeds, three different attachments, and connects via Bluetooth to the Therabody app for guided routines and health insights.
You didn’t think we’d forget a great water bottle, did you? “Hydration is always key,” Luciani points out, “bonus points if it's a fun color.” Through undulating water bottle trends and viral tumblers, a classic Hydro Flask stands the test of time. They’re well-insulated, come in a variety of colors, and only get better with every ding and sticker you add over the years.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Dick's Sporting Goods