Best Bets: Easy-to-Store Exercise Equipment for an Awesome Home Gym

A home gym would be so useful, no? Philly trainer Brian Maher explains that you don't have to have gobs of space (or money) to create an awesome one.

Imagine having your own personal gym at home: There’d be no membership fees, no waiting for equipment, no sweaty guy grunting loudly as you try to finish your set. I bet your workouts would be a lot more efficient, frequent and enjoyable. Unfortunately, the machines you find in a standard gym cost anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000—no problem if you’re a millionaire with a spare 10,000-square-foot room, but a tad prohibitive for those of us on space-and-financial budgets.

What we need are smaller, cheaper, but no-less effective exercise equipment that can be stored in a closet. If I were building a great home gym, here are the three pieces of easy-to-store, easy-to-use exercise equipment I’d invest in.

Exercise Bands

Why to buy ’em: Exercise bands do double duty: They’re not only good for a home gym, they’re also useful if you travel a lot (they take up about as much room as a t-shirt in your luggage and can be used anywhere). To make for a full-body workout, you’ll need to bands of varying resistance; smaller muscle groups like the biceps and triceps might need a less resistance while larger ones like the chest and back might need more.

Exercise bands aren’t just for beginners anymore; now they come in some pretty heavy-duty forms. While lighter bands may start out at around three pounds of resistance, there are some band systems that can produce as much as 260 pounds of resistance! So no matter your fitness level, if you’re looking to save space and money while adding some variety to your at-home workouts, try picking up some resistance bands.

How to use ’em: Exercise bands can be used to perform seated rows, lateral raises, bicep curls, chest presses, triceps extensions, and many more.

Cost: $8 to $24 per band, depending on resistance.

Adjustable Dumbbells

Why to buy ’em: If you’re more of a traditional weightlifter who likes the feel of lifting with dumbbells, an adjustable dumbbell set may be right for you. While I’m sure you’d love to have an entire rack of dumbbells to work out with, most people don’t have the room or the money for one. Dumbbell racks can easily run upwards of $4,000, depending on how high the set goes in weight.

An adjustable dumbbell is a great solution. It can easily fit under your bed and takes up as much space as one set of dumbbells. While the old-school adjustable dumbbells came with plates that you would fasten on with a screw or a weight clip, the newer adjustable dumbbells are more durable and come as one piece; with a few clicks, you can adjust the weight. These dumbbells are easier to adjust and don’t come loose like the older brands do. Just like the bands, you can purchase varying resistances that range from five to 20 pounds to 175 pounds.

How to use ’em: As with bands, dumbbells are endlessly versatile. Some example exercises you can perform with dumbbells: front raises, lateral raises, overhead press, bicep curl, triceps kickback, dumbbell row, dead lift, bench press and weighted lunges.

Cost: $200 to $1,700, depending on weight range.

Medicine Ball

Why to buy ’em: It doesn’t get much more old-school than a medicine ball. Even though you might not consider the medicine ball to be a new and innovative piece of equipment, the medicine ball has stood the test of time.

But what exactly can you do with a medicine ball? You can hold it, of course, for extra resistance, but a medicine ball can also be thrown. Because it is relatively soft and generally lightweight (three to 25 pounds), a medicine ball can be thrown against walls (although an adjoining wall made of drywall should not be your first choice) or into the air, or it can be slammed into the ground. Why all this throwing? By throwing the medicine ball forcefully, you’re actually using more force necessary than it takes to simply lift it up and down. The extra work requires more muscle, which means you’ll burn more calories and build more strength as opposed to simply lifting a medicine ball up and down. If you’re looking for a challenging, explosive type of a workout (that lets a little frustration out to boot), a medicine-ball workout at home might be the right choice for you.

How to use ’em: My favorite exercises using medicine balls are rotational throws, chest passes, overhead throws and Russian twists.

Cost: Between $12 and $75, depending on size and weight.

>> Do you work out at home? What’s your must-have piece of equipment? Share in the comments!


Brian Maher is a personal trainer in Center City Philadelphia who specializes in weight loss and nutritional counseling. He is the owner of Philly Personal Training, a company offering convenient in-home personal training packages to busy individuals looking to improve their fitness levels. To learn more about Brian and his services, visit Read all of Brian’s posts for Be Well Philly here.

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