TLDR; here are the first three major purchases I would recommend for your home gym. They will get you a lot of variety for the smallest investment.
When working out at home, sometimes just doing bodyweight exercises over and over again gets boring! You can unlock a lot of other opportunities if you pick up some extra stuff.
Table of Contents
- Cheap, low footprint items
- Bare essential strength items
- Full on home gym items
- Cardio equipment
Note: The links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I will earn a commission if you purchase these products. I think these are great, no headache options, and that’s why I’ve chosen them.
I’ve tried to make these specific recommendations in this specific order. This is assuming you don’t have special needs and that you’re starting from scratch. I plan to update this list as I find new items.
Cheap, low footprint items
These are great if you want something portable and easy to store away.
I have had good success with Rogue Fitness Bands. I would suggest getting one of each of the following:
- #0 Orange
- #1 Red
- #2 Blue
- #3 Green
- #4 Black
Then, pick up a jump rope. Get this one as it comes in fancy colors.
Here’s a workout I wrote for Livestrong.com that you can do with only a jump rope while you travel!
Bare essential strength items
Bands are cool and all, but it’s difficult to get really strong if you don’t have extra weight.
Adjustable dumbbells are the first best purchase for building pure strength. It’s the easiest way to load your neuromusculoskeletal system.
PowerBlock is my preferred brand. They can be confusing because they don’t market their products very well, but here’s a comparison of each product. If you want to take them outside, I would recommend getting Pro series, coated in urethane.
Bowflex has a nice line of adjustable dumbbells as well. Look for the Bowflex SelectTech 552 or SelectTech 1090.
I usually recommend splurging for a heavier set or an expandable set if you can afford it. Fifty pounds each might sound like a lot at first, but most people can deadlift more than 100lbs with only a little training.
Here’s a list of adjustable dumbbells on Amazon. I do recommend looking locally, however, since you can usually save on shipping costs that way.
An adjustable bench gives you an anchor point for doing rows and pressing with more range of motion. You probably want an adjustable bench over a flat one. Get this one if you want maximum stability.
Next up is the classic barbell. You might be able to find one locally, but the Rogue Ohio Power Bar is the best all-around good one.
Your barbell will need weights! I would recommend scouring locally because shipping is a nightmare. If you want fancy new plates, I would generally recommend bumper plates over steel plates. These are more reasonable, but these look way cooler.
The last bare essential to get is a rack to put everything in. This will let you do some pull ups and more easily set your bar up for squatting. Get one with safety straps or spotter arms for elevating your deadlift and for spotting yourself when you’re alone. Get whichever one of these will fit in your space.
The Rogue RE-3 Echo Rack is good for small footprint and affordable if you want to buy new, though sold out at the time of editing. The upgraded model, the Rogue R-3 Rack, is currently available.
A half rack is another low footprint option: Rogue HR-2 Half Rack. It boils down to how much you want to spend and what will work in the space you have.
Full on home gym
The trap bar is a great alternative to a barbell or just a nice way to deadlift. There are a ton on Amazon. For an brand name pick, Rogue has one as well.
Safety squat bar
Squatting with a safety squat bar is a nice way to train the legs without putting extra stress on the shoulder. There’s also the added benefit that it’s ridiculously hard to stabilize. Get one if you have bad shoulders or if you’re up for a challenge.
The football bar is like a mix of various grips for pressing and rowing. This is really good if you have bad shoulders and still want to go heavy.
Sleds are great for conditioning. Get one you can push.
Up until this point, you’ve been able to lift gently and not harm much. If you’re going to keep building this gym out, though, you’ll need some mats to protect your floor. You can get horse stall mats from Tractor Supply Co.
These are useful for adding load if you don’t want to invest in a whole power rack and barbell setup. Light ones hold up well, but aren’t really worth your time for any sort of strength work. I’ve had the most success with the MiR Pro Weighted Vests.
Last investment… and a large one… would be a cable tower. There’s a lot you can get done with this, but it’s going to take up a bit of space.
Traditional cardio equipment poses a dilemma: cardio is really good for you, but you can only do ONE exercise with each machine.
If you have one piece of cardio you know you prefer over the others, picking up that machine for your home gym is a pretty great upgrade. You can do some continuous activities, you can try some interval training, and you can even include it within a multi-exercise circuit.
If I were to buy a machine for cardio, it would be a bike: light impact, small footprint, and you can adjust the seat to joint-friendly ranges of motion.
I would recommend a spin bike. They are quieter, which is best for most people’s home use, and have fewer moving parts to get damaged. Check out the Concept2 Bike Erg if you’re okay with some fan noise or try your luck on Amazon.
Alternative: fan bike
If you really like high intensity interval training stuff, look into an air bike like the Rogue Echo bike.
If bikes aren’t your thing, you’re going to have to find something louder.
The rower is the most common alternative to a bike.
VersaClimber for a low impact option
The VersaClimber is what I would get if I were rich with money and land.
Manual treadmill for more realistic running at home
Manual treadmills are awesome if you love running.
SkiErg for upper body conditioning
The Concept2 SkiErg is good is you want your conditioning to be more upper body focused.
Jacobs ladder for crawling around like a crazy person (in a good way)
And if you’re an eccentric billionaire, I would expect you to have a Jacobs Ladder.
So obviously you can always buy more stuff, but this is the first stuff I would get.
If you have questions or comments about any of the equipment, feel free to leave a comment below. I plan to update this list as time goes on and would love to hear your input!
Add some color to this commentary.