During the early days of the pandemic, many of those with active gym memberships dealt with the following dilemma: To invest in home gym essentials, or to wait it out until fitness centres open up again? As the wait continued on, my go-to gym closed down with no signs of a refund in sight — and I had just paid for another year’s subscription.
As I begrudgingly tried to move on from my non-refundable gym membership, I decided that a home gym would be a way more worthwhile investment than waiting it out and having to find a new place. After all, I would get to enjoy “free” lifetime membership at my own gym!
The challenge? Finding out what home gym essentials to buy, and where. I wanted to find the most cost-effective equipment that could also fit in a limited amount of space. So I did my research, scoured various online stores, and managed to set everything up over about eight months — all without having to leave my house. Interested in building your own home gym? Read on for tips on what to buy, depending on your needs. (Spoiler alert: You can get everything on Shopee!)
Disclaimer: I didn’t buy all my home gym essentials on Shopee alone; but the same or similar equipment can be purchased there.
Home gym essentials for basic workouts & compact spaces
If you’ve only got a small space to allot for exercising, don’t sweat it! You don’t need much to get a good workout in, and the basics are already more than enough. All you’ll need: a yoga mat, free weights, and a set of resistance bands.
When it comes to working out at home, having a trusty yoga mat is already a great start. With this, you can already do so much: yoga, pilates, floor exercises, HIIT workouts, and more! When choosing a basic yoga mat, you can opt for a thick one if your joints need the padding, or a non-slip yoga mat if you tend to sweat a lot. The important thing is to keep it clean, so make sure to disinfect it after every use and wash it regularly!
Having a small, medium, and large pair of dumbbells would be good; as for the specific weights, it really depends on what you can handle. Vinyl dumbbells are great for lighter weights, while rubber hex dumbbells are a better option for the heavier ones — they’re an especially good choice if you have slippery fingers as they’re more “drop-friendly.”
Moreover, you can also grab a set of kettlebells if you do a lot of workouts that require you to have a more secure grip. If you’re more into space-saving and multi-use equipment, you can even go for an adjustable kettlebell. Kettlebell swings, thrusters, and snatches, here we come!
Moreover, if you’d like to give yourself more of a challenge, resistance bands will do just the trick. There are two types: mini resistance bands, which are most often used for (but not limited to) lower body exercises and wrapped around the thighs or ankles; and full-length resistance bands, which double as assistance bands for those learning how to do pull-ups. Both are very versatile and can really transform your workouts!
Home gym essentials for more advanced compound exercises
Workout not complete without getting to do your compound exercises like bench presses, squats, and deadlifts? Fortunately, it’s more than possible to get these done at home, whether you’ve got a small or generous amount of space.
A barbell is an excellent investment for those who can’t do without their compound lifts. Not just limited to the above-mentioned exercises, this workout tool is used for overhead presses, bent-over rows, lunges, and a whole lot more.
An Olympic barbell is seven feet long and weighs 20kg. Before finalising your purchase, make sure to check its maximum capacity and find out whether it comes with clips for securing your Olympic plates (if not, you should definitely buy a pair).
Designed to fit into Olympic barbells, these plates are quite versatile as well. Besides being used in tandem with a barbell, they can also be used on their own to level up your ab workouts, push-ups, and shoulder exercises. They go as light as 1.25kg and as heavy as 20kg.
A power rack is essential in order to safely execute your barbell workouts. After all, it isn’t exactly ideal to have to pick your barbell off the floor for every set of squats or bench presses that you do. Depending on the amount of space you have, you can avail of several variations of this piece of equipment.
Adjustable squat rack
The perfect choice for compact spaces, an adjustable squat rack is made up of two individual stands that make it easy for you to set it to your desired width. You can also adjust its height, which means you can also use the rack for bench presses — pretty cool, right?
When purchasing a squat rack, it’s always important to make sure that it’s made of sturdy material and to double check how much weight it can handle. Safety first!
Take things a step further by going for a half rack, which usually includes the following: hooks for your barbell, safety bars, and a pull-up bar. The safety bars are lifesavers if you usually need a spotter — they help prevent injuries in case you fail to lift your barbell or bring them back down safely. Some half racks also come with allotted space for storing your Olympic plates.
What’s more, a half rack can also come in handy if your workout routine includes accessory exercises like lat pulldowns, face pulls, and tricep pushdowns. More on how you can make this happen later!
Full power rack
Also known as a “power cage,” a full power rack lets you do all the same things, while offering you more safety and stability. If you want to go all out, then you’ll benefit from choosing one that comes with a multipurpose cable system. The cable system lets you do lat pulldowns and other accessory workouts, without the need to purchase any other exercise machines!
Here’s a tip: To take full advantage of the multipurpose cable system, you may also want to purchase other attachments like a tricep rope, tricep bar, and row handles!
- Full power rack with multi-purpose cable system
- Full power rack with multi-purpose cable system landmine attachment
Of course, to get your bench presses done right, you’ll need a good workout bench. And it isn’t just good for this particular exercise, either. From your arms, to your abs, to your legs, you can certainly get a full body workout done with the help of a bench!
Depending on your needs, you can opt for one of three types of benches: a flat bench, an adjustable bench with an incline, or an adjustable bench with an incline and decline. Regardless of your choice, be sure to double check the bench’s maximum weight capacity — you’ll want to factor in your own weight, plus the weight you’ll be lifting.
Straps and belts
When lifting heavy weights especially, safety is of utmost importance. In addition to getting the right equipment, it’s also helpful to invest in protective gear. For starters, you’ll need wrist straps to ensure you won’t overextend your wrists for bench press and overhead press workouts; meanwhile, there are separate wrist straps specifically designed for deadlifting.
A weightlifting belt will also come in handy for your barbell lifts, as this will allow you to put less pressure on your spine. Plus, if you’ve got wonky knees, you should definitely look into knee support!
Is cardio key for your fitness routine? Besides going on a walk or run outdoors (or around your house!), there are several pieces of home gym equipment that can help you get your heart pumping at home.
Your most affordable option when it comes to cardio equipment? A jump rope! You might be surprised to find what a great difference just a few minutes of jumping rope can make.
During the pre-pandemic era, cycling was my go-to cardio exercise. If you’re planning to join online classes or follow choreographed routines on YouTube, then splurging on one of these will definitely be worth it!
Treadmill or walking pad
Walking pads or foldable treadmills are all the rage right now. They’re way more affordable than commercial treadmills, and they can save you a lot of space. While there are walking pads that cost under ₱10,000, those usually don’t come with handlebars and are good for brisk walking at best.
The pricier ones will set you back a little more, but you’ll certainly get what you pay for! The good ones will let you enjoy a speed of up to 12kph, will provide enough space for taller folks, and will have handlebars for safety.
If you (a) tend to drop your weights, (b) lift heavy weights, or (c) simply don’t want to damage your flooring, then you’ll want to consider ordering high-density mats. They’re pricier than a thick yoga mat or your typical puzzle mats, but the protection they offer is worth it!
Pulley system and cable attachments
No cable system? No problem. This pulley is a lifesaver because it takes away the need to purchase bulky and pricey equipment. Just clip it onto your pull-up bar (whether it’s wall-mounted or part of your squat rack) and add on your Olympic plates, and voila! It’s easily one of my top home gym essentials; after more than a year, it’s still serving me well!
These pulley systems often come with a loading pin, where you’re meant to attach your olympic plates, plus a tricep rope. To get the most out of this system, I purchased additional attachments: a tricep short bar and a lat pulldown bar. You can also check out others like a V-bar or D-bar — really, it just depends on what you need.
If you have a lot of dumbbells, simply setting them all on the floor can be quite messy; it can even cause accidents. Keep things organised by getting yourself a dumbbell rack — there are several types out there depending on how heavy your weights are and how much free space you have.
- Dumbbell rack for light dumbbells
- Vertical dumbbell rack for heavy dumbbells
- Horizontal dumbbell rack for heavy dumbbells
Is one of your home gym goals to learn how to do a pull-up in peace (read: without random people at the gym watching you)? If you aren’t up for purchasing a squat rack that comes complete with a pull-up bar, then you may want to get yourself one that you can easily install in your home gym. You have two options: one you can place in your doorway, and another you can mount on your wall!
There are loads of other types of equipment that might work for you, but this list is just something to help get you started. Looking for other credible places to shop for home gym essentials? Check out this article. May you enjoy putting together your very own gym!