Workouts are a key part of staying fit and healthy. But our lives are speeding up and trying to find gym time amidst our daily commutes, rushed lunch breaks and all-important sleep is all but impossible. So, if the only free time you can snatch is at home, why not bring the gym to you?
Initial expenditure may seem steep but, when balanced against a monthly gym membership and having to wait to use communal equipment, having a personal gym not on, but inside your doorstep will seem like the best idea you’ve ever had.
So where should you start? Obviously the huge multi-gyms and thousand-pound pieces of equipment are out of the question, but with just a few essentials you can build an enviable and effective home gym.
Your bench is essential for weight exercises. From flies to bench presses, your chest especially will benefit from the solid foundation of a good quality bench. Many models also incline or decline, which helps to make sit-ups more difficult and will set you on the path to gym-standard abs.
Barbell and Dumbells
A barbell, dumbell and selection of plate weights will add to the versatility of your equipment. But this is an area where you’ll want to invest. Many plates on the market are vinyl cases filled with concrete or sand and, if this cracks, your weights are no more. Go for painted cast iron and, even if you chip them, a quick spray and they’ll look good as new.
A kettlebell not only helps to build muscle and strength, but also improves balance. Choose a size that is right for you – we recommend 16kg for intermediate men – and then try exercises from the Russian Kettlebell Swing to the Goblet Squat.
A pull-up bar will work different muscle groups depending on your hand grip. Simply buy a bar, fit it on your doorframe, and your arms will soon be the envy of any gym-goer. Face your hands away from you to work your biceps, and turn your palms towards you to pump your triceps and chest.
For sit-ups and floor-based exercises, a mat is essential. Carpet burn is never pleasant, and exercising on wooden or flagstone floors is just asking for weight-dropping accidents. Invest in a good quality exercise mat, and everything will be protected and safe – from your body to the floors of your house.
Often overlooked, the humble hand gripper is a good addition to your exercise arsenal. With the four-point benefits of increasing forearm muscularity and hand strength, developing dexterity and building endurance, these relatively cheap pieces of equipment will show some real results. And, as is good with all home gym equipment, they are small and easily stowed away.
A skipping rope can help you burn the same amount of calories in 10 minutes as you would in a 45 minute run. Associated with boxing, this exercise will up your cardio and also boost your reflexes – just make sure you do it in a room of your house with enough space to accommodate the swing.
Squats, leg extensions, thigh bridges, clamshells, flexions, abductions, rows, pull-aparts, pull overs, pull-downs, pull-ups, push-ups, chest presses, overhead presses, lateral raises, forward rows, flies, curls, kickbacks, crunches, twists and woodchoppers. Need we say any more about the most versatile – and compact – of all home gym equipment?
A punch bag may not be a viable inclusion in your home gym. But, if you are lucky enough to have a wife who allows you to bore a hole into the ceiling or sling the fixing chains around a beam in the attic, then it’ll be a win win – for, like swimming, a punching workout fully engages your upper body, lower body, and core.
Like the mat, protective gear is often overlooked. However, if you try bench pressing a steel barbell or doing lateral raises with your dumbells all night, your hands will soon feel the brunt of your home-gym enthusiasm. Instead, invest in a pair of good quality gloves, and keep working out until you wear them out.