Oxygen’s Guide to Building the Perfect Home Gym

A one-time investment in the right equipment will allow you to create a fitness space you can access 24/7.

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Daylong meetings, driving the kids to and from school, and errands galore — it’s no wonder most people don’t go to the gym nearly as often as they anticipated when they first signed up for their membership. But leading a busy lifestyle doesn’t let you off the hook for skipping your workouts. With the right equipment, you can actually get your heart pumping and sweat glands dripping right from the comfort of your very own home.

“Exercise should not be tied to a location,” says Mike Clancy, a certified personal trainer and co-founder of FitLink, a fitness design and concierge service for residential and commercial properties. “Ultimately, you can make a workout out of just about anything. While there are perks and appeal to having access to a fancy gym, you can certainly create an effective workout regimen in your home, backyard or garage. In fact, having a space to exercise that is within close proximity makes it even easier to sneak in a workout on those days when the weather isn’t welcoming or your to-do list is a mile long.”

While you can choose to spend as much or as little as you want outfitting the home gym of your dreams, it doesn’t have to break the bank to be effective.

Down and Dirty

If you’re tight on space or budget, start with these space savers that are easy on the wallet. The total of these items costs roughly the same as most yearlong gym memberships, but it’ll pay for itself by year two.

  • Jump rope. This low-cost piece of equipment builds leg and cardio stamina in short bursts. Price: Starts at $10
  • Resistance bands. Choose a package that comes with at least three colors, for virtually unlimited variations of resistance. Price: Starts at $10
  • TRX Home2 System. This TRX Suspension Trainer takes functional training to the next level with adjustable foot cradles and a one-year subscription to the dynamic TRX app, which features audio coaching and cueing for the ultimate total-body workout. The app works with popular wearables and features 80-plus workouts across a wide breadth of modalities, including yoga and high-intensity interval training. Price: $199.95
  • Kettlebells. Kettlebells are extremely versatile, which makes them a great tool. “You can swing, clean and snatch them for in-home cardio with a strength component, and you can use them to perform a wide variety of weight-training exercises such as weighted carries, deadlifts, squats, lunges, windmills and more,” says Melody L. Schoenfeld, MA, CSCS, who has been a trainer for 20 years, has held American powerlifting records in all three lifts, competes in strongman, and performs old-time strongman feats of strength such as tearing phone books and bending steel. “Get one pair you can press, another pair you can squat and a third pair you can deadlift.” Price: Starts at $15 and increases based on weight
  • Pull-up bar. Pull-up bars are great not only for pull-ups and chin-ups but also for building hanging grip strength, hanging leg raises and hanging scapular depression. If you aren’t interested in bolting a pull-up bar into a doorway or if you need to work your way up to traditional pull-ups, try a portable version like My Work Horse. Designed by strength and conditioning coach and chiropractic sports physician Dr. Len Lopez, this bar allows you to do inverted pull-ups, which work the muscles between the shoulder blades. Inverted pull-ups are what “knee push-ups” are to a regular push-up, and they let you offload some of your bodyweight so you can do the exercise properly. Price: $99.95
  • Scale. Track your progress by measuring your weight, body fat, muscle mass, total body water and bone mass with the EatSmart Precision GetFit Digital Body Fat Scale.  This high-tech bathroom scale monitors and analyzes body composition in real time, offering superior accuracy and eight user profiles. Price: $79.97
  • Speaker. What fun is a workout without some tunes to keep you pumped up? The Soundcast VG1 Bluetooth speaker was engineered for audiophiles, thanks to its rear-firing weighted bass radiator for deep and crisp full-range sound. Plus, it’s waterproof in up to 10 feet of water, only weighs 1 pound and offers full protection from dust in case you’d like to take it to the park or beach.  Price: $149.99

Total Gym Experience

If you’re looking to replicate some of your favorite moves in the gym and have a larger budget to play with, consider adding the following equipment into the mix:

  • Cardio machine. An elliptical, treadmill or bike is great for someone who wants to do cardio indoors without being at the mercy of Mother Nature. The Bowflex Max Trainer, for instance, is an innovative cardio machine that combines the full-body workout of an elliptical and the power of a stepper in a low-impact motion, and it has the ability to burn up to 2.5 times the calories of a traditional cardio machine. Every workout engages up to 80 percent more upper-body muscle than an elliptical, while the low-impact movement makes it easier on the joints than running on a treadmill. Plus, the machine features a time-saving 14-minute high-intensity interval training workout designed to activate an “after-burn effect,” increasing the body’s metabolism for up to 48 hours after a workout. Price: $2,199
  • Adjustable bench. If you’re going to bench press, Schoenfeld says a weight bench is absolutely necessary. “They’re also great for chest-supported rows and flyes and bench dips, are great for performing hip thrusts and can double as a step for step-ups, Bulgarian split squats, or incline or decline push-ups,” she says. “Adjustable benches are perfect for incline or decline dumbbell, kettlebell and barbell presses, as well.” Price: Starts at $100
  • Adjustable dumbbells. “Adjustable dumbbells are great for double duty because they replace the traditional dumbbell racks and trees with individual weights,” Clancy says. “This one-time cost is typically more affordable compared to the traditional dumbbell setup, as well as much more space-efficient. They are a game changer for home gym design.” Bowflex SelectTech 560 Dumbbells are the first-ever smart dumbbells, offering a fully interactive workout experience with a Bluetooth 3DT sensor and SelectTech app coaching you through your workout. The Bowflex SelectTech 560 Dumbbells reduce the number of separate dumbbells from 32 down to only two. Changing the weight is as easy as twisting the handle to adjust weights incrementally from 5 to 60 pounds to create a customized strength. Price: $499.00

“Ultimately, a good home gym is space-efficient because as workouts change and programs evolve, you want to leave room for new options and styles,” Clancy says. “For big pieces, such as cardio equipment and benches, try searching secondhand sports goods stores, auction sites, garage sales or classified ads to save some money.”

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