Updated: Jul 12, 2022
There are few products I’ve curated over the past few years that have become staples in my home gym. These items are products that I will always come back to using because they’re simple and yet incredibly effective. Finding what works for you can be an expensive journey, so I’ve created this list to help cut out the trial and error for you and save you money by only buying what you need.
A good rule of thumb for any hobby or interest is this:
Only buy a new tool or gadget when not having it inhibits your ability to do the activity you want to do.
My home gym is centered around lifting, yoga, body weight exercises and recovery. To figure out what you need in your gym, first figure out what kinds of exercises you keep coming back to. Depending on what workouts you’re most likely to do at home, this will dictate what you need to purchase, and what you can get away with not buying.
Here are my home gym must haves, broken down into categories:
This mat combines a few of my passions into one. I am a scuba instructor, and for most of my scuba career I struggled with the dichotomy of being an ambassador for the ocean and nature, but also having to purchase a product (wetsuits) that would never be biodegradable. Suga yoga mats are made from recycled wetsuits, and have an endless cycle. When your Suga mat needs to be replaced, you send your old one in where it can be broken down again and made into another new mat! My ocean conservation and yoga passions, all in one product. Additionally, this mat gets grippier the more you sweat! I’ve had my mat for about 4 years and it’s still going strong.
Yoga blankets are great for so many reasons. If blankets are a regular part of your practice, they definitely should be! They’re a great cushion for under your knees or back. If you need a little bit of support in a pose but not enough for a block, placing a blanket under can trigger proprioception, allowing you to relax. Blankets are essential for restorative yoga, and if it’s cold, having a blanket will allow you to more comfortably rest in Savasana.
Regardless of how flexible you are, blocks are always a great tool. Any
pose where your fingertips are just grazing the ground can be positively influenced by a block- Halfmoon pose, revolved warrior 3, Triangle pose (using a block to get into a triangle backbend is particularly fun), squeezing a block between your thighs in a bridge pose, placing a block under your booty for hero, the list goes on and on. Blocks only heighten your practice and allow you to reach new goals faster.
Two options are listed below. I love the look and naturalness of cork blocks, but they are particularly hard and unforgiving. Some poses that’s great because they add stability, others not so great because they dig in painfully, unlike the foam block which is softer. Yogi’s choice as to which you think you’d like better!
Resistance bands are fantastic for increasing resistance without having to spend a fortune on different weights. There are so many uses for these for your entire body. With that being said, there are two different types of booty bands I’d recommend. The first gives you more range in resistance options, but has a tendency of rolling up into a tight string that is fairly uncomfortable. Especially if you have thicker thighs, these may not be the best option for you. Whereas Option 2 is made of a cloth blend. It’s less likely to roll up on you, but has fewer options in resistance range. Regardless, both are great, both I use regularly!
Finding one good kettlebell can add an immense amount of exercises to your home gym repertoire. If you’re looking for a simple way to add variety to your routine, this is it. The key thing to decide is whether you are looking for heavy and muscle building, or lighter and balance/functional pattern building. Personally, for lighter I go with the 9lb. Heavier I go for one in the 22-35lb range. Kettlebells come in two different varieties, the classic Russian style which is made of cast iron and varying in size depending on weight. The other is the competition style which varies in weight but not size. Personally I prefer the Russian style.
Pull up bar
I’m all for the small workouts you can incorporate into everyday life. Pull-
ups are one of those exercises you can do randomly throughout the day. As a climber, I have two favorites in this department. The first is just a regular pull up bar. With pull up bars you are able to not only work your upper body, but you can incorporate some spicy core workouts as well. The second is a hangboard. If you want to increase your dexterity, and strengthen your fingers, wrists and forearms, a hangboard is a great addition as well.
Another multi-use item, exercise balls are an excellent way to challenge your typical workout routines. Adding a ball can either make core workouts more challenging, increase your stability by adding instability, and as an extra perk can double as a work chair (especially with ADHD, having a ball that I can roll around on as I type at my computer is a great fidget tool)
This is the #1 rated exercise ball on Amazon:
If you feel you need to have a few weights at home, I recommend
getting ones that you can use for multiple workouts. You know what weights you use most, personally I use my 5-20’s most at home. Remember, you don’t necessarily need every single weight increment. Going back to the advice at the beginning of this blog, just get what you need until you can no longer
do with what you have.
Here are a few options depending on what your
Foam rollers are an essential part of my recovery and maintenance routines. They help rehydrate fascia, loosen tight muscles, decrease inflammation, and increase range of motion.
I personally like the firmer foam roller because although it’s more uncomfortable, the effectiveness is exponentially higher. This one in particular I like because the bumps add a kind of massaging aspect to it.
I just got these this past week and I can’t believe I never heard of them sooner!
As a whole, feet do not get enough attention. We pound away on them with our entire body weight and force, day in and day out, and the thanks they get is to be shoved into tight shoes or told they’re gross (which yeah, feet are weird, but they need some love too!).
Rarely do people want to give their feet a massage, so instead I recommend these foot wakers. Put them under your desk as you're working or roll your feet around them when you first wake up to help rehydrate your fascia, creating better bodily function as a whole and to help prevent plantar fasciitis.
This is a purchase that I’m in love with that has really helped my flat feet and shin splint issues, but if you’re looking for your home gym bare minimum, a golf ball can work until you want to invest in something like this.
Lacrosse balls take up the slack where foam rollers can’t reach, or for areas that need a more intense release. For pecs, piriformis, calves, lats and traps, the lacrosse ball is the best tool for release and recovery. Tennis balls also work well!
Especially if you work at a computer or sit a lot of the day, getting on a yoga wheel and rolling out your back is one of the better ways to quickly stretch out and crack things back into place! I like this Overmont wheel package because it comes in multiple sizes to target your back in different ways and has a lacrosse ball included in the set.
Journey To The Heart by Melody Beattie
This book is therapy, it’s my bible, and something I rely on for meditative inspiration as well as providing peace and perspective during trying times. I’ve had my copy of this book for close to 6 years now. I’ve read it cover to cover, and I’m still learning new things. Certain passages I’ve skimmed over and been uninterested in, until one day I have an experience in which they’re applicable and all of a sudden it feels like a gut punch. Other passages have helped me through some of the hardest experiences, especially through grief, and been a voice of reason to help me choose the way that honors my heart and quiets my ego. I really cannot speak more highly of this book, if I were trapped on a desert island and was allowed 1 item this would be on my short list of what to grab.
As I said before, the key with any hobby, but especially home gyms, is to only buy what you absolutely need. There are thousands of different products that look cool, but just as quickly as you hit "order" do you lose interest and never use. Until you can't do what you need without the thing, don't buy it. Start small and intentional, and enjoy the process!
Are there other home gym essentials you love? Comment them below!