5 Gear Essentials for Great Home Workouts
By Jimmy Alsobrook Jr.
"I don't have time to go to the gym, and it's too expensive to buy all the stuff I need at home."
It's probably the most common excuse I hear for why people don't regularly work out. I understand that not everyone is going to have a state-of-the-art setup in their basement, but the truth is you just don't need all that stuff for a great workout. Equipment like a rowing machine or a treadmill are sweet and we definitely use them here at the Lab, but there are a ton of great, functional workouts you can do at home using five affordable pieces of gear: dumbbells, kettlebells, a pull-up bar, a step-up box or sturdy cooler, and resistance bands.
We built our Minimal Gear Daily program around these gear essentials. That program serves everyone from beginners to elite athletes with workouts that challenge the entire body and mind with a focus on muscular endurance, range of motion, flexibility, cardio fitness, and mental toughness.
We realize time is the most precious resource you have — and working out definitely requires your time — but equipment expenses shouldn't be a barrier between you and your health. You cannot put a price on your health, and these strength training exercises are going to have a huge impact on you.
We built this gear list to be as limited as possible without being too minimalist, balancing your investment with the impact you can get out of your home gym workouts. This gear is relatively inexpensive, it's easy to find, and it won't take up an entire room in your house. All of it should be available at your local sporting goods store too.
It's important to note that you can build your home gym incrementally. Having a good weight range of this gear will help you to adjust your skill and strength level, so you might want to start light with your weights and then ramp up your gear weight as you advance.
Here's the breakdown on our five gear essentials and how they can benefit your home workouts:
We recommend getting two dumbbells. Depending on your strength level, two 10-pound dumbbells or two 25-pound dumbbells should serve you well. Depending on the weight range, a good pair of dumbbells should run you about $30 to $70.
Dumbbells are great for a variety of exercises, including walking lunges, step-ups, squats, shoulder presses, rows, and curls. If you're just starting out, use two 10s for your walking lunges and step-ups. For squats, try one 25 held in front for a goblet squat and if that's too light go up to two 25s.
Dumbbells are a tried-and-true strength-building tool. Rows are great for back strength. Curls will develop arm strength, and doing those lunges, squats and step-ups are going to strengthen your legs.
One kettlebell is good and two are better. We recommend getting a 15-pound kettlebell and a 30-pound kettlebell. You don't need to go fancy on these. Depending on the weight, a basic kettlebell should cost you around $15 for a 15-pounder and about $30 for a 30-pounder.
We like to do squats and dead lifts with a heavier weight kettlebell (30 lbs.) and swings and chops with a lighter weight one (15 lbs.). The swings are going to give you explosive power through your posterior chain, and chops will give you explosive power through your core and arms. Kettlebell squats are great for your quads, and deadlifts with a kettlebell are a great way to strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
There are a lot of different styles of pull-up bars, but we're big fans of using whatever works in your space. You can go basic with a door frame bar for about $25 or go all the way up to $200 with a power station. We recommend keeping it basic, and if you have something in your garage you can easily mount on the cheap, even better. The important thing is that it safely supports you and you use it.
Using a pull-up bar is one of the best ways to strengthen your back and shoulders. It's such a simple tool and exercise, but you just can't beat it. Pull-ups are the obvious exercise here, but you can also do chin-ups. Pull-ups can be a real challenge for some people, and incorporating a resistance band will help you build up your strength on the pull-up bar, which brings us to our fourth gear essential.
A set of resistance bands should cost you around $20. We recommend getting three different levels of band to incorporate into your pull-ups. Loop the band around the bar and through itself, then put your knee or foot in the loop for assistance. Remember, a heavier resistance band will give you more assistance and a lighter band gives you less assistance.
A solid step-up box will cost you around $80, but a sturdy roto-molded cooler will work just as well. A nice, sturdy cooler will cost you a little more, but hopefully you already have one of these in your garage. The most important thing is making sure the platform is sturdy and won't slip.
We use a cooler in our Minimal Gear Daily program for a variety of step-ups as well as stretching. Stretching is obviously great for mobility and keeping you limber in your warm-ups and cool-downs. Step-ups give you great functional movement. We love doing these. It's a great way to go fast and spike your heart rate, plus you strengthen you glutes, quads, and hamstrings for explosive power. Step-ups are an awesome way to improve mobility and train for hiking.