It’s a new year, but those resolutions to get fit have quickly been broken: the gym’s closed, the sofa beckons and the temptation to let fitness slide during lockdown is real. Establishing a workout routine is key, but with many of the usual options off limits for the foreseeable future, it’s easier said than done… unless you can bring the gym to you.
Staying in shape not only keeps you physically healthy, at a time like this it can also boost mental health and provide a constructive way to fill your time. That’s why having a way to work out within the confines of your own home is more important than ever.
But where to start? Do you really need to replicate the inside of your local Virgin Active, sauna and all? Well, as nice as it would be, most of us have neither the space nor the bank balance to carry off a feat like that. Instead, it’s best to focus on the core essentials to cover cardio, strength and recovery as efficiently as possible.
Here we round up the best equipment for building your very own home gym during lockdown and beyond. From free weights to foam rollers, this is the gear you need in your new fitness suite.
In style terms, it’s often the simplest garments that prove to be the most classic and versatile. Oddly enough, that fact holds true for gym equipment too. There’s not much to a weights bench but it’s probably the single most useful piece of apparatus in any gym. With the right exercises and a few dumbbells to hand, a good bench can enable you to train your entire upper body.
There are a few boxes to tick when it comes to choosing. Firstly, it needs to be sturdy, which is often reflected in the price. The more you pay, the more robust it’s likely to be. Secondly, look for something that can be adjusted from sitting to flat and also from an incline to a decline position.
A barbell rack is a good idea too but isn’t necessary if you only plan on using dumbbells.
What good is a weights bench without weights? A good set of dumbbells is an essential in any gym, home or otherwise. They’ll allow you to tone up and build muscle everywhere from your chest to your legs. Plus, they can be used on their own without a bench if need be. So if you’re pushed on space or budget and your primary goal is to bulk up then this is where you should put your money.
Sadly, most of us don’t have the space for a full rack of free weights like you might see at your local gym. That’s where the adjustable part comes in. Invest in cast iron dumbbells with removable plates to allow the weight load to be changed. Go for spin-lock if you’re on a budget or try something a bit more advanced like Bowflex’s lock system, which allows weight to be altered even faster to ensure a higher intensity workout.
Sure, lifting your dumbbells every day until you’re blue in the face might be good for improving your glamour muscles but you’ll need to do more than that if you want to gain real functional strength. Bodyweight exercises are a great way to do this by working your core and helping you to tone up at the same time.
A good power tower will enable you to complete exercises like pull-ups, chin-ups, knee raises, dips and more – all with just one piece of equipment. Granted, it’s not exactly pocket sized but it’s still well worth having in your home gym if you have the room. If not, consider a door frame-mounted chin-up bar instead.
Core strength is extremely important, yet often neglected. Training with kettlebells will not only increase that though; it’ll also strengthen your forearms and improve your grip in ways that a dumbbell or barbell never could. The best part? You only need one, which makes it a great space-saving addition to your new home gym.
For men, a kettlebell of around 16kg will enable you to work your entire body. It’s a great way to supplement your weight training while building strength, endurance and power.
Getting outside for a run or a spin on the bike is great, but with potential future lockdown restrictions looming on the horizon, it makes sense to have an indoor cardio option up your sleeve just in case.
A rowing machine is great because it gives you a full-body workout while taking up far less space than an elliptical trainer or a treadmill. It’s also possible to get some pretty good looking ones too. Take the Waterrower for example. This beautiful piece of kit wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery, yet it’s good enough at its job that it’s been made the official machine of British Rowing.
Proper recovery is every bit as important as the exercise itself but who knows when you’ll be able to see a professional for a deep tissue massage again. That’s where a foam roller comes in handy.
This compact piece of kit takes up next to no room and is great for relieving muscle tension. Incorporate it into your sessions and it will improve circulation, reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness, prevent injury and enhance the effectiveness of stretching.
If you’ve often wondered what yoga is all about but haven’t dared venture to a class, now is the perfect time to give it a go. There are countless classes you can do for free on YouTube but the first thing you’re going to need is a mat.
Even if you’re not on a quest to become a lockdown yogi, a mat is still a good idea for stretching or practising any floor exercises really. The good news is they’re very cheap and can roll up small for storage, making them perfect for use in a home gym environment.
Many studies have proved the benefits of listening to music during exercise. The right workout soundtrack can take your mind off pain and fatigue, spur you on to train harder and get you into a rhythm during cardio.
With that in mind, why not ditch the headphones and invest in a quality Bluetooth speaker? You may not have the luxury of picking the music at your local gym but at home you’re in charge. Brands like Bang & Olufsen, Sonos and Naim make some of the best speakers on the market. For bonus points hook it up to a voice-command system for a hands-free soundtrack.
You probably didn’t notice the air conditioning at your local gym, but when you’ve just finished your last set of mountain climbers in an unventilated spare room you’re going to miss it.
The solution, thankfully, is very simple: get a fan. There are plenty of options out there to suit all budgets but a classic floor-standing version is probably best. Opt for one that rotates to really get the cool air circulating during your workout.