Modest Equipment Setup for Superior Home Workouts for Busy People – Bang for Your Buck!
Most of us are interested in trying to improve strength as this is hugely beneficial to health, appearance and lifestyle. Strength development is so important, multiple studies have shown that people tend to lose bone density and muscle mass as they age and, with this loss, quality of life deteriorates. Resistance training can reverse this.
On this page, we’re going to give you an ideal home equipment setup to help you increase strength and improve body composition. An example of a workout you could do with this equipment can be found here. Our focus is to support home workouts for busy people and to that end we think the equipment below is the optimal setup.
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If you’re not in a position to get the complete list of equipment then you could get a minimal subset of the equipment first and then over the course of a few months pick up the remaining items. There is also the option of initially starting with pure bodyweight training but our experience is that with just a few extra pieces of equipment, you can introduce much more variety and, with this greater variety, you will be much more likely to stick to a training program.
The first essential piece of equipment is a Pull Up or Chin Up bar. Most people have a natural tendency to concentrate on the muscles to the front of their body e.g. the chest. However, the posterior muscles along the back will yield better returns in terms of health through combating the rounded shoulder syndrome which comes from watching screens of all types and aesthetically you will get a better result as developing better posture will present your body in a much better light. Some of the most important exercises for training the posterior muscles are Chin Ups and Pull Ups. Don’t worry if you cannot initially do an unaided pull up or chin up, there are simple progressions that will quickly fix this.
A chin up or pull up bar in a home training setting attaches to a door frame. The best type of chinning bar is one that allows other powerful exercises such as dips and inverted rows, if used in conjunction with a chair to suspend your feet. This types of efficiency is essential in home workouts for busy people. For that reason we recommend a bar like this one.
The next really powerful piece of equipment is a set of adjustable dumbbells. For the space it would take to store only one normal set of dumbbells, a set of adjustable dumbbells will offer you up to 15 weight combinations from 5lbs to 50lbs. The dumbbells we’d recommend are the PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells. You can get cheaper adjustable dumbbells but it’s important to have a quality product, there have been situations where plates came loose from cheaper models and that isn’t something you want happening when you have the dumbbell overhead. Another great feature of the PowerBlock set is that they can be augmented later with the 70 or 90 pound extension kits.
Kettlebells are a really great addition to any home gym due to their versatility, while you can mimic most dumbbell movements with them where they really come into their own are with kettlebell-specific movements such as the Swing, the (Turkish) Getup and the Windmill. Their offset center of mass and suitability for ballistic movement give a different and complementary training effect to dumbbells. Although you can get kettlebells in quite small increments, getting too many is unnecessarily space consuming and expensive, not to mention you’ll quickly grow out of the lighter ones. In Tracy Reifkind’s absolutely excellent book The Swing, she gives advice on the appropriate weight for each gender. Tracy says that an 8kg or 12kg is usually a good starting weight for a woman and a 16kg for a man, 20kg if he’s over 200lbs. There are a number of price points available with kettlebells but you get what you pay for and poorly cast kettlebells can be frustrating and cause injury. Here’s a range we’d recommend.
Obviously, if you’ve used kettlebells in the past and are familiar with them, you may be able to go heavier than the recommended weights. Many kettlebell workouts have a conditioning dimension, so it isn’t necessary to increase the weight maximally but if you do get to absolutely love the infectious feeling kettlebells can give and want to pursue a regime that stresses maximal strength then Pavel Tsatsouline’s excellent Simple and Sinister regime would be a good choice. Some other great kettlebell recommendations can be found here.
Fitness bands provide a different type of resistance to weights and when mixed in with traditional weight training enhance the training response. As you extend a fitness band, the resistance increases which is a different stimulus. Additionally, fitness bands are eminently portable, if you’re traveling with work or on vacation and want to train, all of the main movement patterns can be worked. Bodylastics bands are extremely durable and should last over 10 years even with heavy use, they are the best quality we could find. There are cheaper alternatives out there but the quality of Bodylastics is worth it and an added benefit is that it’s possible to use the various Bodylastics bands in many combinations meaning that regardless of your strength you are unlikely to grow out of them.
Single leg work in the form of rear-foot elevated squats or step-ups are a great form of exercise. To assist in these, a step is a good addition to a home gym. For a relatively inexpensive but quality step, this is a good choice. If you want more height then one of these platforms would be the way to go.
Depending on where you are training, you may need some good quality flooring to protect your floor, your equipment or both and this is a good solution.
Finally, here’s another powerful program that can be performed with this equipment.