People Are Quitting the Gym and Exercising at Home Instead
No gym? No problem. The ways that we exercise and pursue our fitness goals have shifted dramatically in 2020. Compared to last year, online sales of workout equipment for home use have skyrocketed by more than 500% while gym behemoths like Gold’s Gym and 24-Hour Fitness have recently declared bankruptcy.
These trends reveal our changing expectations for how we can each get leaner and grow stronger. For some of us, we’re switching to home workouts because of worries about the COVID-19 pandemic. For others, exercising from the comfort of their home is all about the convenience of being able to sweat it out without having to drive to a bootcamp or pay up for an expensive gym membership.
If you want to up your fitness routine, these 11 at-home workout setups will help you achieve your health goals without breaking the bank (or your back). Each of the workout equipment ideas below are vetted, effective and ring in at less than $100 each.
Home Workout Equipment vs. Gym Membership
The average gym charges its members $75 a month, reports the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. That doesn’t include extra costs like enrollment fees, cancellation penalties, or booking specialty classes.
The benefits of exercising at home with your own personal workout equipment include far more than just saving you money. You’ll also:
- Enjoy more scheduling flexibility. Exercise any time that’s convenient for you. You don’t have to worry about gym hours, or booking a slot in a class or bootcamp.
- Cut back on your commute time. From sitting in traffic to searching for parking, home workouts eliminate all the travel headaches of getting to and from the gym.
- Get more privacy. Many people feel self-conscious exercising, and that can create a big mental barrier for some. Think of your living room as your own private gym.
- Go at your own pace. Experience less pressure to compare yourself to what those around you are doing. Home workouts let you focus on yourself, your own mindset, and your own health.
That’s not to say that exercising at home is completely devoid of potential drawbacks. Some people enjoy the social atmosphere and hanging out with their gym friends. Others enjoy the accountability and competitiveness of group workouts.
But with a little creativity, even these potential cons can be converted into pros. For example, you could join an online class (complete with the pounding music that many fitness clubs pump out), or use a fitness tracker and social media for added accountability and competitiveness.
Best of all, the start-up costs are very low. Get started with one or more of the well-reviewed fitness devices and home workout equipment setups below. Each product rings in at less than a hundred dollars (far cheaper than many gyms’ monthly fees!), and is perfect for weekend warriors and hardcore gym enthusiasts alike.
Cheap Home Workout Equipment Options
What are your fitness goals? Why do you want to exercise at home?
For some, it’s all about strength, muscle size and aesthetics. For others, it’s about maintaining a healthy weight or losing a few pounds. Some people have an event they’re training for, such as a triathlon or a bodybuilding competition. Perhaps for you, it’s a combination of numerous factors.
Whatever your goals and health outcomes, it’s crucial to match your home workout equipment to your fitness objectives. That’s why we’ve curated this collection of 11 effective and cheap home workout equipment.
In the following reviews, we’ll tell you:
- The fitness goals and objectives that each device or workout equipment can help you to achieve
- What exercises and/or muscle groups are targeted by this specific fitness tool
- Things you’ll like (and things that might annoy you) about the product
- What other people have experienced while using the equipment in their own living rooms
- How much it costs
Torso track machines are a mainstay in many gyms and specialty workout programs (e.g. Pilates), but they can easily cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars. For an alternative, pick up a cheap ab wheel (also known as an ab roller). It’s just as effective, is very portable and easy to store (even in a small apartment), and typically costs anywhere from $15 to $30.
This home workout device is as simple as its name implies: It’s a rubber-and-plastic wheel with two grips attached to it.
With your knees firmly planted on the ground, simply grab each handle with your hands and roll the wheel away from your body, lengthening your torso. Then, contract your abdominal muscles and pull the wheel back towards you.
This is a very effective exercise for your entire core, especially your rectus abdominals and your obliques. “I started slow, not wanting to overdo, and I can quickly feel those abs being targeted,” said Amazon reviewer warbler, who gave ab wheels a 5-star rating. “You feel the burn almost immediately, even with minimal extension.”
- Ab wheels only cost anywhere from $15 to $30
- They hit all your core muscles, including your rectus abdominis and obliques (with some secondary activation of your shoulders, upper back and lower back)
- Ab wheels are simple to use: Simply roll forwards and backwards using your core strength
- They’re light and portable, many weighing under 2 lbs.
- Their simplicity also means they don’t offer a wide array of different exercises
- If you have poor form, it’s easy to overcompensate with shoulder or arm strength, reducing its effectiveness for your goals of a strong six pack
There are many different ways to increase how challenging your home workouts are. Most people focus on increasing the weight that they’re lifting, or the number of reps that they’re completing. But don’t ignore the benefits of adding instability to your exercises.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, adding balance training can help you to improve your biomechanics, reduce your risks of injuries, and target the many small stabilizing muscles in your body.
A balance trainer is one of the best ways to introduce instability to your workouts. They’ll typically cost you under $80 for a high quality option.
“This is perfect for a home gym,” says Amazon reviewer Jill, giving it 5-stars. Meanwhile, reviewer TmC said: “In this pandemic era where gyms are closed this product offers a variety of exercise options while being affordable and easy to store. So far it has been durable and living up to the product description.”
Balance trainers look like a giant exercise ball cut in half. Simply do your workout on top of the balance trainer to ramp up intensity as you struggle to maintain proper form and range of motion while balancing on the uneven, dynamic surface.
For example, you can stand on a balance trainer while doing lifting movements, such as bicep curls or shoulder presses. You can also do push-ups, planks, squats and other bodyweight movements on the balance trainer instead of on the floor.
- Balance trainers are versatile and can be incorporated into many of your favorite aerobic and strength training routines
- Disrupting your center of gravity forces you to be more in-tune with your body’s senses, and activates stabilizing muscles that can reduce your risks of injuries
- Balance trainers give you a novel way to increase exercise difficulty and make your workouts more challenging and interesting
- Balancing on a balance trainer increases your risks of slipping and falling while exercising
- While balancing increases some levels of intensity, it may prevent you from lifting as heavy as you could otherwise
- Research suggests balance trainers may reduce muscle activation for more serious, advanced athletes
Dumbbells are a quintessential basic that every home gym requires. With a wide range of weight options, they’re perfect for beginners and bodybuilders alike.
They lend themselves to almost any pulling or pushing movement, thus letting you hit every major muscle group in your body. You can even use light dumbbells as part of your aerobic workouts to get more cardiovascular benefits.
Popular exercises include dumbbell curls (arms), overhead presses (shoulders), bent-over rows (chest and arms), and squats (legs and glutes).
- They’re versatile and effective and can be incorporated into any workout to hit any muscle group you want.
- Research shows they’re very effective for improving your muscle strength and endurance.
- They can fit any budget and athlete. You’ll often find them priced at $1 to $4 a pound.
- More serious athletes who need heavier weights may find themselves spending $60-$80 for a quality pair of dumbbells.
- You may need to also buy a weight rack if you’re amassing a large collection of dumbbells.
Jump ropes aren’t just for the schoolyard anymore. Serious athletes are adding jump rope workouts to their daily routines because skipping rope is a powerful way to ramp up your metabolism, get your heart rate going, and burn a lot of calories.
Whether you use a jump rope as a warm-up before your home workout, or as a fat-blasting workout in and of itself, you’ll find this home workout tool cheap (you can find a high-quality rope for under $20), easy to pack (keep one in your gym bag or in your car for a ready-to-go workout) and versatile.
No wonder the American Council on Exercise says that a jump rope “is the only piece of home cardio equipment you really need.”
- They improve your coordination
- Jumping rope improves the elasticity of your lower-body muscles, reducing your risk of leg and foot injuries
- They increase your metabolism and endurance
- You’ll need a lot of space around you (and above you) to keep the jump rope from hitting things
- Beginners may find using it a bit tricky until their hand-eye coordination gets used to the movements
The kettlebell first rose to prominence in 18th-century Russia as part of the Russian special forces’ training, but now it’s in gyms and homes around the world. They look like a simple weighted ball with a handle, but don’t let that simplicity fool you.
Similar to dumbbells, use kettlebells to add weight to your favorite lifting movements, such as lunges. But what truly sets kettlebells apart is how useful they are when doing explosive, dynamic movements like swings and jumps. Kettlebells are uniquely suited for building both your strength and your cardiovascular health.
“It’s a hell of a great workout,” reports fitness researcher John Porcari, Ph.D., who led a study that found kettlebells to be one of the most effective workouts available.
- They fit any budget: like dumbbells, expect to pay $1 to $4 per pound.
- They’re versatile. Example exercises include deadlifts, swings and overhead presses.
- When doing explosive movements like swings, you’re engaging your entire body for improved muscle mass and coordination
- The swinging motion of a kettlebell can be hard for beginners to get used to
- Proper form is critical, and incorrect training can cause serious injuries
These small, weighted balls add dynamic, high-impact range of motions to your home exercise routine.
The weight of the ball itself obviously helps to build muscle strength, but it’s the catching, throwing and slamming that helps to improve coordination, enhance balance, increase your ability to move with explosive power, and create a stronger mind-body connection.
That’s useful for anyone who wants to improve their functional fitness and overall athleticism.
While these cheap home workout tools come in a wide range of weights, many people start off with something in the eight to 10 pound range, which will typically cost you $50 or less.
- Using a medicine ball adds variety and fun to your workout
- Explosive movements build your overall athleticism and functional fitness
- You’ll experience surprising secondary benefits, such as improved grip strength
- Any workout that requires powerful, quick movements increases your risk of injury if you aren’t using proper form
- Storing medicine balls can be cumbersome
A pedal exerciser is a unique, cheap home workout equipment. It combines a small pedal bike/step machine with resistance bands.
The stepping/pedaling motion helps to target your lower body, specifically your legs and glutes. Because these are the largest muscle groups in your body, working these muscles helps you burn extra calories faster.
The resistance bands layer in an upper body workout, with always-on tension means your core, chest, arms and back are always trying to maintain stability for improved muscle toning and strength.
Because you can customize the resistance of the pedaling component, and you can adjust the resistance bands to be as strong or flexible as you’d like, a pedal exerciser is great for seniors, or athletes rehabilitating old injuries.
“I had some real needs when looking for a stepper,” says Amazon reviewer KITTIKATS13. “Low back and knee injury and arthritis prevented me from getting a swivel type brand. This machine is fantastic. I can’t go full force but about three quarter resistance and the bands are a huge bonus. I broke a major sweat after just ten minutes and I’ve been doing cardio for 30 years. If you are looking for a no nonsense stepper that ensures a good solid workout then buy this. You will not be sorry. 5-star all the way.”
- A pedal stepper provides a full-body workout
- The combination of resistance bands and stepping helps improve joint health and boosts metabolism and blood circulation
- It’s far cheaper than a step machine or elliptical, with quality options ringing in at under $80
- The focus is on your lower body, and serious athletes may find it not challenging enough
- It requires a stable, level surface to prevent wobbling (and injuries)
- Depending on your height and flexibility, the predetermined range of motion on some models may prove uncomfortable
Studies have found that few exercises are as effective for building upper body strength as the simple chin-up or pull-up. Using just your bodyweight, a pull-up hits your back muscles (including your latissimus dorsi and trapezius muscles), your arms and shoulders, your core, and even your grip strength.
A pull-up bar, which snaps into any door frame in your home, lets you perform a wide array of pull-up variations. You can even do hanging v-sits, which target your core muscles and legs. Best of all, high-quality pull-up bars (look for ones with comfortable handles and options for different grip widths) shouldn’t cost you more than $40.
- Fits most door frames and door sizes
- Allows you to do not only pull-ups and chin-ups, but any hanging exercise, such as leg raises or v-sits
- Targets the entire upper body with incredible efficiency
- Make sure your door frame can support the weight, especially if you’re adding weights to your pull-ups
- Exercises on a pull-up bar can be very challenging for beginners
If portability, storage and/or budget are your top priorities, you’ll want to stock up on resistance bands. They’re ideal for athletes on the go, frequent flyers, or those who simply don’t want to mess with weights and other bulky home workout equipment.
You have two options: Very simple elastic bands that come in varying resistance levels, or more advanced resistance bands that include ankle straps, handles, and anchors for attaching to stable surfaces like a door or table (ideal for doing leg workouts).
The former will run you $20 or less, and the latter can range in price from $30 to $50 for a set. Either option will effectively target your favorite muscle groups. The concept is simple: Hold both ends of the band to do exercises like flyes, or attach one end to a stable surface and the other end to a hand or foot to do movements like leg raises, bicep curls, etc.
- Unbeatable portability: You can literally fold one up and store in your jacket pocket
- Wide versatility to target any muscle group of your choice
- Wide range of resistance options for athletes of all levels
- Very, very low cost
- Durability: Unlike dumbbells or kettlebells, they aren’t made of metal, and the can snap or weaken over time
- They can’t replicate free weights, and you may lose some muscle activation when working with bands
- Similar to using a cable machine in the gym, you aren’t experiencing the full force of gravity
- Not ideal for building muscle mass and strength
If your goal is building lower body strength and endurance, look no further than a step platform. By adding height to your steps, jumps or cardio, you increase the difficulty of your workout, and the plyometric movements help to ramp up your metabolism and your heart rate so you see faster results.
Studies have found that step workouts may even help to boost your mood.
The concept is simple: From a standing position, simply step up onto the platform, then step back down. Then, layer in different types of steps, or stack several step platforms and do box jumps for explosive strength.
If your focus is on aerobics, lower step platforms are best and will set you back $50 or less. If your goal is lower body strength or plyometrics, you’ll want a higher step platform or even a plyometric box, which can inch closer to the $100 price range.
- Effective aerobic exercises
- Helps improve the mind-body connection, as well as coordination and balance
- Versatile workout with numerous step options to help tone and strengthen your glutes, legs, hip flexors and joints
- Requires a lot of floor space, and storage can be cumbersome
- Poor form can lead to lower body injuries, such as ankle sprains
- Depending on your body weight, heavier athletes may find durability a concern
The concept is straightforward: You attach the suspension trainer’s rubber straps to a stable surface like a ceiling or a wall, and you do bodyweight workouts against the resistance of the straps. Examples include rows, flyes, and even pull-ups.
Because you’re working against both gravity and the strap’s resistance, you’re challenging yourself in new ways. “Suspension training does it all,” explains the American Council on Exercise, noting that its great for both joint mobility, flexibility, endurance and strength.
“Due to the unstable nature of suspension training, the exercises constantly engage your core and improve your balance,” they report.
The one drawback? Quality suspension trainers can cost upwards of $99. However, the investment is well worth it if you’re looking for home exercise equipment that offers a full-body workout and seemingly endless arrays of exercises and progressions so your home gym can keep up with your fitness progress.
- Suspension trainers support a full range of dynamic motion, so you’re challenging every joint and muscle
- You can do almost any exercise, and target any muscle group, that you want
- It’s very portable, and a couple straps lets you perform your full routine while being easy to pack and store later
- Using a suspension trainer effectively requires strength to start, and some beginners may find that challenging
- If you don’t have good control, a slip or a twist can injure you
- Some pressing movements, such as chest presses, are compromised by the nature of the straps which may reduce effectiveness compared to traditional free weights
Setting up a home gym doesn’t need to be expensive.
Whether you’re looking for assistance with a specialty workout or a specific muscle group (e.g. an ab wheel) or a full body workout (e.g. resistance bands or kettlebells), you can get started for less than the price of a couple months of a gym membership.
If you’re a beginner athlete or setting up your first home gym, opt for something that’s easy to store, budget friendly, and lets you try a wide array of your favorite exercises.
Many beginners set out filling their home gym with equipment before they know what they want to hone in on. Once you’ve gotten into the groove and have a good understanding of what you enjoy doing best in your home gym, you can experiment with more specialty items, such as a pedal exerciser.