Fitness centers and gyms are closed everywhere. Unfortunately, it may be a while before this aspect of life returns to normal. Now, perhaps more than any other time, the need for simple, affordable — and most importantly, effective — exercise equipment is key to maintaining an active lifestyle. As the title of this article suggests, the list that follows includes great tools that cost at or below $100. As a bonus, I will recommend one item that is over $100, if the flexibility in your budget exists.
As the manager of the UAMS Fitness Center, I have 14 years of experience working within the fitness industry. I hold a master’s degree and have been certified as a personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine since 2007. If you are unfamiliar with my personal fitness journey, I was a heavyset kid during my teenage years. At the age of 16, I weighed 260 lbs. My fitness journey resulted in my losing 100 lbs. by the time I graduated from high school. The weight has stayed off for 21 years now.
I am not about gimmicks and garbage. Most articles written in this format are. These types of articles found in the mass fitness media are nothing more than over-glorified sales ads. This is different. There are years of real and tangible results behind these recommendations, not just for me, but for personal training clients as well. When building a home gym, I am a minimalist: minimal cost and minimal space occupied. Home gyms need to be about creating effective training with minimal inconvenience to life in the home. Everything on this list is in my home and will be my primary implements for training in the coming weeks.
- Good Shoes or Hiking Boots: For people like myself who enjoy recreating in the great outdoors, you learn to live by a simple rule: healthy feet are performing feet. Performing feet are attached to healthy bodies. Distance runners understand this, as do backpackers, hikers and the military. If the feet are miserable, you are not going anywhere. If you can spend $100 on one item, spend it here. Personally, I will spend more for good shoes or boots than for other clothing items. Take the time shop around and try several brands. It may take several tries before finding a pair that will clearly stand out as being right for your feet.
- Exercise Bands: There are different styles of bands. Long tube bands with handles attached and small bands without handles are the two most common types. Often, these bands can be bought in sets with varying resistances and come with posters or exercise books demonstrating a plethora of exercises that may be performed with the bands. For people who are inexperienced with training with barbells and dumbbells, bands can be an effective and safe way to strength train.
- Jump Rope: If you’re looking for simple, affordable and incredibly effective, it doesn’t get better than this. Take the time to relive part of your childhood by utilizing one of the most effective training tools ever devised. Jumping rope is hard regardless of fitness level. It is one of the most time-efficient ways to burn calories while increasing cardiovascular health and coordination. It is also a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.
- Weighted Vest: Depending on the brand and price, these can be available as light as 10 lbs. and as heavy as 80 lbs. The most commonly available weights tend to be 20 lbs. and 40 lbs. A weighted vest is an excel
lent tool for increasing caloric expenditure during cardiovascular exercise, or, can make body weight strength training more challenging. As a bonus, simply wearing it will give you a taste of what your body will feel like if you gain excess body fat. For those who are inexperienced with a weighted vest, I recommend purchasing one that is adjustable from 0-20 lbs. as a starting point and begin by simply wearing it around the house or walks around the neighborhood. While highly effective, training with a weighted vest will make the body more sore than normal after a workout. It is something to work into slowly.
Bonus Equipment: Bowflex adjustable dumbbells. I would not own these if it had not been a wedding present. My set is the 5-52.5 lb. set. For most people, this will be more than adequate in the context of a home gym. Most fitness equipment sold via infomercials is complete garbage. These have a well-deserved place in a home gym if the price is not an issue. Anything that can be done with dumbbells in the gym can be done with these. My set is 12 years old and has held up well.