Everything You Need for Your At-Home Gym

working out at home

Verywell / Julie Bang

Working out at home provides a wide range of benefits as compared to exercising in a gym. At-home workouts afford greater privacy and convenience and are almost always cheaper than a membership to a boutique studio or health club. When you work out at home, you (usually) don't need to arrange child care and you can exercise any time you want.

But there are a few drawbacks as well. One of these can be the task of purchasing equipment and setting up an at-home gym. If you've never had to buy workout equipment or plan your own fitness program, this job can feel intimidating. You may even feel tempted to buy bulky or expensive equipment that you don't really need and don't have space to store.

However, if you take some time to evaluate your available space and define your at-home fitness goals, you'll find that equipment is available at every price point, for every type of athlete, and suitable for any space.

Basic Considerations

Before you start to buy equipment, take some time to evaluate the space where you plan to exercise at home. For safety and comfort, you should find an area that provides at least six feet by six feet of open space so that you'll have room to extend your arms fully and move side to side. Some workouts will require more space, but a six-foot square area is a good starting place for a basic workout.

Note that if you don't have a clear six-foot square area to start with, you may find that you can still perform some exercises. Just be sure that there aren't any objects in your way that could potentially harm you as you are moving.

Equipment Storage

Next, consider whether or not you will need to store the equipment. If your home-gym area is a multi-use space in your home (such as a living room or a bedroom), you may not want the equipment on display all the time. Take some time to evaluate potential storage spaces, such as behind a couch or under the bed.

The way you store the equipment may help you determine which equipment to buy. For instance, if you want to build strength by doing workouts in your small bedroom, using resistance bands or body bars may be better than bulkier kettlebells or dumbbells because bands and bars can be rolled under your bed.

Safety Concerns

Also, keep in mind that if you have little ones in the home, you should store your equipment in a place where the kids can't get at it. There are numerous published reports about the potential dangers to children when they have unsupervised access to mechanical exercise equipment (treadmills, exercise bikes), weight training equipment (dumbbells, weight plates), and even simple equipment like jump ropes.

Safety Tip

Experts advise that parents be aware of home gym safety features, and be vigilant about their surroundings to prevent injury to children or others in the home.

Parental education and reduced accessibility for children are important to improve the safety of home exercise equipment.

Fitness Goals

Lastly, evaluate your fitness goals and your current level of fitness participation. If you have not been exercising regularly, then you might want to start small and invest cautiously in home-fitness equipment. For instance, if you have been sedentary for quite a while, you might set a goal to do an online yoga class three times per week.

The financial investment is minimal and the goal is reasonable and attainable. This can help you set yourself up for success. Once you have a habit in place, then begin to build your at-home gym as your commitment level increases.

If You Want to Build Strength

Whether you are a heavy lifter or a new exerciser who wants to build muscle at home, there are many different ways to set up your home gym for a strength-building workout. In fact, the options are nearly endless.

The most budget-savvy option is to build strength with bodyweight exercises. Simple moves like a push-up, burpees, and planks can be very effective strength training moves.

Investing in other types of weight training equipment can help you to expand your workout repertoire. Those who are newer to strength training can get away with using less-expensive equipment such as resistance bands and a few dumbbells. Some people even use everyday equipment to add resistance.

Bodybuilders, however, may need to invest more and build a bigger gym space with a squat rack, barbells, and weight plates. This substantial equipment will require a dedicated space with good ventilation and sturdy, dent-resistant flooring.

Need to Have

You'll need some basic equipment to provide resistance. Choose one type of equipment from the list below or mix and match different types of resistance.

Keep in mind that you'll need a few different levels of resistance. For example, if you choose to invest in dumbbells, you'll need to buy a few sets in several weight increments: lighter weight for exercises that involve smaller muscle groups such as biceps or triceps and heavier weights for exercises that involve larger muscles (quads, lats, etc) or multiple muscle group. Or if you are buying workout bands, get a few different resistance levels.

You should also have a weight bench or something that you can use as a weight bench, such as a fitness step with risers. You'll need this for exercises like a chest press, a pec fly, or hip thruster where your body needs to be elevated off the floor.

Nice to Have

Heavy lifters and those who are advanced exercisers will benefit from having other types of equipment. Once you're comfortable lifting with dumbbells or kettlebells, a barbell (with weight plates and collars) is probably the next smart investment for your home gym.

A barbell is commonly used for many of the most widely performed body-building exercises, such as a deadlift, back squat, front squat, or power clean.

Other optional equipment for your home gym might include:

If You Use HIIT to Get Fit

Those that participate in activities like CrossFit, boot camp, or HIIT-style workouts will benefit from having a larger space available for more explosive movements like plyometrics and calisthenics.

Some of the weight-training equipment listed above will be handy for CrossFit-style workouts. For instance, a barbell or kettlebells, and a pull-up bar is often needed for many popular WODs.

In addition to your weight training equipment, you might benefit from adding:

If you have the budget for it, you'll want to add a cardio element to your home gym, such as a rower or a stationary bike. More advanced exercisers who have more space (and money to spend) can add a tire (for flipping), a climbing rope, or a sled for pushing or pulling.

If You're an Endurance Athlete

Those who train for marathons, half-marathons, duathlons, or century rides can also set up a home gym to help them stay fit when the weather is uncooperative or when life limits their ability to get outside and train.

Of course, your sport of choice will determine the best equipment for you. And budget can also play an important role, too, as certain types of equipment (like treadmills) can be very expensive. Consider these high-end and budget-friendly options.

Nice to Have

You may even want to have a foam roller handy to use at the end of your workout or throughout the day to massage your muscles. Foam rollers are easy to store and inexpensive. They are one of the most effective ways to treat sore muscles.

Other Options

If you are a runner and don't have the space or the money for a treadmill, consider combining different activities to get in a longer endurance cardio workout. For example, you can run the stairs of your tall apartment building or office tower. Take breaks on landings along the way to jump rope or do bodyweight strength training exercises for runners.

Cyclists can use a bike trainer to get in a solid endurance workout. Most models retail for a few hundred dollars or less and allow you to ride your bike in place with varying levels of resistance. Bike trainers usually fold up and store easily. Advanced cyclists might use rollers, which require more balance and stability to stay upright.

If You're Hooked on Cardio Classes

Those who love the energy, camaraderie, and friendly competition provided by group fitness classes have hundreds of options when doing cardio at home.

While you won't necessarily be able to exercise in a studio among friends, you can get plenty of high-energy classes at home from apps, websites, and various streaming services. Some streaming classes (like Peloton) even allow you to participate and compete in real-time with other exercisers from other parts of the country. Many home workout classes require no special workout equipment and many online workouts are free.

Need to Have

  • Exercise mat
  • Handweights (needed for some, but not all workouts)
  • Laptop, tablet, smartphone, or DVD player
  • Wifi

Nice to Have

If You Practice Yoga or Pilates

The great thing about practicing yoga at home is that you don't need a lot of equipment to practice. Yoga workouts are available online, on DVD, and even in some yoga books.

While you don't need a lot of space for most yoga workouts, you may want to choose a quiet, protected space if possible. To get the most out of your practice, it is helpful to keep your mind present and your focus on the mat. This can be hard to do if the television is on nearby and you can hear your spouse cooking in the kitchen.

However, if you live in a small space and cannot separate yourself from the other activities in the home, then dedicate a special area to your practice and set it apart by putting a plant, a candle, or incense burner in the area.

Need to Have

Yoga mats come in different textures and styles. You'll also find a substantial price difference. Learn as much as you can about different types of yoga mats to find the best mat for your at-home gym. If you are new to yoga and don't want to invest in a mat quite yet, you can use a large towel or blanket to start.

Nice to Have

Those who practice Pilates will also be able to get in a mat workout with minimal equipment. Most of the essential mat exercises like The Hundred, Rolling Like a Ball, Leg Circles, and the Open Leg Rocker can be done with no equipment at all.

Those who want to advance their practice may want to invest in a Magic Circle (which usually retails for around $25 or less). The most dedicated practitioners may even consider buying a Pilates reformer, a Pilates chair, or the Cadillac.

If You Have Limited Space

Don't worry if you live in a small space, there are still ways to set up a home gym to get an effective workout for the whole body. You'll want to find multipurpose equipment that stores easily under a bed or in a small closet or bin and that is lightweight, so you can move it.

These basic pieces will give you everything you need for home workouts including strength training, yoga, pilates, cardio classes or endurance workouts, and even some HIIT style workouts.

  • 1-2 sets of dumbbells
  • 2-3 resistance bands
  • Smartphone with free fitness apps
  • Access to a staircase, an outdoor walking or running area, or a foldable indoor bike trainer or treadmill

If you have a bigger budget, the Mirror (and competitors like Tonal and the NordicTrack Vault) is probably the best workout tool for your small space. It sits flush against your wall so it uses no floor space and when you aren't using it, it doubles as a full-length mirror.

A Word From Verywell 

Remember that it is not necessary to spend a lot of money to set up an effective home gym. You don't even need a lot of space. Some of the best home workout equipment is inexpensive and easily stored in a small bin that you can tuck away behind a couch or in a corner. When you first start exercising at home, start with the most basic essentials and add to your gym as your interests and commitment level expands.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Martinez A, Snyder AJ, Smith GA. Home exercise equipment-related injuries among children in the United States. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2011;50(6):553-8. doi:10.1177/0009922810396547

  2. Graves JM, Iyer KR, Willis MM, Ebel BE, Rivara FP, Vavilala MS. Emergency department-reported injuries associated with mechanical home exercise equipment in the USAInj Prev. 2014;20(4):281-285. doi:10.1136/injuryprev-2013-040833

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.