The Must-Have Gym Equipment You Need for a Fitness Studio

Dumbbells in a gym

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When decking out your home gym or personal training studio with equipment, it is smart to be selective. You probably don't have the space that big gyms and health clubs have to house every piece of equipment imaginable.

To help you narrow down what you really need, consider these 10 pieces of equipment that are perfect for the small-scale gym (plus some good exercises to recommend for each). Keep in mind, however, that you don't necessarily need everything on this list. A basic set-up, including essentials such as a bench, some dumbbells, and resistance bands, can still provide a great workout.

Training Bench

A training bench is an adjustable platform used for performing weight training exercises. You should be able to adjust the backrest, so you can move it from a flat position to an incline. You'll find a range of benches online, but look for a well-constructed and easily adjustable bench. A personal training studio may need at least two of these.

Training Bench Exercises

You can target a variety of muscle groups using a training bench. Try these moves for a full-body workout:

Dumbbell Set

This is probably your most important gym equipment purchase. Get a set of dumbbells, ranging from very light to very heavy, depending on who will be using them. Dumbbells come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials these days, from plastic-coated to colorful to straight metal, so take your pick. Get a set with a rack to save space.

Dumbbell Exercises

There is a wide variety of exercises you and your clients can do a lot with a varied dumbbell set. here are a few exercises to get started:

Barbell Set

You have two options for barbells: The Olympic bar (a 55-pound bar for men and 45 for women), squat rack, bench press rack and removable plates if you can afford them, or a set of fixed or easily adjustable barbells with a smaller bar. Of course, a rack for storage is essential. 

Barbell Exercises

Studies have shown that weights like barbells are just as effective as individual weight machines for increasing strength and functional ability. Here are some barbell exercises that most clients would benefit from:

Kettlebell Set

Kettlebells provide an alternative to dumbbells because they activate a slightly different muscle profile, particularly the core. Although not necessarily superior, they are popular and worth purchasing. Kettlebells come in a variety of weights, sizes, and even shapes.

Kettlebell Exercises

Kettlebells can improve aerobic capacity as well as strength. Your clients can try these exercises:

Pull-Up Frame and Bar

This is for doing chin-ups and pull-ups. Look for a squat rack with a pull-up bar up top, and you'll save on cost and space. You can also use a pull-up bar on the floor to perform dips and decline push-ups.

Pull-Up Frame and Bar Exercises

Pull-ups and chin-ups are great for increasing strength in the upper body, but can also be useful for specific sports like rock climbing. Here are some exercises your clients might find useful:


Invest in some type of cardio equipment. If you can afford it, you might be able to include several different types of machines. But if you can only afford one, the treadmill is a smart choice.

You'll want a treadmill that has varying inclines and speeds and provides heart rate monitoring. Get a robust, commercial gym-standard treadmill if you can afford it, and check out the machines with virtual tracks or other add-ons if you're willing to spend more. 

Treadmill Exercises

There's more to do on a treadmill than straightforward walking or running. Check out these treadmill programs:

Stationary Bicycle

The stationary bike is an alternative to the treadmill and rowing machine for cardiovascular endurance training. A bike provides a low-impact way to get the heart rate elevated. Each of these three machines emphasizes slightly different neuromuscular approaches to aerobic fitness.

Stationary Bicycle Exercises

Rowing Machine

You can do a lot with a total-body rowing machine. Unlike the bike and treadmill that focus more on the lower body, the rower offers a head-to-toe workout, engaging the legs, core and upper body. Plus, it helps burn a ton of calories and is another option for low-impact cardio.

Rowing Machine Exercises

Rowing is a cardio exercise, so there's not as much variation in rowing machine workouts as there are with, say, dumbbells. However there are a few variations that make rowing workouts interesting:

Fitness Ball

You can design a lot of exercises around a fitness ball, especially core exercises. It adds an extra stability challenge to moves like chest presses, bicep curls, dead bugs, or plank knee tucks. So add it to your gym equipment must-have list. 

Fitness Ball Exercises

Fitness balls are excellent for helping facilitate core engagement. Try these exercises:


Add smaller equipment items like a rollout wheel for abs, a wooden bar for upper body stretching, and bands and tubes for rehabilitation and resistance exercises (especially good for working the glutes). 

Exercises Using Accessories

There are lots of fun ways to incorporate various exercise accessories into your workout program.

The Bottom Line

Equipment like cable machines, lever machines, Smith machines, and others are standard equipment in most large gyms, but they're not necessary for all gyms. Consider your audience and budget before you purchase.

Another thing to consider before investing in equipment of any type is the space required to safely operate such equipment, especially when more than one person is exercising at one time. Keep your insurance up to date and figure out a smart way to lay out the room.

6 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.
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By Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is a personal trainer with experience in a wide range of sports, including track, triathlon, marathon, hockey, tennis, and baseball.