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

All your workout essentials in one place.

Dumbbells in a gym.
Dumbbells in a gym. Mike Harrington/Getty Images

When decking out your home gym or personal training studio with top-notch equipment, you have to be selective. You probably don't have space like big gyms and health clubs, which often house every piece of equipment imaginable. So to help you narrow down what you really need, here are the top ten pieces of equipment every small-scale gym must own.

1. 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 the 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.

2. 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 the user group profile. 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 and save time and space, too.

3. Barbell Set

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

4. Kettlebell Set

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

5. 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.

6. Treadmill

A must for a solid cardio workout. You'll want a treadmill that has varying inclines, 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. 

7. Stationary Bicycle

The stationary bike is an alternative to the treadmill and rowing machine for working cardiovascular endurance. The nice thing about the bike is that it provides a low-impact way to get the heart rate elevated (along with the rower). And it's a good choice to have all three, as they emphasize slightly different neuromuscular approaches to aerobic fitness.

8. Rowing Machine

You can do a lot with this total-body machine, especially a strong aerobic workout. 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 also a low-impact way to get in cardio exercise. 

9. Fitness Ball (Exercise 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 arsenal. 

10. Accessories

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

Summing Up

You may have noticed that there is no machine equipment in this lineup. Equipment pieces like cable machines, lever machines, Smith machines and others are standard equipment in most large gyms, but they're not necessary for all gyms. So just 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.