5 Home Gym Essentials

Many people think that a home gym has to be expensive. A home gym costs as much as you want to spend. Building a home gym is cheap, easy, and I´m going to explain to you what you need and why you need it. I often help my friends and clients finding and choosing the best equipment for their needs. You can get the 5 home gym essentials for $100, and you can do almost everything you´ve been doing at the gym. The first pieces of equipment I recommend starting with are:

A Mat

You will need a mat. It will protect your floor, in the first place. Most exercise mats are cheap and will prevent scratches on your floor (that eventually will break your bank account).
Mats also give you comfort, support and safety when exercising. Think exercises lying on your back (crunches, leg lifts, bridges), on your stomach (supermans), on your knees (bird-dog, cat-cow, donkey kicks), on your forearms (planks). When you place your hips, knees, tailbone, or spine on a hard floor without using a mat, it may cause you pain, which might keep you from pushing through your workout. A simple mat will keep you pain and injury-free.
Now, should you buy a yoga mat or an exercise/gym mat? What´s the difference?
The differences are the thickness and firmness of the material. Usually, yoga mats are thinner than exercise mats. Yoga mats are about ¼ to 1 inch thick and have a non-slip surface. Exercise mats are about 1 to 3 inches thick. This thickness protects your body as well as the floor, provide you with extra cushioning, and also help prevent any injury in case of falls. A 3/4 inch thick rubber gym flooring is generally regarded as the bare minimum for proper floor protection for Olympic lifting so, any mat around 1 inch thick will work.
You can find good mats from $20: Amazon Best Sellers Exercise Mats

Jumping Rope

The next thing I get questioned often is about treadmills and stationary bikes. People are concerned about cardio and they look for affordable equipment with reasonable dimensions. Unfortunately, you´ll need some room and good money to buy a worthwhile treadmill or stationary bike.
If you are thinking of buying a treadmill, pay attention to the motor HP. Never buy something with less than 4 HP. Less than that allows you to walk but not run. And the weekly use is limited to a few hours (usually 3 hours/week). If you buy a 1.5HP treadmill and run one hour a day, it´ll break in a month and the warranty won´t cover it because you´ve used it inadequately.
The good news is you can get a jump rope for about $10: New York Times Best Jump Rope
Jumping rope is an easy, fun, and scientifically proven better workout than jogging. According to research, jump rope for ten minutes provides the same benefits as 30 minutes of jogging or 720 yards of swimming.
Jumping rope also improves your coordination, increases your strength in the muscles surrounding your ankle joint and in your foot, decreasing the chance of injury to those areas.
On top of this, it´s totally portable, you can take it with you everywhere.

Resistance Bands

What about the lifting? Dumbbells, kettlebells, or something else?
Honestly, resistance bands are a must in a home gym. They are extremely versatile, cheap, and take up very little room. Most resistance bands come in sets, including accessories.
I prefer tube bands rather than flat or loop bands. You can always make a loop of a tube band attaching one end to the other. but you´ll need to make a knot on the loop band to attach it to the door, for instance, and in the long term that loop band will break.
Resistance bands provide similar muscle activity as weight training (even greater in some exercises as shoulder raises). A big difference is that resistance bands put less pressure on the joints, which means less chance of injury. 
You can purchase resistance band sets for around $10 to $20: New York Times Best Resistance Bands.

Exercise Ball

Also known as Swiss balls, fit balls, or physioballs. They are a great alternative to benches.
An exercise ball takes traditional strength training to the next level. As they´re unstable, constantly demand your core and stability muscles in addition to the muscles being used in any exercise.
We´ve already talked about proprioception. When performing exercises on a Swiss ball, you are stimulating your proprioceptors and using the body’s stability and balance muscles while you perform the exercise.
The weight limit for most stability balls is 250 lbs (113 kg) which is even more than most benches. Models that support up to 300 lbs (136kg) are not uncommon. 
There are different sizes: 55, 65, or 75 cm. You should inflate it to the recommended diameter.
Exercise balls cost from $15 to $30: Outdoor Gear Lab Best Exercise Ball.

A mirror

The last essential I recommend you is a mirror. A full body mirror. A home gym is not complete until it has a big mirror on the wall.
It´s a great tool to check out your posture and technique, which is crucial to avoid injuries and get the most of your effort. That´s the one and only purpose of the mirror, don´t waste a second comparing yourself to a fitness model, thinking you have to lose inches here or gain some there. Just focus on your alignment, coordination, and use your reflection to center and correct yourself.
Of course, in order to be helpful in correcting your form, you have to know what´s the correct form. You´re welcome to visit our exercise library.
You can find a full body mirror from $30: Amazon Full Body Mirrors.
Do you think I´m missing something? Would you include something else? Let me know in the comments.

11 thoughts on “5 Home Gym Essentials”

  1. I’ve gotta get some resistance bands so I can do those rowing exercises… never thought about that before. I started looking at rowing machines and was like, woah!

      1. I had hunch about that but I didn´t want to be the one who encourage you to buy another bike, LOL!!

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Rest 30 seconds


Lower Back

The Erector Spinae is not just one muscle, but a bundle of muscles and tendons. Paired, they run more or less vertically. It extends throughout the lumbar, thoracic and cervical regions, and lies in the groove to the side of the vertebral column.

Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi is the larger, flat, dorsolateral muscle on the trunk, posterior to the arm, and partly covered by the trapezius on its median dorsal region.


The Deltoid muscle is the muscle forming the rounded contour of the shoulder. It is divided into three portions, anterior, lateral and posterior, with the fibers having different roles due to their orientation.


The Infraspinatus muscle is one of the four rotator cuff muscles crossing the shoulder joint and is commonly injured. It is the main external rotator of the shoulder joint.


The Biceps brachii is  actually two separate bundles of muscles (heads). The two heads of the Biceps vary in length and as a result, are called the Short and the Long Biceps heads.


The Triceps Brachii muscles  have three muscle heads: Lateral, Medial and Long head. Primarily responsible for the extension of the elbow joint. The lateral head is used for movements requiring occasional high-intensity force, while the medial fascicle enables more precise, low-force movements.

(Anterior muscles)

The Pronator teres pronates the forearm, turning the hand posteriorly. If the elbow is flexed to a right angle, then pronator teres will turn the hand so that the palm faces inferiorly. It is assisted in this action by pronator quadratus.

(Posterior muscles)

The Extensor Digitorum muscle helps in the movements of the wrists and the elbows. It extends the phalanges, then the wrist, and finally the elbow. It acts principally on the proximal phalanges. It tends to separate the fingers as it extends them.


The pectoralis major makes up the bulk of the chest muscles in the male and lies under the breast in the female.

The pectoralis minor is a thin, triangular muscle, situated at the upper part of the chest, beneath the pectoralis major. 


The Rectus Abdominis is the most superficial of the abdominal muscles. It is this muscle which forms the six-pack shape! It is a paired muscle running vertically on each side of the anterior wall of the abdomen. There are two parallel muscles, separated by a midline band of connective tissue called the linea alba.


The External Oblique is situated on the lateral and anterior parts of the abdomen. It is broad, thin, and irregularly quadrilateral. It is the largest and the most superficial (outermost) of the three flat muscles of the lateral anterior abdomen. 


The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles which make up the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The three muscles originate from the ilium and sacrum and insert on the femur. The functions of the muscles include extension, abduction, external rotation, and internal rotation of the hip joint.

Rest 40 seconds



The Quadriceps Femoris is the knee extensor muscle.  As a group, the quadriceps femoris is crucial in walking, running, jumping and squatting. It´s subdivided into four separate “heads”.


A hamstring is any one of the three posterior thigh muscles in between the hip and the knee (from medial to lateral: semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris). The hamstrings are quite susceptible to injury.

Lower Leg

The gastrocnemius and the soleus form what we know as calf. They are involved in activities such as walking, running, jumping… 

Rest 120 seconds


Rest 90 seconds


Rest 60 seconds



The trapezius is a broad, flat and triangular muscle. The muscles on each side form a trapezoid shape. It is the most superficial of all the back muscles.

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