Personal trainers make their living working with clients at gyms, but many of them also train clients in their own homes, meaning they have to think on their feet — depending on the tools and machines available. A talented certified trainer can take one look at the gear you have on hand and craft a unique workout that’ll push you to your max. Whether a trainer walks into a full-on basement kitted out with the best gear possible, or just a cleared out corner of your apartment, the key is making do with what you have — creating a challenging workout with what’s available.
To help you get your home gym ready for any trainer (not to mention help you prep for summer), we talked with eight experts to hear about what you need in a home gym. We asked how each of them works out, what tools they always keep on hand and what a perfect home gym looks like. Here are the gear items you need to stock your gym and work your body to the max.
Barry’s Bootcamp Trainer
Clayton teaches coaches at Barry’s Bootcamp — the intense weights and treadmill workout that has a cult-like following. She also coaches Brave Body Project classes and still finds time to exercise on her own while training for the New York City Marathon.
“For me, a home workout needs to be something that I can do with virtually no equipment (hello tiny NYC apartment),”Clayton says. “And it needs to be fun, quick and have an element of stretch/restorative movement as well.” Here are her top five picks.
“This is hands down the best treadmill on the market. The slatted belt reduces impact and provides more cushion when you land. It feels like you’re running on a cloud. I’m a runner, so on days when the weather isn’t cooperating, it’s perfect to hop on and log your miles that way.”
“The TRX trainer and suspension system is the perfect addition to any home gym. TRX uses gravity as your resistance, so you can get an amazing full-body workout and make it as easy or as hard as you want. Because you’re working against gravity on all of the exercises, you’ll automatically get in extra credit work. It’s easy to set up — all you need is a door for the anchor.”
“[Gliders are] another one of my favorite tools that weigh nothing and takes up virtually no space. They are a great way to mimic moves you’d see on a Megaformer,” Clayton says.
“I love resistance bands, especially for glute activation before my run, but they are so versatile you can essentially do an entire workout with just one band.” Check out some exercises using resistance bands here.
“If you don’t want to take up a lot of space, but still want to lift heavy, get one weight or heavy kettlebell that you can use for a unilateral work. Unilateral exercises have been shown to increase muscle mass and solve strength weaknesses between the right and left side of the body,” Clayton says.
George Foreman III
Owner of Everybody Fights
In 2013 George Foreman III opened up The Club in Boston to help share his methodologies. Foreman III finished his boxing career with a perfect record of 16-0 back in 2012, and continues to train to this day. Foreman III’s gym EverybodyFights has expanded since then to include a dozen locations across seven states.
“The key to a great workout at home is to have the ability and space,” Foreman III says. “Treat it like a gym: buy a great mat, maybe set up a rubber floor. A big part of the being consistent and enjoying a workout is the atmosphere.”
True to his roots, Foreman III recommends a punching bag — and a double-ended bag. “A double ended bag is filled with air, has bands on top and bottom, and helps you work on precision. The more you learn how to box, you can throw fast, powerful and precise punches, and the double-ended bag will give you a great workout without hurting your hands,” he says.
For beginners, Foreman III recommends the Aquabag. “The beauty of an Aquabag is that for a person who doesn’t know how to box, it’s hard to hurt your hand because it bounces back off the bag,” he says.
“I would not have a gym without one. Especially as a boxer, most of boxing is pushing out and you have to do the recall, pulling the punches to balance it out.”
“For music, I stream a playlist on Spotify through my Sonos,” Foreman III says.
Personal trainer and coach at NYSC Lab
“A cardio burst, balance and stability training, and strength training,” she says. “I usually have clients do strength and stability together and cardio on its own. There are a million ways to train the human body, and there’s no right or wrong here. You will find a routine that your body responds to through trial and error, so continue to mix it up.”
“A treadmill is necessary for cardio purposes, especially if you live somewhere with a cold winter and can’t run outside,” Vesco says. “There are no excuses when you have cardio equipment inside.”
“This piece is an absolute must,” Vesco says. “When I take on a new client, I make sure they have a Bosu as part of their home gym. It is one of the most beneficial, versatile pieces of equipment and doesn’t take up much space. Balance and stability work should be part of everyone’s routine. It doesn’t matter how strong you are if you can’t stabilize your movements at the same time.”
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
“Having free weights is a no-brainer when it comes to strength training,” Vesco explains. “Not everyone has the room or money to put an entire cable system or barbell rack in their home gym, but there are a few options. Most people I train have a few sets of weights — usually 7, 12.5 and 15 or 20-pounds — however, Bowflex makes an incredible adjustable set that I love.”
Founder of React Physical Therapy
If you’re lucky enough to have a session with David Reavy, he’ll evaluate you from head to toe and tell you what’s working and what’s not.
He’s the founder of React Physical Therapy in Chicago and has worked with athletes like Jerome Randle, Mike Magee, Alshon Jeffrey and Paul Davis, among others.
“[A yoga mat is] great for body weight movements. I enjoy doing exercises barefoot whenever I can to make sure my foot muscles are working,” Reavy says.
Indoor Cycling Bike
“When my time is limited, I can hop on this bike for a quick ride. I typically do 45 minutes for cardio,” Reavy says. “You don’t need much of a warm up since it’s not as high impact as running.”
“Ideal for self-releases, it’s easier to get at hard-to-hit areas such as hip flexors,” Reavy says.
Creator of In Time Bootcamp at NEOU
NEOU is one the hottest streaming workout apps, and Mat Forzaglia is one of its lead trainers. A former coach at Fhitting Room, and now coach at CrossFit Fifth Ave, he’s a motivating trainer for the app. He’s the creator of In Time, a HIIT class that streams on the app and is available to play anytime throughout the day as well.
To check out NEOU simply download the app, sign up and scroll through classes to find one you’d like to try out. Class times range from 15 to 60 minutes with plenty of variety.
MB Slingshot Hip Circle
“Hip Circle is a must in a home gym or even just my backpack because I use it to activate my hips (i.e. glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors),” Forzaglia says. “When sitting for periods of time or getting ready to work out, doing some lateral walks or monster walks will wake your hips right up!”
RPM Jump Rope
“Always have a jump rope on hand,” Forzaglia advises. “I like the RPM jump rope because it is a speed rope. It’s lightweight and thin, allowing me to jump rope faster for a great cardio/endurance workout. Any jump rope will do, but for me, RPM is the way to go.”
Rogue Ohio Power Barbell
“A barbell is extremely universal, no matter what exercise you are performing,” Forzaglia explains. “With a creative mind, the barbell is actually the only piece of equipment you need! I specifically like this barbell a lot because it has very little whip or bend in the bar making it great for building strength no matyer what movements you are performing. Also, it will last a long time!”
Le Sweat Founder
Longtime Master SoulCycle Trainer Charlee Atkins loves everything about movement and mobility. This certified strength and conditioning coach now runs Le Sweat, which focuses on stretching classes as well as full-body classes.
She also plans retreats centered around fitness. Here are a few of her at-home gym picks.
“Every at-home gyms needs a recovery section,” Atkins says. “Yoga blocks double as props used in yoga/stretching routines, but also add the option of adding elevation or imbalance to your workout, creating the ability to manipulate the intensity of your workouts.”
Pull-Up Assistance Bands
“These resistance bands are a step-up from the traditional exercise band,” Atkins explains. “By adding the door anchor (must have!) you can do pull exercises (targeting your back muscles) and these also double as a mobility/recovery tool. The real gem is the door anchor!”
Trainer at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club
Julian Chua is a trainer and strength conditioning coach at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club. Boxing fans know that Roach — longtime trainer of Manny Pacquaio, among many other champions — doesn’t mess around. And neither does Chua.
In addition to the below items, Chua also recommends dumbbells and a TRX system, two items referenced above.
“Workouts with a stability ball are important for a good fundamental base in fitness. If your stability muscles are weak, you’re much more prone to injury.”
“The heavy bag is the perfect form of cardio,” Chua raves. “It can provide both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. It will build total body strength and explosiveness to put the icing on the cake for your fitness. There’s no better way to release your stress than smashing a heavy bag.”
“It takes up most of the room in my home gym,” Chua says. “But with all the attachments it is the most versatile piece of equipment in my gym.”
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