Building your own home gym is the best way to ensure nothing gets in the way of a great workout. Investing in the right equipment is key to having an enjoyable workout routine that you'll look forward to.
This article highlights the essential items every home gym should have, whether you're a novice or a long-time fitness enthusiast. You won't have to remodel your home to make enough space or spend thousands on equipment that, when used effectively, can deliver incredible results.
After following this guide and establishing a regular routine with the bare essentials, it can be fun to add additional equipment to help you stay engaged and excited to hone your fitness in new ways. This article is the first in a series of three designed to help you build your perfect home gym as your fitness evolves.
The following items are the most important pieces of equipment and accessories every home gym needs to ensure you're off to a healthy, comfortable, and impactful start.
1. Exercise Mat
An exercise mat is essential for three reasons, safety, support, and sanitation. It may be the least exciting piece of gym equipment, but anyone who's spent a decent amount of time working out knows just how valuable a quality mat can be. After we go over why mats are important and the things worth considering when selecting your perfect mat, we have recommendations for the type and size you'll want that meet the criteria.
A mat aids personal safety by providing extra grip. It can help prevent you from slipping on a drop of sweat the way you might on a hard floor or sliding the way you might on a carpeted floor during a range of exercises. Mat's will also help protect your floor from wear and tear from your movements and any other equipment you may have.
Support is important for knees, elbows, and palms during all the body weight movements you're likely doing. Without the extra cushion of a mat, it's difficult and even detrimental to perform simple exercises like push-ups, lunges, hip thrusts, or planks.
The last critical reason to invest in a quality gym mat is sanitation. Having a mat you can lay on when you're covered in sweat is much easier to wipe off and clean up than having to mop or steam clean the floor after every workout. It helps contain the yuck to a more specific area. Although, a thorough cleaning of the gym area from top to bottom every once in a while is also a good idea.
Different Types of Gym Mats & Their Benefits
Depending on the frequency and types of exercises you gravitate towards, there are two styles of exercise mat worth exploring.
First is a jumbo-sized mat that would likely cover most of your exercise space. These mats are great because you can switch movements or directions without going off your mat or skipping a beat. They also provide additional protection to your floors.
These jumbo mats, like the Gorilla Mat, tend to be made of a slightly firmer, more durable material than your typical yoga mat. This means lighter-weight equipment like stationary bikes or free-weight sets can be put on them securely. However, if you have particularly sensitive joints, you may still want a softer yoga mat to place on top for added comfort. Alternatively, a folded towel works well, too, and also picks up extra sweat.
The second mat recommendation comes as no surprise. A typical but quality yoga mat. Sometimes you may work out in your gym space, and sometimes, you may choose to do a class from your TV in the living room or even head to the yoga studio. Owning a mat that's easy to transport is great and offers many of the same benefits as the mat listed above, just in a smaller footprint. The only drawback is a yoga mat won't really protect your floors and will require a little more intention behind your movements.
Bottom line: Find a mat you love that suits your activity style and supports your body.
2. Full-Length Mirror(s)
If your space allows for it, the more mirrors, the better. Of course, you'll enjoy checking out your awesome physique, but more importantly, you will receive constant feedback on your form while doing each exercise.
There has been some recent conversation about the use of mirrors in fitness settings lately, so I think it's important to point out that body positivity is a state of mind that includes taking a good look at yourself in the mirror exactly as you are.
It's understandable in a public setting that excess mirrors allow for unwanted attention from across the gym, but at home, it's a different story. All the more reason to set up your gym asap. A mirror should be treated just like any other piece of equipment. It is there to aid and support your efforts.
Some exercises are just difficult to get right, and without a mirror to check your form, you risk wasting your time by failing to get proper muscle engagement or, more importantly, causing an injury by putting undue stress on a joint or tendon.
3. Sweat Towel
Believe it or not, sweat towels are not all created equally. I was given a sweat towel for free once, and it has quickly become my towel of desperation. Meaning-- all the others are dirty, and I need to do laundry badly, so I am forced to use the free towel. What makes it a not-so-great towel? The fact that fabric does not breathe and it is not very absorbent. So when you're mid-swipe and gasping for air you nearly suffocate yourself if the towel comes near your nose or mouth. Not fun.
A great sweat towel is soft, super absorbent, durable, and breathable. I think now we can all agree, breathability is very important. So what about the other criteria?
Sweat is particularly annoying on the face. When your skin is hot and sweaty, it tends to be more sensitive, especially around the face. Dabbing sweat is not the time to give yourself an exfoliation treatment so getting soft towels is a must.
You don't want a towel that needs its own towel halfway through your workout. Look for a mid to thicker microfiber towel that will be able to keep up during your longer endurance workouts.
It doesn't take long to realize the number of trips to the laundry room these towels will be making if you follow a regular 3-5 day workout schedule. Buying towels that won't fray, fade, or shrink is key.
When working out in a small space, it's shocking how much body heat raises the temperature. It's not uncommon to fog up the windows or the air to seem a little stagnant midway through a workout. There's no better way to get your second wind than by flipping on a fan when you notice this starting to happen. No pun intended.
Honestly, any old fan will do, it comes down to space and your preference. For most home gyms, a simple floor model with an oscillation feature will do the trick. If you're setting up shop in the garage or basement a dual heating and cooling option might be a better choice.
Everyone probably already has pair or two or more headphones around the house that they can use. However, there are benefits to different types of headphones at different times. Sound quality and staying power will be the two main criteria for our headphone recommendations.
Yes, I sometimes work out with my AirPods, and no, they don't fall out, All thanks to one nifty accessory that costs less than ten dollars. Airpods are great for their sound canceling feature when you can safely blast the music and focus on whatever workout you're doing.
If, for whatever reason, you need to keep an ear out for dogs, kids, or anything else going on in the house, Consider trying aftershockz. Miraculously, they don't compromise sound quality while keeping your ears free to listen and be aware of your surroundings. It's almost as if you don't have headphones on at all. It's the coolest technology. Aftershockz use vibration frequency to transmit sound through your cheekbone rather than your ears. It sounds crazy because it is. But these headphones are a must if you like outdoor activities that require you to listen for road noise or other people but still want to enjoy your music.
The topic of the best water bottle is so highly debated I hardly wish to throw my hat in the ring other than to say, make sure you have one with you, and it's full come workout time. Hydration is so important before, during, and after any rigorous physical activity.
When picking out your ideal water bottle, look for one that's easy to take a quick sip from without making a mess, dropping it, or ingesting a lot of air. You'll be using and refilling it a lot so make sure it's easy to keep clean too.
Though they can double as a weight in a pinch, the only water bottle that seems a little impractical is the large gallon jug-style water bottle. They can be a hassle to carry and don't fit in car or gym equipment cupholders. But if that's what works for you, by all means, keep it up!
Auto Seal Three Pack - Personal Favorite
When your blood gets pumping, it's very likely any congestion will spontaneously release. Don't let that runny nose stop you mid-set! You'll be so glad to have a box of tissues nearby if or, more likely, when this happens.
No real recommendations here. More or less a reminder to grab one of those little cubes lying around the house and put it in your gym.
8. Cleaning Wipes
I know what you're thinking, towels, tissues, and cleaning wipes?!? Yes! They're all important, necessary, and serve very different purposes. It is a little funny, though; who knew working out was so messy?
Cleaning wipes are great to have even if you work out solo and especially if you happen to share your gym with loved ones. Even love has it's limits...
Keep it clean, especially during cold and flu season. Plus, these wipes have a great fresh scent that will help prevent any residual smells from building up. If you use the room your gym is in for any other purposes, keeping any smell away is probably even more important.
Note: Be mindful when cleaning your equipment that all surfaces are safe to come in contact with the cleaning wipes. Some screens or other equipment components may require specialty cleaners. Please refer to the owner's manual in these instances.
Monk Wipes - Personal favorite
No matter what you decide to include in your home gym, the most important thing is that it's a space where you can feel comfortable and motivated to take care of yourself. Exercise is a wonderful method of self-care and self-love.
With these essentials, you’ll be ready to go! So don't wait; get started creating your own personal sanctuary today and work toward achieving your fitness goals!