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3 Steps to the Perfect Home Gym
1. Find the right space. A spare room is ideal, but even a corner nook can work. “Any 8 x 4-foot space where you can lie down comfortably with your arms over your head will do,” says Dan Mezheritsky, president of Fitness on the Go, which provides in-home personal trainers across the U.S. and Canada. A spot where noise won’t carry and disturb your family is probably best.
2. Make it look good. In many homes the gym is relegated to a drab, windowless basement. But it doesn’t have to feel that way. “Hang up inspiring artwork, paint the walls with colors that appeal to you, install good lighting and add mirrors,” suggests fitness and lifestyle expert Lisa Tanker, CPT. If your gym is in the living room, toss loose gear in attractive storage (like covered baskets) so it’s not strewn about.
3. Choose multifunctional equipment. “Every piece should serve more than one purpose,” says Lalo Fuentes, CSCS, a Los Angeles–based personal trainer who helps clients design gyms in their homes. His top pick for versatility: a resistance band. “You can work legs, shoulders, chest, back, abs, biceps and triceps,” he says. That doesn’t mean you should forgo specialized equipment—if you know you’ll use it. Just decide based on your actual track record, not your best-laid plans.
Read on to find the best equipment in your price range.
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The Basics for Any Budget
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$95 Budget: Resistance Bands
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$95 Budget: Step Platform
Step aerobics was huge in the ’80s for a reason (aside from the colorful leotards)—it’s a fantastic cardio workout. Use the ProForm Compact Adjustable Step Deck ($25) for everything from ice skaters (side-to-side strides over the step) to muscle-building triceps dips.
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$95 Budget: Stability Ball
It should be named “instability” for the balance challenge a Swiss Exercise Ball ($40 and $45) adds to workouts. Choose a size based on your height—55 cm if you’re 4’8” to 5’5”, or 65 cm if you’re between 5’5” and 6’. Try forearm planks on top of the ball—your shoulder and core muscles have to work harder to steady yourself on it.
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$520 Budget: Height-Adjustable Bench
A weight bench is an obvious upgrade for anyone who gets into heavier lifting, including chest presses and step-ups. The Escape Deck 2.0 from Escape Fitness ($160) even has notches for attaching resistance bands, so you don’t need traditional weights.
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$520 Budget: Balance Trainer
The Bosu Home Balance Trainer ($120) makes strength and cardio exercises tougher—not to mention more fun! It builds on the idea of a stability ball by adding unsteadiness under both hand and foot for balance training—something that gets harder for all of us as we age. Included workout DVDs and an exercise poster mean there are no excuses.
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$520 Budget: Suspension Trainer
Defy gravity and maximize bodyweight workouts with the TRX Home 2 System. Hang from the handles in a myriad of ways, as demonstrated in the included downloadable workouts. Plus, it’s easy to make adjustments as your skills improve.
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$1,350 Budget: Variable-Weight Dumbbells
Dumbbell racks take up lots of room, but clever all-in-one adjustable weights don’t. Each dumbbell in the PowerBlock Sport24 Set ($199) has a range of 3 to 24 pounds. You set the weight by simply moving a pin.
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$1,350 Budget: Treadmill
Get the most bang for your buck with the ProForm Performance 400i ($599). It offers a slew of features, including incline up to 10%, 18 programmed workouts and a shelf designed to hold your tablet upright for mid-workout access. The deck even comes up for storage.
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$1,350 Budget: Rower
Rowing is a trainer fave for low-impact total-body cardio, and the pulling action is great for opening up hunched posture. Without breaking the bank, the Stamina X Air Rower ($550) offers features like real-time workout tracking and a space-saving folding frame.
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Bonus: Get-Active Apps
These smartly produced audio workouts—from running to elliptical to strength training—keep you focused on your form, not a screen. Android and iOS, $10/month
Turn your phone into a live coach—and even connect to one—with Fitnet. It has 200+ workout videos and uses a front-facing camera to stream your actions on the screen. iOS, free; plans that include one monthly session with a trainer start at $29
Choose predesigned strength, cardio, yoga or stretching sessions that start at just 5 minutes long, or build your own workout “playlist” from 170+ exercises. Android and iOS, free with ads; $5/month for premium access
Banish dreadmill boredom for good with these half-hour HD videos of scenic trails that you download to your tablet. You’ll feel like you’re conquering the great outdoors—minus bad weather and the risk of getting lost. Android and iOS, 99 cents per download