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Whether you hate exercising in front of people, don’t want to pay a monthly membership fee, or don’t have a lot of time before — or after — work, setting up a home gym is an effective and convenient way to get a workout in. With cities across the country being ordered into quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic, having a workout station at home is also making it easier for people to avoid the so-called “Quarantine 15,” which took off as a trending hashtag this week, as people began worrying about gaining weight while being stuck at home (also: we’re not doctors but you should really be worried about not catching the coronavirus before you stress out over a couple of extra pounds).
While being confined to a small home or apartment may limit the amount of space you have to workout in, a number of companies have introduced square footage-friendly devices and accessories that make it easy to work up a sweat — even in small spaces. Starting a fitness routine while under quarantine may be the last thing on your mind — or may even seem daunting — but experts say it’s not always how you move that matters, but that you actually get moving.
“When you’re stuck at home it’s easy to get lazy and fall into an unhealthy routine,” says Matt Williams, a NASM-certified personal trainer from Los Angeles. “Doing a workout or even just going for a brisk walk can dramatically improve your physical health and overall mental well-being. It can also help reduce anxiety during these times of uncertainty.”
Williams, who is offering live workout classes on his Instagram page during the quarantine, says you don’t need a ton of fancy equipment either. “If you happen to have a set or two of free weights, the possibilities are endless,” he says. “But at the end of the day my go-tos are the basics: squats, lunges, [bicep] curls, crunches and twists.”
The CDC recommends adults get 150 minutes of exercise per week, through a mix of muscle training, moderate-intensity aerobic activity (walking), and vigorous intensity aerobic activity (running or jogging). That sounds like a lot, but it’s a small investment for your overall health and well-being. And while the “Quarantine 15” may seemingly be just another catchy hashtag, there is some truth behind its messaging. “Even after just a couple weeks many people will gain weight, lose muscle mass, and increase body fat especially around the abdomen [if they don’t work out],” says Williams. “It can lower your self confidence, lead to depression, and make it so much tougher to get back into a healthier routine.”
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to exercise at home, whether you want to set up a home gym or just pick up a few equipment essentials. We’ve put together this guide to help you get a full workout from equipment that’s small enough to fit in a closet — or in some cases, a desk drawer. Whether you live in a cramped apartment, or are ready to convert a spare room into a fitness center, here’s what to get.
1. Free Weights
If you’re space-constrained, dumbbells are an effective tool you can use to work your arms, back, and abs. These neoprene dumbbells come in three sizes, from three to eight pounds, so you can slowly work your way up as you gain strength in your muscles. There are two dumbbells per size.
The dumbbells are made out of cast iron, and have a neoprene coating that makes them durable, but soft to the touch. The coating also makes them less slippery, so you won’t lose your grip when you’re sweaty.
2. A Yoga Mat
Doing yoga on a hard floor can hurt your back, and a towel or carpet may slide under you while you’re doing complex poses, so it pays to have a yoga mat.
This one from BalanceForm is 71 long and 24 inches wide, so it should accommodate most people. It’s half an inch thick, which the company says can comfortably cushion your spine, hips, knees, and elbows while you’re practicing yoga.
The mat is made out of a double-sided, non-slip surface to help you avoid falling, and a moisture-resistant technology that makes it easy to clean. We also like that the yoga mat comes with a strap, which keeps it bundled when you’re not using it.
3. A Jump Rope
“Jumping rope is a great form of cardio especially when you’re stuck indoors,” says Williams. “Just 10 minutes of jumping rope has been found to be similar to 30 minutes of jogging.”
WOD Nation’s jump rope uses a four-bearing system — two are in the handle, two are on the jump rope’s tips — which swivels, so you don’t lose speed if your swing or hand position isn’t perfect. The rope comes with two, 10-foot cables, and a nylon carrying bag for easy storage.
“If you want to ramp up the intensity [of your workout] you could mix in the rope with some burnouts of other exercises,” Williams suggests. “Try two minutes jumping rope with burnout of squats, two minutes jumping rope with burnout of pushups, two minutes jumping rope with burnout of bicycle kicks, etc.”
If you’d like to adjust the length of this jump rope, you can cut it with a pair of wire-cutters, then reattach the tip and bearing with thumb screws so they don’t get loose.
4. A Rowing Machine
Rowing machines work your arms, chest, glutes, and legs by having you repetitively pull on a handle attached to a magnetic wheel while pushing against a pair of pedals.
This machine from Sunny Health and Fitness has eight adjustable levels of resistance, foot-straps to keep your feet in place, and an LCD screen to display how many calories you’ve burned, the duration of your workout, and how many times you’ve completed a row. Its cushion is extra-padded for comfort during long workouts, and the foam on the handlebars is designed to prevent calluses.
One knock against larger workout equipment is its size and weight, but this rowing machine folds up for easy storage, and its front feet have wheels for easy movement. When folded, the machine is 37 x 19 x 53.5 inches, so it could fit in the corner of your room, or a walk-in closet. It’s 82 inches long when it’s fully extended though, so you’ll definitely need a large space when you’re working out.
Want something more storage-friendly? Sunny makes a portable rowing machine that’s just slightly larger than an ironing board for under $100.
5. A Stationary Bike
Spin classes have become very popular lately, but studios have been shut down due to coronavirus concerns. Our solution: pick up Cylcace’s well-reviewed stationary bike, which lets you get the same workout at home.
Stationary bikes work your arms and legs by replicating a bicycle ride at different levels of resistance. This bike has eight resistance settings, five handlebar positions, and four height options. Cyclace says this bike’s seat adjustments make it a good fit for people between 5.1 ft and 6.5 ft.
This bike has a 36-pound wheel and uses a belt-drive system that Cyclace says is smoother and more quiet than traditional chain-based systems. The bike has a built-in LCD screen to show your speed, distance, calories burned, and how long you’ve worked out. It also has a holder for a tablet, so you can watch videos to distract yourself while you work out.
While this bike cannot be folded up, it does have wheels on the front, so you can tilt it forward and move it more easily. It’s a steal for the price too, at just over $300 — or about the price of 10 spin classes at a name-brand studio.
Don’t have room for a full bike setup? Try the Cubii, an under-desk elliptical that promises to “help you get fit, while you sit. It’s super quiet, pairs easily with a phone tracking app and comes with adjustable resistance levels, to slowly increase your workout as needed. Cubii Pro, $349, available at Amazon
6. A Suspension Training System
TRX’s All-in-ONE Suspension Training System can give you a full body workout, with straps that fit inside a desk drawer.
The set comes with two straps, which use an anchor and looping mechanism to attach to a heating pipe or tree, and an anchoring system, that lets you attach the straps to the back of a closed door. Once the straps are attached, you can perform a series of body weight exercises, which use tension between your body and the straps to work out your muscles
TRX says its system can teach you to use seven foundational moves: push, pull, plank, squat, lunge, hung, and rotate to work every part of your body. Its straps are capable of supporting up to 360 pounds of resistance, which you can work up to gradually.
If you haven’t used suspension straps before, TRX includes a 36-page guide to show you the basics, and includes two online workouts to walk you through the motions. Literally.
Don’t have anywhere to hang these suspension straps? Use resistance bands instead. From strength training to toning, resistance bands are one of the most versatile pieces of exercise equipment. We like this 12-piece set, available for just $24.95 at Amazon.
7. A Smart Treadmill
If you want to get a full run in while you’re indoors, you’re going to need a treadmill. We’re recommending this one from NordicTrack because it’s full of smart features designed to help alleviate some pain points you may encounter on an indoor run.
The T-Series has several settings to help scale your run’s intensity. It can be adjusted to move up to 10 miles per hour at up to a 10% incline. Its speed controls are located on the front of the bike, along with an LCD screen showing your speed, the duration of your run, your current incline, how many calories you’ve burned, and the time.
Large start and stop buttons make it easy to begin and end your workout at any time. The machine also has a 3.5mm audio jack, and a pair of stereo speakers, so you can connect a device to it and listen to music.
This treadmill was designed to work with iFit’s Interactive Personal Training system, which requires its own membership. Members gain access to a series of on-demand workout programs, which let professional trainers lead you through guided exercises. These training sessions adjust the speed and incline settings on your treadmill automatically to create a full workout.
At 73 x 35.8 x 67.5 inches and 203 pounds, this treadmill is the largest piece of home gym equipment in this list, but it has wheels on its back for easy movement, and can be folded up for storage. It’s still an investment, but this treadmill would be the centerpiece of your home gym.
8. A Balance Board
The Level is a skateboard-shaped platform that’s set on top of a curved piece of metal. It helps you exercise by requiring you to make small adjustments to your posture to keep your balance.
FLUIDSTANCE, the company behind The Level, used research from the MAYO when designing the board to optimize its effectiveness. We tried the board at the office and were impressed by its effectiveness.
It’s harder than you think and really forces you to work on stabilizing your legs and core. Because of its skateboard-like shape, it’s easy to chalk it up to a “toy,” but it’s definitely become an essential part of our stay-at-home workout. It’s small enough to tuck under your bed or desk and we’ve started taking some calls while standing on it too, to get in a few extra minutes of exercise.
9. A Medicine Ball
Holding a medicine ball while you exercise can help work your arms and core, whether you’re twisting, lifting, or balancing on it to augment your pushups. AmazonBasics’ medicine ball is made out of textured rubber, which makes it easier to hold when you’re sweaty, and more comfortable too.
Williams says he uses a medicine ball for a “solid full body burner.” His instructions: “Start with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, then hold the ball under your chin. Perform a squat and on the way up, press the ball overhead. If you want to ramp it up, toss the ball into the air and as you catch it, slowly come back down into the squat.”
10. A Massage Roller
A good post-workout routine can help you from overworking your muscles, and overcome soreness. This foam roller from TriggerPoint gives you plenty of surface area to roll out your joints, and can be used on everything from your legs and quads, to your stomach and back.
A good foam roller can help increase blood flow and ease tension after a workout, or just a particularly stressful day of work. This set includes access to a free online instructional video library on foam rolling best practices from the experts at TriggerPoint.