You don’t need to have a lot of equipment to get yourself set up at home to workout effectively.
And it can be done without spending a fortune.
Note – I’m not affiliated with any equipment companies, so I’m not recommending any specific brand.
My suggestions in order of efficiency of use and space…
There is a wide variety of dumbbell exercises so you can train everything that needs to be trained with a set of dumbbells. We’ve had this set of rubber, hex-shaped dumbbells for years. They have held up well. This set only goes up to a 30 lb pair. That’s good enough because I can increase intensity with reps and sets if I can’t add weight.
Exercise Ideas: dumbbell squat, dumbbell RDL, floor chest press, bent over dumbbell row, overhead press, lateral raise, curls, tricep extension
Related: Read How to Optimize Results with Progressive Overload to learn how to keep progressing when you can’t use heavier weight.
I have a few at home, but if we shut down again, I’m going to invest in a full set of good quality with a variety of widths.
Exercise Ideas: band squats, standing chest press with band around a tree or pole, band row or pull down, front raise with band, lateral raise with band, curls, tricep extention
Related: Read How to Start Lifting if you’re just getting started or thinking about getting started with lifting.
Don’t underestimate what you can do with one kettlebell. A lot of the same movements done with dumbbells can be done with kettlebells. If you only have one, do single arm work.
Exercise Ideas: goblet squats, RDLs, floor press, rows, lateral and front raises, and overhead presses. Some other exercises are swings and Turkish get-ups.
Barbell, Plates, Collars, and Rubber Mats
Basic, but you need a spot for this equipment. A couple things to include that you may not have thought of – rubber floor mats and rubber bumper plates. The rubber mats for the floor will protect the floor in case you drop the barbells even a little. Rubber bumper plates are the same diameter as a 45 lbs plate, but are lighter. Not necessary, but new lifters usually don’t know about them. They are great for deadlifts if you’re just getting started and can’t lift 135 lbs (the weight of a bar with two 45 lb plates). The rubber bumper plates raise the bar off the ground so you can deadlift with proper form.
Exercise Ideas: If you don’t have a rack, you’re a bit limited, which is why I don’t list a barbell first. Without a rack you can do deadlifts, cleans, clean and jerks, overhead presses, RDLs, bent over rows, curls.
Related: I know it can feel overwhelming in the beginning. (Or maybe it was just me. It was hard to know what to do.) I’ll teach you how to get started in the free training How to Get Fit and Stay Fit After 40.
Pullup Bar (Maybe)
Many recommend it, regular pullups are tough for most women to use as a regular part of their workout. If you have a bar AND a long enough, strong enough band, you can do assisted pull ups. Or, if you have a park nearby, you could also do incline pull ups using playground equipment.
Bonus Fun Thing: Battle Ropes
Maybe not something that’s “essential”, but if you’re getting a little bored with your home gym set up, this might be a fun addition that won’t take up a lot of space. It is is a great upper body HIIT workout.
If I were going to build a “dream home gym”, I’d have everything above, but also add these toys…
Power Rack and Bench
If you’re setting up a fully functional home gym for training, you need a power rack with safety bars. You’ll use this for squats, overhead pressing, rack pulls, and everything else you can do in the gym. Slide that bench in there with the safety bars set up and you can bench by yourself safely.
Cable and Pulley System
With this equipment, you can add pulldowns, cable rows, and cable arm work.
Leg Press and Standing Leg Curl
Well…because! It’s my “dream” home gym. I’d probably have to have a separate garage built becasuse my husband is actually using our real garage. But I’m just day-dreaming here.
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Hi! I’m Tammy! I was a busy, stressed, and unhealthy teacher until I decided to take control of my health. I did not become an athlete until I was in my 50’s.
I earned personal training and fitness nutrition certifications, then retired from teaching to dedicate my work life to fitness education for other busy women over 40.
My results are obviously not typical because most people don’t train to compete as a bodybuilder.
But I believe everyone can make positive changes with healthy habits! Each of us has a unique combination of strengths and challenges that need to be considered to customize a program that will work for us. Science-based principles, flexibility, and consistency make all the difference.