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Essentials to Build Your Home Gym

Feb 14, 2021

Whether you enjoy working out at home or do it out of a necessity of 2020 & COVID-life, so many people have been turning parts of their home into a make-shift gym since March.

A lot of people I’ve talked to have realized they actually really like the convenience of working out from home, it reduces the barrier of having to pack up their gear and go to the gym. Sometimes people feel self-conscious in the gym and working out in the comfort of your home relieves that anxiety.


I’ve broken my list into three levels. The first three suggestions are essentials – the basics if funds are low, space is tight and you have a hard time sourcing the other stuff.

The second group of three are the next level items for those that wish to get a bit more focused on their strength training and commit a small space in their home to their health & fitness.

The third group is for those who are happy to spend a little bit more to get a good selection of gear and will likely use it long after this pandemic is over….it will be over at some point…right…!?!?!

**A note on finding these items. I’ve linked some of the providers below that I like to buy gear from. Many places are sold out but have email lists you can get yourself on and get first notice when things are restocked. My other suggestion is just to call around and check your local vendors. Places are getting restocked..and sometimes quickly sell out right after. Gear goes to those that are consistent & patient to finding it.

Best spots to find dumbbells, sliders, bands, TRX etc are: Fitness TownFitness Depot, Flaman Fitness, Canadian Tire, Winners or Amazon. Also check your local sports store, for example Lady Sport in Vancouver had dumbbells earlier in the pandemic shut down when many other places were sold out.

I buy my Kettlebells from Bells of Steel  Some of the places above also sell them.

If you’re looking for barbells & plates check out Rogue 


Home gym – Phase one – Beginner Basics

1. One (ideally two) sets of dumbbells

In my opinion, these are the starting blocks to building a home gym. Yes there are plenty of body-weight exercises and workouts you can do at home but if you really want to build your strength you need to add some external load (& weight). Your body has many different muscle groups and one set of dumbbells is better than nothing, but there are many exercises where that will be too light. If you are just starting off, one set of 5lb dumbbells and one set of 10 lbs would be a great option. If you’ve been working out for longer then go up, but try to get one set heavier and one set lighter for exercises that challenge smaller muscles i.e. you will be able to lift MUCH MORE weight doing a bent over row (which engages your lats & back) vs a delt raise (which uses your small muscles on the top of your shoulders)

2. Resistance band

There are a couple different styles of resistance bands. I like both for various exercises. The closed loop band (shown in photo) is good for making squats more challenging and adding difficulty to many core exercises. The bands with handles are good for others. These are fairly inexpensive to get so if possible get one of each.


3. Sliders

So evil, but so good. These little sliders take up barely any space, are inexpensive to buy but damn do they add a fiery punch to a workout. In lieu of sliders you can also use dishcloths on a hardwood floor or frisbees (or tupperware lids) on a carpeted room.


Phase Two – Commit to Strength

4. More dumbbells

Ok, once you’ve collected the above items, and if you have a bit more space to allocate to a home gym, I would suggest adding to your dumbbell collection. Progressively overloading your muscles is the best way to build strength, to do this you need to have a selection of weights available. If you already have a 5# and 10#, I would add a pair of 15# and 20# dumbbells – or more if you can! You can always just buy one 35# or 40# weight to start so you have some options at a heavier weight. If you’re new to strength training that may seem really heavy, but I have 100% confidence that you will be able to use those weights once you learn proper form, what muscles to engage and build up some strength with consistency 😉

5. Kettlebells

Kettlebells are in my opinion the best addition to your home gym. I didn’t put them as #1 because they are a bit more complicated to use and require a basic level of knowledge and body awareness to use properly. If you want to purchase a piece of equipment that can help you build strength, improve your cardiovascular health, and challenge your core this is it. More expensive than dumbbells (you pay by weight and then tend to be heavier), but so good for a small space homes because of the small & compact space they take up. If you are super new to kettlebells I suggest buying a 8kg & a 12kg bell (and some lessons from an experienced coach…. 😉


6. TRX

So much versatility in a simple piece of equipment. A TRX hooks onto a door, around a banister or hooked on to an anchor. It provides straps that you can use to add a bit of balance & stability if needed (squats/lunges etc), however it’s greatest strength is actually in the instability it offers. It makes any exercise more challenging because of the unstable nature of the handles. Push ups automatically fire up the core differently then when your hands are on a firm surface, core exercises are extra challenging. A TRX system adds a lot of variety to workouts so you can challenge your muscles in different ways then you can with kettlebells and dumbbells.



Phase Three – Serious Home Gym Set up

7. Bench

A good addition which allows you to do many exercises off the ground – chest press, pec fly, shoulder press, as well you can use it for step ups, glute bridges etc. A bench adds more variety and allows for more challenging exercises but it does take up a bit of space (hence it’s place further down my home gym list). If you are going to invest in a bench I suggest getting one the is adjustable so you can move the back support up and down to allow for support in a variety of exercises.

8. Barbell & plates

Now we are getting into the fun stuff! I know that many people may not have the space or funds to fully invest in a full home gym, which is why I put this further down on the list. However some people may like to get a bit more serious about strength training and adding in a barbell and plate is an awesome way to step your game up to the next level.

The standard weight of a barbell is 45#, although they also come in 35# which some people prefer as it’s a bit slimmer and easier to grip all the way around, especially if your hands on the smaller side.

As for plates, you’ll want a selection so you can slowly up your weights and build up your strength. A pair of plates in the following weights would be awesome: 5#/10#/25#/45#. You’ll also want a pair of collars to secure the plates on each side of the bar #safetyfirst.

9. Stability Ball

This is such a basic piece of equipment that actually many people already likely have at home, but I put it towards the bottom of the list because once blown up it takes up a fair amount of space. Additionally I think that many exercises you would use a stability ball for you can also do variations with the sliders & TRX. It’s a great addition to a home gym for a minimal cost and definitely something you could add, if you have the space.


Ok so you have the gear, or are in the process of getting it..but now what? How to use it properly? How do you ensure you don’t injure yourself going too heavy? How do you build a program that works and targets your full body? How often should you strength training? I created something juuuuuuust for this. Check out my FREE 10 day Strength Training challenge here.

This FREE challenge will get you started with good form, proper movement and progress you'll be able to see in just 10 short days!

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