Build Your Home Gym on a Budget

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My home gym. Only an asshole like me would have perfect light and take a blurry picture. Forgive me.

YOU DO NOT NEED A GYM MEMBERSHIP TO LOSE WEIGHT AND GET FIT.

I am living proof of this: I’ve lost and kept off (for 18 months and counting) more than 100 lbs without ever joining a gym. Losing weight begins in the kitchen, but keeping it off and getting fit comes from regular exercise. I work out 6 days a week, in the morning, before work. If I had to get up, get dressed, grab stuff, get in the car, drive somewhere, get out of the car, get changed, workout, shower, get dressed, drive home, get the dog, drive to work, blah blah blah I WOULD NEVER WORK OUT. So I do all my workouts in my living room, aka, my home gym.

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Your excuse isn’t good enough.

Now it’s not that I don’t have access to a reasonably priced gym, I do. It’s that I hate paying to do things somewhere else when I could easily do them in minimal clothing at home with no makeup and messy hair. Instead of running around and getting ready in the morning, I roll out of bed at 6 am everyday, enjoy some coffee while I surf the web or write blogs for you, work on the menu, pay bills, etc., then around 7 I talk myself into putting on my workout clothes, which vary depending on my workout of the day (I have 6 days and 5 different workouts), then head into my home gym. I’ve built my gym out over the past 2 years, looking for sales and deals while I did. Here are some ideas for inexpensive ways to build your own home gym:

Dumbbells

Dumbbells are the most basic strength training tools available and, in my opinion, everyone should own some. Don’t waste your time buying anything less than 5 lbs though, even if you’re a woman, it’s a waste of money. You can use things around the house that weigh a pound or two (bottled water works great for really light weights, just remember the old adage “a pint’s a pound the world around”. I have 3 lb weights, 5 lb weights and 10 lb weights and 10 lb weights, and the 3’s and 5’s just collect dust and take up space. If you can afford it, drop some cash on adjustable dumbbells like these:

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Kettlebells

If you’ve been reading AML for a while you probably know I can wax poetic about kettlebells. If I had a choice to own just one type of workout gear, bells would be it. Unlike free weights, kettlebells aren’t about just building strength: you use a larger group of muscles with kettlebells, and build endurance as well. Ballistic movements add cardio, and the most fundamental kettlebell movement, the swing, uses the entire body for stability. I started out with 20-lbs (it’s recommended a woman start with no less than 8kgs or 18 lbs) and now use a 20-lb, 30-lb and 40-lb kettlebell for full body workouts. Just like dumbbells, you can get an adjustable kettlebell to start out with, like this one:

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Jump Rope

If you want quick, easy, CHEAP cardio that isn’t running, grab yourself a jump rope. Even a “fancy pants” jump rope with a Crossfit logo on it is only $10 on Amazon, and you can get them much cheaper at places like Five Below. I live above a very nice couple so jump-roping in my apartment is a no-go, but I’m seriously thinking about grabbing one of these for summer workouts on my balcony.

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Stability Ball

Stability balls are available pretty much everywhere. They’re trendy, but that doesn’t mean they’re useless! I paid $10 for mine at Five Below, including the pump. These are great for wall sits, sit ups, and strengthening your core. You can do any stability exercises while watching tv at night, and just sitting on one at a desk helps strengthen your core.

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Pull-Up Bar

My running buddy Josh swears by these. He lives in an apartment like me, and says a pull-up bar does no damage to the door frame. Great for upper body workouts. You can get one as low as $30.

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Okay, I could have posted a pic of just the pull-up bar. But MROW, look at those shoulders! *purrs* Source.

 

Resistance Bands

Not only do resistance bands ad burn to cardio, they’re lightweight and super easy to throw into your suitcase when you travel. (NOT the case with dumbbells and kettlebells, sadly.) All you need is a sturdy place to anchor the bands and you can do a plethora of exercises. Looks like you can get a decent set for $30 on Amazon.com.

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Sliders

Intended to glide smoothly across carpet and hardwood floors, sliders are used to decrease stability and make your abs work harder. Lightweight and great for travel, you can find a high quality set on Amazon.com for less than $20.

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Suspension Trainer

Suspension exercises are bodyweight exercises using a strap with or without handles to support a portion of your body while you use the other parts. I’ve never personally used a system like this because I have no way of attaching this item anywhere without losing the security deposit on my apartment, but I’ve heard really great things. It amps up the difficulty of regular bodyweight workouts and, like resistance bands and sliders, is easy to take with you while traveling.

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I actually stumbled across this while researching for this blog! Fit Deck is a deck of cards featuring various bodywhere exercises and instructions on how to do each one. The concept of being able to “deal” yourself a new workout every time you use the deck sounds awesome to me, and at $14.99 I may just snag one for myself!

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Yoga Mat/Exercise Mat

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If you have hardwood floors or just want extra padding when doing things like planks, a yoga mat is super helpful. In fact, if you have hardwood floors, choose something thicker than a yoga mat to give your joints extra protection. The one in the link is $23, but you can find cheaper ones at all the big box stores.

Full-Length Mirror

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When you’re doing strength training, watching yourself in the mirror is a good way to make sure your form is correct. Plus you can totally take workout selfies! I got one at good ‘ol Target for less than $15.

TV/Laptop

170-42-2013-07-16468246I use FitnessBlender.com three days a week to work out, and I use my Chromebook to connect to YouTube.com. There are also tons of workout videos on any OnDemand service. Even if you’re not watching workout videos, you can play music or, like me, watch dhows like Downton Abbey while working out. Because I’m weird like that.

Workout Timer

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This can be as simple as a clock with a second hand or an app for your phone. I use Round & Workout Timer on my Android phone when I do timed workouts. It’s FREE!

So where you you FIND all this stuff (other than Amazon.com of course)?

Yard Sales

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You may get lucky and find some good quality workout equipment at yard sales for really low prices. Lots of people (not people like US, of course) buy workout gear for the New Year and then it just collects dust, so by summer time they’re ready to get rid of it. Just do yourself a favor and don’t waste money on any weights lighter than 10lbs. Weights 5lbs and under are like fruitcake: everyone gets one at some point and no one likes them.

Craigslist

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Craigslist is generally hit or miss for me, but if you don’t mind buying from your neighbors then it’s a great place to look for used fitness equipment. Bring someone with you or meet the seller in a public place, though, just in case.

eBay

2000px-EBay_logo.svgI spend five days a week on eBay for work, but it’s an AWESOME place to shop for weights. In fact, I bought my last two kettlebells from an eBay seller. In a sporting goods store, you can pay up to $2 a pound for dumbbells and kettlebells, but on eBay you can find them for closer to $1 a pound with free shipping. Plus it’s fun to watch the mailman at work deliver a flat rate envelope containing 30 pounds of kettlebell (The 40lb bell came in a flat rate box.) Some sellers will even let you make an offer and save a little scratch on your order, but from one eBay seller to a buyer, please don’t low ball the seller. A lot of us are trying to make a living at selling things on eBay and we’re not trying to scam you. Shipping is expensive these days! Also, if you have a question, ask it in the nicest way possible, as if the seller were in the room with you, face to face. We’re people, too, okay?

Sears

800px-Sears_logo_1994-2004.svgBelieve it or not, I bought my very first kettlebell at Sears. Surprised? I was too! The Hubs and I were wandering around the mall and just decided to take a peek at the fitness equipment. Lo and behold, the kettlebells were 40% off! We’ve seen sales like that a lot at Sears, but they only have lighter weight stuff available. Fine for beginners, right?

Get Buff

You, too, canย  get fit in your living room. You, too, can work out in your underwear without make up or even brushing your hair! And you, too, can do it on the cheap while still getting results. Want the best tickets to the gun show? MAKE YOUR OWN GUN SHOW! Then you can spend the money you’ve saved on hot clothes to dress your new sexy body. ๐Ÿ˜‰

301dc670-2003-4390-a0f7-c2e0fee474aeDo you work out at home? What’s your favorite workout? Let me know in the comments!

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13 comments

  1. I used to do circuit workouts at a local facility where we’d use Styrofoam dinner plates instead of sliders. They worked pretty well and those are super cheap. You can even reuse the same plates quite a few times before they rip or get too messed up. I hated those exercises. Sometimes I think the effectiveness directly correlates to how much I hate an exercise ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  2. I will add two thoughts. I got dumbbells that are great last year at Marshall’s. Sometimes they have some good workout stuff including weights, resistance bands and yoga mats and really good prices. Of course it is hit or miss. Also I bought a few things last year for home that are for post workout recovery more than the workout but they were money well spent (at least for me). I got a massage ball at Five Below that was $4 I think. It’s plastic but similar in size to a tennis ball but has tiny bumps or spikes on it and I use it to roll under my feet after running. Works great. And I ADORE my foam roller. That was a bit more expensive but for me well worth the $40 I paid for it. I really feels good on my back after a workout and I feel like I sleep better after a good foam roll.

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  3. I eventually cracked and joined a gym. (It’s literally across the street), primarily to reduce distractions. Once I picked up music, my instruments and exercise equipment had to share space. Since I don’t have your passion for fitness, that proved too distracting and my already lazy routine got lazier. I almost fell off the wagon completely.

    The side effect was to realize I like gym machines way more, anyway, and so am more willing to actually use them, so now don’t cop out quite as much on my strength training, and I work way harder on my cardio with an elliptical and an ebook than I ever did at home.

    I do still sometimes do yoga at home, though.

    I constantly look at stability balls, too, but am at a loss about where anyone stores anything that large when not in use!

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  4. For years now I work out at home. I used to work as a Jazzercise Instructor back in the days and loved the workout. Always disliked gyms. As life changes I changed too and working as an instructor was no longer in the picture. I stumbled across a series of body weight exercises on youtube and started following one of them. I do the workouts at home and it suits me so well. They are short and intense and I can fit them in no matter how busy the day is. Kettlebells are on my list, dumbbells are sitting next to me and the mat is being used daily. Love working out at home! I only discovered your blog thanks to the blogger meet and greet over at Nikki’s. Will definitely be back!

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