The best at-home exercise equipment for general strength and fitness goals? You want pieces that are small, versatile, and easy to use. These are also great for crosstraining, or doing a quick workout at home to supplement your gym days. Here’s what I recommend for my clients:
My top pick: TRX suspension trainer (or another brand, or gymnastics rings).
Suspension trainers are versatile, easily portable, and adjustable for all levels of strength and fitness. They are a full gym all by themselves and the one thing I take when I travel.
- Use anywhere: They can be attached to any variety of solid surfaces by lopping and securing, and most brands come with their own door anchor, so you can use it just about anywhere inside or outside.
- Do (almost) anything: Depending on attachment, can do almost every type of strength exercise. It has options for hip and knee dominant leg exercises. For upper body exercise, you can push and pull horizontally, and pull vertically. It also has some great anti-movement core options. The only thing it doesn’t easily provide is upper body push options.
- Completely adjustable: It’s easy to modify almost any exercise to make it easier or harder. For most exercises, it’s as simple as stepping forward or backward.
- Big bang for buck: Assuming you move slowly and pay attention, suspension trainers give you a strength boost in both your stabilisers and in the big muscles that provide power for your movement. This means you’re better able to control your own body weight, in turn meaning you’re at lower risk of injury from overuse or traumatic event.
In second place: Superbands
Superbands are those giant rubber bands that have been popular for several years now, but still widely under-used. Like suspension trainers, they are highly versatile and easily portable. They do some things a suspension trainer can’t, but have their own limitations.
- Use anywhere: There are a few different ways of securing the bands for use, which can create more or less resistance. You can also stand on them to secure them. These are not generally sold with a door anchor, which would increase the versatility.
- Do (almost) anything: Again, your exercise options depend on how you’ve secured the band. With a secure attachment point you can loop the band around, and a little creativity, you can add resistance to almost every type of movement.
- Adjustable resistance: Changing the level of stretch on the band will change how much resistance the band provides. It’s literally the same as pulling on a rubber band either a little or a lot.
- Good substitute resistance: Superbands can replace cables in many exercises (just be careful to control the whole movement), as well as dumbbells and barbells in some instances.
- Great for eccentric exercise: The “stretchiness” of the band mean that there’s a strong pull on the negative, or “lowering”, part of the movement. Working slowly to control your movement back to the start position creates a strong eccentric contraction. (Eccentric means the muscle is lengthening under load.) This exercise is especially useful for people with cardiovascular or respiratory issues, since it can prompt strength gains with lower stress on the cardiorespiratory system.
Well, I don’t really have a third – or I have lots of them. I like anything that is adjustable, like an adjustable dumbbell set, since it can change as you do. I also like things that can be used in many ways, like a kettlebell that can also be substituted for a dumbbell. But when I set up a client with a “home gym” that neatly tucks into a drawer when it’s done, the suspension trainer and the bands are my must-haves for strength building. Recommendations for at-home cardio are here and here.