Updated: Aug 11, 2020
Well, gyms are still closed. After about 2 months of using a backpack filled with textbooks as a dumbbell, you may be ready to invest in some fitness equipment that you can use at home. Pandemic-aside, they are a nice option to have if you’re in a time crunch and want to get in a quick workout. Bodyweight alone can produce numerous effective workouts of all difficulties, but for the sake of variety, it’s nice to have something else to use.
No offense to those who have one, but the days of the Bowflex and elaborate at-home gyms are over. If you are fortunate enough to have an actual set of dumbbells, a bench, a barbell, and maybe even a couple machines, then you are already ahead of the game. This is for those who are starting with next to nothing and want to spend a reasonable amount of money to have some things that they can depend on.
Now with at-home workout equipment, the name of the game is versatility. Since this is also supposed to be cost-effective, we are ruling out any machines or anything that requires assembly basically. That leaves bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, and then there’s all those gadgets that before seemed like a sure-fire ripoff, but now seem like the best thing since sliced bread. Below is a breakdown of each of these and some links to give you an idea of what to get.
**One thing to note is that the prices of all of these have gone up a decent amount since, say, oh I don’t know, mid-March. Can’t imagine why. A 40 lb dumbbell that once cost maybe $50 was going for around $250 a couple months ago. Now not all equipment has experienced a 500% mark-up, but be prepared to shell out a little more than you might expect.**
This is the first thing you want to look to purchase as they are probably the most versatile piece of equipment you can have at home. Think of bands as an adjustable cable set-up, where you can change the height, angle, and resistance, which gives you a ton of exercise options.
The key with these is having something to tie the bands to. A lot of band sets sold online come with a door anchor so that you can throw it between the door and the frame, and wrap the band through. A band on it’s own is solid, a band that is anchored to something gives you a significantly bigger range to work with.
Now there are so many different types of bands out there. Bands with handles, mini-loop bands, large loop bands/monster bands, physical therapy bands, and the list goes on. The best bet here would be to get the bands with handles that are interchangeable. That way you can put the handles on the band you want to use, and if the heaviest band is too light for something, you can attach more than one band to a handle. HERE is a link to a set of these on Amazon.
Probably the most classic exercise equipment and the second option to look at if you want something that can add a little more load than the bands. Now the bands are a one-size fits all kind of item, whereas the dumbbell will of course have to match the individual as it’s doubtful you intend on buying a full rack from 5 lbs to 100 lbs.
This is where it gets tricky because of course you use different weights for different exercises. Even the buffest of bros use a dainty 5 lb dumbbell for certain exercises, and a 80 lb one for others. This is where you have to use your best judgement based on your strength level. If you are a beginner lifter, a pair of 10-20 lb dumbbells would probably serve you best if you already have the bands. That way the bands can be used for lower load exercises, and the dumbbells can be used for the greater load exercises. If you are more experienced, then perhaps a pair of 30-40 lb dumbbells would be appropriate. Unfortunately they will be more expensive but muscle doesn't come cheap!
Another, more swanky option, would be to buy adjustable dumbbells. They sell these in pairs and a single dumbbell can range from 5 to 50 lbs no problem. The issue here is that these are normally fairly expensive, maybe a couple hundred dollars. That means if you can somehow find one now, it could be well over $500.
HERE is a link to a pair of 25’s that were in stock when this was written and are going for $85, which isn’t too bad. Normally they would go for probably $40-50 so this isn’t a total scam. But hey, supply and demand.
Kettlebells have earned the title of the most “functional” equipment, thus making them seen as the most versatile but most people find them difficult to use. They are easy for some exercises, but in terms of variety, a pair of dumbbells will likely get you further and will be more comfortable. Almost every exercise you want to do with a kettlebell, you can do with a dumbbell. Save your money here.
There are A LOT of gimmick fitness equipment that have come out over the years. This isn’t to trash them or to deem them useless, if you see one you like and it will get you moving then power to you. Just make sure you consider the versatility of whatever you are looking at before you purchase. Can you create 3 unique workouts using just that one piece of equipment and your body? If so, go for it. If you’re struggling here then you may want to reconsider.
Hopefully purchasing these isn’t to prepare you for another pandemic in the future, but rather to equip you with a couple of items that can get you a little more excited about working out. You can take a simple set of bands pretty far if exercise selection is on point, so peruse your options and find what you think will work best for you.