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YOU’VE NEVER needed a gym membership to build muscle and strength. All you need is a few feet of space in the comfort of your own home (or you garage or your basement).
And it’s never been easier to build out that home space than it is these days. We’re in the midst of a home gym boom, fueled by two key components. First, there’s the tech fitness revolution that gave us Peloton and brought fitness apps home to your TV and made home training fun. Blend that with a resurgence of venerable brands building quality home gym gear (think Kabuki Strength’s Transformer Bar) and you have more options than ever to build out your home space.
It’s an exciting universe, but one that isn’t easy to decipher. But our step-by-step guide will help you build out your ideal home training space.
Before you load up on next-gen tech, focus on the fundamentals, says Eric Sung, C.S.C.S., a member of Men’s Health’s Strength in Diversity Initiative. “You’ll get your best workouts with core gear, like dumbbells and kettlebells,” he says. So start your home gym with these muscle-building basics.
“SMRTFT’s Nüobell is the perfect ultra-durable adjustable dumbbell I need. It can easily be five pounds, perfect for warmup work, or 80 pounds, enough to challenge me on heavy leg moves.” — ERIC SUNG, C.S.C.S.
Get your superhero on while forging muscle with this hammer inspired by Marvel’s god of thunder. It’s designed to be swung from its handle like a kettlebell—and can be used in other workouts, too.
These steady, sturdy resistance bands, made of durable latex, can lighten the load on challenging bodyweight exercises like pullups or add more challenge to squats and bench presses.
“The solid, no-frills bells from Kettlebell Kings are my top choice. Whether I’m repping through a set of swings or snatches, I know I can depend on the durable, powder-coated weights.” —BRETT WILLIAMS, NASM, MH FITNESS EDITOR
Few weight benches combine sturdiness, comfort, and versatility like this one from Rep Fitness, which offers six different incline angles and a three-post design, anchoring it to the floor no matter the exercise.
This super-customizable power rack sets you up to do everything from squats and bench presses to pullups. And with a series of attachments, it can grow as your workout evolves.
The ultimate in climate control for your garage gym, Mr. Cool’s mini-split is easy to install and features wireless controls. Perfect for any home gym space.
A perfect fan that can mount anywhere in your home gym and easily cool you off between sets.
These simple boots attach to your feet and allow you to load weights onto your ankles–big ones. That’s perfect for home leg curl and leg extension ideas.
An ultra-customizable open trap bar that can easily shift to accommodate different heights and grip styles–all for under $1000.
A specialty bar that lets you shift the position of the load to simulate goblet squats, front squats, and other variations, all while staying extra-friendly to your shoulders.
The comfort of an EZ curl bar with the length of a bar that can fit in any rack, making for extra-easy heavyweight biceps curls.
The latest innovation from the company that gave you the BOSU ball helps you hone your running stride with rhythm.
Super basic, but surprisingly powerful, this 1,500-watt space heater (good enough for 300-square feet) has a high and low setting (and fan only) and an adjustable thermostat. Aim it at your weights and kettlebells and at least your hands won’t freeze on polar training days.
Once your muscle-building gear is set, focus on recovering from every sweat. “You have to be able to bounce back from sessions,” says trainer J. Malik, who joined the Strength in Diversity Initiative last year. Choose one or two items, and work them into your routine at least once a week.
“It’s small, weighing just a pound. It fits into a roomy coat pocket—and still delivers three speeds of massage and up to 120 minutes of battery life.” — J. MALIK, TRAINER.
“Out with big, bulky air-compression boots and in with these ultra-slim sleeves. They still stimulate the lower body blood flow I need, but they store more easily—and travel great, too.” —EBENEZER SAMUEL, C.S.C.S., MH FITNESS DIRECTOR.
Done training? Time to don the Revive, a comfortable shoe with footbed nodes for blood flow and holes throughout its surface to enhance airflow and let your feet breathe.
Attack lower-back pain and soreness with a blend of heat and vibration from the Venom 2, which weighs only two pounds and provides three levels of heat to relax your lumbar.
Easy to assemble and super versatile, the Xebex sled uses magnetic resistance—which increases as you exert more force—and you can also boost the weight with plates, kettlebells, or sandbags. Bonus: You’ll get to know your neighbors better because they’ll see you grinding on the road and either ask in for some reps or if you’re OK and need help.
If you have a yard, use it! “Getting outdoors to push a sled or run challenges your body in new ways,” says trainer and Strength in Diversity member Jerry St. Louis.
Add up to ten pounds of resistance without the bulk and bounce that come with a typical weight vest. Omorpho’s GVest+ fits tightly to your body while still letting you move, whether you’re running sprints or doing pushups and burpees.
“I’ve pushed sleds on turf, and the Tank M1 matches up with that experience. I can push this on sidewalks, blacktop, or backyard grass and still get a crazy quad, glute, and hamstring pump.” — JERRY ST. LOUIS, TRAINER AND KETTLEBELL SPECIALIST.
“TRX’s Tactical Gym makes basic bodyweight moves like pushups and mountain climbers that much more challenging because of instability. It’s changed my workouts and helped me add serious core strength.” — BEN COURT, MH EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Unlike most battle ropes, Hyperwear’s does not need to be anchored to a post, but it still lets you attack battle-rope moves like slams, waves, and shuffles.
Your final move: Plug into the web. Grabbing a connected piece of cardio gear adds variety to your workouts—and injects community into your training, too.
“Peloton’s take on the rower delivers the smooth rowing experience I want, while offering a massive library of workouts. The Peloton Row has helped make rowing exciting.” — DAVID OTEY, C.S.C.S., MH ADVISOR.
The venerable 43-inch, full-HD-display unit has evolved: You can now take part in 10,000-plus workouts from eight fitness studios, including Rumble, Dogpound, and Pure Barre, all from the comfort of your own home.
Tempo’s tiny unit fits in the corner of any living room or family room. Open it and you instantly get enough weight to get started on your fitness journey–and access to a host of beginner-friendly workout classes.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men’s Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He’s logged training time with NFL athletes and track athletes and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. Before joining Men’s Health in 2017, he served as a sports columnist and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.
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