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5 Simple things you need for an at-home gym

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Pandemic price-gouging on fitness equipment is rampant, but you don’t need to spend a lot to get an effective workout.

Now more than ever, paying attention to our spiritual, mental, and physical health is crucial to maintaining our sanity and wellness. With gyms around the nation either still closed or open in limited capacity, many of us are looking for effective, affordable ways to replicate our gym workouts at home. Supply and demand is an absolute pain at times like these, unfortunately. As the demand for everything from dumbbells to pull-up bars has skyrocketed, so have prices. Dumbbells in particular are being sold for exorbitant rates, leading to frustration and an unfortunate sense of fitness futility—which is the last thing we need in a time when we’re all stressed and in need of some cortisol release. 

So I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a boatload of fancy and expensive equipment to get a workout at home — one that’s as effective, if not more so, than anything you could get at a gym. 

1
A Mat

The number one thing you need to exercise at home is a mat. It doesn’t have to be fancy – even a simple yoga mat will do. You just need something that provides cushioning to protect your elbows for things like plank holds and your knees when getting full range of motion in lunges. Avoid relying on carpet for cushioning — both because carpet burn is real, and because carpet is absorbent. I don’t know about you, but when I workout, I sweat. A lot. The slick surface of a yoga mat can easily be wiped down with Clorox wipes afterward, but no such trick exists for getting sweat stains and odors out of carpet. Yuck!  

2
Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are a fantastic piece of equipment. Their versatility is practically limitless – they can be used for mobility and flexibility as well as in place of dumbbells and barbells for strength training. Resistance is an incredibly important component of any exercise program, as resistance strengthens both your bones and your muscles. I recommend getting a set of resistance bands with varying degrees of resistance, because you’ll need heavier resistance for major muscle groups (think squats) but less resistance for smaller muscle groups (think bicep curls). 

3
A Jump Rope

If you want the most bang for your buck, you can’t go wrong with a simple jump rope. Jumping rope is one of the most effective and efficient cardiovascular exercises you can do that requires very little space. Additionally, you get the extra benefit of hand-eye coordination and agility training. The difficulty level when it comes to jumping rope can be scaled up or down practically endlessly — you can start with simply stepping over the rope before you work your way up to two-footed hops. Once you’ve mastered that, move onto learning pogo jumps and double-unders. Or focus on stability by jumping on one leg at a time, then agility by adding in scissor kicks and hop scotch jumps. When it comes to jumping rope, the sky is the limit — plus, it’s fun! 

4
A Sturdy Chair

A sturdy, solid chair or a low bench is one of my absolute essentials for home workouts. Not only can use this for things like step ups, which are fantastic for lower body strengthening and cardio conditioning, but you can also use elevation to scale anything in a plank position, from push-ups to plank jacks. Rather than dropping to your knees (which cuts off your lower core engagement) place your hands on a chair or bench when you go into plank, making sure you maintain a flat back and straight line from your head to your toes. As you get stronger, you can scale the elevation down until you’re able to do full push-ups on your hands and toes.

5
A Mirror

This often-overlooked piece of equipment is absolutely essential when you’re working out on your own, without the benefit of a trainer. Checking your form in a mirror is the best way to make sure you’re doing exercises correctly. Everything from squats and lunges to rows and deadlifts can go from beneficial to detrimental if your form is compromised. Check yourself in the mirror at the bottom of every rep, paying particular attention to maintaining a flat back and keeping your shoulders back and down, away from your ears. This will not only teaching you proper biomechanics, but it will also keep you safe from inadvertent strain or injury. 

 

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