Working out at home is not without it’s challenges, but space and money shouldn’t be 2 of them. Today we’ll show you how to have an amazing home gym for under $100! This will be the best home gym on a budget. It will also be the best minimalist gym.

The 4 Biggest Problems with Home Gyms

1. Buying the wrong equipment for them. Most people when they start acquiring fitness equipment for their home gym see things they want and buy it without giving much thought to the why. I’ve honestly had more than one client ask me what type of treadmill they should buy. My first question is always, “Do you like to run or walk?” Most of the time the answer is, “No! I hate running”, or “I can’t because it hurts my….(insert ailment here)”. So why are you buying a treadmill????!!!!!

2. Knowledge of how to use the product/impulse buying. The other problem is that most people don’t know HOW to use their specific machine/contraption they just bought. They saw the sexy fitness models on the infomercial and knew in that moment they would look JUST…LIKE…THEM if they bought it. The equipment comes, they put it together, and then can’t figure out how to use it, or can only do one thing on it. But doing just one thing leads to injuries or boredom.

3. Spacing. Gym equipment takes up space. That’s a fact. Some more than others. The fact that you are putting this in your home usually means you are sacrificing some other pre-defined space. This re-vamping of the family room, or bedroom leads to cognitive dissonance and creates a disconnect to actually work out, but we’ve already written on that topic.

When looking for home gyms, you’ll see one of 2 camps. A-the biggest and best machine that will do everything. Problem is the space and cost. B-This machine can do most things, AND you can fold it up or tuck it away somewhere. So you’ll deal with machines that are either “out of sight, out of mind”, or not as stable/safe.

4. Progressive overload. If you spend $30 of a pair of 10 lbs dumbbells that’s great but limiting. You might not be able to use those 10 lb DBs for every lift-it might be too heavy for some muscle groups, but too easy for others. Classic example: someone buys 1 pair of dumbbells-let’s say 5’s. It might be just right to do shoulder raises, but it’s WAY too light to get any benefit for your legs. Weight machines help here because you can adjust the weights, but they’re still pricey and bulky.

What do you ACTUALLY need

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends adults recommend certain weekly minimum doses of different types of exercises to be a fit person all the way around. Some of these categories are aerobic fitness, flexibility, and neuromotor. For aerobic conditioning, we recommend doing your favorite activities: walking, gardening, hiking, biking, tennis, swimming, etc. Doing that a couple times a week will be sufficient. To work flexibility you don’t really need any specific or special equipment, even if you’re ‘tight’. Neuromotor work can be accomplished with some know-how and household items.

The biggest bang for your overall health and fitness is resistance training, aka lifting weights. The ACSM recommends working, ‘each major muscle group 2x/week’.

This is where those machines sound appealing, but many only work the ‘vanity’ muscles, you know, the ones you see in the mirror. Most neglect several major muscle groups.

What are the major muscle groups?

The easiest way to think of it is by grouping muscles into the fundamental movement patterns which are:

  • Pushing (horizontally and vertically)
  • Pulling (horizontally and vertically)
  • Squatting (sitting down and standing up)
  • Hip hinging (bending over)
  • Carrying/core (groceries, 30 lb pet food bag, etc)

The Solution

The last thing you want is that fancy and expensive piece of equipment being used as a clothes dryer and gathering dust. You’ll just resent it and yourself.

Stop the self-loathing!

With a little knowledge you can get some AMAZING results with very little equipment! Here’s our top recommendations

#1: Exercise/stability ball. $15-30.

This is SUCH a versatile piece of equipment. It’s for SO much more than crunches or sitting on it at your desk. You can use this as a weight bench (flat or inclined by dropping your butt), you can use it to help with leg exercises like the ball wall squat, or working your core doing the stir the pot plank.

#2: Monster bands. $5-20.

These are not the flimsy therabands you got 5 years ago from the physical therapist that only handle 2 lbs of pressure and crack/snap if they are over 8 months old. You can get them almost anywhere, but they are solid! If they start to wear out you can easily see it happening beforehand and it’s not a huge investment to get more. Honestly though, as a gym owner we replace a band about every 2 years and that with heavy daily use. It’s beneficial to get a couple in varying resistances.

For a minimalist home gym on a shoestring we recommend these over dumbbells because the variable resistance offered by the bands allows you to continually make an exercise harder so that you see progress. Once you can’t get any more tension on the band, move up to the next one. With just a few bands you’ve got yourself a HUGE range of resistance from 1 lb to 100 lbs. These are so compact I often pack one when going on a trip.

Bands are versatile enough you can use them to work every major movement pattern, making them a complete home gym.

#2a: As a side note, when using bands it’s helpful to have an anchor so that it doesn’t pull the chair over you were using. Ones like this work by using a closed door (in the door jam, by the hinge). $5-8.

There you have it, 2.5 pieces of equipment and you can actually get every major muscle group, minimize cost and space. You can’t use it dry your clothes on. You aren’t breaking the bank or budget when you come in at ~$70 (1 anchor, 1 ball, 2 bands).