10 Home gym essentials on a budget
If you don’t have access to a well-equipped gym, a home gym is a good investment. While equipment matters, you can get great strength and muscle-building workouts in the privacy of your own home with these 10 home gym essentials, on a budget that won’t break the bank.
The truth about bodyweight exercises is that they have very limited application if your goal is to get stronger and/or build muscle. There is no method of progression once you’re past the beginner stage, and certain muscle groups simply can’t be trained without weights.
That being said, you don’t need to let a lack of expensive exercise equipment in the gym stand in your way of getting started on a workout program.
Related Content on home gym training to achieve fitness over 50:
- How To Achieve Excellent Fitness Over 50 in 90 Minutes A Week
- The Ultimate Strength Training Program For Over 50 To Start Feeling Great Now
- Is It Even Possible To Build Muscle Over 50?
- Super Effective Workouts For Men Over 50 (That Won’t Take All Day To Do)
#1. Adjustable dumbbells
This will be your most important, and most costly expenditure. You must have a source of progressive resistance for your exercise routine to build muscle and strength – bodyweight exercises alone won’t do it.
Adjustable dumbbells are perfect for a home gym because they only take up the space of 1 set of dumbbells, but the resistance can be progressed from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds. The Bowflex SelectTech 552 is the set we have used at Rock Solid Fitness with good results. You just twist the dial on each end to select the weight you want, lift the handle and you’re ready to train. Note: If you can’t find them on Amazon (which happens sometimes), you can get them directly from Bowflex here.
#2. Physio-ball/Swiss Ball
The swiss ball will allow you to perform wall squats with the ball behind your low back as your lower body push exercise to strengthen your hips and legs safely and effectively. You can also use it to perform low back extension. They come in different sizes, I recommend the 55 cm ball. CAUTION: do not sit or lay down on the swiss ball for upper body exercises, that’s very dangerous!
Note: To learn more fitness tips and how to get stronger after 50 without getting hurt or wasting time, get my free report “The New Rules of Strength Training Over 50” by clicking HERE.
#3. Pull up bar
A sturdy doorway pull up bar lets you strength train your back, shoulders and biceps by doing pull ups with various grips. I recommend either an underhand (palms facing you) grip, or a parallel (palms facing each other) grip.
This type can also be removed from the doorway easily and used as push up bars – much more comfortable on the wrists when doing pushups.
#4. Fitness step
Fitness steps were popularized in the 1980’s when group “step classes” were all the rage. You want one that has a couple of removable risers so you can alter the height of the step, and you also want to make sure you get the “health club size”, which is 42.5 inches long, rather than the regular size which is only 29 inches long. (Here’s the one I have). This extra length will give you much more versatility.
The step is useful for leg strengthening exercises such as the wall squat with swiss ball described above – notice in the picture of the wall squat the trainee has the step under him to lift the weights from comfortably, and he can simply place them on the step when he’s done, which keeps him safe.
The step can also be used for calf raises, either with both feet for beginners, or one leg at a time while holding a dumbbell for more advanced trainees.
#5. Floor mat
A padded floor mat will allow you to perform various abdominal exercises comfortably. One like this will work great.
If you’re using my Stay Strong Forever strength training program, a floor mat will be essential for your lumbar stabilization exercises, and you can also do your static neck flexion, shoulder external rotation, and hip stretches on it.
If you have a compact home gym space, these mats can be rolled up and put away in between workouts.
#6. Wrist roller
Grip strength is something that tends to naturally diminish as we get over 50. You can build your grip strength back up using a simple grip strengthening tool called a wrist roller, which you can make yourself for under $10 using materials purchased at a home improvement store.
If you’d like to see exactly what you’ll need and how to make a PVC wrist roller, check out this post:
#7. Free weight plates
Remember earlier I said that a requirement for building muscle through strength training is progressive resistance. You can’t do the exact same exercises in the exact same way over and over and expect to gain muscle and strength. You have to challenge your muscles and continuously be striving to do more reps, more weight, or both on every exercise in your strength training routine.
An easy way to do that on some exercises, such as the wrist roller mentioned above, floor crunches, and back extension, is to add resistance using small free weight plates. Starting your collection with a 2 1/2, a 5, and a 10 pound pound plate will hold you over for a while. By holding more than one plate at once, you can add 7 1/2, 12 1/2, 15, or 17 1/2 pounds to the exercise.
Free weight plates have become expensive and hard to find since the pandemic started. Your best bet is checking used sporting goods stores, or online classified ad sites like Craigslist.
#8. Workout bench
An adjustable workout bench is a huge addition for a complete home gym. Having one in your compact home gym space will vastly increase the number of exercises you can perform, which will give you more complete muscular development, keep your motivation high, and help keep your workout plan sustainable.
Adjustable means you can alter the angle of the bench to enable you to lay flat, at an incline, or sit upright with full back support.
This one folds up easily for storage, has a 700 pound weight limit, and can also be adjusted into a decline position for advanced abdominal exercises.
#9. Dumbbell stand
You could probably live without this one if you had to, but your back will thank you many times over the long haul if you get it, because it will save you from having to lift your dumbbells off the floor all the time. If you have the space and are committed to your strength training program, you’ll definitely want this stand for your adjustable dumbbells.
#10. The right playlist
In addition to the right equipment and a sound strength training program, we all need some workout motivation. Many times music can provide inspiration that propels you to a higher level of performance in your workouts.
Here are a few of my favorites from my “Get Your Mind Right” playlist:
“Champion” by Clement Marfo & The Frontline
“Right Now” by Van Halen
“Going The Distance” from Rocky Soundtrack
Conclusion – 10 home gym essentials on a budget
So there you have it – 10 home gym essentials on a budget that can get help you stay strong, rebuild yourself and live a full, active life after 50. If you’re just starting out, start at the beginning of the list and add items as your budget allows. You can get stronger training at home, you just need figure out the best home exercise equipment for your budget, and get on the right strength training program.