Favorite Things for Home Exercise

Buying home fitness equipment can be a tricky business. So many choices are out there...how do you know what to get? Over the years, I've spent a lot of money on home fitness equipment. As a result, I've found a few things that stand out and that have become staples in my home workouts. Check out my top 10 favorite things for home exercise.

Walk into any Walmart, Target or sporting goods store and you'll find an overwhelming number of exercise balls to choose from. My favorite exercise ball is actually one you can't find in stores. Made by Paul Chek, this ball is more expensive than the others (from $50 to $70). But I like it because it is made of sturdy material and it's firmer than other balls. I've had mine for going on 10 years and it's still strong. Of all the exercise balls I've tried, this is my favorite and well worth the price if you want durability and a firmer surface.

The BOSU Balance Trainer seems like an odd piece of equipment, but it's one of the best additions to my home gym in a long time. I costs about $100 - $150, but it's well worth it if you're ready to take it to the next level. You can use it for a huge variety of exercises from cardio to core work and strength training to balance training.

It may seem like one resistance band is as good as another, but my favorite tubes and bands are made by Spri. They're made of high-quality rubber, which means they have a great mix of tension and give so you can get a good workout without being too uncomfortable. If you order the deluxe version, they come with padded handles, which is a major plus.

A range of dumbbells is also a necessity when setting up a home gym. There are tons of different kinds of dumbbells -- rubber, chrome, vinyl, etc. But I like the good old-fashioned iron hex dumbbells. They're not as pretty as the vinyl weights, but they're the cheapest weights to get and they work just fine if you use some weightlifting gloves to protect your hands. I've found they're cheapest at Walmart so get several sets -- from 3 to 25 pounds would be ideal for your home gym.

Another essential in my home gym is a barbell set. Some people are afraid of barbells because they think they're only for bodybuilders. But, anyone can use barbells. They're great because they allow you to lift more weight and work your body in different ways. I found my 100-pound set at a sporting goods store, but you can order one like the set pictured here - just be aware of pricey shipping costs. I like the standard set rather than the larger Olympic set (the Olympic bar is much longer and heavier) for the average exerciser. It's much more user friendly and you won't need a rack or a spotter (depending on what you're doing and how much weight you're using, of course).

I've had a few heart-rate monitors in my time and some great ones are out there. However, the only brand I use is Polar Heart Rate monitors.  They have so many choices, you can find a basic model that just gives you a heart rate reading, or you can spend a lot more money on a fancy schmancy watch that will measure heart rate, distance, GPS location and how many fat cells are exploding during your workout.  Okay, maybe not that last one, but that would be cool.

Medicine balls are a great tool in any home gym just to add something a little different to your workouts. You can hold one while you do crunches or squeeze it between the knees while you're doing squats. It helps to have different medicine balls ranging from 4 to 10 pounds, but start with one and work your up from there.

I bought a step over 10 years ago and it's still in excellent shape. It's also the one piece of equipment I regularly use. I like the Step because you can use it for a variety of activities -- as a weight bench, for lower body work and, of course, for step aerobics. If you're not into step aerobics, you might prefer a weight bench. But, even if you don't like step aerobics, you can still use it for basic cardio...perfect for circuit training.

Workout logs are another thing I can't resist buying but rarely actually use. That is, until I got The Ultimate Workout Log. I love it because it's simple. I don't have to read pages of instructions to figure out how to use it and I can track whatever I want -- cardio, weights and even my meals. It's portable, it will withstand plenty of sweat (believe me, I know) and it's cheap.


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