While we may dream of enjoying a fully equipped squat rack, dumbbell set, and cable machine in the comfort of our own home, most of us just don’t have the room to spare and probably never will. But what if everything you need for serious results could easily fit in a hall closet—and still leave room for your coats?
We know what you’re thinking: Dinky things like kettlebells and bands just aren’t enough to create the heavy loads required to build serious strength and mass. But you’d be surprised. More and more, it’s becoming clear that what produces results is tension, not numbers on a bar.
Our challenge to you: Build a home gym using only the items on this list, train hard for a couple of months, and then compare your results to what you built with bigger, more expensive bars and machines. If you’re not ready to commit, try them in the gym first to see how you like training with them before you make the investment—which, as it happens, is also pretty small.
1. Kettlebell Kings Adjustable Kettlebell
The versatility of a kettlebell is borderline ridiculous, and when that kettlebell is adjustable in weight, that versatility grows exponentially. While you may be more familiar with conditioning moves like kettlebell swings, they can also be used for all types of presses and pulls. While the kettlebell diehards may hesitate to acknowledge it, these weights are even fantastic for hammer curls and overhead triceps extensions.
One kettlebell will do the job, but a pair will give you more options and let you do programs like Hannah Eden’s incredibly popular BodyFit Elite programs FYR and FYR 2.0. Simply picking the most commonly recommended weights (19 or 26 pounds for women and 35 or 44 pounds for men) is a fine approach, but Kettlebell Kings’ adjustable kettlebell is a great place to start, as well. It’s both easy to adjust and a comfortable shape, whereas other kettlebells can sometimes be awkward, blocky, and jab into the forearm.
Key Moves: clean and presses, rows, squats, deadlifts, swings
2. Undersun Bands
We’ve sold—and tried—lots of bands at Bodybuilding.com, and these are without a doubt the toughest and most durable we’ve had in our store. They’re also the easiest to find in your house or gym bag, thanks to the electric orange color.
You can go full band-guy like James Grage and have great results, but bands also help to make everything else more effective. For example, if you max out that adjustable kettlebell for your presses, looping a band around your foot and the body of the bell will solve that in no time. Same goes for goblet squats, deadlifts, curls—they’re all tougher, and better, with a band.
Key Moves: Lateral raises, presses, banded push-ups, band-assisted push-ups and pull-ups, squats, curls, triceps extensions
3. GoFit Pull-Up and Chin-Up Station
If your house is currently bar-free, is it even a home? The GoFit pull-up/chin-up station gets rave reviews in our store both for its functionality and for the fact that it doesn’t rip up your walls and doorways like chintzier models. It can handle light and heavy bodies safely, and gives the shoulder-friendly option of a neutral grip as well as overhand and underhand.
Pro tip: While the jury is out on whether band-assisted pull-ups will make you better at pull-ups, there’s no doubt that they’re a great overall back-builder and alternative to a lat pull-down. Do them for reps without shame, no matter how good you are at pull-ups.
Key moves: Pull-ups, chin-ups, neutral-grip chin-ups, band-assisted pull-ups, dead hangs, active hangs
4. Yoga Direct Premium Yoga Mat
No matter what type of athlete you are, you need a quality yoga mat in your life. Not only is it essential for yoga (duh), it’s also the ideal location for a dynamic warm-up, a deep-breathing cool-down, and all that mobility work you like to do while binge-watching “Gilligan’s Island”—er, “Stranger Things.”
Key moves: Downward dog, upward dog, warrior pose, plank, side plank, world’s greatest stretch
5. Harbinger Pro Speed Rope
Here’s something that boxers have always known, but that you may have forgotten sometime since childhood: Jumping rope always has been, and always will be, the best warm-up, period. It raises your heart rate; activates the glutes, grip, and shoulders; and dials you in for whatever you’re about to do.
You can also alternate it with other exercises for extra fat loss, and once you start to get good at it, progress toward badass moves like double-unders and cross-overs. It’s cardio, power, athleticism, and let’s face it—it’s just fun. Get a good rope and do your best to wear it out.
Key moves: Basic jumps, alternating jumps, single-foot jumps, cross-overs, double-unders