Home workout equipment doesn't have to be expensive or take up a lot of space. Here's what you really need for your home gym. It doesn't break the bank nor do you need to build an extra room on your house.
Free: Your Body
Some people laugh at me when I say for home workout exercises your most important piece of equipment is your body. But, honestly, it's true.
One of the greatest chest and triceps exercises, the push-up, requires nothing more than dropping to the ground and doing them. And if you are a beginner, you will be amazed how difficult step-ups and lunges done just with your body's weight are.
A Pair Of Dumbbells
If you want more variety you can't beat dumbbells. They are the most versatile piece of home workout equipment you can have. They are small, take up little space and you can exercise every body part under the sun with them: dumbbell presses work the chest, kickbacks are an isolation for the triceps, biceps curls for the biceps and step-ups do the legs - you name it.
What you want are dumbbells with solid handles and spinlocks, both made of metal, and changeable cast-iron plates, like my pair above.
Fixed-weight dumbbells you may soon outgrow and then end up having to buy another pair and another after that, while cheaper adjustable dumbbell sets sometimes have hollow handles, locks made of plastic and plates filled with sand. These aren't able to hold a lot of weight and wear out and those plates filled with sand are rather huge. You can't put more than a couple of them on one dumbbell - a sand-filled 10 lb plate has about the size of a cast-iron 20 lb plate.
With a bit of luck you can buy a used pair, otherwise have a look at the 40-pound dumbbell set right here, which strikes me as a good set for the price.
A Pull-Up Bar
It is one of the questions I have answered most often: "I don't have a pull-up bar, how can I replace them?" You can't. Really, I mean it. You cannot replace pull-ups.
The pull-up is the most basic and most important exercise you can do for your back. A cable pulldown may look similar, but the effects are different. In my experience people also cheat more easily on pulldowns than they do on pull-ups - with pull-ups you either get up or you don't, with pulldowns you may catch yourself leaning back.
A simple door-mounted pull-up bar will do the job admirably; the one in the link also allows for a wider grip. If you want the one from my videos that gets installed in a corner, check this link.
If these are not an option due to circumstances out of your control (significant others and parents sometimes are known to object), then with a bit of creativity you may still find a solution.
A Solid Board
Yes, a board. With a chair and / or some books a board serves as my inclined bench, preacher bench for preacher curls and platform for many other exercises.
Check this playlist for videos where it's prominently featured. My study has to double as my workout room and there simply is no space for a full-grown bench, let alone on top of that a preacher bench, which would just be used for two or three exercises.
You can get a board like this at any home improvement store, sometimes even for free, if it's a leftover piece of wood. Otherwise it should be around $5. Just make sure it's solid wood and not pressed wood or plywood - those will bend over time and may break at the most unfortunate moments.
Home Cardio Equipment?
Last but not least, let's not neglect cardio. In summer, this is a no-brainer: get a bike, roller skates, inline skates or a pair of running shoes (check here for some tips on those) or whatever else you need to do what tickles your fancy.
But what in winter? Running is not that much fun in eight inches of snow. You still don't need a stationary bike, elliptical trainer or treadmill to keep fit. If you can afford one of those and have the room, good. If not, think back to what kids liked to play with before there were Playstations, internet and, well, color television: jump ropes.
Jumping rope is fun and surprisingly difficult. At the beginning you'll worry more about where your legs and the rope are at any given moment. Later on you'll find that 10 minutes of it is one of the most exhaustive things you tried in your life. This rope here costs about ten dollars and should last you for a long time.
Adding It Up
If you buy from the links above and pay for the board, you spend the following for your home workout exercises: $60 for the dumbbells, $40 for the door-mounted pull-up bar, $5 for the board - a total of $105. If we assume that you also buy a good pair of running shoes for $50 and put down $10 for the jump rope, then we are at $165.
When you are a beginner, these $165 will get you through at least your first year of working out, perhaps even the second. After that all you have to do is buy some extra plates for your dumbbells, which will approximately cost another $50. Compare that to $600 per year for a gym membership or $3,500 for a home gym workout station. The latter isn't even ideal for a beginner or intermediate trainee, who should stick to free weights.
What If You Have No Money At All?
If you have absolutely no money to spend, it's still no reason to worry. Your individual home workout equipment is whatever provides a resistance to work against. All we have to do is improvise a little more. Here are some tips on that.