The key to building a gym from scratch, says designer Brad Sherman, is to start small and keep it simple. Here’s exactly what you need to buy, and exactly where to buy it.
If you can’t afford fancy weights or machines, don’t fret—a jump rope burns fat, builds endurance, strengthens leg muscles, and improves coordination. The Lifeline Fitness weighted speed rope holds all its weight in the rope itself (not the handles) for smooth jumping, and trains you to increase your speed so tricks like double-unders come more easily.
Loop bands (as opposed to the tubing kind) are highly versatile. You can use them for resistance, assistance (like making pullups easier), prehab training, and stretching. Lightweight and malleable, bands can travel anywhere you go and fit easily into even the most cramped home gym space.
$75 for a starter package, ironwoodyfitness.com
The medicine ball is timeless: Toss it against a wall or on a floor to build power, play catch with a partner to work your abs, or use it like a dumbbell. We like the hard-shell type that bounces well. Bonus: Roll your legs, chest, and back on it for a post-workout massage.
$63 for a 12-pound ball, roguefitness.com
The famed TRX is arguably the best all-around home trainer money can buy. With just two looped straps suspended from a door, you can do almost limitless functional exercises—plus strength moves and stretching—that’ll work your entire body. And when you’re done using it, you can just stuff it in a drawer.
The simple dumbbell offers a huge range of motion, a ton of exercise possibilities, and the option to train one side at a time to correct imbalances. The hexagonal ’bells won’t roll away on you, and the rubber won’t damage the floor. They’re great for renegade rows and T-pushups, too.
$96 for a 40-pound pair of Rogue Rubber Hex dumbbells, roguefitness.com
The best gear you’ve never heard of. A pivoting sleeve, the LandMine holds one end of a barbell in place while you lift the other like you’re throwing a lever. Use it for squats, presses, rows, and a variety of other exercises. The arc the bar travels makes heavy training easy on your shoulders, lower back, and knees.
Nothing builds muscle like free weights. No, a set of iron isn’t cheap, but it’s an investment that will last you a lifetime and can evolve along with your needs and your workouts. Ivanko plates are among the most trusted brands (read: The plates weigh what they say), and the multi-openings allow for easy handling.
$532 for a full set, ivankobarbell.com
This bench has sturdy upholstery that won’t tear if you rest a weight on it and six different incline options. It’s even got wheels so you can move it out of view. But our favorite part is the lack of “pad gap”: When you incline the back rest, there’s no hole between it and the seat for your butt to slide through, making for better support.
Flimsy barbells bend and won’t fit some plates. But an Olympic bar offers years of heavy lifting and fits standard-size plates. Sorinex’s Naked Bar has medium-light knurling to fortify your grip for Olympic lifts (like cleans) and powerlifts (like deadlifts), plus oiled bushings so the sleeves spin properly.
$339 for the Naked Bar, sorinex.com