The Best Home Gym Exercise Equipment for Your New Year’s Resolution
Posted Dec 30 2008 11:49am
To continue my recommendations of the best home exercise and workout programs for your New Year’s resolutions, no program is complete without the proper equipment. If you haven’t read my post on the best home workouts, there is some information on recommended programs that you can follow at home. This post will overview some of the best home gym equipment to supplement these programs This is another area of interest to me as I often use many of these tools everyday with my patients and athletes, as well as for my own personal fitness. All of these products are excellent for the home gym, and to be honest with you, could very well be the best home gym equipment currently available. The biggest benefit for me is that you do not need stacks of weights or a giant machine system, all you need is a very little amount of closet or basement space to store the equipment.
I was a little skeptical at first, thinking that the Perfect Push Up wasn’t really that exciting and that it would offer minimal advantages over just doing a push up on the ground. I was wrong. A strength coach I work with actually bought a couple of these and we travel with them for all of our athletes to use. The Perfect Push is really good and makes a push up far more valuable by adding the dynamic component of internal rotation as you extend your arms. This is results in a great burn in your pecs and a much better workout. I don’t follow the Navy Seal program that is touted and included, I just use them to enhance my push ups in my workouts. I use them for standard, wide grip, narrow grip, declines, and any other variation of a push-up you can imagine. You’ll be able to do a few less reps as you will be working your chest much better, but it will improve with time as you get stronger.
Since the push up exercise is such an extremely valuable and easy to use exercise for your chest, it is a component of many programs, such as the P90X program I previously talked about. In the P90X program, they recommend standard push-up bars, but if you are going to spend the $20, might as well upgrade to the Perfect Push Up for $10 more. You won’t regret it. They also have a small travel version, but for me the original feels better, and they are portable enough for me.
The two main components to any home workout or exercise program are push ups and pull ups. These exercise hit a large amount of muscle groups all in one and can be performed with many grip, arm, and body variations to work different areas of your body. I have always hated pull-up bars and other doorway devices as they seem to not be sturdy or need permanent attachment to a door frame. This includes the Perfect Pull Up from the makers of the Perfect Push Up. That really does look like a neat product, but I just do not want to attach it to my doorframe.
Then came the Iron Gym. This bar attaches to your door frame using a counterpoint system to attach easily and come right down with no installation. You put it up, do your exercises and take it right down. I was again skeptical and did a lot of research on this and you probably have the same questions I did, but YES, it can easily hold your weight, and NO, it will not damage your doorframe.
Again, pull-ups are a huge part of programs like P90X, so you will need something like this. The variety of different grips positions also makes this very versatile. There are others on the market but I just liked this one better and have enjoyed using it. Just realize that the other uses they claim on the infomercial are not realistic. If you try to use the bar for sit-ups it is OK, but you can likely find something better to put your feet under around the house. As far as the triceps dips go, if doing a 1-2 inch dip is a workout for you, then you will love it, otherwise it doesn't even come close! But, the Iron Gym best chin-up bar on the market in my mind.
You can actually get a very good workout with resistance bands, but if you are familiar with the physical therapy type elastic bands like TheraBand, these will not work as the resistance is too light and the quality is poor. Those bands are made to be cheap and quick, cut off a piece from a big box and you have a great disposable home exercise band.
There comes a point in anyone’s home workout program where the resistance bands may get a little too basic. You certainly don’t want to buy a whole set of weights, or worse, just buy a few and be stuck with those weights. These will take up a lot of wasted space in your house for no reason.
Or you could buy an integrated set, like the Bowflex Select Tech weight system. These are the new cream of the crop, but the classic Powerblocks are still good too. The two are interchangeable in my mind. I have a couple of sets of Powerblocks that have broken (which causes quite the safety concern) but we travel with them in large equipment trunks so there is excessive wear, probably be fine for just straight home use.
Do your self a huge favor if you have the space and buy the stand, makes it much easier. I don’t have the stand at home and hate lugging them out of the closet every time. Also, there are two varieties, a light one and a heavy one:
In an effort to be thorough, the supreme home gym equipment right now if the Bowflex Revolution FT Home Gym. If you have this much room in your house, good for you, I recommend this machine (and I doubt you live in an 80 year old colonial in New England…). But I realize this is unrealistic for most, so stick to the above mentioned items. Bowflex actually sent us one of their home gyms at ASMI to test it biomechanical, they are great machines. Wish I had the room.
Core and Abdominal Equipment
I do not really think you need to go crazy in this department. The core is really supposed to stabilize using isometric contractions while performing extremity movements or produce rotary movements, so most of ab work is eye-wash. I would recommend a good Swiss or Physio ball to perform some of your abdominal work. Alternatively you can use a Bosu ball, which has added benefits of being able to balance with it during leg exercises too. I wrote about the advantages of a Bosu in the past.
It might also be a good idea to get a medicine ball or two, may something in the 5-7.5 pound range and 10-15 pound range. This can be used for resistance as well as some plyometrics against a hard wall. Because of this I recommend a ball that bounces well, such as the the First Place Elite Medicine Balls that I use everyday.
Any good yoga program needs the right equipment. Luckily, this is simple and cheap to obtain these items:
A nice mat – make sure you don’t slide and also provide a little cushion. I am the knucklehead that tried to not use a mat, it is not a good idea.
Yoga blocks – for those that are not that flexible, like me, a block is useful to help balance when you can’t get into the exact position shown.
Nutrition is a big part of any home workout program, and will certainly help you achieve your goals. Review my past post on some of the best home workouts that have associate diets, such as P90X or my favorite, The Abs Diet.
In regard to supplements, you should consult your physician before taking anything. Also, I would only recommend supplements certified by the NSF to be clean of agents such as stimulants. I would also recommend you read up on this info to learn as much as you can, Men’s Health has many tips and books on this topic. As an example, here is what I commonly recommend to patients and athletes, may not work for you:
A good multivitamin. I personally use Centrum Performance. I have tried the GNC MegaMan brand and was disappointed. Save your money.
Protein. A huge part of your supplementation right after your workout to bath your muscles in reparative protein. I recommend EAS products such as the mix packets or if you are lazy like me the premade drinks, strawberry is my favorite. Careful with protein shakes, many are loaded with fat (such as Muscle Milk, that is why it tastes so good!) or sugar (such as Gatorade Shakes, again that is why they taste so good!). The EAS shakes taste fine, I wouldn’t call them a delight but they are not awful.
Muscle Armor – a post-workout supplement by EAS of amino acids to aid in muscle recovery. Loaded with Glutamine.
gHP Sport – This is the future of supplementation. gHP Sport is a blend of amino acids to be taken at night before bed that are designed to increase your body’s ability to repair and regenerate. Go to the web page for more information, I do not want to seem like I am recommended their claims. I started taking these this summer and immediately felt better, awaking with more energy and less stiffness. Many professional athletes are using this, especially since it is NSF certified. I sleep like a rock with them and many people say they sleep so well that they even intense dreams! We need to learn more about why it works, but it really does.
I hope this information was useful and at the very least, puts you in the right direction to continue your research into what the best home workout programs and exercise equipment are for you. As always, I welcome comments on these products if you have tried them, or any other suggestions for this list.