Build the home gym of your dreams on a budget

by fitness journalist

Have you always wanted to build your own home gym? In the past, the thought of having an in-house fitness facility was somewhat of a luxury. I remember watching the TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous as a kid, and admiring the celebrity-led tours which always included an extravagant exercise oasis. But for most viewers, Robin Leach’s highlight reel of resort-like recreation rooms was a far cry from reality. Instead, most of us who crave workout variety opted for gym memberships that offered tons of exercise equipment at a reasonable monthly rate.

But now, as COVID-19 concerns have caused many of us to pivot away from gym memberships in favor of a safer setting, having a gym under your roof isn’t such an opulent concept anymore. Especially if you have an exercise expert that can handpick which workout pieces are worthy of your time and money.

Between COVID-19 anxieties and colder weather tempting us to stay indoors, now is the perfect time to design your very own home-based health center in a small space. Everything on your shopping list can be found at your local discount store and — once you know what to do with it — your low-priced gear can works just as well, if not better, than those big-ticket fitness machines found at a gym. Not to mention, you’re more likely to work out from the convenience of your home.

In just 10 minutes browsing around a popular discount department store, I walked away with these all-star workout staples for under $50:

Jump ropes are inexpensive, tiny enough to toss into a drawer, and provide a killer cardio workout that rivals most aerobic machines on the market. In just 10 minutes, you can burn more calories than running, improve your cardiovascular health, boost bone density, and strengthen your coordination.

When working out at the gym, it’s common to concentrate more on cardio and weight training than on fit factors like balance. And yet, balance is an essential exercise element for staying healthy and avoiding fall-related injuries.

By incorporating a stability ball into your workout, you can take a basic exercise like a seated shoulder press to the next level by forcing the core muscles to work overtime to support and stabilize the body while you sit on the ball. It’s an entirely different, and better, exercise experience than practicing a shoulder press with a machine that does very little to engage your core.

One of the most important fitness skills to master is having total control over your muscles while they’re in motion. This is achieved by having and maintaining proper form. Learning how to isolate targeted muscle groups, like the biceps during a biceps curl, helps strengthen this area and prevents recruiting nearby muscle groups for momentum. A common mistake is when exercisers rock the entire body to lift a heavy weight into a biceps curl.

A helpful tool for targeted strengthening is a resistance band. This apparatus is safer and places significantly less stress on the joints than free weights, kettlebells, or weight machines. Plus, you won’t run the risk of dropping heavy weights on yourself if you lose your grip. (Though you will want to check your bands with each use to ensure there are no tears that could cause them to snap.)

Bands come in a variety of shapes and sizes. I’d suggest buying two shorter looped bands and two longer ones with handles (one light and one heavier) for versatility.

Free weights

While resistance bands provide a unique opportunity for safer strength training and to help tinier muscle groups grow, they won’t stimulate the same sort of muscle growth as free weights. If your gym hiatus has you longing for those big pieces of equipment like the Smith or chest press machine, you can rest easy knowing you’ll get a better workout performing the same exercises with free weights.

Seated weight machines are ideal for those who need spinal support or have difficulty standing. Outside of that, they don’t do much to promote a total body workout. They can also be dangerous when not calibrated correctly to your stature, placing pressure on the joints. But by using a set of free weights to power up, you can safely move within your personal range of motion, enhance your core strength, and augment your mind/body relationship in the process.

You don’t need to break the bank to break a sweat. Just be a smarter shopper.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach in South Jersey. Learn more about her virtual training program at .

This content was originally published here.

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