Trainer Favorites: 5 DIY Home Gym Must-Haves

Liz Merritt
January 2, 2018

Imagine having all the equipment at your fingertips to get that kickass head-to-toe workout done without even leaving the driveway. For less than the cost of most annual gym memberships, it can be done by creating a DIY home gym.

If you’re like me, it’s that time of the year when I revisit my fitness and health goals and plot out a course to make this my best year ever. Because my office hours are irregular, I want flexibility to get workouts done at home more often.

So I turned to BOOMbaby’s regular fitness contributors – all coaches or certified personal trainers – and asked them the same question: What’s the #1 piece of equipment you recommend for a home gym?

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DIY Home Gym Must-Haves

The responses ranged from cardio equipment to resistance bands. And each trainer made a great case for his or her favorite fitness tools. Here’s what they had to say and a few of my personal favorites. 

We’ll start with the basics. Each of these first four pieces of equipment cost between $25 – $100 and will serve you for years to come.


DIY Home Gym

Start out with a two to three pairs of dumbbells that will give you easy, moderate and heavier resistance.

J.R. Rosania, athletic trainer, coach and owner of Healthplex LLC, recommends a basic set of dumbbells for your home gym. Start out with a two to three pairs of dumbbells that will give you easy, moderate and heavier resistance to make modifying various exercises easy and efficient.

I have two types of dumbbells at home. Three pairs are lighter-weight neoprene-coated (about $55 for the set).

I also have a set of adjustable dumbbells where I can add or take off plates to make them heavier or lighter. A 40-pound adjustable set was plenty for me, and I think the $40 price-point is very reasonable. I like this set because it gives me a lot of combinations for just about every exercise. I can even use just the grip for extra-light work.


DIY Home Gym

Kettlebells provide diversity for both upper body, lower body and core workouts.

Coach Frank Sole, owner of Sole Swim Solutions triathlon training, said the one piece of home gym equipment he can’t live without a set of kettlebells. “Kettlebells give you such diversity for both upper body, lower body and core workouts,” he said.

I’m personally a big fan of having choices for my weight workouts, so I prefer having a set at of 3 kettlebells to choose from. This set includes 5, 10 and 15-pound kettlebells with a nifty base rack for about $40

BOSU Balance Trainer

DIY Home Gym

Balance and agility skills can be improved with stabilization exercises.

Balance, flexibility and stability expert Suzi Parmentier gave us three great essentials that she can’t live without. The first is a BOSU balance trainer. Parmentier is a certified personal trainer, post-rehabilitation specialist and stand-up paddleboard instructor, so she knows a thing or two about balance and strength.

As she says, “Balance and agility skills can be improved with age if we work on them. But just like anything, if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

The BOSU trainer is a slightly larger investment at about $100, and it’s well worth the investment for a DIY home gym. I’ve had mine for years, and it holds up just like it did the day I brought it home. A hit of air every so often, and we’re good to go.

Resistance Bands

DIY Home Gym

Resistance bands are easy-to-use, inexpensive, everyday exercise equipment for your DIY home gym.

Forever my favorite for at-home workouts and while traveling are a set of variable resistance bands with handles. These stow nicely hanging inside a closet door and pack up easily for anyone on the go.

Says Parmentier, “Resistance bands are an easy-to-use, inexpensive, take-with-you-anywhere, everyday exercise equipment. They’re that easy!”

This Fitness Insanity set  is one of my personal favorites because it has lots of resistance combinations – from easy to difficult – along with ankle bands and a door attachment. Plus, the handles are super comfy. It runs about $25 on Amazon.

Foam Roller

DIY Home Gym

Use a foam roller pre- and post-workout.

Another must-have for your in-home gym is a foam roller. Parmentier, along with Dr. Kevin Sherman, a Scottsdale-Ariz.-based sports chiropractor, can’t say enough about the benefits of foam rolling.

According to Dr. Sherman, the best time to use the foam roller is just before workout. Roll as a pre-stretch warm-up or as an alternative to stretching. He says for best results, us the foam roller at least four times a week, for short periods, making only three to five passes over each muscle area. For more information about how to foam roll properly, have a look at Dr. Sherman’s article here.

A good-quality foam roller won’t break the bank, at generally $20 or less, depending on the length. Here’s a link to one I have at home.

If You Had to Choose One Piece of Cardio Equipment …

DIY Home Gym

If you’re ready to invest in a piece of cardio equipment, go for the elliptical trainer.

Let’s finish off with the biggest investment – a piece of cardio equipment that covers all your bases. Rosania is a big fan of elliptical machines with arm bars. “It burns calories, works lower and upper body and provides a non-impact workout,” he says.

According to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, elliptical machines provide a variety of benefits over just about any other piece of cardio equipment, including less stress on the knees, hips and back.

Prices for elliptical machines vary, depending on the manufacturer. Expect to make a sizable investment  for a machine that will last you for a very long time.

In all practicality, if you opt outside for your cardio (running, hiking, a brisk walk, cycling, etc.), then assembling your home gym is very economical. For less than $250, you’ll get a leg up on your exercise goals in the comfort and convenience of home.

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