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Home Gym Essentials: Must Haves for Every Home Gym

February 07, 2024

Home gym essentials article

If you’ve taken the jump and decided to build your own home gym – then kudos to you. Having a place where you can work out in the comfort of your own home is such a luxury.

If you’ve got the space, then building your own home gym is such a brilliant investment. Gone are the times you have to drive half an hour to the gym only to wait 15 minutes to get on your desired machine because the only time you’re able to find time for working out happens to be the same time everyone else in the town finds time for working out. Forget all that, we move.

Building your own gym allows you to be efficient as possible when it comes to working out. We all lead busy lives. Work, family and social commitments take up the majority of our time, leaving us limited hours to be able to work towards our fitness goals.

Having a gym in the comfort of your own home allows you to get in and out as soon as possible. No, we don’t mean you should rush your sessions – it just means you don’t have unwanted downtime by waiting for the machine you want to become free.

It also allows you to take advantage of pockets of time you may have available during the day. Got 45 minutes before you’re going out with some mates? Heck, that’s more than enough time for a quick pump!

Today we’ll be taking you through the most important, and the slightly less important gym essentials everyone needs for the ultimate home gym.

Table of Contents
Must have home gym equipment
High priority home gym equipment
Final thoughts

 

Home Gym essentials

The way we’ve structured our list is simple. Firstly, we have the Must Haves. As the name suggests, these are the items we ‘Must have’, the ones we can’t do without.

Secondly, we have High-Priority items. These are the items that we should get if our budget and space permit.

And lastly, we have the Wants. These are the items that are not critical to our training programme, but they’d be nice to have.

Let’s get into it.

 

Must-Have Gym Equipment

Barbell and weights – Must Have Number 1

Kick-starting the list with arguably the most important piece of gym equipment one can own – the barbell and weights. Such a simple, yet one of the most effective pieces of equipment.

The reason it’s so good is because of how versatile it is. You can literally train every single main muscle group in the body with this one piece of equipment. Let’s see how:

  • Chest – Floor Presses
  • Back – Bent Over Row, Deadlifts
  • Legs – Squat, Deadlifts, Lunges
  • Shoulder – Military Press
  • Arms – Barbell curl, Skull crushers
  • Glutes – Hip Thrusts

We’re not going to list every exercise, but you can see how we’ve got every body part covered just by owning a barbell.

If you’ve read any of our other articles, you’ve likely heard us badger on about how important progressive overload is. But we’ll cover it quickly here for those who have just stumbled on our blog.

Progressive overload is a training principle that involves progressively making training harder over time. This continued progression allows the body to continually adapt to the increasingly difficult demands placed on it. If we didn’t apply progressive overload, the body would initially adapt to the new training stimuli – but then stop adapting and progress would plateau. Continued overload is required for continued progression.

Progressive overload can be introduced in many different ways including: increasing the number of reps, increasing the number of sets, reducing rest times and increasing workout frequency (to name a few). But, the most common, and considered by many to be the best method is by increasing the resistance. This is likely due to the idea that building strength has positive effects on building muscle.

So, no matter what our goal, whether we’re looking to build muscle or lose fat; progressive overload should be applied.

The reason why this is relevant here is that the barbell is a great example of how easy it is to apply progressive overload. When starting out, the weight of the bar itself may be enough resistance for some exercises. Over time, our body will adapt to the weight of the bar (by growing stronger/bigger) and the resistance will no longer challenge us. It’s at this time that we need to increase the resistance by adding additional weights to force our bodies to continually adapt.

It is this continued progress that drives us forward and gets us closer to our dream physique.

Our recommendations:

Begginer:

Beginner barbell and weights

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Advanced:

Advanced barbell and weights

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Adjustable Dumbbells – Must Have Number 2

The second and last Must have on our list is the adjustable dumbbell. A relatively new invention that has grown in popularity over the last 5 years and you can see why. Again – simple yet unbelievably effective.

You probably see a theme here. You don’t need these fancy all-in-one multi-gym transformer machines to achieve your ideal body. There’s a reason barbells and dumbbells have remained staple bits of equipment in gym goers routines for decades – they just work!

Similar to the barbell, dumbbells allow you to perform a plethora of different exercises. Some of these include:

  • Chest – Dumbbell Press, Dumbbell Fly
  • Back – Deadlifts, Single Arm Row, Bent over row, pullover
  • Legs – Squat, Deadlifts, Lunges
  • Shoulder – Dumbbell shoulder press, Lateral fly, Rear delt fly
  • Arms – Bicep curls, Concentration curls, Triceps extensions
  • Glutes – Hip Thrust, Donkey kick, Lunges

You get the picture. We’d be here all day if we were to try and name all the different possible dumbbell exercises available to us.

The adjustable dumbbells, just like the barbell, are also great for progressive overload. For each exercise start with a weight you’re comfortable with, and once you’ve hit your desired rep range (eg. 3 sets of 10-12) increase the weight and stick at it until you can again hit your desired rep range (this can take weeks/months). As you get stronger, providing your diet is in check, you’ll begin to notice your body composition changing for the better.

The adjustable nature of the dumbbell means that we no longer need to splash out on multiple sets of dumbbells. We may be in a position where we can chest press 25 lbs but we need 35 lbs for lunges. Rewind a few years and we would have to purchase multiple sets of dumbbells or make do with the limited sets we had and make extreme weight jumps to our next available set. Now we can slowly increase the weights as/when we’re ready – happy days.

If space is also a concern, the adjustable dumbbells take up no space at all. Simply get them out when needed and store them away when you’re done.

Our recommendation:

Adjustable dumbbells for home gym

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High-Priority Gym Equipment

Moving onto the high-priority gym equipment. The equipment isn’t vital but can make things a lot easier if we had them in our gym. If you’ve got the space, and the budget permits, we highly recommend getting the following pieces.

 

Squat Rack – High Priority Number 1

The squat rack provides a safe environment to continue to progress with our lifts. As we progress from newbie to more of an intermediate lifter you’ll notice that you’ve become a lot stronger and the once heavyweights have now become relatively easy.

We therefore need to think about upping the weight so that we continue to progress towards our fitness goals.

Lower body training involves exercises that require the barbell to be placed on our back (lunges, squats, good mornings etc etc). When starting our lifting journey owning a barbell would suffice as we could lift it over our head and place it onto our back. Now we’re in the position to work with larger weights, it’s no longer possible (or safe!) to do so.

Owning a squat rack or power rack means that you can safely load up the bar without worrying about how you’re going to get it on your back. It also means you can push yourself closer to failure as the squat rack safety bars will be there to protect you should you actually fail on a rep.

Many squat racks on the market are not just squat racks. Many have other features such as integrated pull-up bars – which is awesome considering pull-ups are a great exercise for building muscle in the back (it’s the 5th exercise in the 5 king exercises). Some also come with pulley systems that allow you to perform an abundance of other exercises.

Lastly, the squat rack allows you to push yourself to your limits on exercises such as bench presses, and shoulder presses. Simply set the safety bars to the required height and we’re off – it’s time to hit a new PB!

Our recommendation: 

Squat rack for home gym

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If you don't have room for a full-on power cage in your home gym setup, the half rack is a great space-saving alternative, or you can take things a step further and invest in a folding squat rack!

 

Adjustable Weights bench – High Priority Number 2

The second high-priority item on our list is the Adjustable weights bench. The bench allows us to have a comfortable platform to perform our chest presses and shoulder presses; gone are the days of laying uncomfortably on the floor.

Opting for performing chest press on a bench over the floor means that you can perform a larger range of motion as the elbows are no longer restricted by the floor. This added range of motion will increase muscle activation and thus aid in building muscle.

The adjustable nature of the bench also allows you to target muscles from different angles. Using the chest press as the example again, setting the bench to a 30-degree angle will focus more on targeting the upper chest fibres, an area which may well be underdeveloped if you have been unable to perform the exercise before.

Exercises such as Bulgarian split squats, hip thrusts, dumbbell rows etc require the use of a platform to be able to perform the exercise. The bench is the perfect tool for the job, especially for the hip thrust that requires a soft surface to place the shoulder while you drive heavy weights up into the air. Previously you have been forced to make do with household furniture such as a dining chair which simply doesn’t provide the stability to perform the exercises safely.

 Our recommendation:

Adjustable weights bench for home gym

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Weight Plates – High Priority Number 3

High-priority item number 3 – additional weights place. Depending on whether you purchased the beginner barbell set or the advanced barbell set mentioned in Must-Have item No.1, you may require additional weight plates. 

If you opted for the Advanced Barbell set then you can skip this section as the barbell comes with an additional 255 lbs of weight plates, which is more than enough for most people. 

But if you went for the Beginner barbell set then you'll only likely only have enough weights for the first 6-12 months of training. You see, over time you’ll get stronger, and it’s likely the weights that once felt heavy are now a walk in the park. 

You know the importance of progressive overload so when our current weights no longer challenge us, we need to increase how much weight we’re putting on the bar. If we don’t increase our numbers, then you’ll probably see your progress start to plateau.

The Beginner barbell set bar is 1 inch, this is important to note when buying additional plates as the hole in the plate needs to match the bar diameter. 

Our recommendation:

1 inch weight plates

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The Final Say

And there we have it, the essential equipment for our home gym to improve performance and build the body we desire.

While there are hundreds of pieces of gym equipment out there on the market, the equipment we have covered today are the first 5 pieces of equipment we would recommend for any home gym. They allow you to perform hundreds of different exercise variations and target every muscle group in the body.

Any equipment on top of what we’ve listed today is just a bonus. You will be more than capable of achieving your goals with just the 5 pieces listed today; they truly are the home gym essentials.  

 

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Thomas D
Thomas D

Author

Thomas is a dedicated fitness enthusiast with over 12 years of experience in the gym. As a level 2 qualified gym instructor, he combines his passion for working out and nutrition to help others achieve their fitness goals. Thomas stays up to date with the latest fitness research and follows the work of top experts in the field. With a balance of textbook knowledge and real-life experience, he provides practical guidance to help others reach their full potential.



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