7 Essential Home Workout Tools

Chris Freytag by Chris Freytag | February 29th, 2012 | 18 Comments
topic: Fitness, Weight Loss

Balance BalLast week I wrote about keeping your gym membership and focusing on the gym amenities you really use. But if getting to the gym isn’t working for you, I suggest stocking your home with a few well-chosen pieces of exercise gear to help you start or maintain a consistent fitness regimen. Having your own gear handy puts you in control. It saves you time, since you never have to drive to and from the health club. It gives you a weatherproof alternative to outdoor activities like walking or biking. And it lets you squeeze in exercise in the morning before the kids wake up or in the evening while you’re watching your favorite TV show.

Many of us have bought strange fitness contraptions that took three hours to put together and are now tucked in a closet because they didn’t fulfill the promise of quick weight loss. Yet I talk to so many folks who say that lack of time is their excuse. I beg to differ … I tend to think it’s lack of preparation. My advice is to use the KIS method — Keep It Simple. Arm yourself with a few of these basic (yet effective) home workout tools, and you’re more likely to find the time to use them! You can do a few strength training moves or hop on the Mini Stepper with no advance planning and get a total-body workout right in your living room.

1. Resistance bands, cords or tubes

Covered Resistance CordRubberized resistance tools can help you build muscle just like hand weights. Even better, they’re easy to store and handy for traveling. Some resistance bands and cords come with a how-to DVD or CD; most come with a suggested exercise chart. The bands, cords or tubes themselves come in different colors that represent different levels of resistance and difficulty. Resistance bands are for everyone — from the beginner to the most advanced exerciser. Even the buff men who come to my classes are challenged by the bands!

2. Balance Ball, a.k.a. stability ball

Balance BallYou can use a ball for abdominal crunches and stretches or use it with hand weights or resistance cords as a substitute for a weight bench. When you sit on or lie across a Balance Ball or stability ball, you engage all the muscles in your core to keep yourself balanced. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I also sit on my ball in my office to relieve tension in my back.

Make sure you get an anti-burst or slow-deflate ball (all of Gaiam’s Balance Balls are made this way). Some of the cheap balls are made of such thin rubber that when or if they pop, they burst like a balloon!

3. Hand weights (dumbbells)

Mari Winsor Pilates BootcampWeights are great for building muscle and sculpting your body. One pair each of 3 lb. and 5 lb. dumbbells will be enough to get you going on a beginning strength-training regimen. Add 8 lb. and 10 lb. weights as your strength improves. Get a strength training DVD to give you instruction — or if you have a few exercises you like to do already, keep a chart and do them every other day for about 15 minutes. You’ll start seeing results quickly!

4. Yoga mat or “sticky mat”

Tree of Life Yoga MatThe surface of a yoga mat isn’t really sticky; it’s just a rubbery, non-slip material that makes it easier, safer and more comfortable to do yoga and other stretching exercises. Not to mention that the pretty designs are mood enhancers. My kids gave me a grass-green mat with a beautiful leaf print on it for Christmas, and every time I use it, I feel happy. A rolled-up yoga mat also works as a lumbar support to lie over on the floor after a stressful day.

5. Pedometer


I think by now everyone has heard that you should aim for at least 10,000 steps a day; that’s about five miles’ worth of walking. Two thousand steps is approximately one mile. Every step counts, whether you’re tidying up your house, shopping for groceries, walking the dog, or walking up and down the stairs at your office. Counting your steps with a pedometer is a great way to see how active you really are. The pedometer is a great mental game and a great motivator. When you wear one, you can’t help checking it to see how you’re doing!

6. Mini Stepper or other cardio equipment

Mini StepperPeople always ask me which cardio machine burns the most calories. And I always say: the one you’ll use the most! The more you like it, the longer you’ll stay on it. And the longer you stay on it, the more calories you’ll burn!

A Mini Stepper is a fun and affordable option. I challenged myself to use one for 15 minutes three nights a week to see what I thought, and I actually got a good but simple workout in front of my TV, not to mention a mood boost. Instead of feeling like a blob on the couch, you’ll burn up a few hundred calories with the Mini Stepper — yet it takes up hardly any space. Of course, if you have the cash for a treadmill or elliptical trainer, go for it. But the Mini Stepper is by far the best bang for the buck I’ve found for indoor cardio. A close second? The Trampoline Workout System. It takes up a little more space, but talk about fun!

7. Workout DVDs or online videos

Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30 DVDIf you like taking exercise classes, then pop a yoga DVD or fitness DVD into your laptop or DVD player and get moving. Exercise DVDs are also a fun way to get your kids involved. Kids love to join in, and it’s great family time. Even better, sign up for a GaiamTV.com online streaming video subscription. (It comes with a free 10-day trial so you can give it a try before you sign up.) Gaiam TV has hundreds of unlimited fitness videos, from traditional yoga and cardio workouts to dance and Pilates! You’ll get more variety than with DVDs, without the storage hassles.

All of these basics are simple to use and easy on the wallet. Of course the choices are up to you: what you’ll enjoy using, what you can afford and what you have room for. Just resist the temptation to pick up a few random items on sale; if the item is poorly constructed or doesn’t really interest you, it’s not a bargain. But whatever you choose, it’s never too late to get started on taking control of your health!

Stay Healthy,



  1. [...] Continued here:  7 Essential Home Workout Tools « Gaiam Blog [...]

  2. I agree with your statement that a resistance band workout is for everyone, but I have too note that not all resistance bands are for everyone. The Thera–bands, tubes, and off the shelf bands make for good advertising, but to get a real band workout you need high quality layered bands that are not bought over the counter.

    Terry Kamerer | July 24th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  3. All these tools are great, but you don’t even need tools to stay fit. You can use body weight exercises and you will get more fit than alot of guys who frequent the gym. Body weight exercises use core muscles which are important, and it develops a good sense of balance as well. i recommend people try this.

    Anonymous | July 24th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  4. Nice blog. But the mini stepper is not essential to be honest. i would say a jump rope is a lot more effective, other than that yeah good blog.

    Anonymous | October 30th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  5. I workout at home and am a big fan of resistance bands

    Chris Watson | November 25th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  6. I was thinking about getting the Weider x tower. It is similar to the resistance bands. but this article has a lot of good ideas.

    Gil | November 30th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  7. I am a firm believer in working out at home. I have lost over 40 pounds over the last year and did it all at home. Check out my website for ideas but there are literally hundreds of things you can do. It’s not just dumbbells and exercise wheels anymore.

    Brian | February 21st, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  8. Chris,

    I definitely find that owning my own equipment does save me that gym travel time. My favorite cardio piece is a simple speed jump rope. I use my laptop as a timer and a quick notation on my workouts. Thanks for listing these in your tips.


  9. Among the list I have 6 out of 7 items. I’m not yet sure where to buy the best Mini-stepper or other cardio equipment. Till now I’m seeking online for good references. Can you tell me what brand is the best? I really wanted to buy one for my daily exercise.

    Matt | April 29th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  10. Hi Matt – Our Mini Stepper with Resistance Cords gets great reviews from our customers: http://www.gaiam.com/product/mini+stepper+with+resistance+cords+plus+bonus+cd.do?SID=WG117SPRTAPEMACS&extcmp=life_prod.

    - Valerie, Assistant Web Editor, Gaiam

    Gaiam Life | April 29th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  11. Thanks for the nice blog. It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us. I am facing problem with balance ball during workout.

    Patric Johnson | December 2nd, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  12. This is a great list. The only thing I’m missing is the resistance bands. Going to have to rectify that.

    KB | December 4th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  13. All of my workouts are done at home – more focus, less distraction. I highly recommend Cathe Freidriech’s DVD’s. She is a fantastic instructor and I truly enjoy my weight training with her. She’s tough but SO EFFECTIVE!!!

    JMc | March 3rd, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  14. Nice list! Thanks for sharing!

    Sarah | March 5th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  15. Yes, this is really a nice list, but most of all because I always recommend home training to beginners and especially to my family. And because two of my favorite tools are here, in your list.
    Resistance bands, because they allow to come up with exercises for all the muscle groups, and to implement different combinations in your workout.
    Video exercise guides and lessons – these are the best home training tools, according to me. You really can get a hole variety of yoga, stretching, aerobics, etc. workouts, designed for beginners or advanced participants.

    I would suggest one more tool to the list – a heart rate monitor, but its more about safety, monitoring and awareness, than for exercising and burning calories. It is useful especially for older adults, and needs a little of research to know how to calculate your maximum hear rate safe zone (according to your age), and this tool will help you to not exceed it. Also if you know at what heart rate levels you are supposed to use excess fat as a fuel, you may easily know, if you are equipped with such a device.

    About the mini stepper, its a new idea to me and I’m eager to try it up, and see if I’ll enjoy it. Thanks again for this home training equipment list.

    Diyan | April 11th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  16. Some people really don’t value the use of a pedometer. If 10,000 steps a day equal more than five miles of walking – how does that translate now to how much calories burned? Just imagine doing that on a daily basis and you’ll be able to lose weight in a natural way.

    belle santos | April 23rd, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  17. These are some awesome tools that are very helpful when working out. Check out my post about how to lose weight with a meal replacement drink. http://maryannkrlin.blogspot.com/
    Encourage you to try some samples! -MaryAnn

    MaryAnn | May 8th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  18. Check out Tuffrail for installing kick boxing bags in your home gym! It is great for saving room in your home gym. It is the only heavy bag mounting application that has sliding locking positions for easy storage. Great for basements and garage installs. TuffRail staff will work with you for an easy install that works best for your home. Visit tuffrail.com

    TuffRail | February 12th, 2013 | Comment Permalink

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