yoga mat and kettlebell

Must-Haves for efficient, effective home workouts

Ten years ago my fitness routine consisted of sometimes twice daily workouts to burn off the tremendous amount of food I’d consume in one of my colleges’s buffet-style college dining halls – Go Illini! I’d run and sweat to my small library of BeachBody DVDs with my bestie. I got her into the DVDs, she got me into running. It was our mutual mission of calorie-burning (and consuming) that brought us closer together. The only home workout equipment I had back then was a cheap pair of tennis shoes and a set of 3 and 5lb. weights. I’m not counting the BeachBody DVDs, because I kind of took those from my mom, and hey, you can rent DVDs from the library. I’d do that sometimes, too. I was desperate to be thin, and of course I’d go back in time to shake myself if I could. 

1) I WAS thin – 10-lbs lighter than I am now.  
1.2) That doesn’t even matter. NOW I feel strong and energized, and I’d argue that extra 10-lbs is muscle… mostly. 
2) Ugh, my youthful skin that I didn’t appreciate with all those Diet Cokes and daily morning waffles! 
3) I was working SO much harder than I needed to.
You don’t need ANY home workout equipment to get a good sweat sesh… it just makes everything more fun and efficient. If all of my online personal training clients had these things at home, I’d be so happy (in no particular order):

Good shoes

  • Great for: absorbing impact, providing more support and stability (especially for high-impact or weight bearing activities)
  • Substitute: none; invest in high quality products that go between you and the ground: shoes and bed 😉 Here’re my favorites so far* (for training, not running)

Dumbbells/Kettlebells (DBs/KBs)

  • Great for: getting more efficient workouts in – heavier weights* mean less reps which saves time and decreases bulk you’ll add to your muscles (if that matters to you) while at the same time increasing your strength more effectively
  • Substitutes: resistance bands and random heavy objects in your home – in a pinch I’ve been known to throw barstools or small tables on my back to add weight to low body movements or overhead presses; just make sure to rotate object partway through a set or on the next set so that if it’s weight is unbalanced, you’re not creating imbalances in your body

Foam roller



  • Great forstep ups*, creating more range of motion, plyometric training, not having to use your nice chairs for your workouts
  • Substitutes: sturdy chair for step ups; ab ball or foam roller for chest exercises

Yoga Mat

  • Great for: creating a non-slip, cushioned surface (and an area for the sweat drips to land that’s easier to clean than a carpet); look for nontoxic options*
  • Substitutes: large towel for the surface benefit or sofa cushion for working out on the abs or knees to avoid bruising

Resistance bands

  • Great for: certain movements that are awkward to use weights for such as certain booty-centric motions or exercises such as banded pull-aparts; can also often replace need for weights or help you bridge the gap between different weights; works stabilizing muscles in a unique way unlike other weights; I love this set*
  • Substitutes: dumbbells/kettlebells or manipulating environment to add more bodyweight somehow

Ab ball*

  • Great for: stability training and increasing range of motion for and variety of exercises you can perform at home
  • Substitutes: other stability training equipment such as an Airex pad*, balance boards, and Bosu balls*

Pull up bar

  • Great for: pull ups, certain upper body floor work, stretching, and hanging ab exercises
  • Substitutes: power rack (not exactly a money-saving or space-saving substitute); certain exercises can be modified and performed with resistance bands
  • What I useProsource Fit Multi-Grip Chin-Up/Pull-Up Bar*. AKA what I got my sister for Christmas :)t
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Double-trouble right here. Well, actually more like triple-threat. The following workout equipment can go with you anywhere. That’s the double-trouble part: I was thinking home or gym workouts, but really there’s no end to where you can get a workout in, so yeah. The triple threat comes in, because investing in these items gives you a bonus benefit: what Steven Pressfield refers to as “going pro”. You see, if you want to consistently work out, you have to identify as someone who consistently works out. What would someone who works out all the time do? Someone who’s really into fitness? They’d probably have most if not all of the following things, so here are some ways you can invest in your identity of being a regular worker-outer:


  • Great for: data-tracking to see progress towards the fit goals you’re creating versus flying on auto-pilot


  • Great for: workout motivation and feeling less self-conscious for out-of-the-house workouts


  • Great for: feeling cute even when you’re waiting till after your post-workout shower to do your hair

Bluetooth headphones

  • Great for: hands-free, tangle-free music listening kinda loud in your ears pumping you uuuuuup

An online personal trainer and health coach … like me!


Please don’t fall into the perfectionist trap thinking you can’t get started until you have all of these things. Again, you need NONE of them to workout, so don’t kid yourself with lame excuses. I shared a few substitutions you can lean on to get you through until you build up your fitness collection when you start wanting to use more home workout equipment. If you’re a gym-regular and are happy keeping it that way, you may decide you need none of these things. 

Thanks for reading!

*Affiliate link: I only recommend quality products I’ve personally used and like.
P.S. Only reminded you have a gym-membership when you see a recurring payment coming up in your recent transactions? Perhaps you should consider reallocating your gym budget to beefing up your home gym. People-aversion, time, and commute won’t be solid excuses to stand on anymore!
P.P.S. The most important thing to invest in if you’re not yet consistent with your workouts is FREE. This guide is my gift to you to walk you through what you’ve been missing if you’ve been missing your workouts. Take action, and check it out now!

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