Training shouldn’t be a chore. It doesn’t have to be mundane or monotonous and if it is you're likely to get bored and not make any staggering progress. Your exercise routine should be built around intensity, consistency and diversity. For those that are struggling with their training at the moment it’s the diversity that can make the consistency that little bit easier.
A range of equipment at your fingertips allows for variety in your routine, keeps the body guessing and constantly improving to meet the physical demands placed upon it, and can help overcome training plateaus.
OK, so you’re sold on the benefits of the home gym. You have four walls, a roof and a floor, but what are you going to put in it? Here we've compiled our gym equipment wish list. Starting with the fundamentals – the essential gear, and then move into the kit that gym junkie dreams are made of, building the ideal gym.
When deciding on equipment you must consider your fitness goals.
At Fitstream, we’re focused on recreational fitness, to be stronger, faster, leaner and generally healthier human beings. We prefer this physique to the bulky frame that traditional bodybuilding promotes.
Different fitness equipment is needed for different fitness goals. In our equipment list we’ve provided everything we can think of so that you can have a huge training arsenal at your disposal. Many of the items aren't expensive, and some can even be home made (see home made gym equipment) and because the tools are so basic they usually last you a lifetime.
The essential gym equipment - At the very least you'll need an Olympic barbell, Olympic weights, a means of performing pull-ups and dips, and some gymnastic rings. This will be more than enough to kick-off your training routine, but if you have the funds this is our recommended starter package;
7ft Olympic barbell
You need a standard 7 foot long barbell to use with a power rack. Olympic bars are preferred by most, these are the 50mm / 2” in diameter bars and require the Olympic plates as opposed to a standard bar which is around 1” in diameter.
Olympic weight plates / Bumper plates
You need cast iron Olympic weights, or preferably rubber Bumper plates, and lots of them.
Olympic weight plates have the 2” diameter hole to fit the Olympic bars.
Bumper plates are rubber rather than cast iron, and are a safer choice for you and your floor!
As a relative beginner you probably won’t need more than 150kg to start weight training but make sure that you get 0.5kg plates (fractional plates) so you can add small and safe increments to your lifts as you gain strength.
Weight training bench
A fitness bench is essential.
Buy a decent bench with thick padding that can incline, decline and take leg attachments. A dumbbell bench, without any side prongs so that it can be used in a power rack for real versatility.
A good quality bench will last many years and you won’t regret paying that little bit more. You can feel the difference and it’s important that you have supreme confidence in the equipment when performing exercises like the bench press.
Power rack / Squat stands
A power rack will give you a safe method of self-spotting for fundamental exercises such as the bench press and squat. Most power racks will come with a pull-up / chin-up facility and offer additional add-ons for dip and high/low pulley capabilities.
If you don't have the money or space for a power rack you can buy a pair of squat stands. They will do the same thing but are cheaper and take up less room, but if you opt for this option make sure that you still have the capability of doing pull-up / dip exercises somwhere within your gym.
In an ideal world we'd have a dumbell rack full of a whole stack of incremental one-piece dumbbells, but in reality these are expensive and take up a lot of space.
Most people have to settle for dumbbell handles, where you can add plates and lock them in place like the barbell.
If you opted for the Olympic barbell it makes sense to also go for the Olympic dumbbells so you can share the weight plates between the two. Dumbbells are a great way of adding variety into your workout especially on bench work.
Gymnastics rings are such a versatile piece of fitness equipment. They're highly portable and durable, and will allow you to perform hundreds of strength exercises such as ring pull-up's, dips and muscle-ups to name but a few.
This simple piece of equipment will allow you to train the entire body and build phenomenal strength.
Read More: Introductory guide to ring training in the Fitstream articles directory.
Buy Gymnastic Rings from our Fitness Equipment Store
When you start to outgrow the essential equipment and you're looking for new additions to your gym to keep you motivted and continue progress consider some of the items listed below.
Kettlebell training is an efficient way of working out and offers a great blend of weight training and cardiovascular exercise.
Kettlebells allow you to train your entire body in bursts of intense, short duration kettlebell swings and lifts.
Read More: Read our introductory guide to kettlebell training for more information.
Buy Kettlebells from our Fitness Store.
Similar to kettlebells - weighted clubs offer a great strength / cardio hybrid workout, but with a focus on upper-body shoulder flexibility and mobility.
Read more in our guide to club training.
Buy Fitness Clubs from the Fitstream Store
Using a weighted vest is a great way to add intensity to workouts by increasing bodyweight when training and helps speed-up weight loss, increases muscle mass, and improves cardiovascular conditioning.
Weighted vests are very versatile and can be used to enhance cardio exercises and build endurance with weighted runs, to building incredible strength on traditional bodyweight exercises such as dips or pull-ups.
Read more about weighted vests in our fitness articles directory.
Buy weighted vests in the Fitstream Store.
The Bulgarian Bag is a large crescent shaped canvas or leather functional training tool, weighted with sand.
Bulgarian Bags allows for various strength training and general physical fitness drills, and offer a great form of fast-paced, fluid training for the entire body through swinging and lifting movement patterns.
Using a suspension trainer you can train your entire body by manipulating your own bodyweight in positions that otherwise just wouldn’t be possible.
Suspension trainers allows for some great ab training exercises such as the suspended crunch and the supine pull through, but they're particularly good for taking your training on the road and staying in shape when travelling.
Suspension trainers are portable, lightweight and can be rigged up to any stable structure (including door frames) without the need for permanent fixings, making them excellent pieces of equipment for training on your travels.
Heavy duty resistance bands are cheap, flexible and a good addition to any home gym to develop explosive strength and maximise the intensity of your workouts.
Bands can be used for assistance exercises (learning difficult exercises such as the iron cross by carrying some of the bodyweight to make the exercise easier) or alternatively to add intensity to exercises (hooking bands up to the Olympic bar during lifts like the bench press) through progressive resistance.
Read more about resistance band training in our fitness articles.
Buy resistance bands in our fitness store.
Cardio equipment is good for dropping body fat, strengthening the heart and warming up before a workout. We're not huge fans of treadmills, bikes, or ellipticals and prefer to train outside with sprints, or by filpping tires, dragging sleds, working with the prowler, or a skipping rope.
Remember that you can get your heart pumping on a budget, as a skipping rope or kettlebell comes cheap and you always have the world at your disposal for a run!
Your fitness training should be balanced with a little rehabilitation and muscle recovery work to iron out all those kinks and keep the muscle tissue in good shape.
Foam rollers are a cheap and effective means of self-massage, stimulating blood flow to target muscles and preparing for those intense workouts.
Read our guide to using the foam roller for more information.
OK, now we're getting into the truly niche equipment, equipment from the atypical gym and things start to look at little playground.
Don't let that fool you - there's nothing listed here that can't be used to develop a great physique. Adding some of these pieces of equipments allows for some hard-core training and you can mix things up to keep your body stimulated.
Keep your routine from getting stale and consider some of the kit below to fit in and around your normal routines -
Tyre and sledgehammer
Sledgehammer training is not a new form of conditioning but it's excellent for improving endurance levels and developing core body, grip and forearm strength.
Not only can you use the tyre for hitting with the sledgehammer you can break out into some tyre flips.
Tyre flipping is a typical strongman event and is a great test of total body strength and explosiveness.
Climbing rope \ Rope ladder
Climbing exercises are a great functional bodyweight exercise and really develop superior functional upper-body strength.
You can pick up a set of climbing ladders from DIY stores or there are specially designed versions for fitness.
Alternatively, climbing ropes is a lost art and much more difficult than it appears. It's a true demonstration of upper-body strength to climb a rope and a great addition to any gym!
Plyometric boxes / Plyo boxes
Plyo boxes are great for developing explosive leg power, overall leg strength and agility.
See plyometric exercises in the exercise directory.
The simple ab wheel has been around for years and is hugely underrated as it offers an excellent core workout.
The power wheel builds on the original ab wheel design with heavy duty construction and has been made to work with both hands and feet making it one of the simplest, yet most effective and versatile core body trainers available.
Buy the power wheel from Monkey Bar Gym.
When you start training with equipment like gymnastic rings and parallettes many people develop a new found appreciation for gymnastics-based training and the bodyweight workout.
A crash mat will allow you to test out some of your more adventurous skills and keep things interesting! Their effective for learning freestanding handstands, breaking falls and rolls.
Using a weight sled is a good form of endurance training and is very versatile piece of equipment. Try weighted sled runs or sled pulls to build strength, muscular endurance and as an effective means of fat loss.
Buy weighted sleds from our fitness store.
Specialty Olympic bars
You can get along fine with just your barbell and dumbbells but many people also prefer some speciality Olympic bars for certain exercises. Here are some examples:
- Squat bar
- Deadlift bar
- E-Z Curl Bar
- Dual revolving handle Olympic bar
- Olympic tricep bar
Parallettes are gymnastics equipment found in pairs that can be used for bodyweight exercises.
Instead of buying parallettes consider making your own parallettes from PVC piping.
The gym extras - here's a list of the things you don't workout with but might just need in your gym.
Gym chalk is highly recommended. Lose the weight gloves and use chalk for improved grip on bars or rings.
It may be messy but it's great for grip strength as training with chalk absorbs excess moisture, helping you squeeze out that last rep that you might otherwise not have hit.
Minimise mess by storing chalk in a bucket or chalk bag and dust up between sets.
Weight plate tree & bar holder
A plate tree and bar holder goes a long way to keeping your gym tidy, safe and organised.
If you've bought bumber plates rather than cast iron, make sure that you get a plate holder big enough to accomoate as bumpers are usually bigger in size.
Gym sound system
Music can change a run-of-the-mill workout to an exceptional workout.
Create the perfect fit playlist to get you head in the game and keep you focused and motivated.
TV / entertainment system
Some people like having a TV in their gym. We’re not always a fan of this because it can be too much of a distraction but it probably depends on the type of workout you're having and what you’re watching.
Great for monitoring progress. We have a huge whiteboard on the wall that we use for tracking a training session, recording reps and weights with exercises and personal bests. Oh, and the odd amusing doodle.
Using a whiteboard whilst training keeps you focused, means you can reflect on performance and make informed judgements on progress and tweaks to your regime.
Also see Fitstream Training Journal.
Fan / heater
If you have a garage gym you might need a fan for the summer and heater for the winter. Training too hot or cold will affect your workout.
A training log is an excellent way to track your progress and monitor your development over time. A simple notebook will suffice or download the free Fitstream workout log.
Record anything that's important to you, including entries like routines, weights, sets, reps, bodily measurements, diet and supplements used.
Training is taxing on the body’s water levels so it’s important to stay hydrated throughout.
Ensure you have a bottle to hand during workouts sessions and try to skip the energy drinks! We're big fans of reusable water bottles, like the Sigg, which is virtually indestructable and lasts an age.
There’s something addictive about collecting gym equipment, acquiring these basic tools that last a lifetime, that represent countless hours of physical conditioning and helped shape your physique into what you have today.
As our bodies develop so should our gyms – build on them over time, introducing new equipment to ensure that no two workouts ever have to be the same.
At the same time, don’t dwell on the equipment too much and remember that it’s a means to an end, you have your goals and some of this kit will help you get there, but it takes more than putting your hands in your pocket to do so.
See the Fitstream Store for recommended functional fitness equipment.
Article tags: gym equipment, home gym equipment, workout equipment, exercise equipment, training equipment