Best home exercise equipment

Best Home Exercise Equipment – 2019 Ultimate Guide

So you are setting up a home gym, and obviously, you want to get the best home exercise equipment that your budget will allow. But there is a problem:

There are so many options (and gimmicks) out there that you’re confused about where to start right?
Best home exercise equipment
Fortunately, we are sad enough to provide you with this exhaustive home gym essentials checklist of potential stuff you might want to equip your place with.

We’ll start with the basics. Equipment you can get on a budget, that is likely a better choice if you need compact exercise equipment for office gyms that are a little pokey.

From there we’ll work our way up to the stuff that takes up considerably more space and/or budget.

You know…

The kind of stuff Elon Musk and Richard Branson have gathering dust in their many mansions. (Do you even lift Branson?)

OK! So most of us wouldn’t consider the luxury equipment to be home gym and office ideas necessarily, but ‘basic equipment’ means different things to the fabulously wealthy and they might be reading. (Sorry for the comment Sir Richard!)

The manliness and versatility scales (important!)

Manliness scale

The ‘manliness scale’ is painstakingly calculated using our proprietary method of arguing about:

  1. How physically gruelling is this piece of equipment to use?
  2. How good are the the results likely to be using this equipment?
  3. How ‘hard’ will people think you are if they walk in while you are utilizing this equipment?
The manliness scale
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Manliness scale

Versatility scale

While obviously not as useful as the manliness scale, the ‘versatility scale’ will let you know what kind of mileage you can get out of a particular piece of equipment with regards to giving you a totally rounded workout.

We also award bonus points here for items that you can easily travel with.

Man With Kettlebell
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NSD Powerball

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Titan Pro Powerball

NSD Powerball

There’s more than one way to strengthen your wrist while surfing the internet, (*cough) and this might well be the second best way.

You’re not going to win any bodybuilding contests with this piece of kit, but you might be extremely surprised at what it can do for your grip strength, as well as your arm strength in general.

OK, not the sort of thing you would think about for a gym equipment list, but we are all about office gym rooms here. This qualifies perfectly as a paperweight (disguised as a futuristic hand grenade) that will give you mouse destroying arm power.

Ab Wheel

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Is an ab wheel effective?

Well, I can tell you that this bit of kit is useful for people who are not only after a good looking set of abs, but a six pack that can be used as a stand-in for a brick outhouse wall, (should the opportunity ever arise).

Lifeline power wheel ultimate core trainerIncludes multi-directional wheel and instructional DVD to target core, abs, back, obliques, glutes and upper body Lifeline Power Wheel for Ultimate Core Training

If this sounds good, then the ab wheel is certainly a piece of kit that you should consider buying.

Although at first glance the ab wheel looks like something you would find in the corner of a Pilates gym propped up against the leg adductor machine, or you might imagine it hanging around with that ab cage, assisted sit up thing.

It is actually far more useful than you might think and if used correctly, you will be feeling like ‘the Balboa’ when you get used to training with this.

Hopefully, I have convinced you that this is worth a try, but I do feel that it is my duty to point out that there are actually safer ways to exercise your core because for the ab wheel beginner there are a fair few hazards… The most obvious one being a full-on face plant!

If you do decide to get an ab wheel as part of your HOG equipment, kudos to you! You will be starting out with a most excellent abdominal adventure, but make sure that you learn to use it correctly. If you get it wrong, at the very least, you could dilute your workout schedule, and at worst?

Well, it doesn’t take a doctor of physics to perform this risk assessment, so if you are unsure how to use them, maybe an ab wheel substitute would be better for the time being.

Finally, as a side note. If you already have a barbell and want to avoid the expense of an ab roller, try a barbell rollout instead which makes a great alternative to ab wheel exercises.

A bit of planning before your first set will be invaluable…

Ab wheel exercises for beginners (get it right!)

Pushup stands

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They look like such a simple piece of kit, but are push up stands worth it, or is your money better spent elsewhere?

Well, that depends…

First off, push ups are without doubt a very worthwhile exercise for hitting those pecs, front delts and triceps. In other words, they are a great compound exercise for the upper body. But…

AKA

Perfect Fitness Perfect Pushup Elite (Perfect Pushup V2 Pro)

Perfect Fitness Perfect Pushup Elite (Perfect Pushup V2 Pro)
If you can’t smash out a good clean set of pushups that targets these muscle groups, you should definitely look at developing your strength using regular pushups before grabbing a set of press up stands.

Push up stands vs regular pushup

One of the main benefits of push up stands is that they help to increase the range of motion in the chest muscles when performing a pushup.

When performing regular pushups, the floor stops you reaching your full range of motion, but when you use these stands you will not only work the muscle through its full range of motion but it will actually increase your flexibility too.

Another big benefit is that of using these little handles is that the strain on your wrists will be significantly decreased. You can either set the bars up to run horizontally across your body (Palms facing down) or you can set the bars up running vertically to your body (Palms facing in). Pushups are not the only thing you can use these bars for though. You can actually perform several different exercises on them depending on your strength and ability.

  • If you bring the bars close together and perform a pushup, you will actually be targeting your triceps more, just like a close grip bench press
  • If you sit on the floor with the bars running parallel with your legs but in line with your hips and close to your body, you can use the pushup bars for tricep dips.
  • There is an abdominal and core strengthening exercise that you can do with these too, but it’s a tough one – If you set the bars up as you would for tricep dips, lift your upper body off the floor, straighten your legs and then raise them up, this will hit your abs… Hard!
  • For the very ambitious, you can use these to perform bodyweight shoulder press – ‘Simply’ place the bars against a wall on the floor about shoulder width apart, then get into a handstand position whilst gripping the bars on the floor, also making sure your heels are against the wall and start shoulder pressing. Easy right?

All in all, these are a good piece of kit, but if you are new to pushups, you should perfect your form and strengthen your chest, shoulders and triceps before investing. If you are proficient at regular pushups already and want to know how to make pushups harder, this is your answer.

Pushup bars are fairly versatile but the versatility is limited to the ability of the user – The stronger you get, the more uses that the bars will have.

We recommend the Perfect Pushup Elite as you can also add the element of doing a pushup AND rotation into the mix giving this piece of equipment even more longevity while hitting your muscles even harder.

Door pullup and dip bar

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These also come in wall mounted or ceiling mounted styles depending on what you need for your workout space at home.

I have this particular model at home and I like the variety of different grips it allows. You can get the benefits of close grip (narrow,) hammer/neutral grip and true wide grip pullups. It’s also very sturdy, feels safe when you’re using it.

It’s similar in style to a few other chin up bars, but the part that rests on the door frame is well padded and securing it doesn’t require drilling holes so it won’t ruin the frame or damage the door.

AKA
  • Chinup bar

Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Doorway Pull Up Bar and Portable Gym System

Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Doorway Pull Up Bar and Portable Gym System, Original

Don’t forget you can do a variety of leg raise ab exercises on these things also, that’s a little boost on the manliness and versatility scales too! Just don’t try any muscle ups or you’ll smash your face in on the wall.

It also shows on the box that you can not only use it in the doorway, but it can also be turned over to perform sit ups, push ups, and dips.

To be honest, although installation is quick and easy (just pull out the safety pin and remove it from the doorway,) unless you have to remove it, that’s too much of a pain in the ass for my liking. The option is there which is nice if you want to travel with it or use it for dips etc, but I just like to leave it in place.

Personally, if I had space I would upgrade to a power tower. This works just fine at the moment however until I buy a mansion or palace or something… at some point.

Perfect fitness pull up bar vs iron gym pull up bar review

Tube resistance band set

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This should be among the first piece of equipment that you should get as it is the most versatile.

Whether you are the newest newbie, or you are a regular Rocky Balboa, you should have one of these sets in your home gym!

A good exercise band set comes with several different color bands, each of these is a different resistance and the colors will also help you to quickly identify which one you want to use for which exercise.

AKA
  • Resistance tubes

Fitness Insanity Resistance Band Set With Color Code – Includes 5 Stackable Exercise Bands, Waterproof Carry Case, Door Anchor Attachment, Leg And Ankle Straps Plus Exercise Guide Ebooks

Fitness Insanity Resistance Band Set - Include 5 Stackable Exercise Bands with Waterproof Carrying Case, Door Anchor Attachment, Legs Ankle Straps and Exercise Guide eBook - 100% Life Time Guarantee

This particular exercise band set also come with several attachments – D ring handles, ankle straps and a door anchor.

The benefits of resistance bands are endless. First and foremost, you can store it in an office draw or cupboard, you could even take all of the equipment out of the handy carry bag and designate some wall space to hang each individual part from making it that little bit more accessible.

If the unthinkable happens and you actually have to leave your home office and take your business to someone else’s, less equipped and less functional office, or you have to stop in a ‘gymless’ hotel, you can just throw this into your overnight bag along with your toothbrush and you won’t miss a training session.

One of the stand out benefits for us though is the potential for progressive training. When you have worked your way through the resistance band colors and the toughest bands are too easy for you, just stack them on the rings. When this gets too easy, you just buy extra bands.

I (Jim) own more than one set of these and regularly use a full set on the D ring grip attachments….. Normally for squats at this point, but I’m working on the bicep curls.

Yes, you heard me right! You can use these exercise band sets/ resistance bands for far more than just rehab. If you are smart and resourceful, you can look at this as a complete gym in a bag.

Some of the exercises that can be done with these heavy-duty resistance bands:

  • Chest press
  • Rows
  • Squats
  • Shoulder press
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep push downs
  • Exercise band crunches

That is a list of seven exercises that target every major muscle group in the body, and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of an at home resistance band workout.

Swiss ball

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As you might have guessed from the ‘AKA’ list, the Swiss ball is massively versatile.

Not only that however, for the purposes of a home gym, sitting on a stability ball at your desk is space saving.

Our advice when looking for a gym ball…

Be sure it is a burst proof ‘Ledragomma Gymnastik ball’ or ‘Maxafe’ ball!

Ledragomma Maxafe gym balls are made from Flexton Silpower material which ensures they deflate slowly in the event of a puncture.

With regards to versatility, this might well be the best cheap home gym equipment item to go for. But at the risk of sounding hypocritical don’t go cheap on it! The last thing you want is to be face-planting when a badly designed ball bursts on you like a balloon!

This is especially true if you intend to perform stability ball exercises with weights.

Champion Original Pezzi Gymnastik Ball Maxafe Material

Champion Sports Pro Maxafe Training Exercise Ball
AKA
  • Ab ball
  • Balance ball
  • Birth ball
  • Body ball
  • Fitness ball
  • Gym ball
  • Gymnastic ball
  • Physio ball
  • Pilates ball
  • Pezzi ball
  • Stability ball
  • Swedish ball
  • Therapy ball
  • Yoga ball

This is especially true if you intend to perform stability ball exercises with weights.

The last thing you want is to be face-planting when a badly designed ball bursts on you like a balloon! This is especially true if you intend to perform stability ball exercises with weights.

Parallettes bars

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Parallettes exercises and parallettes training in general is the kind of training that you’d imagine only competing gymnasts or world class bodyweight trainers would do…

Or maybe Spiderman. 😀

Ultimate Body Press Parallettes 12×24 Inch

Ultimate Body Press Parallettes XL Push Up Stands 12x24 inch

Yes, this type of training does require a bit of foundation muscle strength to start but there are so many benefits for investing in a set of parallettes bars, especially for a home gym as these take up a small amount of space on the floor, can be stored pretty easily and there is a lot of scope for muscular development.

This is provided that the user has a bit of strength to start with however. It is possible to start training with these bars with zero prior exercise experience, but in my opinion there are better ways to get the ball rolling on muscular development.

I would not recommend parallettes bars to anyone who is looking for a training method in order to rehab from an injury or someone who is a total beginner as it can be a pretty intense method of training. If you are in this position and would like to give parallettes training a go, you should work up to it by strengthening all muscle groups with exercise band, bodyweight or free weights training first.

If Parallettes training is the only thing you want to do and you don’t want to lift weights or stretch exercise bands for whatever reason and you need a starting point, some inspiration for training with these, you could also look into yoga training or calisthenic training. These training methods run in the same vein. Yoga and basic calisthenic movements may be a good start if you are a total beginner.

If you are good to go with parallettes training, you need a decent set of bars from the get go. With other home office gym equipment, you can get away with cheap and cheerful options to give you a similar result, but with parallettes bars, I would suggest that you only opt for quality. The last thing you need is for these bars to fail when you are training in this way for obvious reasons.

My choice for the best parallettes bars? The Ultimate Body press parallettes 12×24 inch.

These are made of 1.5 inch steel tubing so they are strong. They have solid, non-slip rubber feet to stop any chance of slipping. They will take a lot of punishment and would definitely be my first choice for this type of product.

One of the biggest benefits of training with a parallettes routine is the development in muscular strength and endurance for the upper body and core. If it were me I would not use this training method exclusively, I would probably run it in conjunction with free weights or exercise band movements.

In summary:

  • A parallette bars workout is a very good way to increase upper body strength and endurance, but you need to have a good foundation to start with. If you haven’t, you should work on this with bodyweight training, free weights or exercise bands with a view to hitting your parallettes routine later.
  • Take a look at yoga training and calisthenics training for inspiration.
  • Invest in a good quality set of parallettes bars if you can, you don’t want these to fail on you mid workout.
  • Parallettes bars are great for working out with but think about adding some other variety to your training.

On a final note, if you don’t want to buy parallettes because of the price you have the option to make your own parallettes from PVC. The video below will show you how to build parallettes from cheap gear you can get from most hardware stores.

DIY parallettes (PVC)

Dipping bars

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Although portable dipping bars are where it’s at if you’re looking to do dips at home as part of your routine, that’s not all they are good for.

If you are not clued up on dipping bars, you would be forgiven for thinking that they were used for a single exercise – tricep dips. However dipping bars are actually a pretty versatile piece of kit that can be used in all over body workouts.

AKA
  • Tall parallettes

Frank Medrano Lebert Equalizer Dip Bars

Frank Medrano Lebert Equalizer Dip Bars

For the purpose of this introduction to portable dipping bars, I will refer to Frank Medrano Lebert Equalizer Dip Bars. These are a good quality product and they have a decent height to train with and are a good choice, if not the best dip bars for home use.

The main difference between dipping bars and parallettes bars is the height, this actually makes them more versatile than the parallettes bars but then there is the drawback that comes with more storage space needed. When it comes to training on dipping bars when opposed to training on parallettes bars, one of the biggest benefits of the dipping bar is that you can actually get underneath and perform ‘pulling’ exercises as well as ‘pushing’.

Pushing exercises are bodyweight exercises where you push your body away from gravity such as tricep dips:

Place the dipping bars together, position yourself between them, grip the bars while lifting your legs off the floor to take your body weight and lowering your body before ‘pushing’ back to the start position.

Pulling exercises are exercises where you pull your body away from gravity such as an inverted row:

Place the dipping bars together, position yourself between them and underneath them facing the sky, take a grip with your palms facing inwards, keep your back straight and ‘pull’ your bodyweight against gravity before returning to the start position.

As you can see, with the extra height that these dipping bars offer compared to a set of parallettes bars, you get another dimension of training available to you. This may be something to consider if you are looking into dipping bars or parallettes bars, they both have their pros and cons – dipping bars are much bigger and have more scope for exercise but they take up a bit more storage space. Parallettes bars are compact so easier to store but you lose the added benefit of ‘pull exercise’ choices.

In my opinion, dipping bars are not for a total beginner and as with parallettes bars, I would suggest that exercise bands, free weights, and regular bodyweight exercise movements are used as part of a resistance routine before getting into this training. With that said everyone is different and if you are in the position of a total beginner who is injury free and really want to get into this, all power to you. There are beginner routines out there and movements that can start you off but I would imagine that starting off with this type of training could be a bit tougher than an exercise band routine for instance.

In summary:

  • Dipping bars are a great bit of kit to bring another dimension of bodyweight exercises to your home workouts, but they take up a bit more space when compared to parallettes bars.
  • Pushing and pulling exercises are possible with dipping bars.
  • I would not advise a total beginner to use these – A good way to start with dipping bars would be to use them in conjunction with other forms of resistance training, this way you will be able to work up to more advanced movements while also developing a foundation of muscle strength and function.
  • Training with dipping bars and bodyweight exercises should never be discounted as this type of physical activity really benefits core strength and dips exercise at home can target most major muscle groups for strength, power, and good function.

Suspension trainer kit

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When it comes to versatility, suspension workout equipment is up there with the most versatile.

TRX GO Suspension Trainer

TRX Training GO Suspension Trainer Kit, Ideal For Workouts Indoors & Out

Suspension training is a good way to progress and develop bodyweight exercises. The benefits of trx suspension training kits or a suitable trx alternative are many!

First off – this kind of suspension exercise kit is perfect for performing bodyweight exercises of all kinds from your home office gym. It fits nicely in a draw or bag so there is little to zero problem when it comes to making the place look less like a gym… Or torture chamber…. If you run meetings from your office, the last thing you want your client/ potential client turning around in their chair to see a bunch of cords and straps hanging from the back of your door or ceiling.

What?

People judge you know!

From a training point of view, these things are great for beginners and for fitness progression. If you are a total beginner, you can set up the suspension training system just so and as you become stronger, more confident and developed on the exercises, you can adjust the straps and positioning to allow you to sufficiently challenge you for further fitness development.

An example of this – Let’s imagine you can’t perform a single pushup. You could start to develop this exercise by performing pushups on your knees or by performing a pushup movement from an elevated platform like a bench or table (the higher the incline, the easier the pushup).

If you are using suspension strap exercises to mimic a pushup, instead of using a bench or table, you can just adjust the straps and/ or your body position so that the exercise is exactly right for your ability.

You will also find an added bonus that comes in the shape of ‘stabiliser muscle development’.

As an example, with a regular pushup, you only really have to concentrate on one plane of movement – getting your body off the floor, but with a suspension training kit, you also have to concentrate on keeping your form solid.

Going back to the regular pushup, your hands are held in place by the floor, when you do a pushup using a suspension kit, they have the potential to move wherever they want to, this is where your stabiliser muscles will develop, it’s a very welcome bonus to heath and fitness!

Lifeline Jungle Gym Suspension Trainer V3 (inc Resistance Cable Trainer)

Lifeline Jungle Gym V3 Bodyweight and Resistance Cable Trainer

In summary – A suspension training system is a great piece of exercise kit, it is very good for beginner development and can also be used by more advanced trainers.

Most training systems come with training guides and some even have apps that work in synergy. These kits can also be used for the traveling business person as the storage space is minimal.

A word of warning or rather advice though – using products such as the Jungle Gym or TRX GO suspension training kit will challenge you, especially if you are new to the game. There are many exercises that you can perform with this type of kit but you should ALWAYS be aware of your exercise form.

Make sure that you are working the muscle that the exercise is designed for, these kits can be pretty unforgiving if your exercise form is off.

Dumbells

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When it comes to dumbbell workouts, there’s a whole lot you can do so these are pretty versatile.

Powerblock Elite 70 Dumbbell Set

Powerblock Elite 70 Dumbbell Set (Dumbell Images)
The obvious problem when it comes to owning a set of dumbbells however is that generally, they are not a good space saver! This is why many people opt for dumbbell alternatives such as resistance bands. This is a good idea, but there are some differences between dumbbell workouts and resistance band workouts.

Resistance bands vs dumbbells

Here are just a few differences between exercise band training and dumbbell training. This is not to promote one over the other as both bits of kit have a place in anyone’s training routines; it’s just to outline some clear differences.

  • The resistance through a rep when using exercise bands increases the further you extend, whereas with a set of dumbbells it is constant throughout. This makes exercise bands a better choice for toning and weight loss rather than building significant strength.
  • Using dumbbells for training has more scope for progression depending on the weight range of your dumbbells
  • Dumbbells are not really a viable option for taking away on your business trip and throwing around in your hotel room, whereas resistance bands are ideal for this.

There are however perks to owning a set of dumbbells as well as a set of exercise bands.

Types of dumbbells

There are several different types of dumbbells – Plate loaded, one piece sets and heavy adjustable dumbbells are amongst the most common, but as we’re focusing on the best home exercise equipment here (and space saving is a big part of that) I want to look at the best adjustable dumbbells that you can buy as the focus of this section.

Aside from the obvious space saving abilities of a set of adjustable dumbbells compared to a fixed set on a stand, good adjustable dumbbell sets can offer more. Most people have seen the traditional adjustable dumbbell sets with the small bar, weight plates and screw on collars.

These are OK and probably the more affordable dumbbells, but you will still need more space, more time to switch out the resistance level and they are more cumbersome than something like the Powerblock elite 70 dumbbells or the Bowflex 552 SelectTech Dumbbell.

The innovative designs that focus on space saving and ease of use that are part of the Bowflex and Powerblock models are very attractive pieces of gym equipment for home use. These sets have a good range of weight (40 odd KG’s and up) which gives pretty impressive scope for training progression.

Best adjustable dumbbells for me?

Dumbbell workouts in general are a sound choice for resistance training so if you are interested in getting the best dumbbell set for home gym workouts, you should consider your options.

If you are just looking for the most affordable set of dumbbells, you should probably go for the traditional bar, plate and collar style. These dumbbell sets will do the job, but they do require a bit more space and a bit of set up time is needed.

Bowflex 552 SelectTech Bundle With Stand

Bowflex 552 SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells Bundle

If you have the money and fancy getting a set of pro style dumbbells, you should go for something like the bowflex or powerblock selectorized dumbbells. These are the best dumbbells for home gym users as they offer space saving, ease of use and good scope for progression with your dumbbell workouts.

Powerblock vs Bowflex adjustable dumbells

Finally, as far as the question of Bowflex SelectTech vs Powerblock, it’s really down to more than price and what pleases you aesthetically. Here are a few bullets which might help you decide.

  • Bowflex are wider, making it more difficult to do some exercises that require you to bring the dumbells close to the body, or close to each other.
  • The Bowflex system requires less hassle to change weight quickly.
  • When it comes time to upgrade to more weight, Powerblock lets you add 40 pounds more.
  • Weight is more evenly distributed with Powerblock. Bowflex has a tendency to awkwardly rotate on some exercises.

I would recommend if a lot of weight is important to you then go with Powerblock. If you are only in need of lighter weights and a faster adjustment time then stick to Bowflex.

Barbells

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I’m going to try not to sound too biased towards this piece of kit as the 20kg Olympic barbell would be the first purchase for my home office gym if I had the room. So without the bias, here’s some info to help you choose the best barbell set for home use.

The barbell is without a doubt the best exercise equipment you can lay hands on. I would go as far as to say it is King in the gym! With a simple bar and a few weighted discs, you can work hard on every muscle group in your body.

What sets the barbell apart for me is that it has stood the test of time, every major compound exercise can be performed with a barbell, the barbell can be the single piece of gym equipment in your home gym or otherwise that can help you achieve your fitness goals, whether these fitness goals are fat loss, muscle gain or physical maintenance, you can do it all with a few barbell exercises.

But the main reason to own a home gym barbell set is that the barbell has been used for training since kinesiology was realised, since before the pyramids were built and even before the apes had evolved opposable thumbs!

There are always new and exciting training methods coming and going, but barbell training isn’t going anywhere. In my opinion, barbell training will always be the most formidable and effective training method possible, it will even outlive religion and barbell training will more than likely still be around when the last star in the universe burns out!

With this in mind, there are however several different barbell options to choose from and naturally, you want to find the best barbell set to suit your personal setup. The first thing to consider is the amount of space that you have to play with. However great barbells are for training, there is no getting away from the fact that you can’t just pop your whole barbell a weights package into your desk draw for tidiness between barbell workouts.

In an ideal world, an Olympic weightlifting barbell would be the best barbell for home gym use but not everyone has the luxury of a big home gym that can accommodate such a long barbell (yes, an Olympic bar is around 2.2 meters long and weighs in at 20kg ), let alone the rack and bench set up that compliments this barbell and its weights so very well.

If however, you do have such a space and you also have some deep pockets full of readies, I for one am a bit jealous because you are in the fortunate position to be able to invest in something like this:

CAP ‘The Beast’ Barbell Pictured in Beast Green, but also available in:

  • Blue Flame
  • Cherry Bomb
  • Electric Grape
  • Orange Soda
  • Original
*Adjust manliness scale up/down according to color choice.

And obviously, you need a nice home for this beast!

Something like the Body Champ Olympic bench is fitting.

CAP The Beast Barbell Custom Olympic Bar, 2-Inch, 1000-Pound Capacity, 7-Feet, In Beast Green

For the rest of us, there are a few more practical options when it comes to choosing our home barbell set. As mentioned earlier, there are a few different types of barbells out there and I would suggest either a set of short fixed weight barbells that come with their own storage rack. Or a short barbell with interchangeable weights.

Fixed weight barbell set with rack

The fixed weight option will probably be a lot more expensive but generally, a good set comes with its own storage rack that can look fairly neat in the corner of your home gym.

Some of these sets come with a wall storage solution, but you are going to need a solid wall if you wish to use this.

Here is an example of a fixed weight barbell set:

This is still pretty pricey but you get a lot for your money. The downside?

Once you outgrow the top weight for any given exercise you are looking at investing in a new solution if you want to continue progressing.

York fixed Weight Barbell Set With Rack 20-110 lbs (rubber coated)

York Barbell Rubber Coated Pro Style Fixed Straight -10 Bar (20-110 lbs) Set with Rack

Cardio barbell set

Not looking to lift huge amounts of weight?

Here is an affordable and practical choice of cardio barbell set which includes an interchangeable, short barbell with weight discs as part of the set

This one actually comes in two parts which means you might get a bit more versatility when it comes to storage.

This will be no good to those of you who want to max out your strength or size with big compound movements, but it is ideal as a Les Mills body pump barbell set for example

York fixed Weight Barbell Set With Rack 20-110 lbs (rubber Coated)

US Weight Set Duracast 55 lb Barbell with Two 5 lb. Weights, Four 10 lb. Weights, One 4 lb. Two-Piece Threaded Barbell Bar and Two Locking Spring Clips

There are plenty of options when it comes to barbell training at home but it really depends on your situation and this is what you have to weigh up. Whatever you decide to do in your home gym workouts, you should consider barbell training as an option. Decide what type of barbell you can accommodate, is it to be a bunch of fixed weight barbells, a standard Olympic bar, bench and rack with its entourage of weighted discs or a modest short bar with a few interchangeable discs.

I’ll wrap this up by revisiting my opening statement – “I’m going to try not to sound too biased towards this piece of kit”. I realise that I may have failed at this point but please believe me, I did try!

Adjustable weight lifting bench

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Like most pieces of gym equipment, the Adjustable workout bench has many variations, brands and ranges of quality to choose from.

Body Champ Olympic Weight Bench BCB5860

BCB5860 Body Champ Olympic Bench with Preacher Curl, Leg Developer and Crunch Handle, Dark Gray/Black

If you are in the market for one of these weight benches, you may already own some sort of power rack or squat rack to use this with. Although you can use an adjustable training bench for workouts without also using a rack or cage to aid with barbell training and such, it will make your training sessions safer, more comfortable and give you more scope to train to failure on exercises such as barbell bench press, seated shoulder press etc.

Another important thing to note when looking into workout benches in general is that there are also basic flat benches available to us. These benches are normally a cheaper option but as the name suggests – They are a simple flat bench. This is great if you are just looking for something to perform bodyweight exercises such as tricep dips, incline pushups or flat bench press movements but the lack of adjustability when it comes to back rest elevation has a fairly significant disadvantage when looking at the versatility of use when compared to an adjustable weight bench.

So when you consider that both types of bench take up more or less the same amount of space, you may as well spend your money on a single piece of kit that is an adjustable incline bench, a flat bench and also an adjustable decline bench.

Things to consider when selecting the right adjustable bench for home gym use are:

  • The space you have. Although most benches are pretty chunky, there are a few options that are a bit more streamlined than others.
  • What kind of level are you intending to train when using this piece of kit? If you are planning to compete in powerlifting competitions, you would not want a lightweight, thin metal and minimally padded bench. This type of bench would be good for light dumbbell workouts and bodyweight exercises but a more solid, and let’s face it, more “budget stretching” bench would be needed.
  • If you do already have a rack, power tower, or cage, will this workout bench work with it? Or if you don’t own a separate rack for use with barbells, would you like an adjustable workout bench that also has a rack attached

Whatever your situation is, you should Look at a bench that has different back rest positions. The most versatile workout benches will have several different elevation settings including a 90 degree (or close to it) to perform movements like seated shoulder press, an incline to perform movements such as incline bench press, a flat setting to perform many movements from but sticking with the theme – Flat bench press and also a decline setting to perform things like… You guessed it – decline bench press.

I’ve used lots of adjustable benches in my time and have a few more buying tips based on this experience to throw out there:

  • Look for a bench that has a small gap between the backrest and the seat. All adjustable benches have some form of gap, but I have found the smaller this gap, the better the support for lower back can be. Some models with a big gap here can be really uncomfortable and take away from your performance.
  • Look at the width of the back rest. If this is too wide, it can restrict your range of movement and can also be uncomfortable.
  • The height of a bench is fairly important too. If possible, you should look for a bench that allows you to have your feet flat on the floor when sitting on it. The bench should also be low enough for you to comfortably stabilise yourself with your feet when lying down. I have found that a bench that is about knee height or slightly lower is optimum.

With all of this in mind, if you are looking to buy a workout bench that was adjustable and cash isn’t a drama, I think that the Body Champ bcb5860 olympic weight bench is a solid choice, but ideally I would also use this in conjunction with a separate squat rack.

If you are looking for a version that is a lot cheaper and a bit more space friendly that also incorporates a rack and additional add-ons, you may want to consider a Body Champ BCB3835/PRO3900 two piece set olympic weight bench with squat rack.

To sum the adjustable training bench up, I would suggest that if you are going to invest in a piece of equipment like this that you buy a good quality one as these things can last a lifetime.

BCB3835/PRO3900 Body Champ Weight Bench With Squat Rack

Body Champ BCB3835/PRO3900 Two Piece Set Olympic Weight Bench with Squat Rack

Although you can get by without one, this is a piece of kit that will help you develop your fitness to another level if you use it correctly. If you are new to home workouts or fitness training in general, it is probably not the first thing that you should rush out and buy, but if you have been training for a while and are looking to reach new heights and get more serious about resistance training, this is the type of ancillary equipment that will prove to be very useful.

Power rack vs squat rack

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Titan Fitness T-3 Series Folding Power Racktitan fitness folding rack Power Rack is AKA
  • Power cage
  • Full cage
  • Squat cage
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Titan Fitness T-3 Series Foldable Power Rack (In Folded Position) Titan Power Rack (Folded)
First of all, why the squat rack vs power rack business?Well, they are two completely different pieces of equipment that are often labeled incorrectly. You can see an example above of what is referred to on Amazon.com as the ‘Titan T3 power rack’, but it isn’t a power rack, it’s a squat rack!While a squat rack isn’t necessarily a bad piece of equipment, it lacks the versatility of the power rack. It is basically just a set of J hooks to lift weights from and replace.

As you can see in the last of the three images, the power rack (in this case the TDS power cage) has adjustable height arms actually inside the ‘cage’. These are what will save your bacon if you are squatting, or if you push a bench under there to perform a bench press for example. It also has the J hooks the same as a squat rack.

Another plus for the power rack cage is that extras are available such as pullup bars and row attachments to add even more exercise variation whereas this is usually not possible with a squat rack.

If you want to train heavy, train to failure, train alone, or any combination of those then a good quality home power rack will serve you well.

TDS Power Rack / Squat Cage

TDS Power Rack / Squat Cage

They are widely considered one of the most important pieces of equipment in the gym and it will help you push your limits without having to worry about injury due to dropping or falling over with heavy weights. (Although it isn’t foolproof, you could still fall sideways!)

In our opinion, the best power rack for home gyms is the TDS pictured above.

For the money it is a no brainer if you have the space for it, and it is a quite compact power rack at 48.5″ x 48″ x 82.5″ high dimensions. Certainly if not the best, then one of the best power racks under $500.

Home gym cable machine

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If you are in the market for a home cable machine, you are probably in a fortunate position as these things tend to fit into the “bulky” and “free space consuming” categories.
These home gym cable machines are designed predominantly to address isolation exercise movements. Exercises like cable crossovers for pecs, lateral raises for shoulder muscles, tricep pushdowns, single leg hamstring curls, cable crunches etc.

Although the majority of exercise movements on a pulley weight machine are isolation exercises, you can absolutely use this type of training equipment to perform some good compound movements but you may need a few new attachments depending on what your new cable machine comes with out of the box.

A bonus of most if not all home cable machines is that the attachments from third parties are likely to fit whichever model of cable pulley machine you own so you can always add variation by investing in new attachments to help improve your cable machine workouts.
The best home cable machine will depend on what type of set up you have to work with and there is the obvious limitation of how much cash you have to invest.

There are a few options that you can look into and I have selected two models of cable pulley weight machine that could be up for the job.

First up is the Powerline by Body-Solid Cable Crossover Machine (PCCO90X). With regards to price, this seems to be on the cheaper end of the scale but it is plate loaded, so you may have to invest in separate plates. But if you already have a barbell set up in your gym, you can use these weights on this machine also.

AKA
  • Pulley weight machine
  • Cable crossover machine
  • Top and bottom pulleys
  • 180 degree range of motion
  • Accepts Olympic or standard plates
  • Inc ankle strap and two cable handles
  • Measures 112 by 39 by 82 inches (L x W x H)

Powerline PCCO90X Cable Crossover Machine
Powerline PCCO90X Cable Crossover Machine

Although this cable crossover machine looks massive from the pictures, it is actually a nice design that should fit along one of your walls in your home gym so if you bear this in mind, it doesn’t take up that much room.

If you have the Powerline cable crossover machine flat against one of your walls, you still have the room in the center space to play with when not in use. This is definitely something to bear in mind when it comes to designing your home gym.

The other example that I have for you is probably a bit more commercial as it is a higher build quality and comes with two full weight stacks each weighing 310lbs. So this is a serious bit of kit.

Aside from this cable machine having integrated weight stacks, there are a few other differences that will add variation to your training sessions.

  • 20 independent height adjustments and 180º cable positioning
  • Includes two 310 lb. weight stacks
  • Accepts Olympic or standard plates
  • Includes dual position pull-up bar
  • Measures 74.5 by 40.5 by 83.5 inches (L x W x H)
  • Costs a small fortune

GDCC200 body solid functional training center with 310 lb Stacks

Body Solid Functional Training Center with 310 lb Stacks

The main difference with this body solid cable machine is that the cable pulleys are more adjustable. The cable position can be set not just to high and low but they can also be set to many different positions in between which means that you can change up a fair few exercise positions to vary the range of movement.

Size wise, this does take up less room on the width, but extends out an inch and a half further both from the wall and in height and will likely be easier to find a place for in a smaller home gym so this beast of a machine is worth real consideration if the PCCO90X is just too wide.

The other big difference between this cable crossover machine and the first mentioned is, you guessed it, the price. As this cable training center is high quality and has all of that weight with it, you should expect a high price tag and guess what? You also get that included too! 🙂

Power tower

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The power tower is one of those pieces of workout equipment that’s really useful if you are willing to invest in bodyweight exercises. There are also many different models to choose from and to be honest some offer more than I think they should, turning them into a full on multi gym and not simply a pull up bar and dip station.

If you are in the market for a big bulky piece of kit that has all the functionality of a pull up and dip station but combines with a power rack, weight bench and pulley system, there are such things available, but for the purpose of this article I would like to focus on the power tower specifically.

The bottom line is that a power tower was originally designed for bodyweight exercises such as chin ups, pull ups, dips, muscle ups, knee raises, leg raises etc. And as such it should be a streamline piece of kit.

There are however some modifications that can help with the functionality of your training on a home pull up dip station such as a lifting belt with chain, adjustable weighted vest, lifting hooks and straps, cannonball grips and the list goes on. All of the accessories for power tower are designed to help you progress further with your training so this is something you should look at on a secondary basis once you have committed to training with a power tower.

Something to consider when choosing a power tower is the vertical space that you have available. These things are tall and they have to be, so if you are going to be doing pull ups or even muscle ups on this you will have to have the headroom.

Ok, let’s look at my choice for the best pull up dip station or power tower!

For all intents and purposes I don’t think you can go far wrong by investing in one of these:

For the price it’s pretty good. It has a tough steel frame and good cushioning for your back and arms where needed. It also has an adjustable pull up bar so you can change this based on your height. This may also be a good feature to help with storage as you can easily reduce the height of the power tower fairly significantly if needed.

Another thing that stands out on this model is that it has in built push up bars at the bottom. This is great as pushups are a major body weight exercise.

Also, I think this may be a reinforcement bar for stability but the tower also has an extra cross bar underneath the back rest that could be used for inverted pullups to hit those rear delts and lats if you are struggling with regular pullups.

If you are after extra add-ons as mentioned earlier, you can grab these from a third party vendor as most accessories for power towers are universal, so don’t feel that you need to get a set right away.

Weider 200 Power Tower Inc:
  • Pull-Up Station
  • Push-Up Station
  • Dip Station
  • Vertical Knee Raise (VKR) Station
Weider Power Tower 200

If you are looking to invest in bodyweight exercises but do not have the space for a power tower, there are other pieces of kit that can help you. A very affordable option is a doorway pull up bar.

You can perform most exercises on those that you can on a full power tower pullup and dip station, and to be fair, the model linked above is pretty heavy duty and stable. Check that out if there is no chance of you getting a power tower.

As mentioned, it’s a pretty versatile piece of kit for bodyweight exercises and due to its affordability is a good second choice if you can’t afford or don’t have space for a home power tower. One thing to consider here though is that you really do need a solid door frame.

To conclude: All in all, the power tower which has both a pull up bar and dip station is a great piece of kit for bodyweight training and if this is your main concern, you should seriously look into investing in one as this type of equipment can really help you progress with strength and endurance provided you use them correctly.

Best home fitness equipment for both cardio & resistance training

Bodyweight training program

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One of the most accessible ways to exercise is to use the gym equipment you were born with coupled with the spin of the earth.

Mark Lauren you are your own gym DVD

Mark Lauren YAYOG full bodyweight workout program DVD

Yes of course I am talking about Bodyweight training. This is a great way to exercise for strength and function and to be able to lift your bodyweight can be very advantageous.

Before we get into the various ways to use this exercise method I first I want to talk about the pros and cons of bodyweight training.

The pros:

Very accessible – You can decide when and where to train without the need for any equipment to speak of. Sure you can invest in push up bars, pull up bar etc but you could actually improvise if need be.

Compound exercises – I believe that Compound movements should be the priority when it comes to resistance training. This is a big pro when it comes to bodyweight training as the majority of movements are compound.

Great for building muscle, strength, function – Linked to compound exercises, this is a good way to build strength and muscle as bodyweight training can be adapted to be very challenging. If you build a good foundation of strength through bodyweight training, you will be able to adapt to other types of training very well in the future. This type of training also promotes flexibility and bodyweight hypertrophy.

The cons:

Might be tough for the beginner – The very nature of this training method makes it a no go for some people. For example, if someone who has never trained with resistance is overweight and unknowledgeable about kinesiology wants to start and adapt a bodyweight workout program, they will really struggle.

Progression is hard – Again, if you are really clued up on the mechanics and muscle functions of the human body, you will probably be able to work around this con. The problem here is that unless you are inventive or resourceful when it comes to adapting your training for progression, you may end up on a plateau or not progress in the first place.

Hard to train around injuries – If you have a rotator cuff injury for example, this will severely limit your ability to train with your bodyweight. As mentioned earlier, these are mainly compound movements and a lot of upper body compound movements use the mechanics of the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries are common and this springs to mind but there are plenty of other common niggles that are relevant here.

Mastering bodyweight exercises

The main issue with bodyweight training and calisthenics is that you have to know what to do and where to start. You are also restricted to working with your bodyweight and without an education in kinesiology the road might not be too clear.

If you are looking into getting into bodyweight training and are interested in progressing down this route, I would advise getting a teacher who specialises in this type of thing – enter Mark Lauren who used to teach the military bodyweight workouts (US special forces to be exact).

This guy appears to really know his stuff and the videos that I have seen are pretty inspiring. Starting with a beginner program, you will learn a lot from Mark and his team so it is definitely worth a look.

Alternatively, there are many personal trainers that specialise in bodyweight training and I would imagine that in this day and age, wherever you are you won’t have to travel too far to find one in your area so have a look around. Trust me, if you have never visited a personal trainer before, you may be surprised at what you can pick up, so look at it as paying for an education rather than paying for a gym session.

Training with correct form is always at the top of the priority list and even basic bodyweight exercises are no exception. When it comes to learning these I would suggest that you first concentrate on and master these exercises:
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Pushups
  • Rows
  • Shoulder press

The Headstand

vitruvian man upside down

These four exercises will give you a complete bodyweight workout at beginner level. You can also add a form of crunches or plank at the end of this workout if you like but if you concentrate on holding your abs in on all reps (as per good training practice) you will be giving them a nice workout throughout.

In summary, this is a very versatile way to train and can be progressed right up to advanced bodyweight training with some truly unique bodyweight exercises.

As this type of training is not bound to machines that dictate your posture, you have to make sure that the movements are spot on. This will prevent injury and help to strengthen any weaknesses that you may have.

Kettlebells

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When I first saw a set of kettlebells in a gym, I had no idea why these cannonballs had handles on them and what cannonballs were doing in a gym in the first place?

You can use kettlebells for many exercises instead of barbells or dumbbells but why use kettlebells instead of dumbbells?

The main reason in my opinion is that kettlebells can be used for explosive training if your goal is to build explosive power. Kettlebells make this type of ballistic training a lot easier to do because of the design; Kettlebells are basically a one sided dumbbell with a handle on top. Great for swinging around for those ballistic training results!

Kettlebells, dumbbells and barbells can be used in the same workouts depending on what the trainer is trying to achieve. For example, if the trainer wants to build muscle and strength in the upper legs and bum, he might do a few sets of barbell squats increasing the weight on the bar each time. But if the same trainer wanted to build explosive power in his shoulders, after his squats he may want to use the kettlebell for a few sets of single arm clean and press.

One of the great things about using kettlebells is that there is a good scope for fat burning circuit training sessions. With a single kettlebell you can create some pretty cheeky all over body circuits that will burn fat, tone muscle and develop explosive muscle strength. Much like any training method, the more you know about it, and the more you know about the mechanics of the human body the more fun and creativity you can bring to these kettlebell training sessions.

Enough of what you can do with kettlebells! Let’s look at the best kettlebells for home use.

Now it is possible to convert a dumbbell to a kettlebell by investing in an adjustable kettlebell weight grip but I do not have that much experience in this type of thing and my instinct says that attaching a grip to a dumbbell or plates to turn them into a kettlebell is not optimal. But if you would like to assess this for yourself, by all means, have a look at some of the solutions out there.

For the sake of this post and with space saving in mind, I would like to focus on the adjustable weight kettlebell and other home gym kettlebells.

Although it is possible to invest in a full set of kettlebells for your home gym, it is advisable to start with one or two and add to your collection as you progress with your training.

This does pose the obvious problem of increased storage/ floor space for your gym equipment. This is why I think the best kettlebells for home use are probably an adjustable kettlebell set.

These adjustable kettlebell sets are pretty neat as they basically take up the same amount of room as a single kettlebell.

Here is an example of a weight adjustable kettlebell set, it’s the slick looking power block adjustable kettlebell set.

Powerblock KettleBlock 40 adjustable kettlebell setkettlebells powerblock - kettleblock 40 pound

Although you miss out on the feeling of throwing a cannonball around I think it’s worth the compromise to have the space-saving benefits of an adjustable Russian kettlebell in your home gym rather than be falling all over a load of them.

As you can see, it’s pretty tidy, easily adjustable and available in two set ups; a 5 to 20 pound stack and an 8 to 40 pound stack.

So for me I think the best kettlebells for a home gym are definitely the adjustable ones, unless of course there is a lottery win, in which case I would spend a load of money on a set from Kettlebell Kings just because I could.

Steel macebell

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Aside from this being a legitimate excuse to throw around a weapon and pretend to be on the battlefields of Mordor, macebells do actually have real life benefits.

Incline Fit Steel Macebell

Incline Fit Steel Mace (5lb, 10lb, 15lb, 20lb, 25lb, and 30lb available)

Macebell training is something that’s pretty new to me and I’ve never actually been involved in this type of training myself but I can see a lot of macebell training benefits.

From my understanding macebell workouts are designed for functional strength training as a priority rather than anything aesthetic. This type of functional training should never be neglected even for guys and girls that are interested in packing on slabs of muscle, in fact even more so for these guys.

If you’ve ever been to a gym, you may have seen the big guys in there that have been lifting big weights for years and you wouldn’t mind some of that! But in my experience there are plenty of these big guys that have neglected their functional training causing a loss in flexibility especially in the shoulder area.

This functional aspect is a major part of macebell workouts in my opinion and can work towards plyometric strength, flexibility and even help with posture. You could go all out and make this the main focus of your efforts when it comes to your training. If this was the case you would be looking for function as a priority, weight loss and muscle building may be minimal but this depends on your macebell workouts.

In my opinion, there are more efficient ways to lose body fat and build muscle. But come the zombie apocalypse, you will be well prepared and may even enjoy the end times!

On a serious note though, you could use this type of training once per week as a way to address the functional aspects mentioned above or you could train exclusively with a maceball.

Titan Fitness Loadable Macebell Hammer

Titan weight adjustable macebell hammer

Either way and as it is with most other forms of training, you will need a good starting point and a good planned workout. It’s not a great idea to just go to Amazon, order up a bunch of mace balls and start swinging them around.

Enter Mac from “It’s always Sunny In Philadelphia” –

If I were to start this type of training, this video would be my in.

“Mac” appears to know a lot about this subject and the video is really helpful. If I were going to be exclusively working with macebell training I would grab set of Macebells or an even an adjustable macebell set for space saving and train 3 times per week to start with.

On each training session I would concentrate on each exercise for 3 – 4 sets before moving onto the next exercise. Rep wise I would probably start with timed sets rather than a number of reps. If I just wanted to use this type of training as a supplementary session, I would aim to do the same exercise routine once per week or minimally once every two weeks.

Here is the example of the macebell exercises that I would start with:

  • Halo – 3 sets for 20 seconds per set
  • Ballistic curls – 3 sets for 20 seconds per set
  • Lap squats with toss – 3 sets for 20 seconds per set
  • Rebel Press – 3 sets per arm for 20 seconds per set (Or to reasonable failure if 20 secs is too much)
  • Uppercuts – 3 sets for 20 seconds per set

With this exercise (uppercuts), I would switch the weighted end of the mace ball to the other hand after each set so this would be treated as “Swapping arms”. This means that I’d be doing 6 sets of this in total.

This is also something to keep in mind with macebell training – Most people are right or left handed and not ambidextrous so they will favour swinging the mace ball in one direction and they will also feel more comfortable holding the weighted end in either their left or right hand. In my opinion, this is a fairly important point to touch on as posture, strength training, good form and health and fitness in general has a big focus on balance.

So when it comes to your macebell workout routine you should be always aiming to follow a balanced approach, this does mean learning to swing both ways and working on ambidextrous function so if you perform a move with the weighted end in one hand, you should not neglect to perform the same movement in the opposite direction and switch up the weighted end.

All in all I think macebell strength training is a solid functional choice but it may be tricky depending on your training area. If you are using this in your office, you will definitely need more than a box room and even then you might want to tape pillows or bubble wrap to your screen and windows. But if you have good insurance or need an excuse to upgrade your office kit with legitimate tax-deductible business equipment, any office will do.

The biggest of the macebell benefits?

After walking in on you while you are swinging one of these around while yelling “There can be only one!”, never again will your better half disturb you during a workout.

Best home exercise equipment for cardio training

Skipping rope

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Hmm, the classic skipping rope,  an old faithful since Rocky first started showing us how much of a beast you need to be to do those double jump things.

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AKA
  • Speed Rope
  • Jump Rope

If you haven’t seen the Rocky films; firstly why not?

Secondly go and watch them all in order. This is life changing stuff and Rocky is one of the reasons that there are so many gym franchises in the world today – Fact.

For whatever reason you haven’t seen the Rocky films and if you are still reading this, you may be forgiven for stereotyping people that play with skipping ropes as six year old girls with pigtails.

But the skipping rope can be an epic piece of workout kit and can be used to melt off body fat, build on plyometric type movements and develop your stamina to a high level.

What are the benefits of jumping rope when it comes to fitness?

First of all it’s a good cardio choice. Any type of sustained movement can be classed as cardio but jumping rope and skipping is a fairly intense choice for cardio exercise. Yes you get to stay in one spot and you can easily do this exercise choice indoors depending on your room size but it does require a certain skill level to make it effective.

Let’s look at jump rope vs running – When you go for a jog, run or even speed walk it’s easy to maintain a certain cadence, rhythm or speed and this is also true when it comes to jumping rope. But with a skipping rope, you have to factor in how good you are at actually keeping it going.

For example you may have trouble getting the correct rhythm and this could cause a constant stop-start pattern and in some cases could take from your results. Also, if you decided to go for a 30 min cardio session using a skipping rope, you may start to get tired early on which could also cause you to keep hitting your feet with the rope.

So it is a great choice for cardio if you can get the rhythm right. But what about muscle toning and building?

Jumping rope isn’t really a muscle builder as such but it will certainly help to tone up as you are using your leg muscles to really good effect, your abs and glutes will be engaged and you will be performing sustained micro-movements with your upper body so you will get a lot out of it in a general fitness sense.

As you are mainly on your toes, your calf’s will get a battering, this is a good thing as I believe that calf muscles are hard to build.

Why?

Well, as the mitochondria are closer and packed in a lot more tightly than in other muscles in the body, to develop them you need to give them some extra intensity, so skipping is a nice addition to calf development.

What are the best Jump ropes for beginners?

Technically any type of line that has a bit of weight to it can be used for skipping but the more that you develop your skill level and coordination, the more you will appreciate that a quality skipping rope is necessary.

Here are two options –

Crossrope Infinity Rope System

Crossrope Infinity Rope System: Small - Speed Rope + Strength Rope

The above is most definitely at the high end and has a pretty hefty price tag but is adjustable and does offer different grades of rope, so if you are serious about jumping rope, this may be worth a look.

Option 2 –

Investing in a decent skipping rope doesn’t have to cost a lot though. There are some great options out there that are pretty inexpensive.

Option 2  is a more sensibly priced skipping rope. This is a good quality rope that is adjustable, has steel bearings in the handles for good, consistent rhythm and speed so I would say this is the best jump rope for beginners.

Elite Surge 2.0 – Double Under Speed Rope

Mini trampoline

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Aside from its effect on the body, this does nothing for your manly image. Don’t worry, however, you can choose a fold away version for when the lads visit.

That, or it can easily be disguised by pushing it in among your children’s toys.

Jokes(?) aside, rebounders could be a hell of a lot better for you than you might think as this study outlines, and as reported by Time.com in this article.

Here’s a list of just a few of the possible benefits of working out with a rebounder trampoline:

  • Low perceived exertion.
  • Low impact.
  • Boosts lymphatic drainage.
  • Boosts immune function.
  • Helps increase bone mass.
  • Improves balance.
  • Promotes tissue repair.

All that, and it’s fun!

AKA
  • Rebounder
Stamina 36 Inch Folding Trampoline Stamina 36-Inch Folding Trampoline
Trampolining was found to be moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise: with about the same physical effects as running six miles per hour, biking, or playing football, basketball or ultimate Frisbee. Yet when people were asked to rate how exerted they felt, they gave scores more consistent with light-to-moderate intensity—suggesting that the workout felt easier than it should have.
- Time.com

You couldn’t ask for much more in a relatively cheap piece of office workout equipment.

Under desk bike pedal

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When you think of fitness training at work or in the office, the first thing that jumps into the mind is some kind of contraption that makes you move while you type away at your keyboard or get you burning calories when you are stuck on that three-hour conference call.

Guess what! Someone already thought about this!

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AKA
  • Stationary Pedal Exerciser
  • Floor Pedal Exerciser
  • Desk Exercise Bike
  • Mini Cardio Cycle
  • Under Desk Peddler
  • Mini Peddle Exerciser

Enter the pedal exerciser or under desk bike! Now on the face of it you may think that the pedal exercise benefits must be pretty minimal but that depends who you are and what your goals are.

For example, I would highly recommend an under desk cycle to anyone who spends a lot of time at a desk as part of their job.

Wheelchair users, anyone who suffers with arthritic joint pain, elderly people who struggle to exercise on a regular basis but would prefer to avoid high impact activities and anyone who is recovering from an injury and needs to strengthen muscles and increase mobility.

What’s the best under desk bike?

There are more options out there than you would think but there are two types of under desk cycle that I would like to compare:

The most common type of portable pedal exerciser is pretty light weight, can fold down for slightly better storage, has digital display that can help with workouts, an idea of calories burned and a resistance adjuster. This desk cycle can also be used well on a table for upper body movement too.

Hausse Folding Portable Pedal Exerciser with Electronic Display

Hausse Folding under desk cycle with Electronic Display, Black

The Deskcycle 2 under desk pedals are actually really well thought out as they are a lot lower than all other mini desk workout bikes.

When you compare pedal exerciser heights, this is a great feature from the Deskcycle 2 as it makes the under desk cycle very viable for use under most desks as the knees aren’t smashing on the table. Especially nice if you are sharing a desk with someone else.

The Deskcycle 2 also has a more solid build; it’s a bit weightier as a result. This stationary pedal exerciser also comes with a detachable monitor and desk stand so you don’t have to look at the Deskcycle to see your progress (calories burned, time of session etc). This second option would be my choice.

As briefly mentioned earlier these mini exercise bikes don’t have to be under desk cycles, you can use it for arm and shoulder mobility too, just stick it on a table and use your arms instead of your feet to turn the pedals.

Deskcycle 2 Under Desk Bike Pedals

DeskCycle 2 Under Desk Exercise Bike and Pedal Exerciser

The benefits of this type of exercise will be very welcome to the right user too. Mobillity, stamina and muscle function in the arms, shoulders and upper back will be enhanced using the desk bike in this way too. For someone working on their shoulder and arm function for the first time, a session using the mini pedal bike in this way could be quite challenging.

So are under desk pedals and mini exercise bikes effective?

Yes they are, depending on your needs. If you are looking to burn away 100lbs of fat and earn a ripped, toned body with bulges in all the right places and would like this to be your main piece of exercise equipment, I would say that there is definitely a more efficient way to achieve your goals. But if you are recovering from injury, need to improve mobility, would like to improve circulation, need to avoid high impact activities, then a desk bike like this will be very useful and in some cases the best option.

Stationary bike

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The home stationary bike! This is probably one of the most if not most popular pieces of exercise equipment to start a home gym. Most people that I know who have had an interest in home training own or have owned a compact stationary bike.

As a result of the demand for the indoor stationary bike, there are thousands of different makes and models out there to choose from.

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AKA
  • Stationary Bicycle
  • Exerciser Bicycle
  • Exercise Bike
  • Spinning Bike
  • Exercycle
As with anything, if you are going to invest in an exercise bike, you should look at getting a good one from the start. The last thing you want especially where space saving is concerned is to have a bunch of old equipment lying around because you upgraded. I would recommend something like this…

This indoor cycle is adjustable both in positioning and resistance.

The positioning of the seat on most stationary cycles is only adjustable in one direction (up or down). A neat little perk in this Ancheer indoor cycle is that it actually adjusts forward and backward too. This can elevate lower back pain or niggles if the positioning is slightly out as it may be on other stationary indoor cycles. The handlebars are also adjustable in the up down direction.

It is small and compact as far as these things go and has a good build quality. One thing that I think you should look for in a stationary bike is the actual mechanics of the belt drive.

Ancheer indoor cycling bike m6008Ancheer indoor cycling bike M6008, quiet belt drive indoor stationary exercise bike

This model has a good design in terms of mechanics as the flywheel is quiet and smooth and also has a brake. Not something you get with most exercise bikes.

As you would expect from a piece of home cardio equipment these days, this also has the usual digital display showing distance traveled, time of session etc. It also has a holder for your smartphone. So if you are looking for a good stationary bike, this is a solid choice.

As this site is all about working out from your office, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention an option for a stationary bike desk! We have talked about under desk bikes but what if there was an option to have a desk as part of your bike… or a bike as part of your desk?

Well, there is! And I’m not talking about a homemade exercise while you work setup…

I’m talking about an out of the box, order online stationary desk bike. At first, this may look very gimmicky indeed but this depends on who you are; If you are someone looking for a stationary bike to burn significant fat stores, increase cardio function and muscle stamina then this is probably not for you. But if you are someone who works from a laptop, tablet or good old fashioned pen and paper for a lot of the day and are looking just to move more to increase circulation, then this might be for you.

I like the idea of the FLEXISPOT Home Office Standing exercise bike as it could be invaluable for the elderly, people in rehab after an injury etc. So depending on your situation, this stationary desk bike might be for you.

Flexispot Deskcise pro v9FLEXISPOT Deskcise pro v9 standing desk exercise bike for home office
Again, I wouldn’t recommend this desk bike if you are looking to make serious changes to your fitness levels but for the right person, it is definitely worth a look.

Air resistance exercise bike

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This type of exercise bike is probably my favourite for a few reasons. First of all it’s a fan resistance exercise bike meaning that the resistance level is controlled by you, the rider.
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AKA
  • Fan Bike
  • Air Bike
  • Wind Resistance Bike

With a fan or wind resistance exercise bike, you will also benefit from a smooth, quiet exercise session due to the nature of the mechanics. Basically, when you set out on your air bike workout and start pedaling away, you start moving a fan (where the wheel is on most other exercise bikes) which gives the resistance, if you want more resistance, you pedal faster. In my opinion, this set up actually aids in focus and goal setting with your workouts. You get out what you put in and an air resistance exercise bike actively encourages this rather than just setting you out on a certain level for the duration of your workout.

Using an air bike may take some getting used to for people that have used other types of exercise bike in the past but at the end of the day, if you are looking to burn fat or your goal is focused around general fitness, the movement and length of time working out on any type of cardio equipment is the important thing. If you are into the competitive side of cycling, you may want to look into the pros and cons of each type of exercise bike out there.

When compared to other types of exercise bike, the air bike benefits from an added bonus of an inbuilt, full body cooling fan that you actually power too!… Of course, I’m talking about the resistance mechanism itself but I guess this can be a nice selling point.

So what’s the best air resistance bike you can buy? If I were in the market for an air resistance exercise bike and money was not an object, I would grab the Schwinn Airdyne Pro. This is probably the best fan exercise bike for home use at the moment and it’s actually surprisingly affordable!

It has all the usual bits and pieces that you would expect from an exercise bike these days such as a digital display, lightweight build, etc but it’s also a good quality exercise bike. One thing that you will notice with a lot of air bike designs is that they also have a moving handlebar element to enhance workouts much as the crosstrainer does. It is important to know that you do not have to use these and the bike can be used just for the lower body, but it’s nice to have the option in my opinion.

Schwinn Airdyne exercise bike in silverSchwinn Airdyne Pro Exercise Bike, Silver
If the Schwinn Airdyne bike was out of my price range but I still wanted to take advantage of the air resistance bike benefits in my training, I would probably look at something like the Body rider fan bike

This model is significantly cheaper but is a nice entry level or budget option that you will still be able to use effectively.

There are other options on the market and some great brands that produce air resistance bikes that are effective such as…

  • The lifecore fitness assault air bike
  • Marcy classic exercise fan bike and..
  • The Stamina air bike 950

so if you would like more options other than my two recommendations above, they might be worth checking out.

BRF700 Body Rider fan bikeBRF700 Body Rider fan bike stationary fitness/adjustable seat

Rowing machine

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The rowing machine is a great piece of exercise equipment! It’s a low impact so it’s easy on the joints but it is a high-intensity exercise choice.

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  • Rower

The difference between the rower and other pieces of exercise equipment such as the exercise bike or treadmill is that the rowing machine uses a lot more muscle groups and is a more intense way to workout for fat burning, endurance or general fitness even without considering the variable of resistance levels.

As it is with most other types of home gym equipment, it is with the rowing machine; There are plenty of rowing machines to choose from but for the sake of this article, I will give my opinion on the best rowing machine for home use and will also mention a thing or two about the rowing exercise technique.

Although this might not be the best foldable rowing machine our there, it is a good entry-level choice and also a good space saving rowing machine.

If you are looking for a rowing machine under 200 Dollars then this is one to look at closely! It’s belt driven so may have a slightly different feel than an air resistance rowing machine.

So let’s get to it. As always the best at home rowing machine would depend on the home gym that it was going to be used in. If the home gym was compact and space was an issue, I would opt for something like the Marcy foldable 8-level magnetic resistance rowing machine.

Marcy NS-40503RW rowing machineNS-40503RW Marcy folding rowing machine with transportable

I always like to give an option for the lucky few with a big budget and a big space, so if I was in this position and in the market for a home rowing machine I would go right for the concept 2 model!

In fact, there are several different concept 2 models, there is the concept 2 model E, the concept 2 model C, the concept 2 model D, etc.

You got it! There are plenty of Concept 2’s out there!

To clear this up a bit and take a lot of confusion out of it, the model D is 14 inches high and the model E is 20 inches, this means that if you have issues exercising on a lower machine due to injury, back pain, etc, you would probably be better off getting the model E.

The other important difference is that the concept model E monitor arm does not fold down so might make storage a bit more tricky. The other differences are negligible in my opinion as they are mainly aesthetic. So with that out of the way, I would get a concept 2 D.

This gives me an opportunity to explain that the concept 2 model D indoor rower with PM5 monitor is an air resistance rowing machine and it can be easily broken down for storage with no tools needed.

Concept 2 model D indoor rower with pm5 monitorConcept2 Model D with PM5 Performance Monitor Indoor Rower Rowing Machine Black
Concept 2 model D indoor rower foldedConcept2 Model D with PM5 Performance Monitor Indoor Rower Rowing Machine Black

So it is actually my choice for the best home rowing machine for a small space. If you have the cash and rowing is going to be your thing, I think this would be a great choice.

As mentioned, there are many other makes and models of rowing machines to choose from and some honorable brands that are worth a mention are the Marcy rowing machine, stamina x air rower.

One last thing that I would like to briefly cover is the technique of using a rowing machine. It’s very common to get on a rowing machine and misuse it and the nature of the machine actually relies on the trainer to get it right without much guidance. When compared to a cross trainer or exercise bike, the movement is pretty guided, but with a rower, there are a lot of things to keep in mind. Remember that technique is everything and to get the most out of your training sessions on a rowing machine, you should certainly look into correct form.

Elliptical machine

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There is a lot of confusion between elliptical machines and cross trainers. So to start off Let’s look at a logical way of figuring out the difference between elliptical machines and crosstrainers.
So this is the way I look at it – The reason a cross trainer and an elliptical machine work the way they do is because there is a cam mechanism that uses an egg shaped rotating part that attaches to an arm moving back and forth.

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AKA
  • Stationary Pedal Exerciser
  • Floor Pedal Exerciser
  • Desk Exercise Bike
  • Mini Cardio Cycle
  • Under Desk Peddler
  • Mini Peddle Exerciser

Yes, the egg-shaped part that ultimately makes the food pedals move, down and back and forth is otherwise known as an “elliptical shape”.

So in conclusion, a cross trainer and an elliptical machine are one and the same in my opinion and you would not be wrong in calling this piece of kit an “elliptical cross trainer”, because in most cases, that is exactly what it is.

However, there are lots of variations when it comes to elliptical machines and cross trainers. Some machines have moving handles, some have static handles, some have both and some don’t even have handles. Some machines have a variable vertical function and some don’t. There are lots of different models of elliptical machine out there so for the sake of this article I will focus on a couple of options that will help you choose the best home elliptical machine for your gym or space.

As always, when it comes to the best elliptical machine for home use, it depends on your unique situation, but as you might know by now I like to suggest a model for the lucky ones that have plenty of space and money and also one for guys that are looking for the best cheap elliptical option.

Let’s start with the high-end option. This is my favorite part where I imagine that money and space is no object. So if I were in the market to buy an elliptical machine for home use and my bank account was too full and my home gym was too empty, I would go for the Body Rider elliptical trainer and exercise bike.

Although it is an elliptical machine, it actually has the option of a seat so this will be great for someone who is rehabilitating after injury and wants to start building leg muscles and function from a sitting position with a view to progressing onto the more challenging cardio where standing is the order of the day.

Body Rider elliptical with seatBody Rider Elliptical Trainer and Exercise Bike with Seat and Easy Computer / Dual Trainer 2 in 1 Cardio Home Office Fitness Workout Machine BRD2000

Although this piece of kit is a kind of 2 in one elliptical machine/exercise bike, the price tag is reasonable and as far as space saving goes, I suppose you even get value there as well given that this is technically two pieces of cardio equipment that only takes up the space of one.

Now if the shoe was on the other foot and I wanted to get the best compact elliptical machine for my home gym and I wanted it as small as possible. I would go for something like the Stamina In-Motion E1000 compact strider.

Although this may not seem like the usual elliptical machine style, it is still an elliptical training machine. The obvious difference is that there are no handles and this may take a bit more getting used to and a bit more attention and focus to maintain posture during elliptical training workouts but this can actually be beneficial to the training effect.

Stamina InMotion elliptical trainerStamina InMotion E1000 Compact Strider elliptical trainer

A big benefit of using something like the Stamina in motion elliptical trainer is that because it has no handles, it means that you are forced to engage stabilizer muscles for extra balance meaning more calories used, which in turn means more fat burned. This training machine also has a very small footprint when compared to other more traditional elliptical training machines.

So this elliptical trainer benefits from a few nice perks and would be my choice if I was looking for the best affordable, compact elliptical training machine.

Whatever you decide when it comes to the best home elliptical for you, whether you go for a high-end Nordic track x trainer or you go for a small footprint compact elliptical trainer, you should always be aware of your form in your workouts, a lot of people neglect this and just consider moving on the machine as good as it gets, but please, keep good posture, engage your abs and glutes, keep your head up and back straight through your exercise sessions on the elliptical machine whether it has handles or not. This will ensure you keep injury free, you strengthen your body in the correct way and that you get the most out of your workouts!

Vertical climber machine

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When I first saw one of these things my initial reaction was to put it in the category of the tug toner and thought of it as a bit of a gimmick. But after a closer look and a bit of consideration, this piece of vertical climber exercise equipment is actually really useful and it has a lot of benefits over other cardio equipment for fat burning and muscle tone.

If you consider that at the basic level to burn fat you have to move, increase your heart rate and work on toning muscles a mountain climber machine might actually be a good choice that ticks all the boxes.

Enter the maxi climber vertical climber machine. If you are going to go down this route, I think the best vertical climber or indeed the most popular one seems to be this model. This is obviously designed for the home gym owner as it is lightweight and can be stored and indeed used in minimal floor space.

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  • Mountain climber machine
Maxi Climber vertical climber XL 800Maxi vertical climber XL 800, as seen on TV. (Maxi climber Classic mountain climber machine)

When compared to a rowing machine, exercise bike or treadmill when used as part of a fat loss exercise routine, the maxi climber does seem to offer more in the way of space saving and full body movement. If you think about it, you are raising your arms above your head, you are engaging your core and you are moving your legs through a good range of motion, assuming that you do use the maxiclimber through its full range of motion in your workouts.

One thing I did notice about this is that in the same way you can use half movements on a rower, you can also do the same on a maxi climber so this is something to bear in mind. Half movements on the maxi climber could actually be useful for hitting calf muscles though.

Another great plus for the maxi climber is the fact that a maxi climber workout is very low impact so depending on who you are, this could be good for rehab or simply longevity if you are concerned about your joints. I would say however that if you are new to training, in general, you may need to wean yourself any type of vertical climber exercise machine as there is a lot going on with the movement.

One of the big things that springs to my mind is that a vertical climber workout can be fairly tough and if posture is not maintained, things like lower back might twinge. Saying this, I think the maxi climber gives more support to aiding correct posture than a rowing machine or treadmill so this is also something to be aware of.

There are a fair few ways that I can think of for using a vertical exercise machine in a home workout and to be fair, I think it adds a bit of fun to a training routine. I’m a big fan of circuit training and when it comes to getting good maxi climber results, I think that as well as doing pure cardio sessions on the vertical climber, you could throw short sharp bursts of a vertical climber machine into a circuit training mix. For example – 10 pushups then 1 min on the maxi climber, then 10 shoulder press, then 1 minute on the maxi climber etc. So there’s some more food for thought.

I am actually glad that I looked into this piece of exercise equipment rather than dismissing it as a bit of a gimmick. After taking some time to consider how this can be used in a home gym environment and for general fitness, its fat burning and muscle toning potential, I am actually swaying more to this than any other piece of cardio equipment.

Sure this is not for everybody but for someone who is injury free, average to above average in general fitness that’s looking to tone up and burn fat stores I think this is a great piece of kit and would make for a solid choice.

I have only really mentioned one product in this section but there are other types of vertical climbing machine out there but my choice would be the maxi climber.

Other makes are available and if you would rather shop around it might be worth checking out the Conquer vertical climber.

Conquer vertical climber fitness climbing cardio machine 3.0Conquer Vertical Climber Fitness Climbing Cardio Machine 3.0

Treadmill

When it comes to new starters to weight loss in particular it’s common that the first idea will be to buy a small treadmill for home use! Although this can be a big bulky piece of kit with a price tag to match, it’s still a plausible option.

It’s also common practice to buy a treadmill, use it once or twice for walking, jogging or running on and for reasons we will probably discuss in another post, find that the treadmill is soon repurposed as a permanent storage unit or cloths horse.

AKA
  • Running Machine
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Buying a piece of cardio equipment like this isn’t cheap, and there can be adverse effects if you choose a bad model so you really want to get the best treadmill for home use the first time and there are a few factors that need to be considered.

First of all, there are two types of mechanisms that treadmills use- mechanical and manual.

The mechanical ones have a motor and this determines the speed of the belt, so you will have to keep up the motor. The manual treadmills belt is controlled by the speed that you decide to travel in. Obviously, something with a motor will probably have a bigger cost.

Best compact treadmills for home use

There are many different variations of treadmills from a simple flat, manual treadmill with no bells or whistles to big industrial monsters that you would see in mainstream public gyms all the way to a compact folding treadmill with incline. It’s pretty easy to become overwhelmed with choice with this piece of cardio equipment, probably more so than any other piece.

This is why I have a suggestion that should suit the majority of people’s needs. Enter the Nordic Track T6.5 S Treadmill.

This thing is pretty impressive. It has more features than most public gym treadmills and although the price might be a little steep for some, it definitely offers good value for money as this is a fraction of the price you would pay for a treadmill of public gym quality.

Now I’m not a cardio guy by any means but the this NordicTrack treadmill has me making plans to move some things around and fit it into my life.

Maybe I can convince the Mrs to let me move that decorative chair in the lounge and replace it with this, it would stow nicely in the corner of the room. Yes, this thing folds away too! This is probably the best foldable treadmill for home use.

NordicTrack t6.5s Treadmill

NordicTrack NTL17915 T 6.5 S Treadmill

NordicTrack NTL17915 T 6.5 S Treadmill

The NordicTrack is a mechanical treadmill and has a motor. This means that it is programmable and your fitness sessions are governed this way. Personally I think that the treadmills that are powered by motors are a better choice as you can measure your cardio workouts and indeed your overall fitness progress better with a programmable system.

For my money, I would say  the above is a solid choice for the best compact treadmill for home use, but if the NordicTrack price is above your budget, there are other options available.

We’ve talked about the best motorised treadmill for home use, but I would like to offer up a manual solution.

Take a look at this manual treadmill for walking. I say for walking as this is what I would recommend it for, although it can be used for slow jogging and speed walking. If fat burning is your thing, this is the ideal exercise choice for you anyway.

It actually folds away so you could probably store it in a cupboard so if space is an issue you can still have a home cardio session with this piece of kit. A few other pros of having a manual treadmill over a motorised one is that they don’t need power, they are generally more slim line which makes for better storage in small spaces.

Some may argue that manual treadmills are a bit quieter, but I think that if you have the space and the finance, and you are looking to get involved in long term cardio routines (or need an extra place to dry towels) the motorised option has the most scope for longevity.

Confidence Fitness Magnetic Manual Treadmill

Confidence Fitness Magnetic Manual Treadmill with Mat
Confidence Fitness Magnetic Manual Treadmill with Mat

What's your choice for the best home exercise equipment?

Is there something you use for your home workouts that we missed here?

Let us know in the comments!

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