Essential Workout Equipment

If I were to ask you what your essential workout equipment was, what would you say? Dumbbells, barbells, weights, benches, stability balls, exercise machines, medicine balls, or something else? When it comes to workouts and getting fit, people think they need a lot of expensive equipment to get results, or a gym membership at the very least. I used to think all those things were necessary to get a quality workout. But, what if I told you that you could get a full body workout without a gym membership or lots of expensive home equipment? Would you believe me?

I know, it’s hard to believe. I used to think this way, but I’ve learned how to get a great workout with less without missing any of that expensive gym equipment. Today I’m going to share with you my essential workout equipment. You’ll be surprised with how simple it is.

Foam Roller

The first piece of exercise equipment you need is a foam roller. People tend to overlook the value of this tool, but it’s invaluable to me no matter what kind of workout I’m doing. Before you begin any workout you should do some type of stretching to help warm up the muscles before putting them to work. Sometimes those muscles are really tight or have knots. Adding foam rolling to your stretching routine will make a world of difference in the extensibility of your muscles, allowing you to have a greater range of motion without injury. And just like you use it for warming up, it’s also great for cool downs.

Foam rolling also makes a great workout all on its own. This is especially true if you do something like running that can put a lot of stress on certain muscles. You can build a entire workout routine around foam rolling that is aimed at stretching and recovery.

TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller

My preferred foam roller is the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller (13-inch model). It’s small enough that it keeps out of the way or can easily fit into a duffle bag, but it’s firm enough to hold some weight and get the job done. TriggerPoint even makes end-caps for the GRID, allowing you to stuff items in the hollow portion and use it as a mini gym bag. You can pick one of these up from Amazon or your favorite sports store usually anywhere from $25-35.

All-in-all, it’s a fairly inexpensive piece of equipment that gives my body the relief it needs.

Resistance Bands

After a foam roller, the only other piece of essential workout equipment you need is resistance bands. Like a foam roller, this is another item that often gets overlooked in favor of more expensive or less versatile items like dumbbells or kettlebells. People tend to think that if you’re going to get stronger or build muscle it requires lifting heavy weights. While that is one way of doing it, it’s not the only way. When it comes down to it, to get stronger we must continually stress our muscles and put them under tension. This is done most often with weights, but resistance bands work just as well, if not better.

Resistance bands offer many advantages over traditional weights. Here are just a few ways:

  • Variable resistance with less equipment (a few bands can replace an entire set of free-weights)
  • Constant tension through the entire range of motion
  • Light & portable
  • Can be used almost anywhere
  • Resistance in multiple planes of motion (instead of only vertically with free-weights)
  • Adjust resistance on the fly without changing weights
  • Generally safer and lead to fewer injuries than weights

You can essentially replace an entire gym and all its weights and equipment with a handful of resistance bands and a few attachments. Don’t believe me? Bodybuilders like James Grage have stopped going to the gym entirely and now workout exclusively with resistance bands.

There are basically two types of bands on the market: tube and loop style. Tube style resistance bands are the ones you see with hooks on both ends, to which you can attach handles. Bodylastics make some of the best tube style bands. They have a patented construction that prevents the band from being overstretched or snapping. This style is what most people are familiar with, but it has its limitations. Its main limitation is that because it relies on handles, it can often require more room to add resistance, and those handles also make it more difficult to adjust resistance on the fly.

Undersun Fitness Resistance Bands

The other style of resistance band is loop bands. These are the ones that resemble giant rubber bands. There are two types of loop bands, typically distinguished by their circumference. First there are the wider & thinner resistance loop bands that are generally smaller in circumference. These types of bands are best used for leg exercises, such as tube walking or hip rotations. You can find these bands in the athletic departments of stores like Target or Wal-Mart or your favorite sporting goods store. GoFit is a popular manufacturer of such bands.

The other style of loop band is much larger, usually thicker and more durable. With these larger types of bands you can mimic nearly any exercise & weight you would do in the gym. They stretch much further and have far greater resistance than the smaller bands. The biggest drawback to these types of bands is the friction they create on your hands, which often necessitates wearing gloves. But, they are far more versatile than tube bands because they are easier to manipulate & adjust on the fly. Plus, you can still use handles with these types of bands if you so choose.

I own all 3 styles of resistance bands, but my favorite are the larger loop bands. I personally recommend the Undersun Fitness resistance bands that come in a set of 5 with a bag & door anchor, allowing you to workout anywhere. If I could only use one set out of the three I own, it’d definitely be those.

That’s Everything

Two items. That’s it! With a foam roller and a set of resistance bands you achieve your fitness strength training goals. You won’t need expensive free-weights in multiple sizes or large specialized equipment. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need the gym. If you catch a sale or shop around, you can easily have both for $100 or less.

Sure, I still have a gym membership because I enjoy going and it’s great to workout alongside other people. But, I also enjoy the freedom that these two items bring to my workouts. I can do my workout at home, which is sometimes more convenient in Spokane winters, or I can take it on the go. This setup is ideal as a personal trainer because it means I don’t have to lug around lots of heavy equipment when working with clients. And it’s inexpensive enough that they can invest in their own set.

So, those are my essential workout items. What are yours?