, Q&A Wednesday, Strength TrainingQ&A Wednesday: What Do I Need For An At-Home Gym?

Q&A Wednesday: What Do I Need For An At-Home Gym?

Q: Hey girl!…I feel like I’ve known you forever…lol I am a stay-at-home-wife & mom to two little boys. I weigh…*clears throat in shame* 298 pounds I am 5ft6.5in. NOW I KNOW I have to get my weight down and get my health in check….My goal is to weigh 150lbs. My husband and I have come into a little money and I told him I want to invest in a mini home gym to put on our patio or in our spare room in our apartment. Our complex has a weight room, but I never have time to go over there, if I take both the boys my whole workout routine is cut short, due to stops to reprimand and keep them safe from all the equipment….which  tires me out, I can’t even focus on my workout. So I need something more accessible than that. So how would I build my home gym; what are staples and must haves? I was thinking a treadmill or a bowflex, wii-fit or Xbox kinect, but then I thought I need some real deal equipment to get the most out my workout and considering that we move quite a bit, I need my home gym to be able to pack up with little frustration. Is “building” this home gym even possible? I’m skeptical that I can even lose almost 150 lbs and be sculpted. I’m clinging to the hope that if I lose the weight slow and the fact that I am young my skin has some elasticity that not only will I be healthy, but my body will be fit and tight too! Am I kidding myself? Anyhoo, to my initial question…how to build a mini home gym. Whatever help you can give is great. And I really appreciate your site

I get questions like this all the time, and I always smile, because it takes me back to the time when I first started really losing the weight. Sure, I had a gym membership at first, but it wasn’t until I completely revamped my eating habits and started working out at home that I truly started losing. I was a single stay-at-home mother, myself, and my daughter (then, age 2) was particularly… um… precocious. Needless to say, it was a lot of work keeping my house in one piece, managing a business and – as the great philosopher Fergie would say – workin’ on my fitness.

Back then, my apartment complex had a workout room, as well, but once it’s swimsuit season in Miami…. you’re pretty much done for. My daughter and I used to have a grand ol’ time working out there, until it was loaded with lots of people far more confident and focused than me, in there half-working out and half-keeping an eye on me.

I was excited because, even with my gym membership, I hadn’t experienced the same results I was getting from working at home. Compare a loss of about 30lbs in six months to a loss of almost 80lbs in six months? See what I’m saying? Your first goal should be understanding that great bodies are made in the kitchen, and any efforts to exercise will be thwarted by a bad diet. With almost 150lbs to lose, the first steps will be to clean out that kitchen and start addressing what’s really going to interfere with your goals the most.

But that’s not what you’re asking about, though, right? You want to know what a successful, success-promoting home gym looks like, right?

Here’s the deal. Remember what exercise is supposed to be: it’s anything that promotes or allows someone to maintain physical fitness. Even though I love free weights, it doesn’t have to be weights. Even though I love volleyball, it doesn’t have to be volleyball. It doesn’t have to be any sport. It only has to be something that promotes and encourages your body to maintain it’s ability to do stuff. If that means a Wii Fit, a jump rope or a gallon of water.

Yes, I said it. A gallon of water. As a single parent, I was afraid of wasting money on something that I wouldn’t commit to. If I was going to genuinely spend money on fitness, I needed to prove to myself that I would actually do the work.

And that, really, is the main issue. The commitment, the consistency, are what matters most. The willingness to do it every day, no matter how busy you become, no matter how rough it gets, you’ve still got to commit to yourself. I need to state this first and foremost because regardless of whether you buy the most expensive system out there or just dump out a gallon of juice in the fridge (please dump it out, please), it’ll all be worthless if you don’t commit.

That being said, what should a great home gym consist of? Well, talk about a great at-home workout, first. A great workout is a combination of strength training – something to challenge your muscles – and cardiovascular activity – something to get your heart rate moving and your fat burning. How can you accomplish both at home?

You can train for strength without equipment – which is why I’m a lover of calisthenics, which is simply exercise that uses the body’s weight against itself. Exercises like squats, push ups and planks are all examples of ways to use your body’s weight against itself. Side bends, steam engines, leg lifts, burpees… all calisthenics.

You can also train for cardio at home, without much equipment: mountain climbers (a personal pain in my ass), burpees, jumping jacks, jumping rope, jogging in place, walking lunges? All cardio, no equipment. If you can get a jogging stroller, you can even run/walk with the kiddies in tow. The benefit to at-home cardio exercises like these is that they also count as calithenics, and can provide muscle as well as a heart-pumping activity.

When it comes down to equipment to buy, think about what you enjoy – because that’s the final deciding factor in whether or not you’ll commit to it. So, if the program you choose comes from Wii, then make it happen. If it’s a PS23487453 (whichever one they’re on, now), then go for it. (Couldn’t be me, though – I’d be too busy trying to play some form of Grand Theft Auto… but I digress.)

All in all, I can’t tell you or recommend anything in particular simply because a) I’m cheap, b) I’m such a huge proponent of calisthenics and c) I find a lot of the major systems to be a load of bunk, anyway. If I had to recommend a purchase for anything, it’d be a workout mat and a pair of weights. (weights, obviously, dependent upon your own ability level – don’t get those fifteens if you can barely carry them out of the store.) Spend that money creating a space where you can feel comfortable working out, buying a new pair of workout shoes, and maybe a nice progress dress. You can do everything else from there with just those two, and you’ll be golden.

But since I know plenty of y’all are out there working out at home, what are you using? What moves are you doing? Let’s hear ’em!

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By | 2017-06-10T11:24:13+00:00 May 5th, 2014|Fat Loss, Q&A Wednesday, Strength Training|19 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. CO February 8, 2012 at 4:11 PM - Reply

    I recommend that she invest in a TV & DVD player for that room and pick up some great workout DVDs – Jillian Michaels, Cindy Whitmarsh, etc. – that can guide her workouts and teach her the basics. When I first started working out, I didn’t know proper form, how fast I should be going and all of the other specifics to working out, and I found that DVDs helped me immensely. Using DVDs will also ensure she’s getting a full workout in, i.e. if she’s doing abs she’s also doing back, etc.

    • JaNee May 23, 2012 at 9:29 AM - Reply

      i love jillian michael’s dvds, they’re challenging but not impossible, and as you do them you can really see your progress. i’m a big fan of rotating different dvds too so that i’m not bored, i have a pilates dvd, and one of the hip-hop dance ones, and jillian of course.

  2. Noella February 8, 2012 at 5:19 PM - Reply

    This was wonderful. I often need to read/hear you have to commit or it wont work. i belong to a gym and paying my money certainly gets me to go and do some kind of workout. I’ve been using the Nike Training Club free app on my iphone (not sure if it’s on other phones) and it’s pretty awesome. A trainer I once had referred me to it once our sessions ended. You can create your own workout and it has timers and videos on how to do everything that they list. You can also sync your music to each workout. Hope this helps someone as well. Have a great day!

  3. Shan February 8, 2012 at 6:12 PM - Reply

    Erika, your site is the business! I work out from my apartment and I have a mat, a set of 3-pound weights, and my own body weight. I’ve lost 14 pounds since January using Jillian Michaels DVDs (I know, i know you don’t like her, but her videos are soo good!) And I did Zumba for the wii for a while; it way overestimates calories

  4. Shan February 8, 2012 at 6:14 PM - Reply

    Erika, your site is the business! I work out from my apartment and I have a mat, a set of 3-pound weights, and my own body weight. I’ve lost 14 pounds since January using Jillian Michaels DVDs (I know, i know you don’t like her, but her videos are soo good!) And I did Zumba for the wii for a while; it seems to overestimate calories, but it’s fun if you have rhythm and I was DEFINITELY sweating.:))

  5. Diandra February 9, 2012 at 4:22 AM - Reply

    I only work out at home (gyms are expensive, and I hate people *lol*), and having lost almost 20% of my body weight, this is what has worked for me:

    * Walking,
    * once my knees were strong enough followed by running (I loved the C25K plan),
    * strength training with free weights (2x10kg by now, started at 2x1kg),
    * workout DVDs.

    That last one has helped me most, I would say, because first of all it never gets boring, and second you learn so many new moves and exercises you would never have even thought to find. It takes some time finding workouts you enjoy enough to stick with, but you don’t ahve to buy them at once – borrow them or look up example videos on youtube.

    Right now the BF and I are considering buying a treadmill, but that is mostly for him, bcause he used to work out on the treadmill at thy gym and simply does not have the time to go there anymore. Don’t know whether I’ll use that as well, but the stuff listed above has brought me far enough. ^^

  6. Ayanna February 9, 2012 at 10:22 AM - Reply

    I absolutely agree. All the equipment in the world makes no difference without a firm commitment.

    Working out at home with DVDs and a set of 5lb weights has taken me from 250+ to 180.4 (as of this morning) since April of last year!! I started with the easy to follow, high energy “Walk Away the Pounds” series, moved to the fun and feisty Dance off the Inches series. Last month, I started accompanying a girlfriend to a step aerobics class offered in her apartment complex gym and I am now HOOKED on step aerobics. I raved about it so much that my husband went out and bought me a step and DVD to use at home.

    Food is definitely KEY. The minute I changed my eating habits (cut out sugar, bread, rice, pasta) I dropped 20lbs in about 2 months! With little to NO exercise at all. Its like a light bulb went off in my head and, as they say, the rest is history. Once it really hit me that I am really in control of my body, that I can get down to any weight I want to be with enough work an determination, that being 150lbs wasn’t just some pipe dream, I immediately began to feel unstoppable! I’m thinking about running in a 5K in April. The sky is the limit for me now.

  7. Randi@kickingfat February 9, 2012 at 12:10 PM - Reply

    I was just talking to my friends about this very thing.

    I lost my first 52 lbs doing it at home. I pay for a YMCA membership (mainly for the pool and so my boys can use their facilities) for my family now but I still do most of my working out at home.

    First I would say workout videos. I have at least 10. From Biggest Loser, to Jillian, Tae Bo, The Firm etc. I also purchased workout dvd’s for my kids and did that with them if they were trying to be all up in my space.

    Also my step-dad came from the army and like you he was big on Calisthenics. He also was a huge proponent of using your environment to help you exercise. That means I save gallon water bottles and use them as weight. Fill them with water or sand or rocks. I also have homemade sandbags.

  8. Tara Melissa February 9, 2012 at 10:33 PM - Reply

    If I were to add anything to those, I’d add a jump rope (I don’t warm up like this all the time, but it’s a nice switch from jogging in place/jumping jacks/burpees) and a resistance band. Both can be bought fairly cheaply and don’t take up a lot of space – and they travel well, too!

    I love that you mentioned how annoying mountain climbers are – they’re the worst!

    I would also add, if possible, get a nice big mirror. I know some people don’t like watching themselves work out, but for me it’s invaluable to make sure my form was correct so I wouldn’t strain myself doing certain exercises. Sometimes you don’t realize your form is improper until your back aches the next day.

  9. Allie February 15, 2012 at 12:13 PM - Reply

    I love my free weights and stationary bike. I bought a cheap free weight set at walmart and can adjust the weight from 5 pounds to 40. (not like I can lift that!) But it gives me a huge amount of flexibility in my work out and I feel like a beast 😀 Then I ride my stationary bike for however long that day and I feel like I get a great warm up and cool down doing my favorite thing. I can’t bike as frequently as I used to because of my son, but I can get a similar work out inside and I can keep an eye on my son. Win win!

  10. Alexandrea Ward April 11, 2012 at 4:31 PM - Reply

    I work out at home as well. I don’t have my own car so I do what I can with what I have. I love Jillian Michaels’ dvds, they are intense for a short amount of time and you can even go to her site for pointers on healthy meals. I also have an aerobic dvd where I can do 1, 2 or 3 miles at home, and I use small hand weights along with it. There are so many articles and Youtube videos (if you’re into that) that can lead you in the direction of figuring out what you like.

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