Working out at home is becoming an increasingly popular way to keep fit. Gym memberships can be expensive and often provide an uncomfortable or intimidating environment, especially during peak hours when they can be overcrowded.
Working out at home can be fun, time-efficient and equally as effective as going to a gym.
If you’re considering training at home you may not be sure of how to approach it. Home workouts require a little more effort in constructing your workout and getting motivated.
You may be wondering what home workout kit you’ll need. This can be difficult to decide as the fitness market is flooded with gadgets, supplements, ab machines and expensive kit, all claiming to be the ‘next big thing’ and the only way to lose weight or get an impressive physique.
With all these over-priced gadgets and gimmicks, knowing what to get for home workouts can be a minefield.
To help you out, I’ve compiled a top 10 list of home workout kit. Each piece of kit is ranked for effectiveness, cost and ease of use, each given a mark out of 10. I’ve also given a mark for how fun and travel-friendly they are, in case you want to take them on holiday or on a business trip.
Kettlebells are awesome. They’re versatile and work your body in a way that traditional gym workouts can’t.
They’re pretty cost-effective at about 30USD (1,000THB) per kettlebell and they last forever. However, if you’ve never used kettlebells before or you’re not used to the type of ballistic movement they require then we’d advise getting some guidance from a professional and progressing slowly until you’re used to the moves. Don’t let this put you off though – Kettlebells are absolutely worth learning!
Kettlebells are pretty heavy though, so not easy to travel with unless you only use a light one.
Check out our Kettlebell article for more info and videos.
Effectiveness 10 Cost 7 Ease of use 3 Travel-friendly 2 Fun 8
Resistance bands are another great piece of kit that are easy and fun to use and are super-light. Every muscle group can be worked with the bands by hanging or hooking them onto something sturdy or by standing on them. For example, standing on the resistance bands and lifting your arm straight out in front of you works your shoulders (see pic). Hook the bands around a tree or pole and pull the handles towards you for a ‘row’ back exercise.
Resistance can be changed by shortening the band length or using different tension bands which come in different colours.
Resistance bands are cheap, costing around 30-50USD (1,000 – 1,500THB) for a set. They can easily be thrown in a suitcase so you can keep active while away and they’re easy to get the hang of. However, if you’re used to using heavy weights these may not provide the intensity and level of workout you’re used to.
Effectiveness 7 Cost 9 Ease of use 8 Travel-friendly 9 Fun 7
Aka stability ball, balance ball or exercise ball. Swiss balls are essentially large inflated plastic balls. They can be used to make standard exercises harder, for example, if you perform a press up with your feet on a swiss ball, your body and core muscles will have to work harder to stabilize and stop your feet from falling off. There are thousands of exercises that can be done on this versatile piece of kit which we’ll look at more closely in a future article.
They are a bit of a hassle to deflate and inflate, but could be packed up reasonably easily. Some people advocate sitting on a swiss ball when on a computer, the theory being that your core and abdominals will be engaged to ensure balance and correct posture.
Swiss balls are cheap and most department stores and sports shops in Bangkok and elsewhere should stock them.
Effectiveness 7 Cost 10 Ease of use 7 Travel-friendly 6 Fun 7
TRX are pretty new on the fitness scene and use a concept that’s simple, but very effective.
Marketed as ‘suspension training’, TRX is essentially a non-elastic band made of strong nylon webbing with two handles at each end of the band. The TRX can be hooked onto anything or onto a door support which leaves the handles suspended. By gripping the handles or hooking your feet into them a huge variety of exercises can be performed.
Workouts can be made easier or harder by adjusting body position and the height of TRX handles. By adjusting the way exercises are performed it can be suitable for light rehabilitation, hardcore workouts or anything in-between.
TRX is not cheap, but is very light and travels easily. Some beginners would probably need guidance from a trainer or DVD/manual, but once you’re used to it you can make your own exercises up.
A great piece of versatile kit, but pretty expensive with prices starting at about 180USD (6,000THB) for a basic set.
Currently they cannot be purchased in Thailand but some gyms in Bangkok, such as Total Body Fitness, have them in their studio.
Effectiveness 9 Cost 3 Ease of use 6 Travel-friendly 10 Fun 9
If you tried a ViPR workout in your home you’d probably end up smashing the place to pieces, so it’s fair to say ViPR is more suitable for a garden workout.
ViPR stands for Vitality, Performance and Reconditioning and is essentially a hollow rubber tube with handles (see pic). It’s this shape that makes ViPR incredibly versatile for lifting, explosive exercises, ballistic movements and CV work.
ViPR is hugely popular with everyone I know who’s tried it. They’re great for a beginner or someone who finds working out monotonous, and they are genuinely used by many sportsmen and athletes to improve functional fitness. But like TRX and kettlebells, a lot of people may not quite know what to do with it without some guidance.
Their size makes them not really suitable for taking on holiday and the cost is pretty steep, starting at about 140USD (4,000THB) for the lightest 4kg ViPR. However, If you can afford it and you have the room, they’re definitely worth it.
Effectiveness 10 Cost 3 Ease of use 5 Travel-friendly 1 Fun 10
Medicine balls are football sized balls that weigh anything from 1kg – 15kg+ and can be used to make exercises harder. For example, you can hold a medicine ball whilst performing tab crunches, or you can twist your torso from side to side while holding the ball to work your obliques (side abdominal muscles).
They’re quite well-known for being used in boxing training with the medicine ball being thrown into the stomach by a training partner whilst doing ab work, forcing him to tense his stomach and to simulate taking a punch.
Medicine balls are a quality piece of kit, but if money is capped then you’re better off spending it on some of the other more versatile items.
Effectiveness 7 Cost 6 Ease of use 7 Travel-friendly 2 Fun 5
The more traditional home workout accessories. Hundreds of exercises can be done with dumbbells and barbells but many people are bored of using them which has led to the huge explosion in popularity for more versatile and fun items such as TRX, kettlebells and ViPR.
You can pick these up in any sports or department store but their weight would make them difficult to travel with. Prices are dependant on quality.
Effectiveness 8 Cost 8 Ease of use 8 Travel-friendly 2 Fun 3
Aerobic Steps are simply steps that can be height adjusted. You’ll find them in any gym studio as they’re often used in circuits and aerobics. Many things can be done with step ups but they are essentially just a step, and its use can be largely mimicked with a park bench or a stair.
Effectiveness 7 Cost 7 Ease of use 8 Travel-friendly 2 Fun 4
The ‘abs’ (abdominal muscles, six-pack) have more pieces of ‘revolutionary’ kit than any other body part. Most of them are horrendously overpriced and packaged with empty promises of a couple of minutes work for a washboard stomach. In summary, a waste of time and money.
One superb product which targets the abs and is cheap, highly effective and can be stored under your bed is the Ab Roller (also known as an Ab Wheel).
Consisting of a wheel with two handles, the ab roller is used by kneeling on the floor, taking grip of the two handles and then the wheel rolling back and forth, using the core muscles to power the movement.
It is quite hard to begin with, and you must ensure you are tensing, engaging and using your abs to power the movement, as otherwise it can put pressure on your lower back. Start with a small range of movement and when you’re comfortable increase the range to make it harder.
They start at about 12USD and can be taken apart easily. The Ab Roller is my favourite piece of kit for working your abs.
Effectiveness 8 Cost 8 Ease of use 6 Travel-friendly 8 Fun 7
A great and effective workout doesn’t need anything other than yourself. There’s a lot you just using your bodyweight, such as the squat thrust pictured below. The things we’ve mentioned in this article just help make things more interesting and test your body in different ways. We’ll have a look at a workout you can do using just your own bodyweight soon.
There’s a whole host of ideas here that can make training at home much more interesting and varied. Have fun, and let us know how you get on!