Must-Have Pieces for Your Perfect Home Gym (without breaking the bank)!

Anyone else have a love/hate relationship with the gym?  I love going to the gym for the variety of equipment. Most of the time though, I hate the gym because I have to get dressed, get in my car, find a locker, work out, possibly talk to someone, or share a piece of equipment, cool off, get back in my car, drive home… you get the point.  Having a home gym resolves all of those issues.  How much easier would it be to simply walk downstairs to your basement and do a complete workout??  I can tell you from experience, much easier!  But Kathleen, you say, a home gym is expensiveeee.  And yes, it definitely can be.  Which is why I’m here to help.  No matter your budget, you can create your own personalized home gym and effectively work out day in and day out.

Hate going to the gym? Create your own home gym! It doesn't have to be fancy and expensive, in fact you just need a few "must-have" items! And I promise they won't break the bank!

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How to Create Your Own Home Gym!

Here’s the deal.  This is Just Keep it SIMPLE Fitness, right?  So staying true to this blog I’m going to keep it real and keep it simple.  You don’t NEED any of these pieces of equipment.  There is plenty you can do with your own body.  Check out all of these no equipment workouts! (March WOM, April WOM, July WOM, August WOM)  BUT, I understand the need to pick up some weights, or jump on the bike, which is why I too, have some of these items in my home gym.  I’m not recommending anything fancy here, nor am I recommending you purchase every single one of these items (although I guess you could if you really wanted to!).  What I am recommending is that you take a look through the list, and see what speaks to you both through an exercising perspective and a financial one!

So here’s your “must have” list, with the most important first!

“Must-Have” Home Gym Items


To me, dumbbells are the single most important piece of equipment you can buy.  I often times struggle to find upper body workouts that only use your body (other than your typical push-ups and dips).  Dumbbells will also intensify any body weight exercise you normally do.  There are literally TONS of different exercises that incorporate dumbbells, just check out my Pinterest page and you’ll find a bunch! Or check out this post, Get Wedding Season Ready.   I’d recommend buying 2 different sets, one lighter, and one heavier.  If you can’t afford that at the moment, pick something in-between.  My personal favorite are the no frills dumbbells, like these here.  Make sure they aren’t rounded, because then you won’t be able to do anything in a plank position (well, if you have fabulous balance I guess you could!!)

Resistance band

This goes hand in hand with dumbbells, but I personally don’t think you absolutely have to have both.  So I recommend starting with one or the other.  There’s so many different choices out there it can be hard to pick.  I really like these ones here because they are large enough to be used for assisted pull-ups, or any upper body movement.  I also like the type that can be tied, like these.  It’s easy to tie the band around the pole in our basement and do some leg exercises to really focus on one leg at a time.

Jump Rope

Your next piece of equipment should be focused more on cardio because we have the weights figured out already.  The jump rope is an AWESOME cardio workout and super cheap (score!) especially when compared to a treadmill or bike or elliptical.  If it’s not nice enough outside to get in a run, then the jump rope is another great option to pump up your cardio.  Trust me, in just 20 minutes you’ll be dying!  (If you’d like to see a full jump rope workout, let me know and I can write a post!)  I don’t recommend going out and using a child’s jump rope (although that will work in a pinch), but I also don’t think you need anything fancy.  Just something solid, that will hold up to a lot, and one with good handles, like this one.

That’s It!

Wait what?  That’s all I need for a home gym??  Yep, I truly believe if you have a set of weights and a jump rope, you can effectively work out day in and day out with both full body strength and cardio workouts.  So that’s what I would recommend for a starter home gym and that’s why the list is so short!!  I told you I was going to keep it simple!

Now, if you’re looking for a more advanced home gym, and I don’t blame you, then I’ve got some more ideas for you.  These aren’t “necessary” but are definitely helpful.  Again, in order of what I feel is most important.

“Nice to Have” Home Gym Items


Having a mirror is HUGE.  Without one, you can’t see what you’re doing at all.  Your form may be completely off.  You could possibly be lifting your right arm 2 inches higher than your right, or your squat may lean to the left.  You’d never know without a mirror.  Plus you get to see those muscles at work, which is a pretty cool thing.  Mirrors can be super expensive, but there’s a lot of different ways you can find one.  Look at Craig’s List, or your local Facebook Buy and Sell, check out people who are remodeling bathrooms (that’s how we got ours!).  If you really want, you could look through Amazon and find one similar to this, but honestly, your best and cheapest bet is to search around.

Bar w/ Weights

I love dumbbells.  And one of the reasons is because each limb is forced to do their own work.  However, it can be very important to work your body together as well.  With a bar, you distribute the weight evenly and then lift.  For me, squats and deadlifts are easier this way.  In the end though, I’d pick dumbbells over a bar and that’s why it’s number 1 the “must have” list.

Cardio Machine

Alright so these will probably be your most expensive item.  BUT they can be super important.  When you get bored of jump roping or butt kicks, high knees, jumping jacks etc. a cardio machine really comes in handy.

    • Treadmill – I absolutely love our treadmill.  We have this one.  It’s not super expensive or super fancy, but it does the job.  When it’s raining outside, or snowing, I can get in a run whenever I want.  Sometimes I’ll use it for 5 minutes as a warm up.  When I was 40 weeks pregnant in the heat of summer, I used the treadmill all the time, walking on an incline.

    • Bike – Another awesome piece is a bike.  We have this spinning bike and to be honest, I thought I was going to hate it.  I’ve never been a big biking fan, but my husband is (which is why we got both the bike and the treadmill, one for each of us!).  And now I love it!!  I used it so much during pregnancy because it was much easier on my body than the treadmill.  It’s also another way I like to warm up before lifting.  There are awesome programs in there too that will make you SO sweaty by the end!  I am now a spin bike convert!

  • Elliptical – My last cardio machine that I’ll recommend is the elliptical.  We don’t have one (because my hubby wouldn’t let me get one, and we have no space for it!), but I think they are a great option.  You don’t need all three of these machines.  One would definitely do the trick.  What’s nice about an elliptical is that they are way easier on your body than a treadmill, but they are more of a full body workout than a bike.  My parents have this one which I used quite a bit when we lived with them for a few months and I have no complaints about it at all!  I recommend going both forward and backward


If you’re going to be doing a lot of circuits involving things like push-ups, planks, burpees, abs (okay pretty much anything that doesn’t involve you standing up) then you might want to consider getting some gym flooring.  Another option would be to just use a yoga mat, but I need more space than that when I work out!  We LOVE our gym flooring because it wasn’t too expensive, it’s easy to install (like a puzzle piece, but all the pieces fit together), and it’s soft and comfy.  This is the stuff we have, but there are probably a million different choices out there, you just need to search!  Flooring is really important if you are doing any sort of jumping (and if you’re in the basement on hard concrete) because your joints will really take a toll.

All Set!

So now you’ve got two lists.  The first is what I would consider “must haves” and the bare minimum.  The next list is your “nice to haves”.  Not necessary, but definitely nice to have.  With all of those items (or just a few) you’re going to have one awesome home gym!  Seriously, you don’t really need a lot to make it an effective work space.

If you’re still looking for more variety, then go for a few smaller pieces like these.

Add On’s

  1. Ankle weights
  2. Kettlebell
  3. Swiss ball
  4. Medicine ball

Alright, this has gone on long enough… like I’ve said way too many times already, nothing is mandatory!  You can get a great workout in using just your body.  But having additional pieces to add to your home gym can help keep you motivated, accountable, and add variety so you don’t get bored!  So get out there and create your very own home gym!

Do you work out at home?  What are your favorite pieces of equipment?

Creating your own home gym doesn't have to be crazy expensive! In fact, you really only need two different pieces in order to work out effectively day in and day out.

3 thoughts on “Must-Have Pieces for Your Perfect Home Gym (without breaking the bank)!

  1. I 100% agree with you on dumbbells (even just 2 sets) being the most important piece of a home gym. I’ve thought about writing a post like this before because home gyms are so underrated! I don’t have a gym membership and do everything at home with minimal equipment. Our little “home gym” (aka 2nd/guest bedroom haha) mostly consists of dumbbells, a pull-up bar, a yoga mat, and an exercise ball. I do a lot of bodyweight-based workouts, though, which can be MORE than enough for a good workout.

    1. Yes! Home gyms are so underrated! I don’t think people realize all you can do with your own body and some dumbbells! We have a basement gym and it is absolutely the best thing ever! I definitely recommend writing a post similar to this because it’s always nice to have different opinions!

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