From Homebody to Gym Body: How To Make Your Home a Gym

Key Points

  • You don't need a lot of equipment to get a workout in, but having a few reliable options helps immensely to move in all the ways you're capable of.

  • There are already things inside your home you can use for an effective workout.

  • Budgetary and space constraints impact the type exercises you do and the equipment you buy.

When 2020 forced more people to be homebodies, the idea of a gym body seemed a difficult challenge. People adapted to working at home, eating at home, and even exercising at home. Now that home workouts are far more common, you may want to consider the best equipment for home workouts.

The best equipment for home workouts depends on many things, including your budget, space, goals, and desire.

The Way You Move

If you watch a gymnast or a dancer, you'll see seemingly impossible movement combinations as they leap, bound, and tumble across the floor or stage. Break those movements down into their most basic forms, and you get a nifty list of the seven basic motions that exercise programs consist of:

  • Squat

  • Lunge

  • Push

  • Pull

  • Twist

  • Bend

  • Carry

Some of these movements are self-explanatory, like the squat and lunge; those are two of the most common lower-body exercise patterns you'll see in a gym on any given day. Some squat with barbells, others squat with kettlebells, and some use sandbags. The choices are endless. The same goes for the lunge pattern.

Pushing and pulling are just as ubiquitous in a gym. A pull-up or a row is a pull, a push-up, a bench press, and an overhead press are examples of pushing exercises.

Woman lifting water bottles

Twisting encompasses anything moving your body outside a straight line and over the transverse plane. For example, anything like looking to the left or right or the classic cable chop exercise for your ab muscles is a twisting exercise.

A bend is synonymous with a hip hinge, which is synonymous with the deadlift.

These movement patterns work together and seldom in isolation. Stand straight, reach down, and touch your right foot with your left hand, and you have an example of a twist combined with a bend.

The final one on the list is a carry, and just like the name says, all you have to do is carry something. You can carry an object close to your midsection like a baby, you can carry a couple of suitcases hanging by your sides, or you can carry something like a watermelon over your head. With enough distance, weight, or both, carrying things is often challenging.

How To Exercise

Ideally, a well-structured workout encompasses all seven of these movement patterns. Maybe not in a single session, although it's possible, but over the course of a week, a good workout program will have you hitting each of the fundamental motions.

Gyms have fun and fancy toys to play with to help you achieve these goals. Cables, squat bars, bench press platforms, and pull-up bars, as far as the eye can see, are a turn-on for this exact reason. Don't worry; you can replicate them at home.

Use What You Have

Before you go on an internet shopping spree, take inventory of what you have. Look around your place.

Seating Arrangements

You're off to a good start if you have something to sit on. Find a stool, a dining room chair, or even your couch.

With your couch, you can rack up a series of lower-body exercises, including box squats, hip thrusts, step-ups, deadlifts, or Bulgarian split squats. It goes without saying that if you decide to deadlift your couch, make sure it's not too heavy and use good form.

Man doing exercises using couch

For box squats with the couch, there are one-leg and two-leg variations. Whichever you choose, lower with control, and don't plop your butt down. Once you're seated, relax the tension in your hips, rock forwards, and stand up.

If you're inventive, you can even get in some upper-body work with your couch. The classic push-up lends itself to the couch. Stand in front of the couch and place your hands on the seat, and you have an excellent regression for your push-ups if you can't do them from the floor.

Alternatively, if you can crush the push-ups from the floor, use your couch to elevate your feet, increasing the exercise's resistance.

Reading on the Floor

Books are great tools to have on hand for quality exercise. Not to read as you sweat it out but to use as a prop to increase your range of motion during your training.

For example, your floor is a great way to get some planks in, along with your push-ups. Add a book to the mix, and you can combine a push and a pull.

Perform a plank on the floor, ensuring your chest is above the book. While planking, reach for the book with one of your hands, and slide it away. Return to the plank, then use your opposite limb to slide the book away from you. When you grab the book with your right hand, slide it to the right, and then reach toward it with your left and slide it that way. Make sure to pause between each rep.

To make that more complex, perform a push-up in between each slide.

Woman working out at home

Washcloths and Towels

These pieces of equipment are dirt cheap, and chances are you have several of them on hand already. Similar to using a book, you can slide your hands or feet across the floor by placing them on top of the rag to add intensity to your push-ups or lunges.

Towels and washcloths are also a good idea to work your forearms. Simply take a thick towel and soak it in water. Pull the towel out of the water, wring it out to the best of your ability, and repeat for several reps.

Ideal Equipment Additions

Even with a place to sit, a book, and some creative ideas with what you have in your home, there may still be some potential design flaws in your home workout. Sure, you train a push and a pull, but those motions also have vertical options that you may miss out on without a few extra pieces of equipment.

Pull-up Bars

If you can acquire nothing else, make it a point to get one of these. Vertical pulling exercises are great for your mobility and shoulder health, and knocking out a few dozen pull-ups is a worthy display of strength. If you can't do any, it's a worthwhile goal to set. As a bonus, your home might already have a pull-up bar built into it if any exposed pipes or beams are inside.

Woman doing pull ups

Aside from the vertical pulling options, you can perform hanging knee or leg raises to work your ab muscles.

There are a lot of pull-up bars available on the market, but for minimal work and no drilling, get the kind of bar you can put in the doorframe by wedging it across the threshold.

For more mileage out of your pull-up bar, take one of those towels you have lying around and hang it on the bar. From there, grab an end in each hand, and perform your pull-ups that way.


Like the pull-up bar, the kettlebell allows for a few more training options you wouldn't get otherwise. Push-ups are an excellent pushing exercise, but unless you can do handstand push-ups with ease, you'll lack the vertical pushing motion. A kettlebell overhead press solves that problem.

In addition to vertical pushing motions, the kettlebell can afford you more options for horizontal pulls in the form of rowing. The kettlebell also allows for more horizontal pushing, such as with floor presses. Angle your back on your couch seat and incorporate incline pressing.

Kettlebells also help with squats and lunges in the form of goblet squats. While holding the bell in the goblet squat position, you can also practice your lunges.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of having a kettlebell is the cardio options. The kettlebell swing ramps your heart rate up while giving you the added benefit of building your glutes by the repeated hip hinge motion.

Person with kettlebell and dumbbells

More Ideal Options

The final item on the list of ideal home equipment would be a set of bands. Specifically, the thinner types you can easily slide your legs inside of to start feeling resistance. With the bands, you now have a spectacular addition to working your glutes in various ranges of motion.

Full Body Work

If budgetary concerns are low on your priority list, two options from late-night television might satisfy the itch for a total body workout. Space will be a factor if you opt for either of them.

The first is the Total Gym, made famous by Chuck Norris. It affords full-body workout options limited by your creativity and good judgment. The other advantage of this device is that while it takes up a decent amount of space when you're using it, it folds down, allowing you to store it under your bed, upright against the wall, or even in a closet. Don't let "out of sight, out of mind" ring true if you store it under your bed or in your closet.

Another full-body option is the Bowflex. At a glance, it looks like a typical lat pull-down you'd find at a commercial gym. It has lat pull-down capabilities and options to work your legs, chest, and abs. Unlike the Total Gym, it's not as adaptable for an environment lacking in space, so plan accordingly.

While both options are significantly expensive, one advantage to either device is that they offer payment plans to help fit your budget.

Fat Loss at Home

Many people seek a gym membership to lose fat and attain a better level of health than they previously had. There's no denying the benefit of exercise for longevity and overall health, so there's merit to that goal, but you don't need the gym membership to achieve it.

When you initially make that change towards more physical activity, you might find yourself a bit lighter after a few weeks. After a while, however, the pounds might not be coming off unless you tweak your diet accordingly.

The best workout you can do at home for fat loss isn't a workout. Not a physical workout, at any rate. You have to inventory your overall diet and eat those foods that will help you achieve your goals. The abridged version of that diet will be some combination of lean proteins and adequate fiber. That one step alone yields fat loss regardless of how much you exercise, though it's a disservice to deprive yourself of the benefits of vigorous exercise.

A Perfect Setup

In a perfect world, you'd have all the equipment options listed and weights ranging from light to heavy within those pieces of equipment.

In addition to those pieces of equipment, in a perfect world, you'd add one of those all-in-one workout machines advertised on late-night television. If you did, you'd never have to leave your home again.

Woman doing resistance band exercise with dog


A perfect setup might be a bit of a stretch for a home gym, so you have a few things to consider when setting yourself up for home workouts.

The first consideration is how much space you have. If you have a garage with no cars, tools, extra refrigerators, or anything else taking up space inside, you have a lot of room to play with outfitting your home gym. You can fit benches, barbells, and maybe a squat rack within a garage, and if it's big enough, you could throw in a dumbbell rack.

Outfitting a gym is fun, and like every fun thing in life, the money you spend on it can accumulate quickly, so consider your budget. If you start moving beyond kettlebells and bands, the money you spend can rack up quickly. The more equipment you get, the more you spend, and before you know it, you might have sunk several thousand dollars into your home gym instead of a few hundred. Get creative rather than carried away if you're on a tight budget.

A final advantage to having a few reliable pieces of equipment is building upon exercises. As mentioned above, simple tweaks like adding a towel to the pull-up bar can up the intensity of an exercise and allow you to challenge yourself in ways you didn't think possible.

Now that you know what you need to create a home gym, consider your space and financial situation and plan accordingly.

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