How to create your own home gym

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Which equipment is worth splashing your cash on when creating a fitness playground at home? Rosie King finds out

Photo: iStock

The number one excuse body+soul fitness expert Michelle Bridges hears from people who don’t exercise as much as they should: lack of time. With a functional gym set up at home though, this excuse becomes paper-thin.

“There’s no packing your bag time, travel time, parking time, waiting for your class to start or your machine to become free time,” Michelle says. “You can literally jump out of bed, throw your trainers on and be ready to sweat – you don’t even have to get dressed if you don’t want to.”

It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either. Michelle promises that five hundred dollars will buy a home gym equipped with enough gear to keep you keen, pushed to your limits and free from boredom for years.

You really don’t need much to get started,” she explains. “Versatility is key. You want a few pieces that are inexpensive and don’t take up too much space but give you a truckload of exercises to choose from.”

“Remember, you don’t have to get everything all at once. You can start small and build up. If that’s your plan, I would start with the dumbbells, mat and skipping rope and then add the rest when you’re feeling a little more flush.”

Dumbbell Set

“You can get a lot of benefits from a cardio workout and weight bearing exercises but the research is out and you can’t beat weight training for increasing lean muscle mass and improving bone density. It’s the fountain of youth, and dumbbells are a great place to start.”

“They’re perfect for single arm movements, including alternating bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, single arm rows and front raises. Start with a light set and upgrade as you get stronger and need more of a challenge.”

We like: One Active by Michelle Bridges 12kg dumbbell set, RRP $ 49,

Barbell and weight plates

“This is the king of versatility. You can use it for squats, lunges, deadlifts, dead rows, bench presses, overhead presses, bicep curls – the list goes on. Having a variety of weight plates means you can load the bar heavier or lighter depending on your strength and the muscle group you’re focusing on. There’s also plenty you can do with the bar and plates separately, too.”

“One of the body parts that’s often missed is the back, which is a worry because a strong back is so important for posture and good technique in other exercises. The reason people skip it is that it’s quite hard to work your back without equipment, but with a barbell and plates, your options are almost endless.”

Try: Celsius 20kg Body Toning Set, RRP $ 79.99

Adjustable bench

“An adjustable bench has really good bang for buck because there’s so much you can do with it. You can step up and down on it, you can do bench presses on it, do Bulgarian lunges, you can work your core, upper body work is a cinch, use it for tricep dips and you can also grab your dumbbells and do back work.”

“This is likely to be one of the more expensive pieces in your kit but once you’ve got a bench, you’ve got it for life.”

Try: Torros Pro38 F.I.D Bench, RRP $ 199


“A mat is great for obvious things like push ups, crunches and planks but I find it’s also a great reminder to warm up and cool down. Stretching is such an important part of any workout and it’s made a million times more comfortable with a mat underneath you.”

Try: Yoga Design Lab Horizon Combo Mat, RRP $ 108,

Skipping rope

“This simple, little piece of equipment is often overlooked but I love it for both the cardio workout it offers but also the challenge it gives my coordination. You can use a skipping rope to warm up and you can also use it between strength exercises so you get a real metabolic conditioning training session. No matter how you incorporate it, it’s a full body workout. There’s a reason the fittest people on the planet – boxers – are mad about skipping. Plus, it’s fun and something everyone can do, too.”

Try: Nike Weighted Leather Skipping Rope 2.0, RRP $ 55.00,

Fit ball

“Fit balls do take up a fair amount of space but they’re really handy in a home gym because you can add a twist to traditional exercises, like crunches, back extensions and push ups. In some cases, this will make them more challenging and in others, it’ll lower the intensity of the exercise and give you a low impact option.”

Try: Kmart Gym Ball, RRP $ 10,

So, how will you actually use your gym?

Make it motivating

“Steve (Willis) and I are mad music fans so we’ve got a stereo set up in our home gym in the garage. We have a whole heap of motivating playlists that we crank whenever we’re down there because that’s what gets us going.” Covering the walls with mantras that motivate and people that inspire can also help you push through the pain and keep coming back for more.

Pay for pointers

“If you’ve got all the gear but no idea how to use it, you’re in a bit of trouble. But there’s an easy fix. Invest in three sessions with a personal trainer to get an understanding of how to use the equipment you’ve got and find out the correct technique to use. I would get the trainer to take a photograph of you in the right position so you can look back on it later on. Pump them for as many different ideas around gluing exercises together as well. It’ll mean you’re safer, more creative and have better results in the long run. Having a killer playlist to work out to is so important but having a good playlist of workouts is even more so.”

Mish’s home gym workout

Warm Up: Skip for 2 mins

Workout: Do 2-4 rounds depending on fitness and time allowed

1 min bench press with dumbbells or barbell

1 min walking lunges with dumbbells

1 min plank on fitball (rest if/when technique tanks, then get back into it!)

1 min french press (aka overhead tricep raise) with dumbbells

2 mins skipping

1 min rest

Warm down: Stretch for 2-3 mins

Tip: “It’s not all about getting in as many reps as you possibly can in the time allowed. Technique is more important so focus on that first and foremost”

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fitness | body+soul

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