Advice on Small Home Gym Options

Posting this as I have received much valuable advice here on similar questions before.

I am about to become a father (for the third time) in just a couple of days! Preparing for this magic event, I’m having a hard time making it to the gym as usual. My prospects on entering the gym regularly during the summer months are low, unfortunately.

Thus heading for a plan B. Thankful for any good advice re smart home gym solutions.

The main limitation is apartment space, and easy storage is a bonus (even though I consider gym equipment real furniture).

I am considering:

  • Elastic bands.
  • A good bench.
  • A pair of heavier adjustable dumbbells.
  • A GOOD small machine type solution (like Bowflex or a modern solution like the Tonal device or similar - any good? Any better options?).

Any advice on this will be much appreciated. It doesn’t have to be cheap - but preferrably priceworthy and good equipment. I find a lot of stuff out there inexpensive second hand, though a lot of home gym stuff seem to be low grade copies.

Thanks in advance!

1 Like

Congrats on the little one!

I think it best to start by pondering your limitations. Space and time will always be the premiums to focus on…how much do you have of both (rhetorical).

From your post I see you live in an apartment and from the sound of it this is just a short period of time to get you by for next few months and not necessarily a long term investment for a full stocked home setup, right?

Does your apartment have a garage?

If you don’t go the route of barbell and plates (and rack) and I were in your shoes the first purchases I would make are some bands and a heavy kettlebell. A monster-mini and light band are useful and cheap right away. Probably a jump rope too. Build or buy a box to jump on or find a set of stairs / ledge you can work from.

An apparatus you can use to do dips and pull-ups from would be good. It could just be rings slung over a tree branch to something more involved (use imagination). That baby is gonna want one of those fisher price swings eventually and they work great from a pull-up bar…just saying.

Adjustable dumbbells and a DIY cable pulley are great investments to elevate your home gym options. Similarly a landmine is an awesome and cheap addition if you hadn’t considered it yet.

Good luck!

1 Like

If you have the room for a cable tower machine you can do sooo many things with that.

Or just a good ole squat rack and barbell
Edit: missed the key word in your post “apartment”. My bad

1 Like

Apartment situations can be tough. Any room for a barbell? A landmine device is GOLD for home gym setups, but that may not work in your situation.

Same for my machine suggestion: Free Motion Dual Pulley, but those arms can extend pretty high, so you’d have to have some tall ceilings. Not cheap, but probably the only machine I’d get if I had to rely on a garage set-up.

If it’s not too tall, a single adjustable cable tower is versatile.

Bands can definitely add a lot of variety as well as adding weight/resistance to lighter dumbbells. Good choice.

One heavy kettlebell will add a lot of options too (goblet squats, RDLs, high-volume hip thrusts, lunges, push presses, hammer curls, swings, etc.) Actually, that may be my best suggestion. Two KBs of different sizes would be hugely versatile.

2 Likes

I’d do the following in your situation:

  • Some kettlebells of varying weights

  • Weight vest that goes up to 60#

  • Adjustable bench (there’s a fold flat one in the Stuff We Like section if you don’t have room for a typical bench)

  • Adjustable dumbbells

  • Doorway pull up bar

This stuff plus a band pack will let you get some great workouts in and won’t take up much space at all, especially if you get the fold flat bench.

1 Like

A TRX or some cheaper variation of one brother, for sure

2 Likes

I second this as a great option.

Remember that this situation is probably not going to be permanent. For me when my first child was born I soon realised they spend a fair amount of time sleeping so there were many times when I could still get to the gym for 30-40 mins. Maybe take the next few months of you plan to train from home to do some training that you have not done before. I would use this time with kettle bells and bodyweight training to do some intense conditioning sessions and get in the best shape of your life. This will carry over into your gym training when you have more time later on.

3 Likes

Don’t forget Craigslist.

I agree on a lat pull / low row

I use my landmine t-bar handle a couple of times a week, also.

1 Like

I actually JUST ordered a TONAL… it has shipped and we’re waiting for it to get here so that we can schedule installation.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Tried it out at their store and it seemed like a pretty good replacement for a lot of what we need to do.

Then again it depends on what kind of work outs you’re trying to do?

The weights go up to 200lbs but it feels quite a bit heavier than that.

1 Like

Thankful to everyone who has contributed here! Much valuable advice from many experienced trainees.

Yes, please let me know what you think about Tonal @GeeWud! Do you need a subscription with it?

I am also curious whether anyone have tried Bowflex or TotalGym? I’ve read both good and bad about them. Why I’m even considering a less than great machine - is a simple solution for maintenance, a different stimulus, variation and less space needed as well as easy storage. If I had more space, and fixed position for it, I would go for a dual pulley machine solution as suggested by @Chris_Shugart

A dream would be a heavy multi station rack, but placing it in my small garage, would mean I’d have to park the car elsewhere.

I saw that Bowflex has a modern “Revolution” version used by the astronauts in space - talk about a sales argument. Expensive and space (!) requiring though.

I am not sure what kind of Bowflex you are considering but the old ones need quite a bit of space when you use it.

I also have a Total gym I would happily give you if you were close. :grin:

1 Like

Do you have space for a barbell?

Knock down stands would be legit for squats. But if that’s not an option, a trap bar would be able to provide a ton of lower body stimulus. OR, if THAT’S not an option, a landmine belt squat could work well OR a loading pin belt squat.

If I wanted a really low foot print system to hit everything, I’d go with a power tower and a trap bar. You get your whole body that way, and can tuck it all in a corner between workouts.

2 Likes

Thank you @T3hPwnisher,

Are there any “smart” power towers with more features? The ones I’ve been looking at features chinup and dips, obviously.

On second thoughts, I really need to add a barbell with a landmine attachment + a trap bar to my list.

Then there’s weights. Any brands with thin weights?

Thanks again! Just a short update for your confirmation. Did some online research on the topic “apartment home gym” which proved valuable. Have ordered the following equipment:

A collapsable FID bench
Power Block adjustable dumbbells up to 70 lbs.
An angled pull up bar for doorway

Next up is bands, maybe TRX. There are several different packages of TRX though, and some are quite expensive. Any TRX users out there with recommendations?

1 Like

How do you use the TRX? What excercises do you like in particular? Is it possible to do any decent lower body training with TRX? Lunges?

@j4gga2 @TrainForPain @mnben87

2 Likes

I really have only done rows with TRX. We have two of them mounted to the wall at my gym. They are a good exercise, but tough if you are nearly horizontal (you can adjust difficulty by the angle your body is at). I could see a few exercises being pretty good.

The reason I wouldn’t use it too much in my training is that progressive overload seems difficult. What do you do when you can do 20 reps in the most difficult position? Do you just keep increasing reps? I guess you could add a weight vest (or other means of adding weight to your body).

For legs, I could see pistol squats using the handles for stability being good (kinda like a Hatfield pistol squat). Other than single leg, I can’t think of much that would be challenging enough for me (for my goals of muscle mass and strength).

I’d get a good barbell and plates first. Then a rack. Then a bench (get a sturdy adjustable one). I would get and actually have two sets of different resistance bands. They are great especially if you don’t have that much plate weight. I’d get a light band set and a medium set. You can double them up, use both sets, to get a lot of different combos of resistance. Lots of bang for the buck.

1 Like
2 Likes

Thanks for the tag!

I think I’m really similar to @mnben87 here. I use TRX some when I travel or whatever, but it’s not my favorite tool. It is convenient, and allows you to do some exercises to get a little pump, but it also has its limits.
I much prefer bands when limited on equipment. I can rig up some pretty goofy crap and make myself look good before it’s time to sprint to the pool and show off briefly for people I don’t know and will never see again (or, more likely, sit in the bar with a hoodie on).

If I was going home gym, my priorities would be:

  1. Barbell and plates (45s and 25s first, 10s and 5s only if cheap/ part of a set).
  2. Some kind of landmine - even if its just a towel to throw on the end of the bar to shove it in the corner; this basically gives you a full set of dumbbells.
  3. Some kind of rack - there’s lots of versatile options, and squat stands seem fine. The titan yoke looks super cool, and I’ve used one at my old gym, but the consensus I’ve seen is everyone just ends up using it as a rack; it’s still probably what I’d get because I like sled pushing.
  4. Bands - these actually make it into the top 3 because of versatility and cost; you can do a ton of assistance stuff with these.
  5. Bench - this would be relatively far down my list, because I think I could get far with floor press and overhead press, and they’re pretty expensive for decent ones. I’d also probably opt for the flat ones, and just use plates to create angles, because the adjustable ones always suck.
3 Likes

I agree with everything you wrote except this – I love my adjustable Rep Fitness bench! I bought it at the height of the pandemic when it was the only one I could get thinking I’d replace it with their fancier version and I like it so much I’ve just kept it. It has been one of my best, least expensive home gym purchases.

3 Likes

Totally fair then if you actually have a good one! The last one I had was Titan, and I was disappointed (although I like most their stuff).