By Megan Sinwell, DPT and Pat Staszak, PT
As the world has shifted in the last three months, many of us have had to change our workouts. A well-equipped home gym can go a long way to providing a wide variety of exercises to keep you strong and healthy. So we are sharing a few ideas of what equipment can be useful to have for your home gym. It is not necessary for you to have all of these items in your gym, but as you play around with your workout don’t be afraid to explore the use of the following props.
Dumbbells – A set of two light, medium and heavyweights are about all you need for a well-rounded dumbbell routine. Use the different weights to do a group of upper and lower body progressions and combination exercises where the whole body (both upper and lower) are working together. Have you ever heard of Wolfe’s Law? It is also important to use resistance when exercising to stimulate the bone builders (osteoblasts) to keep our bones strong. If you don’t have access to weights, bottles of laundry detergent with handles or cans of paint can work too!
Theraband Tubes with Handles – Great for resistance training for the upper and lower body. Again, a set of three with light, medium, and heavy resistance provides a variety of different exercises. Tubes have the added benefit of packing small so they are perfect to take on weekend getaways.
Banded Loops – Loops are very useful to facilitate stability while performing a beginning exercise on your back, and functional exercises in, high kneeling, half kneeling, or standing. Hold the band in your hands for improved general stability or place in strategic positions on your arms or legs to facilitate a specific muscle. This is a fantastic way to work on hip strength and stability during functional exercises.
Airex Pad – This foam pad provides an unstable surface which creates additional stability challenges during functional exercises in high kneeling, half kneeling, and single or double leg standing. Any upper body exercise can be done in the above positions to add a stability challenge. To increase the difficulty of the exercises, even more, try to do them with your eyes closed!
Swiss Ball – This classic rehabilitation and exercise tool has many different uses – some even use it as a chair. Due to its unstable nature, it is an excellent tool to challenge balance and stability while performing exercises with it.
Yoga Strap – This tool serves as an extension of the arm to make it easier for those who are too stiff to stretch and reach their other limbs without having to move out of neutral. It can be used to stretch a wide variety of muscles in the lower body including hamstrings, quads, and calves as well as for shoulder mobility. If you don’t have a strap, try using a belt or long towel.
Foam Roll – This is a useful tool for both mobility exercises and stability/core strengthening. Lying on a 36” roll lengthwise provides an unstable surface (to add challenge) for a variety of core and upper body strengthening exercises. This position is also good for stretching for the pectoralis (chest) muscles. Rolling the back crosswise over the foam roll is an excellent way to mobilize/stretch the spine, but ease in gently, it can be a little aggressive for people with stiff spines!
Mini Trampoline – How about something a little fun and different? A mini trampoline workout requires coordination, improves circulation, and is fun! It is easy on the joints and a great cardiovascular workout. NASA, which uses it to train astronauts, defines trampolining as 68 percent more effective than running.
If it just doesn’t work for you to have equipment at home, it may be time for you to explore bodyweight exercises. Yoga, Pilates, and general exercise classes give plenty of ideas for excellent exercises to do at home without equipment. The list is too long to review in this article, but planks, bridges, and abdominal crunches are examples.
Whatever you do for exercise just make sure you keep moving! One of the best ways to increase energy levels and prevent injuries is to stay active and strong.