Top 10 Home Gym Must Have Items
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It’s that time of year again. Time where people are thinking about exercise. My physical therapist heart jumps for joy. However, other parts of me do not. This is also the time of year that people make goals and plans and maybe struggle to follow through. I want this year to be different for you. Number one, I want you to invite God into your goal-setting and every aspect of your life. Number two, I want you to set reasonable goals and expectations of yourself; consider your other obligations and what makes sense. Number three, I want to equip you for success. I would love for you to join me here regularly for encouragement for spiritual, mental, and physical health.
So, that’s some food for thought! Feel free to email me for more encouragement or to answer questions.
While we are on the topic of exercise though I wanted to give my favorite home exercise equipment advice. I have been a physical therapist for over a year, and a mama to a busy boy for over 3 years; so, when it comes to exercising in small space and time I know how that goes. When I was working in outpatient therapy I was always trying to make sure people could perform as many exercises at home without buying too much equipment. So, with that in mind and my own background trying various home exercise programs…these are my recommendations.
1. Foam Roller
Foam rollers are awesome! I didn’t truly appreciate them until I started having and working with people who have poor posture. Let’s admit it…we all spend way too much time sitting and looking at our computers, phones, homework, books, etc. Slouching watching TV counts too! So foam rollers are great for increasing extension in our thoracic spine, improving your pectoral muscle length (these contribute to a rounded shoulder posture), and they can be used for other moves such as thread the needle which is a favorite of mine. As well as being useful for self-myofascial massage. Versatile tool and if you have kids they will find it an awesome toy. (Again, purely from experience!)
Check out this article for a few ideas on how to use the foam roller.
2. Swiss Ball
Another versatile tool is the Swiss ball. Some people call them yoga balls. They come in a variety of sizes depending on your height. Most people fit the 65″ well. Some of my favorite exercises are seated hip circles, tabletop bridges, and laying down with feet on ball bridges and roll outs or low back rotations. For upper body I love laying on the ball with chest supported and performing arm movements in I, Y and T shapes. Add 1# and you feel a huge difference in challenge and muscle activation! Great for those underused extensor muscles that support good posture!
3. Yoga Mat
A common tool that is used for home workouts is the yoga mat. Despite the name it doesn’t have to be used for yoga. This is great for stretching, provides a little cushion for any exercise that is performed on your back. It can also be used under your feet if you are barefoot and doing pushups or planks to prevent sliding. Working out at home may mean working out on a carpeted surface. Working out with a yoga mat helps keep sweat out of your carpet! This is the one I have in red to match my Les Mills equipment and I like its thickness for working out on hardwoods.
Check out this post on benefits of yoga and this fun one giving awesome arm strengthening poses that I will definitely be including in my routine
I love weights!!!! Some people may be scared off thinking about weights and resistance exercise but you should seriously try it. I remember walking into a studio gym 4 months after my son was born because I had a groupon for 10 classes and I signed up for one called BodyPump. It was advertised as a whole body workout, fun, quick-paced, etc. I walked in and saw barbells. I had never worked with a barbell before. Dumbbells yes, barbell no. So, I ended up participating in this one hour class and I was hooked!
I have a barbell and smart weights through Les Mills currently. I have also worked with kettlebells and of course dumbbells. So truly, it depends on what type of exercise you think you are going to be doing. The awesome thing about the SmartBar system is that their weights have handles so can be used for anything a dumbbell can be used for and also attach to the bar for other exercises.
So, look into resistance workouts you want to try and then pick the right types of weights for you. Resistance exercise is linked to many health benefits so don’t skip it in your home workout plan! Even bodyweight exercises, or using cans of food, or water bottles is better than nothing.
Les Mills Workouts
Les Mills is the producing company of BodyPump and many other workouts such as BodyStep and BodyFlow. I have been an on demand customer for over a year now. I like the variety, I love how I feel after each workout and they are energetic and go so quickly.
Over the course of this year on the blog I am going to be highlighting different forms of exercise to educate and encourage everyone to try something new. So I am excited to share further on the different types of exercise and if there is a corresponding Les Mills format for that type of exercise I will share my opinion on it as well.
5. Resistance Bands
Going along with resistance exercise and weights we have resistance bands. The biggest difference with the bands is that they provide resistance when you contract and relax the muscles when performing a movement.
Think about doing a bicep curl. With a dumbbell you contract your biceps to bend your elbow and lift the weight as a concentric contraction and then you lower the weight with an eccentric contraction of the biceps. The triceps are slightly involved because they are the antagonist of the biceps. (Guess I forgot to warn you that there may be a kinesiology/biomechanics mini-lecture involved in this article…). Anyway, the resistance band provides resistance for the biceps when bending the elbow but also challenges the stabilizing muscles such as the triceps more than a bicep curl because the stretch on the band is actively trying to straighten the elbow the whole time. So, that’s the difference.
I love resistance band for shoulder rows, working the rotator cuff of the shoulder, and clamshells or side steps for the glutes! (The glutes are super important and I’m sure I will talk about them more at some point!)
6. Water Bottle
Hydration! So important especially when you are regularly active. Having an awesome water bottle is one way to motivate yourself to regularly drink water. My husband received an infuser water bottle for Christmas and has refilled it many times using frozen raspberries from our garden and a lemon. There are many recipes to try and its a great way to reuse a bottle but still have some flavor added without fake sugar or high calories.
7. Good Shoes
Footwear is so important! I have treated many patients with feet problems and it amazes me how often they are wearing flip flops, or converse, or some other shoe lacking any support. No wonder you are having trouble. In general we don’t regularly exercise our feet so it is common for arches to fall. Trying some heel raises, and toe raises, as well as picking up marbles with your toes and stretching your plantar fascia regularly can help prevent feet pain. Along with exercise, the right footwear can help too. Try to choose a comfortable supportive shoe that makes sense for the activities you are engaging in. For example, running and step aerobics are going to be higher impact activities than walking and yoga.
8. Good Music/Workout Program
For me, music is motivating. Since I do a lot of Les Mills workouts, I have their on demand program and enjoy the workout music on them. When I am using our bike, or when I’ve gone on a walk/jog before I usually want some music. I like to listen to upbeat encouraging music. I find that a good song can help my pace and also my mentality as I exercise. So, pick something you like and a good set of headphones and enjoy your workout.
9. Stretch Strap
Another fun tool to use is a stretch strap. Definitely not an essential so it’s further down the list. However, it can still be an important tool to get a good hamstring stretch, calf stretch and feels great.
10. Monitoring System
Definitely an optional item is a monitoring system. Whether it’s a step tracker, or heart rate monitor or both they can be a nice tool to see how intensely you are working or how far you have gone.
I used to own a FitBit charge HR and liked it a lot and then switched to a Samsung Gear S2. I like the watch interface and HR monitoring and sleep tracker as well as it having a nice easy read screen and vibrating alarm. However, since switching back to an iPhone for a phone it is not as easy to sync with and keep track on the Samsung app as it was when I had a Samsung phone that it was fully integrated with. But, it is still a good stand alone step tracker and HR monitor and I like that I can choose a mode of exercise when I track a workout.
Well, that was a TON of information!!! Lots of links and ideas to get you started. I hope that this answered some questions you might have had. I fully encourage you to contact me with any questions or if you need some guidance or encouragement.
And, as I mention in my disclaimer I am a physical therapist but I am not your physical therapist. So, make sure you consult a physical therapist or your primary care physician about any health concerns before you start a new exercise program.
Remember, to treat your body as the vessel of service it is. Seek God while you set goals and don’t get discouraged with setbacks. We are not perfect and each day is a new chance to start again.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 CSB
But as for you, be strong; don’t give up, for your work has a reward 2 Chronicles 15:7
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