Working out at home or outdoors is a great way to stay fit on a budget — but with so many options and types of workouts available, it can be difficult to figure out which pieces of equipment you need. Today, two of our Flippers, who also happen to be fitness enthusiasts, share their recommendations for basic pieces of fitness equipment to help boost your workouts.
Meet our Flippers! Marco Villalobos is a fitness fanatic who enjoys working out as a way to compete with himself when he’s not playing sports. You might remember Marco from a recent blog post, where he shared his favorite protein smoothie recipes. Martha Dobrowolska has been practicing yoga since highschool and incorporates the practice into her everyday life to achieve balance and patience.
Whether you’re just starting to work out at home, or are looking for equipment to switch up your routine, here are Marco and Martha’s recommendations.
Let’s get started!
Marco recommends these products for a high intensity workout.
1. Exercise Mat
There are many at-home workouts that don’t require any equipment, but if you’re doing a HIIT workout or floorwork, then you’ll need an exercise mat. Exercise mats are firmer than yoga mats, provide cushion and support, and are easy to clean. The extra cushion also makes them excellent for exercises that require shoes.
Weights are probably the first things that come to mind when you think of a traditional strength-building workout. Marco tells us that if you have some dumbbells or kettlebells available, these can be used to target many different muscle groups, and are usually more effective at building muscle in the long-run. Compared to traditional weight machines that only target a specific area of the body, free weights activate more muscles, giving you a complete workout.
If you’re trying to build muscle but only have one or two sets of weights, you have a couple of options before having to buy additional weights. Marco recommends working out at higher reps or supersetting between muscle groups, which will put tension on your muscles for a longer time.
3. Tabata Timer
If you’re into high-intensity workouts, Marco recommends a tabata timer to stay on track during your HIIT workout routine. The goal of HIIT is to break up your exercises into timed stations, alternating intervals of work and rest. For example, if you have three different exercises, you do each one for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest between each exercise to complete one round. For a full workout, Marco recommends four or more rounds.
This is where the timer comes in handy. The tabata timer will allow you to set your timed rounds of work and rest so that you can follow along while you exercise. There are dozens of free tabata timer apps you can download to get the job done, but Marco’s favorite one is Tabata Stopwatch Pro on the App Store or tabatatimer.com.
4. Jump Rope
When it’s raining outside or when you’re not in the mood to jog, skipping rope is a great form of high-intensity cardio. Get your cardio out of the way in quick bursts of high-intensity intervals that burn calories and raise your heart rate. A jump rope is also a great piece of equipment for warm ups.
Martha recommends these products for your floor workouts.
5. Yoga Mat
Yoga is a popular form of exercise that can be easily done at home, and the most basic piece of equipment needed is, of course, a yoga mat. Even though it’s called a yoga mat, other common uses for these grippy mats are pilates, barre, stretching, meditation, and any other barefoot exercises (situps, pushups, calisthenics, etc.), which means you’ll get a lot of use out of your yoga mat.
No matter what your experience or preferred type of movement, there is a yoga mat out there to support your unique needs. Martha recommends a 5 mm width yoga mat, which provides a cushioned surface that’s easy on the knees and body. When looking for a yoga mat, Martha recommends taking into account durability, comfort, and versatility.
6. Yoga Blocks
Those who practice yoga often call yoga blocks “floor extenders” — a fitting term, as they allow us to feel the full benefit of a pose even when we’re not quite ready to melt into it. Martha says that yoga blocks are not only great for beginners, but can also be an essential prop for those who want to challenge themselves.
Blocks can be used to increase the intensity of a pose, especially the ones you think you have mastered. For example, try balancing on a block while being in tree pose and close your eyes. This additional element adds difficulty and trains you to be even more confident in the original pose. It also allows you to reframe what you thought you knew about a certain pose and can bring some of that initial excitement and growth that comes with trying any yoga pose for the first time. Other use cases for yoga blocks include: pillow, seat, and back massager.
7. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are a popular alternative for strength training and are great for floor workouts. They’re easily accessible, portable, and cheaper than weights, which makes them a great piece of equipment for those wanting to work out at home. Plus, they’re apartment friendly, as they’re silent compared to clunky, heavy weights.
8. Straps and Bolsters
Straps and bolsters are mainly used in restorative yoga to elongate your reach and ensure that your body is in the safest position. Yoga straps allow you to reach limbs more easily and hold poses and stretches longer. Straps can range anywhere from $8–25, but if you’re looking to save some cash, you can use a belt or towel instead.
A bolster is a firm, often cylindrical or round body pillow that is mainly used for relaxation or to help soften a challenging pose. Other uses for bolsters are for supporting your backbends, forward folds, or for easing tension while sitting cross-legged on the floor (something a lot of us are not used to!). If a bolster is out of your budget right now, use a heavy, folded blanket or a firm cushion instead.
Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself to a high intensity workout or flow with some yoga, we hope these tips have been helpful, and that you’re feeling more confident knowing that you don’t need much to update your at-home gym.