If you’re starting from scratch with a home gym, it’s a good idea to do some workouts first and make sure working out at home is even a good fit for you before spending money on a gym you won’t use. With the prioritized budget below, you can build your gym in increments, making sure that you’re getting good use out of your gym at each step in the process, way before you buy a treadmill that actually serves as a $3,000 halfway house for laundry. I’m adding links to products* and in some cases reviews.
If you have:
$0: Bath Towels and Laundry Detergent Jugs
Set up in an area of your home that you would like to eventually serve as a gym with a couple of bath towels (if it’s a hard floor, you’ll need a few stacked for cushioning) and some empty laundry detergent jugs filled with water or sand. I recommend wrapping the handles with duct tape so that your hands aren’t irritated by that seam on the handle.
Swap out your bath towel(s) for a pilates mat. I like this kind here because it’s extra cushion-y, which is nice when you’re doing an exercise on your hands and knees as well as to keep things quiet while you’re doing plyometrics and you have a sleeping baby in the house.
For $20 more you can top it with a nifty Yoga Rat towel that doesn’t slide on your feet or the mat, even when you sweat.
Another $60-110: Dumbbells
($90 to $140 total running tab)
Add a set of dumbbells. They’re great for circuit training, versatile, and cheap. Pick a set with only the weights you’ll use like this one – you probably don’t need the full gym range from 1 lb to 50 lbs.
Another $12-$24: Kettle bells
($102 to $162 total running tab)
Throw in a kettle bell or two. Here are some options. If you’re inexperienced at kettle bells, please get a class on these before trying it out on your own. Your body will thank you, you’ll be able to pick out an appropriate size and number for the work you want to do with it, and you won’t wind up with a hole in your floor or wall. I have seen introductory classes offered (sometimes for free) at regular gyms, hospital fitness centers, and even kettle bell-only gyms. Working with kettle bells is a great cardio/strength combination workout, and you can get a lot done in a short period of time. Of note, never ever use kettle bells near your baby or child.
Another $12-14: Resistance Bands
($114 to $176 total running tab)
Add resistance bands like these. These are great for rows, side lunges, and add a lot of versatility to exercises you may typically do with body weight only. Bands will often come with a set of instructions that include some great exercises to add into your workout. If you stop here, you’ll have everything you need for most exercise videos designed for working out in your home.
Another $250-$2000: Spin Bike
($364 to $2176 total running tab)
Now it’s getting serious. If you’ve spent between $100-$200 so far and you’re really working out at home and committed to having a home gym, it’s time to invest in a piece of cardio equipment. I’m a huge fan of my spin bike, especially because it’s quiet and simple and I can get a great workout on it. Here are some options with reviews. The top seller for $250 appears to be a great bike, with the common complaint that it’s noisy. A few reviewers point out that the noisy problem goes away with some lubrication on the wheel, but it’s worth trying out the bike in a store or a call to the manufacturer before purchasing to discuss ways of mitigating the noise. A noisy spin bike may have been slightly annoying before baby arrived, but a noisy spin bike that wakes up the baby now is a deal breaker. At this point, you could stop here and have a great home gym. I’ll continue for those who really want to take it up a few more notches, maybe over time.
Another $900: Rower
($1264 to $3076 total running tab)
I’ve always wanted a rower, but I don’t have one (yet). I have used rowers before in various gyms and loved them. A rower is a great cardio alternative that works the posterior chain and is a totally different option from my two cardio standbys, running and cycling. The Concept II is the gold standard. It’s great because it’s pretty quiet, doesn’t plug in anywhere (though it does have a battery for the computer mechanism on the top that gives you pace/distance), and provides a smooth, tough workout. It’s also low maintenance, which is great if you don’t have time to tinker with your gym equipment because there are days as a mom when it’s a challenge to put a bra on by 4 PM because you’re seriously that busy.
Another $30: Val Slides
($1294 to $3106 total running tab)
Val Slides are fancy furniture sliders. You can get furniture sliders and use them basically the same way, which is under your hands or feet during exercises that challenge your core a little more by having you slide your arm or leg away from you and pull it back in. I like the actual Val Slides that I own because they came with a booklet of exercise ideas. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little bit of a different workout option when things get stale. They’re nice to have but certainly not essential.
Another $25: Pull Up Bar
($1319 to #3131 total running tab)
If you do pull ups, you’ll need a pull up bar. Pull ups are great for working your back, especially when your posture is often hunched forward when caring for your baby.
Another $500-$5000: Treadmill
($1819 to $8131 total running tab)
Last, but not least (actually last and biggest ticket item), is the treadmill. Here’s a review of some popular models. I have a treadmill, but I should have gotten a rower. You can see my more lengthy opinion on treadmills here. I think if I lived in a more northern climate and had a better place to put a treadmill so that it didn’t wake anybody, the treadmill would be higher on my priority list. As it turns out, I have a cover for my double jogger that works great to keep my little ones cozy in on most winter days in the mid-Atlantic or in the rain. Since weather doesn’t keep us indoors and both of my little ones love our runs, the treadmill doesn’t get as much use as I thought it would when I bought it shortly after my son was born 3 years ago. Here’s mine:
*I am now a part of the Amazon Associates programs, so if you purchase from Amazon through a link on this site, a portion of what you spend for products you find here and buy on Amazon will go to Everymom Athletics, which helps me pay the bills and keep this site running!