If you’ve ever asked the question, ‘Am I wasting money on my membership?’ then read on….
Even the cost of the cheapest gym memberships mount up over the course of a year; anything between £120 and upwards of £600 annually! Now for some of us that investment is worthwhile; if you visit the gym more than twice a week and use a lot of the equipment, classes and trainers whilst you are there. However, if you’re in the majority and what started out as a 3-4 times a week gym habit, is now actually a once a month guilt-fuelled workout, then maybe a gym membership isn’t for you.
‘But I need all of the kit you find in a gym!’
There are some pieces of equipment in the gym that really are worth the time, money and the effort. However, I question the point of some of the other bits of shiny, ‘faddy’ high-tech kit. A lot of the CV machines will fool you into thinking you’re getting a great workout, just by setting the time to 30 minutes and going through the motions. If you plonk yourself on the cross-trainer or the stepper and can still hold a full-on conversation with the person next to you, or even worse conduct business negotiations over the phone (Yes, I’ve actually seen and heard that happen on several occasions) then quite frankly you are wasting your time and your money.
When it comes to resistance training, most fixed path resistance machines (the ones where you sit yourself down and move some levers, push some platforms, or pull some handle) are good for beginners as they are safer and pose less risk. They can also support the development of good form, if you are advised by a good gym instructor before you begin. However, they are so limited in their range of movement that you tend to reduce the number of muscles you can train in one move. This may actually be useful for people who are looking to train very specific muscles for aesthetic purposes. However, with this approach you’ll often miss the smaller, but just as important, stabilisers. This can lead to all sorts of muscular imbalances, not to mention it being a big, old waste of your time.
‘So which bits in a gym are good to use?’
There are some great functional areas in most gyms nowadays and these are my absolute favourites. I’m talking about things like kettlebell training, medicine ball workouts, dumbbells, barbells and suspension training… plus much more. All of these bits of kit can be used to give you a workout that better replicates real-life, as you ‘teach’ your muscles to work together more efficiently, not in isolation. Hence the term ‘functional’ training.
‘Can I do this at home?’
Bringing me nicely on to the point of this post. If you like the idea of exercising at home or at your own convenience but you’re unsure where to start or how much to spend, then here are my top 8 home gym essentials for a functional workout. I see so many second-hand treadmills, cross-trainers, ab trainers and other pieces of miscellaneous fitness equipment being sold online on a daily basis! Stop wasting your money and remember, even without any kit, you can have a great workout and burn fat, just using your own body weight. Take a look back at this previous post: My top 10 fat-blasting moves to try today
1. Exercise mat
Get the basics right. If you’re planning on working out in your yard on paving stones or tarmac, then consider going for a slightly thicker mat to cushion your knees, back and hands. I’d also advise getting one that you can wipe clean if you’re planning on getting very sweaty!
Price range: £5-20
You can get an amazing combined CV and resistance workout with just one kettlebell. What’s more you’ll burn around twice the number of calories per workout than regular weight lifting. The average woman should start out with an 8kg kettlebell and progress on through the weight range to a 12kg. For men you should start at 12kg and move on to 16kg.
There are some great kettlebell workouts published online that you can follow for free. However, your form is very important when using this piece of kit, so seek advice or get a trainer before performing the moves. If you are using the equipment incorrectly it won’t be as effective or as safe.
Price range: £15-25
Dumbbells are a pretty versatile piece of kit. Not only are they perfect for arm workouts, they can also be used to add weight to leg workouts in moves such as lunges, goblet squats and even for weighing your hips down when performing glute bridges. The weight of the dumbbells you require will vary depending on what you’re using them for, but it’s safe to say that a good starting point for women is 2kg- 5kg and for men 5kg- 8kg.
Price range: £10-20 per pair
4. Gym hoop
When you think back to your own playground antics you may remember winging a hoop around your belly at top speed without a care in the world…or is that just me? Well ‘hooping’ is making a come back; with the rich and famous advocating the slimming and ‘toning’ effects of the humble hula hoop. They are simple to use, lots of fun and are great for the mid-section! My advice would be to buy a ‘gym hoop’. These are slightly heavier and therefore give you more of a workout than a dance hoop.
Price range: £15-20
5. Jump rope
When I hear the opening few bars of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ I instantly picture one of these guys. The humble ‘skipping rope’ provides an unexpected cardio workout, improves coordination and balance. Just 10 minutes of skipping can burn up to 110Kcal. Jump ropes can be weighted, you can buy speed ropes for a faster burst or stick to a plain leather rope. They’re all very good value and don’t require much space to use them…just be careful with the washing line!
Price Range: £5-10
6. Stability ball
Although you may think this looks like a fun piece of kit (or maybe the last time you saw one was in the maternity ward?), this beach ball look-a-like provides a great core workout when used correctly. Perhaps deceiving in it’s name; the stability ball is used to give your body an unstable surface to work on. In doing so your body has to work harder and use more muscles than if you were performing the same exercise on a stable surface. In essence you get more ‘bang for your buck’. Simply performing the plank with your forearms on the ball is a workout in itself- give it a go!
Price range: £5-10
7. Medicine ball
Sounds like it should be available on prescription- and in my opinion they should be! They are a great addition to your kit if you’re looking to add weight to any of your usual body weight exercises. For example, a seated Russian twist or for explosive plyometric exercises with a partner. They can also provide an unstable surface for uneven push ups or the plank (note: only try if you have a partner to work out with or you’re an experienced exerciser).
Price Range: £15-20
Try and drink your water from a metal water bottle or a plastic one that is BPA-free to avoid any nasty contaminants getting into your water. You should be drinking at least 2 litres of water per day and much more on days when you’re exercising. So keep your bottle topped up and sup away!
Price Range: £5-25
So when you do the sums the grand total is as low as £75* for a complete home gym of your own!
(*Prices are average ranges and are provided to give you a rough indication of cost….you may find equipment that’s even cheaper! ;-))
There are of course more pieces of equipment that you could invest in, but think carefully before doing so. Ask yourself, ‘Is there a better way to do this exercise without spending money?’ If the answer is ‘I can probably just do this with my own body weight’ then put it back on the shelf and walk away!
Happy shopping folks!