Doing calisthenics home workouts regularly is a great way to build functional muscles but admittedly, some home gym equipment is required to perform the best home workout. But building a home gym doesn't have to cost the earth and even in times like these, it is possible to create a home gym setup for under £100. Here is how.
We asked Jonathan Taylor (opens in new tab), personal trainer and the man behind the Reboot Plan (opens in new tab), to share his best advice on how to build a home gym that can help you get stronger without breaking the bank. The below equipment can be bought at Amazon (opens in new tab) and other fitness equipment retailers such as the Fitness Superstore (opens in new tab), Mirafit (opens in new tab) and Wolverson Fitness (opens in new tab).
• Buy fitness equipment at Dick's Sporting Goods (opens in new tab)
• Buy fitness equipment at Walmart (opens in new tab)
Without further ado, let's get down to business.
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Door pull-up bar
"Your back is the hardest muscle group to train without any equipment. I've seen some people using doors and tables for pull-ups and rows, but they're awkward movements and an accident waiting to happen", says Jonny.
• Shop pull up bars at Fitness Superstore (opens in new tab)
Pull ups are not an easy exercise but the pay off for doing them is undeniably amazing: who doesn't want that sexy V-taper back? According to Jonny, the best pull up bar frames are the ones which you can grab with either on overhand and neutral (where your palms face each other) grips, rather than the straight-bar type models.
• Shop pull up bars at Amazon (opens in new tab)
"Overhand grip pull-ups are harder, and I've not had many clients who can crank out a lot of high-quality reps. Start with neutral grip and try overhand when you do can do at least three clean sets of 6 reps on neutral", he concludes.
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Jonny recommends suspension training systems for back training if you not quite ready for high-rep pull-ups. With a suspension trainer, you can do a neutral or overhand grip row and modify the resistance by changing how close you stand to the anchor point. Should you have a barbell lying around you can also you can also do barbell rows, although barbells with plates tend to be more expensive than £100.
You've probably heard of brand TRX (opens in new tab) and its excellent TRX Home 2 (opens in new tab) suspension training set but admittedly, getting a TRX will blow your whole £100 budget (and then some). Other brands have similar sets available for less, and especially at amazon you can find some good deals. Brands like JTX Fitness also has its own version (opens in new tab).
Whichever model you go for, make sure you use the sturdiest door in the house to anchor the trainer to: fire exit, front/back-of-house and conservatory doors work well.
Rhinosport Sling Trainer Set with Door Anchor | On sale for £67.14 | Was £86 | You save £18.86 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
The Rhinosport Sling Trainer Set is a fraction of the price of the TRX Home 2 but offers similar functionality for your home gym. According to the manufacturer, this kit is able to withstand up to 500 kg of resistance and apparently, you can even do pull-ups without hesitation. Be careful, though.
"The exercise ball squat is the home workout replacement for squats and leg press at the gym. You can make it more challenging by adding a resistance band, holding onto loaded carrier bags or wearing a backpack back-to-front", Jonny advises.
• Shop exercise balls at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Better still, the exercise ball leg curl replaces the leg curl machine and targets your hamstring at home: Jonny recommends starting with the double-leg version and switching to single-leg once you can do three sets of 15 reps with proper technique.
Exercise balls come in a variety of sizes and they are dirt cheap, even models from top brands such as Trideer retail for around £10.
Push up grips
Push ups and planks are wonderful exercises that work your whole body, push ups being the best bodyweight exercise for building guns and pecs while planks should be #1 choice for increasing core strength. Having said that, both of these exercises put a lot of pressure on your wrist which can cause issues further down the line.
Push up grips can help you with this and preserve wrist health without sacrificing your muscle building progress. As Jonny puts it, "if you're doing a lot of push-ups and planks, you NEED to invest in some push-up grips!"
Jonny recommends not getting one of the sets with rotating handles: "they might make push-ups harder, but that doesn't mean they're more effective" he adds.
Perfect Fitness V2 Pushup Handles | Buy it for £29.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Okay, the Perfect Fitness V2 Pushup Handles rotate slightly but not too much. The ergonomic grips help distribute weight evenly and reduce pressure points and joint strain on wrists and elbows as you perform push ups. Treads on bottom of handles grip all floor surfaces, at least according to the manufacturer.
Resistance bands are incredibly versatile and can be used for a variety of exercises, including push-ups, biceps curls, triceps extensions, kneeling ab crunches, squats and much more. Jonny recommends getting the looped type that people use for assisted pull-ups in the gym. Not surprisingly, they work equally as well in a home gym too.
• Buy resistance bands at Amazon (opens in new tab)
The best resistance bands are also great for stretching as well as for workouts and can not only replace dumbbells and barbells, but they can also be used to make workouts harder using smaller weights. For example, if you only have a 10 kilo kettlebell which you find too light for two handed swings, loop a resistance band around a handle and the other end around your ankles and try to swing it that way. You can double or even triple the weight of the 'bell using resistance bands.
+1 Household items
If you don't have dumbbells, you can load up rucksacks and carrier bags instead.
Make sure your carrier bags are durable, so they don't break when you load them. You also don't want them to be too bulky or have very long handles; otherwise, they'll get in the way during the exercise.
Load your bags with household items like books, water bottles, canned food and flour.
Use your bathroom scales to weigh your bag and make a note of what weight you use for each exercise.
If an exercise involves two bags, e.g. biceps curls and lateral raises, make sure they're evenly loaded.