One of the most appealing benefits about high intensity interval training (HIIT) is the fact that you can do it anywhere with a limited amount of space and your own body weight. If you have a small space you'd like to dedicate to your home gym, here are some tips for accomplishing this in a cost-friendly manner. Building a home gym can be a daunting yet very fun adventure.
Pick a cardio option that you know you'll enjoy and do often. For this one, the investment can range from a free run around your neighborhood to a $3,000 treadmill. Evaluate your budget and determine how much you'd like to dedicate to your cardio investment. Some options: a fitness jump rope (fantastic for intervals), treadmill, indoor rower, spin bike, plyometric blocks. I don't recommend ellipticals as they're not the most functional piece of fitness equipment. Ellipticals were originally intended for rehabilitation purposes before becoming popular fitness equipment. I only recommend frequent elliptical use if you're recovering from an injury.
Bodyweight plyometrics, burpees, butt kicks, high knees, jumping lunges, squat jumps, jogging in place, and basketball throws will get your heart rate up quickly while providing cardiovascular and fitness benefits. There are low-impact versions, too, if you're trying to minimize joint pounding. The key is to create height and level dynamics without impact. Try reaching for the floor, bending your knees into a deep squat and stand up quickly, reaching your arms up toward the ceiling and coming onto your tip toes. Repeat quickly—you’ll be surprised at how quickly it can elevate your heart rate.
- Jump rope. Your only expense is the cost of the jump rope (around $10) and you can get a killer Rocky-style cardio workout at home. (Bonus: you don’t have to chase after any chickens.) My favorite method is to do intervals (of course) with 15 seconds on, 15 seconds rest, for 20 minutes. It looks easy on paper, but you will be drenched in sweat! The short intervals make the session fly by, and you can also get fancy with cross-country feet, double unders, or high knees as you jump rope.
- Outdoor running. If you have a nearby track or safe spot in your neighborhood to run or walk briskly, this is one of the most effective types of freebie cardio. To add in strength blitzes, you can stop every couple of minutes to do some push-ups, tricep dips, walking lunges, burpees, or a plank. No one will think you're weird...just awesome. The three main tools for an effective strength and cardio workout are determination, a solid plan, and your own body weight.
Every home gym needs at least one solid form of strength equipment. Bodyweight strength exercises are fantastic for building lean muscle, but you can only challenge yourself to a certain point. You always want to impose additional challenges to your body during your fitness activities, and after the bodyweight movements become too easy, you have two options: increase the amount of repetitions, or increase the intensity through a more challenging option (example: push-ups on your toes instead of your knees) or additional resistance from an external source.
- Tubing (aka resistance bands). These are a great low-cost option and are ideal for travel and smaller spaces, as they're light and don't take up much room. You can also purchase a door attachment to affix to a closed door for pushing and pulling movements, such as chest presses and rows.
- Dumbbells. The classic never dies. While they're on the relatively expensive side, a dumbbell set can be a worthwhile investment. If you don't want to commit to an entire set, try picking up two pairs of dumbbells: a light set for smaller muscle groups (including triceps and shoulders) and a heavy set for the larger muscle groups (for example, bent-over rows and weighted squats). When these weights become too easy, many second-hand equipment stores will enable you to get a trade-in credit toward your next set(s).
- Kettlebells. These are the most expensive option, but make a fantastic multipurpose strength component. Kettlebells have a unique center of gravity, which forces you to stabilize your core while you're working with them. Of course, invest in kettlebells once you have experience with a certified coach and you’re looking to change things up from dumbbells.