I'm looking for the best home gym/equipment to replace going to an actual gym.

I have a severely disabled child who needs a lot of care, thus interfering with my gym sessions. I would really like to increase my strength for both my own health and my child will always need a caregiver and he's already passed me in weight and height.

Right now my home gym consists of a TRX which I love but since it uses your own body weight there's only so much you can do, and a commercial model stepper that I use for cardio.

I'm a 28 year old woman, 5'0 (1.52m), 100lbs (45gk) and almost no muscle tone (aka "skinny fat"). I've been debating between an all-in-one gym or a barbell set with bench and squat rack. Right now I'm terrified of using free weights bc of how tiny and uncoordinated I am. Thank you so much, I really appreciate any advice!

9 Answers 9


Rule #1: keep it simple Rule #2: make a plan and stick with it (at least for 2-3 months) Rule #3: don't hurt yourself

I've been using a combination of my home gym and the local YMCA for many years AND actually get more of a workout at home. I tend to go to the Y for more 'social' aspects. Given that, I think you need to include some 'social' aspects to your training to ensure you stay motivated. (it could be once a month get together boot camp).

In regards to home training - keep the the 3 rules above. I highly recommend you first purchasing 2 books:

What ever you do buy - buy quality, but buy cheap (look on craigslist or garage sales or ask friends). I would recommend a weight bench and dumbbells. With those two items you can create a significant workout routine that will keep you going for a year or so. Make sure the bench is good/sturdy (I always look on amazon for reviews) and for the dumbbells, keep them simple (pic below), don't get the dial-in adjusting ones. In total (for these two items) you'll probably spend under $90.

So - steps to take: 1 - buy the books and read them 2 - get a good bench and dumbbells 3 - build a simple plan and stick to it - if you train 2-3 times a week OR 3-4 hours a week over multiple training times 4 - stay at it for 3-6 weeks min. and evaluate where you are and if you're making progress.

Best of luck to you, what you're doing is amazing.

simple dumbbells


I'd go with either a dumbbell set or a squat rack and barbell. Those give the most bang for your buck. Free weights are manageable. You can do it.

Research basic strength programs. A good sign that you've accidentally found a bodybuilding program (which you don't want) is if you're doing three variations of the same movement (EZ-bar curl...and a concentration curl...and a dumbbell curl...), or if you're doing exercises like lateral raises or curls instead of whole-body fundamental movements like lunges, squats, overhead presses, and rows.

StrongLifts is a good place to start with the basics of using a squat rack and bench. So are Starting Strength and Primal Fitness.

  • 1
    I agree on most all of your points. But I'd rather get a power rack than a bench and a squat rack. Reason being you don't want to some day lie on a bench with 300lbs on your chest and no way to put it (only goes for barbells obviously). Also, most power racks have a integrated pull-up bar as a little extra bonus ;)
    – user8119
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:02
  • @LarissaGodzilla +1 The bonus pull-up bar is especially compelling. Mar 28, 2014 at 12:18
  • I cannot recommend barbell routines without proper coaching, and no, reading SS and/or SL aren't enough. The risk of injury is very high, especially for novices - I managed to pinch a nerve doing back-squats which numbed my arm for a month, and once that healed, I inured my shoulder doing an overhead press with very little weight on the bar (during a warmup set, no less). Proper form is critical for a novice doing barbell work, and you can't get it without coaching. Dumbells offer almost-as-good results with much lower injury risk for home exercise. Jun 24, 2014 at 14:57

Given your context (child, disabilities, beginner), I would aim for kettlebell(s) combined with focused, timeboxed workout routines, e.g. tabatas

A kettlebell is simple, robust and can be used for a variety of functional exercises that match your need in terms of a relatively heavy disabled child. No moving parts, can be left outside and inexpensive compared to dumbbells and barbells.


There are a wide range of exercises and workout routines (besides tabatas) that can be done with a kettlebell. Some examples of exercises are:

As Meade writes, you should find a simple program and stick with it for 2-3 months. For example, find a 15 workout program that you can do 3 times a week.

  • 1
    Keep in mind though, that kettlebells don't offer adjustable resistance. Everytime you want to progress further you'd need to buy a new one (or two). That said, it probably isn't much more expensive than weight plates.
    – user8119
    Mar 20, 2014 at 11:15

If you can, look into the Strong Lifts program. WIth that, all you need is a barbell and other free weights.

If you're not interested in building a lot of muscles, you can look into P90X. It doesn't require a lot of equipment and you can begin to see and feel results as soon as possible. It has flexibility, strength, and agility sections.

Insanity is another great cardio program that works every part of your body.

You can check out the programs at Beachbody to determine which ones work for you. In all of them, you don't need a gym membership or much equipment to work your whole body.

The main disadvantage to these programs is that you must be ready to push yourself; otherwise, you might not perform them as hard as you ought.

It's also fun when you do it together with someone; it makes the time go faster and the pain more bearable.

Hope this helps.


I'm a big fan of freeweights, but I recently picked up a set of resistance bands from Amazon and I have been very impressed. You can get up to 200 pounds of resistance for very low cost.

What got me interested in looking at resistance bands is their use by trainers of professional athletes. I have seen videos on youtube of football players, who weigh far more than I do, using resistance bands with their full body weight.

While athletes often use resistance bands as supplements to their weight-training program, I use them for my 3x/week lifting program as my sole means of providing resistance. I have been truly amazed and have come to understand that your body really doesn't care where the resistance is coming from.

I have been faithfully using only resistance bands for two months coupled with intermittent fasting and cardio 3x/week. For weight lifting, I am going for building mass and my routine has me doing a full-body workout each week. After 8 weeks I am here to tell you that you can most definitely tone up, improve strength, and even make impressive gains using only resistance bands.

Note that I am using the heavy-duty variety of resistance bands, not the ones you might think of at first - not the ones that look like jump ropes with handles that you would typically find at Walmart or Dick's. These look like thick, flat rubber bands - resistance 'bands.'

If you pick up a pack of 5 bands, the bands can be used individually or together to provide more than enough resistance to keep your program going forward for a long time. If you learn how to leverage your body, how to isolate each muscle, and how to lift with control, I doubt you will 'outgrow' the total resistance poundage provided by a set of bands.

One great example is this - when going bicep curls, lift from the down position to the halfway point 5x, then from the halfway point to the top of the lift 5x, then a final 5x with full range of motion. For guys, you might want to research Serge Nubret for an example of what is possible using lower resistance, controlled motion, and higher-rep count techniques.

Example set of resistance bands

  • Perhaps you can add some links and pictures of the resistance bands.
    – FredrikD
    Mar 18, 2014 at 17:16

All good suggestions, I like to use a mini trampoline for running/walking since its like running on the beach and does not eat up much space and portable. To maximize your time you should try combining the weight bearing movements without much rest and mix things up as much as possible. I have found Youtube a great resource for home workout routines.


You could consider free weights program with bodyweight exercisers. There are several relatively cheep racks to complement free weights training with bodyweight training.

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I've slowly pieced together my home gym and have a few recommendations. Although my wife has had major back surgery and is fused from neck to sacrum she is able to use the same set up.

First, the easiest way to get started is to invest in a simple adjustable bench and some dumbbells. You can train every body part, load different sets and reps and even use the bench for things like sit-ups and hyper-extensions (yes, I use a regular bench for these, although a special hyperextension machine is preferred you can lock your legs on the bench and hang off the end).

When you move to another, I do NOT recommend a smith machine. Although it can provide some security and a sense of safety for beginners, it tends to lock you into an unnatural range of motion. Instead, I would get either a squat cage with bars or a free weight device that has "hooks." These are adjustable bars that can capture the weight.

This is an example of a cage:


This is the example with hooks:


Either way you get the benefit of a free weight workout, but can adjust the bars or hooks so that they will catch the bar if you lose control. Using this technique I've trained successfully by myself for 10 years.

If you can afford it, investing in a machine with pulleys will add options like pull-down, row, curls, push-downs, etc. but not necessary.

My set-up consists of a cage with a built-in pec deck, high and low pulley, free weights, adjustable bench, dumbbells, and a dip station that I use for dips, leg raises, and pull-ups.

The great news is that you can put it together piecemeal over time. You should look at places that sell used equipment. Last I checked, there is no difference in weight between a 10 pound used dumbbell and a 10 pound new one, and the used one can be as much as 50 - 75 percent less expensive.

If you are looking to do any Olympic style lifts (jerk, snatch, etc.) be sure to look into weights that you can drop and that bounce rather than metal weights. I go with the metal weights but I have to always make sure I'm in control, which is not a bad thing. Crossfit for example encourages lifts that end with dropping the weight.


I've have good success personally with workout videos like P90X (versions 1, 2, or 3), Focus T25, and the Biggest Loser DVD series.

Some of these require -- prefer? -- a few basic pieces of equipment such as a $20 in-door pull-up bar, 1 or 2 sets of dumbbells, or an elastic band (e.g. P90X strength days). Others have videos that require no equipment (e.g. several of the P90 and T25 workouts), and simply would use your body weight for strength training and/or offer you a good cardio workout.

It is also worth noting that the videos are targeted at both men and women as well as at people of any fitness level, which is done by offering alterations to different moves (e.g. using a chair for pull-ups). If your only familiarity with some of these videos is with how "extreme" they are, don't let that deter you from trying them because I find they can be as light (or as intense) as you want.

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