The Ultimate Guide to the Must Have Home Gym Equipment

Are you looking for must have home gym equipment? As we have less time to make it to the gym, we need to have a few home gym tools that will give us a killer workout. You also don’t want the equipment to dominate your living space, either.

The must-have home gym equipment in this guide had to follow some criteria. The first is effectiveness. This should go without saying. They have to give you a good workout, right?  The second is storage. A lot of us are apartment dwellers or we just don’t have that much space to work with. The third is portability. You can easily take the equipment to a park or on the road.

I was inspired to write this up after I moved to Spain and restarted my own fitness journey. The weather is amazing here, though a little hot during the summer. I wanted to take advantage of it and workout outside.

As I did all of my workouts outside, I discovered which tools worked and which ones didn’t on a variety of surfaces, from brick to dirt to turf. What you’ll read below is a run-down of items that are effective, give you a good workout, and are portable. They’ll give your workouts some variety.

I updated this article because of the world we live in today. COVID-19 drove many people indoors. I ended up canceling my gym membership and work out in my studio apartment. I’m short on space, but I make that up because I have the right tools at my disposal.

Now, let’s get to the fun stuff, shall we?

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Suspension Trainers

I absolutely love using a suspension trainer during my workouts. It gives me the opportunity to add a whole new dimension to workouts – not just for me, but for my clients as well. You really challenge yourself like an elite athlete or help get your strength back if you’re just returning to fitness after a long layoff.

The go-to brand of suspension trainers is TRX, which really developed and revolutionized this type of training. There have been knockoff brands that are on the market, but nothing really beats the brand leader.

They do have a lot of products to choose from, I would recommend the TRX Home Trainer or TRX Pro 3.

The main differences between the Home and the Pro 3 versions are price (about $50 difference), and the handles. TRX Home has foam handles, and TRX Pro 3 is constructed with a little more durability in mind and has adjustable foot cradles that are made of rubber.

Does it matter? If you plan to take your suspension trainer everywhere and see yourself doing more advanced workouts, the make the investment in the TRX Pro 3 Trainer.

TRAVEL TIP: I wouldn’t recommend having your suspension trainer in your carry-on luggage. From the research that I’ve done, it’s really hit or miss getting through security without an issue. If you do take your trainer on a trip, your best bet is to have it in your checked luggage.

What do you do with a TRX Trainer once you get it? Check out these videos on setting it up properly.

Exercise Mats

If you’re doing a lot of bodyweight workouts, you’re going to want to protect yourself, especially if you’re working out on a hard surface. I speak from experience on this topic.

There are plenty of mats on the market. Which one is right for you? It really depends on a few things:
• Workout Surface
• Type of workout you’re doing
• Does the mat slip and slide?

For example, if you are working out on a hard surface like a wood floor and you’re doing yoga or generally low impact workouts, a thin (1/4”) mat like a yoga mat is fine. Just make sure that it’s the type of mat that will stick to the floor.

If you’re doing a pretty intense routine on wood or a regular gym floor, a ¼ – ½” foam mat like this will work fine. The potential downside is that the mat may slip and slide on a wood floor that you’ll come across in a yoga studio.

Now, if you’re doing intense bodyweight training outdoors on a patio or even on a hard dirt surface, you’ll want to get something that’s thick and comfortable. Go with a ½” mat. A dense foam mat like this is perfect for this type of activity.

You’ll thank me after doing a long set of sit-ups or burpees using this mat on a brick surface.
The main drawback to this type of mat is that it’s not very durable. It does fray and you may see some foam peel off shortly after buying it. I found that it helps to keep a towel underneath it to prevent fraying.

Mats are generally easy to transport from home to your workout space, whether you’re walking or driving.

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Mini Bands & Resistance Bands

I have to admit that out of all of the must-have home gym equipment, mini bands are my favorites.

I love my mini bands!

Super portable, they fit easily in travel bags and they add a new dimension to your workouts. They’re great to add to bodyweight workouts for extra resistance or if you want to target certain areas, like your triceps or glutes.

I take these traveling pretty much everywhere and if I’m doing a bodyweight workout, just adding mini bands increases the challenge a ton!

Ab Roller

An ab roller is easy to have on the road if you want to add more to your arms and core. It’s only one piece of equipment, but it will definitely add another dimension to your workout if you’re just doing sit-ups and crunches all the time.

Will it turn your midsection into a 6-pack? No, what it will do is work those muscles to strengthen and tighten your abdominals and lower back, protect your spine and let your body work more efficiently.

Ab rollers are great if you already have a strong core and lower back. If you have some discomfort or you’re a little weak in those areas, consider these exercises to build up your strength before progressing to an ab roller.

There are many ab rollers on the market and many infomercials devoted to the product. You do need to consider the size of the roller, and the quality of the handles. Does the roller come with a mat to protect your knees? Some do and some don’t.

The Ab Carver Pro Roller is the 5-star version of ab rollers. It’s ergonomically designed, the wheel is rubber, it’s very comfortable to use.

If you want to get something super basic, this ab roller is a fine option.

Is there a difference between rollers with smaller wheels and larger wheels? I haven’t seen evidence that there’s a difference in the results, both will work your core.

Stability Ball

Stability balls are used as office chairs, which is fantastic for keeping your core engaged and posture straight throughout the day. They’re known as Swiss balls (because they were invented by a Swiss doctor), exercise balls, fitness balls, stability balls, and they all mean the same thing.

Stability balls are used for improving balance, rehabilitation, and strengthening the entire body. I will frequently incorporate them into client workouts to strengthen abs, obliques, lower back, hamstrings, quads and arms and chest.

The stability ball is fantastic for strengthening your stabilizing muscles, which in turn makes everyday movements much easier.

Stability balls range in size from 45cm to 85cm in diameter. Which stability ball you buy will really depend on your height.

Ball Size Your Height
45cm 4’7” – 5’0”
55cm 5’1” – 5’6”
65cm 5’7” – 6’1”
75cm 6’2” – 6’8”

This is a general guideline. You’ll want to double check with the brand you’re planning to purchase before buying.

TRAVEL TIP: Stability balls can travel anywhere. Most come with a bag and a pump for portability. They can easily fit in your travel bag.

Yoga Blocks

Yes, you can incorporate yoga blocks into your workouts. Flexibility is a major component in fitness and incorporating yoga blocks will help you stretch your muscles without compromising your form. You can also use them for one-arm pushups or even press them between your legs during core exercises to really engage those muscles.


Speed Ladder

This was one item I have taken with me everywhere. I’m not a fan of running, but I do love playing soccer, and I needed something that would help me build speed and agility. Having a speed ladder has really helped me and my clients with improving balance and quickness.

The great thing about having a speed ladder is that it’s not just for athletes. Pretty much anyone can use them and even the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends incorporating agility drills to increase speed, coordination, and overall body awareness.

What You Wear Matters

A comprehensive must-have home gym equipment guide wouldn’t be complete without the essentials – music and clothes.

What you wear does can impact your workout and it can affect how you feel. That’s a big reason why it’s important to cover it here.


Taking care of your feet is vitally important as you work out. In fact, studies have shown that wearing shoes that aren’t right for your type of training can cause injury.

The best thing you can do is to go to a shoe store and try them on before you buy. Take them out for a “test drive,” meaning run a couple of laps or sprints in them and see how they feel. Find a store with a good reputation and knowledgeable sales staff that can help you find the right shoes.

Comfortable Clothes

I had a pair of shorts that were so comfortable, but they’d always fall at the wrong time, like doing burpees. Don’t be that person.

Just make sure your clothes aren’t too tight or too baggy. You want to be able to move, feel supported, and make sure that your clothes can’t get caught somewhere during movement. Most of all, you want to feel good wearing it.

A Killer Playlist

I love working out to music. I went a long time without music during my workouts and when I had music going, something would happen. I worked harder, I pushed myself to last just a little longer.

I have a playlist on Spotify that makes me laugh, gives me a good tempo, and motivates me to keep going. You can check it out here (I do have to throw in the disclaimer that there are some explicit lyrics in a few of the songs.).

If you don’t have a stereo hooked up where you’re working out, or if you can’t stand using headphones, you might want to check out Bluetooth speakers. That is worth the investment.

A Plan

Having an overall workout plan is critical to success. You also need to be clear about what your goals are.
There are so many other things to consider when creating a workout plan.

A few of those items are: rest time, building the plan into your daily routine, having a series of workouts that will help you reach your goals.

What are the muscles you’re working? Is it what you need to reach your goals? Achieving a balanced workout that optimizes your time. You can do the same workout over and over, but is that really getting you the results you’re looking for?

Feel free to reach out to me if you need help in this area.


Your passion and commitment are what makes it all worthwhile, right. Just by working out, you’re showing yourself that you care. That you want to be better than you were before. That you want to have a higher quality of life. Bring that to every workout.

Your Smile!!

Have fun! You CAN be challenged and have fun at the same time. Smile during your workouts. You’re doing a great thing for yourself physically and emotionally.

Tools for Recovery

With most workout tools, we tend to overlook the importance of recovery. The fact is that recovery is a massive component of our success. It also keeps up free from injury and long layoffs.

One thing that I use pretty much every day is a lacrosse ball for sore muscles. I have a couple of trouble spots on my right calf and at the base of my skull that are frequently tight. I just use a couple of lacrosse balls to work out the knots and tightness.

A foam roller works well, too, but I love the portability of a lacrosse ball.

Must-Have Home Gym Equipment

After reading this, does this mean you have to go out and buy everything on this list? No, of course not. If you only get a few of the must-have home gym equipment listed here, you can dramatically enhance the variety and potentially the effectiveness of your workouts. The best thing is that these items really don’t require a large investment or a lot of space. They’re all very convenient to carry on a walk to the park or have in the car.

The key is to USE THEM!!!

Stay tuned for more articles that will show you how to use these home workout tools.

Once you have your workout tools, you need to learn how to use them. Check out the Ultimate Workout Guide for Women.


Heather McDaniel is the founder of Invincible Women Fitness Academy, and a nationally certified fitness and nutrition coach. She helps women over 40 all over the world train their bodies, hearts, and minds so that they can live with confidence and joy.

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