I’ve reviewed some of the best home fitness equipment below, selected from leading fitness brands and demonstrating the variety of products available on the market today.
Pro-Box Heavy Weight Nylon Speed Rope: £6.99, Pro Box
Skipping can give you a full-body workout that uses your abdominals to stabilize the body, legs (calves, hamstrings, quadriceps) for jumping and upper body (forearms, deltoids) for turning the rope. Skipping ropes are generally low in cost and are a small piece of kit that can have a big impact on your exercise routine. This is a really easy-to-use version, providing a good balance between cost and quality. It’s aimed at boxers so it is designed to help increase stamina, muscle tone and improve footwork. The foam handles rotate so the rope spins freely and it’s comfortable in the hand. We found this one excellent for fast skipping and increasing arm strength. It’s not adjustable, but it is available in several lengths.
JumpGa 111 Rebounder: £299, Trimilin
Trampolining is a fantastic top-to-toe workout yet one of the most important features for me is the fact its low impact. If you’re injury-prone, a rebounder may be right up your street because each maneuver is cushioned. Using it takes up to 80 percent of the stress off your weight-bearing joints. We recently spent half an hour on a rebounder at high intensity and we were blowing! We were literally dripping with sweat. We added a small set of dumbbells into the workout too. Rebounders strengthen your legs as well as your whole body. Your core muscles are constantly engaged to keep you balanced, giving you a stronger stomach and lower back – something, which I suffer with now and then. I’d say this rebounder is one of the best around but if the price tag is an issue for you, there are other, cheaper options such as this one. Do consider the size and quality of springs if you plan to use it regularly.
TRX Fit Suspension Trainer: £99, Argos
The TRX Suspension Trainer was created by former Navy Seal, Randy Hetrick. It’s a bodyweight exercise that requires strength, balance, flexibility and core stability all at the same time. The TRX Fit is based on the original design and is slightly less expensive and lighter than the traditional version. This makes it ideal for beginners. There are hundreds of exercises you can do on it, using your own bodyweight just altering the intensity by changing the position of your feet. The kit comes with a portable drawstring bag and can be used outside with a strap extender or indoors using the door anchor. Just remember to put it on the side of the door that opens away from you, otherwise, you’ll potentially open the door while exercising. Suspension training is pretty much unsupported – meaning your core really does get worked. This can be quite tricky for beginners. I’d recommend focusing on technique first with the correct breathing and then building up from there. The kit also comes with a technique poster and has workout downloads available.
Opti Weighted Hula Hoop: from £15.99, Argos
It’s probably best for my wife, Mutha Fitness, to write this review as she’s been using one of these all year. It’s a very good aerobic exercise, in fact, experts claim it burns more calories than other anaerobic exercises. It helps with a fat loss around your middle and is a great core workout. Amy says: “Firstly, a weighted hula hoop is fun. I’d say you need to hula hoop for at least 10 minutes to get all the benefits. To hula hoop effectively, spin the hoop around your waist and push it from side to side or front to back. Don’t be surprised to find slightly bruised hips after your first go but this will soon disappear and then not appear again – it is definitely one of those ‘it’s harder than it looks’ type exercises.” This one is pretty big but slim so it will fit behind a chair or something similar. It’s available in a range of weights and in different colors.
Everflex Free Standing Punch Bag: £159.99, Argos
I’ve had one of these punch bags for a few years now and it’s really versatile. Boxing, in general, provides a number of fitness benefits such as increased muscle tone, improved aerobic fitness, coordination, and core stability. It also provides great stress relief! The base can be filled with water or sand, (though bear in mind that if you use sand you will not be able to move it). I use water and it can be swung into the center of my gym floor and then moved back out of the way. It will move a little with a few minutes of constant bashing but there are resistant bands available with this kit that can clip on. You can adjust the height very easily by twisting and lifting the outer bag. The height of the actual bag is great for body and headshots. Unlike traditional bags hanging from a wall mount where you get a few seconds hesitation between hits, the Everflex is constantly coming back at you so you really do work up a sweat in few minutes. By dancing around the Everflex and twisting into your shots, you work your body from head to toe. I use mine to warm up and cool down on after most sessions.
3-in-1 Soft Plyo Box: £225, PhysioRoom
Plyometrics, also known as “jump training”, are boxes that are used as a platform to jump on and off. It involves exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, ultimately with the goal of increasing speed strength. This set from Physical is a 3-in-1 so you get 51cm, 61cm, and 76cm in one box – each side is basically a different height. These boxes are also available in wood but if money isn’t an issue, I’d always opt for the soft surface as it will be easier on your joints. The material is also made from non-skid vinyl so don’t worry about slipping. I’d recommend putting it up against a wall when using them for the first time, it can be handy to hold should you lose your balance. If storage isn’t an issue, we highly recommend adding one of these to your kit.
Physical Company PBX Bag: from £59.72, Physioroom
I’ve just completed a personal trainer course and I noticed a few people using these bags so thought I’d investigate. PBX bags are shaped like a classic gym holdall. They are filled with sand and come in a variety of weights. These are highly durable and have three strong handles for exercise variation. PBX fitness bags are a great way to add intensity to your workout and build strength and endurance. I completed a circuit of five bodyweight style exercises the other day and I easily incorporated the PBX fitness bag into the routine. Exercises included squats, bent over rows, shoulder press and lateral drags. There is also an exercise video here. The bags come with an exercise guide, which is accessed with NFC technology. After a quick Google search, it means there’s a chip inside the bag and it sends information to your phone once scanned.
Vibration Plate Exerciser: £199.99, Argos
Vibration plates trigger the reflex muscles in your abdomen and legs. These subtly contract up to 50 times per second. The vibrations strengthen and tone muscles. As your heart rate doesn’t increase, you’re not going to burn enough calories to burn fat. However, if used in conjunction with the supplied resistance bands you can turn it into a good cardio workout. This vibration plate from Reviver is quite heavy and bulky so you’ll need a space for it. The one we’re testing is in our bedroom and we’re using it first thing on a morning and last thing at night for 10 minutes at a time. It takes some getting used to and it’s quite disheartening to feel all your wobbly bits shaking around. If you think this is a lazy, stand-and-do-nothing piece of kit, think again. There are resistance bands and handles that connect to each side so you can perform a range of exercises such as squatting, torso twist, arm curls and raises. It’s well built and the control panel reminds me of the DeLorean time display in Back to the Future. A quick Google search will bring up lots of questions as to whether vibration plates actually work but all I can go on is the evidence and my body feels a lot tighter than it usually does.
Men’s Health Weighted Vest: £69.99, Argos
I can remember trying my first weighted vest on seven years ago and I went running. I wouldn’t advise this now! Particularly if you suffer from joint issues. A weighted vest has its place though, especially if you like doing bodyweight circuits like me. The vest can add resistance to your workouts as it makes your body work harder. Use this circuit as an example: 20 squats, 20 jumping jacks, 20 press-ups, 20 sit-ups, 20 lunges, and 20 burpees. You can obviously do some of these holding a weight but you can also do them all while wearing a weighted vest. You’re not going to be able to just throw on the vest and train though, you’re going to need to build up to it so this is definitely more of an advanced piece of kit. The weights within the vest are removable so you can start light and build up. Again, I have one of these in my gym and they’re very comfortable once fitted.
Bosu Home Balance Trainer: £109.99, Argos
The Bosu looks like your classic gym ball, just cut in half. It provides an all-in-one fast and fun workout. It offers cardiovascular, aerobic, endurance, strength and flexibility. It also really helps with balance, body awareness and coordination. The Bosu we tested was incredibly easy to set up – the hand pump was included as well as a handy exercise guide with QR codes to take you to video demonstrations. These will show you what role the Bosu plays in typical exercises such as crunches, push-ups, side squat push-aways, and lunges. As Bosu creator David Weck says: “Balance is the foundation of all movement.” I have to agree. Even just standing on the Bosu for the first time to find your center position took some getting used to. You could really feel your core muscles engaging. Now imagine doing a variation of exercises one after another and your core really goes into overdrive. The Bosu is a really good piece of equipment for beginners and advanced users too – just try balancing on it with one leg. I was all over the place at first but it didn’t take me long to find my balance.
Marcy Barbell & Dumbbell Weight Set (50kg): £82.99, Marcy
You can’t go wrong with a classic dumbbell and barbell weights set, which are great for cardio and fat-burning, as well as building muscle. This one from Marcy is great and comes with: 5ft straight barbell, 2 x dumbell bars, 6 x locking collars and a variety of weight plates for multiple combinations. I have it in my gym right now along with a mix and match of other brands. If you’re looking to burn fat, use a low weight (20kg) and complete lots of reps (20+). If you’re looking to build muscle, go heavy (40kg) and reduce the number of repetitions (8-10). Weight is obviously different per person, so just go with what feels right and to how many repetitions you can complete. I always include the big compound lifts in my routines so deadlifts, military shoulder presses, squats, rows, bench press, etc. Compound basically means it uses multiple muscle groups at the same time. These types of exercises can be performed by beginners and I’d recommend performing them using just the barbell first. This will help you to perfect your technique and then you can gradually add weight to what feels comfortable and challenging. You get more out of the exercise versus simply doing seated arm curls – which will only target the biceps. One thing to consider when choosing weights is the collars – the set-up that keeps the weights on the bar. Go for ones like in this set, which is called spring lock. Simply press the two prongs together and slide it over the bar. They don’t budge and are quicker to take on and off. Storage-wise, you can stack unwanted weights and the bars can rest against a wall. I like to keep mine assembled at all times though so you may need to consider space if you’re also that way inclined.
Opti Kettlebell (10kg): £25, JD Williams
There are lots of kettlebells on the market but I like this one from Opti that comes in a variety of weights. There are more than 50 exercises you can do with them and the results are impressive. From squats to push presses, a kettlebell workout can burn up to 20 calories per minute – about as much as running a 6-minute mile. A kettlebell uses muscles in your body from head to toe, it focuses a lot around your core and increases flexibility. Bear in mind though, treat these workouts with respect – poor form and lifting too heavy can put stress on your joints and result in injury. Pay particular attention to foot space and adopting a neutral spine position. If you get sweaty hands like me, you may opt to wear gym gloves so the kettlebell won’t go flying. Weight-wise, you can go as low as 2kg which is perfect for beginners.
STRETCH Yoga Mat: £199.99, HoMedics
Sometimes, fitness isn’t just about getting hot and sweaty. A clear state of mind can often lead to making better choices – especially when it comes to making food ones. Yoga is a great form of exercise to clear your mind. STRETCH is a mat that mimics yoga moves through precision-controlled air chambers. You get the benefits of yoga-inspired stretches and you also get to relax at the same time! Designed by a yoga pro, the mat has four sequences to help you stretch, release and relax. Ideal if you sit at a computer for long hours of the day! The mat is powered by mains and can be folded away when not in use. Yoga is great for increased flexibility and it can lessen chronic pain such as lower back pain, arthritis, and headaches. If you like the idea of yoga and struggle (like me) to perform some of the poses, then the STRETCH mat could be the thing for you.
The Verdict: Home fitness equipment
I’d recommend all the kit on this list and I believe any home gym should include a variety of equipment. It’s impossible to get everything from one piece of kit and think about keeping your mind active. We all get bored with doing the same thing and your body gets used to it. My own home gym has taken eight years to get right and I’m always adding and taking away certain pieces. Free weights are my foundation though so for that reason I recommend the Marcy set. I also highly recommend the Everflex punch bag, which guarantees to get the heart racing as well as relieving stress. If you struggle with aching joints, consider the JumpGa rebounder. For budget and a space saver, skipping ropes offer a great warm-up. Last but not least, the 3-in-1 Plyo box from Physical needs a mention.
Paul Stainthorpe is a health and fitness writer and editor of the Father Fitness blog
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