This is the most common question we’ve gotten recently and for good reason. Gyms are shut. People still want to train. What should they buy? Here’s a few questions to think about when it comes to buying your own equipment…
Step 1: Figure out if you need it.
NEED and WANT are very different things. How do we know if we need equipment? There are people out there that say you NEVER need equipment. I’m a little bit less dramatic. I’d say get some equipment once you have a base level of strength. What’s a base level of strength? Ask yourself these questions?
Can I do 10 perfect push-ups?
Can I do a 3 perfect pull-ups? (Males, Females = 1)
Can I perform 10 perfect lunges on each leg? (Without holding anything, with your back knee softly touching the ground)
Can I perform a 30 second side plank on each side?
If you have pain on any of these, lack the required mobility to perform them or simply aren’t strong enough to do them, you don’t need equipment.
If you can do all of this, then you’re onto step 2
Step 2: Figure out what your goals are.
Are you looking to improve your marathon time?
Are you looking to get as physically big as you can?
Are you looking to get as strong as you can?
Are you looking to lose some puppy fat?
Are you looking to become a better athlete?
Are you looking for general fitness?
Step 3: Figure out what you should get.
Here’s what EVERYONE should get
Kettlebell (16 or 20kg males, 8 or 12kg females)
Suspension trainers (rings or straps)
Kettlebell swings and ab wheels can cure cancer. The kettlebell also allows us to work on our goblet squat mobility. We can’t effectively work on our pulling strength with bodyweight-only, hence the suspension trainer. Bands can helps us add intensity and load to bodyweight movements, as well as working on the integrity of the joint (i.e. rotator cuff muscles, hip stabilisers etc.)
Seriously, if your program looked like this….
You’d be doing a pretty good job. That’s the warm-up we give to our members every day.
Add in some overhead pressing with the bell, some pull-ups and some single leg stuff and you’re golden.
Here’s what you should get on top of that depending on your goals.
If you’re looking to get as strong as possible…
You’re going to need external load. I’d recommend a barbell, weight plates, squat rack (hopefully with a pull-up bar, unless you already have a place to do pull-ups) and an adjustable bench. Why? This allows you to squat heavy, press heavy, deadlift heavy. That’s all you need to get strong. Just make sure you do a warm-up with the equipment listed above, and take care of your joints so you’re not getting injured.
If you’re looking to lose some puppy fat and become generally fitter…
Nothing. You don’t NEED anything else. But I get it… you want to make training a little more exciting. Let’s get some more equipment to get you in the garage a little more often. I’d get some dumbbells. Ideally, you’d have an adjustable pair that can go all the way up to heavy (heavy is different for everyone, I can’t give advice on weights here). That way you can do basically every exercise you can think of. If not, aim to get 3 pairs of dumbbells. 1 light, 1 medium, 1 heavy. If that’s not possible, aim to get 3 single dumbbells – 1 light, 1 medium, 1 heavy. Also, learn to love walking and running.
If you’re looking to become a better athlete (non-endurance, mostly team sport or combat athletes)…
You probably want to follow a path similar to the strongman above. You don’t need as much weight (somewhere around double bodyweight in weight plates is probably enough), you probably don’t need an adjustable bench either. I’d keep the squat rack, the pull-up bar if possible, and the bars and plates. What I’d add in is some adjustable dumbbells or more kettlebells and some heavy dead balls (45kg is probably heavy enough, if you can get 2 dead balls, that would be awesome).
I hate to use the word functional, but that’s why we want the kettlebells and the dumbbells. With these you’ll be able to do everything you need in the gym; swings, squats, presses, rows, carries, lunges etc. The bar and weight plates should be used to load up dead lifts, squats and overhead pressing. If you know how to Olympic lift, then perfect, use this time to get better at that. The dead balls are for something we like to call the ‘Anaconda squeeze’ (we stole this from Dan John). This is developed through heavy dead ball work in squats, bear carries and any kind of loading using the d-ball. It’s the squeeze pressure that is developed from holding a heavy, awkward ball in a vice-like grip out in front of you. Your body get’s really strong at squeezing and bracing while breathing. I can’t recommend them enough.
If you’re looking to improve your engine…
Endurance athletes should stick to the equipment above (bands, KB’s, suspension trainer, ab wheel). This will keep them healthy and performing well. They would benefit from some heavy barbell work, and if they can afford it, that would be awesome. But I’m going to split this up into running only endurance and ‘off-leg’ or multi-modality endurance (think Ironman, swimmers, rowers, cyclists).
If you’re only running, that’s going to be a lot of miles on the legs during the week. If you’ve built up a tolerance and can handle it then that’s great. If you’re a newbie in running and are going from nothing to multiple runs a week or most days a week then I’d be very careful. A lot of injuries come out of running and it’s generally overuse stuff from underprepared bodies. If you’re a running-only endurance athlete, it might be worth getting an ergo of some sort. This way you can build your engine off your legs – saving your joints and connective tissue unnecessary wear and tear. It also opens you up to perform different energy system work and intervals without it always having to be running. I’d recommend the assault bike or the echo bike. You could choose a rower, ski erg or a stationary bike. But in terms of intensity and fool-proofing it, you can’t go wrong with the assault or echo bike.
For ‘off-leg’ or multi-modality athletes such as ironman athletes or swimmers. You’re not pounding the pavement as much, so overuse issues are less likely. You would benefit from getting your meat vehicle as strong as you can without adding to much mass. Barbells and weight plates would be useful here. Get a squat rack if you can and all the equipment listed earlier (bands, KB, suspension trainers, ab wheel). Keep the joints healthy with band work, get the body strong with swings, ab wheels, weighted pull-ups, overhead presses, deadlifts and squats. Keep the reps low (less than 3 on main lifts), and do this 2-3x a week depending on workload. I’d do the same session, each session, to prevent soreness (which happens with new exercises).