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As more and more Americans are ordered to shelter in place, figuring out a way to destress and work off some of our pent-up energy is more important than ever. Running and walking outside are still wonderful outlets. If you’re looking to keep up with strength training that you usually do at the gym, a home workout can be a good substitute.
In fact, Larysa Didio, a personal trainer and fitness author, says that if you’re doing it right, at-home exercise can actually yield a better workout than one at the gym. According to Didio, since gym equipment inherently lends your body some support, it causes you to complete your exercises with a little less stability and core strength than comparable workouts at home. Additionally, when you’re at home, you don’t get the rest in between exercises that you get at the gym from walking around to each machine.
Getting started is easy. Jen Sinkler, a writer and personal trainer, says that she often encourages clients to begin strength training at home by simply carrying around heavy household objects, such as jugs of milk. That said, some basic equipment can offer you variety and structure. We asked these experts for their favorite recommendations.
The first thing you should invest in for home workouts? Weights. Didio recommends dumbbells from five to 20 pounds for women, depending on your current fitness level, and pairs from eight to 30 pounds for men. Here Didio demonstrates a 15-minute full-body workout using two pairs. If you buy a range of weights, she also recommends a weight tree to keep them nicely organized.
If you’re looking for some variety in your workout, and you want options beyond exercises like pushups that rely on your own body weight, Didio suggests resistance bands, which offer “a great workout.” Beyond more standard uses for legs and arms, she says resistance bands are also effective for ab workouts.
“You cannot do better than a kettlebell in my opinion … because [they enable you] to do ballistic movements like swings and cleans, and then, when you’re ready for it, snatches as well,” Sinkler says. She adds that studies show resistance training can also offer cardio benefits if you lift light weights quickly, which make kettlebells a good option if you want to tackle both aerobic and strength training indoors.
“The Airex mat is a corrugated foam mat. It makes you feel like you’re at a fancy gym,” says Didio, who uses hers for everything from burpees, to ab exercises, to planks. “To spend the extra money on a really fancy little mat is a luxury, but I love it.”
We could all use a little pampering right now. Didio recommends adding eucalyptus oil to perk up your towels, an amenity found at many upscale gyms. She says to put 10 to 15 drops of this oil into a bucket of water, dip your towels in it, put the towels in plastic bags, and keep them in the fridge, ready to bring you a little extra pleasure when you’ve completed your workout.
Update, March 26, 2020: The dumbbells originally recommended in this post are sold out. We’re now recommending a different set.