Whether you've trained at home for years or are new to the concept of doing lunges in your living room, the right equipment can revitalize a routine or inspire a new one. While the parts of a home gym vary from person to person, there are some elements that can help almost anyone achieve their goals – bonus points for pushing you out of your comfort zone. (As a Wirecutter fitness writer and certified personal trainer, I've seen how far this can go.)
Here are seven home exercise tools to help you speed up your workout in 2021. Each recommendation is based on expert experience and what we at Wirecutter have discovered in comparative tests over many years.
Resistance bands allow you to do a variety of strength training exercises without overwhelming your space. You can also step in if you don't have access to dumbbells or heavy weights. Wirecutter recommends Bodylastics Stackable Tube Resistance Bands (about $ 20 for a pack of 4), which come with five interchangeable tubes of varying resistances that total 96 pounds. The tubes are attached to two handles or padded ankle straps. A door anchor allows you to align the straps at different heights for exercises that involve pulling (e.g. standing rows) or pushing (e.g. pressing a standing chest). The Bodylastics tubes are reinforced with an inner cord that prevents them from overstretching – a common problem with resistance bands.
If you prefer smaller bands for prehab (injury prevention) or rehab (injury recovery) exercise, Wirecutter likes the Perform Better Exercise Mini Bands (about $ 20 for a pack of 10). They're shorter than other looped straps that we tried by a few inches, and provide just the right amount of tension for exercises like side-stepping.
A foam roller
Self-Myofascial Release (SMR), also known as self-massage, is a technique that manipulates the connective tissue called fascia to release tension and loosen knots. Foam rollers are tools that can be used on specific muscle groups to get the job done. Wirecutter recommends the 36-inch, high-density, round foam roller from AmazonBasics (about $ 25) with a subtle texture that stays in place when rolled and a long length. Foam rolling can be uncomfortable. For beginners or those who prefer a lighter touch, the medium density Gaiam Restore Total Body Foam Roller (about $ 30) is a bit softer, but still sturdy enough to hold its shape. I foam myself and have also trained customers on it. Identify a node and pause lightly on it for about 30 seconds before continuing. Try it before or after training or during the day as a sitting break.
A fitness tracker
Technology is not always the answer to increased activity. However, a fitness tracker can help you identify patterns that can lead to healthy, long-term change. Wearable trackers usually monitor metrics like heart rate, daily step count, exercise, and sleep. (They're not perfect.) The experts we spoke to agreed that approximating the data as a loose outline versus a fixed absolute can help make daily decisions about when and how to move . The most important factors include ease of use and battery life. Wirecutter recommends the Fitbit Charge 4 (an updated model from our previous top pick, the Fitbit Charge 3, around $ 150). The Charge 4 is one of the most accurate tests and has an intuitive touchscreen and a clear companion app. It also has an integrated GPS, reliably detects activities after around 10 minutes and starts recording. It reminds you to keep moving throughout the day. It also has a battery life of up to seven days per charge.
A comfortable, durable yoga mat
A good yoga mat offers density, durability, grip, and general feel. We recommend the Lululemon The Reversible Mat 5mm (about $ 80). The double-sided mat – one side is made of smooth polyurethane (for "stickiness"), the other of structured natural rubber (for "grip") – offers excellent traction, regardless of whether you prefer gentle, relaxing yoga or more intense currents. It's tight enough to adequately cushion the joints, and it's common too: 71 inches long by 26 inches wide (three inches longer and two inches wider than a standard mat). For a comfortable, affordable mat, the ¼ inch deluxe yoga mat with yoga accessories comes in a variety of colors and costs around $ 20.
No-fail workout headphones make immersing yourself in music, a podcast, or a streamed workout from an app or YouTube easier and more fun. Wirecutter recommends the Jabra Elite Active 75t wireless earbuds (around $ 150), which fit securely even with high-energy movements and come with three different-sized tips so that most people can find a good fit. They deliver high quality sound (even during a phone call) and are easy to use – a button on each earbud controls everything from volume to playback and pause. They withstood the real and simulated welding tests carried out by our experts well. One charge provides seven and a half hours of battery life and is likely to have more than enough power to keep you going for the workout you choose.
An indoor cycling bike
If you're looking for a cardio experience at home, there is a rapidly growing selection of exercise machines focused on connected fitness – on-demand streamed workouts that bring the camaraderie and energy of a studio class into your home . The most famous of these is Peloton, but if the bike is too expensive for $ 1,900 (and up), other sturdy and well-constructed indoor cycling bikes should be considered. The Bowflex C6 (around $ 1,000) is one of them. The C6 is a relatively simple bike and has an open Bluetooth setup that connects to a selection of bike apps like Zwift and Rouvy. (You can stream and ride peloton workouts through the Peloton app – we did and enjoyed it – but the bike doesn't allow participation in the leaderboard or full real-time metrics.) The neat display shows speed, cadence, time and distance, calories burned and level (resistance ranges from 1 to 100). It offers a smooth ride and allows pedaling with or without clip-in cycling shoes.
Amid the pandemic, the demand for exercise equipment such as treadmills has increased. It's still not surprising to find out of stock items or longer delivery times. There are a few things to consider when evaluating treadmills, including size, underfoot feel, intuitive control, and performance. Wirecutter's top selection is either out of stock or has been redesigned and is being retested. Other options we like are the rugged LifeSpan Fitness TR4000i (about $ 1,800) with a 7-inch touchscreen display and simple design, and the larger NordicTrack Commercial 1750 (about $ 2,000) with a spacious Belt (60 inches long and 22 inches wide), a 10-inch touch screen, and a powerful motor.
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