Updated: Jul 28, 2020
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I continued showing up to my kettlebell gym until very late into my pregnancy. During my second pregnancy, I transitioned to home workouts much earlier. Working out in my home allowed me to be in much greater control of exercise variables like rest intervals, training days, intensity and reps. It also enabled me to achieve my exercise goals on my terms during a time when my body felt very unpredictable. Now, I coach pregnant and postpartum people in their own homes. Of course there are many fun aspects to working out in a gym or class environment, but home workouts have their advantages too: You can exercise with your kids around. You don't have to worry about what you wear (I have definitely coached clients in their jammies). You can break up your workout into chunks throughout the day. Basically, you have the utmost flexibility to workout on your own terms.
But what do you need to get started? Not much, it turns out. Here are some of my favorite home gym equipment ideas collected into 1) Basics 2) Nice-to-haves and 3) Accessories
1) Home Gym Equipment Basics:
Resistance Bands, Free-Weights and Stability Balls
The absolute minimum equipment for a home gym is a variety of resistance bands. There are almost limitless exercises you can perform with a good set of resistance bands. They come in a few types:
- Super Bands: (I recommend starting out with a 1/2" band, like the Red WODFitters band)
- Resistance bands with handles: (I recommend getting started with a few between 6 and 30 lb of resistance; this brand (REEHUT) comes with door anchors!!)
- Minibands: Here I'm recommending the Perform Better bands. Honestly, these days you can find all kinds of cheaper bands but I still use these because I always have and they've worked really well. And I've never had one snap, knock on wood...
- Resistance band door anchor: I've bought a number of door anchors over the years and my favorite are actually the ones that come packaged with the REEHUT bands linked above. If you really don't want to buy an extra resistance band just to get a door anchor, something like the door anchor linked here is a good choice.
If you are new to working out or returning to exercise postpartum, resistance bands are really all you need to get started.
As you progress, you'll probably want to invest in some free weights. Great options for a home gym include:
Adjustable-weight dumbbells (pictured below) are the best bang for your buck and the most compact if space is a consideration. They have a different feel from traditional dumbbells or kettlebells but you can sub them for any exercise that would require a dumbbell.
If you are purchasing your first set of dumbbells, and you don't know where to start, choose a variety between 5 and 25 lbs. Kettlebells are often sized in kilograms instead of pounds (although not always). The sizes you need will ultimately depend on what you are doing with them. If you just starting out, something in the 6 kg and something in the 12 kg range will likely serve you well. I buy my kettlebells from www.performbetter.com and www.rogue.com. There is actually a difference between brands when it come to kettlebells. Many kettlebell exercises require the kettlebell to rotate through your grip (during a kettlebell swing, for example) so buy something with smooth, seamless metal handles (not coated in plastic!). The two websites mentioned above sell high-quality kettlebells fit that bill.
Pair your bands, free weights or even body weight with a stability ball, and you expand your options significantly. Stability balls can be used for seated exercises, hip thrust exercises, elevated glute bridges- the list is long. They are also an amazing tool for birth prep exercises (think pelvic tilts or pelvic circles) and practicing comfort measures you might use during labor. Postpartum, you can even bounce your babe on one. Stability balls are so versatile during the childbearing year- it makes a lot of sense to add one to your kit.
Here's a tip for sizing your stability ball: If you are 5'6"- 5'11" choose a 65 cm ball. If you are over 6 feet tall, choose a 75 cm ball. If you are under 5'6", choose a 55cm ball. If you consider yourself extremely petite, you might need to go even smaller. The rule of thumb is that when the ball is filled properly (check individual manufacturer specs), you should be able to sit on it and your legs should make a 90 degree angle with the floor.
2) Nice to have: Weight bench, TRX
If you've got some extra cash, two really versatile items are a weight bench and a suspension trainer.
Workout benches are unbelievably handy. They come in fixed or incline varieties and if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, I strongly encourage you to spend the extra cash on an incline weight bench. You may find that during pregnancy it becomes uncomfortable to lie on your back and being able to do work on an incline is handy. I really like this incline weight bench (pictured above).
Suspension trainers allow you to utilize your own bodyweight as resistance in ways that are difficult without assistance. They also add a hard-to-replace dimension to "pulling" exercises. Suspension trainers are also a wonderful way to add a stability-assist as you are becoming comfortable with new exercises, adapting to a growing pregnant belly or as you are returning to exercise postpartum.
I love the TRX suspension trainer. Whether you purchase this particular suspension trainer or not, make sure it comes with a door anchor and you can use it just about anywhere.
3) Accessories: Foam Roller, Circuit Step, Pull-Up Bar
These last few items certainly aren't necessary but will expand your options if you are serious about working out at home. Foam rollers are used for self-myofascial release and are a wonderful addition to a warm-up and cool-down routine. A Step is super helpful if you want to do Step Ups, Bulgarian Split Squats, Elevated Lunges. Over time, you may be able to use a bench for a lot of these but the height of the bench can be aggressive later in pregnancy or early postpartum; the Circuit Step is very adjustable. Finally, a pull-up bar (most likely paired with a Superband (see resistance bands above) adds a lot of options to your pulling-exercise repertoire. It's a fun option in your later postpartum workouts.
So that's the gear. Need ideas for what to do with it? Follow my social media for occasional free workouts OR get in touch with me for a personalized workout plan. I offer 1:1 in-home personal training in Seattle's Eastside neighborhoods and virtual on-line consultations for everyone else.
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to follow the link and make a purchase. Please understand that I recommend these products because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to purchase one. The commission is just a perk of sharing good information with people who appreciate it and it does help support this blog (thanks in advance!). Please do not spend any money on any of these items unless you feel they will enrich your home workout experience.
My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Contact me if you have questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum, if you’re local (Seattle's Eastside: Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland and surrounding areas) and interested in working with me on a custom personal training plan, or if you’d like help finding a qualified pregnancy or postpartum personal trainer near you.