Small Home Gym Essentials
If you have room for a small home gym, I recommend the following equipment, in addition to what I have already listed in the "Space-saving gear" section. Adding a bike and kettlebells will greatly increase your cardio options, and the Swiss ball and bench will make for more varied resistance training sessions.
I've become a big fan of spinning bikes recently, every since COVID has forced me to abandon the treadmill at my local gym. Bikes are a great way to work on your cardio with minimal impact. The gold standard is of course Peloton, with a price to match. Peloton offers a monthly subscription to live classes at an exorbitant $50/month, but many people find the classes highly motivating.
If you don't want to do live classes (I hate them and would much rather watch podcasts while spinning), I highly recommend the Bowflex C6. Super quiet and smooth, a full suite of metrics to track your output and progress and a versatile screen stand make it an excellent choice for around half the cost of a Peloton.
These inflatable balls are fun addition to any workout, and they allow you to add a great deal of core and leg exercises to your routine. There is a wide range of choices in price and quality. If you can splurge, I highly recommend the Power Systems ProElite model. It is extremely sturdy, well textured and comfortable to use, but definitely not cheap.
A more affordable, but still good quality option is the BalanceFrom Anti-Burst ball. It's thick enough to be resilient to damage (a big weakness of many balls on the market) and only $24 as of the time of writing.
As far as size goes, I recommend the 55 cm for most people, unless you are over 6 feet tall.
Kettlebells are a versatile tool for any gymrat. You can swing them for high reps for a killer cardio workout, or use them as ungainly dumbbells to make your resistance training workouts more challenging. It's worth investing in a set of kettlebells.
For sizing, I recommend a 25-, 35-, and 45-lb bell for most people starting out. Smaller women and teenagers may want to also grab a 15-lb version. CoreFX.ca is a great source for bells, but many other fitness retailers also carry them.
You can also try an adjustable version, which saves space. I have one, but I'm not entirely happy with it; the mechanism to select weights is flimsy and I'm always worried it is going to fall apart mid-swing.
An adjustable exercise bench allows you to do exercises such as chest presses, dumbbell rows and Bulgarian squats comfortably and easily. It is by no means essential, but if you have the room, go for it! There are dozens of choices on the market, with Northern Lights makes some very good ones. Bowflex's 3.1S model is also decent.
Whatever you buy, make sure you try it in person. It should feel comfortable when you sit and lie on it. Sizing matters, as does the width of the bench. It should also feels sturdy and solid, not shaky or unstable.