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A Fitness Guru Gives Us the Skinny on the Exercise Gear Everyone Should Own

We all want to get in shape, but splurging on an expensive gym membership isn't always an option.
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Ah the groaning sounds of gluttonous holiday bodies as they jump on the New Year's resolution treadmill to get in shape. Fortunately for those of us with the resolutions to trim budgets and waistlines, fitness expert Holly Chisholm Hargrave is in your corner. Founder of AthleticGenius Fitness, she has put together a list of six pieces of "safe, reliable, inexpensive, and fun" pieces of fitness equipment that will help you get in shape this year and cost under $100.

Floor or Yoga Mat

Why It's Important: You don't want to slip around your hardwood floor or brave a rug burn while working out. "The mat will give you a non-slip surface to exercise on and provide a soft surface for any floor work," Hargrave says. It's also crucial for cushioning your back, elbows, and knees from unforgiving floor surfaces.

Medicine Ball with 2 Handles

Why It's Important: Available in a variety of sizes, "a medicine ball that's between 5lbs. and 15lbs. is best for home," Hargrave notes. "It can be used for a nice pre-work out warm up by twisting, reaching, and lifting exercises. The medicine ball can also be used to work abdominal muscles by using it for weighted sit-ups in a variety of exercises." To strengthen chest and back, perform push-ups with one arm on the ball and one on the floor. To bolster shoulders, lift the ball from a standing position with either arm, "or hold the ball in both hands and lift it for double shoulder rises."

Resistance Bands

Why They're Important: Who knew something so simple could be used to to train so many parts of your body? "A resistance band can be used to work chest, back, biceps, triceps, legs, and your gluteus," Hargrave says. "Either stand on the band, wrapping it around your back, or around a railing in your home. It takes up very little space and is hugely diversified in the variety of exercises you can perform with it." You can also use it for stretching at the end of your workout.

Mini Stability Ball

Why It's Important: A ball that's inflated to a diameter of 10" to 12" provides resistance, Hargrave says. "You can use a basic ball to work your gluteus or your gluteus and hamstrings, by leaning on a chair with the ball behind your knee and lifting. To work your inner thigh, place the ball between the thighs and squeeze it tightly as you can." Larger size balls are cheap, too, and can be used with a variety of core-strengthening exercises.

Set of Weights

Why It's Important: You can spend upwards of $300 on a complete set of barbells, but you really just need two or three sets for upper body strength training. And forget the fancy steel rack, too. "Weights are great for exercising many muscle groups and can easily fit in a closet or under a bed," Hargrave says. "You don't need an entire rack. I recommend having a light set, a medium set, and one heavy set."

A Jump Rope

Why It's Important: You need to get your heart moving, and here's the tool to do it. "A jump rope is an efficient way to get in your cardiovascular workout," Hargrave says. "It also improves timing and balance. Use your jump rope in interval training: Jump rope for 30 seconds, then perform a set of strength exercises. Then repeat this interval for a full cardiovascular and resistance muscle building at-home workout."

With the right gear, and the right attitude, you can get in shape at any time. Just remember that the game of fitness isn't won by those who spend the most. Winners are people who stick with the program through good and bad days, 365 days a year.


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Contributing Writer

Lou Carlozo is a DealNews contributing writer. He covers personal finance for Reuters Wealth. Prior to that he was the Managing Editor of WalletPop.com, and a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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3 comments
trickster
All you need is a mat, kettle bell, pull up bar and a copy of 'convict conditioning'.
VincentVonDudler
I would also highly recommend push-up bars for deeper range of motion if you're planning on working your chest by push-ups. I use "Harbinger 373500 Padded Handle" for $18.50 off Amazon but any broad-based bar will do. Comfortable grip is key - read the reviews. I also enjoy Harbinger's workout gloves "Harbinger 143 Men's Pro FlexClosure" ($15.95) but certainly not necessary. The equipment I describe in this and my other comment are all you need for the original P90X.

Exercise bands (the ones I suggest will suit all beginner strengths), pilates mat, pull up bar, push up bars, and maybe some workout gloves. A heart rate monitor is absolutely optional but it might be motivating/helpful during cardio workouts.
VincentVonDudler
Unless you're doing yoga don't buy a traditional yoga mat. Get a exercise/pilates/yoga mat instead - it's thicker and will cushion you more for exercises where you lie on the floor (particularly important in ab workouts). Search for "ProSource Premium 1/2-Inch Extra Thick" on Amazon for $20.99 For most beginners you don't need free weights, get bands instead. Search Amazon for "Flexcords Resistance Bands Set includes 6 Exercise Bands" for $32.99. One thing missing from this list is a pull-up bar, which is WAY more important than a medicine ball, stability ball, jump rope, or weight set (if you have resistance bands) especially for beginners. Search Amazon for "Iron Gym Total Upper Body" $37.48. Or if you have room, money, and don't want to risk damaging your doorframe go with the "Weider Power Tower" for $135.
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