Everyone is exercising at home right now so what’s the best small exercise equipment for home? I’ve selected 10 ways to solve your biggest exercise challenges.
First though, I want you to know that I never start with a prop. I start with goals, condition, and limits. I recommend you do the same. Be clear on what you want, what you need, and then go looking for the tools to deliver it. Far more important than the tools you use once you choose them is your program. What is the protocol and was it designed for a woman like you?
In this post I suggest some of my favorite small exercise equipment for home. Whether you’re:
a woman in menopause who needs interval training but has to find ways to do that doesn’t hurt knees that have too little cartilage…
a woman who shares a home with other exercisers and has a small space dedicated to everyone’s needs…
a woman who sits a great deal at work and starting exercise again has experienced some hip, knee, or low back hiccups…
concerned about bone density and noticeable loss of muscle over the last few years…
… or you’re somewhere between, these tools were selected based on the challenges and struggles many women I work with face and the tools I use and recommend.
These are small investments compared to medicine and disease. When someone says they don’t have a budget to spend on equipment I know immediately that they have no intention of using it regularly. Any of these tools ends up costing you pennies a day if you truly use them for the lifetime they promise. Remember that more expensive and large equipment doesn’t get results any better unless you use it appropriately. It again, is the program, not the tool.
Going shopping? Before you do
Consider your biggest needs. Since everyone, especially a woman in perimenopause, menopause, or post menopause needs:
- Strength training
- Interval training
- Flexibility & mobility
- Alignment and corrective focus on any weak or tight areas
- Low to moderate intensity exercise
… you’ll want to assess your current habits. What’s missing? Strength training and interval training are ultimately your most important factors in longevity, as they will help you maintain lean muscle, decrease your body fat, and prevent bone loss. If you have an imbalance – that often shows up as an injury or aches & pains – you may want to prioritize solutions for eliminating those and preventing them in the future.
Are you looking small exercise equipment for home that does one of those things? If not, what do you need it to do? After all, this post isn’t intended to have you buy something. It’s intended to give you solutions if you have a problem you want to solve.
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Here the are: 10 of the best small exercise equipment for home picks, AND, when and why I use them. How many do you already have?
Bands: Versa Loops
These small but mighty bands called versa loops are so useful for strengthening the hips in a way that supports your lower back and your knees. You’ve read or heard me say potentially, that the integrity of a joint depends on the joints above or below it. Lower back or knee pain is often due to tight hips. That is, tight, but weak hips.
Lateral movements are uncommon in our daily life. Muscles in the hip, the gluteus medius, is often weak as a result. These bands allow work in these areas that can be done standing or on the floor. They come in two difference circumferences to fit over the knee – the safest position – for most bodies.
Note: Versa Loop is a brand name from my preferred company. Elastic and rubber tubing has varying properties. I know and use these because they are always predictable quality.
Best for: strengthening hips, glutes, knees
Physio or Exercise Ball
A ball is one of the primary small exercise equipment for home tools I suggest. It’s second only to weights. Whether you’ve got knee or hip issues or not it will expand the number of lower body exercises that you can do at home. That’s important because of the metabolism benefits you get when doing exercises that include your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
Look, we’re not talking about small isometric exercises used in barre classes or pilates. Those unfortunately will not create enough overload to change your body composition. A ball allows you to perform hamstring curls, bridges, wall-based squats and sits that you otherwise may not be able do right now.
Size recommendation: 65cm unless you are less than 5’0ft. gives you the most wide variety of use, rarely if ever do I recommend 75cm unless you’re close to 6’0 ft.
Best for: enabling more lower body exercise, core exercises (not sit ups and crunches, made more injurious on a ball even than on the floor), may be used as a bench when appropriate, and for stretching and relaxation.
Weights: Dumbbells & Kettle bells
This is where I start for home exercise tools. Even before you start looking for ways to get cardiovascular exercise, this. I think everyone should have a back up plan even if they belong to a gym. Everyone should have a convenient at-home routine (or 3) so they can conveniently get in a weight workout in 10, 20, or 30 minutes.
We’re all guaranteed life is going to interrupt whatever plans we might have. Present moment serves as evidence. I’ve been a fitness professional and for 35 years and never belonged to a gym until last year. I’ve always had anywhere between 1 and 4 that I could use any time I wanted to, and yet I’ve always had strength training equipment at home.
Right now that’s more important than ever. As I write this post we’re in COVID19. Never again will many of us take our health and wellness for granted as we may have in the past. Exercise is not optional if you want to be healthy.
Exercise is not optional if you want to be healthy.
Strength training moves to the top of the exercise list when you’re after 50. If you’re not, start. If you are, make sure you’re doing it correctly and doing the right program based on the science of women just like you.
Best for: Improving muscle strength and endurance. Enhancing movement you do all day every day.
Blood Flow Restriction Bands
I’ve written and spoken extensively about BFR bands. I am going to link directly to three resources here about Blood Flow Restriction Bands.
BFR Bands at 50, 60, and 70 – a podcast with BFR band creator
Best for: tricking your body into thinking you’re lifting heavier, passive wearing when you can’t exercise, those without contraindications, minimizing stress while optimizing results (this could be an ideal time to implement: COVID19)
This is a tool I love however I want to tell you right off that if you have shoulder issues and you’re putting this on yourself, it could be a problem. Never do I want risk of using something to outweigh the rewards!
So that said, using a weighted vest can be a perfect way to load the spine and the lower body that otherwise isn’t easy at home unless you’ve got machine weights available to you.
I don’t love loading the spine with a bar on the back/shoulders in squats or lunges. Spinal compression just isn’t a good idea. And yes, I too did it when I was younger, even in my 40s. I no longer do and my neck and upper back tension has improved tremendously since.
Best for: strengthening lower body and bone density when used walking, hiking, stair climbing, or squats and lunges
Turn any two-wheel bike into a spinning bike for an interval training (or sprint interval training) session that is easy on the knees, hips, and ankles. You can get your bike on or off in two minutes or less. Anyone in the family can use it. You will want an accessory to prop the front wheel on too.
Even if you love to walk or run, or swim, having alternatives you can use to cross train can lead to a greater overall fitness. Plus if you’re one who needs more variety, this is an economical way to add another indoor option.
Best for: avoiding cardio options with more impact, intervals or endurance exercise
I have to put out this disclaimer: I love weights more than tubing for my own personal an for my clients’ workouts. Some mistakenly believe tubing is a “beginners” best option or only for rehab or “prehab.” I think that there are few, but important instances where tubing is the only option and is the right tool.
For instance, you can perform pulling exercises at home with tubing that are often not possible without it. Unless you can do a pull up you’re limited if you’re choosing to try body-weight only (not my advice).
Dumbbells allow you to do both bent over rows and bent arm pullovers if they both work for you, but that’s where it ends.
Pulling exercises are so important for postural balance with the contemporary lives we lead.
So long tubing (with handles) opens up opportunities for more upper body exercises as well as core and lower body exercise. The Exer-cuff is a fancier version of the Versa Loop (bands) I listed earlier. Because of the uniqueness of the cuffs and greater elasticity you can use it in more ways.
Best for: travel, lower body lateral work, pulling exercises
Note: not shown is the over-the-door strap that secures the long tube so you can pull from it with both handles
Rebounder or Mini Trampoline
If you ever jumped on a trampoline as a child you likely have fond memories. It was fun. That’s at least a part of the idea behind rebounders or mini trampolines for fitness. The other attractive part is the lower impact that your knees may need and love.
My fun factor came from JumpSport.
If you compare a higher impact exercise with rebounding the bone density benefits will be greater the higher the impact. There is research proof however that for previously sedentary individuals, rebounding can increase bone density.
Best for: low impact cardiovascular option
Your muscles need stretching. That’s a given. But if the fascia that covers your muscles is not in optimal health your stretching won’t be as beneficial. Use of foam rollers has become increasingly popular such that it may need minimal explanation here.
We don’t always do what we know we need to do, though, so I’ll include your “why” here. When you’re “tight” but haven’t lost range of motion, that’s a good indication you need to roll more than to stretch. Unlike a roll in the hay, a roll session with this can be less about pleasure and more about discomfort. The good news is results are cumulative. That is, the more regularly you use a foam roller the better results and the less discomfort you’ll experience.
Best for: use Pre-stretch, for tight spots or “knots,” to support greater body balance and reduce compensation, for enhanced mobility and decreased tension
Share your questions or comments. I’d love to know what problem you need to solve with small exercise equipment for home. Then I can support you in choosing the best option.
Above all… remember it’s the program– the HOW you use anything – that matters.