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These days, given our current health situation, we've been spending more time at home than ever before. This is not without its challenges, whether you're feeling the effects of work-from-home burnout, struggling with loneliness, or simply navigating your mental health each day. For us at Byrdie, one thing that has made us feel a bit better has been to get moving—which is totally possible at home, thanks to apartment-friendly fitness equipment and top-notch online workout classes (many of which are free, which we love). Here, our editors have hand-picked the workout gear they've relied on over the last several months, as well as the programs and apps that have helped them feel motivated and positive. We're particularly partial to equipment that can be used in a variety of ways.
Read on for the best home workout equipment, according to Byrdie editors, plus, some expert advice on how to shop for home workout equipment from personal trainer Jen Polzak.
Carbon 38 Bala Bangles
When Byrdie senior editor Lindsey Metrus saw the Bala Bangles all over Instagram, she was intrigued. "I was curious how big a difference 2 pounds on each leg (or wrist) would make," she says. "Turns out, the change is hugely noticeable."
Pair With: "My Pilates flows, which mostly come by way of Melissa Wood or Move With Nicole, are made that much tougher with the addition of a little extra weight on my limbs," says Lindsey. "I swear they've made a difference in better sculpting my muscles."
Lindsey introduced Byrdie associate editor Holly Rhue to Bala, too—and the rest was history. "Lindsey gets credit for introducing me to this brand by way of its keystone product, Bala Bangles," says Holly. "I use the Bangles regularly, but lately, the Bars have been the perfect way to level up during online workout classes."
Pair With: Holly loves to use the Bars during the sculpt classes she takes through Obé. "They're easy to grip," she says, "which means I don't risk losing a weight (or a lamp) to the burnout arm circuits. This combo is sure to get your heart rate and muscles pumping."
Lululemon Lift and Lengthen Yoga Block
Holly says this Lululemon yoga block has helped her improve her form during those same Obé sculpt classes.
Pair With: "The Obé instructors reiterate the same golden rule throughout the class: keep your shoulders down and away from your ears," she explains. "While I find it manageable to keep my shoulders in proper position during a standing arm circuit, I've yet to be able to do so successfully when it comes to side planks. This yoga block takes some of the tension off of my wrist while simultaneously giving me some support to keep my shoulders locked in place. Quality reps with proper form are more important than the number of reps, so I'll continue to level-down with this yoga block until I'm strong enough to keep from hunching into my shoulder. It's a journey!"
JumpSport 350 Fitness Trampoline
After Byrdie VP/GM Leah Wyar had her second child, she was having trouble finding the time to work out—that is, until she invested in this trampoline.
Pair With: "A friend of mine started posting her LEKFIT workouts (a combo of trampoline work, as well as weights and bands for full-body results) on Stories, and she looked so strong and borderline joyful working out," she says. "I'm all in now! The cardio is hard but very fun—and, compared to running, much gentler on my postpartum body."
Liteboxer Boxing Platform
Byrdie Commerce Editorial Director Jessica Mahgerefteh had the opportunity to test this stationary boxing platform inside the Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn, NY during a recent visit. "I should preface this by saying that I have boxed maybe once or twice in my life, and this was some of the most fun I've had during a workout," she says. "The panel lights up and directs you where to punch, all to the tune of upbeat songs that build momentum. I was dancing and boxing at the same time, and felt super energized." Long story short: You don't have to be a boxing pro to enjoy this machine. There are different intensity levels and guided sessions with a trainer who can coach you all along the way.
Pair With: "If you have your own boxing gloves, you could likely just use those. But since I did not, I used the Liteboxer Gloves which were really comfortable. They also sell Liteboxer Resistance Bands if you're interested in adding cross-training into your workout."
Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands
For Senior Commerce Editorial Director Dwyer Frame, resistance bands are a must-have. "They might be small, but resistance bands pack a punch," she says. "Whenever I use them on leg day, I'm so sore the next day. I also love that I can throw them in a bag to take on the road." Byrdie News Editor Jazmine Ortiz is also a fan: "Resistance bands have been the best," she says. "I don't have space [in my apartment] for heavy weights, but these bands come in different resistance levels that are much heavier to lift than my little 5-pound dumbbells."
Pair With: "These bands have also proved very useful when I am doing my Isaac Boots/Torch'd workouts," says Dwyer. "He uses them for arm exercises and it burns so bad!" Jazmine, on the other hand, loves the FitOn app: "They have all kinds of workouts and some incorporate bands," she says. "Even the ones that don't, I'll just incorporate them sometimes for an extra burn. I like the classes with celebrity trainer Jeanette Jenkins and Gabrielle Union."
Gaiam Restore Marbled Foam Roller
"My trainer would always stress the importance of foam rolling, but I didn't really put it into practice until I was gifted this pretty foam roller," says Jazmine. "Since it's aesthetically pleasing and goes with my decor, it kind of just sits in a corner of my living room in my eye view. If I see it, I'll use it. I like to use it after a more intense workout session when I know my muscles will be sore the next day."
Pair With: "I follow Massy Arias, who's a big fan of foam rolling, on Instagram. She includes days just for foam rolling on her workout plans (available for purchase on her website) but shares some free videos and tips on Instagram as well."
The DB Method The Machine
"If you were wondering if the DB in The DB Method stands for Dream Butt, you'd be correct," says Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue. "My motivation levels to work out in my tiny NYC apartment are usually zero, but this machine only requires 10 minutes of my time a day in order to sculpt the butt of my dreams. Plus, I love that the machine comes with add-on weights if you really want to turn up the toning factor."
Pair With: "I'd pair this with any of the workouts on The DB Method YouTube channel," Faith says. "There are ways to use the machine to work other body parts too, like your abs or arms. It's such an innovative machine that makes working out feel not so daunting."
What Our Testers Say
"The DB Method won me over because it made squats more enjoyable, or at least less painful, which I was not expecting." — Lesley Chen, Product Tester
Sweat With Bec Booty Bands
"I love these bands from my friend and fitness instructor Bec Donald a.k.a. Sweat With Bec," says Faith. "They come in three different resistance levels. I'm a baby so I usually use the blue ones, which are the lightest resistance."
Pair With: "I pair them with her workouts," she says. "She does Zoom workouts and also teaches outdoor classes, which she announces on her Instagram—but also any toning resistance band workout. Trust me, you'll feel the burn when using these for even deceptively simple-looking moves. I'm always sore in the best way after her classes. I love that they're so easy to toss in my bag and take anywhere, too."
Gaiam Essentials Premium Yoga Mat
"Gaiam makes the best yoga mats, hands down," says Faith. "They're the perfect amount of squishiness and grip, and they're easy to take on-the-go (and I swear they weigh less than most)."
Pair With: "I pair my Gaiam yoga mat with Glo app, which offers yoga, pilates, and meditation classes (both pre-recorded and live-streamed)."
Goldens' Cast Iron Kettlebell
Beauty & Style Group Editorial Director Elspeth Velten just replaced her rental gym equipment with dumbells and a kettlebell from Goldens' Cast Iron, a made-in-America cast iron company that also sells cooking equipment and fire pits—and she's never looked back. "Weight training equipment has been a hot commodity as gyms have been closed—finding 15-pound dumbbells to maintain the physical and mental benefits of my fitness routine became my Everest when my former gym asked for my equipment back. Needless to say, it was a relief that it only took about three weeks for these to arrive at my door after I bought them. They’re not rubber-encased, so I just layer my Alo mat over my carpet and hope for the best for my downstairs neighbors."
Alo Yoga Warrior Mat
"This Alo yoga mat is thicker than your average yoga mat, which I really like," says Byrdie Senior Social Media Manager Kelly Gallagher. I get wrist pain while in downward dog if the mat is too thin. Additionally, it has a really grippy texture on one side so it's not sliding on my hardwood floors."
Pair With: "I loved taking Sky Ting's yoga classes and am so grateful that they have Sky Ting TV, an online platform with yoga classes that vary from three minutes to an hour and a half."
Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls
For Karli Bendlin, Byrdie's Email Editor, these massage balls have been a "lifesaver for relieving tension" after a tough workout.
Pair With: "While I miss my in-person Pure Barre classes—and the luxury of 50 full minutes without any interruptions from my dogs or my phone—I've been trying to fit in as many Pure Barre Go classes as I can from home," she explains. "I've been able to keep up with the actual workout part, but I find myself skipping the end of class stretch all too often, which usually leaves my shoulders and thighs feeling tight a few hours later. I place one under my shoulder or leg and roll it around against the wall or floor, and I swear it gives me instant relief in minutes."
What to Look For in Home Workout Equipment
Aligns With Your Goals
When shopping for home workout equipment, the first thing Polzak recommends is asking yourself whether or not it aligns with your goals. “It would be very easy to make a list of at-home workout equipment that’s small and easy to store, but just ordering pieces that are small for that sake alone may leave you underwhelmed with your workouts and your results,” she says. “If you have a specific goal in mind, make sure the equipment you’re purchasing can directly aid in reaching your goal.” For example, if you’re looking to build strength in your lower body, don’t opt for a three-pound set of dumbbells just because they’re easier to store. “Strength is acquired by overloading one’s muscles, and most people are not going to do that with six pounds.”
Has Multiple Uses
Polzak also suggests choosing equipment that’s multifunctional and can be used in a multitude of ways. “Can I use this item to push with? Pull with? Load my lower and upper body in all directions? [A multifunctional piece of equipment] is an easy way to get more bang for your buck while taking up less space,” she says, naming the kettlebell as a prime example. “It can be utilized in so many different exercises and movements for a complete full-body workout,” she says, naming squats, lunges, deadlifts, swings, presses, and rows as just a handful of ways it can be used.
Appropriate for Your Space
Of course, you’ll want to make sure whatever piece of equipment you buy makes sense for your space. “You want to be mindful of what you actually have room for and what some of the restraints might be of your home,” says Polzak. “Does this make too much noise for my neighbors? Will it scratch my floor? Are my ceilings high enough? Will I have enough room to use the equipment through full ranges of movement given the space allotted? These are all things that are very important to keep in mind when choosing your pieces.”
What equipment do you need for a home gym?
Polzak says to ask yourself these three questions before furnishing your home gym: what are your fitness goals, what space are you working with to both store the equipment and use it, and what equipment do you know how to use properly. "After you have some starting groundwork to make your decisions, I would guide the buyer to choose something you can use in a multitude of ways, and to be able to hit all major muscle groups with," Polzak says. "Can you squat with it, deadlift it, push it over your head, row with it? If the answer is yes, you probably chose a great piece of equipment that won't leave you bored with your workout." As an example, Polzak loves kettlebells because they provide a full-body workout when used properly.
What home workout equipment burns the most calories?
According to Polzak, all equipment can help you burn calories depending on how you use it. "Don't assume purchasing a piece of cardio equipment is always the best way to burn max calories," Polzak says. "Appropriately loaded kettlebell swings, or dumbbell thrusters, could easily torch just as many calories, in less time, if used in an interval style." Polzak suggest performing high-intensity exercises if your goal is to burn a lot of calories, stressing that intensity matters. "Working in a HIIT format, whether it is with strength equipment or on a piece of cardio equipment, is going to outweigh the calorie output if you are just doing long slow distance cardio," Polzak says.
Do resistance or booty bands help build muscle?
Yes, depending how you use them. Polzak says any piece of equipment can build muscle if you use it in a programmed manner. "Are you following a proper progressive program? Are your workouts increasing in intensity each week? Are you spending more time under tension, doing more reps, or increasing the weight (or resistance) on the band you are using? If so, absolutely yes!" Polzak says. "But stringing together random workouts and different exercise programs, will not induce enough muscle fatigue to actually force the muscle to get stronger, unless the progression is intentional, and regulated."
Meet the Expert
Jen Polzak is a personal trainer and senior manager of fitness, overseeing two large non-profit facilities in Manhattan. She’s been in the fitness industry for over a decade, specializing in nutrition coaching, personal training, post-rehabilitation exercises, and weight loss. She’s also a runner, a USAPL Powerlifter, a CrossFit athlete, and a coach.