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How to build a home gym with under $200

Missing the gym? Here’s how you can construct a killer home workout system.

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You don’t need fancy equipment to stay in shape while you’re stuck at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, you don’t really need anything at all to enjoy a killer workout routine. Body weight exercises like pushups, air squats, calf raises and lunges are free to do any time.

But if you want to take your workout game up a notch, you can easily build a home gym for less than $200, provided you skip the expensive weights and focus on building dynamic strength.

Even in normal times, the benefits of working out at home are numerous. There’s no commute time to the gym, no hidden fees, no television mindlessly blasting some talk show you have no interest in watching.

Plus, once you assemble the pieces of your home gym, it’s completely portable. Here are a few things to get you started with links to workouts.

The basics

Workout/yoga mat ($17): Any flat, non-slip surface will do, but a mat offers a convenient place to stretch and lay out. Make sure to keep it clean.

Yoga strap ($8): Even if your idea of yoga is a down dog and a few deep breaths, yoga straps are useful for various stretching methods including active isolated stretching.

Jump rope ($12): Cardio and balance? Sold.

Notebook ($2): Tracking your workouts provides motivation and helps build progression. So what if you can only do a couple of pushups today? In a couple of weeks, you’ll be doing power sets.

Resistance bands

Thera bands ($13): The backbone of home workouts. They come in various colors representing different strengths ranging from yellow (easiest) up to black (hardest.) I primarily use them for ankle exercises, but they can also be used for upper body work.

Fit Simply bands ($17): Unlike thera bands that are loose and untied, these little circular gems are perfect for working the lower body. Every runner should have them.

Corded bands ($20-40): Ideal for curls, they can also wrap around a bench for blasting the pecs and shoulders. (In a pinch, an ottoman or a sturdy table can be converted into a makeshift workout bench.)

A word of caution: Resistance bands are super light, but don’t be fooled. It’s just as easy to strain muscles using them as it is with heavy weights. Go easy at first and build your strength slowly with good form.

Upper body

Pushup handles ($12): I picked these up after straining my shoulder. Seems I’d been doing pushups with less than ideal form for years. As an added bonus, the handles take pressure off the wrists.

Grip strength ($10): Perfect for strengthening wrists and forearms. I’ve taken a couple of nasty falls during training runs and was sure I had fractured my wrists. So was my doctor. Miraculously, the bones stayed intact thanks to using these for prehab work.


Swiss Ball ($15): When you get bored doing crunches and planks, a Swiss ball provides numerous opportunities for variations. As an added bonus, you can also get a serious leg and back workout.

Foam rolling and myofascial release

Foam roller ($15): High-end foam rollers can run over $100, but honestly, what’s the point? Foam rolling is a great way to release tension and unlock knots in your muscles. An even cheaper option is to use a piece of PVC pipe. Just make sure you’re using good form.

Lacrosse ball (three-pack for $10): The foam roller can’t get everything. Lacrosse balls are hard and smooth, perfect for working out knots in calves and releasing foot tension. A staple of pro sports locker rooms everywhere.

Foot massage ball ($6): For even deeper work, this small dimpled ball will help keep plantar fascia at bay. Every runner gets plantar at some point. It’s especially prone to flare up when you start logging more miles, or if you’re just starting to run after an absence. A golf ball will also do just fine.

The Stick ($30): You can hit every major muscle group with the options listed above. This is the upgrade to get really deep into those hard to reach places like upper quads.

The secret weapon

Wobble board ($20): Behold the perfect tool for turning wobbly calves and glass ankles into instruments of steel. If you’re going to spend any time on trails, the wobble board is essential.

Powerlifting upgrades (if you have a little more to spend)

Stackable weights ($150 and up): When space is at a premium, there’s no need to fill out a weight rack. Stackable weights use a pin system that packs a big lift in a tiny space. You can often find expensive gym equipment used online for a discount, although now might not be the best time to take somebody’s hand-me-downs.

Kettlebells ($20, each): You really don’t want to drop one of these on your floor, especially if they’re cast iron. You can get a monster workout in a short amount of time with kettlebells. Provided, again, that you use good form.