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The Backup Plan

When real life is screwing with your gym life, check out these options for some serious homemade gains.


Think about what you spend each year on gym memberships and the time and money spent driving there and back. That’s more than enough to put toward a decent home gym. Working out from home can be motivating, but it’s also time and money saving. New baby? Train during naps. Tight schedule? It’s a short commute. You may have to work on your state of mind and focus when it comes to avoiding distraction, but I assure you, with the right gear, a small yet effective home gym can easily become a reality.

There’s a plethora of quality stuff out there, and these are just five items that stuck out as affordable and user-friendly and deliver a solid well-rounded workout. It would be nice if we all had a power rack and a cable station in our living room, but let’s be realistic. These items are effective, inexpensive, and space-saving alternatives for when life gets in the way of that trip to the gym.


THE PRODUCT: Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Pro

Price: $40

Maybe it’s my military background, but I have a serious affinity for pull-ups. Enter the Multi-Gym Pro from Perfect Fitness (a company founded by a former Navy SEAL, but I’m not biased). For the price, this system offers a vast workout for the entire upper body and abs. I like that it’s adjustable for different door dimensions and has frame guards that protect molding from damage. On to the exercises—you can perform three kinds of pull-ups to build the back and bicep muscles: wide-grip, hammer grip, and chin-ups (palms facing you.). Bonus, you can easily remove the Multi-Gym Pro from the door frame and place it onto the floor to do push-ups, sit-ups, and dips for a full upper-body and ab workout. The Perfect Fitness website is also full of exercises, instructions, and ideas depending on your goals.

More info:

Bowflex-SelectTechTHE PRODUCT: Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Dumbbells

Price: $600

The price is steep, but this gets you a full arsenal of dumbbells with the footprint of a single pair. Weight is adjusted by simple selection dials ranging from 10 to 90 pounds in five-pound increments. I saw some online reviews complaining about this process, but I assure you, it is simple. I also like the quality, with a soft layer over the metal plates to prevent clanking noise. I highly recommend the stand ($140) to avoid constant bending to the floor to lift up the weights. The bench ($200) is high quality, and everything comes with a six-week full refund and three-year warranty. Replacing 17 sets of dumbbells seems like a pretty smart and space-saving option for your home gym.

More info:

TRX-Home-Workout-BundleTHE PRODUCT: TRX Home Workout Bundle

Price: $275

The TRX was developed by a Navy SEAL to stay “mission ready” while on deployment. I reserve the right to be overly supportive of military entrepreneurs, but truth be told, this all-in-one system is a legit full-body workout. I bought one after I had hip surgery and agonized through a slow recovery. First I used it for stretching and core work, then later moved on to more difficult one-legged exercises. Now, several years later, I find it great for rows and chest exercises, adjusting the length of the straps or my body position to change the resistance. There’s both a door anchor and ceiling anchor if you prefer a permanent setup. If you choose the latter, the TRX unclips so it doesn’t always have to be hanging from the ceiling. This particular bundle includes the Home Suspension Training Kit with six 15- to 30-minute workouts, the Rip Training Basic Kit with a 30-minute workout, and a bag. (The TRX travels well.)

More info:

_V-Force-Weight-VestTHE PRODUCT: V-Force Weight Vest

Price: $170

The weighted vest is a great way to add strength, whether you wear it to walk, run, hike, or even for CrossFit. The vest comes in a range from 25  to 150 pounds and the removable cast-iron weight are in 2.5-pound increments so you can adjust up or down as you see fit. If you take all the weights out, the vest is two to three pounds. I tested the 30-pound vest. The concept is straightforward—put it on and carry extra weight—so let’s move to the features that really stand out. The vest is fully padded for comfort, which is essential as you make it heavier especially if you plan to run, jog, or hike vigorously in it. All the weights and belts are removable, and weight distribution is equal in the front and back, unless you set it up otherwise. Choose between narrow shoulder straps (3.25 inches) for more arm mobility or wider shoulder straps (4.25 inches) for more comfort and support. Cool accessories like a super-strong hanger, reflective bands, and hydration pack are also available. With a lifetime warranty, it is almost impossible to wear out this military-grade vest.

More info:

Bodylastics-34-Piece--JYM-Strength-Band-SystemTHE PRODUCT: Bodylastics 34-Piece JYM Strength Band System 

Price: $149

This kit comes with a lot of straps, adding up to 404 pounds of total resistance. You get seven sets of bands with weight designated by color, six handles, six ankle straps, two heavy duty door anchors, two “anywhere anchors” (one big and one small), workout cards with recommended routines, and a book. There’s also a travel bag and a lifetime warranty, which I’ve mentioned gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I’m a fan of the clip bands instead of the bands with the handle permanently attached, because for travel, you need only bring two handles and as many bands as you wish. These are also great for pre-show pump. I’ve played around with a lot of bands, and so far, these are my favorite.

More info:

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