Home Gym: Low Cost Essentials

Written by Blake KoehnSeptember 8, 2020
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Many of us have been forced to adjust our current exercise habits. Those who have been successful are likely choosing home workouts. A hurdle for those who have been unsuccessful is likely the lack of a home gym or inability to improvise with the available resources they have. Below, I provide low-cost equipment that can be easily purchased, takes little room and is highly versatile for a newly modified routine.

TRX Suspension System


The TRX offers a variety of exercises allowing a full body workout. If you are trying to minimize equipment or money spent, I recommend this single piece over any other. Some common exercises I recommended are listed below:

TRX row:

Perform with elbows tucked to your sides and shoulders down (think pulling your traps to your pockets). To make it easier, position yourself more upright. To make more challenging, position yourself more parallel. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.


TRX chest press:

By switching around and pressing away from the handles, you can easily train the chest, triceps and shoulders in one simple movement.


TRX bicep curl:

Similar to the row, with and underhand grip, "curl" toward the handles. Keeping your elbows tucked to your sides, pull your body while maintaining a neutral spine.



Resistance bands:


If incorporating the additional equipment, I suggest focusing on lower body movements. Some common exercises include:


Clam shells:

Maintain alignment of the shoulders, spine, hips, knees and feet. With feet together, drive the top knee away from the bottom knee.



Psoas march:

With the band around the mid foot, begin with both knees at 90 degrees directly above the waistline. Both legs remain active, with the "press" leg driving away from the waistline and the "neutral" leg stabilizing. 



Glute bridge:

Lay flat on your back (lumbar support if preferred), with knees at 90 degrees. Focus on using your glutes to initiate the movement without elevating too far to avoid an extended lower back. Control the movement on the way up and down. Place the band either directly above or below the knees.




For those wanting to add more than bodyweight exercises, a low to moderately heavy kettlebell is a good choice for a variety of compound movements. Some sample exercises include:

Goblet squat:

With the kettlebell held at chest level, perform a squat to comfortable depth. Depth is dependent on natural range of motion and ability to maintain a neutral spine (a good starting point is squatting to, but not beyond, parallel).



1/2 kneeling should press:

The pressing arm and opposite elevated leg, allow an addition core focused pressing movement. As with all movements, maintain alignment of the hips and shoulders while finding a comfortable handle on the kettlebell to press.



KB 1 arm chest press:

Lying flat, (legs can be extended or at 90 degrees) find a comfortable handle on the kettlebell and press. Maintain control on both the press and return to chest portion of the movement. Remain engaged throughout your core.


Core/McGill Big 3:

Low risk, spine sparring core work is an easy addition to an overall at-home fitness routine. The following movements allow a low-risk, high-reward challenging core workout.

Bird dog:

Begin on all fours, shoulder aligned with wrists/hands and hips aligned with knees. Driving opposite arm and leg away from midline, maintain a neutral spine. Hold for 10 seconds before "sweeping" the arm and leg back to initial position and return to hold.



Side plank:

Begin with ankles, knees, hips and shoulders aligned. The working (closet to ground) side shoulder and elbow remain aligned. Hold for 10 seconds before resting 5-10 seconds and beginning another rep.




With arms beneath the lumbar spine, align one foot with the other leg's knee. This movement is very minimal (1-2 inches of elevation), only enough to activate the abs. Avoid "chin poking" by keep your neck straight and eye gaze straight forward.




Outdoor walks:
Try beginning your day with a 10-15 minute walk (preferably outdoors). Walking, multiple times per day, is an effective way to get exercise as well as a mental break from your work day.

Sample Workout (A):

Warm-up: 10-15 minute walk
Pre-workout core: Bird dog (6/4/2) - Side bridge (6/4/2) - Curl up (6/4/2)

  1. TRX rows: 3-4 x 8-12
  2. KB goblet squat: 3-4 x 8-12
  3. Banded psoas march 3-4 x 8-12
  4. KB 1 arm chest press: 3-4 x 8-12

Sample Workout (B):

Warm-up: 10-15 minute walk
Pre-workout core: Bird dog (6/4/2) - Side bridge (6/4/2) - Curl up (6/4/2)

  1. TRX chest press: 3-4 x 8-12
  2. KB split squat/lunge: 3-4 x 8-12
  3. Banded clam shell: 3-4 x 8-12
  4. 1/2 kneeling KB shoulder press: 3-4 x 8-12

* Pre-workout core work is recommended as 10 second isometrics (holding position) to build muscular endurance. Exercises should be scaled in time/duration prior to the addition of weight/resistance. 
* I recommend performing this routine 2-3xs/week, however it is up to your available time and personal preference. Whichever you decide, alternate between "workout A" and "workout B" each time you exercise.


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