How to Stock Your Home Gym for $102 or Less (Video)

My ideal home gym will have a top of the line stationary bike and an Alter-G treadmill. The cost? A cool $100,000.

But until I hit the lottery, I don’t have an extra hundred thousand dollars lying around to spend on a few fancy pieces of gym equipment.

Thankfully, I don’t NEED the fancy stuff – and neither do you.

And if you think you don’t need a home gym, let me beg to differ. Whether it’s a small corner in your living room or simply a stash of equipment under your bed, every runner should have a few key items to help them with their training.

So the other day I got lost on YouTube watching running videos. Shocking, isn’t it? 

Well, as I studied these runners, trainers, and coaches, I kept noticing a common theme: running was never the only exercise they did. 

There’s ALWAYS other components to a workout. This isn’t anything groundbreaking – I’ve written before that runners need to be athletes and focusing on strength exercises is vital to reaching your potential and staying healthy.

But what I really liked about these videos was that every runner had a few pieces of simple equipment that allowed them to get stronger, manage injuries, and recover faster. And so should you, which is why I want to share some of the best home gym ideas from my own collection (plus others as well).

Every runner needs a home gym – but not in the traditional sense. You don’t need a separate room with expensive, enormous gym equipment that requires a forklift to get into your house.

Instead, practical gym equipment that’s specific to the needs of runners is what’s most helpful. So while a squat rack would be great, it’s not necessary.

Let’s dive in and see what gym equipment you can use to help you prevent injuries and run faster.

Video: My Home Gym Equipment

I’ve included everything in my home gym – even though some of the items aren’t necessary at all. There’s no reason why I need a Stick AND a foam roller AND an EvoFit roller. And while the Ankle Foot Maximizer is a good idea for those with recurring foot injuries, it’s also not a need-to-have piece of gym equipment.

If you’re on a budget and just want to stockpile your home gym with the must-haves, you can’t go wrong with only five items:

  • Foam roller for general, light self-massage to enhance the recovery process
  • Tennis ball for more targeted, trigger point massage
  • Thera-band for making bodyweight exercises more difficult (like the ITB Rehab Routine)
  • Pull-up bar for upper body work
  • Medicine ball for more advanced exercises (like the Tomahawk Medicine Ball Workout)

You can get all of this gear on Amazon for $102 – or less if you shop around or choose a lighter medicine ball than my 8-pounder. Considering a gym membership costs an average of about $50 per month, this is a steal!

Don’t want to watch the whole video? No sweat. I listed all the items below, plus even more home gym ideas.

Self-Massage Tools

Home Gym Recovery Tools

The StickA handy tool that works best on the hamstrings and calves. I used to love this thing (I got it 9 years ago and it still works great) but I hardly use it anymore. Now that I have a foam roller, it’s only for days when my calves are particularly tight.

Foam Roller: Every runner’s best friend (or worst enemy?). This classic self-massage tool can be used on virtually every muscle and it’s easy to control the pressure to give yourself a light or deeper massage.

EvoFit Enso Adjustable Roller: A slightly expensive alternative to a traditional foam roller, the Enso roller has adjustable aluminum discs so you can vary how your muscles are massaged. It provides a deeper massage than a traditional roller.

I find the Enso roller is better suited to the quads and hamstrings.

Tennis ballsThis shouldn’t even count towards the $102 total since you probably have a spare tennis ball lying around your house somewhere. But they’re perfect for more focused, targeted massage on specific trigger points.

Strength Implements

Home Gym Strength Equipment

Thera-band: Indispensable for runners, it makes body weight exercises more challenging by adding extra resistance. A Thera-band is an integral piece of equipment in the popular ITB Rehab Routine.

Medicine ball: There is hardly another strength tool that’s as versatile as a medicine ball. They can be used for upper body, core, abs, or lower body exercises and serve as a great transition between body weight exercises and more advanced lifts in the gym. Check out the Tomahawk Medicine Ball Workout for example exercises.

Pull-up Bar: No gym? No reason not to do your pull ups and chin ups! This “Door Gym” hooks onto almost any door frame (even my 100+ year old frames) and allows you to do multiple variations of upper body exercises.

Ankle Foot Maximizer: This strength tool allows runners who are prone to foot and lower leg injuries to focus exclusively on these areas. Easier and more comfortable than Thera-band for these exercises, it makes rehab and prevention easier to accomplish. See this more detailed article on foot exercises here.

Gym Equipment Wish List

Want more options? I don’t blame you. These are addition home gym ideas that are on my list for future purchase:

DumbbellsA few sets of dumbbells are a no-brainer in any home gym. I left mine at my in-laws, but once I have more space they’ll definitely be added to my arsenal of gym equipment.

Exercise ballPerfect for more challenging ab exercises and core work, an exercise ball is an inexpensive purchase that can be used for many types of strength exercises.

Precor Treadmill. This is the one I’d realistically buy (an Alter-G would be nice, but at about $60,000, it’s outside my budget) – it can go up to 12mph (5:00 per mile) and the incline increases to 15%. Holy hill workouts!

Yoga mat. I’m lazy and just use a towel for core work, but in my ideal home gym I’d have a yoga mat for added comfort. Plus, they don’t slide around as much as a towel.

Second, heavier medicine ball (always be progressing!). As you saw in the video, right now I have an 8-pound Valeo medicine ball, but I’d like to get a 10 and 12 pound ball so I can do more challenging exercises. Now that I don’t have a gym membership, it’s important to have heavier weights at home.

What’d I Miss?

These are MY must-have pieces of home gym equipment – but I’m curious what YOU use at home to help yourself stay healthy and build functional strength.

I know we are all training for different races and are at different fitness levels, so I’d love to hear what strength and rehab tools you use at home.

Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Comments

  1. A great upper body workout is chopping wood with a long axe. I will alternate chopping wood with pull ups for a great upper body/core workout. If you don’t have access to wood, hitting a tire with a sledgehammer works same muscles.

    Chopping wood can also be great for cardio work. After 20 minutes of fast chopping, I’m just as tired as a 15 mile run.

  2. A bag of marbles and a mason jar. I bought the marbles for $1 at the DG. When I feel a bout of plantar coming on, I pick up the marbles one at a time with my toes off a low pile carpet from a seated position and drop them into the mason jar. I do some with my larger toes and some with the smaller ones. 2 sets of this and my feet get a good workout, as do my lower leg muscles. As for a workout mat, the yoga mat is too thin for me. I bought a good one that is over twice as wide as a yoga mat, at least 6.5 feet long, and 3/4″ thick. I cost $50, but it is worth it, especially for active floor work like Iron Cross, scorpions, or hurdle seat exchange.

  3. Thanks for the great list! I have a number of these but see a couple that would be great to add to my collection, especially for upper body workouts.

    One small item that I find really helpful for foot issues like tendonitis or plantar fasciitis is the Foot Rubz ball. It only costs about $5 and it feels great. I keep mine under my home desk so whenever I’m on the computer I roll it around, alternating feet every couple of minutes. It’s become almost mindless for me and I think it has helped really minimize the periodic bouts of tendonitis I used to get in my foot.

  4. Almost forgot. I do triathlons where kayaking is substituted for swimming. I have a huge body of water with great access about 150 yards from my front door, but for most of the winter, it is risky at best to go out there in the boat. So, I bought a custom built kayak trainer for $200. Great upper body workout, and even mimics the rocking motion of the kayak.

  5. I bought an elliptical machine for low impact cardio workouts. Other than that and feeding my 10 horses which requires daily hay bale dead lifts, the YMCA gym membership gives me all the equipment I need.

  6. Trigger Point Therapy makes more specialized foam rollers for quads and calves etc.
    There’s a little one that is made for the lower calf/ankle that was recommended to me by my sports massage therapist. It’s amazing and gets where a regular foam roller can’t, although I don’t think it was very cheap. It was certainly worth it to me. 🙂

  7. i have a BOSU that i don’t use nearly enough. but it’s pretty cool for all manner of body weight workouts to enhance core strength.

    • The BOSU is tremendous. You can do all sorts of push-ups on it, lifts, balances (standing on it while slapping a long rope… whew). So I totally agree.

  8. Brian McSweeney says:

    Hi Jason–The critical recent addition to my home gym has been the wobble board. Cheap at $24 it has been the critical missing link in removing my tendency toward calf strains. Pete Magill suggested it in his Running Times column and 5 to 10 minutes daily has done the trick. I turn 60 this year and I’m looking forward to adding more mileage and enjoying lots of long hilly trail runs with my 360 degree wobble board toughened calves–Brian

  9. The only thing missing from my home gym is ME! I need to get back in there.
    You’ve suggested many effective, economical items Jason. Thanks!

  10. This is a great way to setup a gym at home itself…good article!!

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