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How to build a COMPLETE home gym

Here is how to build a COMPLETE home gym in five pieces:

how to build a home gym
The five essentials!

1. Pull up bar – I love pull ups. And while I almost considered excluding this and instead including foam rollers, I felt that the pull up bar was just too essential (and it is too easy to foam roll with a ball you just have lying around the house). Even if you can’t do pull ups YET, a pull up bar can be used to do all the isometric holds to work up to being able to do a full pull up. You can also do scapular retractions on the bar as well as ab exercises. While the least necessary piece for beginners on the list, it is really probably the best piece for core and back work.

2. Jungle Gym straps – Best way to work your ENTIRE BODY. Honestly as long as you have a door or another place to hang them, this is the single best piece of equipment to have for your home. They are just like the TRX straps but a bit cheaper and in my opinion just as good if not better. You can literally work every muscle using these straps. And these straps can be used to make moves easy enough for the beginner or difficult enough for even the advanced lifter. Balance lunges with your foot up in the strap or single leg squats with only one of the straps for assistance can be extremely difficult! So don’t think that you need a ton of weights to get in a gnarly workout at home. There are always ways to progress moves for any body part on the Jungle Gym straps!

3. Sandbag – Since I love lifting heavy, I did want to include some sort of weight equipment on this list….and sandbags won out. They can be used to work any part of the body and the weight can be easily adjusted by pulling out some of the filler bags or not filling the bags completely full. They are also an extremely functional weight since they are awkward. They also really don’t take up that much room and you won’t really have to buy more pairs, like you would dumbbells, as you progress. Not as necessary for the beginner, but a great way to start lifting some weight.

4. Sliders – Sliders can be used to progress exercises for any part of the body and can be a good substitute for weighted activities. They make exercises more difficult because they create a more unstable environment. For example, there is no traction when you slide out to do a side lunge and then try to drag the slider back in toward the standing leg (I always tell people NOT to go out as far as they think they can the first time because they won’t make it back in). Sliders are also fairly cheap and a small piece of equipment that you can basically store anywhere. They are a great way to progress moves without needing weights. And shoot, if you have hardwood floors you can even make your own sliders out of socks!

5. Resistance bands – While I was at first hesitant to put these on the list because you can basically strengthen the exact same body parts with the Jungle Gym straps, they did end up making the list because they are probably the easiest and best piece of equipment to carry with you if you travel a lot. Also, I had considered putting on mini bands for glute activation exercises (since glute activation exercises are extremely important yet everyone skips them) BUT you can make modifications so that you can sub resistance bands for mini bands! Anyway, the point is resistance bands are super versatile, easy to store and can be used by everyone from the beginner to the advanced lifter. Also, unlike dumbbell lifts, moves done with resistance bands have a lot more tension and resistance throughout the full range of motion of the lift, which is an added bonus.

So now you know the only five pieces you really need for a COMPLETE home gym.

BUT what if you can’t get all five?

If you can only get two items from this list, I would suggest getting only the Jungle Gym Straps (or resistance bands) AND a sandbag. HOWEVER, if you want to spend less, resistance bands and sliders can be a great way to increase the intensity and add variety to any of the bodyweight or home workouts you may be doing.

As I mentioned before, foam rollers almost made the list. And it was a very hard decision NOT to put them on there.

They honestly didn’t make it because a tennis ball or rolling-pin will work 95% of the time and most clients I’ve encountered have one or the other (or would rather spend the few dollars on one of those instead of shelling out $50 to $100 bucks for a true trigger point tool). However, if money isn’t an issue and you have space for a bit more equipment and are serious about getting great results, I would suggest investing in some trigger point tools to target exactly your problem areas!

What are your favorite pieces of home equipment? Need some help creating your home gym and designing workouts? Let me know!

NOTE: In posts to come, look for exercises using each of these pieces.

What women want….

To look like on their wedding day….

Toned arms and shoulders, a slim waistline with just enough curve into toned hips, butt and legs.

How do most women get there?

By doing chronic cardio, starving themselves, and lifting light little barbie weights only a month before their wedding.

But is this really the best way to have the arms, waist and butt of your dreams on your wedding day?


If you really want to look lean and toned you can’t just do cardio and you most definitely can’t starve yourself.

You need to lift challenging weights, eat the RIGHT foods and start working toward the body you want early on.

I tell my clients (and plan to do the same myself) to plan to have reached their goal weight or body composition the week before their final fitting, which is only a month or so out from their wedding.

The last month or two should only really be maintenance.

The key throughout your workout progression toward you BIG DAY is to do compound movements. Don’t waste your time with the bicep curls, shoulder presses and tricep extensions that most programs recommend. While those can be good if you are a powerlifter looking to really isolate and strengthen weak muscles, those moves really aren’t giving you that much bang for your buck.

They don’t have a whole heck of a lot of calorie burn AND they are only working on one muscle group when you could be hitting 3 or 4 with a compound movement.

For instance….the deadlift…It works just about everything. Want a great backside? Want a toned upper back, butt and thighs?


Or any other powerlifting move for that matter. Or you can use kettlebells, resistance bands or the sled

There are a ton of different strength training things that you can do! Find some that are fun and that get you results efficiently AKA compound moves!

Also choose the compound moves that target your trouble areas.

While we can’t spot reduce areas, we can build up proper muscle tone to make our problem areas look better. Eating a healthy diet and later the added cardio we do during cutting will reveal that beautiful muscle we built up even more!

And while I LOVE lifting heavy and think that it is key to the body that you dream of having on your wedding day, cardio does become a more important part as you are trying to become more lean and toned.

That doesn’t mean you just stop lifting and start logging in tons of miles.

It means sprints, some long distance JOGS for some slow fat-burning cardio AND still an intense heavy lifting routine.

Of course once you up your intensity during the final few months before your last dress fitting, you will need to remember to take time to rest, foam roll and release some stress! Working out though can be a great way to make sure that you are still getting enough “me time” BUT that doesn’t mean you can just start living in a gym and not practice proper recovery!

10 Key Moves to Get the Body We All Want on our Wedding Day! (So many move I love, but these will give you a huge bang for your buck!)

  1. Deadlifts – Deadlifts are a full body move. They are perfect to tone your upper back, butt and hamstrings. Plus they are a real fat burner because they work so many big muscle groups! (I LOVE YOU DEADLIFTS AND MISS YOU!) One new explosive deadlift move I’ve started using is a rotational deadlift. I set up the bar in a t-bar row hold and put weight only on one end. So I deadlift up the end with weight and rotate toward the stand as I stand up. So if the weight is on the right as I stand up, I rotate to the left pushing the weight out and up until my arms are straight.
  2. Kettlebell Swings – Another great way to get a great toned hips, butt and thighs! This move may be just as good as the deadlift. It is, however, just a bit harder to master. Make sure that if you want the butt toning effects of the swing that you aren’t squatting down so much as doing a hip hinge! NOT A SQUAT! More of an RDL…but still not an RDL.
  3. Kettlebell Snatches – Another tough move, but a full body one. Develops explosive power, which means more muscle power! It is great to develop power in your legs, tone your core (lots of rotation and stabilization) and strengthen your shoulders.
  4. Pull ups – I LOVE PULL UPS or any variation of them! (You can even do a pull up and hang if you want some extra core work!) They tone your back, biceps and core! Get great arms while benefiting from the extra calorie burn of working a big muscle group like your back! (And a toned back looks pretty good in a strapless wedding dress!) Plus, if you strengthen your lats, they will help your waist look slimmer by creating more of an hour-glass figure!
  5. Push ups – Strengthen your chest, triceps and shoulders just to name a few muscles. Lifting heavy can sometimes just mean lifting yourself! If you want to make them even more challenging, make them explosive. As you push up, come up off the floor! They make the push ups that much harder.
  6. Medball Pass and Shuffle – Honestly, one of my favorite new moves. Cardio because of the shuffling back and forth. Plus it is a great move to develop lean POWERFUL muscles. Best when done with a partner. Perform a chest pass with a heavy medicine ball with a partner while shuffling down and back.
  7. Sled pull/push – So by pulling I mean pulling a sled toward you with a rope. Great leg, core, back and arm workout! And then if you push it back to its starting place, you get to work the entire posterior of your chain – everything from your shoulders down to your calves!
  8. Crawls and all variations – You can pull a chain, crawl on a power wheel, or crawl using sliders. How ever you do it, it is a great workout for your shoulders and legs. AND the more you keep you butt from going up in the air, the more you work your core. If you do use a chain, you can work your legs and butt even more. Or if you use a power wheel or sliders, you can focus more on your shoulders and core.
  9. Battling Ropes – A great way to get the lean ton muscles you want. Depending on which wave you make, you can focus on different muscle groups. You can work your back, your shoulders, your arms, your core and your legs. Shoot rotational waves kill your core!
  10. VersaClimber (or really any sprints) – These are a great way to maintain muscle and BURN TONS OF FAT!

Top 10 Pieces of HOME Exercise Equipment

You don’t need a gym to get in a great workout. Actually you don’t even need any equipment at all – here is a list of 10 great exercises you can do anywhere!

BUT if you are going to invest in some home exercise equipment, these are the pieces to get! Some are definitely not essential but can add a lot of variety to your home routine. Also, most of the stuff you can tuck away in the closet!

    1. Pull up bar – If you only have a pull up bar and your own body weight, you have more than enough to get in a killer full body workout! You can do chin ups, pull ups, wide grip pull ups, towel pull ups…any variety of pull ups to work your back. You can then do a variety of push ups and plyometrics to kill the rest of your body. Pull up bars for your doorway also aren’t expensive, costing only about $30. You can also easily store them away in your closet!
    2. Bowflex Dumbbells – One of the best presents that I ever got for Ryan in my opinion. Weights can add intensity and variety to any workout routine. I find that they are great especially for leg workouts since body weight exercises are usually the least challenging for the legs. And dumbbells like the Bowflex ones, give you a range of weights to use (ours go up to 52lbs) without you having to purchase a trillion different pairs.
    3. TRX Suspension Trainer – One of the most expensive pieces on the list, but also one of the most versatile. You can hang it from a door OR even use it outside! You can get a full body workout just using the  TRX system. To name just a few exercises you can do: 1 leg squats, balance lunge, inverted row, push up, back flyes, chest flyes, pike push ups, climbers, knee tucks, jackknives…
    4. Resistance bands – You can get these instead of weights but I recommend using them in addition to weights. Not as good for challenging the legs, resistance bands are great for the upper body because they make you work through the entire range of motion. Also, they are great if you aren’t yet able to do full pull ups. If you have a door strap, you can hook one of the bands up and do a modified pull up. These are also a great thing to have if you travel often since they are easy to take on trips!

      Modified pull can also kneel to perform this move.

    5. Foam Roller – While this can be used for making workout moves more challenging, you most definitely NEED to have one of these at home for rehab/prehab purposes. You should be foam rolling before and after every workout in my opinion. Since I have one at home, I sometimes foam roll two or three times a day if I’m super tight or sore!
    6. Yoga mat – Not a necessity to have, but if you plan to do any stretching, crunches or yoga, it can be very nice to have a mat instead of just using a towel. It is also nice to have one on the floor if you do plyometrics…nice for any neighbors you may have that is!
    7. Medballs – Again not a necessity since you can use weights for many of the moves you do with a medball. BUT these are great to use to make push ups more challenging…push ups say like the Impossible Push Up! These are also a great addition to any home exercise equipment collection especially if you are able to bounce them or throw them at walls as that opens up a whole new range of exercise options!
    8. Box step – It is much safer to use a box step than a chair or couch for many moves. Also, if you’ve already bought just about everything else on this list, this is one of the last few pieces you need to be able to do just about everything at home! It is a great piece to use for decline push ups, step ups, balance lunges, box jumps, box shuffle…and many other moves!
    9. Stability Ball – This piece is cheap, but it takes up some space. It is a great way to add in exercises that work your core even more. It is sort of one of those pieces that you add in when you need to spice up your routine or want to take on some of Tony Horton’s ridiculous push up challenges!
    10. Jump rope – A great piece of cardio equipment! Easy to carry and store. The only downside is you probably have to do it outside. But if you want to add some cardio intervals to your workout, definitely add in jump rope. If you want an extra challenge, do double jumps instead!

Runner’s up: Sliders and kettlebells. Sliders are the things you use to move furniture. They are great to use to make leg moves and abs moves more difficult. Kettlebells are just a fun addition to have for cleans, snatches and swings but you can simply use the Bowflex dumbbells.

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