For so many of us, we have wanted to lose weight at some point in life, unless of course, you are one of those hard gainers.
It can be daunting to know what to do and where to start.
On the one hand, you hear people talking about their new fad diets - whether it be Atkins, keto, or intermittent fasting. They swear by it, and often exercise takes a back seat to diet.
On the other hand, you may see bodybuilders and gym bros talking about eating whatever you want as long as you train hard - what we would call, "out training a bad diet."
However, the truth is that weight loss involves many factors. When we talk about losing weight, what we really are talking about is fat loss.
When you set out to lose weight your primary concern should not be the number on the scale. There are plenty of people who we would say have a relatively low weight that is not healthy.
At the same time, there are people who are relatively heavy and incredibly healthy.
The biggest example of this is many professional athletes whose body composition contains a much greater amount of muscle than the average individual, meaning for their respective height they are quite heavy.
This is one of the reasons why the BMI (body mass index) system is flawed, but we won't get into that. What we are really focusing on is fat loss.
The point is that weight loss is complex. However, let's try and simplify it by talking about two of the biggest factors - activity (or exercise) and food intake.
This is an oversimplification, but as far as food intake goes, the goal is to eat less than your body burns resulting in fat loss. This becomes much easier when you take control of your diet and really start to track how many calories you are eating. Oftentimes we have no idea just how much food we eating until we measure it for a few days or weeks. Meal prepping and macro tracking are two great ways to ensure your weight loss journey is a success. This meal prep meal planner tool is a great place to start.
As far as exercise, again an oversimplification, but it has two primary benefits for losing weight and fat loss.
The first is to build muscle.
Stored muscle burns more energy than stored fat.
Why this matters is because energy comes from calories. The greater your caloric need the easier it is to be in a deficit. The easier it is to be in a deficit, the easier it is to lose weight.
The other benefit of exercise is the energy (or calories) burned during the workout.
The pieces of equipment below will be beneficial in a well-rounded exercise program for weight loss - with some being better at building muscle and some being better at burning calories during your workout. Plus there are a few that can be used for both.
We've got everything from cardio machines to free weights.
Let's jump right in.
The barbell is one of the greatest pieces of strength equipment ever invented - so you know it had to make the list.
The barbell is incredible for building strength and muscle.
There's a reason the strongest people in the world use it as a primary training tool - from powerlifters to weightlifters to professional athletes.
Some of the best exercises here include squats, Romanian deadlifts, bent-over rows, and overhead presses. We call these movements compound lifts - meaning they use multiple large muscle groups which is great for building muscle. You can really get a full-body workout with the barbell.
With a barbell, you aren't going to be limited by weight.
What I mean by that is that one of the best ways to build strength and muscle is to continue to increase weight or resistance when lifting.
Even world record-holder deadlifters have not run out of room on the bar, so you never have to worry about that.
While the barbell does take up more space than dumbbells or kettlebells in a home gym, it is a great piece of equipment that rewards hard work and can help you lose weight.
Almost all commercial gyms will have barbells, so you can always get a feel for it there before making the leap and buying one for yourself.
2. Weight Plates
While a barbell is great, it only has so much functionality without - you guessed it - weight plates.
Weight plates are typically made of rubber or metal and slide onto the end of the barbell.
They come primarily in weights ranging from 2.5 lbs to 55 lbs.
Weight plates are what is going to allow you to get that progressive overload we talked about earlier.
For instance, let's say you squat once a week, and last week you did 225 lbs for 4 sets of 5 reps. This week you could do 235 lbs for 4 sets of 5 reps. This increase in weight from weight plates is really critical for building muscle - which is important in your weight loss journey.
If you are looking at buying weight plates for your home gym, I would highly recommend some sort of rubber plates. There are a ton of options here, but rubber plates will give you all the same functionality as metal plates; however, they can be dropped.
This is helpful if you want to do any type of Olympic weightlifting, high-intensity interval training, or functional fitness.
3. Power Rack
Okay, I promise we will move on from the barbell shortly, but it is important to have a power rack when using a barbell and weight plates.
A power rack allows you to load your barbell at certain heights.
For instance, let's say you want to back squat. You have a few options here. First, you can clean the barbell to your shoulders and then press it overhead and lower it on your back.
You certainly can do this, but chances are getting the weight to your back will be much harder than actually squatting it - so that kind of defeats the purpose.
Second, you can have two really strong friends who pick up the barbell and put it on your back. This could work but is not nearly as safe or pragmatic as our third option - the power rack.
When using a power rack, you can set the bar to the height you need, load the weight on the bar, and then unrack the bar to perform your desired exercise. This is especially helpful for squats, bench press, and overhead press.
Power racks have a couple of other big pros.
First, they often have built-in storage for your weight plates. This is helpful to keep plates off the ground or have to buy storage trees for your plates.
Power racks also often have built-in pull-up bars. Pull-ups are great for building your back and bicep muscle groups.
If you can only buy one piece of equipment, this might be it.
There are a couple of reasons why I say this.
The first is that one of the biggest limiters in home gyms is space.
Dumbbells are incredibly space efficient - and you really only need about two sets when you start out. Another reason I love dumbbells is that you can perform a ton of exercises with them - everything from squats and curls to deadlifts and farmer's carries.
Ideally, you would like to have both a barbell and weight plates and dumbbells. However, if you are brand new to lifting and trying to shed a few pounds of fat, you can get much of the same effects from dumbbells.
One of the things to consider is that eventually, your strength will pass that of the dumbbells - or you will end up doing 20-30 reps.
Kettlebells have many of the same similarities to dumbbells.
They are relatively inexpensive and have a ton of exercise options.
The biggest difference between kettlebells and dumbbells is that kettlebells are designed to rotate. Because of the shape of the kettlebell, they are much easier to swing.
This is great for kettlebell swings, cleans, and snatches. On the flip side, I would say that dumbbells are better designed for exercises like dumbbell bench press, bicep curls, and shoulder raises.
But at the end of the day, the two can be interchanged 90% of the time.
Kettlebells, along with dumbbells and barbells, will not only help you build muscle but can help you burn calories during your workout - ultimately helping you lose weight.
6. Jump Rope
Do you remember what it was like to jump rope on the playground?
Chances are that was the last time you attempted to jump rope.
Want to ditch the exercise bike or other cardio machines? It's time to break out that old rope and see what you can do. Jumping rope is one of the best forms of cardio you can do and it is a great way to burn calories.
One of the things to consider when choosing a workout routine is number one - your goals - but number two - what do you enjoy? This is one reason I like jumping rope, some people find it really fun, and I tend to agree.
Jumping rope should be viewed as similar to running.
It is not necessarily going to build a ton of muscle but is great for your cardiovascular endurance and burning calories.
7. Rowing Machine
You may not be super familiar with the rowing machine.
The rowing machine can be used for anything from a nice, easy warm-up to one of the hardest workouts of your life.
Similar to jumping rope, using a rowing machine is great for your cardiovascular endurance.
The rowing machine is one of my favorite cardio machines because your work your entire body, getting that full-body workout. When rowing you are driving with your legs and then pulling with your upper body at the end.
This can be helpful to balance out your exercise routine if you spend a lot of time on an exercise bike, treadmill, or other cardio machine.
You are still getting a very similar effect, but using different muscles with the rowing machine.
I love sleds.
They have become popular recently and for good reason.
Similar to the rowing machine, a sled can be a warm-up or absolutely destroy you. Sled sprints are among the hardest exercises and will get your heart rate very high.
I still have nightmares from some sled workouts I have done while playing football.
Sleds are primarily used for a lower body workout, but they certainly work your upper body as well allowing you to get that full body workout.
Sleds can also be loaded very heavily and used for strength. You can walk forward, backward, or even sideways with each direction targeting a different set of muscles in your legs.
You can also attach a rope to your sled and pull it for a great back-strengthening workout.
One of the only drawbacks of sleds is that they require a little bit of space.
However, if you have a driveway or even a sidewalk, there are sleds that can be used on concrete.
Sandbags are great for strength as well as getting your entire body working and your heart pumping.
They typically come in weights ranging from 25 lbs all the way to 300 plus pounds.
Although, there is a strong chance you don’t need anything heavier than a 150 - unless of course you are trying to assert your dominance in your neighborhood and want to make sure all the neighbors know who is boss.
With a sandbag, you can perform exercises like cleans, squats, and carries.
All of which will work not only your legs but your core - just imagine bearhugging 100 lbs and walking with it. It’s quite an effective workout.
Plus, if you can carry a 100 lb sandbag, that bag of groceries is going to feel so light.
10. Stair Climber
Have you ever tried climbing a flight of stairs at work or a ball game and gotten halfway up only to realize you are completely out of breath?
Well, imagine that feeling for twenty or thirty minutes - that’s the stair climber.
While the stair climber is difficult, it provides a great workout and calorie burn.
If you are looking for a way to burn some serious calories and give your upper body a break, the stair climber can become one of your best friends. Simply, hop on, set the speed, and start climbing.
If you have the space, this can be a great addition to a home gym, however, they do tend to be pretty big. Most commercial gyms have at least a few stair climbers in the cardio machine section. Be careful, though, you may find it difficult to walk back to your car after all those flights of stairs.
The stair climber is one of the more effective cardio machines.
Also, if want to make sure you can climb stairs as you age and stay independent, climb stairs today!
Remember no piece of equipment can guarantee weight loss or fat loss. Whether you hop on an exercise bike or do some pushups, the most important thing is to be consistent.
However, using these pieces of equipment as a part of a well-programmed gym routine is going to have you well on your way to success.
Remember to focus on your nutrition and eat not only the right foods but the right amount of foods to support your goals and you will be on the right path to support weight and fat loss.