There are a few pieces of gym equipment that I use almost every day in the Black Dog gym. Here they are from the least to the most expensive.
My favorite pieces of home gym equipment
PVC Pipe – a 5-foot-long piece of ¾” PVC is a great tool for mobility work, stretching, balance exercises and warmups. It is also a great teaching tool for posture. You can get a 10-foot PVC stick from pretty much any hardware store for about $7.
A Bench is a simple addition to a home gym. It is tempting to just use a chair or the floor but you need a sturdy support. A bench gives you some where to sit or lie down for exercises. I do recommend on that inclines so you can do inclined presses but you do not need all the detachable platforms and accessories. They are more effort than they are worth.
Resistance Bands are my go-to for warm-ups but they can be used for a full workout. Bands are easy to set up and can be used in any direction since you can choose where the resistance is coming from. With weights, the resistance is always coming from one way – down.
Bands are portable and easy to store. With three anchor points (high, shoulder and floor) you can do tons of exercises. There are cheaper bands but you get what you pay for. My favorite kind is Bodylastic. They have clips on the ends so they are easy to attach to things and you can “stack” them (use two or three at a time). The handles are rubberized hard plastic and the bands have a chord in the middle to protect you if they break while you are using them. A standard set is about $45 on Amazon.
A barbell is a little more than most people want to deal with but it is well worth having. They are not cheap but you will use it every day. The best, most comprehensive exercises use a barbell – back squats, deadlift, strict press. Barbells are versatile. You can do the ubiquitous bench press to pivoting “land mine” exercises where one end is on the floor and you use it like a huge lever.
The standard Olympic barbell is 45 pounds although you can get lighter ones. Prices range from $60 to $250. I recommend a 7-foot-long bar. You can do wide grip exercises and use them for pivoting exercises. The finish (black or chrome) does not matter unless you are exercising in a night combat environment which I do not recommend.
I recommend the plastic “lock-jaw” clips for a barbell. The spring ones are loud and frustrating.
A squat rack is a big investment but a huge multiplier for your home gym. They take up a lot of room but they are indispensable for using a dumbbell. Once you have it in place you will use is constantly for everything from squats to stretching.
It provides an easily adjustable rack and bar so you can do pull-ups, bar stretches (like for ballet), hanging rows, bench presses, inclined presses and tons more. They even make great anchor points for your bands.
But mainly, squat racks are INCREDIBLY important for doing safe barbell squats and even bench press. The one I have has a lat pulldown so you can do overhead pulling exercises (which are very difficult to do otherwise). I love the one I have: $600 from Amazon. There are also ones that fold up against the wall.
Finally, the Powerblock adjustable dumbbells have been great for me. They adjust from 5 to 90 pounds in 1.5 pound increments.
They are quiet, well-made, sturdy (even after having been dropped), and easy to adjust. They are not cheap but you will use them a lot.
The only minor drawback is that they don’t have a 2.5 pound increment. For example, they can make 10, 15, 17.5 and 20 pounds but not 12.5 (or 22.5, or 32.5, etc). Strange but not really a big deal. They range from $200 to $800 depending on how much weight you want available.