According to a 2017 study by data firm Dstillery, the farther a gym member lives from the facility where she works out, the less often she goes there. This is a great argument for doing strength workouts at home. The only problem is that leg press machines are really expensive and bulky.
Runners can get a great full-body strength workout that will reduce injury risk and boost running performance with simple, inexpensive equipment that fits in a closet. Sure, more equipment gives you more options, but there’s nothing stopping you from adding items as you go. Here’s our recommended sequence of home gym equipment purchases, with links to exercise ball and dumbbell circuit demonstrations available at the bottom of the page.
The closest thing to a must-have item for home-based strength training is an exercise mat. If you work out on a hard surface such as tile or concrete, a well-padded mat will allow you to perform bodyweight exercises such as side planks and abdominal crunches more comfortably. And if you work out on a soft surface such as carpet, a thinner mat will keep it from getting sweaty.
Also known as stability balls, physio balls and Swiss balls, exercise balls are the most versatile piece of strength-training equipment money can buy. And they don’t cost much money, either. A high-quality 65-centimeter ball will set you back around $25. Our Exercise Ball Strength Circuit provides a great full-body workout with nothing more.
Many runners exclude dumbbells from consideration when setting up a home gym because they assume they need to purchase a full spectrum of weights. But choosing a “sweet spot” weight will allow you to do a variety of exercises with a single pair. For example, if 20-pound dumbbells are about right for the Split Stance Deadlift, which happens to be the first exercise in our Dumbbell Strength Circuit, you can probably use them for the other eight exercises as well.
Although resistance bands (which come in various forms, ranging from small, wide loops to long tubes with handles) are versatile and affordable, we place them fourth on our list of recommended home-gym equipment purchases because they aren’t the best tool for leg exercises, especially if you’re a stronger runner. Still, they are instrumental in some of the best strength exercises for runners, such as the band walk (walking sideways with a band looped around the ankles, a great strengthener for the hips).
Essential for old-school bodybuilding workouts dominated by seated and lying exercises, an exercise bench is something you can easily do without as a runner interested in functional movements to improve your stride and reduce injury risk. Nevertheless, a good exercise bench can expand your exercise repertoire at modest cost. One of our favorite bench exercises for runners is the Step-Up.
Stackable aerobic steps provide a versatile platform for a variety of exercises, including plyometrics (i.e., jumping) exercises, which are proven to improve running economy. You can do some plyos without special equipment, but steps will give you more options, like the Single-Leg Box Jump.
Cable Pulley Machine
We never said we didn’t like machines—only that you can get a good strength workout without them. But if you have the space and you want to go all the way with home-based strength training, we recommend you complete your personal gym with a cable pulley machine. With one of these bad boys under your roof, you can do some of the best full-body movements for runners, such as the classic Wood Chop.