Money Matters Team

Workout from home

By Money Matters Team 19/02/2013

Tips on creating your own home gym

Cannot quite bring yourself to step out in the cold and get to the gym?

That’s no excuse not to exercise, says Money Matters contributor, Matt Barr.

Cold days make the idea of training outdoors markedly less appealing. Ditto that daily visit to the gym. But thanks to our cold-season craving for heavier foods and bigger portions, maintaining a good exercise regime is even more important. The solution? Build your own home gym. With a little creative thinking, you can achieve impressive results on a surprisingly tight budget, and in limited space. Here’s a rundown of the kit you might like to use...

Medicine ball

Old-school training at its best. Lift it, throw it, push it, or use it for curls or squats. ‘Save money by making your own out of a basketball: punch a hole in it, fill it with sand then close it up using a tyre-sealing kit’ says personal trainer James Bartram of Bfit.

Skipping rope

‘As a cardio workout, it’s almost unmatched,’ says personal trainer James Ellis. For the indoor trainer hell-bent on avoiding the great outdoors, a skipping rope is arguably the cheapest and easiest weapon in the workout arsenal.


The antithesis of exercise machines, free weights are cheap, flexible and highly effective. ‘They engage more muscles and lend themselves to a broader range of exercises, making for a more easily customisable workout,’ says Ellis. Use them in combination with cardio exercises for a two-pronged assault on your fitness.

TRX home trainer

The TRX isn’t cheap, but if there’s one item to splash out on, it’s this. It takes up very little room and offers almost limitless versatility in terms of training, making it perhaps the ultimate home gym tool. Pull-ups and push-ups have never been so effective.

Pilates ball

Whether you use it for push-ups, sit-ups or planks, the ball’s inherent instability means your body requires more muscles to maintain balances, thereby targeting your core and lower back. Use it in place of your office chair for a workout while you work.

Yoga mat

No good home gym is complete without a comfortable on-floor workout area: use it for stretches, sit-ups and push-ups, or simply to protect your floor from impacts of clumsily dropped weights. Don’t scrimp on thickness! You’ll thank yourself for it in the long run.

Bulgarian bag

A killer combination of free weights and dynamic exercise (, great for building endurance and core strength. Use it for spinning, throwing and pushing, or wear it round your shoulders to do squats or crunches. Make your own using a car inner tube – slice it open, fill with sand and seal both ends.

Pull-up bar

One of the most effective upper-body exercises out there. Stick to the traditional style for maximum strength gain, narrow your grip to focus on your lower core, or try ‘kipping’ (swinging pull-ups) for a more dynamic workout. Choose a bar that clings onto the door sill, rather than between the frame, for a little extra range.

Plyometric box

The humble jump box is a demon for simultaneously building leg strength and cardiovascular fitness. You can also use it for push-ups and tricep dips, and as a seat for bicep curls. Any wooden box will do, but take care to add sufficient internal reinforcement.

Your own bodyweight

‘I make push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, squats, burpees and planks the basis of a lot of my classes,’ says Bartram. Yes, those bodyweight exercises we all learned at school are brutally effective compound exercises that work the entire body – and they’re free as well.

Ewan Wallace is a pro snowboarder and musician who uses his home gym to keep in shape for trips to the mountains and his grueling tour schedule. ‘The whole gym was built from scratch, using stuff you can pick up from any fitness store.’ The bulk of his equipment – dumbbells, Swiss ball, yoga mat and pull-up bar – are geared towards basic resistance training an using his own bodyweight. ‘For strength and cardio work, your bodyweight is usually enough, although the dumbbells help mix the routine up a little.’ And it takes up hardly any space. ‘I keep everything in the corner under the stereo.’

This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.