4 home gym essentials that are actually worth the money

 Treadmill in front room.
Treadmill in front room.

Looking to kit out your home gym for less? With so many deals on the horizon, you might be unsure as to which equipment to invest in. Weights are heavy and expensive; most treadmills take up a lot of square footage; and you don’t really want to be following along to workouts on your iPad.

With so much home fitness equipment out there, and lots of it about to be discounted in Black Friday deals, it’s tough to know which products are really worth the money. That’s where TechRadar can help. I’ve (theoretically) built a home gym setup with four purchases here, which would (theoretically) allow me to do cardio, a whole host of strength exercises, yoga, and other interactive workouts.

To really get your money’s worth from home gym kit it needs to be economical and versatile, and capable of being used over and over in all sorts of different ways while taking up minimum space. Here are my picks…

1. Resistance bands or tubes

Resistance bands
Resistance bands

We’re not starting with the smartest gear around, but when it comes to getting bang for your buck, resistance bands are definitely worth the money, whether you’re a new starter or a seasoned exerciser. A good set of resistance bands will include five bands of varying densities (usually between 10 and 50lbs), handles and ankle straps to hook the tubes onto, and a doorstop so the bands can be secured above, below or to the side of a door. They’ll usually cost around $30 / £25 / AU$50.

With this small investment, you’ll be able to replicate almost any muscle-building apparatus in the gym. Shut the door and trap the doorstop on the other side of the door, connect a band (or bands) and you can push and pull, operating it just like a cable machine. Stand on the bands and curl, or press overhead like dumbbells. Sit down and loop the bands over your feet to row. With the door hook, you can replicate movements like cable crossovers.

If you know you’re looking to seriously invest in building muscles, you can opt for expensive power racks, heavy dumbbells, or large pull-up stations. You can even get smart here, with dumbbells like the BowFlex SelecTech or NordicTrack adjustable dumbbell ranges, which interact with Alexa to select weight via voice commands. You’ll probably be able to find heavy discounts on all of these items (if you’re lucky) as the Black Friday deals period goes on.

But if you’re looking to build muscle for the first time and want a versatile, space-saving piece of kit for little money, a good set of resistance bands or tubes is the best-value kit you can buy. They’re just as effective at building muscle as equivalent free weights, they’re cheap, and they’re safe, especially for seniors or beginners. More experienced gymgoers can double or even triple-up on bands to create more tension. Eventually, the rubber will start to erode with repeated stretching, but the average person will get many years of use out of a complete set. You can always get a full weights rack later.

2. Smart mirror

WOman using smart mirror for workouts
WOman using smart mirror for workouts

Smart mirrors haven’t really caught on yet. While they’ve been around for a few years, there’s not a great deal of buzz around them as a product category; most people have a smart TV and can follow Apple Fitness+, Peloton Guide or Fitbod classes on that, or even follow along with YouTube workouts. Having a dedicated connected device for this, and one that comes at a premium price at that, seems like an overindulgence to many.

However, if you’re kitting out a room as a dedicated home gym, you may be surprised to learn there are some smart mirrors which can be worth the price. The 40-inch Echelon Reflect is at a massive discount in the US right now, from $1,579 to just $399.

Unlike the larger 50-inch version, it’s not touchscreen (it’s all controlled via the Echelon Fit app), but if you’re going to get a mirror for your exercise studio anyway, you may as well get one that offers interactive guidance, especially at this exorbitant discount. A $1,600 mirror for under $400? That’s worth a pop.

Echelon Reflect 40-in: was $1,549.50 now $399 at the Echelon store

A Black Friday-busting discount. Mirrors are useful additions to any gym space, but the interactive Echelon Reflect displays a variety of interactive boxing, HIIT workouts, stretching sessions and meditations that you can follow. View Deal

Unfortunately, the discounted 40-inch model doesn't seem to be available in the UK and other regions, as only the 50-inch touchscreen model is on sale outside the US, and it's still pretty much full price.

3. Folding treadmill

Image of woman using treadmill at home
Image of woman using treadmill at home

Any good home gym has a cardio machine, and chances are it’ll be one of the big three: treadmills, exercise bikes, or ellipticals, otherwise known as cross-trainers. If you’re a keen runner, the best treadmill is obviously the one to choose, but they’re big machines that can take up a considerable amount of space.

If you're building a smaller home gym you can opt for a folding treadmill rather than a fixed machine such as the pricey Peloton Tread. Folding treadmills such as the NordicTrack EXP 7i (discounted both in the US and the UK below) are economical in terms of both in cost and space, as they allow you to get all the benefits of a cardio machine and have a smaller footprint than a full-sized treadmill – essential if you need a bit more floorspace for more dynamic cardio or floor-based strength workouts.

Get the NordicTrack EXP 7i deal in the US here

NordicTrack EXP 7i: was $1,999 now $1,099 at Dick’s Sporting Goods

Get the folding treadmill at almost half price, with a top speed of 10mph and NT’s runner's flex cushioning under the beltView Deal

Get the NordicTrack EXP 7i deal in the UK here

NordicTrack EXP 7i: was £1,499 now £1,199 at Powerhouse Fitness

The same treadmill with a slightly smaller 20% discount. Still a good value buy, but less of a must-have than its US equivalent.  View Deal

Treadmills are great. Even if you're an experienced outdoor runner who hates treadmills they're good for training you to run at race pace; and if you just need to get your daily steps in, treadmills make it easier than ever, as you can watch one of the best streaming services while you walk or jog.

4. Yoga mat

Woman with yoga mat
Woman with yoga mat

A home gym is more than a space to sweat. It’s also a space to decompress, a little private room dedicated to your own wellness – and sometimes, that means mind as well as body. Yoga does both, and if you’re going to follow along with yoga workouts via a smart mirror, one of the best TVs or another connected device, you really need a yoga mat for better grip, sweat absorption, and comfort.

We have a list of recommended best yoga mats, but there's so much variety that it’s hard to pick just one. You want something that's made with eco-friendly materials, something non-slip, and something suitable for your budget. We’ve not found any stellar deals we could universally recommend just yet, but keep an eye on the fitness deals from Liforme and Lululemon for hard-wearing mats that will be worth the money.

They can also be rolled up when not in use, allowing you to lower the treadmill for cardio workouts.

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