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A Minimalist Home Gym Setup & Exercise Recommendations

It appears that home training is set to become the new norm (at least for the foreseeable future), so let’s take a look at a minimalist home gym setup that’s scalable to your individual needs & budget. 

While gyms are slowly reopening in some areas of the world, many people are still skeptical about returning to a crowded environment (that was arguably never the most hygienic to begin with). 

When you also consider that training at home means you get to avoid traffic and pick your own playlist, chances are that membership isn’t going to be renewed anytime soon.

If you’ve already been playing around with home training or you’re looking to get started, today we’ll take a look at a minimalist home gym setup that won’t cost and arm and a leg, or take up too much room.

We’ll go through some of my favourite bit of kit in order of preference, and how to incorporate each one effectively in your movement practice.

Please note: this post contains some affiliate links, so if you make a purchase through them, I’ll make a small bit of commission. Rest assured, I’ll only ever link to products that I’ve used or vetted.   

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🎥 Minimalist Home Gym Video

1. Your Body & Some Space

While it’s okay to dream about having big double garage to dedicate to training, the minimum space requirements for a home gym are not crazy. Although I’m fortunate to have access to an outdoor decking space at the moment, I tend to get most of my training done in an area that’s no more than 2×2 metres.

With a little creativity, there’s a hell of a lot you can do with just your bodyweight. And I’m not just talking about high rep work like jumping jacks and air squats. You can really challenge your strength and make sizeable gains by manipulating leverage.

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Squat + Hinge Movements: Pistol Squats, Shrimp Squats, Cossack Squats, Single Leg Hip Thrusts
  • Push Movements: Pseudo Planche Push-Ups, Tuck Planch Push-Ups, Pike Push-Ups, Handstand Push-Ups
  • Pull Movements: The Founder, Floor Pull-ups, Table Rows

As you may be able to tell from the list above, the main pitfall when it comes to bodyweight only training is how to effectively train the back. 

Although there are some minimal equipment back exercises you can perform, ideally you’d get hold of one of the next two pieces of kit…

 

2. Gymnastic Rings And/Or Pull-Up Bar

When coupled with a doorway pull-up bar or a stand, gymnastic rings can complete your super minimalist home gym setup.

A pull-up bar enables you to explore hanging and pull-up variations, while the rings open up a whole world of opportunities for developing upper body strength. 

You can do everything from pull-ups, dips, rows, and push-ups, to more intermediate to advanced gymnastic movements like muscle ups, levers, handstands, iron cross and Maltese.

Rings are portable and can be hung over tree branches or squat racks. I’ve taken mine traveling on numerous occasions and they’ve served me well.

A few tips to consider if you’re looking to get some gymnastic rings:

  • Go for wooden over plastic – they’re much grippier and look nicer.
  • Opt for unvarnished wood if possible – again, this is grippier than treated wood.
  • 32mm over 28mm – the 28mm rings are rarely used outside of traditional gymnastic gyms, and the gymnasts often wear gloves/straps that then make the rings feel thicker.  
  • Get straps with markings on – this just makes it easier to evenly adjust the height of your rings. 
And some thoughts on pull-up bars:
  • Freestanding pull-up towers are a great at-home option (if you have the space). Preferably one with a wide base of support – something like the Pull-Up Mate or Gravity Fitness tower. 
  • Doorway pullup bars can work too. Just be careful with them. It’s probably not a great idea to go upside down or perform any explosive movements. I prefer the doorway bars that use pressure into the frame (like the one in the video), as opposed to bars that simply sit in between the doorway.
  • Playgrounds, tree branches and goalposts are all great outdoor options to hang rings from too.

3. Resistance Bands

Resistance bands typically come in two forms:

  • Thick bands – great for joint mobilisations, assisting through compound movements (e.g the pull-up), or adding resistance to movements (e.g a kettlebell goblet squat with a band attached).
  • Thin bands – great for joint prehab/rehab work (e.g rotator cuff work, face pull, banded pull aparts).

Neither are essential, but they can both be good additions to your bodyweight training toolkit.

4. A kettlebell (or a Few)

Now we move into the “nice to have” bits of kit. 

The kettlebell is a versatile training tool, particularly for developing power and general athleticism (whatever that means). Kettlebell work and bodyweight training complement each other nicely.

I appreciate that they’re not that easy to come by right now, but getting hold of one means you can perform kettlebell swings, one of the biggest bang for your buck exercises. You can also start to play around with cleans, snatches, getups, presses, rows, and all manner of rotational movement patterns. Kettlebell work is also an effective way to improve grip strength.

A 16kg, 24kg and 32kg set is considered a great start for the average male. If possible, an 8kg and a 12kg can also come in handy for technique work and learning new skills. 

I know this post was meant to be about minimalist training and I’ve just listed a set of five kettlebells… But they don’t take up a whole lot of space, and they should last forever.

5. Training Rope

I’ve been talking about the rope a fair lately, putting out my rope flow training tutorial a few weeks back.

It’s one of my favourite training tools right now. As well as being super portable, it’s a great way to get in some zone 2 style cardio, loosen up the thoracic spine, hone your co-ordination and improve your sense of timing. It’s also a fun way to spend an hour.

As I touched on recently, I’ve been using the Phoenix rope from Octomoves. You can read my review here. They’ve kindly offered you guys 10% off their rope selection – just head to octomoves.com and use code HERO at checkout.  

 

Octomove phoenix rope review

6. Parallel Bars (or Steps)

One way to make both weighted and bodyweight movements more challenging (and arguably more effective) is to increase the range of motion you perform them through. More range means more time under tension, which is ideal for building muscle. It can also help to improve joint mobility.

A decent set of mid to high parallel bars can help you do this during movements like the planche push-up or handstand push-up variations. They can also help to take a little strain off the wrists if that’s a problem for you.

Steps can also be used to increase range of motion in the same exercises as the above, and they come with the added bonus of being handy for things like Romanian deadlifts, elevated shrimp squats and split squats (although any stable surface will do the job).

7. An Olympic Lifting Set

Last but not least, we have the Olympic lifting set and squat rack or rig setup.

If you have the space and disposable income, they can be a great investment for building pure strength and power. You unlock the classic back squat, deadlift, overhead press, bent row, bench press, clean and snatch. 

That being said, don’t feel like you need to have them to have a well-rounded movement practice. Plenty of people have gotten extremely strong and mobile using their bodyweight and kettlebells alone.

 

Over to You

Thanks for reading. I hope the above has given you a few ideas for home training, or has at least demonstrated that you don’t need a whole lot of expensive equipment to effectively train your body!

Is there anything you would add to the list (or take away)? If so, let me know in the comments below!

 

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Luke Jones

Luke Jones

Luke Jones is a Movement Coach, Wellness Enthusiast, Online Content Creator, and Founder of HERO Movement. Through articles, videos, courses, and online coaching, his big goal is to help people discover freedom of movement and create lives filled with well-being & adventure.

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