Home Gym Essentials: Small Apartment Edition - Rachel Trotta, CPT/FNS  

Home Gym Essentials: Small Apartment Edition

Home Gym Essentials: Small Apartment Edition

Home Gym Essentials: Small Apartment Edition

An Amazon-Linked Guide to Maximizing Your In-Home Workouts

A few of my lucky clients have a fabulous gym in their apartment buildings (you know who you are!). But most of my clients do in-home training with a fairly limited amount of space, and the perennial question is: “What do I need to buy?” What fits under a couch or behind cabinets?

First things first: there’s a lot of junk out there. Unfortunately, a lot of it seems like a good idea, and you can flush a lot of money down the toilet buying exercise equipment that you don’t need. I have walked into apartments with new or prospective clients, only to be greeted by some pretty inventive – and large – but completely useless contraptions.

(This is such a common problem that my friend and fellow trainer Shohreh Davoodi of Glitter and Grit Fitness in Austin, Texas, actually wrote a blog post about what NOT to buy. Check it out!)

This blog post will include the items that I think give you the MOST bang for your buck, are easy to store in a small apartment, and will maximize your results. Please note, I have also linked each item to Amazon, but I don’t receive an affiliate commission – these are unbiased recommendations based on my experience.


These are the must-haves!


For women, two kettlebells of 25 pounds each are a great start for in-home workouts. It sounds like a lot, and is probably one of the pricier things you will purchase, but it’s worth it for the heavier weightlifting. They store easily, don’t occupy much space, and are versatile for deadlifts, squats, lunges, and power exercises.


For most women, a set of two 10-lb. dumbbells and two 5-lb. dumbbells are sufficient. You may also want to get 12’s and/or 15’s, but if you want to keep it basic, you can get a lot of mileage out of 10’s and 5’s. You can do most upper body workouts with these two weights, and can also incorporate them into core workouts. They’re also easy to store under a couch or behind a cabinet.

Therabands / Resistance Bands

Not the kind with handles – the kind that is an infinity loop. These bands are ridiculously easy to store, travel well, and can provide a lot of extra challenge for leg and core exercises. I recommend that everyone, but especially runners, own a set and use them frequently.

Yoga Mat

Yoga mats obviously provide a great deal of extra comfort, as well as grip, for in-home workouts. They also help protect your floors or carpets. Plus, you can bring your own to yoga classes where there’s a rental fee for mats! Yoga mats can cost anywhere from $20 to $70. My advice? The quality difference isn’t that big. Keep it simple and save your money for more expensive items like kettlebells.

The Right Sports Bra

I am a huge proponent of caring for your body on a holistic level, and an important aspect of this is having the right sports bra. It helps you feel more confident and move with freedom. I love Moving Comfort, because they are cup-sized, and – in my opinion – offer unrivaled support. The right sports bra compresses and separates, and reduces/eliminates bounce to protect your ligaments. This is essential for running and plyometrics, but not so much for weightlifting, yoga, or Pilates.

The Right Shoes

For running, you need running shoes, and no other shoe will do. Asics is my favorite brand, and I recommend that you get fitted at a local running store. Always remember to buy a half-size up from your usual size when you buy running shoes, and to replace your running shoes every few months if you run frequently.

In terms of other athletic endeavors, something as flat as Converse is fine for weightlifting, but if you think there may be a plyometric (jumping) component to your workout, it’s better to upgrade to actual trainers. Again, Asics is fantastic, but there are many popular brands. Trainers don’t need to be replaced as often as running shoes.


These are the items that are useful to have (a.k.a. not a waste of money), but not totally necessary.

Swiss Ball

This is a tricky one, because not everyone has room for an inflated Swiss ball. However, if you can fit it in your apartment, it’s a great asset. You can do core workouts, as well as leg workouts, using a Swiss ball. I recommend having one around, if possible!

Garmin Forerunner 35 Watch

This helps runners tremendously (there are fabulous pacing features), but it also counts steps and monitors heart rate. While not necessary for everyone, I love my Garmin and would recommend it to anyone, especially if you struggle to be active during the day or if you’re a dedicated runner trying to improve your distance or pace.

Foam Roller

Because it’s slightly bigger than a yoga mat, it’s harder to store. However, a foam roller is a great accessory to have in your apartment, to help with periodic soft tissue work. Even smaller – a lacrosse ball can do the trick with hard-to-reach tight muscles.

You may need slightly heavier weights if you’re already very active and strong, but this equipment should get you started with an effective at-home workout. Leave questions in the comments section!

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