We’ve been spending a lot of time at home this year, and because of that your home may have had to take on multiple functions, from a classroom, to an office to a gym and beyond. But when your space has to be so many things at once, it can be hard to outfit it appropriately, especially if there’s something a little pricey that you miss from the office or the gym, like that standing desk you took for granted or a good set of dumbbells that doesn’t take up an entire room.
So there isn’t a better year to give a health-focused gift this holiday season, whether someone on your list is lacking the essentials or has a big-ticket item on their wish list this year. We spoke with Jim Myers, director of Digital Fitness/Virtual Coaching for FX Well, the managing entity of the Texas Health Fitness Centers, to get his recommendations for healthy holiday gifts that everyone can be thankful for.
“People are moving less, more stressed out, and less healthy than we ever have been and the best cure to all of that is a sound fitness and nutrition routine,” Myers says. “But It is now easier than ever to get fit from the comfort of your own home. In a perfect world, everyone would have access to a squat rack, a barbell, bumper plates, dumbbells, bands, foam rollers, cardio equipment and more but that is not possible. So let’s look at some of the best home equipment starting with low-cost items that don’t take up a lot of space and help you train your entire body.”
TRX® Suspension Training System
TRX® stands for Total Resistance Exercises, and is a special form of suspension training that utilizes equipment developed by former U.S. Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick. Suspension training uses bodyweight exercises to develop strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously.
“TRX was born with the sole purpose of providing soldiers a way to train when they didn’t have access to a gym. Need I say more,” Myers says.
Unlike other full-body systems, the TRX system requires relatively little equipment and takes up barely any space. All you need is enough room to hang the TRX suspension strap with space to let you do the seven core movements. If you have room for a TRX but limited room for anything else, this might be your go-to. You can train your entire body and have infinite ways to make your workout harder.
“Remember, it is key to identify movements that are challenging and get better at them with your at-home workouts,” Myers adds. “And unless you are an elite-level gymnast, you will be progressing on the TRX for a long time!”
Best Bang for the Buck: TRX Full Body Workout Bundle, $182.95
Perfect for anyone, whether you’re just starting your fitness journey or trying to take your workouts to the next level. This system comes with everything you need to help you build lean muscle with a total-body workout in as little as 15 minutes per day! This bundle also comes with a FREE one-year TRX app subscription ($49.95 value). Best of all, with the provider door anchor, you won’t have to worry about mounting anything to a wall!
Best of the Best: TRX Builder Bundle, $199.95
For the workout enthusiast who is committed to the cause, this bundle includes the TRX Home2 system stated above along with a sturdy, yet durable XMount, and a set of four TRX Exercise Bands to challenge yourself every day. It also comes with a FREE one-year TRX app subscription.
Sliders are cheap, take up almost no room, and are friendly for most fitness levels, making this a great little stocking stuffer or part of a bundle. You can effectively train your hamstrings, glutes, abs, quads, and arms using them.
Best Bang for Your Buck: Tone It Up Slide ‘N Sculpt Discs, 2 for $10
These lightweight workout sliders are portable — so you can easily take them from room to room or toss them in a bag when traveling. They’re also reversible and feature a smooth side for carpet and a textured side for use on hard surfaces.
Best of the Best: GoFit GoSliders Kit, $30
This kit takes your workout to the next level. The foam patterned padding creates traction for your hands and feet, while the low-friction design makes them easy to slide on soft surfaces. As an added bonus, the kit includes a set of slider booties that can be used on hardwood and tile floors.
Another great little stocking stuffer, exercise bands are relatively cheap and a versatile tool that takes up virtually no space and can be friendly for all levels of user. The resistance bands can be added to almost any movement to help increase difficulty.
Best Bang for Your Buck: Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands, $10.95
This universal set comes with five bands that offer varying resistance, from extra-light for beginners or for exercises you want low resistance, up to extra-heavy. They also come with a convenient carrying bag and exercise guide.
Best of the Best: SYT Resistance Bands, $33.99
These longer tension ropes are perfect for performing exercises similar to what you might do on a cable machine. The kit comes with five color-coded resistance bands with varying levels of resistance ranging from 10lbs to 30lbs, ankle straps, two foam handles, a carrying bag and a door anchor so you can get a sweat on from anywhere.
“If you want to move beyond bodyweight exercises to continue to progress, adjustable dumbbells are a great way to do so,” says Myers. “Adjustable dumbbells allow you to train all foundational movements in a progressive fashion without taking up an entire wall in your house.”
Best Bang for Your Buck: Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells, Starting around $110
While the price of the dumbbell set you get will be contingent upon the max weight the set can go up to plus any add-ons you purchase, the cheapest configuration of this set (40lbs max) provides a well-rounded offering of plates for both low-impact and high-impact. Larger bundles also include a barbell connector so you can transform your dumbbell set into a weighted barbell for an extended range of exercises.
Best of the Best: NordicTrack Select-a-Weight 55lb. Dumbbell Set, $599
This 15-in-1 dumbbell set has a variety of weight ranges to suit the beginner to the high-performance athlete, starting as low as 10lbs and going up to 55lbs per dumbbell. This set also comes with a one-year NordicTrack iFit Family Membership for free (a $468 value!) which is like having a personal trainer right on your handheld device!
Pull-ups might be the best bodyweight exercise out there, according to Myers, especially because upper back strength is crucial for those sitting at a computer for long periods of time. Pull-ups are extremely challenging so you can progress on them for a long time, but they also provide a nice space to hang a TRX or bands to expand your workouts and maximize your space.
There are a variety of bars and the one you choose will depend on your weight, the space you have and what you want to achieve with the bar. The four most common are doorway, mounted, portable and tower.
Best Bang for Your Buck: Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Pull-Up Bar, $44.99
This 300lb capacity doorway pull-up bar easily mounts to any standard door frame with no screws and can be just as easily taken down when done using. But it comes with the added benefit of becoming a platform for dips, sit-ups or pushups when turned over. The wide grip curved ergonomic handles also offer three grip options for wide, close, and hammer grip pullups, and padded handles ensure comfort for sit-ups, push-ups, and dips.
Best of the Best: Stamina Power Tower, $140
If you have more space in your home gym area, this tower is a great asset because just like the doorway version above, it can be used for various different exercises such as pull-ups, dips, push-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups, vertical knee raises and more. The durable steel frame also supports up to 250lbs of weight.
Similar to dumbbells, kettlebells can be used to train all foundational movements and can be used to train all physical characteristics, such as strength, power, hypertrophy and conditioning, making them a great asset to any home gym. But also like dumbbells, they can take up a lot of space that you may not have. So look for an adjustable set to get the benefits of a kettlebell set without all the space.
Best Bang for Your Buck: Titan Fitness Kettlebell, $70
This adjustable kettlebell is great for beginners, with a starting weight of just 5lbs and a max weight of 20lbs. The cast-iron plates are easy to adjust, and the powder-coated wide-grip makes it user-friendly for all hand sizes.
Best of the Best: Bowflex SelectTech 840 Kettlebell, $179
This adjustable kettlebell is six kettlebells in one, with weights ranging from 8lbs to 40lbs. A quick turn of the selection handle and the kettlebell is easily loaded with your desired weight. Bowflex even offers free trainer-led exercise videos to help you get started with your kettlebell right away!
A Fitness Center Membership
While giving the gift of a fitness center membership right now may not be the first thing that comes to mind, Myers notes that oftentimes there is more to a membership than physical access to the brick and mortar location.
“I am not going to lie, this has been a tough year for gyms, but I know we are working diligently to help keep people healthy from anywhere,” he explains. “Texas Health Fitness Center members have access to around 45 virtual classes a week and a Digital Fitness app that can be used 24/7.
“You can choose from virtual classes such as yoga, boot camp, HIIT, Silver Sneakers classes, and much more,” Myers adds. “And we strive to have classes for all age groups and fitness levels!”
The Digital Fitness app has a new bodyweight and in-gym workout posted daily so you can get a quality workout no matter where you are, and it also has 3-6 month-long exercise programs geared to building strength, increasing lean muscle, losing weight, improving health and more. You also have the ability to ask trainers questions via the app, such as clarifications on exercise technique, workouts in the app, and anything training related.
Non-members can drop-in to virtual classes for $10 a class, and the Digital Fitness app is $15 a month. But if you sign up for a Texas Health Fitness Center Virtual Membership for $30 a month, you gain access to both.
Whether you choose to follow your own routine at home or would like to have access to the benefits of a virtual Texas Health Fitness Center membership, Myers adds there’s no better time to get active, especially because there are so many options now for getting a good workout in wherever you are.
“I think this home gym trend is going to be a great long-term benefit for the health of our country because the more places you have to work out, the better,” Myers says. “What is really important is that you take the time to enjoy working out at home. That might mean getting some new equipment, creating a new place in your home that feels inviting, or working with a trainer or following a plan that you love. This has been a tough year and exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mental and physical health and boost your immune system.”