The Only 4-Tools You Need

Dear Reader,

There are so many pieces of fancy, over-rated gym equipment out there.  You’ve all seen them on TV or in your friend’s homes.  BUT guess what?  You don’t need any of it.  I promise, you can have the same results from these 4-pieces, for minimal cost and minimal space requirements.  It’s definitely not a one-size fits all, so by all means, if I’ve left out your favorite piece, go for it.

And, I’m not suggesting you cancel your gym membership.  I think going to a fitness club has great benefits, including the strong power of competitive motivation.  It will also allow you to tone and work muscles more in depth and give you a wide variety of cardio and classes.

On the days when you can’t make it to the gym, you’ll have a few important pieces of equipment at home, that can do a lot.  All of the exercises you’ll see on this blog, will only use these few pieces.  I will give you some great ideas to put them to good use.

1. Dumbbells

In order to decide which weight will make the most sense, you’ll need to pay attention, the next few times you go to the gym.  Whichever two or three dumbbells you use the most, those are the few you will need at home.


If you are starting from scratch, use these questions to decide the weights you’ll want to purchase.  If you don’t have access to dumbbells, do these at the store.  Start with these questions and narrow down.

  • What is the maximum weight you can use to do 8 of these?   Add 5-pounds.  This is your heaviest dumbbell.

One Arm Dumbbell Snatch – image from

  • What is the maximum weight you can use to do 8 of these?  This is your lightest dumbbell.

Standing Lateral Raise – image from

Those questions will provide you with the two most necessary weights, but if you can, add a third: one set of dumbbells that’s weighted in the middle of the two.

You may have to buy again as your strength increases, but only one additional, heavier set.

You will use these for the bulk of your at-home strength training.

2. Exercise Ball (stability)

They come in many sizes, pick the one that fits your body the best.  It will make a lot of difference.

When you sit on the exercise ball:

  • feet should be flat on the floor with an even weight distribution
  • knees should be slightly lower than or level with pelvis
  • make sure you are not leaning to accomplish either of these factors

If you’re not able to test the ball, go by this general guideline:

  • 5’1″ + use 55cm
  • 5’9″ + use 65cm
  • 6’3″ + use 75cm

You’ll be surprised in the many ways you will use the exercise ball.  Anything from using it as a flat weight bench, to ab work, to leg work and stretching.  It’s an invaluable piece and it’s the most bulky.  You’ll have to find a place to store it, fully inflated.  You do not want to have to re-inflate the ball each time you need it.  Keep all of the parts that come with it.

3. Jump Rope

General guidelines to use when you purchase your rope:

  • 5’0″ + use 8-foot
  • 5’5″ + use 9-foot
  • 6’0″ + use 10-foot

You can also buy a longer rope and cut it to your individual preference.  This is one thing I suggest not skimping on since it’s so frustrating trying to use a rope that keeps twisting and tangling.

The jump rope is invaluable for keeping your heart rate up during the strength training sessions.  If you jump rope, a combined total of 20-minutes, you’ll burn as much energy and calories as jogging!  It’s not absolutely necessary, if you would rather run in place or find another way to raise your heart rate in a confined space, that’s fine too.  However, it also does great work toning you’re entire body, perfecting balance and core, provides impact for bone health and is fun!

4. Resistance Band

No need to get fancy.  As long as it has two handles and a ball-like stopper that moves up and down the band, so you can secure it to a closed-door, that’s all you need.  Inexpensive and simple.  No frills.

So, that’s it. I told you, it was simple!

Optional equipment that is nice to have, but not necessary:

  • Yoga or other floor mat
  • Timer or stopwatch
  • Weighted fitness ball with handles
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Step bench

Additional optional equipment for men, again, not necessary:

  • Push-up bars or rotating push up grips
  • Doorway chin up bar

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