Woman in Gray Sports Bra Holding Black Dumbbells Doing Bicep Curls
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The Most Affordable At-Home Fitness Equipment For Women

It’s true that belonging to a gym gives you access to a wide variety of fitness equipment, exercise classes, and other perks. The problem is that for many people, it’s just not a financially feasible option.

Monthly gym fees can range from $30 a month at the low end (with no bells and whistles), to as much as $150 or more per month for all the fancy amenities. On top of the monthly fee, there’s usually also an “initiation fee” to pay upfront when you first join.

Another thing to factor into your budget is also the money spent on gas driving to and from the gym. This can really add up, especially if you go every day, or multiple times a week.

If you’ve been thinking about starting an exercise program but joining a gym isn’t in your budget, no worries! Don’t let a lack of funds keep you from getting in the best shape of your life. It is absolutely possible to get really effective and fun workouts at home for a fraction of the cost of a gym membership.

The most affordable pieces of at-home fitness equipment for women can be divided into 3 basic categories: comfort, resistance, and accessories.

Remember, you don’t have to have all of these items before you can start working out at home. If you’re on a super-tight budget, just buy 1 or 2 things from the list to get started. Then whenever you have a few extra dollars to spend, you can put it toward the next item on your wish list.

1. Comfort

Exercise mat

A lot of workouts will require you to get down on the floor for certain exercises, so one of the most important pieces of equipment is an exercise mat. A mat serves two main purposes: #1 to protect your flooring from scuffs and sweat, and #2 to protect your body from discomfort or injury.

Some things to consider before purchasing an exercise mat are:

  1. Location– Where will you be using the mat? What type of flooring is in your workout space (carpet, hardwood, or tile)? This will help you decide on the thickness of your mat, and whether it needs to be non-slip.
  2. Size/type– How big is the space (do you have room to spread out, or is it a smaller room)? Some mats are made to remain spread out on the floor (and are usually thicker), but others easily roll or fold up for storage. A mat with extra length to it can also be folded over during workouts to give padding under knees or elbows.

Fortunately, exercise mats are pretty inexpensive, and if you take care of them they can last for many years. It is possible to spend a lot of money on a mat, but it isn’t really necessary. In most cases, you’re just paying for the name brand.

You can purchase a nice exercise mat of good quality for around $15 to $20. I have had one for almost 20 years, and it is still fine and works great! I just keep it clean and roll it up for storage when not in use.

Kneeling pad

This is a really nice piece of fitness gear to have to protect your knees and elbows while exercising on the floor. Kneeling pads come in various shapes, sizes, and thicknesses, so check out all the options for which one will suit your purposes.

This is another item you really don’t need to spend a lot of money on. They cost as little as $7 to $10, or $15 for a mid-priced one. There’s really no need to spend more than that. You can actually pick up a kneeling pad in the gardening section of the store which is basically the same as one labeled specifically for “exercise”, and it will usually be cheaper!

Here is an example of a gardening kneeling pad, and here’s another one.

Pushup handles

Woman in Tank Top and Black Leggings Doing a Plank on Blue Mat With Plant in the Background
Do you have sensitive wrists?

If you have weak wrists, you might shy away from doing planks and pushups, as these exercises put a lot of weight onto the wrists when they are in a bent (extended) position. But there is an easy accommodation that takes the pressure off of this sensitive joint.

If you already own a pair of dumbbells, you can simply do your pushups or planks using them as handles. This position keeps your wrists straight, allowing you to do the exercise without pain.

If you don’t have any dumbbells, or if you prefer to get a really nifty piece of gear specifically for the task, I highly recommend getting a pair of pushup handles. These are the ones I bought a few years ago, and I really like them. There are lots of different ones on the market, in various price ranges and styles.

I particularly like the pushup handles I have because they’re lightweight. Because they are so light, I can easily use them to keep my wrists safe when doing burpees, too (holding onto them even when I jump up)! They’re also very easy to store away when not in use.

2. Resistance

Dumbbells

Close Up Photo of Black Dumbbells on a Black Mat
Strength training is so important for overall health!

Besides cardio, resistance training is the cornerstone of any fitness program, and you will definitely want to get some dumbbells for your at-home workouts.

Dumbbells aren’t exactly inexpensive, but there are ways to cut down on the cost. The first thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to buy all the sizes, in every weight, right off the bat! That would literally cost thousands of dollars, which isn’t in most people’s budget.

It’s ok to start out with just 1 or 2 pairs of dumbbells, and as you are financially able, you can gradually add to your collection. When I was first buying my fitness equipment, I bought a pair each of 3 lb and 5 lb dumbbells. It was what I could afford at the time, and they served me well for the types of workouts I was doing then.

The key is to start out with what you can afford, choosing weights that are challenging for you. As you are financially able and you become stronger, you can gradually add higher weights to your dumbbell collection.

Another tip for saving money on dumbbells is to buy them used. Look for garage sales, or on sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for some good deals.

Here is a good article on what to look for when buying dumbbells for home workouts. She discusses all the different shapes and materials, gives the pros and cons of each, and mistakes to avoid. I have to say, I agree with most of her points!

The dumbbells that I personally use at home are the neoprene-coated hex style. They are my favorite because the hex shape keeps them from rolling around on the floor, and the neoprene feels comfortable in my sweaty hands.

Kettlebells

Green, Blue, and Pink Kettle Bells on Blue Surface
Kettlebell swings are a great exercise for the glutes!

Kettlebells can be pricey just like dumbbells, but you can easily start out just buying one of these. This is because kettlebell exercises are generally done using just one heavy weight.

For myself, the only exercise I really use a kettlebell for is a kettlebell swing. It’s a great exercise for the glutes, but it’s a bit awkward to do using a dumbbell because it’s hard to keep a secure grip on it as it’s swinging (although you absolutely can use a dumbbell in a pinch, just be careful!).

It’s not a necessary piece of home exercise equipment, but nice to have when you’re ready to buy a new “toy”, and you have the extra money. Also, like with dumbbells, you can sometimes find used kettlebells for sale. Keep your eyes open, and you might find some for way less than brand new!

Ankle & wrist weights

These types of wearable weights can be really good for adding extra resistance for certain types of exercises/workouts, and they’re extremely affordable.

Wrist weights are great for increasing your heart rate when doing certain cardio kickboxing or low-impact workouts. I also like to use them to increase resistance during a strength workout with dumbbells, when I’m not quite strong enough for the next size up.

When doing various types of leg lifts, ankle weights can make the exercise quite a bit more challenging, enabling you to build more strength in the glutes and “feel the burn”. They are also fantastic to add a challenge to exercises that target the core.

To avoid injury, wrist weights should be limited to no more than 3 lbs for use during cardio workouts. They’re really best used for workouts that use slower arm movements because the risk of injury to joints increases with faster, more extreme movement.

Although it might seem like a good idea to strap on ankle weights to go on a long walk, it’s not really advisable. Walking while wearing ankle weights can cause muscle imbalances, and/or damage to tendons and ligaments of the knees, hips, and back. Better to stick to using them for their intended purpose, which is to add resistance while doing specific exercises.

Resistance bands

There are many benefits to adding resistance bands to your arsenal of at-home workout gear. They come in different styles and levels of resistance and are an extremely affordable way to build strength, effectively and safely. Since they’re so budget-friendly, resistance bands make strength training possible for those without access to dumbbells or weight machines.

But even seasoned exercisers can use bands to amplify their strength training with weights! Since bands offer resistance in both the concentric (the muscle flexes/shortens) and eccentric (the muscle extends/lengthens) phases of movement, muscles are challenged and recruited differently than when using weights (dumbbells, barbells, or machines).

Next, let’s take a look at the different types of resistance bands. They all come in various levels of resistance, and each is designed for certain types of exercises.

Therapy bands

This type of band is used often in a physical therapy session, or at home when rehabbing an injury. They are made of a thin piece of rubber, about 4 inches wide, and can be up to 7 feet in length. They aren’t looped, but the ends can be tied together to form a loop if desired.

The amount of resistance is adjustable, depending on how close or far apart you hold the band. There aren’t any handles on therapy bands, but you can loop the ends around your hands to get a better grip.

Tube bands

A tube resistance band looks like a plastic rope with a handle on each end. The handles are held on with carabiner clips, making it easy to switch out the band to another one with a different level of resistance.

They’re usually sold in sets of 3 or 5 bands, from light and medium resistance, up to heavy, or very heavy. You can stand on them to do exercises like squats, shoulder presses, and biceps curls. You can also loop them around a stationary object for rows, chest presses, and triceps push-downs.

If you don’t have anything sturdy to loop the band around, there are different types of door anchors you can buy to suit the purpose. All you need is a door that closes securely to hold the band tightly and safely in place.

Mini bands (aka “booty bands” or mini loop bands)

Mini bands are one of my favorite pieces of fitness equipment! They are a very inexpensive way to really step up your fitness gains. Also called “booty bands”, they are most known for effectively targeting the glute muscles, although they can be used for working the upper body and abs, as well.

The mini loop bands usually come as a set with light, medium, and heavy, although you can purchase single mini bands if you just need one level of resistance. They come in 2 types: either a rubber material that is about 2 or 3 inches wide, or a fabric material that is about 4 or 5 inches wide.

The rubber ones are good for either lower or upper body exercises. The fabric ones are usually too heavy for upper-body moves, but they are wonderful for glute exercises. They don’t ride up on the legs like the rubber ones tend to do, and because they’re wider they don’t cut into your skin, so they’re more comfortable.

There are so many ways to work your glutes with a mini band: side-to-side crab walks, squats, standing side leg lifts, glute bridges, glute kickbacks, side-lying leg lifts, plank leg lifts, clamshells, seated abductions, and more.

It’s amazing that such an inexpensive, lightweight, and compact piece of equipment is so versatile and so effective!

Pullup assist bands (aka long loop bands)

Pullup assist bands are also formed into a loop like mini bands, but they’re much longer and are used differently. Their main use is to provide assistance during a pull-up when you aren’t yet strong enough to pull up your own body weight.

Besides that, long loop bands can also be used for doing other strength exercises, similar to using tube resistance bands. They’re different in that they don’t have handles, but since they are formed into a loop and are longer, they allow for more mobility than a tube band in certain exercises.

The thing that’s nice about these bands is that you can get them in very heavy resistance, so even if you don’t have dumbbells, you can really build up your strength and muscle mass.

Try them out for exercises like squats, band pull-aparts, chest presses, woodchoppers, upright rows, bicep curls, and tricep presses.

Figure-8 bands

Figure-8 resistance bands are made with the same latex tube material as a regular tube band. The difference is the shape: instead of a long “rope” with handles on each end, it is a loop band held together in the center forming 2 loops, with a handle on each side.

Because of their shorter length and 2 loops, they are especially great for doing exercises with one arm at a time. With regular tube bands, you often need to shorten them by tying in a knot or wrapping them around your hands to get the resistance you want for exercises with a shorter range of motion. The figure-8 band makes it easier to keep going in your workout, without having to stop to adjust the band.

Some exercises to try are 1-arm rows, bicep curls, or tricep extensions.

A single figure-8 band costs less than $10, and a set of 3 will only set you back around $15. For that price, it’s affordable enough to buy several in different levels of resistance.

3. Accessories

Stability ball

Woman in Tank Top Doing a Glute Bridge on an Exercise Ball

A stability ball (also called Swiss ball, yoga ball, or balance ball) is a staple piece of equipment at gyms and physical therapy clinics for good reason! It offers so many benefits, including helping to strengthen your core and improving flexibility and balance.

Used in place of a bench, it not only saves you money, but a stability ball is also much lighter and easier to move around than a bench. You can purchase your own stability ball to use at home for between $16 to around $50. A super cheap one might not last very long, so you’ll just end up shelling out more money for a new one. In the long run, it might be better to spend $25 or $30 to get one that will last for years to come.

There are many uses for a stability ball, and so many exercises benefit from the increased stability and balance challenge.

Check out this article for some exercises to work your core and glutes using a stability ball. There are written instructions, as well as animations to show you exactly how to do them!

Disc sliders

Sliders are an extremely affordable piece of fitness equipment that will add more intensity to your regular workouts. They are simply thin, round discs that are placed under your feet to slide on while performing certain exercises. They are reversible, with one side to be used on carpet, and the other side for use on hardwood (or other smooth surfaces).

If you’re looking for a new way to challenge your muscles, this $10 fitness accessory is totally worth it! If you haven’t used sliders before, you will be amazed at how much difficulty they add to your standard exercises.

For your core try: knee tucks from a plank, mountain climbers, plank jacks, or pikes.

For your lower body try: reverse lunges, bridge hamstring tucks, skaters, curtsy lunges, or lateral lunges. To add even more intensity, you can also use the discs in combination with weights and/or a mini band.

Yoga blocks

Contrary to the name, yoga blocks can also be used for other types of exercises, and also for just regular stretching! They are lightweight and portable and can serve you in your fitness in quite a few ways.

You can increase your range of motion when doing certain strength exercises, such as deadlifts and glute bridges, by placing the blocks under your feet. Or stand with your heels on the blocks while doing squats, to shift the focus to the quadriceps.

Place a yoga block between your knees and squeeze while doing glute bridges or wall sits. This is a great way to work the inner thighs!

Yoga blocks are also great for challenging your stability and balance when doing upper-body strength exercises. Try standing on blocks the next time you do bicep curls, overhead tricep presses, or lateral raises. You will definitely feel your core engage more, as your body fights against gravity to stay upright.

And of course, blocks are extremely useful for assisting in stretching. They bring the ground closer to you when stretching the hamstrings in a forward bend, enabling you to get a good stretch while keeping your lower back safe.

As you can see, yoga blocks are not only useful for doing yoga poses, but they come in handy as an all-around fitness prop, as well! You can pick up a pair of blocks for only around $10 to $15

Pilates small ball

Here’s another piece of equipment that started out being used for a certain type of workout (in this case, Pilates), but which is useful in other types of workouts as well. They only cost between $10 to $15, are quite portable, and are easy to store when not in use.

At 9″ in diameter, a Pilates small ball looks like just what it is: a mini stability ball. It can be used in workouts in various ways to offer support, add a balance challenge, or for holding an isometric muscle contraction.

You can use a small ball to support your lower back when doing core exercises, such as crunches, and leg drops. Or, use the ball to do ab roll-outs: start on hands and knees and slowly roll the ball under your forearms out in front of you, until you’re almost lying flat. Then slowly roll all the way back in.

When doing glute bridges, place a small ball between your knees. Squeeze firmly into the ball while raising your hips. At the top of the movement, pulse the ball several times, then while still squeezing, lower your hips to the floor.

For another variation on glute bridges, place your feet on top of a small ball while lifting and lowering your hips. This adds a stability challenge to all of the supporting muscles, including the core, and also makes the glute bridge much more difficult!

Thigh squeezes can also be done with the ball between the knees either while seated, or while in a wall squat. This is a fantastic way to work the often neglected inner thigh muscles.

Plyometric box (aka plyo box, or platform)

The last affordable piece of equipment we’re going to discuss is the plyometric box. Plyometrics is a type of exercise (jump training) in which muscles are worked at maximum force in a short amount of time, which increases speed and power.

This article discusses more about plyometrics training, the benefits, and what precautions to take before doing these types of exercises.

A plyo box is at the more expensive end of our affordable fitness equipment lineup. The cost ranges anywhere from about $40 all the way up to $100 or more. They can be made of various types of materials, such as wood, metal, or firm foam, and some have a non-slip rubberized surface. They also range in height from as low as 4 inches, to as high as 24 inches or more.

Something to think about is if your equipment is a platform, you will be limited to one height. But a box can be turned on 3 different sides, giving you more height options.

The thing that makes a plyo box so nice to have is that they are so versatile! They are made for jumping up onto, but many people don’t even use them for that purpose.

Here are a few of the many other things you can do with a plyo box:

  • Step-ups (front or lateral)
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Step-up knee raises
  • Up and overs
  • Lunges
  • Triceps dips
  • Pushups (incline or decline)
  • Glute bridges
  • Mountain climbers
  • Pistol squats
  • Glute thrusts
  • Burpees

If you’re on a budget, a plyo box might not be the first piece of fitness equipment you’ll want to purchase. But it’s definitely something to keep in mind down the road, once you’ve already established your home workout space, and have some extra cash to spend.

A plyo box is another fitness item that you might be able to buy used at a garage sale, or an online ad for used items, for substantially less than brand new. Something else to consider, if you or someone you know is handy with tools, is to make one out of wood. It might be a fun project and could save a lot of money! Here’s a DIY tutorial on building a plyo box.

Summary

Have you been wanting to start exercising, but the ongoing cost of joining a gym has been standing between you and achieving your fitness goals? Or, perhaps you’ve been working out at a gym for years, but you’re just tired of spending so much money every month for a membership.

Whatever the case, you’re not at the mercy of what someone decides to charge you for the use of their facilities and equipment! You have the power to take your health into your own hands, even on a budget.

Working out at home can be very empowering because you’re not relying on someone else to tell you how or when to exercise. And, because you’re saving so much money on gym fees, you can take that extra cash and put it to better use in other areas of your life.

In this post, we’ve talked about 12 different types of affordable fitness equipment that fall into categories of comfort, resistance, and accessories. I invite you now to thoughtfully consider your own fitness goals, what types of workouts you truly enjoy doing, and what equipment you want/need to set up your at-home workout space.

To get started on working out at home, using your own affordable fitness equipment, check out my article on the 8 Best YouTube Fitness Trainers 2023.

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below. I’d love to hear how you made the switch from paying costly gym fees to using your own simple, affordable equipment to get in the best shape of your life, at home!

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