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Personal Trainers Say These 30 Clever Things Give Their Clients The Most Impressive Results

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By Christina X. Wood
Updated: 
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Ready to get into better shape? Same. But the body only does what the mind tells it to do, right? So to get motivated, we tapped the infinite wisdom of primo fitness experts for advice on getting the most bangin’ results for your buck. A simple home setup lets you stay on track when there’s no time to go to the health club, or when weather makes outdoor fitness impossible. After asking the pros what they recommend to clients who want the most effective workout tools that won’t break the bank, my mind is ready to lead my body into better cardio workouts, more toned and limber muscles, and improved recovery. Personal trainers say these 30 clever things give their clients the most impressive results.

I know I’m excited to add this weighted bar to my home gym because I can grab it to add weight training to all sorts of activities, and I love the idea of getting buff without trying too hard. I’m certainly picking up this smart jump rope, too. Who doesn’t love skipping rope? And it turns out to be an amazing, do-anywhere workout. (Maybe that’s why boxers do it?) And if I’d known that I could get an effective home setup underway for $20 — and that it would fit in my sock drawer — I might not have ponied up for a gym membership. Lesson learned. But, I’m putting this complete set of resistance bands in my sock drawer STAT.

Read on to fill your home gym — even if it’s about the size of a sock drawer — with simple tools you can use to get fit with finesse.

1

The Mighty Booty Bands That Don’t Slip

Slide one of these five resistance bands on when you want to bump up your squats, lunges, crunches, or other exercises without changing your workout. Choose the resistance level you’re ready for — they range from the equivalent of 25 pounds all the way up to 6o — and are "great to add resistance to lower-body movements like squats or glute bridges,” says Ogechi Akalegbere, a certified personal trainer, and the brains (and brawn) behind Gech Me If You Can.

These cloth ones — woven from high-quality cotton-polyester stretch fabric are — according to Akalegbere, “sturdier and do not slip like the plastic types do."

2

These Heavier-Duty Bands For Powerful Workouts

If you’re ready to ramp up the intensity, Akalegbere also likes this heavy-duty fabric band that adds as much as 150 pounds of resistance to your lunges and glute exercises. That’s also great for working muscles that are already strong. The fabric is durable and comfortable, nixing a grippy inside that can be tough on skin. It’s also easy to tote with you for workouts while traveling, like all resistance bands, and takes up no real space in a home gym so is an awesome fallback when you can’t get to the weight machines.

3

A Pair Of Sliding Disks To Work Your Core Anywhere

Add this pair of sliding disks to your home gym — or your travel bag — and you can work your core anywhere there’s a floor. They "can be used on carpet or flipped for hardwood,” says Akalegbere. And they’re a “great addition for ab movements.” It’s easy to see how adding the slide that these deliver can bump up your planks or butt-ups, but they can also help yoga practitioners perfect their jump-throughs. For the price of a smoothie, “your core strength and muscle activation can be enhanced with this small piece of equipment," Akalegbere shares.

4

A Small Pilates Ball For Better Crunches & More Intense Mat Work

Sarah Louise Rector is an international fitness expert, certified trainer, and Instagram fitness influencer. She is a huge fan of this small Pilates ball.

"It provides great support for the lower back when performing core exercises,” she says. Though she also incorporates it into many strength exercises. “I like to use it to create intensity for mat-based workouts to create more engagement in the hamstrings, inner thighs, and booty!”

The nine-inch ball is made from a durable PVC, won’t burst or slip, and comes in four colors.

5

This Half Balance Ball To Add Stability To Planks & Back Support To Crunches

Rector is also a fan of the half-balance — or Bosu — ball. “It’s a great piece of portable equipment that can provide you with a full-body workout,” she says. “Use the ball side for balancing exercises. Flip it over for challenging plank moves and for lower-back support during core exercises. According to Rector, “It’s an all-around fun piece of equipment.”

This half balance ball kit comes with an anti-slip Bosu ball, a textured underside with handles for a secure grip, and an inflater. It’s sturdy and will support 880 pounds.

6

An Ab Roller To Build Core & Upper Body Strength Anytime

An ab roller takes a lot of the obstacles away from working abdominals because it makes it crazy simple to do effective exercises. Just kneel on the ground, grab the handles, lean forward, and come back up (easier said than done, but effective!).

Brett Durney, Co-Founder, Personal Trainer, and Running Coach at Fitness Lab boutique personal training gyms in Soho and London, has been a trainer for 14 years and loves them. An ab roller “provides the ability to work your abdominals and core strength and to build overall upper body strength at the same time,” he says. And while comprehending the exercises may be simple, your abs will let you know that doing them is a challenge.

“There is a range of these available on Amazon,” he says, “and some can be purchased for under $15.” But he recommends you buy one that comes with a knee pad, like this high-strength stainless steel version that’s super popular because it’s stable, has a thick wheel, and comes with a floor mat.

7

A Set Of Push-Up Bars That Protects Your Wrists

Doing push-ups can be hard on the hands and wrists. Durney recommends investing in a set of handles to make them “easier and more neutral on your wrists.” Instead of pronating the wrist by pressing into the floor, you can grip the handles instead. “For anyone with wrist pain, they are excellent," he says.

This inexpensive and portable set from SmarterLife has wide handles and inner ball bearings that rotate to give your body-weight exercises a wider range of motion. These are a “great bang-for-buck piece of equipment,” says Durney. “You can utilize them to build upper body and core strength. And if you don’t have access to a gym or you find yourself traveling with little room in your bag or suitcase, these press-up handles [let you] have a great workout anywhere, any time.”

8

These Fitness Bands That Replicate The Cable Machine At Your Gym

If you work out at home or don’t have access to cable machines, Tami Smith, ACE Personal Trainer and Owner at Fit Healthy Momma, says “these fitness bands are an absolute must.”

They are versatile, affordable, and come in various levels of resistance. “You are able to replicate pretty much any exercise you would normally do with a cable machine at the gym,” she says. “My clients use these every week, especially for back-focused pulling exercises.”

You can even combine the bands to get different levels of resistance and they are color-coded so you’ll quickly know what bands you want to use for what exercise.

9

An Affordable Step Platform For All Your Step, Jump, & Elevation Excercises

When you’re looking to do dips, elevated push-ups, steps, or jumps, Smith recommends adding these adjustable step platforms to your home gym.

"This is a very affordable way to add a safe and sturdy platform to your home gym,” she says. “They can be used for elevated lunges, shallow box jumps, step-ups, etc." They adjust easily: Just snap in the riser piece to make them go from four to six inches tall. And they’re sturdy enough to hold 500 pounds so go ahead and get on them.

10

This Smart Jump Rope To Raise Your Heart Rate At Home

When the weather is bad or you don’t feel like trekking to the gym, Smith recommends this smart jump rope that connects to your phone and tracks your progress.

“It is really cool and affordable,” she says. “A lot of my clients and people in my audience ask me about getting cardio in from home. I like to recommend grabbing a jump rope for a simple and fun way to get your heart rate up at home. And this one is cool because it syncs with an app and tracks your jumps."

The rope is a steel wire, the length is adjustable, a screen on the handle counts for you, the foam handle won’t slip, and the app tells you everything from how many jumps you’ve made to how many times you tangled the rope to the calories you burned while jumping.

11

This Space-Saving Dumbbell Kit Recommended By Jillian Michaels

Jillian Michaels is a world-renowned personal trainer, businesswoman, author and television personality, health and wellness expert, and the creator of The Fitness App by Jillian Michaels. She knows her way around a set of weights, and is a big fan of this space-saving dumbbell kit.

The handy (pun intended) kit lets you add and subtract plates to create custom hand weights that range from a couple of pounds up to 25. “It’s compact and perfect for at-home workouts,” she says, “and way cheaper than most adjustable dumbbells. I always recommend these to Fitness App members.” The set even comes with a tray to hold it all tidily together in your workout area.

12

The Digital Muscle Stimulator That Relaxes Tense Or Sore Muscles

Michaels also knows a few things about workout-related muscle pain, and highly recommends this TENS digital muscle stimulator for recovery. “This is a great way to manage neck and back pain and recover from intense training sessions,” she says. Simply attach the treatment pads to areas that hurt and set the unit to the intensity level that works for you. More than 48,000 Amazon reviewers also attest to the effectiveness of this pain reliever and give it five stars.

13

A Fitness Tracker With Phone Notifications For The Price Of Dinner

There’s nothing like a dose of reality for motivating you to move more, and Isaac Robertson, Indianapolis-based nutritionist and personal trainer who is also Co-Founder and Chief Editor of Total Shape, likes fitness trackers for this.

“In this ever-advancing world, a fitness tracker can be beneficial,” he says. And it doesn’t have to be a big investment. “I like the Amazfit Band 5,” he says. “It's affordable and good quality. It doesn't just monitor your heart and walk but also monitors sleep quality.”

This slender fitness tracker measures steps, real-time heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen saturation, sleep, calories you’ve burned, and your menstrual cycle. It also has Alexa control and alerts you to phone notifications. It comes in three colors, and replacement straps are available if you want to change colors. Over 7,000 people give it five stars.

14

The Water Bottle That Tracks Hydration & Reminds You To Sip

Robertson also likes this vacuum-insulated smart water bottle that not only keeps your hydration cold for 24 hours, but has an LED-lit puck in the base that glows when it’s time to drink. And when you do sip, a sensor in the lid notes it and tracks your intake via an app. (It syncs to your phone.)

He says, “ I love this product is because it tracks my daily water intake, and reminds me to drink water by glowing. It can be such a helpful gadget for anyone to stay healthy and hydrated.” All you have to do to see how you’re doing re: hydration is glance at the app. “Many of us end up drinking less water than we should, this is where this bottle becomes a boon,” shares Robertson. It comes in two sizes and six colors.

15

This Versatile Foam Roller For Self-Massage & Stretching

Dave Shelton, Founder & Trainer at My Fitness System says that, often, “not enough effort and focus is put on recovery.”

Since even a minor injury can derail your goals, you might want to make space for this. “I always recommend this foam roller to my clients,” he says. “Foam rollers are great for self-myofascial release, which improves blood flow and speeds up muscle recovery post-workout." And this roller is versatile and affordable, with massage zones that mimic the various pressure a therapist's hands can apply. It’s medium density with an antibacterial, waterproof surface. It comes in 15 colors and almost 20,000 reviewers agree with Shelton that it’s awesome, and give it five stars.

16

A Massage Tool To Loosen Tight Muscles

This massage tool is another self-care tool that Shelton recommends clients keep in their self-care arsenal. “A massage [tool] is great for loosening up tight muscles after a tough workout,” he says. And this portable, rechargeable massager has 10 attachments to reach all the muscles, 32 levels, six speeds, and an adapter so you can plug it in — everything you need. It’s light and comes in a carrying case to keep all the parts in order, and is easy to take with you. The screen tells you what level you’re about to experience so you can plan and repeat what works.

17

The Fitness Log That Helps You Track & Grow Your Workout

In the spirit of what gets tracked, gets improved, Rohan Arora, a certified personal trainer, sports nutritionist, and the Founder and CEO of GainingTactics, likes “this easy-to-use compact fitness planner because it helps you record your exercises, number of sets, types of exercises, body measurements, diet preferences and much more.”

His plan for building muscle or losing fat involves changing things frequently to challenge your body. So tracking what you’ve done and setting goals for what to do next is important.

A planner is super helpful for this. “It might be easy to keep track of your workout and diet schedule when you're starting out,” he says. “As time progresses, though, most people stick to the same routine, leading to plateaus in their fitness journey. Use this notebook to note down the number of exercises, sets, and reps you do each time and use this information to challenge your body.”

It’s all set up for precisely this task with undated schedules, workout trackers, and goal-setting pages.

18

A Simple Jump Rope For Quick Cardio Anytime

Dominion Ezechibueze, a NASM-certified trainer and the founder of Minion Training, loves jump ropes because they make it so easy to get a fast, intense cardio workout without the need of a gym, fine weather, or other equipment.

“They are an awesome and fun way to incorporate extra cardio into your workout routine,” he says. All you have to do is grab them and jump. And this jump rope is super affordable and small enough to keep handy. The thickened, PVC-coated, braided-steel wire resists tangling. Adjusting the length is easy. And the six-inch handle is light, easy to grip, and has ball bearings so the rope turns easily inside it. Reviewers love it and give it almost 10,000 five-star reviews.

19

This Versatile Weighted Bar You Can Add To Any Exercise

Ezechibueze is also a big fan of this weighted bar, which is so easy to use. Just pick it up to add weight to mat exercises, balance moves, your three-minute morning dance routine, or even talking on the phone. The squared ends stop it from rolling around, and the colors indicate how much each bar weighs. You can buy them in weights from eight to 25 pounds. Reviewers are into them, too. “I love it!” says one reviewer. “I'm a Pilates instructor. I use this bar for HIIT circuits — squats, lunges, deadlifts, and upper bodywork. A must-buy!”

20

A Stability Ball That’s Not Slippery

When stocking your home gym, Ezechibueze recommends adding this anti-slip exercise ball to your kit. It’s a great place to stretch, and can add a challenging balance element to yoga, planks, crunches, and more. The matte-finish surface makes the ball easier to stay on and grab (or sit on), and it comes in five sizes and 11 colors. It also comes with a convenient inflating pump.

21

A Pair Of Dumbells In Whatever Color & Weight You Need Now

Kate Cherichello, a New York City CPT and the Founder of Be. By Kate. Personal Training & Coaching, has one very simple recommendation for every at-home gym: “Two sets of weights.”

There are so many exercises that are enabled by these two pieces of basic equipment that “they are an economical and efficient purchase,” she says. “Adding weights to exercises you already do makes them more challenging and there are a plethora of safe, weight-focused exercises that hit every muscle group.”

This two-pack of dumbells is a great place to start. They come in a wide range of weights so you can start small and work your way up, adding more weights as your strength increases. The high-grade rubber exterior is easy to grip, and the interior is cast iron. Each weight increment is available in ten colors so you can build a collection that's color-coded by you.

22

A Great Pair Of Yoga Pants So You’re Dressed To Move

If you want to work out, dress for it. You won’t do yoga in a dress and you won’t walk five miles in kitten heels (probably). A good pair of yoga pants won’t get in your way, no matter what exercise you have planned. Cherichello recommends this pair of high-waisted yoga pants with side pockets that can hold your phone and wallet.

“I'm the pickiest when it comes to workout pants,” she says. “They need to be the right balance of flattering and comfortable. And they can't slide down! These fit the bill. I primarily buy Lululemon workout bottoms... but I'm glad I found these.” They come in eight, great muted colors.

23

These Resistance Bands That Are A Complete Home Gym In A Bag

"Getting fit at home doesn't mean you have to purchase expensive equipment,” advises Donovan Green, who is a certified ACE and IFA personal trainer, celebrity fitness trainer, and the founder of Donovan Green Fitness.

“You can get in great shape by using something as simple as resistance bands.” And this complete set of five bands is a great option. They range from 5 to 35 pounds that can be stacked to achieve 130 pounds of resistance. They’re made from high-grade latex and come with a door anchor, two handles, two ankle straps, and a storage bag.

They’re perfect for taking with you when traveling because “you can get a total body workout... with minimum space," says Green. “And resistance bands are great for your joints because they provide isotonic resistance, which keeps constant tension on the muscle throughout the movement.”

24

A Non-Elastic Stretching Strap So You Can Work Toward Limber

Green also suggests adding this stretching strap to your home gym, so you can work into yoga poses, stretches, and physical therapy moves that might not yet be available to tight muscles. This non-stretching band has loops for hands or feet at various intervals so you can move slowly toward your target, while working muscles safely. It comes with a guide to help you use the band and make your way to limber.

25

A Set Of Gymnastics Rings For Pull Ups Anywhere

Robert Dodds, a level 3 certified personal trainer, fitness influencer, and founder of Nothing Barred Fitness, recommends gymnastic rings like these birch ones that let you work out with the trees. They come with absorbent hand tape, straps for hanging them, and a storage bag. “I love using mine to take my workouts outside,” says Dodds. “Hang them from a sturdy tree branch and I have somewhere to do pullups, ring pushups (harder than normal pushups), bodyweight rows, ring dips, and more.”

26

These Kettlebells For A Boost To Your Workout

Charles Rick, a Los Angeles-based certified personal trainer and the owner of HIIT HOUSE in Thousand Oaks, California, recommends you get some kettlebells. “Kettlebells are fantastic for full-body workouts,” he says. He recommends them for clients that want an extra push or faster results. “Although every person is different and every result varies, kettlebells allow for extra intensity and for HIIT workouts that are more effective. While working out with a kettlebell, you strengthen your core while toning your muscles. You can knock out more than one exercise reducing the time of your workout as well.”

These vinyl-coated kettlebells, available in weights ranging from five to 50 pounds, are a great option because they are solid cast iron and will last a lifetime. They have a flat bottom so they stay put when you set them down, and have the weight printed clearly on the side.

27

A Weighted Slam Ball For Fun & Fitness

TJ Mentus, an ACE-certified personal trainer, holistic life coach, Certified USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coach, and part of the expert review board of Garage Gym Reviews, recommends weighted slam balls — and not only because they’re so much fun to use.

“Slam balls are a versatile piece of equipment,” he says, “that can be used for a variety of strength and power-focused exercises. You can hold it as added resistance for movements like squats and lunges or throw or slam it in explosive movements to improve power and increase the heart rate quickly.”

As much fun as it is, slamming is not something you want to try with any old ball. “These are durable to withstand the impact of a slam,” says Mentus. “And because of their shape, they will challenge the core as you move it around."

These slam balls come in a range of weights, from 10 to 40 pounds, and five bold colors.

28

The Pads That Let You Handle More Weight For Hip Thrusts

Steven Mack, a certified strength and conditioning specialist based out of Columbia, Missouri, loves these molded, thick-foam barbell pads that help build super strong glutes. Wrap them around the bar of a barbell and they let you lift more weight when doing hip thrusts and glute bridges by removing the discomfort of a bar pressing into your flesh and bones. “With how popular the movements are,” he says, “you would think that gyms would start carrying and replacing these items but they often don't!”

Bring your own, then, he recommends, because “the hip thrust and glute bridge can... produce amazing results for the glutes, training heavy hip extensions. And without padding, the exercise can often be limited in load based on comfort level.”

29

These Lacrosse Balls That Do Duty As Massage Balls

When you work your muscles, they get sore. And that might send you shopping for massage balls, a masseuse, or other tools to help work out those kinks. Mack has a clever hack for this, and you might already have it. If you don’t, it’s super affordable: lacrosse balls. "For soft tissue work. I use it for knots in the upper back,” he says. They’re the perfect size for this, and durable enough to survive a lacrosse game so you know they won’t quit on your self-massage. Keep some of these on hand and you’ll be ready to treat sore muscles or play a pickup lax game.

30

This Weight Lifters Chalk So Weights Don’t Slip Out Of Your Hands

Christine VanDoren is a certified personal trainer, certified nutritionist, and consultant at Sporting Smiles. She’s also a fan of Primo Chalk for weightlifting.

“There will come a time when you will have progressed so much that you are able to lift weights that are too heavy for your grip,” says VanDoren. “Chalk can be your saving grace, as it prevents the weight from slipping out of your hands during a movement. It’s a very affordable essential!”

Primo Chalk is a magnesium carbonate chalk with all the impurities stripped out, so it absorbs moisture from your hands while moisturizing skin and providing protection from tears. It comes with a refillable chalk ball to make using it super easy.

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