This set of resistance tubes, used for full-body strength training, offers three resistance levels: light, medium, and heavy. Padded handles ensure proper grip, which will help you to maintain good form. The kit includes a workout DVD.
A yoga mat will help keep you stable during stretching and core-strengthening moves, such as planks—crucial so you won’t use the wrong muscles to stay balanced and expose yourself to injury. The Yoga Accessories mat is extra long and extra thick.
The advantages of a DVD: For little money, you get a workout with a top trainer right in your home. The Biggest Loser Workout offers a few high-intensity cardio and interval-training routines, plus warm-up and cool-down exercises.
To buy:The Biggest Loser Workout, Vol. 1, $12, amazon.com.
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Outfitting a larger home gym will be costly on the front end, but you’ll save over time—no more monthly dues.
Your core muscles are engaged with every exercise you do on a stability ball—crunches, biceps curls, incline push-ups—so for improving balance, flexibility, and strength, it can’t be beat. (A 65-centimenter ball is right for most people; go with 55 if you’re short, 75 if you’re very tall.) This one from Resist-A-Ball comes packaged with an exercise guide and workout DVD.
Challenge your muscles and vary your workouts with a set of dumbbells in various weights. Start with a basic range (say, 5-, 9- or 10-, and 15-pound dumbbells) and increase the heft as you get stronger. A soft neoprene coating makes these weights—sold individually—easy to grip, even when your palms get sweaty.
Get even more mileage out of your dumbbells by investing in an adjustable weight bench, which allows for a greater range of motion when doing exercises like chest presses and flyes. A leg-curl attachment and arm-curl pad let you hit a multitude of muscles.
A big piece of cardio equipment—a recumbent bike or treadmill—will undeniably be pricey, but it’s an important investment (so long as you actually use it). Be sure it has a sturdy steel frame and can be adjusted (seat height, incline, and so on) to maximize comfort. The standout features on this model: an assortment of preprogrammed workouts and a built-in “personal trainer” that coaches you through them.
To buy: ProForm XP 400R Recumbent Exercise Bike, $200, sears.com.