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WHEN TRAINER Rashaad Slowley moved from New York City to Miami near the end of 2020, he planned to build a garage gym. He just didn’t plan on that task being so hard. “I quickly learned that this is not an overnight job,” he says.
“A lot of sweat equity and money was put in to build something great.”
That’s because the ideal home training space is more than a yoga mat and a Shake Weight. The perfect home gym holds your attention long-term because it offers a variety of training options, letting you crush a cardio session one day, build strength the next. And now is the best time to create that space. Covid lockdowns sparked home-fitness innovation in a host of forms, as companies upgraded everything from the connected fitness experience to the design of a basic dumbbell.
Slowley’s home gym includes all he needs to train, making it just the spot for him to work toward a late 2022 Spartan Race. And it was also the ideal place for his first in-person meeting with up-and-coming Baltimore-based trainer Justin Inman, whom Slowley mentored in the Men’s Health Strength in Diversity Initiative last year. The program aims to supercharge the careers of young trainers from marginalized communities with mentorship and education. Of course, the pair had to get a sweat session on in Slowley’s muscle cave. So they went to work—showcasing our picks for the best home training gear of 2022 along the way.
BEST CONNECTED FITNESS
BEST CONNECTED CABLE MACHINE
Tonal Home Gym
Tonal’s unique brand of magnetic resistance doesn’t feel completely like a gym cable machine, but it’s close, and the wall-mounted device adds several other features, simulating chain resistance or adding eccentric resistance to classic exercises. Add in easy music integration, and you have a dream home gym.
BEST CONNECTED ROWER
Hydrow makes you feel as if you’re out on the water, complete with videos shot on lakes and rivers. The end result: a tranquil row sweat.
BEST ALL-IN-ONE WORKOUT HUB
Nordictrack The Vault
NordicTrack’s take on the workout mirror doesn’t just give you an iFit trainer pushing you through sweat sessions. Behind the mirror lie sets of dumbbells (up to 30 pounds), kettlebells (up to 30 pounds), and resistance bands, setting you up for easy muscle-building bliss. $2,999 (plus subscription); nordictrack.com
BEST STATIONARY BIKE
Peloton Bike Plus
Peloton’s flagship stationary bike remains the class of home trainers, an ultra-smooth premium biking experience that delivers an endless stream of quality workouts that push you to your cardio limits. The biggest game-changer, the auto-follow feature that adjusts the bike’s resistance for you during a workout.
BEST CONNECTED SMALL-SPACES WORKOUT HUB
Tempo’s newest home gym concept works great in small apartments, pairing 35 pounds of weight plates (plenty for workout beginners) with guided workouts that stream right to your TV or iPhone. The small footprint of the hub itself can easily fit in even a tiny living room, making this perfect for anyone who wants to get a workout but doesn’t want gym equipment all over the place.
BEST GARAGE GYM GEAR
BEST HOME BENCH
Hammer Strength Home Multi-Adjustable Bench
With seven different angles (including decline position) and a heavy-duty frame, Hammer Strength’s newest weight bench is ready for anything.
MOST SPACE-SAVING SQUAT RACK
Rep Fitness 4100
A heavy-duty squat rack that doubles as a pullup bar–until it conveniently folds into your wall when you’re not training.
BEST FREE-STANDING RACK
Rogue SM-1 Monster Rack 2.0
This combination squat stand and power rack stands 73 inches tall and is built to take a pounding thanks to 11-gauge steel uprights and durable construction.
Rogue Ohio Power Bar
There are barbells, and then there’s this rigid 45-pounder, which features deep knurlings you can grip without wrecking your hands. It’s ideal for heavy deadlifts, squats, and bench presses.
BEST PORTABLE CABLE MACHINE
It’s so small it can fit in your backpack, yet it packs 55 pounds of cable resistance and can be connected almost anywhere.
BEST SQUATTING TOOL
Kabuki Strength Transformer Bar
You’ve squatted before but never like this: Kabuki’s Transformer Bar mimics goblet squat, front squat or back squat tension with simple adjustments–but none of the upper body form struggles you’ll encounter doing these moves with regular barbells and kettlebells. Translation: You can go heavier.
BEST OPEN TRAP BAR
Eleiko Öppen Deadlift Bar
Eleiko’s take on the open trap bar is a heavy-duty piece of hardware that easily flips onto its side for weight loading, then flips into perfect deadlift position. It’s versatile too, perfectly weighted and ready for Bulgarian split squats and rows in addition to standard trap-bar deadlifts.
BEST TRAIN-ANYWHERE WEIGHT PLATES
Eleiko Sport Training Plates
As home gyms become more common, people are taking traditional indoor gear anywhere they have available space, including the outdoors. These solid weight plates keep up high performance on wood platforms, dirt and gravel, and everywhere in between. The colored rubber material is designed to be damage and deformation-resistant, and, unlike fat rubber bumpers, the plates’ thin profile allows you to pack more weights onto your bar.
Jeffery A. Salter
BEST HOME WEIGHTS
MOST VERSATILE DUMBBELL ALTERNATIVE
When is a dumbbell not a dumbbell? When it has four different gripping points that allow you to swing it like a kettlebell, grasp it with two hands like a med ball, stabilize your body on it like a pushup stand, and, oh, do dumbbell exercises, too. Add a durable neoprene coating and YBell is ready for any workout you could possibly dream up
MOST EFFICIENT DUMBBELL ALTERNATIVE
This unique take on the dumbbell can make 20 pounds seem like more, thanks to three grips that are meant to tax your forearms. A simple grip shift will have the weight feeling heavier or lighter, making this the dumbbell of choice for your next biceps-curl dropset.
TOUGHEST ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELL
Each pair of Powerblocks Pros is expandable up to 90 pounds, and built to last, even if you’re dropping them from several feet in the air after a set of heavy presses, squats, or curls.
BEST ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELL
SMRTFT’s take on the dumbbell adjusts from 5 pounds to 80 pounds with a few mere clicks, meaning you have light enough weight to warm up but can go heavy enough to challenge yourself with goblet squats and Romanian deadlifts. Even better: The machined steel weight plates are built for the long haul.
BEST BUDGET ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELL
Core Adjustable Dumbbell Set
Classic plastic plates that can be adjusted from 5 to 50 pounds with ease, making this a perfect pair of dumbbells to get you started on your fitness journey.
BEST SPACE-SAVING KETTLEBELL
Powerblock Adjustable Heavy Kettlebell
This kettlebell efficiently switches between 35, 44, 53, and 62 pounds with an easy-to-use pin, so it’s perfect for quick dropsets. A bonus: Its design is ideal for a front rack position.
MOST VERSATILE BARBELL
Stroops Fitness Bellitron
All at once, this perfect-for-the-home gadget is a dumbbell or a mini-barbell, or a weight that can be swung like a kettlebell. Loads up to 85 pounds, perfect for gym beginners, and stores easily in any corner of your home.
MOST NATURAL HOME KETTLEBELL
Kettlebell Kings Adjustable Competition Kettlebell
The adjustable kettlebell that looks and feels just like a classic kettlebell. Kettlebell Kings’ competition adjustable bell shifts from anywhere between 12 and 32 kilograms, giving you a load that’s perfect for lightweight flows, yet challenging enough for heavy swings–and it always feels just like a classic kettlebell when you swing it.
BEST BEGINNER KETTLEBELL
Tru Grit Fitness Adjustable Kettlebell
Want to get into kettlebell training? This easy-to-use option gives you plenty of room for growth, with seven adjustable plates at varying weights (from 7.7lbs to 40lbs) as you build strength and skill. Best of all, it’s made of solid cast iron and shaped like a standard kettlebell, unlike some other adjustable options, so you’ll be able to perfect your rack holds and swings.
BODYWEIGHT TRAINING TOOLS
BEST SUSPENSION TRAINER
TRX Pro4 System
Challenge your abs while building back and chest muscle with this TRX kit that can work in the gym or at home, and attaches easily and securely to any pullup bar.
BEST WEIGHT VEST SUBSTITUTE
Omorpho Men’s G-Top Long Sleeve
Ditch the ungainly weight vest for this shirt, which places less than three pounds of weight in carefully mapped areas, allowing you to move naturally.
BEST GYMNASTICS TRAINING TOOL
Lebert Parallette Bars
These ultratough parallettes are perfect for pushups and gymnastics moves like handstands and L-sits, too.
Jeffery A. Salter
CARDIO AND CONDITIONING TOOLS
MOST DURABLE ROWER
Assault Fitness Airrower Elite
The all-steel frame and powerful fan-based resistance combine to create a heavy-duty home rower.
BEST WHAT-THE-HELL-IS-THAT MOVEMENT DEVICE
This six-foot-long adjustable slide board challenges you to stabilize your hips and glutes as you essentially speed-skate in place. It’s good for more than lateral movement, too: It comes with “mittens” for your hands to use on core moves like slide-board rollouts.
BEST CARDIO CRUSHER
Concept2 Ski Erg
Blast your abs, glutes, and back while redlining your heart rate with this devastating machine that’s built for either long cardio workouts or vicious high-intensity sessions.
BEST HOME BATTLE ROPE
Hyper Rope Battle Rope
The problem with most battle ropes: You need to anchor them somewhere, instantly making them a handful for home training. Not the Hyper Rope, whose unique design allows it to be used without an anchor while still crushing your arms and driving your heart rate into the stratosphere. Starts at 299.99.
BEST BATTLE ROPE INNOVATION
Inertia Wave SOLO
Meet the next step in the evolution of the battle rope. Instead of just challenging you with weight (as battle ropes do), Inertia Wave uses constant oscillation, pushing your core muscles to continually adjust to different demands. Your lungs (and abs) will feel this.
BEST WORKOUT EARBUDS
Beats Fit Pro
The company’s latest fitness-focused earbuds marry that gym-thumping sound to a low-pro file design that still keeps the buds in your ears through every workout.
BEST ON-THE-RUN EARBUDS
Jaybird Vista 2
An ultra-secure pair of earbuds that won’t fall out when you’re midway through your five-miler, but still delivers solid, consistent sound quality.
BEST SMALL HOME-GYM SOUND SOLUTION
Bose SoundLink Flex Bluetoot Speaker
The Flex weighs barely more than a pound but delivers big sound in any room (or garage gym). Want more? Chain two SoundLink Flexes together for a potent stereo experience.
Jeffery A. Salter
EASIEST-TO-USE MASSAGE GUN
Hyperice Hypervolt 2
Hyperice tweaks its classic formula, integrating a more ergonomic handle and a button to change percussion settings. Your body will love the end result.
BEST FOAM ROLLER EVOLUTION
Mobility Wall Smooth Roller
The Mobility Wall slots into a doorframe, letting you stand and knead muscles—far easier than lying down with a foam roller.
BEST PASSIVE RECOVERY TOOL
You can stretch all the time, but no, that’s not undoing all the sitting you’re doing. That’s where the Backbridge comes in. The simple gray hump helps you regain your ability to arch your back, gradually teaching you to lie down with a small arch, then increasing the arch at each level. It’s a perfect way to relieve lower-back tension–and it has other applications, too.
BEST TEMPERATURE THERAPY
Forget icing your knees after your next pickup hoops game and just don this unique knee sleeve, which can deliver ultra-efficient contrast therapy, alternating between hot and cold to create bloodflow, easy pain, and promote recovery.
BEST AT-HOME COMPRESSION
The perfect way to recover after your evening run! These easy-to-use, easy-to-transport air compression boots deliver a gentle pulsing air massage to your legs without the complication and headache of multiple settings. Even better, they travel well, thanks to a small console.
BEST HOME TRAINING APPS
All Out Studio
Sure, we own it, but it’s also an absolutely loaded app experience, with everything from muscle workouts like All Out Arms and Superhero Shred to recovery workouts with top physical therapists. $14.99/month
BEST WORKOUT COMMUNITY
Sure, Ladder trainers give you a series of new workouts each week, but that’s not what makes this app special. Each trainer also keeps in touch with you (and everyone else they’re training) over an ultra-responsive group chat app that keeps you motivated and excited to train. $59.99/month
Forget premade workouts. Train live with a trainer via a Zoom-style interface in a fully interactive one-on-one session that lets the trainer correct your form in real time–or motivate you to sweat a bit harder. $37 and up
Peloton’s app has a cardio/conditioning workout for every situation, whether you’re on a spin bike, or hitting the pavement for a run or walk. $12.99/month
BEST FITNESS/NUTRITION BLEND
Chris Hemsworth’s fitness app starts with challenging workouts, then layers on a host of healthy recipes, and mindfulness tips, too. $10/month
Ebenzer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men’s Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience.