I’ve been a regular gym rat for roughly two decades, but a lot changed last year when, thanks to Covid, I could no longer visit my local fitness center. As the whole planet temporarily grinded to a halt, I began searching for the best workout equipment to help maintain my weight-training regimen under quarantine — and fit in my New York apartment.
From adjustable weights to smart shoes to even earbuds, here are the five pieces of gym equipment that have become downright essential to my fitness journey.
- Pair your fitness tech with one of the best HIIT workouts
- The best resistance bands will put some extra pep in your step
- Crazy about collecting workout stats? Check out the best smartwatch for every budget
I’m an unabashed Android fan, and there's been a Samsung Galaxy phone in my pocket for the better part of a decade. At the moment, I own a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G, which is usually paired up with my Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. When I’m working out, though, the first thing I reach for is my Galaxy Buds Plus earbuds, which handily rival the Apple AirPods Plus in terms of audio quality and active noise cancellation. They’re the ideal tech-centric running companion when it comes to true wireless earbuds since they stay in my ears even during intense cardio or HIIT workouts.
In my metabolic multiverse, I may as well be naked if I start working out without any music. But I also love being able to control that music from my wrist via the Galaxy Watch 3, which is great for quickly checking notifications from my out-of-reach phone without breaking my workout flow. I also use it to periodically measure my blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, and other useful logistics throughout any given workout. (On hikes, I like to monitor my elevation, too.) Overall, this digital trifecta has become the catalyst of my weekly routine, and I’m always finding new ways for these gadgets to augment my lifestyle without creating an ironic new tech addiction.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus and Samsung Watch 3 reviews.
I got the chance to test out the Under Armour Flow Velociti Wind running shoes earlier this year, and they’ve become my go-to footwear for interval training in the park ever since. At 8.5 ounces each, these featherweights are noticeably lighter than my previous favorites — the Adidas Ultraboosts (opens in new tab) — and the cushioning system is refreshingly minimalistic. (The grip is pretty damn impressive, too.) But the Flow Velociti Wind has an extra trick up its slee—err, sole: Under Armour’s excellent MapMyRun app, which pairs directly to the shoes via Bluetooth.
When synced to your phone, these smart shoes collect the usual workout data with every step (total distance, average speed, calories burned, etc.) while simultaneously analyzing your stride and coaching you along the way with easy-to-execute tips. For example, if my average cadence is too high or low, the music in my earholes is briefly interrupted by verbal commands from the MapMyRun app (ex, “Pump your arms faster without changing your pace”). It’s yet another way to game-ify my running routine, making each excursion that much more dynamic, not to mention fun. I’ve got a pretty lanky body, and have been tweaking my running form since high school; I was genuinely surprised at how helpful those tips could be as I dashed around Prospect Park.
Bonus: the MapMyRun app is also compatible with my Samsung Galaxy 3 watch and the Apple Watch (in fact, you can even leave your phone behind), instantly increasing the synergy between my workout gear.
Not everyone has the space at home for a full dumbbell set, and you may have already noticed that your local gym probably uses a dedicated (read: large, bulky) rack to hold theirs. At roughly 800 square feet, I have a decent-sized apartment by New York City standards, but that aforementioned rack would take up way too much space in my living room or bedroom. That’s where NordicTrack’s Select-A-Weight Dumbbell Set comes in. Each dumbbell is fully adjustable between 10 and 55 pounds in 2.5, 5, and 10-pound increments, which lets me swap out weight plates in a matter of seconds.
However, a major perk of these dumbbells has nothing to do with the weights themselves; your purchase comes with a one-year iFit Family membership — a $396 value. NordicTrack has been partnered with iFit for some time now, and together, they’ve created a unique ecosystem of personal trainers and interconnected gym equipment. As of this writing, there are at least 200 weight-training classes available through iFit’s searchable library — you can narrow your searches based on workout duration, muscle groups desired, and so on. Whenever I’m lacking workout inspiration, I just fire up the iFit app on my smart TV, pick a new class, and let the personal trainer take it from there.
For a slightly more palatable $349, the company’s SpeedWeights (opens in new tab) top out at just 12.5 pounds instead of 55. If your pockets are deep enough, I’d recommend springing for their Utility Bench (opens in new tab), too. (Some of the best dumbbell exercises require a weight bench, and many of them can be folded flat and tucked away when not in use.)
If you have at least seven feet of clearance to use the Stamina X Power Tower, this will be a great addition to your strength-training routine. It’s easy enough to move around my apartment, and makes for a top-notch impromptu coat rack. Available in a variety of styles, these sturdy steel skeletons are great for muscle movements in which you’re manipulating your own body weight: push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, tricep dips, and hanging leg raises being the main exercises here. I’ve already gotten my money’s worth out of the Stamina X Power Tower since I picked it up last March, and I dig how well the whole apparatus complements my resistance bands.
I discovered the joy of Bosu balls after my first knee surgery, and have been a huge fan ever since. Think of it as a Swiss ball that’s been cut in half: one side is soft and bouncy, while the other side consists of a flat, rigid platform.
BalanceFrom Puzzle Exercise Mats (opens in new tab)
Every apartment building is different, but some ceilings are heavier-duty than others. Exercise mats are a great way to protect your floors — and keep getting invited to the downstairs neighbor’s summer BBQs.
Personal trainers and physical therapists have been using these things on post-op athletes for more than 20 years, and simply balancing on top of either side is a challenge in itself. When it comes to strengthening my ankles, knees, hips, back, and overall core, this one dead-simple piece of gym equipment is fantastic for plyometric drills, flexibility training, and strengthening all those little ligaments that nobody sees at the beach. (I’ve also found that my Bosu ball makes for a great ad-hoc meditation cushion, too.)
How about starting with a power rack, barbell, some plates, and a horse stall mat. You're set for life.
I think people put way too much emphasis on fitness/exercising, vs actually building strength over time.