Working out at home
February 16, 2007 10:23 AM   Subscribe

What's the best (and cheapest) workout equipment for my small place?

I'm moving into a smaller place (550sq/ft) that doesn't have a gym in the building or anywhere nearby. I do a lot of running and indoor rowing (on a concept2 machine) right now, but it looks like running will be my only viable option soon, so I'm thinking of buying some sort of machine that will fit in a corner or under a bed. I've been looking around a bit, and I'm just getting increasingly confused by the various claims.

I'm not looking to build muscle, so I don't have a need for anything heavy duty, but I'd like something that will predominantly focus on my upper body. Rowing has been great for me, and I'd ideally like to keep that up.

So far, I've been leaning towards buying either a "Total gym 1000" or a cheap rowing machine (under $400-500). So, I've basically got 2 the Total Gym worth it and are there any cheap rowing machines out there that provide a similar experience to that given by a Concept2 machine (I don't really care if it has a complex computer system)? Any rowers out there who have tried a wide variety of machines willing to share their experiences?

PS. I live in Vancouver, Canada, so I need something that can be purchased there...
posted by johnsmith415 to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Basic solid bench and dumbells tucked underneath it is the most versatile option you have given your space requirements. I'd recommend circuit training--won't build too much bulk and is great cardio wise.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:37 AM on February 16, 2007

A rowing machine really only lets you do the one exercise. As for 'total gyms', free weights are superior to machines < that's undisputed. If you are serious about exercise you have to know how to do the different exercises with free weights, which also take up the least space. breaks down all of the exercises.
posted by dino terror at 10:43 AM on February 16, 2007

If you want really cheap and small, you could look into resistance band workouts. I could see how you might be able to emulate the rowing motion with a band. Or even better, things with just body weight.
posted by advicepig at 10:45 AM on February 16, 2007

Resistance band workouts are great, but all you really need to retain tone is a couple of free weights, a mat, and possibly an exercise ball.
posted by SpecialK at 10:48 AM on February 16, 2007

The best workout equipment is your own body. Pushups, crunches, punches, etc. Try Billy Blanks - he looks like a complete idiot, but its the fastest and cheapest way to build an upper body or burn off fat, plus you can do it in about 6 ft square of floor and it doesn't take up any space (i've been in a tiny apartment before).
posted by mr_book at 10:49 AM on February 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Total Gym won't fit in a corner. A friend has one and, whilst it does fold up, when it's being used it's huge and takes up most of a reasonably-sized (probably 12 x 10) room.

There are lots of reviews of the Total Gym on the net if you google it.
posted by essexjan at 10:51 AM on February 16, 2007

Looking on the web, the Total Gym is 7ft 6" long and 4ft high. Some of the exercises require a fully extended arm span, so you'd need to allow probably 8ft across for a full arm stretch and a little clearance.
posted by essexjan at 10:56 AM on February 16, 2007

These guys will show you some exercises that you can do at most parks, and that will beat you down.

If you really want dumbells, these are hard to beat with regard to spatial economy.
posted by subajestad at 12:37 PM on February 16, 2007

Sorry. Links for weightless exercises:

Weight set link:
posted by subajestad at 12:43 PM on February 16, 2007 [5 favorites]

I'm a rower. I've seen Concept 2 Model B and C machines for sale on Craigslist for $200-$500 depending on condition and options. If you're willing to pay that much, and you've enjoyed rowing as part of your workout, I'd just see if you could buy a used erg. I used to have one in my very small bedroom, and I stood it up on end when I wasn't using it. In that position it takes up no more room than a Bowflex or other home gym solution. Rowing is a killer cardio workout, considered to be the best by some peoples' standards. I think you could make this work.
posted by autojack at 1:11 PM on February 16, 2007

I'd go with barbells/dumbbells with a bench and bodyweight exercises. The 'bells and bench can be stowed in the smallest corner, closet or niche, and you can do bodyweight exercises anywhere. If you add some cardio, you'll be set.
posted by lekvar at 1:22 PM on February 16, 2007

Can't get much cheaper than Shovelglove.
posted by jtfowl0 at 1:45 PM on February 16, 2007

I second autojack. Get a used Concept 2 B or C model. Vancouver's rowing culture should make a local one easy to find. If you've gotten used to an erg you'll never be able to use a cheap rowing machine ever! None of the inexpensive ones get the motion right. Also, Concept 2 still carries parts and service options for all of their models (including the bike wheel As).

My C has made it through several apartment moves. You can stand it on end, or break it down into two pieces if you have to. Best advantage for apartments is that these are sturdily built machines and unlike cheap treadmills won't bounce around any annoy your downstairs neighbors.
posted by rosebengal at 1:50 PM on February 16, 2007

Jtfowl0, ever actually do the shovel glove thing?
posted by craven_morhead at 2:39 PM on February 16, 2007

In addition to doing dips between 2 kitchen chairs, inclined pushups (with your feet on top of a dresser), and crunches, I totally dig (and flog whenever I get the chance) my chinup bar.
posted by porpoise at 3:53 PM on February 16, 2007

I have done the shovelglove for six months without missing a day. It's very good. For me it was much harder than I expected. I would recommend it to anyone that is not looking to get huge but to stay lean and fit. Also, it would fulfill your upper body requirement.

My vote would be to try it for a week or so. A sledgehammer isn't much of an invesment and my gut would be that you would like it.
posted by rdurbin at 5:28 PM on February 16, 2007

I found the Shovelglove to be very hard on the joints. Not trying to start a flame war, but most dumbbell and barbell exercises have come about over generations, studied by fitness professioanls and athletes, whereas the Shovelglove came from a guy with a sledgehammer. I know a lot of people here on Metafilter really like the Shovelglove though, so My Milage May Be Wrong.
posted by lekvar at 6:04 PM on February 16, 2007

You could always get a Nintendo Wii. They're very small, you don't need much room and they're probably cheaper than all those rowing machines and whatnot.

Seriously* - Wii Sports Experiemt Results

* - sort of :)
posted by dflock at 6:30 PM on February 16, 2007

an exercise ball (for a bench) and powerblocks ("linked" above).
posted by probablysteve at 7:14 PM on February 16, 2007

The Marine Corps Daily 16. The link is a pdf file of the exercises. It is a total body work out that dosen't require any equipment. I like it just because it was designed simply to keep people in shape and not to sell a product.
posted by calumet43 at 8:59 PM on February 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thanks everybody! I think I'll try to snag a used rowing machine and maybe pick up a few dumbbells (I've already got a arm did get pretty sore after a few hours of bowling). It's really helpful to know that the total gym needs quite a bit of space to operate, since I probably won't have that much to work with, so I'll probably rule that out.
posted by johnsmith415 at 11:26 PM on February 16, 2007

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