As social distancing and lockdowns continue around the world, more and more of us are splashing out on home gym equipment to keep in shape without leaving the house.
Innovative new products are entering the market that are now just as good — and in many cases better — than we would find in our local gym. The frontrunner in the space, Peloton, have seen their stock price surging by 350% in the past year, and currently have around 1.7 million active subscribers who own their stationary bike or treadmill. And more and more competitors are now muscling in to offer hi-tech products or services to create the best home gym.
This state-of-the-art gym equipment doesn’t come cheap, but you get what you pay for, with some companies even using exciting AI and AR technologies to keep us engaged and motivated. It’s a far cry from the old treadmills and exercise bikes that previously gathered dust in garages and basements around the world.
Model and certified personal trainer Richard Ampaw, who has been a cover star of magazines including Men’s Health, believes the best home fitness equipment is worth the investment. “The quality of the machine is really important, and that is reflected in the price of it,” says Richard, a martial arts expert who now focuses on training budding athletes to give them the best chance of turning pro.
“You get to see the improvement in your fitness more quickly with good equipment, and it’s more enjoyable as well. It’s like driving from London to Scotland in a Mini or doing it in a Jaguar. I want to spend six hours in my car if it’s a Jag.”
So here we look at some of the very best exercise machines for those wanting to make the most of lockdown by getting fit at home, while Richard shares his wisdom on how to use them.
BEST EXERCISE BIKES
Peloton Bike and Peloton Bike+
“Cycling is a great low-impact exercise which is suitable for most people and has very low risk of injury,” says Richard. And Peloton is out in the front of the pack for a reason, combining top-notch design with an established and vibrant community to help users reach their fitness goals. There are thousands of classes that can be joined live or on demand and detailed metrics allow you to measure your progress, compete with friends and even compare your stats to celebrity users. It’s certainly not cheap, with the original Peloton Bike costing $1,895 and the new Peloton Bike+ – with a larger screen that rotates 360 degrees, automatic resistance adjustment and other updates – costing $2,495. And it’s a further $39-a-month to subscribe to the app, which features an array of other fitness, strength, yoga and meditation classes alongside the cycling for which they made their name. Richard says, “Peloton has everything going for it. It’s current, fun and has state-of-the-art technology.”
Assault AirBike Elite
As a Peloton bike alternative, Richard recommends an Assault AirBike as a great way to work out your upper body while cycling. He says, “I love the Assault bikes as they engage your arms and legs at the same time. So you can build muscle while cycling, which you won’t do on most stationary bikes. It’s really tough, but effective.” The Assault Airbike Elite costs $1,299. After that there’s no app, no membership scheme, no online classes — it just runs on pure sweat and willpower.
Peloton Tread and Peloton Tread+
Peloton are also behind the most connected offering in the treadmill market, with their running machines combining superb design with the added sense of community and motivation that comes with their group classes. Their basic Peloton Tread is $2,495 while the Tread+ – which features a longer and slatted belt for a smoother running experience – costing $4,295, plus the $39-a-month membership fee. Richard says, “Peloton is not just for cycling — they’ve branched out into all these other fitness areas too. They’re doing a great job. The only downside is the expense.”
Life Fitness T3 Go Treadmill
Richard says Life Fitness offer some of the best treadmills on the market and are a solid Peloton alternative and have been a mainstay of gyms for decades. “The maximum speed of the Life Fitness treadmills is a bit higher than many other brands, so they go a bit faster, and the hill climb also has a steeper gradient compared to most,” he says. But he advises to get smart with how to use a treadmill to get the maximum benefits from your workout. Richard adds, “The best way to use treadmills is for fartlek training, where you run fast, then slow, then fast. Or use it for HIIT training, doing 20 seconds on the bike, then get off and do 20 push-ups, then get back on for 20 seconds, and get off and do 20 lunges, and keep going like that. Mixing up the exercise is much better than just running for 30 minutes.”
BEST ROWING MACHINES
The Hydrow rowing machine, starting at $2,245, is the most hi-tech on the market, featuring athlete-led workout classes, a near-silent row, in-depth performance monitors and AR technology on its display screen to make you feel like you’re really on the water. “Rowing machines are pretty technical and you need to use them right,” says Richard. “People think they are for upper body, but when you pull the cable the drive should come from your legs. The timing of the release of the cable is important too. So you should get advice from a trainer or look at YouTube to get the technique. But if used correctly, it’s great for cardiovascular, your legs, your back — a brilliant full body workout.”
Concept2 Model D
For less high-tech, but extremely well-built rowing machine, the Concept2 rower is among the best. It’s extremely durable, quiet and easy to maintain. And it still tracks calories burned, speed, distance and more and includes games and challenges to keep your workout interesting. At $1,300, it is not the cheapest on the market but a good, solid investment. “If you buy a really cheap rowing machine you are wasting your money,” says Richard. “The quality is important and the Concept2 is a great machine.”
BEST ALTERNATIVE CARDIO MACHINE
Concept2 also offers the SkiErg that mimics the motion of Nordic skiing for a cardio workout where the emphasis is on your upper body rather than your legs. The SkiErg, which costs $1,139, uses a flywheel that traps air to increase or decrease resistance depending on how hard you pull, so you are in control of the intensity of your exercise. And Richard says, “You use your arms to pull down two cables and is a great upper body workout. It’s a brilliant machine for people with bad knees who can’t run or ride.”
BEST STRENGTH EQUIPMENT
With so much emphasis often placed on cardio machines in home gyms, it is key to remember strength training just as important for your all-round physical fitness. Mirror’s interactive fitness classes incorporate bodyweight training, boxing, weights, yoga and more. And it’s delivered a sleek design that doubles as a full-length mirror so looks great even in small spaces that don’t have room for bigger exercise equipment. It costs $1,495 plus a $39 monthly membership to access the classes. “If you’re a beginner to strength training, you should start doing bodyweight exercises,” Richard says. “You should be able to achieve 25 push-ups before you start adding any significant weights to your workout. Then get some light weights for bicep curls, shoulder presses, lateral raises and that sort of thing. Begin by using a light weight at a high repetition to start conditioning the body, then after a month or six weeks move onto a proper strength program.”
For those wanting to focus on weights and resistance training, Tempo comes with a large selection of versatile dumbbell and barbell weights to use for their online strength classes. And their impressive AI technology uses 3D sensors to allow instructors to watch users to check and improve their form and prevent injury, although they only see you as skeleton-like figures, so it doesn’t feel intrusive. It’s $1,995 plus a $39 monthly membership. And Richard says, “Especially as you get older, it’s important to building build density to prevent osteoporosis, as well as muscle, and strength training is vital for that.”
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