As exercise and the fitness industry have evolved, more equipment, workout modalities and accessories have appeared, which has added valuable variety in keeping us moving. While classic machines such as treadmills and stationary bikes always will be popular, today we have cross trainers, stairclimbers and cool new pieces like Octane’s Zero Runner that didn’t exist just a few decades ago.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need equipment to exercise – you can run, walk and do calisthenics all with just your body. But let’s face it, the same workouts – without any equipment – can get monotonous over time. And because your body adapts to these repeated challenges, progress may stall or be limited after a few months with no changes in modality, intensity or duration.
A great, easy way to vary workouts is to take advantage of multiple accessories, which tend to be versatile and affordable. Whether you work out at home or a health club, consider incorporating some (or all!) of what we consider the best exercise accessories for new challenge, motivation and results. If you’re not sure how to use them, check online for videos and instructions, ask a trainer at the gym or take classes that utilize the specific tools that interest you.
Best Exercise Accessories
Beyond basic dumbbells and a mat, in no particular order, here are some of our favorites:
- Resistance bands/tubing – These elastic bands facilitate numerous exercises for the upper and lower body and are much more portable than dumbbells. They come in various intensity levels, so anyone can use them, and you can progress as you gain strength. Many also include a chart of exercises to get you started. Plus, they are lightweight and inexpensive, which is ideal for travel!
- Stability ball – Formerly known as Swiss balls, these big colored orbs are a super way to train the core and add challenge to other exercises that use body weight or dumbbells. Some basic examples of what you can do with the ball: plank, chest fly, back extension, crunch, wall sits, bridges and much more. Almost any strength exercise that you perform on a bench can be performed on a stability ball. Available in different sizes according to your height, these also won’t set you back much.
- BOSU Balance Trainer – This looks like a stability ball cut in half – with one side rounded and inflated, and a flat plastic base. While you can use it much like a stability ball for strength and core exercises, it’s also great for cardio, because you can jump on it, step up and down and much more. The air cushion limits impact, and it’s a major balance challenge. And really, the BOSU is just a lot of fun!
- Medicine ball – Available in several denominations from two pounds and up, this versatile tool adds challenge to moves like squats and twists, but you can also slam it, throw it and bounce it.
- Foam roller – These tubes typically come with instructions how to use them to release tight muscles and massage myofascial tissue. Although the process may feel a bit painful, foam rolling can help keep you loose, reduce muscular tension and decrease your risk of injury. Trust us, your body will thank you later.
- Weighted jump rope – Definitely low-tech and even old-school, but jump ropes are great for cardio intervals. Weighted versions add challenge to workouts but are easier to control – for more skipping and less getting tangled up.
- Gliding discs – Resembling flat frisbees, these simple discs can be used under your feet or hands for greater friction during cardio work and strength exercises.