The Best Fitness Equipment for Apartments and Small Spaces

Join us as we look at the best home exercise equipment for apartments
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Trying to find the best bang-for-your-buck gym equipment that will fit in your little apartment workout space?

Yeah, this was me not too long ago. My girlfriend and I were building a new house and had to move into an apartment while it was being built. I had a bunch of fitness equipment but most of it wouldn’t fit in that tiny little apartment.

So, I spent a few weeks researching compact fitness equipment, scouring forums to see what other people had and recommended and, of course, arguing with my girlfriend about what we’d get and where it would go.

Here’s what I concluded was the best exercise equipment for small spaces like that found in our apartment, and which I ended up buying.

The Exercise Equipment I Had in My Apartment

Free Standing Punching Bag

Century Bob XL Free Standing Punching Bag

This is easily one of my favorite pieces of exercise equipment. Bob’s a free standing punching bag designed for cardio boxing workouts. I went with the Century Bob bag because it’s one of the better free standing bags out there and is designed to be life-like (i.e., shaped like a dude). Perfect for taking my anger out after a long day of work.

Check the current price at Century MMA

Adjustable Dumbbells

Bowflex SelectTech
552 Dumbbells

You can never go wrong with good dumbbells. The reason I went with the Bowflex 552 adjustable dumbbells is because I needed to save as much room as possible and storing a full set of dumbbells wasn’t viable. These save space, are great quality, and they’re comparatively cheaper than buying a set.

Check the current price at Bowflex

Foldable Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine

Other than a punching bag workout I would say a rowing machine is a close 2nd. Rowing machines give you an excellent all-around, full body workout. The reason I went with this Sunny Health & Fitness rowing machine is because it’s compact (it folds), easy to move, and it’s nice and cheap.

Check the current price on Amazon

Free Standing Punching Bag

Century Bob XL Free Standing Punching Bag

This is easily one of my favorite pieces of exercise equipment. Bob’s a free standing punching bag designed for cardio boxing workouts. I went with the Century Bob bag because it’s one of the better free standing bags out there and is designed to be life-like (i.e., shaped like a dude). Perfect for taking my anger out after a long day of work.

Check the current price at Century MMA

Adjustable Dumbbells

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells

You can never go wrong with good dumbbells. The reason I went with the Bowflex 552 adjustable dumbbells is because I needed to save as much room as possible and storing a full set of dumbbells wasn’t viable. These save space, are great quality, and they’re comparatively cheaper than buying a set.

Check the current price at Bowflex

Foldable Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine

Other than a punching bag workout I would say a rowing machine is a close 2nd. Rowing machines give you an excellent all-around, full body workout. The reason I went with this Sunny Health & Fitness rowing machine is because it’s compact (it folds), easy to move, and it’s nice and cheap.

Check the current price on Amazon

Now, these items are what suited me and my situation. They may not suit you. So, below is all of the types of equipment I researched, plus a bunch of specific products I considered as viable options for my apartment gym.

Best Apartment-Sized Muscle Building Equipment

If building, strengthening, and or toning muscle is the name of the game for you, then you’re going to want equipment that will allow you to progressively overload. In my opinion, the best options for this that will fit in tight spaces are:

  • A Compact Home Gym
  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • A Doorway Pull Up Bar; and / or
  • Resistance Bands

Compact Home Gym: For Those That Want an All-In-One System

Compact home gym - Perfect exercise equipment for apartments and small spaces

If you’re aiming to build some muscle and strength as part of your apartment workouts, and you’re not ideologically opposed to cable machines, then a good compact home gym will go a long way. While many home gym machines take up a ton of room, there are also plenty of quality options that have a small footprint. The Body-Solid G1s Home Gym is arguably the best offering currently on the market:

Bosy-solid G1s Selectorised Home Gym - Best Compact Home Gym for Apartments

Understandably, you may not want a full gym in your apartment’s living room or one of the bedrooms. Perhaps you want a piece of equipment that’s less imposing, but can still be used to build, strengthen, and tone your muscles. If this is you, I definitely recommend getting a “total gym”. These are padded boards on a height-adjustable sliding rail that use your body weight, manipulated via cables / bands, to create resistance exercises (much like a pilates reformer). Total Gym is the pioneer of this type of equipment, and the Total Gym XLS is the best model in their range. However, Total Gyms are pretty pricey, so the Weider Ultimate Body Works should be a good alternative for the budget-conscious.

You can train everything from chest, legs, back, abs, etc. Full body workout. You don’t have to worry about carrying dumbbells and plates across the room. All you have to do is just adjust the angle of the board to get the right resistance for you. The higher the angle you adjust to, the more resistance you’ll get.

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Dumbbells

Dumbbells are some of the best exercise equipment for apartments and small spaces

If you are opposed to weight machines, then you likely prefer doing your strength training with free weights. And, while I’m a massive advocate for strength training with a good quality olympic barbell, 7 foot long, 45 lbs bars are not always the most practical option for tight spaces. Dumbbells are often the better choice for apartment gyms where space is at a premium. Dumbbells are ideal for those who like variety in their workouts as there’s countless exercises you can do with them. Whatever your goal is, weight loss, strength, building muscle; dumbbells are genuinely all you need to continue progressing towards your goals.

Quick-lock adjustable dumbbells like the Bowflex SelectTechs are ideal because they provide a range of weights in a compact and neat package. While they may look gimmicky, they work remarkably well. That said, as with most Bowflex equipment, they’re pricey. If you’re after something a little cheaper, then check out Bayou Fitness’ similar dumbbells:

Another space-saving option is to get standard adjustable dumbbells that take loose plates. If you’re after good-quality and affordable dumbbells, then check out these Yes4All adjustable dumbbells:

Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells - Great exercise equipment for apartments

You can get a 200 lbs pair of these dumbbells for roughly the same price as the 90 lbs Bowflex SelectTechs, making them great value. They sell out frequently, so if you’re struggling to find them on sale, then consider some similar weights from Telk. They’re also good quality, though they tend to be considerably more expensive.

While standard adjustable dumbbells are a very versatile and affordable option, their drawback is that you have to have somewhere to store the loose plates. If you’re like me and hate having stuff lying around on the floor, then you’ll need a storage solution such as a weight tree.

You can avoid having to deal with the loose plates by picking up some hex dumbbells, which are fixed weight. Cap Barbell make a very serviceable set of hex dumbbells. They have a rubber coating, which makes them more durable and less likely to damage your apartment’s floors. You can find them on Amazon here.

Now, the obvious issue with fixed-weight dumbbells is that they limit you in the exercises you can do with them. Therefore, in order to take full advantage of the versatility dumbbells offer, you’re going to need to pick up at least a few different weight pairs. Assuming you want to do a range of compound exercises, you may want to get 3 or 4 pairs in each of the light range (5 – 15 lbs), medium weight range (20 – 30 lbs) and heavy range (35 lbs+).

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Kettlebells

Best exercise equipment for apartments and small spaces - Kettlebells

The humble kettlebell is arguably one of the most underrated pieces of home exercise equipment, especially if you have limited space.

A good kettlebell workout seamlessly combines strength training, cardio and conditioning, core muscle strengthening and stabilization, hand-eye coordination, and explosive mobility into a single, brutal session.

Consistent and dedicated kettlebell training has been shown to improve muscular strength, endurance and power, build aerobic capacity, and facilitate weight loss. Typical kettlebell workouts also tend to be shorter in duration than more standard forms of exercise (e.g., circuit training, weight lifting, and cardio exercises like jogging and cycling). And, all of that achieved with a relatively small piece of equipment.

And that’s why they’re a great choice for your apartment gym.

Kettlebell Kings and Rogue Fitness make the top tier kettlebells – especially the standard powder coated variants from each manufacturer. Their premium quality comes at a higher price point though.

Best exercise equipment for apartments - Kettlebell Kings KbsBest exercise equipment for apartments - Rogue Kbs

If you’re after something a little cheaper, check out the bells from Rep Fitness, Titan Fitness and / or Fringe Sport. Titan make a great adjustable kettlebell, which will further cut down on the space required to house them.

Rep Fitness have great kettlebells for apartment spacesTitan Fitness have great kettlebells for apartments and small spacesFringe sport have great kettlebells for apartments and small spaces

If you’re looking for reliable, budget-priced kettlebells, I’d go with the AmazonBasics Cast Iron Kettlebell weight. Good quality and they will last. You can find them here.

best home exercise equipment for apartments and small spaces - Amazon Kbs

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Doorway Pull up Bar

Doorway pullup bars are great for apartments

What is there to say about a doorway pull up bar? Easy to put up and put away (depending on the sort you get) and doesn’t cost a lot of money. And, pull ups are another of those underrated and under-utilized exercises. If the squat is the king of all exercises, then the pull up is surely the…err…queen?

Pull ups benefit you in so many ways. They strengthen the large muscles of the back, core, arms and shoulders, as well as build your grip strength. In short, they build the foundation of basically all bodyweight pulling exercises. They can also easily be incorporated into high intensity workouts that build not only your strength, but your cardiorespiratory fitness too. And, when you get real good at them and can do advanced variations like muscle-ups, you’ll be a real head-turner.

Most importantly, they can be done almost anywhere as long as you have a pull up bar (or pretty much any strong overhead support; tree branch anyone?).

Is there any reason not to do them? Nope.

Necessity drives innovation, and if you’re home workouts in an apartment or other small space, then you need an innovative pull up solution. If you can drill into the walls of your apartment, and they’re made of a material strong enough to anchor, then there’s no better option than the Rogue Fitness Jammer Pull-Up Bar.

Rogue's Jammer Pull up bar is the perfect piece of exercise equipment for an apartment

If you’re not willing or able to do a bit of DIY construction (or your apartment walls won’t support a pull up bar), and you’re looking for a more conventional doorway pull up bar, I’d go with this one from ProsourceFit.

Prosource's doorway pull up bar is a perfect piece of equipment for apartments or small spaces

It’s a multi-grip bar that’s easy to assemble. There are heaps of variations of exercises you can do with this bar other than just a typical pull up. The multi-grip bar allows you to do pull ups, chin ups, push-ups, dips, and leg raises. Perfect to get a full upper body workout with no extra equipment needed. Yep, it can all be done with your bodyweight.

If you’re on the fence about purchasing a pull up bar because you’re still not able to pull your own bodyweight yet (or can’t do many pull ups), there’s a few things you can do to build the necessary strength:

  • Focus on the eccentric (negative) portion of the movement. Grab a chair or something to help you get to the top part of a pull up. From there hold on and slowly come down until your arms are fully extended.
  • Do chin ups. Yes, chin ups work the same muscles just from a different angle. By having your hands supinated, your biceps are able to carry more of the load to help pull yourself up.
  • Do more pull ups. Yes, you read that right. Do more pull ups. For example, let’s say you can only get 3 reps before you fail. That’s ok, every hour do 1 pull up. I know this doesn’t sound like it helps, but think about it. You do that for 8 hours when you’re home. That’s 8 pull ups by the end of the day instead of only having done 3. Over time, the extra volume adds up and will help you get stronger to do more pull ups.
  • Do band-assisted pull ups. You can pick up a resistance band (like one of these bands from Rep Fitness; get the purple or thicker), attach it to your pull up bar, and use it to assist you. This helps to build strength, and train the correct movement in your muscles.

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Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are some of the best exercise equipment options for apartments and small spaces

Resistance bands are another great option to use in an apartment or other small home gym. They take up very little space and can be used pretty much anywhere. Use them in your bedroom, living room, or kitchen. And you’re not just limited to using them at home. They’re perfect for strength training in a hotel room if you travel a lot for work but still need to get your workouts in. Sometimes hotel gyms don’t have adequate pieces of equipment. Thankfully, you can work basically any and every muscle with a good set of resistance bands.

They’re also your best option if money is a limiting factor as most resistance bands are a fraction of the cost of free weights and machines. Plus, they allow you to work your muscles differently than either of those alternatives.

But how? What’s the difference?

Let’s examine: When using weight machines, the weight moves along a fixed path, which reduces the input and required work of your stabilizer muscles. Free weights are just that: Free moving. Therefore, your stabilizer muscles are recruited during most lifts to not only move the weight but also keep it properly balanced. This (arguably) makes for greater muscle development, but with reduced stability comes increased risk of injury. Most exercise-related injuries come from either over exertion, incorrect technique, or dropped weights.

Resistance bands address both of these issues. They allow for a free range of motion and therefore bring your stabilizers and synergistic muscles into the mix to stabilize your body. Moreover, resistance bands are made from rubber and plastic and weigh less than a couple of pounds. Not really dangerous when dropped. There is a a risk of injury if the band snaps and recoils into a part of your body, but this is very rare and shouldn’t be an issue as long as you buy good quality bands and take proper care of them (keep them out of the sun and reduce exposure to extreme temperatures).

Also, resistance bands provide ‘inertia-less’ resistance. This is opposed to all other forms of strength training (that use gravity as the force against which your muscles contract) in which your muscles work hard at the start of the movement to get the weight moving. Once the weight is moving, inertia comes into play and reduces the amount of force needed to keep it moving, meaning the end of the movement is easier. When doing band exercises, the resistance increases as the band gets longer. This means your muscles contract as hard or harder as the movement progress. It also forces your synergist muscles to work to stabilize the resistance thereby (arguably) improving muscle development.

Resistance bands are great exercise equipment for apartments and small spaces because they're compact, safe, and effective

Yep, resistance bands are handy tools if you know what you’re doing with them!

Ideally, you want to have a range of bands of different resistance levels. That means you’ll get the most bang for your buck by getting a set. If you’re looking for a set, you can check out these good-quality, affordable resistance bands from Black Mountain.

As mentioned these come at an affordable price and are great quality. You can keep them tucked away in any room of your apartment, or even in your backpack or purse. They’re convenient and effective for use anywhere. You can also use them to expand your stretching routine and to work on your mobility.

Side note: Don’t neglect your mobility! Highly underrated, but very effective to help you reach your goals.


Best Compact Cardio Equipment for Apartments

So far, we’ve looked at some worthy pieces of equipment to use at home for your strength / resistance training. And just because space is at a premium in your apartment gym, doesn’t mean you can’t get a well-balanced workout. So now let’s go over the best pieces of cardio equipment for small spaces.

Cardio is obviously great to add to any exercise regiment, regardless of your goals. There are tons of benefits from doing cardio. It’s the most effective form of exercise for burning calories and therefore losing weight. It strengthens your heart, lungs and muscles, protecting them from chronic disease. Cardio also releases endorphins in your brain (producing that euphoric feeling you get after a run) that result in short term increases in psychological well-being. Finally, it creates lasting cognitive and psychophysiological changes that create better long-term mental health by reducing anxiety, stress and depression, and increasing feelings of happiness.

Compact Ellipticals

A good, compact elliptical is perfect for an apartment

The first piece of cardio equipment I’ll be talking about is the elliptical. I’m sure you’ve seen (and probably used) one of these at any gym you’ve been to. The elliptical is great for many reasons.

It’s a great way to burn calories and get your heart rate up without putting a lot of stress on your joints. It’s low-impact, so this is great for those of you who are rehabbing after a knee injury, ankle injury, etc. Using the elliptical helps improve your balance and mobility because your arms and legs are constantly moving. 

If you’re looking for a good and reliable compact elliptical, go with the Schwinn 411 Elliptical:

The schwinn 411 elliptical is a great piece of exercise equipment for apartments and small spaces

This model from Schwinn Fitness is ideal for an apartment gym because it’s good quality, affordable, and has a very small footprint. However, if you have the extra cash to spend or you need something that takes up even less room, then consider a folding elliptical. They’re always pricey but that’s because there’s very few on the market, and they’re fairly nifty pieces of engineering:

Best exercise equipment for apartments and small spaces - evolve 3  elliptical

This is the Evolve 3 Elliptical. Because it has the ability to fold, it can be easily rolled out and then put away after your workout. It could fit to one side of your living room, the corner of your bedroom, or even on a small(ish) balcony or in a large(ish) closet.

This machine is high quality. It makes very little sound (perfect for not disturbing your upstairs and downstairs neighbors), and you can get a great workout doing only 20-30 minutes.

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Compact Rowing Machines

A good compact rower is perfect exercise equipment for apartments and small spaces

A rower is another great piece of equipment to work on your cardio. Just as I mentioned with the elliptical, the rowing machine is low-impact, which puts less stress on your joints. Perfect for those of you who have knee pain and aren’t able to run due to a past injury, etc.

The rowing machine engages all of the major muscle groups in your legs, arms, and trunk. In using all of these muscle groups, your body expends a lot of energy.

More energy expended = more calories burned. Surprise.

Another benefit of the rowing machine that I rarely hear mentioned is building better posture. As just mentioned, rowing strenuously works your legs and trunk but particularly your glutes, hamstrings, and erector muscles of the lower back. These muscles are the primary components of your posterior chain. These muscles often get neglected because they’re not ‘glamor’ muscles (e.g., chest, abs, biceps, quads). However, a strong posterior chain is crucial for good posture. Building these important muscles reduces muscle imbalances and lowers your risk of injury.

If you know anything about rowers, then you know that the Concept2 ergs are the best rowing machines on the market. The Models D and E are amazing quality and will last you a lifetime of heavy rowing. But, they’re expensive, heavy, and although they do fold up they’re pretty huge when unfolded. Perhaps not ideal for a small home gym.

If you’re looking for something a little more compact, then consider the one I got for my apartment gym – The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine. It’s one of the best rowers you can get for less than $300 because it folds up for easy storage, is relatively compact when unfolded, and it just works without hassle.

If you’re after something a bit more premium but still affordable and very compact, then check out the RW1000 indoor rower from LifeSpan fitness. It’s a great home rowing machine, not only for apartment gyms but really any home gym.

The LifeSpan fitness rw1000 rower is a great piece of equipment for apartment gyms

In these strange times, it’s hard to get your hands on fitness equipment. If you’re struggling to find any of the above rowers, then check this one out:

This is the Stamina ATS Air Rower. This one is great for many reasons. It’s an air resistance machine which makes it easy to control your resistance. If you want it more challenging, row harder. If you want to tone down the resistance, just row slower with less intensity.

It comes with an LCD monitor for you to track your distance, speed, time, and calories burned. The seat is also padded for more comfort. It’s easy to assemble and it folds! Once you’re done you can put it away, so it’s not in the middle of your living room.

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Compact Treadmills

A good treadmill is a great option for an apartment gym or other limited space

The reliable old treadmill is a great piece of equipment, and very easy to use. There are several benefits to using a treadmill as opposed to other pieces of cardio equipment. They’re easy to control your speed and angle of incline. Most good models have a hand pulse grip sensor to track your heart rate so you can take a data-driven approach to building your cardiovascular fitness. The best part is almost all treadmills these days can be folded and put away conveniently.

Here’s a great treadmill from Xterra Fitness for you to use in an apartment gym that’s lacking space.

Xterra's compact treadmill is a perfect piece of exercise equipment for apartments and limited spaces

This TR150 treadmill is easy to assemble and shouldn’t take you more than 20-30 minutes! It’s also quiet and sturdy, and it should last you a long time. When it comes to getting gym equipment, you want good quality, so they’re not breaking down every year or so.

Another benefit of this treadmill is that it comes with programs already built into the system. This will offer you a variety of different workouts, from HIIT to slow and steady. This is great for those of you who like variety in your workouts and hate doing the same thing every workout.

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Well, there you have it: The Best Fitness Equipment for Apartments and Small Spaces. Living the apartment life doesn’t mean you need to have a gym membership or, worse, miss out on the incredible physical and psychological benefits that come from regular exercise. You just need a bit advice and guidance, and a discerning eye for compact exercise equipment that makes the best use of the space in your apartment gym!

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