Trainers often ask me what fitness equipment I recommend they take to their clients’ homes. Many factors influence which pieces of equipment a trainer might choose to invest in for use in clients’ homes, so there really is no definite answer. Some things to consider are: economics, logistics, the trainer’s level of experience with various kinds of equipment, and each client’s fitness level, age, physical limitations, and goals. Today, I’ll explain each of these factors to reveal what might be the best equipment options in various situations, and I’ll share my thoughts about where to purchase equipment.
The cost of equipment can be a deal breaker for you if you’re considering buying equipment for use when training clients. Depending on your budget, you can spend anywhere from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars. For a relatively small investment, you can buy a jumping rope, some tubing, or a couple of free weights, and use those to train your clients. If you’re willing to invest more money to buy several pieces of equipment, you might buy items ranging from a jumping rope to various sizes of kettlebells (which can be very expensive). Also, consider the number of clients you’ll be training when determining the amount you want to invest in equipment. If you’re training only private clients (1-on-1 and doubles), then the cost is relatively low. If you’re training groups or teaching classes, then a larger investment is required. You can certainly conduct a session without any equipment, but you can also buy several pieces of equipment to use while training clients.
By logistics, I mean the storage and transportation of the equipment. Unless you have a pick-up truck, it’s very difficult to transport lots of equipment from place to place. Logistics should play a significant part in your decision to buy certain sizes, types and amounts of equipment. If you’re the person carrying the equipment to a client’s location, believe me—you should think twice about what you buy. If you live in a large city (where you often have to park a few blocks away and take the stairs to a client’s home), carrying more than a couple of pieces of light, non-bulky equipment will exhaust you by the end of the day (assuming you repeat this cycle multiple times each day). Then, you’ll be forced to learn to be creative and find other ways of training your clients, and you may just find yourself not using the equipment you invested in because it’s too cumbersome to transport. The amount of equipment you should buy (in terms of weight and size) is limited by how much you can carry in your vehicle and then to a client’s location. The other part of logistics to consider is where you’ll store the equipment. If you live in a small apartment or in a third floor walk-up, then the limitations are obvious. Sleeping, sitting, and eating on top of your equipment are not very desirable options. If you teach classes or do group training and want to incorporate your own equipment, one option you might consider is leaving some of the equipment at the location(s) where your classes are held, if applicable. This way, transferring lots of equipment isn’t required, making life easier. Be sure to lock your equipment when not in use, and always have it insured. If you do have to transfer lots of equipment for group use, then you’ll also need to have a fold-down cart in your vehicle to take the equipment from the car to the class location. Of course, this adds to your costs and decreases the amount of space in your vehicle even further.
Trainer’s Level of Experience:
This is the most important factor, in my opinion. With so many equipment options, trainers are tempted to try to pass themselves off as experts at using each. This is very tricky, because not all pieces of equipment are made equal—and not all trainers are made equal. I frequently observe trainers using equipment they have no idea how to properly use, introduce, or teach clients how to use. One example is the kettlebell. With the popularity of kettlebells on the rise, many trainers are using them without having much kettlebell experience and are, as a result, injuring their clients. This scenario applies to many other pieces of equipment. Certifications on how to properly use and teach a specific piece of equipment exist for this reason. If you’re not familiar with a specific type of training or piece of equipment, I strongly urge you to take advantage of these certifications. I’m not suggesting that once you’re certified on a principle that you’re automatically an expert in that area, but rather that a certification gives you a deeper understanding of how to properly use and manipulate equipment (like a kettlebell) and instruct proper form to your clients. Also, when working in a home environment, not all equipment is appropriate. For example, you can’t take a 50-foot battling rope into a tiny apartment. Some clients will cringe when they think about a kettlebell damaging their hardwood floors, so your job is to respect their homes and educate them about using the kettlebell so as not to cause damage. Using common sense will help you make the right purchasing decisions.
Client’s Fitness Level, Age, Physical Limitations, and Goals:
These factors will dictate what type of equipment (if any) and training methods you need to use for each individual client to reach his or her fitness goals effectively and safely. After performing an assessment, you’ll have a better idea about the type of program you need to design so the client can reach his or her goals. Not everyone can and/or will use kettlebells, battling ropes, sandbags, and sledge hummers, and it’s your responsibility as a trainer to decide if equipment like this is necessary. For a senior or someone with a physical limitation, a smaller, simpler, more user-friendly piece of equipment (like a medicine ball, tubing, or small free weights) might be more appropriate. Athletes need a variety of challenging pieces of equipment at their disposal, depending on their sport and physical abilities. This is where your assessment skills, programming ability, and professional judgment come into play.
Where to Buy Equipment:
After many years of having my own in-home personal training business and purchasing equipment for a wide variety of uses, I think the best places to buy equipment at fair prices are: Target, Wal-Mart, Perform Better, Dick’s Sports Authority, Craigslist, gyms that are going out of business, second-hand equipment retailers, clients who don’t need their equipment anymore, and sometimes even thrift stores (Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc.).
I hope I’ve given you some insight into how to make good purchasing decisions when it comes to fitness equipment. Keep in mind that you don’t have to purchase all the equipment you’d like to have at one time. After considering the above factors, set a budget (monthly, quarterly, annually—whatever) and make a list of the equipment you’d like to add to your inventory, prioritizing items you’ll need sooner rather than later. Shop around and find the best prices (always consider shipping costs when buying online), and work your way down the list. If the direction of your business changes (for example, going from 1-on-1 to groups or adding seniors as a specialty), your equipment needs will change too. Always keep a current inventory list. Take care of your equipment to extend its life, but be prepared financially to replace items when necessary (especially things like jumping ropes and tubes) so your clients can continue to train safely and effectively.