Work up a sweat by bringing the gym into your dorm room with these highly rated, spacing saving, heavy duty workout equipment!
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This review is going to focus on:
- What you could make for a compact gym, how to get the most out of a very small space
- If you’re not able to get a ton of heavyweights, how to get the most out of the least amount of weight while still being able to gain strength.
To start, I’m going to begin with a list of the top three pieces of equipment that I own in my dorm gym. This was very hard for me to do; I wanted to break it down into what I consider the top three pieces of equipment – the most efficient, the most effective, the best for saving space, and also the best for building strength, endurance, and improving your overall health. So with that said, let’s get into it.
1 – PowerBlock Dumbbells
We’re going to start with the absolute best piece of equipment I have, which is the PowerBlock dumbbells. I’ve had this literal exact pair ever since I was 18 years old. It was the first piece of gym equipment I ever bought. I got it from a store called Gym Source on route 9 in Framingham, Massachusetts. They were $300, by far the best investment I’ve made in my dorm gym ever, without question. There’s so much you can do with it. They go from two and a half up to 50 pounds. There is an attachment you can get that goes all the way up to 90 pounds, but for whatever it’s worth, I don’t think it’s worth it. Generally speaking, when you get really, really, really big adjustable dumbbells, the bigger they get, the bulkier they get obviously, and the more awkward it becomes. There’s plenty of stuff you can do with just up to 50 pounds and I found these to be without question, the best investment I’ve made in my dorm gym.
A couple of things to note about this specific model is I don’t think they make this exact model anymore. PowerBlocks are a very popular brand of dumbbell and I could not recommend it enough. Having adjustable dumbbells is so beneficial, you don’t have to get a huge rack of dumbbells. You can have up to 50 pounds in what is a total space of just two dumbbells, but this is made out of metal – which is one of the reasons I think it’s been so durable. I think now, for more cost-effective purposes, they make it out of hard plastic, so they are a little bit bigger if you get the PowerBlocks variation. But still, I’ve used them and they’re fantastic. A lot of people ask me about the Bowflex options and I’ve used the Bowflex as well. I think the Bowflex is easier to use. The issue I found with the Bowflex model though is they’re way more delicate. I’ve had clients and online coaching clients, and even family members and friends using the Bowflex model for something like a farmer’s walk, and they put the dumbbell down a little bit too hard and it breaks so they had to get a new one and get it shipped in – it’s a whole big deal. I’ve had these for again, over 10 years. They’ve never broken, I’ve never had an issue with them, and I have used the newer models as well. I’ve never seen them break so even though adjusting the dumbbell weight takes like, I don’t know, two and a half seconds longer than the Bowflex model, I think it’s worth it because these don’t break. I’ve dropped them, I’ve got them all over the country, they’ve been everywhere. These things have been through the wringer and they’ve never caused me one ounce of trouble so, PowerBlock adjustable dumbbells from two and a half up to 50 pounds are without question, the most important piece of equipment I would recommend in your dorm gym.
2 – Kettlebell
For the second most important piece of gym equipment I have in my dorm gym, I’m going to explain why in a second but first and foremost, if you can’t get an adjustable dumbbell set because they’re a little bit too expensive, just get a kettlebell. 20 kilograms or 24 kilograms is fine. I have 24 kilograms. Generally speaking, if you’re an intermediate to advanced lifter, go for the 24. If you’re more of a beginner or novice lifter, go for the 20 kilograms. The best thing about the kettlebell is it’s incredibly space efficient. It doesn’t take up much space at all. The second best thing or maybe even the best thing about the kettlebell is there’s so much you can do with it. You can do goblet squats, kettlebell swings, Romanian deadlifts, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, overhead presses, push presses, snatches, cleans, jerks, you can do so damn much with this one single kettlebell. Quite honestly, I think it is the most underrated piece of equipment in terms of all gym equipment. Literally out of every single piece of gym equipment in the world, I think kettlebells are the most underrated, specifically because of how versatile, how space efficient, and also how cost-effective they are.
3 – Air Bike
This is my third favorite piece of gym equipment for the dorm room, it’s my Rogue Echo Bike and no, I’m not being paid to say this. This is legitimately my favorite piece of conditioning equipment I’ve ever used. I like it way more than treadmills, way more than rowing machines, and I want to explain why right now. I love strength training but also, I’m a huge fan of cardio. I think cardio is arguably the most overlooked form of exercise nowadays and had you asked me five-ten years ago, I would have said, “No, cardio is the most overrated because most people weren’t strength training, especially women”, but now, more and more people – men and women – are strength training and they’re overlooking their cardio, not just from a fat loss perspective but more importantly from a health perspective; blood pressure, mental health, emotional health, physical health – cardio is super important. With that being said, there are many ways to do cardio. You can run, bike, walk, swim, you can rollerblade, skateboard, scooter, you can do a ton of things to do cardio and they’re all great in their own right, but I’ve found that the Rogue Echo Bike is without question, my favorite tool to use for cardio. From a dorm gym perspective and especially a compact dorm gym perspective, it’s a no-brainer. This is the clear winner, especially compared to things like treadmills and rowing machines. For example, when we compare the Rogue Echo Bike to a treadmill, obviously first and foremost – it’s way smaller. Treadmills are big, they take up a lot of space, and especially in my small New York city apartment, there’s no way I was going to bring a treadmill in here. Second of all and more practically speaking, to the training side of things, when you’re sprinting on a treadmill you’re putting a tremendous amount of stress on your joints, ankles, knees, hips, your low back – it is a lot of heavy ground reaction forces going into your body. For example, I do not just do strength training, I do Jiu Jitsu, and on top of it I rollerblade, I like to be active and if I’m aching, sore, or if I get injured, doing one of my other activities like sprinting is automatically a no. I can’t do it, it’s too stressful for my body. Something like the Rogue Echo Bike, there are little to no ground reaction forces. There’s nothing, there’s no extra stress on my ankles, knees, around my hips, it’s so smooth. It’s a really easy simple way to get a conditioning workout in without stressing your joints, your tendons, and your ligaments.
The same can also be said for rowing machines and even though those are lower impact than sprinting and running, they still can put a lot of stress on your lower back. I know some people are going to say, “Well, if you do the rowing machine right then it won’t hurt your lower back”, and yes, that’s correct. If you row properly. But most people have no idea how to row properly when you can just sit on a bike and go as hard as you possibly can without worrying about hurting your ankles, knees, hips, and back. I mean, it’s a no-brainer to me. Many people do ask me and this is a valid question if they could just substitute a spin bike instead of having to buy a Rogue Echo Bike or an assault bike and the short answer is yes, of course, you can do that. I think it would probably save you space because a Rogue Echo Bike or an assault bike probably takes up more space than a spin bike. But if you’ve ever tried a Rogue Echo Bike or an assault bike compared to a spin bike, it’s nowhere near the same. It is a completely different style of workout. The spin bike is much more focused on your legs obviously, and this will wreck your legs, but it’s also a full body workout like you feel this from head to toe. It doesn’t take nearly as long to get a training effect so I’m a huge fan of the Rogue Echo bike. It’s smooth, I’ve had no issues with it, the assembly took me about 30 to 45 minutes and I’m not a handy person at all. It was very easy to do so. In terms of conditioning, there’s no question, that this is my favorite piece of equipment. In terms of how little it stresses your body, how easy it is to use, and how quickly you can get a great workout in; if you know you need to be doing more cardio but you’re not doing it, you don’t want to go outside, maybe you don’t want to be sprinting or running because it’s too much stress on your joints, use Echo. Again, I’m not sponsored for saying this, they don’t even know who I am or what I do. I bought this full price and yes it was very expensive for sure, but for my small dorm gym it is without question one of my favorite pieces of equipment, and that’s why I put it in my top three.
All right, now that we went over my top three favorite pieces of equipment here in the dorm gym, now I’m going to show you everything else that I have. It’s not going to be in any order of importance and I’m not going to go into excruciating detail, I just want to give insight into everything else that I’ve got. If you want to get some of the things that you see, all of the links will be in the description.
4 – Gym Mats
Before we talk about any equipment, I just want to talk about these mats. We’ve got two of these gym mats and honestly, they’re amazing. They’re each an 8×4 and about a quarter of an inch thick. They do a really good job of mitigating the noise that we make. Again, we live in a dorm room, we’ve never had any complaints from our neighbors. They’re super easy to clean and they don’t curl up. I know a lot of gym mats, they curl up and you’re tripping over them. These are amazing, we’ve had no issues with them. As far as we know, it’s a family that makes them, they have a small business and an Amazon store and we love supporting small businesses. This group, they’ve done a tremendous job so could not recommend these mats enough, especially if you’re just looking for an affordable option. That’s going to support a small business that has great high quality workout mats.
5 – Plyo box
Next up, we’ve got this Rogue Resin 12-inch Plyo box. Overall, a very good piece of equipment. A very sturdy, really good piece of equipment. They colored it, and they roughed it up a little bit to make it look more used which I candidly think is pretty cool, and I like that as well. Mainly, I use it for things like step-ups, hip thrusts, and seated shoulder presses, and this is good to have in a very small compact dorm gym space. The only thing I don’t like about it at all and this would make me question whether or not I want to get one again is the assembly was awful. I’m not the handiest guy in the world but I know other people who got this box as well and they said it was put to put together so it was more complicated than it needed to be. It took a little bit more time but is very sturdy and in a very small compact gym space, I like it a lot.
6 – Strongman Sandbag
This bad boy is my Rogue Strongman Sandbag. It goes up to a hundred pounds and this is one of my all-time favorite pieces of equipment. I almost put this in my top three; the reason I didn’t is that most people don’t need it and most people can get away without ever needing to use one. That being said, if your goal is higher level athletic performance – for myself, I mainly use it for Jiu Jitsu – but if your goal is higher level athletic performance, strong man competitors powerlifting, or if you want to take your training to the next level, I cannot possibly recommend this enough. You can use it for squats, lunges, presses, carries, and tosses. This for me is what I’m most passionate about. It’s like sandbag training, kettlebell training, it’s very primal type movements. You just pick something heavy up like an odd object and you move it around. It’s like real strength, it’s fun to do. With a lot of sandbags, it’s easy to get the sand messy all over your apartment. I was very hesitant to get this but my buddy recommended it, he’s an MMA coach. He coaches a lot of UFC fighters and he said he has a bunch of these in his gym and he’s never seen a speck of sand around. I’ve never seen a speck of sand in my apartment either. With this, I have other sandbags as well from Rogue. They do a great job of not letting the sand out and again, I just can’t recommend these enough. They are such a great piece of equipment, they don’t take up much space, and they’re so efficient and effective for getting you brutally strong.
7 – Regular Sandbags
These are my other sandbags, I’m absolutely in love with them. You can use them for everything. You can use them for cleans, for presses, for push presses, we use them a lot in here for hip thrusts. They’re also very comfortable, very multifaceted, very easy to use, pretty affordable, and again, I’ve never seen a speck of sand in my entire dorm so if you’re worried about getting sand anywhere, I can’t recommend Rogue sandbags enough because they are very clean, super easy to use, and they don’t cause a mess.
8 – Medicine Ball
These are my two medicine balls. One is more of a slam ball, it’s lighter and it’s only 10 pounds. If you have a garage or if you have a brick wall to throw something at, you can do that with a light slam ball like this. Huge fan of this type of training. This I believe, is technically called a d-ball I’m not sure why, but it’s 40 pounds and I use this for heavier endurance type training, especially for Jiu Jitsu. I do stand-ups with it, I do tosses with a lighter ball, and I’ll do more rotational med ball work with it but for athletic performance and explosive power-based training, these tools are absolutely incredible.
9 – Resistance Bands
Whether you’re working on the bottom of your feet for your plantar fascia, your hips, or the back of your shoulders – these are good, you should always have one around. A good set of bands is super important, I got these from west side barbell about eight years ago and have not had any of them break or even tear. Super helpful, I don’t think they make up for weight training. A lot of people ask if you could replace weight training with band training, I don’t think you can do that, but I do think they complement it very well and they both have their pros and cons.
10 – Chalk
Finally, if you’re going to be doing heavy kettlebell training and/or heavy barbell training, I cannot recommend getting chalk highly enough. It’s super important. Unfortunately, it does get everywhere. We try to keep it in a plastic bag so it doesn’t get everywhere but we cannot help it. That being said, I think chalk is super important especially if you’re doing heavy kettlebell training and heavy barbell training. It’s going to help keep your hands a little bit safer, so they don’t rip. A lot of people tell me that as they’re lifting heavier and heavier weights, the bar keeps slipping out of their hands. Put some chalk on it. It helps create a little bit more friction between your hand and the bar so it’s not slipping out and the same goes for kettlebells.
11 – Mini Fridge
With all that said, one final thing before we finish the review. I want to show you my mini fridge. I get a lot of questions about this. We just have a ton of sparkling water. We’re all out of Kombucha right now, I’m obsessed with Kombucha. Usually, it’s Kombucha on the bottom and then a ton of different types of seltzer on the top. I have a very small fridge that doesn’t fit very much. The same thing with the freezer, these things barely fit anything. We were running out of space in the fridge and we wanted to get another one just for our seltzer and our Kombucha, so we consider that part of our dorm gym as well, I figured I’d show you that.
That is my dorm gym, I hope you found this review helpful. Having said all of that, it is now time for me to get my workout in. Have a wonderful day, I’ll talk to you soon.