Smaller than the average house cat, a kettlebell is heavy enough to add challenge and variations to your home workout routines. Credit: Julia Bayly / BDN

Ready for a good workout? With a little preparation and a small bit of space, a good workout can be had in your very own home. Here’s what you need to know.

Working out at home comes with a great deal of convenience and flexibility. Think of it: your very own space and equipment to work out how you want at times that best match your personal schedule. And it’s easier than you might think to get started.

Where to work out at home

When it comes to a home gym, all you need is space to dedicate to your workouts. How much space will vary based on what you intend to do. If you want larger equipment, like a treadmill, you’ll need space to accommodate that. But it’s possible to build an effective home workout around inexpensive and portable gear as well.

You need as little as 36 square feet of space to workout in, according to the American Council on Exercise. That space is enough for cardio workouts like crunches, push-ups, squats, planks, lunges and jogging in place. If you want to use free weights, the ACE recommends 20 to 50 square feet. That gives you enough room to accommodate the range of motion for a wide variety of arm, core and leg workouts with weights.

Working out means you are going to work up a sweat, so you are going to want to make sure the floor space of your workout area is one that’s easy to clean. But don’t worry if it’s not; that’s what exercise mats are for.

Inexpensive but hard-working gear

Resistance bands

Resistance bands are perfect examples of a small, lightweight exercise tool capable of giving you a full body workout. These are basically giant rubber bands that come in a variety of resistance levels that force your muscles to work against tension. They are versatile and easy to use. ($8-$80)

Medicine balls

Medicine balls are a piece of equipment great for your core, arm and leg strength. Also called exercise balls, med balls or fitness balls, they are weighted balls 14 inches in diameter that are available in weights ranging from 2 pounds to 25 pounds. ($15-$75)

Kettlebells

A kettlebell is a rounded weight made of cast iron with a flat bottom and a thick handle on top. They come in a range of weights from 1 pound up to 100 pounds. The placement of the handle on a kettlebell means when you pick it up, its center of gravity is away from your hands. This forces you to engage a range of muscles that help build endurance, power, balance and coordination. ($25-$200)

Dumbbells

Dumbbells are perhaps the most recognizable piece of workout equipment in a gym. Also called hand weights, these are short bars with connected weights on either end. They come in sizes ranging from one pound to 50 pounds. Using dumbbells provides near infinite opportunities to build muscle and tone your body. ($10-$160)

Easy exercises to try

The arms

Use your dumbbells for a shoulder press to work out the shoulder, tricep and chest muscles. Take a weight in each hand and stand with your feet flat on the floor. Bend your arm at the elbow until the weights are parallel to your ears. Extend your arms up as far as you can and then bring them back down to the start position.

To work the triceps, grab your kettlebell with both hands and take a small step forward with your right leg so your feet are slightly staggered. Raise the kettlebell directly over your head with both arms extended. Keeping your elbows close to your ears, lower the kettlebell behind your head until your hands are in line with your elbows. Raise the kettlebell back overhead, extending your arms.

You don’t need barbells to do an effective deadlift when you have resistance bands. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and step on the loop band until it is under your arches. Grab the top of the band with both hands, bend at your hips and then stand up straight, pulling against the band’s resistance.

The core

Incorporating your medicine ball into a leg squat is going to work your core muscle group. That’s because the way the medicine ball’s weight is balanced forces you to use those core muscles to keep your balance. As you do your squats, simply hold the medicine ball with both hands straight out in front of your body and keep it there as you lower and rise from the squats.

For another core workout, try the kettlebell swing. Stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Hold the kettlebell with both hands with your arms in front of your body and palms facing toward you. Bend your knees slightly and push your hips back and then “explode” forward at the hips as you swing the kettlebell outward with straight arms until it is level with your shoulders. Then bring it back down in a controlled arc.

The legs

Add your resistance bands to simple squats. Place both legs inside a loop resistance band and pull it up like a pair of pants until it is just below your knees. Stand with your legs wide enough apart that the band stays in place and does not slip down your legs to the floor. With your hands clasped in front of your chest, take a big step to the right and go into the squat position until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Bring your right leg back and then do the same thing with your left leg. For another squat routine, move the band up so it’s around your thighs. Lower yourself into a half squat and take a step sideways with your right foot followed by your left foot. Then do the same thing going to the left.

Having a gym in your home means you can exercise when you want with the equipment that best meets your fitness goals. Your home gym means you skip the drive and lines for any equipment — both of which can turn a half-hour workout into a two-hour ordeal. When you are ready to work out — day or night — your own home gym and gear is there waiting for you. No membership fee required.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.