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Build a Beast of a Home Gym to Become a Beast in the Outdoors

I’m a firm believer that the best way to get good at something is to do that something over and over again while implementing lessons from your failures. However, when it comes to outdoor training, that’s not always possible. Often, training for mountain biking, rock climbing, backpacking, and other outdoor activities involves time spent indoors developing requisite strength and conditioning. 

For lots of reasons—uncooperative weather, long drives to parks, and busy schedules—most people can’t be out on the trails or waterways every day. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to prepare for life on the trails right at home. With my home gym equipment recommendations, you can tailor your daily workouts to develop skills essential to outdoor sports.   

Why You Should Trust Us 

I’ve been a certified personal trainer for almost five years, and I hold additional certifications in the health and fitness field. But when it comes to outdoor pursuits, the proof is in the practice: I’ve trained myself and others to successfully complete various outdoor endeavors, including long-distance trail races, backpacking expeditions, multi-day kayaking trips, and more. 

While I haven’t summited any of the infamous 8,000-meter peaks out there, I’ve completed my fair share of tough treks: I’ve run several half marathons and obstacle course races; scrambled up too many mountains to count; backpacked several trails surpassing 30 miles; taken many a tumble (and learned lots of fun tricks) on my mountain bike; and have spent a lot of time navigating waterways in the swampy South. My own daily workouts are primarily targeted at becoming better at these activities. 

Table of Contents

Why Outdoor Training Is Important

I know that a lot of people embark on outdoor adventures unprepared, and I know that a lot of people get injured and even die while doing so. I know that a lot of people say, “Backpacking? How hard can it be? It’s just a long walk.” And then wind up in a bright orange search-and-rescue helicopter because, by mile 15, their 50-pound pack didn’t feel so doable anymore. 

I don’t say this to sound foreboding or discourage you from getting outside—in fact, the opposite. I want you to go do cool things outdoors. But I want you to go prepared. All of the adventures are much more fun when you’re not wheezing or fighting off muscle fatigue, anyway! 

Aside from the endurance aspect, most outdoor activities require a specialized set of skills to avoid accidents and injuries. I’m talking purely physical here; the topic of outdoor survival is a totally different story. Skills like balance, proprioception (a keen sense of self-movement and position), unilateral strength, and core stability are key to staying safe and having fun. 

A woman rappelling in a helmet, gloves, and red leggings

(A disclaimer I feel is important: You should work with a qualified professional if you plan on attempting something crazy like topping all of Colorado’s fourteeners in a month or conquering an over-nighter on Mount Whitney. This guide to building a home gym for outdoor athletes is not exhaustive, but intends to provide a sense of what type of equipment you would benefit from having to reach certain goals. Training for intense outdoor sports should be treated like training for any sort of fitness-related competition.)

How to Build a Home Gym for Outdoor Training

So, for those of you whose interests lie both in the gym and in the great outdoors (hello, friends), here’s how to build a home gym catered to kicking your adventures up a notch. 

You’ll find that some recommendations overlap across different activities, which is to be expected. All outdoor sports have one thing in common: They require a great deal of balance, core control, and unilateral strength. 

I’ve also included how the basics—kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, and weight plates—can help you with outdoor training for different activities.   

A woman backpacking along a river with mountains in the background

How to Train for Hiking and Backpacking

Hiking is arguably the easiest outdoor pursuit, and the definition is pretty broad. Sure, most people reading this are probably already in good enough shape to tackle a moderately challenging day hike with no specific preparation. But once you start edging into backpacking or thru-hiking territory, and certainly if you’re teetering on the line of mountaineering, targeted prep becomes essential. 

Skills essential for thru-hiking and backpacking: 

  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Muscular endurance
  • Stamina 
  • Single-leg strength 
  • Core stability 
  • Back strength
Best Weighted Vest for Backpacking Training
GoRuck Ruck Plate Carrier 2.0
GoRuck Ruck Plate Carrier 2.0

The Go Ruck Plate Carrier 2.0 is a great option for people looking for a backpack-style vest.

Rucksack or Weighted Vest 

There’s no better way to prepare for a long hike with 20-plus pounds on your back than to spend a lot of time walking with 20-plus pounds on your back. I think a rucksack or a weighted vest is the most essential item for backpacking training because it most closely mimics what you’ll be doing in the wild. You can wear one while walking, running, and on short hikes, but you can also add a vest to strength training movements like step-ups, lunges, push-ups, and pull-ups to build up your stamina.

Manual Treadmill 

You won’t find a motorized treadmill in nature, so if the weather isn’t permitting you to practice your hiking skills on real terrain, consider a manual treadmill to better mimic a true trek through the outdoors. Because a manual treadmill is powered solely by you, you have to work harder to achieve the same speed you might achieve on a motorized treadmill.

RELATED: Best Manual Treadmill

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Best Manual Treadmill for Backpacking Training
AssaultRunner Pro
AssaultRunner Pro

The AssaultRunner Pro is a popular piece of equipment among CrossFit athletes, but it can also be used for the novice athlete to anyone who just likes to go for a run. It is a non-motorized treadmill that is completely powered by the output of the athlete. In other words, to get the belt started, you have to start running on it. The AssaultRunner Pro’s curved design enables the athlete to run with proper running form and technique, which reduces the risk of injury.   This treadmill comes equipped with built-in wheels in the front and a handle on the back making it easily portable.  The steel handrails on each side of the Runner do come in handy especially for those who are new to running on a treadmill built to move based off of a person’s power output.  The belt that is used on the Assault Runner is heavier causing it to spin faster than what it would feel like if you were running on a road. This is a sturdy machine, made with a lot of steel for increased durability. Lastly, the AssaultRunner Pro includes a UV-resistant console.  The digital console keeps track of your time, calories, speed, distance, watts, and pace.   

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Best Climber for Backpacking Training
VersaClimber SM Sport Model
VersaClimber SM Sport Model

The VersaClimber SM Sport Model, available here with adjustable resistance, acts like two cardio machines in one: a lower body stepper and upper body climber. This design creates a unique arm and leg pushing/pulling action that keeps the arms above the heart and over your head: optimal for good circulation and long-lasting cardio results. The SM model is also available with (optional) bluetooth compatibility and voice feedback, so it’s like having your own personal trainer guiding you along.This precision-engineered, hand-welded steel machine has found wide use in physical therapy clinics, military bases, and the training rooms of leading college and pro sports teams. Beyond the VersaClimber’s convenient versatility and reliable durability, the machine also delivers functional training with zero impact, reduced injury risk, and no need for annoying safety belts. Users can often burn more calories in less time than most ellipticals/treadmills/etc., while getting a more complete full body workout.The VersaClimber SM offers a wide-ranging step and arm height of 1" to 20", giving it the ability to apply long muscle toning leg strides, explosive sprint training movements, and every type of cardio training in between. The machine’s sleek updated design, advanced heart rate monitoring, and custom programmable display make it suited to any athlete and any facility.VersaClimber SM Specs:Full-Body Step and Climbing Machine Quality Steel Construction Variable Tension Control: 1LB to 500LB Step Height & Arm Travel: 1" to 20" Optional Bluetooth (Select from Dropdown Menu) Max User Weight: 350LB Max Speed: 350 Vertical Feet per Minute 3 Grip Adjustments Heart Rate Monitoring Included Digital Display with (6) Race and (6) Distance Programs Climb Angle: 75 degrees Height: 7' 10" (assembled) Base: 43" x 46" Weight: 150LB Power Requirement: 110 Volts

Vertical Climber

Chances are, if you head out on a long backpacking or mountaineering trip, you won’t just be walking. You’ll be scrambling over boulders, hoisting yourself up onto ledges, and carefully navigating varying terrain. A vertical climber can help you develop the full-body muscular endurance needed for these tasks while also helping you develop a greater sense of balance and body awareness.

Plyo Box 

You don’t need a box for jumping (although that can be helpful), rather for stepping. On a backpacking trip, you’re sure to encounter terrain that requires large steps forward, sideways, and upward. A simple plyo box is a top-tier tool for training those single-leg movement patterns. To prepare, use a plyo box for deficit lunges, forward step-ups, lateral step-ups, and pistol (single-leg squat) drills. Better yet, wear a rucksack or hold a kettlebell in one hand for added stability training.

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Best Plyo Box for Backpacking Training
REP 3-in-1 Wood Plyo Box
REP 3-in-1 Wood Plyo Box

Offering high-quality construction at an affordable price point, the REP Fitness 3-in-1 plyometric boxes enable some great strength and conditioning exercises to add into your fitness routine. Each box features three different height options depending on how it is standing. Each size is clearly marked with its measurements and is easily flipped over for a different height.The REP 3-in-1 Wood Plyo Boxes are made with construction-grade 0.75-inch plywood with internal support on three of the four box size options. Choose from the small, in-between, medium, and large sizes to find the one that works best for you.Small: 12” x 14” x 16” (16 pounds) In-Between: 16” x 18” x 20”  (30 pounds) Medium: 16” x 20” x 24”  (35 pounds) Large: 20” x 24” x 30” (50 pounds)Each size can handle up to 400 pounds of weight, so you can use them in dynamic movements or more traditional strength exercises (think step ups, Bulgarian lunges, etc). All boxes feature handles on two sides for easy maneuvering. As with any plyo box, the larger sizes can be difficult to move around simply because of their size and weight. Users report that assembly is a breeze. With predrilled holes and interlocking joints, putting it together takes minimal time and, thanks to the internal support structures, you need fewer screws to provide the same level of strength on the box. 

Best Reverse Hyper for Backpacking Training
Rogue Westside Scout Hyper
Rogue Westside Scout Hyper

The Scout Hyper is a patented, foldable reverse-hyper machine developed by powerlifting legend Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell. This uniquely lightweight and mobile design features hinging legs that lock into place with pop pins and easily fold back for efficient storage after use (the total depth of the unit, when folded, is just 13”).Louie Simmons created this model with home, work, and light clinical use in mind—with particular benefits for younger athletes or those new to reverse hyper training. The unit comes standard with a durable, round-edge pad (27.5” wide x 21.5” deep x 2” thick) to limit friction against the hips, as well as a nylon webbing hyper strap, two weight posts (5.25” loadable length), a set of spring collars, and 6” long handles. A bolt-on handle extension kit is also available a la carte for users who need to accommodate a shorter distance from the end of the pad to the handles.The Scout Hyper comes with rubber feet (to provide grip to the floor and help keep the unit level) and a rubber-covered step for safe mounting and dismounting. When a workout is complete, the user simply has to (1) pull out and spin the pop pins to unlock the unit, (2) tip the machine up while pushing on the horizontal rear leg crossmember, and (3) press down on the handles to complete the folding process. Please Note: The unit stands up by itself when folded, but we do recommend either storing it flat on the ground or, if storing it upright, to do so against a wall and out of the reach of children.Whether you train in a small garage gym or a large-scale facility, space efficiency always counts. The Westside Scout Hyper offers storage convenience with its patented groove folding mechanism, collapsing down to a depth of just 13” when stowed. It’s also considerably lighter and more portable than most traditional Reverse Hyper machines, making it easy to move, unfold, and lock-in before each use.Regular use of the Scout Hyper can provide safe traction, pressure/tension relief in the lower back, and strengthening of the posterior chain. “We spend hours sitting or standing at home, work or at school,” Louie Simmons says. “These simple yet everyday occurrences place significant pressure and torsion on our lumbar spine leading to mild or even severe daily discomfort. That's where the Scout steps in. A daily prescription of three to five sets of 15 reps on this machine could be the difference from painful to pain-free lumbar health.”User assembly is required with this unit, but should take less than 30 mins. All required hardware is included. Rubber feet are provided for improved stability, and a rubber covering on the step makes it easier to get on and off of the machine. Please BE CAUTIOUS when folding and unfolding the Scout, and be aware of pinch points. If the red marking on the pop pin shaft is visible then the pin is NOT fully seated. Periodically check that the pop pin and swing-arm bolts are tight on both sides of the machine, as well as the bolt that secures the hyper strap.

Reverse Hyper

You don’t just need strong legs and a strong heart to safely enjoy backpacking trips. A strong back is another key element: You’ll need it to support your heavy pack over long distances. A reverse hyper allows you to train posterior strength, which will help prevent slumping and thus prevent pain and unnecessary fatigue during long trips.

Sliders 

Ever been hiking and have the ground slip from beneath you? Yeah, yikes. It’s a scary feeling, but it’s actually something you can prepare for—with a simple, inexpensive piece of equipment. Lateral lunges, mountain climbers, hamstring curls, plank arm extensions, and croc walks (using your arms to walk your body forward in a plank position) are all examples of muscle-shaking movements that’ll prepare you to catch yourself when the earth inevitably shifts under your feet.

Best Sliders for Backpacking Training
SKLZ Court Slidez Exercise Sliders
SKLZ Court Slidez Exercise Sliders

Core stability discs, also known as exercise sliders, are the ultimate piece of budget-friendly and small-space-friendly home exercise equipment. The SKLZ Court Slidez exercise sliders happen to be some of the best on the market. These sliders feature a grippy upper with foam grooves for comfort, and a non-marking, low-friction bottom for smooth sliding. SKLZ says they’re safe for all floors, including natural hardwood, tile, granite, laminate, and courts. You could probably use them on carpet, too, although sliders don’t tend to work well on plush flooring. The unique hexagonal shape of the SKLZ Court Slidez tops the average circular shape of most sliders because it better mimics the shape of your hand when your fingers are extended.

Woman wearing weightlifting shoes setting up for a barbell deadlift in a CrossFit gym.

The Basics 

On top of all of those specifically selected pieces of equipment, having a few basic strength training tools opens up your options for backpacking workouts. Kettlebells and dumbbells are fantastic for developing the unilateral strength required for tackling treacherous routes while carrying a large backpack full of water, food, tools, and camping gear. I like to use kettlebells for single-leg Romanian deadlifts, cross-body step-ups, suitcase lunges, front-rack carries, single-arm rows and other functional exercises. 

And we all know how useful a barbell and a good set of weight plates is—the number of exercises you can do to build strict and explosive strength is virtually endless. All barbell exercises help prepare you for hiking and backpacking in one way or another.

How to Train For Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is one of the most challenging outdoor sports there is. It requires ample strength, but rock climbing is really a skill-based sport. Deck your home gym out with these suggestions to master all of the skills you need for this thrilling outdoor adventure. 

Essential skills for rock climbing include: 

  • Grip strength (fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms) 
  • Balance and coordination
  • Body awareness
  • Pulling strength 
  • Hip strength and power 
  • Strong hip abduction and adduction 

Peg Board 

Peg boards provide excellent stability and strength training for rock climbing. Picture yourself up on a rock face, digging your feet into the cliff (called smearing) and clutching a hand hold while you search for your next move. A peg board can help you develop the strength and stamina needed to master this crucial rock climbing skill. (You can even DIY a peg board.)

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Best Peg Board for Climbing Training
Rogue Peg Board
Rogue Peg Board

The official, wall-mounted Rogue Peg Board is made in the USA from your choice of top-quality maple or pine. Each set includes one 1.5" thick board (95.625” tall x 11.75” wide) and two grip-friendly wood dowel rods—each measuring 6.5” in length and 1.19” in diameter.An increasingly popular tool for upper body training, climbing peg boards can be a simple but dynamic addition to a small garage gym or a larger training facility. Rogue’s design includes 35 staggered holes along the roughly 8-foot ascent of the wood board, with six counter bored holes for mounting (mounting hardware not included). The full unit weighs in at 38LBAlong with selecting which type of wood you prefer (via the column on the right), you can also choose between a standard Rogue Peg Board and the Rogue Echo Peg Board.

Best Hangboard for Climbing Training
Metolius Contact Training Board Hangboard
Metolius Contact Training Board Hangboard

Looking to train grip strength? Look no further. The Metolius Contact Training Board is a hangboard designed for rock climbers, but anyone interested in building strength in their fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms can benefit from it. The Metolius Contact Training Board has 11 pockets of varying types: two, three, and four fingers (from tips to second joint), four central edges, top mounted jugs, and both rounded and flat slopers. This board represents ultimate versatility in grip training. With this hangboard, you can practice dead hangs, pull-ups, grip transfers, and much more to prepare for any scenario in the outdoors or just build insane grip strength and huge forearms. It comes with mounting hardware and can be mounted into wall studs. 

Hangboard

A hang board is similar to a peg board, but it’s for your fingers and hands only, and you don’t actually climb it. It’s more so intended for practicing different finger holds used during rock climbing and performing endurance hangs. This is by far one of the best pieces of equipment a climber can have in their home gym.

Globe Pull-Up Bar 

We all know how important pulling strength is for rock climbing. But pulling strength is nothing without grip strength in this sport, so here’s another tool to help you develop both. A pull-up globe makes pull-ups and chin-ups even more challenging than they already are by requiring unusual hand placement. You can also try single-arm holds and pull-ups on a pull-up globe. 

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Best Pull-Up Bar for Climbing Training
Rogue 12-Inch Pull-up Globe
Rogue 12-Inch Pull-up Globe

Sandbags and atlas stones are widely used now a days for ground to shoulder training, here is one that adds difficulty to training the pull up. The Rogue Pull Up Globe is the first single tool that we've designed to add gymnastic and strength training variance in a major way. It is one of the best tests of grip strength and upper body strength. And it's challenged the strongest in arm and grip strength.The system comes with a Rogue strap and caribiner so that you can add and train with other implements in the Rogue Grip System.

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best Wrist Roller for Climbing Training
WristRipper Wrist Roller
WristRipper Wrist Roller

The WristRipper is a wrist roller exercise device that puts a new twist on one of the oldest and most effective ways to strengthen your hands, wrists and forearms - the wrist roller. In just minutes a day, you can improve your wrist and forearm strength. The forearm muscles are the key to wrist and grip strength which is why this product is used by golfers, baseball players, hockey players, tennis players, body builders and rock climbers. This product will help improve performance for any activity that requires grip strength and the use of your hands and wrists. Simply roll the weight up and down as many times as you can to exercise and strengthen your hands, wrists and forearms. Depending on how strong you are, it is recommend to start with 2.5lbs or 5lbs and add additional weight as you get stronger. This product allows for multiple gripping options. You can grip the handle or outer knobs to work different ranges of motion to get a complete forearm workout. Weight plates are not included with the product and can be purchased at Amazon.com, local sporting good stores or other online retailers. The weight-loading pin is compatible with 1" standard; and 2" olympic weight plates. Maximum recommended weight is 10lbs.

Wrist Roller 

A wrist roller is yet another way to develop grip and forearm strength for rock climbing prep. I like wrist rollers because they provide an element of instability and can be used for muscular endurance training. Wrist rollers also engage your anterior (front) deltoids and biceps, both of which are important for climbing.

Axle Bar 

An axle bar is a thick barbell, usually with a 1.75-inch to 2.25-inch diameter. The width of an axle bar makes it much harder to grip and use, so it turns every exercise into a training session for your forearms. 

Alternatively, if you don’t have the space or funds for an axle bar, you can grab some Fat Gripz. These rubber grips are axle bar adapters and can fit most Olympic barbells, specialty barbells, pull-ups bars, and other equipment to increase the width.

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Best Axle Bar for Climbing Training
Titan 84-Inch Axle Bar
Titan 84-Inch Axle Bar

With the Titan Axle Barbell you can keep your lifting regiment and change your bar to achieve more results in the gym!Bust of out of slump or change up your lifting focus with the 1.9" diameter Axle Bar. The 1.9" diameter fat grip taxes your grip strength and forearms while still working common lifts: bench press, deadlift, clean and jerk, curls, and many more.Features: - Great substitute for a standard Olympic barbell. - 1.9" fat grip builds more grip strength and wrist control over a standard barbell - Makes lifts more challenging than a standard bar. Don't up your weight and risk injury! - 7 ft. in total length with 15.5" of loadable sleeve length.Specifications: - Weight: 30 lbs - Overall length: 84" - Grip and sleeve diameter: 1.98" - Handle length: 52" - Loadable sleeve length: 15.5" - Finish: Black powder coating - Fits: 2" Olympic plates

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Best Mace for Climbing Training
Onnit Steel Maces
Onnit Steel Maces

In the real world, loads are rarely ever perfectly balanced. You juggle kids, your groceries, and imperfectly balanced boxes. Steel maces were originally developed by the Persian Warrior Elite for real world combat and wrestling. Thanks to the disproportionate weight displacement, you’ll be optimizing your stabilizer muscles, joints and primary power centers.The Onnit Steel Mace is one of the most effective ways to train and condition your whole body while mimicking real world movement.Mace training dates back all the way to 13th century Persia, where the elite warriors and wrestlers of the day would train with the heavy Gada to condition their muscles for battle. The first Gada used in training were nothing more than stone attached to a bamboo staff, however when made for battle, the Gada were often made of iron or bronze. Mace training continued into modern day India, where it began to trickle down into mainstream strongman training at the start of the 20th century. A recent resurgence in unconventional and functional training by elite athletes have put this ancient exercise implement back on the forefront of cutting edge performance exercise.With an extremely disproportionate weight displacement many normal movements prove quite challenging and beneficial to the myriad of stabilizer muscles surrounding our joints and primary power centers. The mace is one of the most effective ways to build core and rotational strength, and is a steel testament to one's desire to take fitness back to its primal roots.The majority of the weight of the steel mace is in the ball at the end of the steel shaft. Because of this imbalance in weight, the steel mace allows for some very challenging counterbalancing movements that can work muscles in a completely unique way. Here are some popular steel mace movements.

Steel Mace

No, you won’t be swinging a mace up on a rock face, but you will be fully engaging all of your body’s stabilizer muscles and be under constant tension in your core. Maces have a highly uneven distribution of weight, making them prone to rotation and susceptible to gravity. When you train with a mace, you develop rotational core strength and the ability to stabilize your muscles under variable resistance, two skills crucial to successfully ascending rock climbing routes.

Dip Station 

Believe it or not, climbing isn’t all about pulling. There’s a ton of turnover involved, much like what happens during the infamous muscle-up, but not quite so pronounced (usually). Practicing dip variations can help you develop this turnover strength. A freestanding dip station is a great option for home gym owners who don’t have room for a full power tower or power cage.

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Best Dip Station for Climbing Training
XMark Freestanding Dip Station
XMark Freestanding Dip Station

If you need to do triceps dips but don’t have the space for a power tower or full power cage, the Xmark Freestanding Dip Station is the place to go. This sturdy dip station is rated for 500 pounds, which means most people can do substantially weighted dips on it. Constructed of 2-inch-by-3-inch square steel tubing, the XMARK Dip Station is as stable as they come. It features thick grips that are 2 inches in diameter compared to other freestanding dip stations that have 1-inch diameter grips. The handles on the Xmark dip station angle in slightly, resulting in grip options from 21 inches apart to 23 inches apart.

Mini Resistance Bands for Snow Sports Training
BC Strength Glute Loop Package
BC Strength Glute Loop Package

The Glute Loops from glute-building expert Bret Contreras are by far the best mini resistance bands I’ve ever used. These aren’t your typical latex mini bands: Rather, they’re constructed of tough nylon fabric blend with interwoven elastic bands. This makes them much more durable than average mini resistance bands. One of our Garage Gym Reviews product testers has had a set of BC Strength Glute Loops for over two years now, and they show absolutely no sign of wearing or stretching out like most other small resistance bands do. after time. The fabric construction also means they don’t get slippy when you start to get sweaty.Not only are the Glute Loops ultra-durable, but they’re super versatile, too. You can use them for glute isolation exercises such as hip abduction and adduction, or you can wear a Glute Loop during squats, deadlifts, or hip thrusters to make the movement more challenging.

Mini Resistance Bands 

When you’re holding yourself up on a rock face trying to find your next hold, your hip adductors (inside of thighs) and abductors (gluteus medius and more) will be engaged, depending on your position. Both of these muscle groups are important for maintaining your positioning and avoiding a fall. Using mini resistance bands for isolation exercises, as well as to add to compound movements like squats and deadlifts, helps strengthen these important muscles used for climbing.

The Basics 

New climbers often underestimate the role of their legs, hips, and glutes in climbing. The best way I can describe it is to use a ladder as an analogy: When you climb a ladder, you don’t pull yourself up it. You step up and use your hands and arms mainly for balance. In a lot of cases, this is what happens (or should happen) during rock climbing, too. 

Basic gym equipment such as a barbell and weight plates gives you an opportunity to strengthen your lower body so you can generate as much power from there as possible when you’re on the face of a cliff. Hip thrusters, deadlifts, and reverse lunges are great functional exercises for rock climbers—adding tempos or pauses further prepares you for long holds on a rock wall.

Coop setting up for a deadlift in a garage gym.

How to Train for Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is a thrill that necessitates a whirlwind of skills and capacities, from cardio endurance to balance to full-body strength. To excel at mountain biking—or simply enjoy it without falling or for more than 10 minutes at a time—your home gym should support training for these skills:   

  • Conditioning (cardiovascular fitness) 
  • Explosiveness/power 
  • Lower body strength and stamina 
  • Full-body muscular endurance
  • Balance and coordination 
  • Quick reflexes
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Best Air Bike for Mountain Bike Training
Rogue Echo Bike
Rogue Echo Bike

The Rogue Echo Bike is durable due to its heavy-duty steel, high quality engineering, and customization that drives it to be stronger than the average fan bike. It is under warranty for up to two years from the date of purchase, assuming that the product is used under normal conditions per the User Guide. Since it is overbuilt, it creates a smoother ride. The Rogue Echo Bike is 127 pounds and has a 350-pound weight limit, which allows it to provide a sturdy foundation for max-outs and outbursts. The Echo Bike is quiet yet consistent due to its belt-driven steel fan blade. It is easily portable and has a battery powered LCD console that lets athletes track everything from distance to calories burned. Due to its weight, the Echo Bike stands sturdy and is not prone to wobbling. Its construct lends itself to balance even when pushed to max output bursts. To add to the stability, there are rubber leveling feet under each base tube that adapt to the ground and create balance even if the floor is not level. The 6.375-inch by 6.37-inch LCD console provides the athlete with a variety of modes. These include different types of intervals, target, and heart rate tracking. The crystal clear console uses two AA batteries, which come with the purchase of the bike. The Echo Bike is finished in a black powdercoat and the steel tubing is 2-by-3 inches, 1.25-by-3 inches, and 1.625-by-3.12 inches. The seat is easily adjustable and padded. It locks into eight different heights and five different front-to-back settings. The grip handles, which are made of rubber and are 1.5 inches in diameter, are a part of the bike’s arms. There is a plate that is provided along with 4.5 inches long rating foot pegs and pedals. You do have to assemble the Echo Bike, but the tools you need are included with your order and align with easy to follow instructions. The fully constructed bike may sound overbearing, but Rouge has included a 1-inch wide set of wheels at the front of the unit, which allows it to easily be rolled around the gym. 

Air Bike 

I personally think air bikes mimic mountain biking more accurately than other stationary exercise bikes. When you go mountain biking, you’re constantly using your arms to maneuver the bike through obstacles and lift the handlebars to crawl over rocks and hop over gaps. Air bikes, like the Rogue Echo Bike, train your upper body unlike most stationary bikes. Air bikes also happen to be phenomenal for conditioning, which you’ll definitely need for mountain biking.

Plyo Box 

Mountain biking requires a good deal of explosive power: When you jump the bike over gaps or lift the front wheel coming off of a drop (ledge), that momentum has to come quickly. Box jump variations such as regular box jumps, squat box jumps, box jump overs, and burpee box jumps will be helpful here.

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Best Plyo Box for Mountain Bike Training
REP 3-in-1 Wood Plyo Box
REP 3-in-1 Wood Plyo Box

Offering high-quality construction at an affordable price point, the REP Fitness 3-in-1 plyometric boxes enable some great strength and conditioning exercises to add into your fitness routine. Each box features three different height options depending on how it is standing. Each size is clearly marked with its measurements and is easily flipped over for a different height.The REP 3-in-1 Wood Plyo Boxes are made with construction-grade 0.75-inch plywood with internal support on three of the four box size options. Choose from the small, in-between, medium, and large sizes to find the one that works best for you.Small: 12” x 14” x 16” (16 pounds) In-Between: 16” x 18” x 20”  (30 pounds) Medium: 16” x 20” x 24”  (35 pounds) Large: 20” x 24” x 30” (50 pounds)Each size can handle up to 400 pounds of weight, so you can use them in dynamic movements or more traditional strength exercises (think step ups, Bulgarian lunges, etc). All boxes feature handles on two sides for easy maneuvering. As with any plyo box, the larger sizes can be difficult to move around simply because of their size and weight. Users report that assembly is a breeze. With predrilled holes and interlocking joints, putting it together takes minimal time and, thanks to the internal support structures, you need fewer screws to provide the same level of strength on the box. 

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Best Parallettes for Mountain Bike Training
Fringe Sport Steel Parallette Set
Fringe Sport Steel Parallette Set

Introducing our Parallette Set, we've constructed this piece of equipment to last and to make sure you feel secure in your workouts using it.They are 23" long and 12.5" high, which is adequate for for L-Sits or Hand Stand Push-Ups. The set weighs 25lbs so they are sturdy and easily stored. The 14" x 23" base (per bar) provides stability to prevent rocking or tipping. Steel parallettes mean they are durable and will last for years.

Parallettes 

The first couple of times I went mountain biking, I was surprised when my chest and triceps, not my quads, were the most sore part of my body. It clicked when I realized how much maneuvering of the handlebars—namely, the pressure you put on the bars to engage the suspension and then lift the front wheel—was required. Use parallettes to add an extra challenge to push-ups, as well as train core stability exercises such as tucks and L-sits.

Glute-Ham Developer (GHD)

Most people who don’t participate in mountain biking tend to assume that the quads do all of the work. This couldn’t be further from the truth: When mountain biking, your hamstrings and glutes engage at all times, particularly during inclines. On a GHD, you can do a variety of posterior chain exercises to strengthen your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back to assist with mountain biking.

4.63
Best GHD for Mountain Bike Training
Rogue Abram GHD 2.0
Rogue Abram GHD 2.0

The Rogue Abram GHD 2.0 combines consistent performance and stability with smooth, precision adjustments and unique portability. This compact machine is a comprehensive tool for midline stabilization and the strengthening of hamstrings and glutes–all in a way that's functionally transferable to an athlete's sport.Version 2.0 keeps the core elements of the original Abram GHD and adds design innovations from Rogue's own heavy-duty Monster Swing-Arm GHD, including an advanced 10-slot roller assembly. The unit is manufactured in the USA from 2x3" 11-gauge steel, with a bolt-together, triangular-base design and rubber feet for maximum sturdiness through peak power output.Along with strengthening muscles within the posterior chain, GHD training allows one of the only safe ways to actively train your spinal erectors. GHD sit-ups also result in one of the most powerful abdominal contractions of any movement in the gym. The midline stabilization gained acts like an intrinsic weight belt protecting the spine and improving sport performance.

4.60
Best Medicine Ball for Mountain Bike Training
REP Medicine Balls V2
REP Medicine Balls V2

Although the primary use for this item is the wall ball exercise, you can also use them for abdominal twists, side to side throws with a partner, squat targets, cleans, etc. A full body exercise like the wall ball targets everything though! Not only does it work your glutes, shoulders, grip, posterior chain, and core, but it also helps you build coordination and timing. You just throw the ball at the wall, right? Wrong! Learning to drop down into a full depth squat at exactly the right time and hitting the wall in just the right spot is harder than it sounds.Our Rep Wall Balls are soft and "grippable", unlike some of the cheaply made, rock hard medicine balls. This is important for when you miss that target.*Note* This is not a slam ball. Using it as such will make your medicine ball's life decrease and it will void the warranty. Please check out the Rep Slam Balls for that!Specs:14" diameter for all weights. Soft, yet grippy synthetic leather. Hand-made and double-stitched with thick thread. Well balanced- no wobble wobble. Color coded by weight - easy to differentiate. Stitched logo and weight - no wearing off of cheap plastic logos.

Medicine Ball 

I love medicine balls for training both the conditioning and reflex aspects of mountain biking. Use one for wall-balls, ball slams, and medicine ball thrusters and cleans to increase cardiovascular fitness; use one for wall slams, partner med ball situps, and partner tosses to train reaction time and coordination.

The Basics 

General strength is obviously great to have for mountain biking. Use kettlebells, dumbbells, and a barbell with weight plates to train basic compound movements, including squats, deadlifts, overhead press, rows, lunges, power cleans, and more. Even if it doesn’t feel like these exercises are improving your mountain bike fitness in the moment, they are. Single-side leg exercises are especially helpful.

A woman holding a medicine ball during a set of wall ball squats

How to Train for Kayaking and Paddling

Lots of water adventures involve leisurely paddles over glass-top water—but lots involve unexpected obstacles and rapids. Water is unpredictable, so it’s best to launch prepared. To navigate any water, calm or not, these skills will prove helpful and, at times, necessary: 

  • Cardiovascular fitness/endurance 
  • Balance 
  • Rotational strength 
  • Pulling strength 
  • Shoulder strength and stability
4.36
Best Rower for Water Sports Training
Concept 2 Model D Rower
Concept 2 Model D Rower

The Concept 2 Model D Rower is perhaps the most popular rowing machine on the market, found in commercial gyms and home gyms around the world.  It  provides a low-impact, full-body workout and uses air resistance generated by a fanned flywheel.  The Model D has an adjustable damper setting from 1 to 10 allowing you to move with ease or with more resistance and intensity.The Model D comes with adjustable foot-rests, a 14-inch seat height with an aluminum l-beam monorail and stainless steel track for a smooth back-and-forth slide.  This is a light cardio machine with wheels, which means you can move it with ease around your space. Also, for storage, the rower can be easily broken down into two segments, hung on a wall with a Rogue wall hanger, or simply tilted upright and stored vertically.  The PM5 Performance Monitor gives instant feedback on pace, watts, calories, distance, and rpms.  The monitor is easily adjustable, Bluetooth-compatible, and can easily connect to a heart rate monitor or the ErgData app.  

Rower 

If you want to get good at rowing, row! Paddlers can easily mimic on-the-water training at home with a rowing erg. A rower will help you improve two of the most important skills all paddlers should have: cardiovascular endurance and stamina in your pulling muscles.

Ski Erg 

If you have the space and money to have both a rower and a SkiErg, the SkiErg is a helpful addition. It trains endurance in the vertical pulling pattern, and generally, you’ll need both horizontal and vertical pulling strength for paddling excursions, especially when rapids are involved. 

4.11
Best Ski Erg for Water Sports Training
Concept 2 SkiErg
Concept 2 SkiErg

The Concept 2 SkiErg is an American-made, precision engineered Nordic skiing machine from the makers of the industry’s most trusted indoor rowers. Adapting key rowing machine elements like flywheel resistance and a state-of-the-art PM5 Performance Monitor, the SkiErg turns the athlete’s orientation vertical, simulating the movements of real cross-country skiing with both double-pole and classic alternating arm technique. These movements offer one of the most challenging strength and endurance tests available in a fitness machine, targeting the legs, arms, and core for a full body workout adaptable to any athlete’s size and skill level.Customers can elect to order the Concept 2 SkiErg as a single wall-mounted unit or with the inclusion of a specially designed floor stand for easy set-up and portability in any training space.

4.33
Best Pull-Up Bar for Water Sports Training
Rogue P-4 Pull-up System
Rogue P-4 Pull-up System

The Rogue P-4 Pull-Up System is similar to the Rogue P-3 Pull-Up System—it uses the same 1-inch-by-2-inch 11-gauge steel that’s used in full-size racks—with minor differences. The P-4 system is slightly larger and heavier, weighing in at 37 pounds. It’s best suited for larger home gyms and people who intend to do kipping movements. Thanks to the 30-inch depth, kipping movements such as toes-to-bar and kipping pull-ups are totally safe to do on the P-4 system. This pull-up system comes with a standard 52-inch bar, which you can also buy individually. If you’re handy, you can also buy P-4 brackets individually and purchase steel tubing from your local hardware store to daisy-chain brackets into a long rig.  Like all Rogue pull-up systems, the P-4 system is warrantied for life if it’s installed properly.

Pull-Up Bar

Generally, water sports require a lot of pulling strength. Whether you’re rowing oars, maneuvering an ocean kayak, or simply enjoying a stand-up paddle, your back muscles will be put to work. Pull-ups are arguably the most functional pulling exercise in existence. If you can rep out a few good strict pull-ups, you can rest assured you have the pulling strength it takes to navigate the water.

Lat Pull-Down and Low-Row Cable

You may be wondering why I recommend both a pull-up bar and a lat pull-down for paddlers and rafters. Well, there’s a lot of unilateral movement happening out on the water, and it’s important to independently train both sides of your body to account for that. Unless you’re an expert at calisthenics, I’ll assume you can’t do a single-arm pull-up, and that’s where a lat pull-down and low-row combo comes into play: unilateral upper body strength training. The low-row aspect also trains horizontal pulling muscles versus vertical pulling muscles.

4.50
Best Lat Pull-Down for Water Sports Training
EliteFTS Scholastic Plate Loaded Lat Pulldown and Low Row
EliteFTS Scholastic Plate Loaded Lat Pulldown and Low Row

The elitefts Scholastic Plate Loaded Lat Pulldown and Low RowThe back building, dual pulldown/low row combo is an essential piece for any gym. Combining these allows for a single work place and smaller footprint for overall back development. Overbuilt with premium quality steel, 2 inch tubing and foam leg pegs for comfort.Dimensions: 28" wide ,93" tall, 65" deep

4.25
Best Landmine for Water Sports Training
Sorinex LandMine Home Base
Sorinex LandMine Home Base

The Sorinex LandMine was originally developed in 1999 to help co-owner, Bert Sorin, train for Hammer throwing. This is the tool that started the Angled Barbell Training craze. The LandMine turns any barbell into a ground based torso trainer, row unit, and is use for other sport specific applications. The universal joint swivel point rotates and swings in multiples axes, allowing a wide range of different movements. Fits Olympic sized bars.Weight: 40 lbs Width: 15″ Length: 18″ Diameter: 2″ Material: 11 ga. steel Finishing: Black Texture Powder Coat

Landmine 

Build rotational strength and shoulder strength with a landmine station. Even on calm waters, you must constantly rotate your core and engage your shoulders to propel your vessel through the water. Try out landmine presses, landmine thrusters, landmine kneeling presses, and landmine upright rows. 

The Basics 

Your back and shoulders aren’t the only muscle groups putting in work on a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. Compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, bent-over rows, step-ups, and more all build general strength and fitness that’ll help out on the water. You can also use basic strength training equipment to add more rotational movements, like windmills and wood chops, to your routine. If you plan to stand-up paddle, use dumbbells and kettlebells for unilateral lower-body work to prepare for all of the weight shifting you’ll be doing on the board.

coop using dumbells in gym

How to Train for Snow Sports

Skiing and snowboarding require a super specialized set of skills. You need to learn how to keep your mass centered while cutting and carving; how to balance while moving at fast speeds; how to stabilize when thrown off-kilter; and much more. Certain skills like foot positioning, pole planting, and carving can really only be learned on the slopes. But you can set yourself up for success by building some prerequisite strength and coordination. 

Physical skills required for skiing and snowboarding that you can practice in a home gym include: 

  • Balance 
  • Stability 
  • Stamina/cardiovascular fitness
  • Lower body power/explosiveness 
  • Unilateral strength
4.11
SkiErg for Snow Sports Training
Concept 2 SkiErg
Concept 2 SkiErg

The Concept 2 SkiErg is an American-made, precision engineered Nordic skiing machine from the makers of the industry’s most trusted indoor rowers. Adapting key rowing machine elements like flywheel resistance and a state-of-the-art PM5 Performance Monitor, the SkiErg turns the athlete’s orientation vertical, simulating the movements of real cross-country skiing with both double-pole and classic alternating arm technique. These movements offer one of the most challenging strength and endurance tests available in a fitness machine, targeting the legs, arms, and core for a full body workout adaptable to any athlete’s size and skill level.Customers can elect to order the Concept 2 SkiErg as a single wall-mounted unit or with the inclusion of a specially designed floor stand for easy set-up and portability in any training space.

SkiErg

A SkiErg will improve your conditioning using the very same movement pattern you’ll use while skiing (not so much for snowboarding, but it’s still helpful here, too). The Concept2 SkiErg was actually designed originally for cross-country ski athletes. It uses a flywheel to create resistance and the movement pattern targets your core, lats, and triceps—all essential to a strong skier.

Treadmill 

Another way to improve cardiovascular fitness is simply with a treadmill. Although you don’t need to have the stamina of a marathon runner to ski or snowboard, a basic level of cardiovascular endurance does help. It’ll make your trip to the snowmasses much more enjoyable, at the very least. 

Treadmill for Snow Sports Training
NordicTrack Commercial 1750
NordicTrack Commercial 1750

The NordicTrack 1750 treadmill features a 14-inch HD adjustable touchscreen with which you can stream iFIT programming on (sold separately). The under $2,000 machine can be financed through the NordicTrack website where you can get deals as low as $49 per month with 0% for 39 months.Models from 2013-2021 of the 1750 had adjustable cushioning, but the 2022 model no longer has this feature.iFIT workouts incorporate Automatic Trainer Control, which allows your trainer to digitally adjust your incline, decline, and speed. This is a nice feature to have because all you have to do is focus on the workout at hand versus frantically switching the controls.

Sliders for Snow Sports Training
SKLZ Court Slidez Exercise Sliders
SKLZ Court Slidez Exercise Sliders

Core stability discs, also known as exercise sliders, are the ultimate piece of budget-friendly and small-space-friendly home exercise equipment. The SKLZ Court Slidez exercise sliders happen to be some of the best on the market. These sliders feature a grippy upper with foam grooves for comfort, and a non-marking, low-friction bottom for smooth sliding. SKLZ says they’re safe for all floors, including natural hardwood, tile, granite, laminate, and courts. You could probably use them on carpet, too, although sliders don’t tend to work well on plush flooring. The unique hexagonal shape of the SKLZ Court Slidez tops the average circular shape of most sliders because it better mimics the shape of your hand when your fingers are extended.

Sliders 

Tiny but mighty, exercise sliders (also called glide discs) take regular ol’ movements to a new level. Sliding burpees, sliding lunges and lateral lunges, and sliding mountain climbers are just a few examples of exercises you can make more challenging with sliders. Using sliders forces you to fight with momentum more than you would without them, a skill that translates well to the slopes. 

Balance Board 

If you want to get serious about improving your balance and body awareness, definitely get a balance board for your home gym. These are more applicable to snowboarding, but all balance practice is good practice. Balance boards hone your ability to quickly shift your center mass to accommodate fluctuations in your body position, translating to cutting and carving on a snowboard.

5.00
Balance Board for Snow Sports Training
Revbalance 101 Balance Board Trainer
Revbalance 101 Balance Board Trainer

IMPROVE YOUR BALANCE. AND A WHOLE LOT MORE.The Revolution 101 is not only a great balance board to get started with, it will still keep challenging for years to come. Improves your balance? Check. Burns calories? Check. Really fun and keeps your skills fresh? Double check. Whether you are looking for something to improve your board riding, sports skills, or fitness, the 101 won’t let you down.The 101 is a 2-piece roller style balance board and offers much more movement, and more challenge than a round wobble board or single piece board.HANDCRAFTED IN THE USA._______________________________ REVOLUTION BALANCE BOARDS | THE 101 FOR BOARDSPORTS:The 101 is a fun and challenging way to improve your balance and body control for skateboarding, snowboarding, skimboarding, surfing, wakeboarding, stand up paddle boarding, longboarding and more. Simulate any boarding activity wherever you are, any time. Good weather not required.FOR FITNESS:Greatly strengthen core muscle groups (stomach & waist) as well as legs (thighs, hamstrings, hip, butt) and overall stability. You can also incorporate the 101 into your routine by combining it with other exercises like weight training or calisthenics. Make your workout more fun and dynamic.FOR ATHLETICS:A great way to improve your balance and stability for athletics like Hockey, Golf, Baseball, Tennis, Martial Arts, Dance, Gymnastics and many more. Faster balance recovery can help you a get a step up on your opponents, and training with the 101 can give you just that. FIND YOUR BALANCE DURA-SOFT TRACTION TOP: The Dura-Soft grip on the top of the 101 make it the most comfortable balance board to use. Great for using with, or without shoes.USE ANYWHERE: The 101 features heavy-duty made in the USA construction that is durable enough to use on outside, but still very freindly for indoor use. We reccomend begginers start by learning to use the board on carpet.STAY IN CONTROL: Roller stops on the base of the 101 balance trainer keep you from rolling too far one way or the other. Advanced users can remove these stops for more freedom.FOR ALL AGES: Not only is the 101 a great board for kids (because of it's compact size) it is also usable and a lot of fun for the entire family. We regularly get feedback about family's and roomates challenging each other to livingroom balance contests. Game on. 

Mini Resistance Bands for Snow Sports Training
BC Strength Glute Loop Package
BC Strength Glute Loop Package

The Glute Loops from glute-building expert Bret Contreras are by far the best mini resistance bands I’ve ever used. These aren’t your typical latex mini bands: Rather, they’re constructed of tough nylon fabric blend with interwoven elastic bands. This makes them much more durable than average mini resistance bands. One of our Garage Gym Reviews product testers has had a set of BC Strength Glute Loops for over two years now, and they show absolutely no sign of wearing or stretching out like most other small resistance bands do. after time. The fabric construction also means they don’t get slippy when you start to get sweaty.Not only are the Glute Loops ultra-durable, but they’re super versatile, too. You can use them for glute isolation exercises such as hip abduction and adduction, or you can wear a Glute Loop during squats, deadlifts, or hip thrusters to make the movement more challenging.

Mini Resistance Bands

Wanna know two underrated muscle groups that are incredibly important to all that carving you’ll be doing? Your hip abductors and adductors. These are actually super important to pretty much everything you do. Your adductors are responsible for moving your legs toward the midline of your body, while your abductors move your legs away from the midline of your body. In other words, they’re ultra-critical for stabilization during lateral movement—of which you’ll be doing a lot in the snow. Mini resistance bands are great for isolated adduction and abduction, as well as for abduction during squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusters.  

The Basics

Use kettlebells and dumbbells for general strength training, but specifically core stability exercises. Windmills, Russian twists, woodchops, and lunges with torso rotations can all be done with dumbbells or kettlebells. 

Resistance bands are another great option: Anchor one to a door frame or your power cage and use it to rotate with resistance in every which way. And, as always, a barbell and weight plates are helpful for building strength and stamina through traditional compound movements, but I wouldn’t call them necessary for a winter athlete’s home gym if you have other free weights.

Woman doing rows with the Renoj Resistance Bands

Cross-Training for Outdoor Athletes

For the avid adventurist who likes to try their hand at just about anything (we ride! And run and ski and climb and, yeah), cross-training is key. Having general strength and conditioning equipment in your home gym is essential—a barbell and some bumper plates can go a long, long way. Mix and match the above equipment recommendations to best support your outdoor pursuits. 

Further reading

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