Home gyms of today and tomorrow

Virtual reality, remote personal training, high-tech clothing and more.

The stereotypical home gym is one of two things: A smattering of dumbbells, jump ropes and sports gear tossed in a garage or basement, or a gym-slash-office situation that’s not great at either. Worse, it’s an isolating environment that’s a far cry from the energy of the club. But savvy everyday athletes are expecting more.

“People want a home gym that looks like what they're already experiencing at the gym,” says Rolando Garcia, III, manager of Columbus Circle’s E at Equinox.

They also expect continuity in their overall training, no matter where it takes place. The home gym is best viewed as an extension of the gym experience, rather than an alternative to it, says Garcia.

Credit technology for its role in closing the gap in quality and its ability to provide an interactive experience, says Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology and public health at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

Here, the ways you can bedeck your home gym today and some things to look forward to in the future:

The Gear

The home gym is nicely minimal. A few hand weights, kettlebells, a TRX, a plyometric box and other low-tech objet are the foundation (you can probably forgo a rig, for example). However, a cardio machine is still a necessity; treadmills are still the go-to, but if you gravitate toward another piece of equipment, go for it. Garcia is partial to an indoor rower, like one from Concept2, which can work with an app to track heart rate and progress, he says.

In the future:Virtual reality will become a home gym norm, helping to bring competition and excitement to solo workouts, which may help you become a better athlete. An Australian study found that people on rowing machines who were competing against other users virtually worked harder than when they were rowing on their own.

The Training

Remote personal training programs like LIFT Session offer live digital workout sessions using an iPad, laptop or television—as long as it has an app and a camera. Your trainer customizes a workout and can store photos to review form and progress, says the company’s co-founder Chris Blyth. Because your program is stored electronically, your in-real-life trainer can then study your workout history, continuing training where you left off, so that you’re always moving forward on your goals.

In the future:Advancements in equipment quality will undoubtedly enhance this kind of training experience (think about the improvements Apple has made to its cameras in just the past few generations of products). Moreover, the home gym will have several strategically placed cameras in your workout space so your trainer can watch your form and get feedback from multiple angles.

The Clothing

Trackers have become a training staple and are particularly well-suited for the home gym goer. A heart rate monitor is a tool to double-check that you're working at the level you're going for without the benefit of a community of sweaters; if you are working with a trainer remotely, he or she can get that feedback throughout the session. And the early adopters are already sporting the first iterations of smart clothing, such as Athos, which measures things like muscle activity to breathing rate.

In the future:Smart clothes may replace wearables for tracking, during fitness and in everyday life. One of the biggest upsides is that, unlike remembering to put on a smartwatch, you (almost) always remember to don a pair of underwear—this is the kind of seamless technological integration that Silicon Valley lusts after. And it will also just get better. Reliability is still a huge issue with many trackers, which companies are working to address.