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Kickstart your workout routine with these must-haves for building muscle, improving cardio, and having fun — starting at $25.
If there’s one takeaway from the way fitness has transformed in the last few years, it’s that great workouts are not confined to the gym. With the right attitude — and in many cases, the right equipment — your garage, local park, or even living room can do just as much for your strength, cardio, and flexibility goals as your fitness center. However, with so many products on the market, choosing the best gear for your needs can feel overwhelming. That’s why the Shape team is dedicated to testing, researching, and recommending effective, high-quality, and well-priced workout equipment for readers.
On the Today show this morning, Alyssa Sparacino, Shape's editorial director, gave viewers the scoop on the products we’ve named the Best In Fitness of 2023, including picks for building muscle, increasing cardio, or simply having fun while getting your heart rate up. Shop seven award winners, below, to start your 2023 fitness journey on the right foot.
Best Wrist Weights: Bala Bangles, from $55
Best Belt Bag: Lululemon Everywhere Belt, $38
Best Strength Starter Set: Kira Stokes The Stoked Set, $35
Best Jump Rope: Oak and Reed Metallic Weighted Jump Rope, $25
Best Foam Roller for Deep Pressure: Trigger Point Grid 1.0 Foam Roller, $28 (was $37)
Best Bike Helmet: Trek Bontrager Solstice MIPS Bike Helmet, $70
Best Pickleball Paddle: Recess Two Paddle Set, $180 (was $200)
Best Wrist Weights: Bala Bangles
While weighted workout bands have been around forever, Bala put the category on the map with their comfy, portable, and frankly, adorable design. With 1- and 2-pound options available, these bangles can be strapped onto your wrists or ankles to easily add more resistance to any walking, Zumba, boxing, Pilates, or yoga workouts. “I’d been looking for something that could gently enhance my workout routine, and I’m so glad I found Bala,” raved one shopper.
Buy It: From $55, shopbala.com
Best Belt Bag: Lululemon Everywhere Belt
A long walk, run, or cycle can do wonders for your body and mind. However, finding a safe place to store essentials such as your keys and phone in stretchy, body-conforming workout clothes is a struggle. Luckily, fitness lovers have discovered a solution in this roomy, slip-proof belt bag. “ I totally get the hype,” wrote one user, who explained that the pouch is “a great size for my everyday items, super cute, and very handy.”
Buy It: $38, shop.lululemon.com
Best Strength Starter Kit: Kira Stokes The Stoked Set
A $35 price tag might not always go a long way when it comes to fitness gear, but this set is certainly an exception. Designed by celebrity trainer Kira Stokes (whose client list includes Ashley Graham and Shay Mitchell), each set contains an inflatable core ball, three resistance bands, and two sliding pads that transform any floor into a full-body workout machine.
Buy It: $35, shop.kirastokes.com
Best Jump Rope: Oak and Reed Metallic Weighted Jump Rope
Tommy Duquette, a trainer and former National Boxing Team member, previously told Shape that jumping rope is “kind of like running in the sense that it can be amazing aerobic cardio exercise at a very light pace,” or — with enough exertion — a “super hard, sweat-dripping anaerobic exercise.” In other words, you can get almost all the benefits of jogging without leaving your house. This rope from Oak and Reed tones muscle with ¼-pound removable weights while smoothly cutting through the air.
Buy It: $25, oak-reed.com
Best Foam Roller for Deep Pressure: Trigger Point Grid 1.0 Foam Roller
“[This] takes the knots out of my quads and helps relax me for sleep,” wrote one reviewer who reported using this sturdy roller everyday. In addition to its firm yet skin-friendly surface, the recovery tool features grooves designed to replicate the hands of a massage therapist in order to increase blood flow and oxygen to sore muscles. The result? Less aches and pains and an overall faster recovery.
Buy It: $28 (was $37), tptherapy.com
Best Bike Helmet: Trek Bontrager Solstice MIPS Bike Helmet
Even the most experienced of cyclists know that accidents can happen at any time. In addition to being aware of your surroundings, the key to riding safe is to always wear a helmet — specifically one that fully envelopes your head to protect it from impact — such as Trek’s Bontrager Solstice MIPS Bike Helmet. This design features a sleek, aerodynamic shape and the brand’s patented Multi-directional Impact Protection System, a brain surgeon-developed technology that guards your noggin from all sides, according to the brand.
Buy It: $70, trekbikes.com
Best Pickleball Paddle: Recess Two Paddle Set
If you’re yet to join the pickleball craze, these ultra-cute paddles from Recess may be just the thing you need to get into the sport everyone is buzzing about. Each wooden racket includes a grippy handle to perfect your swing, and a unique, quirky design to dazzle your opponents. Plus, each set comes with one ball and one transport bag to get you on the court right away.
Buy It: $180 (was $200), recesspickleball.com
Shop More of Our Fitness Award Winners:
In addition to those mentioned on the Today Show, the 2023 Shape Best In Fitness Awards includes dozens of additional footwear, apparel, and equipment picks tested and selected by our team. Below are nine more award winners you won’t want to miss:
Best Road Running Shoes: Asics NOVABLAST 3, $140
Best Under-Desk Equipment: Goplus 2 in 1 Folding Treadmill, $370 (was $500)
Best Exercise Dress: Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress, $100
Best High-Waisted Leggings: Spanx Booty Boost Active 7/8 Leggings, $98
Best Recovery Shoes: Oofos OOAHH Slide Sandal, $60
Best Massage Gun: Theragun Prime, $299
Best High-Tech Rower: Hydrow Wave Rower, $1,695
Best Versatile Exercise Mat: Alo Yoga Warrior Mat, $128
Best Equipment with Storage: NordicTrack Vault, $999 (was $1,999)
Best Road Running Shoes: Asics NOVABLAST 3
A good road running shoe should be sturdy, protective, and comfy — and the Asics Novablast 3s check all these boxes and more. Plush lining and a ventilated outer keep your feet cool and comfortable while a grooved outsole grips the pavement. However, what truly sets these sneakers apart is their responsive cushioning that adds a bounce to your stride while protecting your feet and joints from impact. Zappos reviewers swear they’re “blown away” by the comfort of these running shoes.
Buy It: $140, zappos.com
Best Under-Desk Equipment: Goplus 2 in 1 Folding Treadmill
Walking while working might be the most effective way to seriously up your step count, and according to Amazon reviewers, this under-desk treadmill makes adding mileage ridiculously easy. “It allows me to get some movement in every day even when I am inside working, watching tv, or doing a cardio workout,” one wrote. The lightweight machine fits seamlessly under a standing desk, and folds down for easy storage — a huge plus for small spaces.
Buy It: $370 (was $500), amazon.com
Best Exercise Dress: Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress
This versatile workout dress put cult favorite activewear brand Outdoor Voices on the map among fitness lovers, and it’s easy to see what all the hype is about. Flowy, buttery-soft fabric allows for a full range of movement while built-in shorts and compression around the bust keeps wearers secure during any activity. “I basically live in this dress,” wrote one reviewer, who wears their dress for tennis, hikes, running errands, and more. “Not to be dramatic, but my OV dress is the love of my life,” added another.
Buy It: $100, outdoorvoices.com
Best High-Waisted Leggings: Spanx Booty Boost Active 7/8 Leggings
Spanx’s Booty Boost Leggings are famous for two important reasons: First, because Jennifer Garner (whose taste in workout tights is impeccable, IMO) wears this pair on repeat year-round. Second, because their compressive design instantly lifts and sculpts the butt for a flattering fit. If a toned booty is on your to-do list for 2023, scoop up a pair of these celebrity-loved leggings.
Buy It: $98, spanx.com
Best Recovery Shoes: Oofos OOAHH Slide Sandal
A little soreness never killed anyone, but achy feet can certainly feel deadly. With the goal of eliminating foot pain in a pinch, podiatrist-approved brand Oofos created a slide with cushy, shock-absorbing foam that, according to one wearer, is comparable to stepping on a cloud. Shape’s social media director, Marietta Alessi, swears by the recovery slides, noting that they’re “a lot cheaper than getting a foot massage every day, and they'll feel just as good.”
Buy It: $60, oofos.com
Best Massage Gun: Theragun Prime
Physical therapist Grayson Wickham, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., previously told Shape that in addition to speeding up recovery, massage guns “send inputs to your body and brain that help your muscles lengthen (meaning, relax), which allows you to access an increased range of motion." The Theragun Prime’s percussion technology sends pulses deep into your body to increase blood circulation to sore muscles in need of TLC. Prevent injury by relieving back, neck, and limb pain with this ultra-effective recovery tool.
Buy It: $299, therabody.com
Best High-Tech Rower: Hydrow Wave Rower
In the words of ACE-certified trainer Michelle Sosa, "the rowing machine is like the Swiss Army knife of the gym." In other words, this one piece of equipment provides users with a full-body strength workout with all the added cardiovascular benefits of running, walking, and cycling. Plus, it’s easy on sensitive joints. In addition to advanced trackers, multiple settings, and a sleek design, the Hydrow Wave Rower has everything you need to jump-start a comprehensive home fitness routine — including virtual yoga, strength, and rowing classes with skilled trainers.
Buy It: $1,695, hydrow.com
Best Versatile Exercise Mat: Alo Yoga Warrior Mat
A yoga mat is the only gear you really need for a Vinyasa flow, but it can also be a huge help during almost any home workout. The Alo Yoga Warrior Mat is luxuriously plush — thick and pillowy enough to cushion your knees in child’s pose, stabilize your feet for a deadlift, or protect your knees during a high-intensity cardio routine. Plus, one reviewer said it “hands down” has the best grip of any mat they’ve owned.
Buy It: $128, aloyoga.com
Best Equipment with Storage: NordicTrack Vault
Shoppers swear they’re “getting fitter by the day” with the virtual guidance provided through this interactive mirror. Each vault contains two kettlebells (weighing 20 and 30 pounds), six dumbbells (ranging from 5 to 30 pounds), two yoga blocks, multiple resistance bands, and a double-sided workout mat. You’ll also gain access to thousands of strength, yoga, and Pilates classes led by experienced trainers — all for just $999 while this full gym set is still $1,000 off.
Buy It: $999 (was $1,999). nordictrack.com