There is nothing more fun than shopping for new gear. But you always want to make sure you’re getting the right new gear (i.e. not just the most expensive). With our Evolutions of Gear series, we hope to help you figure out the best gear choices specifically for you, wherever you’re at in your personal gear-loving evolution.

For this edition, the owner of Ambitious Athletics, Carmen Sturniolo, helps demystify the overwhelming world of home fitness gear.


I’m Carmen Sturniolo, Owner/Educator/Head Coach at Ambitious Athletics – a private, independent group-training gym located at 2021 K Street NW in Washington DC.#

I created Ambitious Athletics in 2010 after experiencing glaring problems in the personal training industry. Sick of seeing so many clients walk away from big box gym training programs without any results, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I initially started training clients in back alleys next to apartment building dumpsters, but in the five years since, Ambitious Athletics has become a highly rated DC fitness program with its own fantastic downtown facility. At Ambitious Athletics, we believe that health is wealth and that it comes from a lifestyle of hard work, enjoyment, and constant progress.

Now let’s talk about what you’ll need to make it to the big leagues…

The Rookie Package

For the longest time, all I owned were the following four items. Put me on a deserted island with just this gear, and I’ll easily stay in great shape:

Minimalist Kicks

Ditch your high-heel running shoes and grab a pair of minimalist shoes. These will be your training staple every time you set up or step in the gym.

I personally love the Minimus from New Balance because of its minimal sole and its 4mm heel-to-toe drop ratio (on average, the big ole clunky stable supportive running shoe has a ratio of 18mm):

A Jump Rope

Jumping rope is one of the oldest forms of exercise, and it’s survived all these years because it still trumps most other forms of conditioning. This low-impact conditioning tool is excellent to use for warm-ups and workouts, plus it’s super easy to travel with.

With a solid cardiovascular foundation, you’ll be set to accomplish anything.

TRX Bands

Master your own bodyweight before moving up to the iron.

In my opinion, TRX is the leader in the suspension training industry, providing you thousands of options to better your game.

A Kettlebell

Possibly the oldest tool used for exercise is still one of the greatest tools on the market. I can’t think of a better way to conquer both strength and conditioning training.



The Varsity Package

In my gym, before members start clangin’ and bangin’ on the weights, they must be proficient with their own bodyweight and a resistance band.

With a simple foundation of push ups, pull-ups, squats, and lunges, I guarantee a great body for life. Not to mention, skipping these few exercises will inevitably lead you to spending the majority of your fitness career injured. Plus, with these exercises, you’ll be able to piece together a workout regardless or where you are or when it is.

Welcome to the varsity squad.

A Pull-Up Bar

There’s a reason all Fit Man/Woman competitions include pull-ups: pulling your own bodyweight against gravity for reps is hard.

The 100-Point Military Standard for men = 20, and the flexed-arm hang for women is 70 seconds. Measure up.


Gymnasts are impressive, right? Lean, jacked, muscular, and well-defined? Well, the only weights they lift are their own bodyweight.

It’s an Olympic sport, practice regularly.

A Battle Rope

Jack up your heart rate, pack on upper-body muscle, challenge your stability, increase grip strength, and boost your cardiovascular system to another level.

Resistance Bands

Buy a solid set of resistance bands, and you’ll have a home gym for the rest of your life. Not to mention, bands are also a great tool for stretching.



The Collegiate Package

Congratulations, you earned a scholarship. Time to start stacking on some weight to level the playing field.

Adjustable Dumbbells

Dumbbells aren’t just used for bicep curls; you’ll need a set to maximize symmetry and stability. Adjustable ones like this are a great space-saver that still provide you the ability to move each limb independently.

A Barbell

Unlike dumbbells, you can load up this piece with hundreds of pounds of weight. A must-have tool for maximizing absolute strength and power; mostly used for the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, clean, and snatch.

A Half Rack

You’re gonna need a rack to rack the barbell. Efficiency is king.

Bumper Plates

And you’ll need plates (10, 25, 45 lb) to add to the barbell. Bumper plates allow you the opportunity to drop the bar without breaking the floor.

A Medicine Ball

Power development at its finest. Pick it up, throw it, and repeat.



The Pro Package

Welcome to the big leagues. Everyone here is bigger, stronger, and faster.

Here’s what you’ll need to compete:

A Speed Sled

You’ve got to increase your cardiovascular capacity if you wanna hang with the big dawgs. Plus, stronger, faster legs start here.

Load it up, push it, pull, repeat.

A Trap Bar

This tool helps combine a squat and deadlift because of the set up of your shin and torso angle. Pulling with a trap bar will also lower your risk of injury to your lower back.

Personally, I’d suggest you deadlift with a trap bar if you have no interest in powerlifting.

A Neutral Grip Bar

Another specialty bar, the neutral grip bar offers a good mix of grips that will ensure you keep your shoulders healthy.

Think of it like a push up; you alternate your hand position to hit the muscle from different angles and to protect your joints from over-usage.


Exercise should be fun, so finding something you like, are good at, or see potential with is critical. While you may not be training to be a professional athlete, you need to train for life. To move with strength and stability. To be lean, fast, mobile, and powerful. To be able to live like a weekend warrior without getting injured. To be able to play with your family and friends without sucking wind.

You might never pick up a trap bar or push a speed sled, but I can guarantee that you’ll attempt a push up, squat, lunge or pull-up/row of some variation at some point in the future. And trust me, mastering your own bodyweight will pay dividends for years on end.

Have fun!