Lifting weights takes commitment and dedication. It is no magic. At first, the obstacles are mental. Your brain automatically finds reasons not to train. You have chores, email to catch up on, the yard needs mowing and so on.
Disadvantages of Public Gym Training
Training at a public gym adds to that list of excuses because there is extra overhead to overcome:
- You probably do not live or work within walking distance of a gym. You must drive there and drive back.
- It takes extra time to change from street clothes to gym clothes and back again.
- Naturally, the times when you are able to hit the gym are popular with everyone else too.
- Establishing an effective routine is challenging if you must repeatedly wait for the stations or machines you need.
- Concentrating on your personal regimen and goals is not easy with a line of people waiting for your station.
- Like any public place, you have to face the reality of hygiene issues too.
Advantages of Home Gym Training
Some people are put off by the thought of setting up their own home gym, despite the many obvious advantages I cover below.
A quality home gym that exercises all the muscles in your body does not require anything like the multitude of machines at the public gym. You can acquire the best home gym equipment for less than your yearly gym dues.
With a smaller, more effective set of workout tools and the solitude of a home gym, you naturally achieve pinpoint focus on how your routine is working for you. You set your own pace, listen to your own music and do not waste time cleaning someone else’s sweat off the bench.
More Time for Everything
Home gym hours are around the clock, every day, all year long. You can forgo the time wasting side effects of using a public gym. It is easier to fit in training sessions that work around your personal daily schedule.
You will not miss workouts due to holidays or the gym being closed for repairs. The time you save not going to a public gym gives you more control over other areas of your life too.
Are You Committed to Fitness?
There is one caveat to the above. If you doubt your commitment to be the fittest and strongest that you can be, then setting up a home gym may not be for you. Let a public gym test your commitment.
If you find you are developing good habits, then start a home gym. At that point, you are likely to find that your training regimen really takes off as equipment accessibility and your focus increase.
Build the Perfect Home Gym – Garage Gym Equipment
The purpose of this web site is to show you why a home gym is a great decision and to illustrate the process, step by step.
If you feel intimidated by this project, remember that it is accomplished in many small steps over a long timeframe.
You will grow your perfect home gym over months and years. During this time, remind yourself that you are in full control of your equipment choices, costs and how your gym layout takes shape.
I make recommendations based on years of selecting and using the best home gym equipment, but only you know what works best for your gym space and training goals.
Here are my recommendations for the kind of training equipment you should consider.
Cardiovascular Training Equipment
My personal preference for cardio machines is a rowing machine, or ergometer, over an elliptical machine, exercise bike or treadmill. All can be used effectively, especially if you use them in the context of High-Intensity Interval Training regimens.
The thing about the rower is that it is working more muscle groups: legs, back and arms. Besides, whenever the weather is half decent, you can jog or ride a bike outside for some fresh air.
Mixing up your training this way keeps it from going stale. If you have room, however, or someone else in the family wants to share the gym, then add a treadmill as another great all-around cardio machine.
Squat Racks and Power Racks
Unless you have someone to spot for you, then a squat rack’s rails or a power rack’s pins and safety bars avoid the danger of a falling weight bar when you are fatigued. You also need to consider the amount of space you have, the workout versatility you need and your budget when deciding which one to purchase.
Squat racks are less expensive than power racks and take up half the space. However, they are more limited in terms of the types of lifts you can perform.
With a power rack, you can do bench presses, squats, overhead presses, dead lifts, barbell rows and more. Often, power racks come with pull-up bars, dip bars or lat pulls too. If there is not room for both, a power rack is the best choice. Do not forget to get a bench too.
Free Weights and other Weight Room Equipment
Free weights are a traditional tool for building strength. They are versatile and relatively inexpensive compared to most machines.
They rely solely on gravity for resistance, which makes them imperfect compared to some machines that maintain even resistance throughout a single motion. Free weights, however, are still an essential component of your best home gym equipment.
Plan on purchasing a good barbell, a set of powerlift plates or bumper plates, an EZ curl bar and a set of dumbbells. Choose a barbell rated for at least twice the weight you lift, a general set of weights from 2.5 lbs. up to 25 lbs. plus a couple of 45 lbs. plates.
Unless you are into Olympic or CrossFit lifting, you can forgo bumper plates. Steel plates are less expensive and easier to find used.
A set of dumbbells and a curl bar are essential for biceps curls, upright rows, French presses and flys. An EZ curl bar helps avoid repetitive stress injury for wrist curls. Keep an eye out on craigslist when shopping for free weight sets in order to save big bucks.
Before you invest in any home gym equipment, make sure you are confident in your ability to use it safely.
Especially if you are a novice weightlifter, you should take advantage of personal training services at your local gym or hire a trainer for several sessions to assist you in obtaining the most out of your home gym setup.
An experienced trainer gets you off to a safe start by ensuring you use proper form and the right weight progression. Bad form not only means a less effective workout but could derail your entire program with an injury.
Trainers teach assist you in extracting the most value from your home gym equipment and set you on a straight path to achieving your personal fitness goals.
If you already have the experience necessary to effectively use your equipment or simply cannot afford to employ a trainer, look to YouTube videos showing proper forms of lifting.
On Reddit is a form check sub-Reddit where you submit a video of yourself lifting. Readers of that sub-Reddit then submit comments to help you improve: http://www.reddit.com/r/formcheck/
Whether experienced or not, finding a weightlifting buddy can be a tremendous advantage to your fitness program. Not only do you get a spotter but an extra set of eyes to check your form, and someone with whom you can celebrate your successes.
Accessories and Other Equipment to Consider
Smith machine – This is essentially a controlled barbell lift device. The barbell’s movement is restricted to vertical movement or is angled depending on a particular machine’s design. It is a safe way to lift large weight without a spotter. You can perform almost any lift, squats, deadlifts, bench press, shrugs, bicep curls, triceps extensions, etc. with a Smith machine.
Olympic Barbell – Olympic bars differ from standard bars in the thickness of the ends and their load capacity. The extra end thickness adds stability and revolving sleeves eliminate plate torque. They only take Olympic plates and bumper plates are necessary when doing deadlifts, snatches and cleans.
Weight bench – No home gym is effective without a weight bench. You get by without one at first, but as weight increases the bar rack becomes a necessity. For flys, a bench is necessary to start them below your rib cage.
Kettlebells – For burning fat and increasing power endurance, kettlebells are superior to dumbbells. That is because kettlebell exercises are all about higher, faster reps that activate more muscles.
WOD grips – Are almost a necessity for anyone who is serious about their training and workout routines. WOD grips allow athletes to maintain a firm grip on their equipment at all times, leading to a more comfortable, more effective workout.
Medicine ball – You can find medicine balls in a variety of weights and diameters. Since they are soft, you can use them for throwing exercises unlike dumbbells. Like kettlebells, they are ideal for working on explosive strength. They can also augment sit-ups, squats, lunges and triceps workouts.
Plyometric box – Also referred to as “plyos”, this is one piece of equipment you could build yourself for under $20. It is used for exercises that are powerful and fast, which raise the force and speed of muscle contractions. They are especially popular with runners, tennis and basketball players.
Ice/Cooling Vests – Cooling vests come in different forms, evaporative, ice chilled or hybrid. Using one before your workout, during your workout and afterward can direct more of your body’s energy toward performance rather than maintaining body temperature. They also speed up recovery time between workouts.
Complete home gyms – These are self-contained training units that offer a large number of exercises for a complete workout. As a group, they have a large range of capabilities and prices among several manufacturers, so individual units should be carefully evaluated.
Home gym flooring – Flooring for your home gym must be easy to clean and able to take bumps and scrapes. There are lots of good options such as cork, virgin rubber tiles and EVA foam. Almost anything is better than plain concrete, but my favorite is rubber horse stall mats. These are 4 x 6 ft., 100 lbs. sheets that do not move, curl or lift. They are relatively cheap too.
Large Mirrors – In the absence of a spotter, partner or trainer, a large mirror is essential feedback for checking your lifting form. Studies are divided, however, as to whether a mirror increases or decreases your overall motivation. I find that it helps because it provides me an “outside” look that reinforces the idea that I am improving myself.
Reliable Vendors for Your Garage Gym
Anything fitness related that you are thinking about buying, even if it is not an online purchase, probably brings you to Amazon at some point. If for no other reason, start here to check out buyer reviews of various equipment.
Often, these reviews and the questions section offer valuable insights that you will never find in the product descriptions. Check out their Exercise and Fitness Equipment department to find tons of quality equipment.
They have a solid reputation on honoring returns if you are not satisfied with your purchase.
Rogue is a huge online fitness equipment manufacturer out of Ohio. They have built a strong word-of-mouth reputation among serious lifters for the variety and quality of the equipment they carry.
They even have a retail store in Columbus where you can check it out up close. Many public gyms completely outfit their facilities with Rogue equipment. It is that good.
Vulcan is another big manufacturer of training equipment. They are located in North Carolina. Their products are targeted mostly at Olympic and CrossFit™ trainers.
They sell complete training systems including kettlebells. They have more than enough products for a home gym. Their equipment is used to outfit public gyms, high school and college athletic programs and high-level competitions.
A Google search will turn up long lists of other online garage gym equipment vendors, but the three above are the heavy hitters where you find almost unlimited choices and the best combination of quality and affordability.
Despite the on-hands, personal touch you get at a local bricks-n-mortar gym equipment shop, these places offer one-stop, at-home shopping convenience and support.
I sincerely hope this article has helped you consider more deeply the advantages and challenges to creating your own garage gym. It does require space, a little up-front capital and a dose of ingenuity at times.
However, I think you will find it a very worthwhile project with substantial rewards in terms of your overall fitness. Keep your eyes on the prize and take an incremental view to building up your gym and you are assured of success.
If this article has helped you in your quest for fitness in any way or you have suggestions for improvements, please take a few moments to leave a comment or question.