If you have read past the title of this article you either agree with it or are strongly opposed, but curious. As you can probably tell, I am biased toward home gyms. In my case, a home gym really means a garage gym, but the idea is the same (home gym, basement gym, garage gym, patio gym, etc.). I can walk out my door and hit the iron in a matter of seconds. My personal gym setup might be an exception, as it is quite well equipped. Irrespective, I make the same assertion for almost any home gym – that is, home gyms rule!
I would not take such a strong stand for home gyms without having some experience with other gym alternatives. Perhaps it might be best to provide a little personal background. I’m approaching 50 yrs old and have over 35 years of bodybuilding and powerlifting experience. I competed as a teen and into my twenties.
My start with weight training was perhaps not unlike yours. I received a plastic covered 110 lb. (with concrete inside) weight set as a Christmas gift. A year later, I also received a bench. I followed the exercises as prescribed in the accompanying manual and acquired a set of Weider courses by mail. I also read a number of bodybuilding magazines and dreamed of the day when I might achieve a physique as exhibited in those pages.
I had a very high metabolism and limited access to appropriate supplementation and diet. As a result, my mass and size gains proceeded slowly. Despite this sluggish progress I enjoyed every workout. After I married, we lived in an apartment for a number of years and as a matter of convenience I joined my first commercial gym. Over the years I patronized many different gyms.
I had some fantastic commercial gym workouts, good gains in size and strength, and I found some great workout partners. I also had some less than desirable experiences.
The most annoying things from my commercial gym experience included:
- Travel time to and from the gym
- Sanitation (someone else’s sweat left on the benches)
- Having to wait for equipment
- Searching high and low to find a matching pair of dumbbells (they were rarely re-racked)
- Horrible workout music
Ok, so the list is possibly unfair. Your gym might not be quite like this and I’m not saying that this was my experience with every workout or at every gym. However, it was frequent enough as to be quite irritating. I’d be quite surprised if you have not had at least one similar experience at your gym.
To provide the alternative view, I must admit there are also a number of positive aspects to a commercial gym:
- Availability of spotters and safety (of critical importance)
- A broad selection of equipment
- Motivation that naturally occurs from being around other lifters
- The “scenery” (if you get my drift…)
Note that the last item can be both a plus and a minus. I enjoyed watching the ladies, but it can be somewhat distracting when trying to focus on your workout.
In the end, my negative commercial gym experiences far outweighed the positives, and I returned to my roots – working out at home.
When I first returned to home gym training I realized that if I intended to continue down the path of competition I would need to look beyond a simple 110 lb. weight set. I knew that there was a minimum amount of equipment which would allow me to achieve my training goals and not “break the bank”. Below is listed what I consider to be the minimum equipment for those who want to workout at home:
- 300 lb. Olympic weight set
- Bench (adjustable – flat and incline)
- A set of dumbbells (if cost is a factor, adjustable handles with extra plates work great)
- A power rack is also strongly recommended
This basic equipment will allow you to work every body part with quite a lot of variation as to exercise and range of motion. Note that safety is critical and I strongly recommend a power rack. When properly configured and put to use, a rack can result in a high degree of safety for those who workout alone. Personally, I do not use a power rack in my home gym as I am lucky enough to have a full-time spotter for questionable lifts.
Something less tangible and not reflected by my recommended list of equipment, but equally important is “motivation”. Just because you have the convenience of a home gym, do not ignore motivation. With a home gym, it can be just as easy to decide to watch television rather than working out. If you have or will setup a home gym, remember to keep it interesting and fun to use.
In my case, equipping my garage gym has become almost as big a part of the workout lifestyle as lifting. I enjoy every workout as if it was my first, and I enjoy every exercise that my gym can provide.
So, in that vein here are my “ultimate” or “dream” home gym add-ons:
- Significant number of additional Olympic plates (of various weight, and plenty of plate racks)
- Lat pull down machine (also for triceps press downs, seated cable rows)
- Preacher curl bench
- Leg Press
- Calf raise
- Pec Deck
- T-Bar, Lat Row
- Ab crunch machine
- Pull-up, Dip stand
- Roman Chair, Hyperextension
- Dumbbells from 5 lbs. to 120 lbs. (in 5 lb. increments)
I still have a few items to acquire in order to reach my idea of the ultimate home gym, and getting there is half the fun. If you’ve followed along and find this article interesting, watch for the next installment: Where to Find and How to By Home Gym Equipment.
Until then, thanks for listening and keep on lifting !
Written by Jim Bean
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