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Build Your Own Home Gym Part 1: “The Gym In A Box”

January 19, 2017

Putting together a home gym is something every serious lifter should consider. There are a couple of ways you can go about this and how you do it really depends on your finances and how much space you have available – when it comes to purchasing and storing equipment both can be a factor.

The small scale home gym includes equipment that can be stored in something as small as a closet or a footlocker, while a larger gym might require an entire room, shed, or garage.

This week I’ll focus on the “foot locker” gym or the “gym in a box.” Next week I’ll take a look at putting together a full size home gym.

In a perfect world, we would all be able to dedicate 90 minutes a day, six days a week to exercise. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Kids, homework, social obligations, weather, and a litany of other factors can prevent us from getting to the gym, and end up inhibiting gains. The good news is there’s a solution.

Enter the home gym. By purchasing just a few products you can be ready to get a workout in, even when the universe stacks the odds against you.

Pull Up Bar

You can a great portable pull up bar for about $20. Most of them can hang in a doorway, and are one size fits all. Pull ups are an awesome “bang for your buck” exercise and will be a cornerstone of any home workout. The nice thing about these pull up bars is that you can take them anywhere, so if you’re headed somewhere that won’t have a gym then the bar can come with you.


Bands are another item that can be had for about $20/each. When it comes to using them, the only limit is your imagination – they can be looped around a pull up bar for assisted pull ups, pull downs, face pulls, or triceps extensions, and also come in handy for curls, squats, pushups, and pull-aparts. They also fit easily in any travel bag so you can take them anywhere for a quick pump.


I’d say go with three sets of dumbbells of varying heaviness to begin. Your best bet is a set of 15’s, 40’s, and 80’s. This will allow for training across a varying degree of volumes and intensities. The cool thing about having a few extra dumbbells on hand is that you can toss them in the trunk and bring them along to the beach, park, track, a big hill, wherever – for an enhanced cross training session.

Sand Bag

This one will take a little work on your part, but is well worth it. Grab an old sea bag or a big duffel bag and fill it with sand bags (as many as you want, but be sure to secure them with heavy tape to keep the sand from leaking). These can be used for zercher carries, fireman’s carries, overhead carries, etc. They can also replace regular implements in exercises like squats, cleans and presses, etc. Again, this is also a portable implement so if you’re heading out to workout you can toss it in the trunk and go!


If you can’t get to the gym for a heavy deadlift session then you can always murder your posterior chain with kettlebell swings. Truth be told, there’s more to kettlebells than just swings, but you have to start somewhere. Use these for pressing variations, loaded carries, squats, lunges, curls and more. A good bet is to treat kettlebells like dumbbells – get a couple sets of varying weights so you can alter intensity and volume as your training schedule demands. Once again, these are reasonably small and portable so feel free to bring them along when you hit the outdoors to train.

Fat Gripz

Fat Gripz are rubber attachments that latch onto dumbbells and barbells. They make it harder to grip the weight, thus improving strength and building muscle from the forearms through the traps. They’re small and easy to store and can quickly make an otherwise easy workout much more challenging.

Medicine Balls/Bosu Ball

Use these for slams, pushups, balance work, tosses, squats, and core work. They’re a staple in gyms everywhere and will fit in perfectly with your home kit. The good news – like the other items mentioned here, they can also be brought out on the road for a workout away from home and the gym. Buy a couple of varying weights and get creative with your workouts.

Barbell With Plates (Bonus)
If you have some extra space consider getting a barbell with a few weight plates. This will come in handy if you ever go through a stretch where personal or professional commitments keep you out of the gym for an extended period of time.