Let’s be honest; commercial gyms are awful. There’s really no way around it. They get way too crowded. And unless you happen to be a Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars fan, the music is usually pretty terrible. On top of it all, just finding the time to get there can deter you from making there at all.
A home gym on the other hand means you get to workout whenever you want, you decide what kind of equipment to invest in, you put together the training playlist, and you don’t have to worry about your pre-workout wearing off during the rush hour drive to Planet Fitness.
There are two main things to consider when putting together a home gym: location and gear.
Where you put your home gym will really depend on how much space you have available. The basement or the garage seem to be the most popular locations, but depending on the size of your home a guest room or bedroom might work as well. If you come from warmer climes you might also consider using an outdoor shed, or creating an outdoor gym with a canopy overhead to keep your equipment safe from the elements. Although be warned, a squat rack in the backyard will likely keep your abode off the cover of Better Homes and Gardens.
Once you decide where to put the gym, you’ll have to decide what kind of equipment to include. Space and finances will dictate what you can stock your gym with, so let’s just call this the ideal setup.
Power Rack – Some racks come with pull up bars and a whole bunch of bells and whistles. Those are cool, but you don’t have to have them. At a minimum you want something that you can use to squat, and overhead press. Grab a couple floor pads so you don’t destroy the cement while you’re deadlifting.
Olympic Bars and Weight Plates – Get yourself at least two bars, and buy plates based on your present skill level. If you can deadlift 315 with ease you’ll probably need at least eight 45 lbs plates, in addition to a few smaller plates (25, 10, 5, 2.5).
Dumbbells – Purchase with an eye towards the way you usually train. I personally don’t go too heavy with dumbbells and prefer to use them for precision moves. So while I might be fine with a set that goes up to 90 lbs, others might go a little heavier or lighter to meet their individual needs.
Bench – A full bench rig is nice, but all you really need is an adjustable bench that can setup from decline all the way up to vertical for military pressing. If you want to press with a barbell simply slide it into the rack and you’re ready to move weights.
Pull up/Dip Bar – You can go separate, or find a combined setup. Either way your workout and any home gym are incomplete without a place to perform dips or pull ups.
Medicine balls – Just get one or two of different sizes to start. These really come in handy when you need to unload from heavy weights, get some extra conditioning in, or simply want to find a different way to train.
Bands, Bosu and Stability Balls – Eventually you’ll have an injury or imbalance to deal with, or maybe you just want to throw a wrench into your training by lifting on an unstable surface. When that becomes the case, these are your friend. Balls and bands tend to differ in size so buy as your budget allows – if you can only afford a couple then vary them relatively widely.
Cable Setup – Some of these come with pull up bars attached, so take that into consideration. A good cable setup will allow you to move weight from across 360 degrees of space.
Once you’ve got the basics, take a look at your budget and see what else fits in:
Trap Bar – This might be one of my favorite pieces of gym equipment. It’s perfect for deadlifts, shrugs, loaded carries, and whatever else you can imagine. This one just barely missed making the list of essential gear.
Back Hyper or Glute Ham Bench – You can mimic these movements on benches or other pieces of equipment , but whatever your setup looks like training the posterior chain cannot be ignored.
Kettlebells – Another great piece of gear that just missed the cut. Kettlebells are great and if you can afford a few then go for it, if you can’t – take heart, a lot of kettlebell moves can be mimicked with dumbbells.
Prowler – Useful for recovery or conditioning, and an absolute beast of a piece of equipment. A better purchase if you have a longer driveway, but you can use it in the street as well. If you’ve never seen one, then check this out:
Putting together a serious home gym is a life goal for myself, if you’re like me then let this article be your guide.