Building a home gym could change your life and it probably will.
Balancing family, career and finding time for recreation can eat up most of the time in a day.
Working out at a membership based brick and mortar gym certainly has it’s advantages, but it also has limitations which often go overlooked.
#1 Paying for something you don’t use.
A gym membership going unused or not being used on a regular basis is a waste of money.
Time is our most precious commodity, and we can never get time back. Drive time to and from, changing clothes time, waiting for equipment time, workout time, shower time, etc. Big box gyms are a TIME SUCK.
#3 Safe equipment only.
Most gyms still refuse to offer fitness equipment considered to be “taboo” or “dangerous” because it’s a liability for injury. It took 8+ years for most gyms to offer kettlebells to clients, which is crazy. You’re missing out.
#4 Personal training is expensive
Personal training is expensive regardless if you’re training 1-on-1, semi private or in a group setting. At $5, $10 or in some areas $70-$80 per session you could pivot and purchase some home equipment.
The gym membership model succeeds and relies on signing up customers who don’t set foot in the door.
I didn’t make this up.
If I owned a gym, I wouldn’t want all of my members to workout daily and tear up my expensive equipment either! It would be more hassle for me to fix broken down cardio machines, reface beat up barbells and weight plates, patch holes in benches, etc.
No, no… give me your money and stay at home.
Here are some great articles regarding gym memberships:
- Is Your Gym Membership a Good Investment (USA TODAY)
- What Your Gym Doesn’t Want You to Know (The Washington Post)
- Why We Sign Up For Gym Membership But Never Go to the Gym (NPR)
Here’s impactful snippet from the last NPR article:
“Joining a gym is an interesting form of what behavioral economists call pre-commitment,” says Kevin Volpp, director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the Wharton School. Volpp says we actually like the idea of being locked into a gym contract … at first, anyway. “They’re picturing the ‘new me’ who’s actually going to go to the gym three times a week and become a physical fitness machine.” We convince ourselves that since we have committed to putting down money for a year, we will make ourselves go to the gym. And then, of course, we don’t.
Before you cancel your gym membership, it’s important to understand your habits and personality. Cancelling a gym membership in favor of the working out at home but never actually working out is a regression.
If you were exercising twice a week at a gym but now not exercising at all after the transition, it’s an even bigger problem.
Working out at home is not for everyone.
“But I thought you just told me that…”
While taking workouts into the home setting is loaded with advantages, a lot of people cannot stick to a workout regimen at home for many of the same reasons they cannot have a home-based career.
The comfortable environment of the home setting can kill off motivation for physical exertion and breed complacency.
Before cancelling a gym membership, test the waters by bringing 1 or 2 workouts into the home. Keep it simple. Work some bodyweight sessions, play around with the space you’ve got and get acclimated.
No equipment means no workout!
Survey says: Wrong.
A common perception is that quality exercise cannot happen with the presence of cardio or fixed resistance machines.
I can see how a person would feel this way, I really can.
What are you supposed to do without any fitness equipment?!
If you have these feelings, you’ve got to explore your options.
Yoga, Animal Flow, KinStretch, gymnastics and calisthenics and resistance training are all INCREDIBLE forms of movement that can provide far more benefit for your body (looks, feel and performance) than any machine ever will.
Listen, exercise machines have their place, but moving your body in a natural environment should be a primary goal. Your body and the ground. Start there.
What about walking?
Walking, time and time again has proven to be potent form of daily activity. Start with 10 minutes per day, every single day. See what happens.
Economically, before buying home gym equipment there are two things to important points to understand:
- Quality gym equipment isn’t cheap, at time of purchase. The upfront cost of purchasing the equipment will likely exceed what you were paying per month at your gym. However, shift your attention to the long-term value instead of the short-term. Most quality gym equipment should last you lifetime versus paying for monthly gym memberships.
- What’s the cost of not exercising across the long-term? This question can be hard to wrap one’s head around, but seriously, in 10, 20, 30 years, what will be the cost you pay for not taking care of yourself physically when you had the chance.
A badass home gym could be built by shifting spending habits for 6-8 months.
Many people won’t buy gym equipment for the home because they don’t know how to use it. In 1996, this was a valid concern, but not in 2017. This little thing called the internet has created massive opportunities to learn basic technique of physical conditioning, all the way to movement mastery.
Fitness is now digital. The information is distributed through video, audio and the written word, there is education that appeals to all forms of learning. A lot of it is given away for free.
Everything a person could want to know about fitness is on the internet.
If you’re one of those anti-internet people… please stop. Yes, the internet has some crap floating around but so does society.
Take ownership, research, experiment, explore, refine, get curious, learn.
👉Online coaching, tutorials and informational tidbits are amazing.👈
Use this list of equipment as a guide to navigate the building of your home gym. I expect and welcome any questions you may have on this stuff.
Each piece of equipment has a brief description, the value, how to use it and who it may be best for.
The effectiveness of kettlebell training is undeniable, supported by lab data and thousands of personal case studies.
Kettlebell training is a potent, minimalist approach to building fitness. Kettlebells are a unique tool to improve raw functional strength, yet also provide cardiovascular benefit. Popular kettlebell drills include (but are not limited to: Turkish Get-Ups and Kettlebell Swings.
I recommend DragonDoor kettlebells for quality and craftsmanship, along with DragonDoor’s vast amount of kettlebell training resources.
Kettlebell Size Options (kilograms/pounds):
- 12kg (26lbs)
- 16kg (35lbs/standard for females)
- 20kg (44lbs)
- 24kg (53lbs/standard for males)
- 28kg (62lbs)
- 32kg (70lbs)
- 36kg (79lbs)
- 40kg (88lbs/”BEAST”)
DragonDoor kettlebells are the best in the industry, but if you’re looking for a more economical option, I recommend checking out these kettlebells from Amazon. Many sizes have Free 2-Day Prime Shipping.
A basic barbell and bumper plates are the centerpiece of a gym. Barbells are the tool of choice for building strength and useable muscle. The evolutionary nature of fitness has found many other uses for a barbell and plate set up, most notably expanded beyond traditional lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press and various row variations.
Barbell accessory tools like the landmine trainer have also expanding the uses of barbells and plates.
Traditionally, issues with a rack of dumbbells for the home gym were two-fold:
- Outrageously expensive for a complete set.
- Require a ton of space to store.
At home, space is a commodity. Your house is only so big, and you have to live in it for 23 other hours in the day (outside of a workout).
If you have the space and the funds for a nice set of dumbbells, feel free to opt for the traditional option like these CAP Rubber Coated Hex Dumbbells.
However, the average home owner likely won’t have the space (even if the money is there) for a complete set. In this situation, PowerBlock Dumbbells are your best option.
Powerblocks are a complete set of dumbbells packed into two units. They take up the same amount of space as your vacuum cleaner or garbage can.
Are you strong? Powerblocks have build up/expansion kits that increase the weight to 125lbs… PER HAND.
If you’re beyond that, you’re the master and should buy some big daddy dumbbells. Cheers to you.
At this time, sandbag training is the most under-appreciated tool for resistance training.
Lifting, carrying, gripping and dragging feels a lot like all of the awkward objects we lift in everyday life.
Each repetition with a sandbag is slightly different because sandbags lack the structure of traditional iron weight. The inner filler bags shift around as the sandbag moves, changing the distribution of weight, creating an unbalanced load that our body must adapt to.
[Personally, I avoided buying sandbags for a long time because of durability concerns and perception of a short lifespan for the investment. Past generation sandbags were notorious for rips, tears, leaks and some blowing out completely.]
Brute Force took the durability issue, solved it and made a thriving business out of it. Next generation sandbags are made stronger military-grade material, double reinforced stitching, industrial grade zippers and burst proof double velcro filler bags.
Ultimately, I purchased the Athlete and Strongman Sandbags from Brute Force. I’ve tortured the hell out of both of my sandbags daily and couldn’t be happier.
Dead Weight/No Bounce Medicine Balls
Toss, scoop, slam, rotational and chest press throws are just a few of the notable medicine ball drills to develop upper body power. Rotationally speaking, there are few other pieces of equipment that can develop explosive rotational power like a basic rotary medicine ball drill.
Medicine balls have can be integrated into push-ups, wall ball squat to press and various core exercises.
The durability of medicine balls has improved dramatically, especially with the soft medicine ball option becoming more popular. On impact, these medicine balls will only rebound a few inches. Weight options span from 5lbs-30lbs, but most people will find the most value in a 10lb, 15lb or 20lb ball.
This j/fit medicine ball from Amazon is a great option.
Suspension trainers are the most portable piece of exercise equipment on the market, leveraging bodyweight, angles and body position to challenge your body with multi-planar movement. Suspension Trainers are incredible to pack along when traveling.
5 years ago, TRX and LifeLine owned the suspension trainer market. Today, there are several other options, though I do feel TRX and Jungle Gym a front runners for quality, features and training education.
The Monkii Bars are designed to be highly packable for travelers.
Few other pieces of equipment can build raw upper body strength like gymnastics rings.
Muscle ups, dips and push-ups are just a few of the classic upper body exercises.
Online training companies like Global Bodyweight Training have taken high-level gymnastics training and made it suitable for EVERYONE. It’s pretty cool.
Anyone who’s explored the simplest of gymnastics drills can attest to the difficulty (and effectiveness) of ring training. Few other modalities will make you stronger than a commitment to getting better with the rings.
Best part? Gymnastics rings are dirt cheap.
Stretch Resistance Bands
Shoulder pre-hab, core training, variable resistance training drills and warm-up activation drills are all great exercises to use with a pair of resistance bands. Mini stretch bands are fantastic for turning on the hip muscles pre-workout.
Large stretch bands are perfect for assisting with chin-ups/pull-ups, or increasing the load for push-ups and squats.
Many advanced gymnastics exercise are also being scaled for beginner/intermediate levels by using resistance bands.
Bodylastics Stretch Bands are a great set of tube based resistance bands that come with both door and velcro anchor point attachments, along with handles for performing various strength and rehabilitation drills.
Relieve Body Aches and Pains
Traveling, sitting and exercising can leave your body a complete mess.
Workout hard and recover harder.
Taking care of your body before and after the workout is vital for long-term participation in fitness.
If you’re working out on a regular basis, aches and pains are going to happen.
10-15 minutes of self soft-tissue work most days of the week will help keep things working as they should and keep nagging dull pain to a minimum.
We forget that training hard is a traumatic experience for the body. We are essentially breaking it down to build it up.
Fitness Trackers/Heart Rate Monitors
Assessing pre-workout readiness to train or intra-workout efforts, perception is not always reality.
Measuring heart rate upon waking is a great way to find out if today should be a training day or a rest day.
Tracking heart rate during steady state exercise or high-intensity interval training will give you valuable feedback on effort, rest periods, time to recovery, distance covered, speed, etc.
Weight vests are a hands-free, natural way to add load to a ton of different exercises.
Progressive loading is essential to making gains.
Squats, chin-ups, pull-ups, body rows, push-ups, lunges, burpees, running and long-distance walking all work extremely well with a simple weight vest.
Air bikes are a slam dunk piece of cardio equipment, and one of the “Cardio Triad” best cardio conditioning tools known to man. a slam dunk training apparatus.
Air bikes are a low-impact, high reward cardio conditioning tool. Whether you riding for recovery or performance, the workout variations nearly limitless. Current generation air bikes have received vast improvements in design, material composition, and workout tracking technology.
3 years ago, I bought a Concept2 Rower and now I understand why many feel rowing is one of the best cardio activities out there.
Concept 2’s Model D (and Model E) rowers are a go-to for collegiate and professional rowing programs so you can bet they are built to be abused.
It’s pretty cool to have access to the same rower the pro’s are using.
Concept 2 Rower Model D
You cannot and should not train to exhaustion everyday. Your body needs time to rest, recover and regenerate.
On days when you crave movement but want to avoid high heart rates and resistance, Yoga (and Animal Flow) is a perfect solution.
Personally, I don’t practice Yoga for the spirituality side of it.
I enjoy yoga for the time where it’s just my body, breath and the mat… nothing else. Every other stress is shut off and pushed aside for those minutes. It’s my time.
Yoga is a great way to shove the distractions and craziness of life away just long enough to recharge/reset the body and mind.
30-60 minutes of simple yoga training several days per week is a game-changer for many people.
If you’re hurting for cash, you can do yoga without a mat… however… I suggest you get a mat when you’re able to.
Staying strict with your rest periods might be a lesson in how much time can be wasted in the gym. When the timer sounds, work commences.
The GymBoss interval timer is the simplest interval timer available, I’ve used it for years. Set your work, rest periods, rounds, alarm volume/length and start your workout.