If you have the space - and it doesn’t take much - a home gym can be a worthwhile investment. We are all busy people and most of us are pretty adept at finding reasons to not get back in the car and drive to the gym. If we only have to make it to the garage, life suddenly gets a lot easier!
So, now you’ve made the decision to build a gym in your spare room or your garage, but what does this mean? How exactly does one “build” a gym?
If I were your coach, I would emphasize exercises and protocols using free weights and a variety of movement patterns. We would incorporate strength and conditioning training while also working on flexibility and core stabilization.
So, what tools do you need to accomplish this? To get started on a great home gym, you should invest in the following 10 items:
The exercises you can do with dumbbells are seemingly endless so they justify their purchase immediately. Look for hex shaped dumbbells with black rubber coating – these last the longest and are most comfortable for working out.
Get 3-5 sets in a range of weights to accommodate for different exercises and for the strength you will be gaining.
A lot of people will tell you kettlebells are not essential. Many kettlebell movements can be done similarly with a dumbbell. Certain kettlebell movements are unique, however, and some movements just work better or are more challenging with a kettlebell.
I think they are a worthwhile investment for the variety they can add to your workout routines. Look for kettlebells with big smooth handles and without a painted coating.
3. Pull Up Bar
Pull up bars aren’t just for pull ups! There are a number of basic gymnastic exercises you can practice if you have a pull up bar installed at home.
While you can get pull up bar systems built for doorways, ideally you would have an archway or part of a wall where you could mount a bar. If you can’t yet do pull ups, you’ll also want to buy some resistance bands for assistance.
Great for the home gym or for traveling, rings are light weight and add another level to your bodyweight exercises. Rings also give you the ability to increase the variety in your workouts by adding a whole lexicon of gymnastic exercises.
When looking for rings, make sure you get a brand that is light in weight and easy to hang.
5. Jump Rope
If you haven’t jumped rope since you were a kid, you’re in for a surprise! Turns out it’s harder than it looks and it’s fantastic cardio. Jumping rope also works your coordination in a big way. If you are a beginner, just get a durable rope and don’t worry about details
If you have some jumping skill, look for either a wire lightweight rope to work on speed and timing or a weighted rope to work on strength.
6. Medicine Ball
A medicine ball is a great tool for plyometric exercises as well as core strength movements, a medicine ball is an essential purchase. Whether you are throwing it, carrying it, or doing abdominal exercises with it, a medicinal ball provides you with many, many options.
Look for a SOFT medicine ball so that it is forgiving when you do exercises involving throwing or catching it. If you are not sure about weight, err on the lighter side as many medicine ball exercises emphasize speed and power.
What’s more fun than having something to jump on? Boxes are a great item for building explosive power and quickness. You can also use them for squatting, for bench dips, and for other non-jumping exercises.
You may want to build your own wooden box if you have the ability, or hire a friend. In a pinch, you can also just go down to the hardware store and purchase an irrigation box.
Your home gym, of course, would not be complete without a barbell. Barbells, like other free weights, are much better than the machines at the gym because of the stabilization and coordination aspects they bring to your workouts.
Look for a sturdy, not too cheap and not too expensive bar. If you have small hands, pay attention to the diameter of the bar and consider purchasing a “women’s” bar.
9. Weight Plates
Now you need to some weight to put on that bar! Buy a variety of weights – 2.5#, 5#, 10#, 25# and, if you are fairly strong, 45# plates. If you plan to train Olympic lifting make sure you get rubber bumper plates.
10. Stereo System
Seriously, you have to rock good tunes while you work out.
With these ten items and a little time spent on the internet, I am confident you could generate hundreds of excellent workouts for yourself. If you can’t see buying all ten at once, slowly start building your gym, one piece of equipment at a time.
If you’re on a budget, check the local classifieds or Craig’s List for great deals on exercise equipment. If you live near a college or university a great time to check listings is in the springtime when students are moving back home for summer and selling off their possessions.
Working out on your own isn’t for everybody. Some people would buy this equipment and never use it, because they actually find better motivation in group classes. Before committing time and money, check out these simple workouts and fun exercises that can be done at-home with makeshift or no equipment at all.
But for those of you who are under a time crunch and are self-motivated, remember this – even if the initial outlay is more, if investing in a home gym has you actually working out on a regular basis, it’s a better investment than spending monthly dues on a gym you never attend!