Over Christmas, I was reminded of one of the many benefits of having a home gym to train at. On the days that commercial gyms shut down (or have limited hours), it’s super cool to be able to get my workout in when I want to. Felt good to get a solid leg session in before spending the day with family celebrating.
In addition to myself, I would also say that about half of my clients either exclusively train at home or have a home gym to supplement their commercial gym membership. That said, it gave me the idea to post over the next couple weeks about what equipment I have in my home gym to either generate ideas or to get ideas from others on what they have that I should include in a home gym setup.
The first home gym equipment I want to highlight is the adjustable dumbbells and a “Swiss” ball. These two pieces of equipment can be the foundation of having a solid training session. I have PowerBlock Dumbbells and they have served me well for probably 15+ years. They don’t take up much space, are super durable and very handy. There are many brands out there if interchangeable DBs, but I’ve been extremely pleased with this one. A “Swiss” (stability) ball is a very inexpensive piece that can be used for sitting/laying exercises and act as a bench when doing certain movements. They have the advantage of being light weight and can be moved around and stored easily. Very versatile and can be used in a variety of training goals.
I’ll continue to post on the various pieces I have put in my home gym. If you have something that you love, please include below, would be great to get other’s feedback!
Continuing to work through my home gym equipment and how I would set one up, the next piece that I would go with is an adjustable bench. In my first post, I mentioned a stability ball can be used as a bench, which is true, but having a more structurally sound and stable bench provides many additional options.
When looking at a bench, there are a few considerations. First, you probably want to get an FID (Flat/Incline/Decline) bench. Being adjustable will again offer you more options, which key to home gyms is getting the most exercise options per your square foot. As shown in the picture, I have a BodySolidbench and like mine, most of these FID benches come with some attachment options, like leg curl/extension, bicep curl or lower leg brace for decline work. I also have a low profile regular flat bench that I can use for heavier work as it has a wider base and is a bit more stable. I also cut down the base on one side to allow for more freedom for foot placement.
Consider how it fits on your body. With all things, there are a variety of options and you want a bench that fits your budget, but also your body. This will be used with a variety of exercises, being a literal foundation to most, so get one you are happy with.
Continuing the series on what equipment to have in a home gym, I struggled a bit to decide what would be the next best investment after the first two items I mentioned, which where dumbbells and an adjustable bench. My conclusion was, the next recommendation would be a barbell and plates.
The reason I say a barbell before purchasing any additional equipment is that this is a foundational item. Remember, the key for a home gym is maximum function with minimal space and to keep within your budget; a barbell and plates do exactly that. When designing workout plans, even having a plain barbell with weight and no other equipment, you can do a TON of movements off the floor, along with being to increase the resistance that might be limited by just dumbbells.
My recommendation is an Olympic bar (2" collars) verses a standard (1" collars) bar. As/if you add additional equipment to your gym, an Olympic bar will better work with other pieces. Additionally, they are usually more robust. Barbells are like shoes for some people, there are lots of options and it's tempting to add another. I have a chambered and a safety squat bar as well as a straight bar. You can spend a lot of money on a barbell or get something cheap. I would find something in the middle that fits your budget. I have a Texas power bar and it has served we well for many years. I have also broken or bent many cheaper bars over the years.
On weights, this is an area where you can likely get by with getting used versus new. @playitagainsportsclive usually has plates and you don't have to pay shipping. You also can find them online as well. Get enough to meet your needs, but know that you need them to be matching pairs. Stay tuned for the next piece!!
For the 4th installment of the "home gym series" I am going to highlight my most recent equipment piece that I purchased: a Landmine.
As you can see in the picture below, this is not something that you would find out on the battlefield; but rather a 'home plate' shaped metal base that you slide a barbell into. From the last post, I recommended purchasing a barbell and weights. This piece of equipment will give you another group of movements you can do utilizing your barbell.
Landmine is a generic name for this equipment. The brand that I actually got is called Xtreme Monkey, which I purchased from Evolution Flex. It is a light commercial grade. As with all equipment, you can find different price points and this is no exception. It's shape allows you to wedge into a corner, but you can also just put it flat against a wall. There are some versions that connect to a rack as well.
The reason I decided to go with a landmine before other equipment goes back to our number one home gym rule: maximize budget and minimize space. This does exactly that. Similar to dumbbells and a swiss ball, a landmine allows you to work the entire body with many different movement patterns. It provides some great variety to the traditional exercises, and having variety is key for progress plus alleviates boredom.
Time to offer up the 5th piece of equipment I would recommend in a home gym setup: a squat rack.
Now many of my peers in the bodybuilding and power lifting field might accuse me of being sacrilegious by not listing the squat rack first and primary. The reason I rank a rack lower on this list is not the lack of versatility, but rather due to the space and cost (refer back to number 1 rule of buying home gym equipment).
That said, squat racks SIGNIFICANTLY step up your home gym game. They allow you to add a big element of increased safety, along with help you hoist more weights in the primary movements, specifically squats, bench and overhead press.
There are many options on a rack. In the pictures below, you can see a couple versions. The first is from my friend Joe, which is the cage design. This is a great piece that also usually adds a pull up bar to your list of options. My rack is the "Combo/ER" design that I purchased from Texas Strength Systems. While you don't have the pull up option, the height is able to be adjusted with a loaded barbell, which is nice if you have two people with different heights training together. There are many more varieties, and as always, look to find one that maximize your space, budget and function.
For the 6th installment of the "what I would put in a home gym" I am highlighting a piece of equipment that you might assume I either forgot about or it's a given that is already owned, and that is cardio equipment.
The reason I say this as usually it is the first thing people get for their home gym: a treadmill, bicycle or some other type of cardio machine. It is also unfortunately the most likely thing that collects dust in alot of homes. Purposefully, I would rank it low on the list for a couple reasons.
Cardio is important, granted for the type of training I do and the programs I put together, it is only as needed, if at all. However, cardiovascular health is critical and having equipment can be a great way to do this. But it is also something that can be done easily by just getting outside, whether running, riding an actual bike or doing some manual work like pushing a lawnmower or snow shovel. The previous pieces of weight equipment are more difficult to mimic in normal activities; which I think is why starting with strength equipment is the right step before getting cardio equipment.
As for what type, you can see that we have a treadmill, elliptical and airdyne. Going back to rule #1 of home gym equipment, you want something that maximizes space and functionality. The elliptical and airdyne allows both upper and lower body use, the treadmill folds up so it takes up less of a footprint, which can give more floor space.
As with all equipment, there is a wide range of price levels. The good/bad thing about cardio pieces is as I mentioned earlier, it's often the least used piece that gets resold. We have purchased all of ours second hand at Play it Again Sports. Be aware of what you are getting, plus consider how you will bring it in to your home and assembly. The nice thing on PIAS is that they take care of all this (inspect and deliver).
Here is the 7th and last installment of the "what I would put in a home gym" series. By this point, you have a solid setup and the final addition has a lot of options that I am calling "Pulling Apparatus."
What I mean by that is equipment that allows you to do exercises with either cable or band resistance. While you already have the ability to train these same bodyparts and movements utilizing free weights and the other equipment you have, cables and/or bands adds another element to your training.
In the pictures here, you can see a few variations. One is a high/low cable pulley system. This is what we have from Deltech Fitness. The dual cable allows me to get more function out of one unit. There are many variations of cable structures, one is a more expensive dual unit called a functional trainer shown here as well. It takes up a larger footprint, usually has adjustable arms and offers a ton of variations.
A more simple option and very budget and space friendly is resistance bands. At a minimum, these can be used for warm up and mobility work. However, they can be incorporated into a strength training routine with many options and levels of resistance. Another advantage of bands are they are portable so when you travel, it is an easy option to get a simplified strength session in.
If you decide to go with a pulley/cable system, make sure you do your research and ideally, try the system out before you purchase. Since it operates on cables and pulleys, you want to make sure if feels smooth and works well. A poor system doesn't feel smooth without a substantial amount of weight and/or can break/malfunction easily. We have had ours for many years and only have had to replace a cable (which Deltech took care of for us). Some squat cages have add-on features as well that can help with space and cost. Obviously bands are inexpensive, but do get a variety of resistances for options.
My hope is that you got some good ideas that you can use for your home gym to either supplement your gym membership or to train exclusively in. Keep making everday count!