If you’re crunched for time, knowing how to set up a home gym can help you get in all your scheduled workouts. It’ll save you a bundle on gym membership fees as well. My home gym gear collection got started with a doorway chin-up bar and a couple bricks for handstand pushups (HSPUS). From there I thought I should get a hard medicine ball to roll out some muscle knots and trigger points in my chest, back and calves.
This little bit of of equipment I kept at home let me get in some pretty great workouts and it’s all about 15 feet from the computer I’m writing this on now. I did all the bodyweight exercises, flexibility work at home and kept the heavy stuff for the gym. THEN THINGS WENT FUNNY…
I’ve been personal training in Calgary out of a local gym since 2001 and became the house personal training company for that gym in 2002. It all came to a head in a couple of weeks when new management came in. New ideas were in and my company was out. One door closes and another opens. I started training out of my basement in a private personal training studio here in Calgary Alberta.
Setting up this home gym to train my companies personal training clients was a win-win. Having a gym in my house is like having a dirt bike parked in my living room. It’s just cool and kind of handy.
What Gym Gear Do You REALLY Need To Workout At Home?
What do you need to buy before you begin working out? Nothing. As a matter of fact I wrote a complete article showing you a full bodyweight training routine here. If you are healthy and don’t have any specific joint problems or injuries, anything beyond a standard weight set is just for convenience. Pure luxury.
I believe that any time you use something to assist you or to make life easier, you will usually develop a weakness in that area when you are not using the device.
If you lift “bare” on your beginner workout and tough out the sore forearms and fatigued back, these weaker areas will come up to speed in time and soon you will only feel the target muscle working and not the little guys. Here is a list of some things I use and what they do. I’ve included a link where you can buy them online so they get shipped right to your door.
I bought this equipment on November 4th 2008 to set up a home gym. I’m still using the same gear on January 14 2017.
How To Set Up A Home Gym – 1ST Tier Of Importance Equipment
Powertec Strength Power Rack. I got The Northern Lights Power Rack System for my home gym but they no longer sell it. The Powertec rack looks very simular. The Powertec Rack allows a separate attachment for dipping bars as well. I opted for buying an extra olympic bar so I can put them side by side in the rack to create dipping bars (here’s a whole article on that and dips for chest mass) as well as have an extra bar for multiple clients or for super setting two compound exercises. Just my preference.
The power rack is such a versatile piece of home gym gear that almost anything else I add at this point will be for shear amusement and novelty. Definitely not because there is other gym equipment that can produce better results. We all know that results comes from properly applied effort and not the gear. At any rate, the power rack will allow me to do all the olympic lifts and power lifts with my clients. As a bonus, I can get some heavy training in when everyone goes home without needing a spotter or a trip to the local gym. Now that’s sweet.
If you’re the kind of person that will always pick a jacked up hummer over a 4 cylinder SUV even though you never go off roading then you may prefer the Powertec Rack anyway.
How To Set Up A Home Gym – The Rest Of List
- 400 Pounds Of Olympic Standard Plates
- 2 Olympic Bars
- Gaiam Total Body Balance Ball (Swiss Ball)
- Dipping And Chin Up Belt
- Gymnastics Rings
- Jump Ropes – I seldom use anymore preferring to do barbell complexes for cardio.
- Small Personal Floor Mat – for situps or if you think floors are dirty. My clients do. I don’t.
- Rubberized Flooring Mats
I’m very happy with this minimal home gym set up so far because it allows me to do everything that I do in my training at the gym with personal training clients. With the exception of the standing calf raise machine. That’s still not a problem. There are plenty of variations to work calves with in the rack. Single legged raises on a step holding plates for one.
The Bars And Plates For Your Power Rack
The barbell the big one. It goes hand in hand with the power rack. With this basic tool, hundreds of thousands of physiques are built daily. It is invaluable. For your plates, start off with a couple of 2.5 lbs plates if you are just starting. The bar is 45 lbs and you will need the 2.5 pounds weights to keep making small improvements in your strength anyway.
Later as you get stronger and more cash is available, buy some bigger plates. It is fun to get stronger and then have to go out and buy more plates.
HOT TIP: If you have a low ceiling and want to do a lot of overhead work, get more 25lb plates. They have a smaller diameter and you just load more on. You won’t worry about hitting the ceiling.
Second Tier Of Importance Equipment
Lifting Chalk – This is one thing that I like. Chalk absorbs your sweat when you put it on your hands so the bar isn’t so slippery. I will always use chalk before I use wraps. That way I still get the gripping power but the slipperiness of the bar is gone. Some gyms do not allow chalk, so make sure you check the rules. I like the block style but the bottled chalk works as well.
Your tunes and headphones – Music that you enjoy can change your mood and get you pumping with more intensity during your workout. The other benefit of listening to tunes is that most people won’t stop you to talk up a storm if you have to take off your headphones. This way you can keep up your training pace. My favorite headphones at the moment are bluetooth capable M-pows.
These allow me to move freely into handstands and power cleans without getting snagged in my headphone cable. These are my first set of wireless headphones in 20+ years of training and I’m so happy they were invented.
Jump Rope – Great for warming up or even a quick cardio day. I love skipping for 30 seconds on and 10 seconds off for 8-10 rounds as my only cardio on a given day. It works for boxers and it will work for you. As well, since they cost only about $10, its just a wee bit less than buying a treadmill! I’ve used everything from manilla rope to speed ropes.
Some people say they cant jump rope inside because of the ceiling. If thats your case then you are probably allowing your arms to come up too much. That or you’re tall. Keep your hands by your sides at hip level. This is another reason I do more barbell complexes for cardio lately. I never hit the ceiling.
Shin pads – I have never personally seen anyone else use these but me. Maybe I have actually pioneered something, which would be cool. I use the shin pads during deadlifts (how to deadlift) so that I don’t lose the skin off the front of my shins. Again, not needed but something that I like to use.
Ironman Watch – This is a good one. Once you start to get tired, your rest periods will get longer than they should be. With a little watch, you can time your rest periods and keep the training pace honest and fast.
Training Journal – This is one thing you must have! It is so important to keep a record of everything you do in the gym. Memory fails and you have to know how much you did last time in order to make continual upward progress. It’s also good because when you have an exceptional day you can look back and see what variables contributed to such a great workout and therefore you will be able to replicate it again.
I record everything. What day I start certain supplements and if they worked or not. What music I listened to. How I felt. You name it, if it has an effect on your training then you should keep note of it. Every time you repeat a workout, you should look back to the last time you performed the same workout. During today’s workout, you want to add weight, add reps or decrease your rest periods. This way, your workout will be more intense than the last. This is the whole secret to success. Constant small improvements.
3RD Tier Assistance Equipment – I don’t use it but clients do
Lifting Belt – Used to support the lower back during overhead lifting and other heavy compound movements. Some people develop a dependency on the belt and don’t do a single lift without it. All this does is ignore the problem of weak stabilizer muscles, while continuing to develop the main target muscle.
The time to use a belt is when you are attempting a heavier weight than usual. Venturing into uncharted territory type of stuff. The other is if you have an injury to the lower back, although, in this case I would suggest going lighter until the injured area is brought up to speed. If you always rely on the belt your lower back will never be able to acquire the strength that it needs during the beginner workouts.
Gloves – Gloves are good if you find that your sweat prevents you from being able to grasp the bar for the duration of the set. The other reason for gloves is if you have an aversion to calluses.
Lifting Straps – I am kind of divided on this one. Lifting straps go around your wrists and then you wrap the remaining material around the bar affording you a much stronger grip. So of course if you use them all the time you’ll never get a strong grip from your beginners workout I’m giving you.
Eventually though, the power of your back can jump ahead of your grip. The last thing you want to do is train your back at sub-optimal levels because of a lack of grip. So, what to do? Train as much as you can without them and only put them on for the top end heaviest sets. Every once in a while attempt to do the set without them and if you can make it through, ditch the wraps until they are needed again.
So there you go. You don’t need to spend a single dime to get in amazing shape at home. If you have bit of cash, you can really set yourself up well for under $1000 in a small bedroom size area.
Any questions about how to set up a home gym for yourself?