Home Gym Essentials

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been to a gym to workout since I stopped regularly training for triathlons a few years back.  I’ve built up a pretty decent home gym in the past year and I can get in a kick ass workout anytime I feel like it without stepping foot in a commercial gym.

Anyone can start a home gym.  You don’t need a lot of fancy or expensive equipment to get started.  I keeping adding and expanding to mine, but there are just a few essentials that I got started with that can whip you into shape big time if you put in the effort. No gym membership should never be an excuse.

The first essential is you. So many people forget or are unaware how much you can challenge yourself with just bodyweight exercises.  Make sure you can do the basics like pushups and squats.  There are a ton of variations on just those two exercises alone that you could create months of workouts with.  You can also add in pulling movements like pullups (In the video below you can see my homemade pullup bar using pipes and fittings from Lowe’s) or rows (using a table or bench), various crawls, and jump training.  To get more advanced with the bodyweight training consider getting a suspension trainer like a TRX or Jungle Gym, which are both great at using your weight as resistance in unique ways.

Eventually you may want to start adding some weights.  You can start with a few dumbbells or kettlebells.  Don’t worry about grabbing a full set.  Just get a few different sizes to challenge yourself. Craigslist is great for this sort of thing.  Heck, if you’re real cheap you can find heavy shit around the house and carry it or press it or whatever.  I remember picking up boxes of junk and carrying them back and forth across the basement occasionally.  Fill up a big box of books and walk it for 200, 300 ft and tell me that’s not a workout.

If you get real serious about the home gym, then a barbell is a must.  It’s still king when it comes to building strength.  Heavy deadlifting and squats are crucial.  Again, check out craigslist for deals, but if you want to splurge I would highly recommend Rogue Fitness.  That’s where I picked up my bar and set of bumper plates.  You don’t necessarily need a squat rack, but your squat weight is going to be dictated by how much you can clean (and press if you want to do back squats) so you’ll probably want to invest in one.

Those are the bare bone basics that I would recommend.  Now, I’ve added several more items that have enhanced my workout experience and let me program in a lot more variety.  They are not essential, but if you want to add more tools to your arsenal feel free to pick these up or make them yourself where applicable.  Here they are in no particular order:

  • Jump rope – Cheap, versatile conditioning tool
  • Weight vest – pullups, crawls, farmer walks, pushups, rows all get better with a little extra weight 😉
  • Dip belt – kind of like the above, though more difficult to crawl and walk
  • Box – Jumps! I’ve got one with three different heights to play with.
  • Gymnastic rings – rows, dips, pullups, muscle ups – makes you appreciate how strong olympians are
  • Sandbag – sand is cheap, you can make one of these for 30 bucks. Deceptively heavy and really engages the core due to the odd shape
  • Pushup Bars (paralettes) – give yourself an extended range of motion
  • Bands – mobility work and an alternative to weighted movements
  • Other mobility tools – foam roller, lacrosse ball, bands, “the stick”
  • Ab wheel – great tool for core work
  • Sled/Prowler – Excellent conditioning tool.  Sorely missing from my gym
  • Bench – Incline/Decline option is great to have
  • Medicine ball – Core and mobility tool all wrapped into one
  • Treadmill/Airdyne bike/Rower – Winter sprint workouts when it’s too icy to pound the pavement

Check out how I’ve incorporated many of these in my own home gym:

Did I miss anything in my list?  I would love to hear how your home gym is set up and what equipment you use. Drop a comment!

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