A couple of years ago I experienced the thrill of buying my first house. With the prospect of home ownership came the chance to create my very own office and man cave. My wife quickly went to work decorating the house, and the room I had flagged to turn into an office was repurposed as the dogs’ room. Yes, that’s right, a room for my dogs, complete with three dog beds, bowls of food and water, a crate of toys, and pictures of our pups on the wall.
Seeing my vision of home ownership quickly slipping away, I put my foot down on the garage, which was eventually turned into a home gym. By “put my foot down,” I mean that my wife loved the idea of waking up and being able to work out just feet from the bedroom.
Why You Should Create Your Own Home Gym
We both work out in this gym every day. It is an amazing luxury, and not because it’s equipped with any high-end products. In fact, I’m an absolute cheapskate. It’s just so wonderful to have such quick access to exercise. The home gym is perfect for busy lifestyles or anyone seeking more free time.
Think about all the time and energy that goes into getting to the gym. You get dressed, drive there, check in, lock your valuables, get settled, make small talk, and then finally get to the exercise. Then you have to drive home and unpack the gym bag. All said, the home gym could take as much as 45 minutes off your total time spent in the process of getting a workout. It drastically lowers the barrier to entry. Even though I could workout at work, I find the home gym is too convenient to pass up.
Other people will love it, too. If you are the type that likes to entertain or likes community in your exercise, people will love to join you. You’d be amazed how many people hate the feeling of working out in front of a bunch of strangers or waiting for equipment to free up. They certainly aren’t comfortable bear crawling or practicing skills that they might look funny trying. They’ll love that it feels like their own workout space and that they can go inside to get a glass of water.
The home gym creates flexibility and options in your training. In fact, one holiday weekend when pressed for time and needing to cook, I was able to get an entire workout in between dinner prep. I superset pull ups with prepping the sweet potatoes and getting them in the oven, then front squats with flipping meat on the grill, Turkish get ups with salad preparation, and finally kettlebell swings with setting the table.
It also unlocks a sense of play in exercise, as you can pop in and out as your heart desires. This has been very helpful for learning some bodyweight and gymnastics movements best trained through multiple daily attempts. It yields very nicely to grease-the-groove-style training, where you frequently hit high quality reps and stop short of failure. It promotes recovery mobilization on days you are exhausted, and encourages a few swings and pull ups as you walk by after a long day of work. You’ll feel a twinge of guilt if you haven’t paid it a visit, and that’s good pressure. On nice days, it’s very easy to pull equipment like kettlebells and paralletes outside and expand the gym even further.
What You Need to Get Started
The home gym is a daily reminder to get moving, in a world seemingly built to prevent exercise. Your health is your #1 resource. When you don’t take care of your physical body, you can’t be at your intellectual or emotional best. You are a shell of yourself. Unfortunately, we tend to take on the patterns of our environment, and respect for health is countercultural. What could be more important than creating an environment that promotes physical activity in your home?
Ok, you are now sold. It’s time to build that home gym. Now that I’ve got you all excited, I’m going to tell you to slow down. Don’t try to do it overnight. Buying everything new can get expensive. If you are patient, you’ll continue to come across great deals. In my mind, the bare necessities are:
- One 16kg or 24kg kettlebell (depending on experience, gender, etc.)
- A pull up bar or rings
- A jump rope
- Some sort of flooring
Most all of that can be found fairly cheap online, if you’re patient. A lot of things can be built from a hardware store too, like slosh pipes and foam rollers. Say you have the above, and you’re looking to take things to the next level. I suggest:
- Another kettlebell, maybe 32kg
- Resistance bands
- A suspension trainer like the TRX
- A battle rope
- Many weightlifters will want to add:
- A rack
- A plate tree and plate set
- SelectTech dumbbells from 5-45lb
Limited resources can be a great source of creativity, so don’t sweat not having a ton of equipment. Before you know it, you’ll have accumulated a pretty good setup. I have everything I’ve listed and more. I’ve built it up slowly over time, and still probably haven’t spent much more than $1000 total. That is far less than a gym membership would have cost over that time period.