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- Building a home gym is often intimidating, mainly due to the high costs associated with purchasing gear like dumbbells, squat racks, and cardio machines.
- The anxiety of a nightmare price tag often comes with the idea that you'd have to replicate all your usual gym equipment at home — but that's not always the case.
- We've compiled the following guide to help anyone create a gym in whatever amount of space they have in a home garage with an emphasis on minimal equipment that gets maximum results.
We've all had to make adjustments in our lives to keep ourselves and the people around us safe, and one of the biggest compromises has been to our fitness routines. While there are loads of no-equipment ways of staying fit, they're not ideal solutions for everyone.
Be it different goals or personal preference, people who are used to weight training at their local gym find themselves at a loss without the same myriad stations, machines, and racks available to them. There are several great bodyweight exercises that can be done at home, but they're often a poor substitute for those that consider the gym a second residence.
I am one of those people and if you're like me, I have some good news: If you've got the space for it, building a versatile weightlifting station in your home is both easy and affordable — so long as you know what equipment to focus on.
Below is a guide to building a back-to-basics weight training setup that allows you to target all the muscle groups you're used to working on, all while keeping equipment costs at a bare minimum. It's intended to help home-bound bodybuilders construct a home gym setup that offers a full-body workout without unbearable equipment costs.
My own workout space
Some time ago, I decided to put the tiny, shed-like garage in the back of my house to good use and constructed a mini gym. My goal was to build something capable of supplementing the training I did elsewhere and that would suffice when getting to the gym was difficult, or for when I wanted to train in private.
Along with not having much space to work with, I wasn't ready to drop loads of cash I didn't have on a pricey, sophisticated power rack with enough moving parts to make a mechanical engineer go cross-eyed. By sticking to the fundamentals, I was able to put together an inexpensive setup that gives me a diverse number of options when it comes to different exercises.
Now, whatever I used to do at the gym, I can now do at home and even when I can't, it's still designed to provide a worthy alternative. It's a setup that's good for beginners and intermediate lifters, and can even help advanced trainers maintain — all while keeping the price tag as low as possible.
Here's the gear you need to set up a garage gym:
The centerpiece of the operation is a versatile rack that facilitates as much movement as possible without locking you into specific functions. Squat racks typically do the trick since they feature multiple points of rack height that can be used for several different exercises — no matter if you need to stand, sit, or lay down on a bench.
A rack is also the most intimidating part to shop for since most of the standout setups you find online are huge power racks with equally huge asking prices. My choice was this Fitness Gear Pro Squat Rack that's set to do all I need without a scary cost. The added safety bars help me work out alone with confidence and adjusting the pegs in-between exercises is an easy task.
Other racks to consider:
Best barbell and weights
Weights also typically come with a hesitation-inducing price tag, mainly due to the fact you need so many for even a modest selection. Thankfully, Fitness Gear's 300 lb. Olympic Weight Set alleviates a lot of that sticker shock (even if they don't look exactly like what you're used to). Some of its weights are dimensionally smaller than their gym counterparts, but they weigh the same, and that's what ultimately counts.
The barbell is a standard 7-foot, 45 lb. bar that accommodates plates with a 2-inch diameter hole. Spring clips are also included.
Even if you normally max out certain exercises at a higher weight, this 300-pound kit still gives you plenty to work with, especially if you're mixing things up. If you feel the need to upgrade and your chosen rack can handle it, improving your kit is as easy as buying a few new weight plates for your collection.
The main drawback is that, as a standard set of iron weights, they aren't meant to be tossed around or dropped like rubberized plates. Slamming them or doing an overhead lift that you might need to bail from is likely to damage them (or the ground), so be mindful of this when mapping out a routine.
Other weight sets to consider:
Best flat bench
A simple bench rounds out the core setup since having something to sit or lay down on makes all the difference when diversifying workouts. Paired with the rack and barbell set, you've got a complete full-body workout unit.
This bench from Fitness Gear yet again features a more manageable price tag. It won't be able to fold up to create an incline or completely vertical bench but it works for a variety of exercises like bench press, dumbbell flys, and others.
Other benches to consider:
A few gym extras
As you complete your set, there are a few things you might want to consider adding to your setup, depending on where your home gym is located and how your strength gains progress. Here are some examples of extras you should consider:
- Gym mats: A gym mat is great for creating a comfortable place to lift weights, practice yoga, or stretch, and works especially well in a garage gym where the floor is likely concrete.
- Weight belt: Even if you aren't consistently lifting or squatting heavy weights, it's still smart to wear a weight belt. This is especially true if you work out alone and don't have anyone around to spot you.
- Water bottle: It's important to stay hydrated no matter the workout or intensity of your routine.
- Resistance bands: A set of resistance bands are a great addition to any home gym setup and can replicate many gym-specific lifts while also boosting some bodyweight exercises like push-ups or jumping jacks.
- Dumbbells: Owning a set of dumbbells supplements many of the lifts you're able to do with a rack and barbell, and are great for targeting specific muscle groups.
Be safe and cautious
With your new setup, you might find yourself experimenting with loads of different exercises — and you should. Just keep in mind that while this gear allows you to do certain movements, it might not be the best idea. First, trying something new that's beyond your level of strength and coordination could lead to trouble, so start anything you do with lighter weight.
You'll also want to consider the specific type of your equipment. If you have a standard set of iron weights, you're able to do things like power cleans, split jerks, and all the fun movements you'd see at your local CrossFit spot. However, it's far safer if you don't.
If you're alone in the garage and something happens, there's no one to bail you out of danger. And on the subject of bailing, many of those types of exercises ask you to drop the barbell and step away when there's a slip-up. It's one thing to do that in a big warehouse where rubberized weights can bounce away without harming your gear or anything else. It's another to send your iron equipment crashing down on itself in your confined garage space.
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