Most people train in commercial or institutional public gyms but setting up your own gym at home can have many advantages.
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Advantages of a Home Gym
You don’t have to commute to the gym, saving time and gas money.
Depending on how much money you invested up front, your home gym equipment will pay for itself after a couple of years.
You have full control over the equipment you purchase and use.
You don’t have to deal with distractions or crowded spaces.
You can even team up with some friends and share the equipment cost.
You can train anytime you want, even in the middle of the night, if you want to do so.
You can train in any way you want. Some gyms prohibit certain exercises or behaviors like grunting when training hard. In your own home gym you can do whatever you want, as long as you don’t disturb the neighbours.
Disadvantages of a Home Gym
Unless you share your place with buddies, you will have to train alone most of the time. While some people value this as they can concentrate more on their workout,
for other people this is just too boring and they need a bit of socializing or maybe even the extra motivation that comes from training with partners.
The selection of equipment will likely be very limited. This does not have to be detrimental to your training progress, depending on how you train and what your goals are, but for some people the lack of variety in equipment might become boring over time.
But then again, if you decide to set up a home gym you are very serious about your training anyway and you would never get bored by any lack of equipment variety.
A big disadvantage though could be that in case you have an accident or a heart attack and you are alone you may not get help immediately.
But the advantages of training in your own home gym usually far outweigh the disadvantages.
Home Gym Location
Training at a commercial public gym will usually cost you between $50-150 per month, depending on the place. Some gyms even charge you every time you use the facilities. Many times they also offer a lot of stuff that you don’t really want or need like juice bars, steam saunas, swimming pools and aerobic classes.
If you had an unlimited budget and enough space available you could set up your home gym as generously equipped as a public one but that isn’t necessary.
Let’s assume that your aim is to build muscle, get stronger, get lean and stay fit and healthy.
To achieve that, you actually don’t need a lot of equipment and you don’t even need a whole lot of space to set up a fine home gym.
A 10 x 20-foot room will suffice for all your training needs. Many people train in their garage or cellar or spare room in their house.
You can even rent a spare room elsewhere and team up with some buddies to share the cost of renting and equipment.
Make sure the place is neat and clean and has enough lighting and ventilation. For hot summers, you will need a fan, for cold winters appropriate heating.
A good idea would be to renovate the place and paint the walls with fresh paint and fix the floors so you feel right at home from the beginning. Since it will be a place where you will spend a lot of time, make sure it is as pleasant to you as possible.
The floor is very important. Make sure it is even and that it is not slippery. Ideally, it would have some rubber coating for stability and ease of cleaning.
You should also not train directly on concrete because that could damage your joints over time.
Basic Home Gym Equipment
The good news is that a home gym doesn’t have to be expensive at all. And you will need far less equipment than you might think of right now.
If you buy good but used equipment you can get everything for well under $1,000. Yes, you read that right: You can set up a great home gym for just $1,000 – or less!
You will have to invest a bit up front but the equipment will pay for itself after two or three years of not having to pay fees at a public gym and spending money on gas or public transport.
High Quality Olympic Barbell
The core of your training will be done with a high quality Olympic-style barbell.
Olympic barbells come in all classes of quality and price but the rule of thumb is that you should always buy a high quality barbell from a reputable manufacturer.
And keep in mind that a high quality barbell can last you a lifetime and you can even pass it on to your offspring. It is much better to spend a little more upfront on a high quality barbell than to buy a cheap one and upgrade later.
The problem with very cheap no-name barbells is that they will often bend under heavier loads (200+ lbs) or they will simply rust and disintegrate over time.
You will need some sort of device to securely set up the barbell for exercises like squatting and bench pressing. The best and most versatile piece of equipment for this is the Power Rack.
You can get decent ones for under $500 and have them delivered to your place.
An alternative could be a good Squat Rack, although their cost would be similar so it is better to get a Power Rack right from the start because they are more versatile and safer.
A good, solid Power Rack will last you a lifetime, too.
Of course, you will need weight plates too.
If you’re a raw beginner, start with 220+ lbs of plates and add as you get stronger. Buy two 44-lbs plates, two 22-lbs plates and several pairs of 10 lbs, 5 lbs and 2,5 lbs. You will also need some kind of device to keep the plates firmly in place like spring collars or heavy-duty screw collars.
It is better to buy brand-name plates because the cheap ones are often off-weight, meaning they don’t actually weigh exactly what is written on them, and they often rust quickly too.
For exercises like bench presses, seated overhead presses and others you will need a sturdy and strong bench.
It’s up to you whether you buy a flat bench or an adjustable one for seated and incline press exercises.
Just make sure that the bench is very sturdy and heavy-duty. It should weigh at least 40 lbs and should not move or wobble when using it. This is very important for your safety.
A pair of dumbbells are a plus and will add more variety to the pool of exercises you can do. But when you’re just starting out you don’t really need them. For example, you can do biceps curls with a barbell too.
A good idea would be to put up a full size mirror on the wall so you can watch yourself while working out and thus control your exercise technique.
A so-called Trap Bar will be an excellent investment. The Trap Bar allows you to do heavy deadlifts in perfect form, where the center of gravity is directly aligned with the center of your body – instead of slighty in front of your body when doing traditional barbell deadlifts.
You can also add special bars for pull-ups and dips.
And add a floor mat for stretching and yoga exercises.
A good idea would be to get some cardio machines like a rowing machine or stationary bike or a treadmill in addition to your weightlifting equipment.
Since a lot of people buy stuff and then never use it, there is a lot of second-hand equipment out there that is of excellent quality and can be bought at a very low price.
If you do martial arts, punching balls and sandbags might also be a good addition.
If money is a big issue and you can’t really afford to buy any machines then just buy a jump rope for $10 and use that.
Or just put on your running shoes or take your bicycle outside and hit the road.
Make sure you feel comfortable in your home gym. Make the place as nice, clean and pleasant as possible as you will be spending a lot of quality time in it.
Put up some motivational posters if you like.
Set up a stereo system so you can play your favorite music for extra motivation.
Always keep your home gym neat and tidy and you will have a lot of fun in it.
Alice May is the former editor of Verve Fitness. A writer by day and a reader by night she loathes to discuss herself in the third person but can be persuaded to do so from time to time. She is always willing to write for fitness blogs.