The home gym is making a comeback. Sure, big-box gyms, 24-hour fitness centers and gigantic health and fitness resorts are popping up as well, but there is a growing resurgence of do-it-yourselfers out there who want (and possibly need) to go their own way.
 
Long ago, these so-called mavericks would have to put on their thinking caps and find inventive and creative ways to facilitate at-home workouts that went beyond push ups and sit ups. Haphazardly constructed racks, rigs and weights were cobbled together in order to perform the basics of weight training. Fast-forward a few years (or maybe even decades), and now we have myriad companies offering at-home training solutions delivered straight to your door within a few days. 
 
Arguably, much of this equipment is clever marketing, and all of it requires you to shell out your hard-earned bucks. Your home gym need not be a scene out of a sci-fi movie. The basics will do. Let’s look a bit deeper regarding how you can create your own unique training environment with the shortest commute possible. 
 

Should You Build a Home Gym?

The positive reasons behind building and utilizing a home gym are fairly obvious. Convenience, no crowds, and the freedom to do what you want are all logical and universal. But with so many gyms opening in every neighborhood, some may see it as a chore to purchase equipment, store it, and garner enough motivation to perform effective workouts in their own home. 
 
You will need to answer some deeper questions before committing to your new venture, such as:
 
  • Where will it be staged?
  • How much equipment do I really need?
  • Will I realistically commit to a strict training schedule?
  • How will I manage motivation?
 
Answering these and other questions honestly will help you better formulate your decision before making the jump. 
 
A CrossFit Open workout in a garage gym
Your home gym can be the place where you find your own greatness. [Photo credit: The CrossFit Games]
 

The Pros and Cons of the Home Gym

To help you out a bit, let's explore the pros and cons of a home gym in more detail.
 
Pros of the home gym:
 
  • Convenience: As stated earlier, the home gym provides the ultimate feature of convenience. No driving to the gym, fighting through traffic, or even contemplating making the trip. 
  • Always open: Think of your home gym as a 24-hour facility. No opening and closing hours, no holidays, no exceptions.
  • Free membership: After the upfront costs are paid, you won’t have any reoccurring monthly membership dues. You can save your money for upgrades, as desired. 
  • Freedom: Aside from practicing good form, technique and sanitary habits in your home gym are yours to do as you will. Want to train barefooted, stand on a bench, or let out your guttural call during a set of deadlifts? Nobody's going to stop you.
  • No wait: Supersetting, giant setting, or any other form of circuit always gets the greenlight. No waiting on a station, bench or bar—you have free reign to structure training as you see fit.
  • No distractions: TVs, undesirable music, and nonsensical chit-chat is nonexistent at your home gym. You won’t have the typical distractions of the local big box gym, which is more like a social club than a real training facility. 
 
Cons of the home gym:
 
  • Potential motivational challenge: For those of you who aren’t very self-motivated, this can become a challenge after a while. 
  • Upfront price: Depending on budget and how well-equipped you want your gym to be, some pieces can be a bit pricey. 
  • It’s still home: Some look to a gym as an escape; a short breather between work and home to de-stress and unwind. Being at home can remove that chance to get away a while. 
  • No escape: Home distractions can lead to lack of productivity. Answering calls, helping your family, or your kid's need for attention can make you feel a bit guilty for taking time out to train at home. 
  • Lack of machinery: The freeweight basics will never die, but it is nice to have some machinery on hand for those days when barbells and dumbbells just aren't on the menu for whatever reason.
  • Subject to the elements: For most, home gyms live amongst the elements in your garage, large storage structure, or some form of non-insulated room. For those of you who live in extreme climates, training in such facilities could become challenging at certain times of the year. Extreme cold or heat will force you to spend a bit more time prepping. 
 
We can dissect the pros and cons all day, but what really matters is which ones are important for your purposes. You may not have kids, or you get up extra early to train while everyone else is asleep, or you might be the super motivated type who gets after it every day. Whatever your personal situation is, make sure you address any concerns and move on your decision. If you’ve decided that a home gym is the right fit for you, then let’s continue. 
 

The 3 Tiers of Home Gyms

To get a better handle on what you can afford, fit in your space, and how they match up with your at-home training goals, I’ve broken down the home gym into three tiers. 
 
1. The basics
Consider this your starter kit, although anyone can take these basics and perform them for a lifetime. This tier will get you going in the right direction and allow you to build more onto it in the future. Here is a list of what you’ll need to get in a full-body, comprehensive workout without breaking the bank:
 
  • Kettlebells
  • Dumbbells
  • Adjustable bench
  • Bands
  • Ab wheel
 
2. Intermediate tools
Here you’ll level-up and add in a few key pieces of equipment. Not only with they enable you to do more, but they will also challenge you in new ways. In addition to the list above, you can add on:
 
  • Suspension trainer
  • Olympic barbell
  • Bumper plates
  • Installed pull-up bar
  • Additional kettlebells and dumbbells
 
3. The well-equipped home gym
Finally, for the ultimate home gym set-up, adding in some adjustable racks and stands can enhance more dynamic training, which can mimic any big box gym workout. This will require more space, but it’s worth it for the added training experience. Add the following to the lists above:
 
  • Power rack
  • Squat stands (if no power rack)
  • Additional bumper plates
  • Chains
  • Rubber floor mats
 

You Don't Have to Train Solo

The biggest liability of training at home is perhaps the fact that you miss the social aspect. Comradery, friendships, and training partners all have positive effects on your training life. Having a spotter, for example, can help motivate you to progress beyond what you thought you could do. However, there are some things you can do to circumvent this. 
 
Make your home gym your very own gym. Invite friends over for a workout, set up challenges and hold friendly competitions. If others have their own home gyms, make it a point to rotate around to different places to keep things interesting.
 
Building a home gym just might be what you need to invigorate your training once again without the need for a membership at a crowded commercial gym. Equip it the way you want, and train the way you want, all in the convenience of your own home.  
 
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