For some, going to a public gym is the best way to work out. They love the range of equipment and facilities, the social aspect and the overall experience that comes with a visit to the gym.
For others, it can often be a frustrating experience. The time and effort it takes to travel there, the waiting for equipment and the constant distractions can leave some people pretty underwhelmed with the fitness world in general.
Fortunately there are a few alternatives for those that dread the gym, and arguably the pinnacle of these options is building your own gym at home. It’s incredibly convenient, you can stock it with the equipment you’re likely to use most, there’s no waiting for machines or weights and there’s no travel!
The downside is obviously the upfront cost of building the home gym and buying the equipment, and some people simply won’t have the space available to build the type of facility they’d like. But if you’re fortunate enough to have the financial resources and the space to build your dream gym, the tricky part can be narrowing down the equipment you’ll need.
What Kind of Workout Will You Do?
The obvious first step is outlining the type of training you’ll be doing regularly and basing the majority of your home gym around that. If you’re focused on strength training then a barbell, plates and a power rack should be at the top of your list. If you’re more focused on cardio then you’ll be looking more towards treadmills, cross trainers and similar equipment.
Once you’ve got the overall idea you’ll need to narrow it down even further. For example, if you’ve decided to focus on strength and are looking more at the Olympic lifts and workouts like Crossfit then the type of bar and plates you buy are important. Bumper plates will be better for lifts where you’ll be dropping the weight to the floor, and you’ll need a barbell with a higher weight limit for heavy deadlifts and squats.
If you’re going all-out with strength workouts you might want to consider incorporating a lifting platform in your home gym. This will help lessen the impact on your floor and help prevent damaging your equipment, and can be worth the investment longer term. You can even build one yourself fairy cheaply using stall mats and wood if you’re a half decent handyman!
For dumbbells, most people won’t have the space or the inclination to have a full wall of individual weights, so the best option is good quality adjustable dumbbells. Ideally you’re looking for bars that will work with the weights you’re using for your barbell, and while they can cost a little more you’ll be able to add a lot more weight over time.
Another important piece of equipment is an adjustable bench. This will allow you to perform a wide variety of movements with both the bar and the dumbbells, including the variations of bench press which form part of the foundation of most strength training programs.
Setting Up For Cardio
For some people, weight training is a secondary concern and they’d rather focus on improving their cardiovascular fitness. There are several common machines used for this, each with their own pros and cons, and choosing the right equipment will depend on your goals.
The classic is the treadmill, which will allow you to run indoors at your own pace. The plus side is that you can run easily in all weather, easily track your time and distance and get a good workout in the comfort of your own home. The drawback is of course the cost when compared to just going for a run outside, and they can be fairly noisy machines at times!
The exercise bike is another staple of the home gym, and it provides a great workout without taking up to much space or making much noise. The cost will vary depending on the level of functionality you’re looking for, but there should be something which will suit most budgets. Some people do find indoor cycling a little boring, and it can be uncomfortable to sit on the saddle for any length of time, but overall it’s a pretty effective and affordable piece of equipment.
There are various other machines, such as ellipticals and rowing machines, which will provide a great cardio workout in a home gym. The choice is really down to personal preference, budget and the space you have available.
While there’s plenty of positives to training at home, one downside is the lack of a spotter or someone else being there if something were to go wrong. We’ve all seen the ‘workout fail’ type videos on YouTube of people attempting to lift something too heavy or sliding off a treadmill, however beyond the humour of these situations is a very real risk of serious injury.
If you’re lifting heavy weight at the gym it’s important to have at least a decent set of safety pins in place, and ideally you’ll have a spotter there to help you if you’re ever struggling with that last rep. In a home gym that’s not always possible, so it’s vital that you consider your safety before attempting any lift.
If you’ve never attempted the weight before, make sure there’s someone around to help you. Practice bailing on a lift safely regularly too, particularly lifts where you’re underneath the bar like squats and the bench press. While you may feel a little silly practicing dropping your weights, it could genuinely be the difference between avoiding injury and something serious like a crushed sternum or fractured back.
Most cardio equipment will have some sort of emergency stop facility built in, so make sure you’re familiar with how it all works. Also, try to monitor your heart rate regularly throughout your workout. If it’s edging towards the unsafe range, back off a little and recover.
Try to always have your phone with or near you too in case of any emergency. The last thing you need to worry about if you sustain an injury is being able to call for help, so try to have it handy and let someone know where you’ll be ahead of time.
Is It Right For You?
While a home gym is certainly a luxury, it’s hard to put a price on the benefits of improving your health and fitness. If you’re tired of a commercial gym and enjoy training in the privacy and comfort of your own home then it could be the perfect way of moving towards your fitness goals.
By planning in advance what you’ll use the gym for most and buying quality but flexible equipment you’ll find you get great value out of your set up. And when you consider the long term cost of a gym membership you may find you may even end up saving money over time!