Thursday, May 7, 2009

Why I have a home gym, and why you should have one too

Why do I have a home gym?
I find working out in a commercial gym annoying. First, there's constantly a wait for the benches and the other equipment that you want, especially if it's busy--try working out in January sometime. Trying to do circuits in a commercial gym is suicide. And don't even get me started on the "no deadlift rule" that a lot of gyms have instituted.

When you add to that the idea that most machines are inferior to most free-weight exercises, then think about all the time and money that you spend on the gym. How much is your membership--$50 a month? And how many people live in your house that use the gym? two? three? How much is gas? And how often are you waiting for equipment? You begin to think that maybe "hey, I could do this better at home."

The truth is, I've had a lot of my best workouts at home. At home, you have complete control over the music that's being played. Trying to have a PR session in the squat or deadlift just doesn't cut it when you're listening to the oldies station that the gym owner insists on. There is no one who wants to talk to you, no one to bother you and no one staring at the weird crap that you do. (Try lifting a kettlebell in a commercial gym sometime. Though I imagine this has gotten better since I last set foot in a commercial gym in 2006, probably not much.) Plus, the ever-present old dude in the shower is conspicuously absent, unless you are the creepy old dude in the showers. (Why is he in the shower when you get there? and still there when you get done, drying his nutsack with the hand dryers: what is that about?) In addition, it forces you to stay with hard, basic exercises, and keeps you off of the leg adduction machine.

So how do you go about building a home gym?
First off, start up with the basics. I will eventually get a power rack, but I started with just a dip/chin station and some kettlebells. Figure out how much you're spending a month on gym memberships, then save up about three months worth. You can get started with that. Garage sales, craigslist, and sales at Sports Authority or Sears, going-out-of-business sales for gyms, plus Play-It-Again Sports. Weights have definitely gotten more expensive with time, but some people have not gotten the memo. Around here, it's 69 cents a pound for used weights at Play-It-Again, and 89 cents for new, but I got my weights for 31 cents a pound with an adjustable bench thrown in for free. I've heard stories of people getting 300 pounds Olympic sets for $20 at garage sales, and dumpsters filled with 100 lb. dumbbells. It happens, and it's all about keeping your eyes peeled for equipment. Once you've set up enough space and set aside some money every month, you'll be surprised at how fast your home gym starts to become very respectable. Let's take a look around my home gym and you can see what I've got:

New Home Gym

I've had a home gym since about 2001. I started simple, with some dumbbells, a flat bench, and some cinder blocks. (You can see some boxes 18" and 24" here, as well as some sledgehammers). Soon I added a chinup bar and olympic barbell set.

Parker's New Home Gym

After a couple of moves, I was down to kettlebells and dumbbells when I moved into my current place. No bench, no chinup bar, so the first thing I bought was a combination dip/chin station. (You can see the corner of my desk in this shot, too: that's my printer.)

I live in a college town, so the entire month before everyone graduates, I comb craigslist to see what's on there. People often have stuff that they don't want to move, and you can have it for a song. You may be able to achieve the same effect by looking from about March through May or June for "spring cleaning". Some people have failed at their New Year's resolutions by then, and their failure can be your gain.


I've got a whiteboard. This is handy for recording your workouts in real time. I'm thinking about putting up a "gym records" board for my PRs (personal records) and a few posters as well.


The calendar is really for planning my workouts out in advance. As you can see, I haven't gone out too far-right now my performance on this week's workouts determines what next week's workouts are supposed to look like. If I was doing a longer cycle, I would note down all of my workouts in advance here. You can also see my "cardio machine"-two jump ropes.

Medicine Balls

Here I've got four homemade medicine balls, some lengths of pipe that I need to make into standard dumbbells, and an adjustable isometric system like the one Bruce Lee used to use. You can start as low-tech as you want and move up from there. Not pictured is a bag of play sand that I use to weight my home-creations.

New Bench

Here's a shot of my new weight bench--the whole works was $100. Keep your eyes peeled for deals!

The byline of my blog is "hacking MIND and body since 2007". I know there's been precious little in the way of mind-hacks lately, but I have some articles about memorization and memory coming up. I've also got another article about home-gyms and more PULSE coming up, as well as a few surprises, so stay tuned.


Kid Gorgeous said...

Nice post. Other than missing the opportunity to gawk at girls, everything you said about a home gym being better makes sense. I suppose that if you're at the gym to work out, not to be a pervert, it's a moot point.

Brainna Mcslacker said...

Good job.
I would like to set up Home gyms immediately.
Thanks for clearing my dilemmas.