Body Fat Benefits

I've gone back and forth on whether this post should be made, but at this point, I really feel the need to say something.

The man in the following picture has an unhealthy body fat percentage:

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Bear in mind that I'm not hating on Chris Pratt; I love him! He's a Guardian of the Galaxy for crying out loud; however he's the one who felt he was unhealthy and not fit at this stage. Honestly, he was correct; he weighed nearly 300 lbs at one point and that simply isn't healthy.

Still think this is some generic, fat-shaming article? Well, what if I claimed that the man in this picture has an unhealthy body fat level too?

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Surprised, Darth Sidious?

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The truth is that being ripped to the bone isn't good for you. There's no getting around that. I'm not talking about having a six pack or having a flat stomach... I'm referring to the single digit body fat range (9% and lower). I'm talking about the guys you see on Instagram with veins bursting from their chest and abs. I'm talking about men with veins bursting all over their chests and abs, just like Jeff Seid in the photo above.

First off, this low level of fat doesn't even look better. A guy with 12% or even 15% body fat will have a fuller and more muscular look than someone hovering around 7% body fat; this helps beef up the appearance more when you have a shirt on. You'd never know this looking at social media, however, because many athletes and models in the low body fat range are taking steroids that augment their muscle mass and shred their fat to minimal levels. Also, their most ripped appearances are temporary states for their bodies that they reach during photoshoots and such.

But looks aren't everything either. You should be training for your health and longevity as well. If that's the case, then the reality is you never need to go below 10% body fat if you're a man (or 20% body fat if you're a woman). Rather than gaining a health benefit, ridding yourself of that much body fat would actually be a health risk.

These days I'm sitting at 170 lbs and about 10% body fat:

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Now maybe I'm wrong; maybe a DEXA scan would pin me at 12% or 13%. If that's true, then it only helps the point I'm trying to make: there's no need to be leaner than this. I have a six pack and can see striations in my obliques; furthermore, my veins are noticeable without ever needing a pump.

Body fat isn't some evil parasite created by the Devil; we have it for a reason. It plays an integral role in the overall health of your body. In today's blog post, I'd like to discuss the specific roles body fat plays.

First and foremost, body fat is crucial your immune system. Fat acts as an organic cushion that prevents disease and infection from spreading throughout your body. Competitive bodybuilders who cut down to the 5% - 6% range might very well find themselves catching colds and other illnesses more frequently than they normally would; this is a clear sign that the immune system is compromised.

Body fat also contributes to healthy hair growth. Ridding yourself of fat too quickly could lead to premature baldness or graying of your hair. If you're lucky enough to have a head shaped well for the shaved look, maybe this doesn't bother you as much; I personally appreciate my hair and want to preserve it for as long as I can.

Your fat also helps promote a healthy level for your skin. Take a look at competitive bodybuilders and look at their faces during competition: they've drained their faces so much that they almost resemble skeletons. I understand some men want a chiseled jawline (I prefer rocking a beard myself), but your jaw will be about as lean as it can get at 10 - 12% body fat.

Body fat is also crucial to temperature regulation in your body. I find myself getting chills more easily than most people, and I attribute it mainly to my body fat. The ideal temperature to me is 80 Degrees Fahrenheit, which would be considered hot by most people. When I jump into a pool, I freeze up immediately and it takes several minutes to adjust. I can't even imagine how uncomfortable it must be at even lower body fat levels.

Your energy levels are also directly correlated with your body fat levels. Most of us live in the real world: we don't make a living off social media. We have real jobs. And as someone who works in a demanding corporate job, I need to emphasize the importance of feeling focused and energetic throughout the day.

Let me give you an example: let's say you're currently at 15% body fat and eating around 2,500 calories a day. You're not as lean as you'd want to be, but you feel fairly alert during the day at work.

Now suppose that, for the sole sake of getting shredded, you manage to get down to 7% body fat and are now eating only 1,500 calories a day. I guarantee you are going to feel WORSE in this situation; your brain will be so shot you won't even know what 2 + 2 is. Furthermore, with this big drop in calories, you might not be taking in as many vitamins and minerals as you normally would be, which further compromises your health.

Unfortunately, this is often how extreme body fat percentages are reached: bodybuilders nearly starve themselves to rid as much fat as possible, especially in the weeks leading up to their competitions. Actors do this as well, but they find themselves feeling weaker than they'd like: Sylvester Stallone was possibly the leanest he's ever been in Rocky III, but he once commented in an interview that the shape came with drastic side effects. Stallone nearly passed out at different points of the day simply due to the lack of energy. You'd never know this by watching the movie, however, since he's pounding Mr. T like it's his job.

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My overall message is simply this: keep health as your focus when it comes to body fat. Just like you'll never be the biggest guy in the gym, you'll never be the most shredded either. But you can still have a lean, strong body that will turn heads at the beach. Men who shred down to 10% and women hovering around 20% will have healthy, aesthetic bodies that any normal person would envy. More importantly, you won't feel miserable maintaining a physique like such; your self confidence will match the physical energy that comes with maintaining a healthy level of fat.

Supplement Substitutions

There's a saying: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I'd like you to keep this saying in mind the next time you see an advertisement for a supplement.

"Burn fat fast!"

"Trim your waist in no time!"

"Clinically proven to add an inch to your arms!"

The list goes on and on, but it's all bull**** honestly.

Ponder for a moment about how people in ancient times built muscle. Zeus and Poseidon weren't real gods, but their statues were based on real people.

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Imagine living in a time period thousands of years ago with none of the amenities we have today, but more specifically, no supplements. Back then people simply achieved their physiques through hard work, rest, and eating real food.

If you've followed me for a while, you know I'm not crazy about supplements. Most of the products out there are nothing more than a waste of your money. In this post, however, I'd like to be a bit more specific and drill into why some supplements suck and how to substitute those products with more natural alternatives.

1) Preworkout

Preworkout supplements are probably the most popular ones out there. Unfortunately though, they're also quite overrated. Some are loaded with uncommon ingredients that have frustrating side effects (diarrhea, muscle cramps, headaches, etc.) and others are just glorified caffeine powders.

The few preworkout supplements that work might also be a bit too much. Some of the added ingredients in these preworkouts are sketchy at best; if you take a powder that's making your heart beat twice as fast, that's definitely not ideal for your health. Better results in the gym aren't worth it if you suddenly develop high blood pressure from a supplement.

Heart rate aside, preworkout powders can lead to other nasty side effects as well. You might suffer from muscle cramps and twitches, which would only impede your workout. Furthermore, these products might leave you with stomach aches or diarrhea.

Alternative: Caffeine

Consuming foods naturally high in caffeine is your best bet for a solid preworkout. Coffee, for exmaple, is one of the healthiest things you can drink so long as you have it in moderate doses. I personally have 1 cup (roughly 150 mg) every morning of the week. I've personally found caffeine each morning to be helpful in both my workouts and my morning routine. I lift more efficiently, shower more quickly, and just feel more awake in general once the caffeine is in my system.

If coffee isn't your thing, tea can have a similar effect since it's naturally loaded with caffeine. Just be sure to use a brand that is relatively high in the substance such as black tea.

2) BCAAs

I used to HATE taking this one. I bought various flavors for BCAAs and all of them tasted disgusting. Flavor aside, it turns out these actually don't do anything for you. The purpose of these amino acids is to prevent muscle breakdown during your workout; by preventing muscle damage, you'd be able to achieve more reps per set and feel more energized throughout the workout.

Theoretically that sounds great, but here's the catch: muscle damage is a main pathway to hypertrophy. Every time that you complete a repetition you're breaking down your muscle fibers; the damage is very small, but the body reacts to the overall muscle damage from the workout by recvoering and, if you're bulking properly, building new muscle in its place to overcompensate.

So really, BCAAs are just making your job harder. By not taking BCAAs, my workouts are much more efficient; while people on BCAAs might need 3 sets per exercise to induce a certain level of muscle damage, I could probably reach that same muscle breakdown in just 2 sets instead.

Alternative: Nothing

Yep, the best alternative for BCAAs is to simply not consume any form of amino acid or protein before your workouts. I'm a huge fan of doing my workouts on an empty stomach, save for some coffee and water. As I explained, there's no benefit to prevent muscle damage since that's a main factor for hypertrophy in the first place.

3) Whey Protein Powder

Next to preworkout, protein powder is possibly the most popular supplement out there. The logic seems simple at first: muscle fibers are made up of proteins, so the more protein you eat, the more muscle you build. Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that. Despite what some people claim, you don't need very much protein to build muscle. As long as you're filling your diet with protein rich foods, I doubt you'd even need protein powder.

Alternative: Protein Bars

Protein bars are one of the most convenient supplements out there. I usually have 2 of them in the afternoon and they prevent me from getting hungry until it's close to dinner time. Furthermore, many protein bars out there (such as Quest's products) are primarily made from whey isolate, the same substance comprising whey protein powders.

I get as much protein from non-processed food as I can, but these come in handy since I eat nearly 3,000 calories on my rest days. Plus they tend to be more nutritious than you'd expect; the chocolate protein bars often have quite a bit of magnesium, which is one of the vital and under-consumed minerals in the average American diet.

4) Fat Burner

Fat burners are overhyped, even by their very name. Truthfully, there's no food or ingredient that will directly burn off your body fat if you consume it. Instead what most fat burners aim to achieve is increasing your metabolism; by burning more energy each day, you will gradually lose body fat. Fat burners have many of the same flaws that preworkout supplements have, however.

Alternative: Caffeine

Gonna give coffee and tea another shout-out here. Caffeine is fantastic for speeding up your metabolism and increasing the amount of energy you burn throughout the day, particularly if you consume it first thing in the morning.

5) Creatine

Whhhhaaaaatttttt??????

Yeah, you read that correctly. My attitude toward this supplement has done a 180 lately. I used to think this supplement was phenomenal; it's relatively cheap and literally inflates your muscles with a few pounds of water, usually enhancing your strength in the process. I'm also convinced Hollywood actors take 20 to 30 grams of this stuff each day while filming just to add 15 lbs of water to their muscles so that they look huge on screen (take a look at Chris Hemsworth in Thor movies compared to his beach pictures: he looks a good 20 lbs lighter).

The unfortunate truth, however, is that even low doses of this supplement (3 to 5 grams a day) actually put a great deal of stress on your kidneys, specifically on your body's levels of creatinine. The normal levels for an adult are anywhere from 0.60 to 1.35; mine were at 1.56 according to a recent blood test. In fact, even the blood test before that (from 9 months ago) showed that my levels were at 1.53; I wish the former doctor that I went to had told me that back then, but it is what it is.

Why was I so taken aback by this? Because I'm not even 25 and live a healthy lifestyle. Nothing should be appearing as a concern in my bloodwork.

Alternative: Quality Protein

Consuming high quality protein in your diet is, to me, the best alternative out there for creatine. It's true that some foods do in fact contain creatine, but you'd have to eat a lot of them (a few pounds of steak or fish each day) to ingest 3 to 5 grams of creatine. As I've mentioned above, however, you really don't need this substance in your system; all it did was put my kidneys at risk.

Instead of worrying about creatine, focus on ingesting high quality protein. Chick peas, eggs, milk, and lean grass-fed beef are some of the best foods filled with protein and other nutrients. I eat 4 eggs everyday, and the same bloodwork that I mentioned above pointed out I have very low and healthy levels of cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is not bad like some people make it out to be, so be sure to have 3 or 4 eggs each day to satiate you and fill you with excellent protein.

Wrap Up

I hope these tips were helpful! Ultimately, the best way to see if a supplement works is by adding it to your diet while everything else (training and sleep included) remains constant. If you notice a substantial improvement, then the supplement is working. Ultimately, make sure you go for your annual physical and have blood work done with your doctor; this is the only reason I was able to identify that creatine just wasn't for me.

Adios Acne

People often say that there's more to health than how you look. That's honestly true; I fully agree with that. But I'll go in a slightly different direction for this post: there's so much more to looking good than just your muscle mass and body fat.

What's the point of having 20 inch arms if you have hardly any hair left on your head? Is it worth being shredded to the bone if every vein on your face looks like it's about to burst? Appearance is important and there's so much more to it than your body composition.

One important area is the skin on your face. Bad acne looks bad to everyone: your boss, your lover, your friends, and even strangers.

Eventually, if you don't get rid of these zits, they might be the first thing people associate with you. Like that kid on "The Fairly Oddparents" with the nasty boil:

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What's his name again? I don't even know honestly and that's my point: his acne suddenly supersedes his actual name.

Let's go over a few ways to avoid getting those nasty zits on your face.

1) Eat Clean

I've noticed that the food I eat has a huge impact on my acne. Normally I eat healthy food throughout the day, but sometimes I slip up and pig out. Recently I ordered a large milkshake and box of large fries from McDonald's; I quickly regretted the decision once I noticed the pimples it caused the day after.

Greasy foods are probably the worst for causing acne. Pizza, french fries, burgers, and fried chicken are such tasty foods, but they're the worst for your acne. It's almost like the grease just transfers right from the food to your face when you eat it. Try to have them in small quantities.

Dairy can produce problematic pimples (say that 3 times fast) as well. Consuming high amounts of milk, yogurt, and protein shakes will have devastating effects on your face. I swore off protein shakes for good once my dermatologist told me it was contributing to my acne and I haven't looked back since. Some people completely swear off dairy from their diet for various reasons. I personally don't condone this (I still have 16 oz of milk and a yogurt everyday), but it would definitely help if you're suffering from bad acne.

Inflammation in general is bad for acne as well, and processed foods are notorious for this. Eating bags of chips and cookies all day will just make your acne worse. Furthermore, some foods are fantastic for preventing inflammation. Kale and other dark leafy greens are a must for keeping inflammation to a minimum. Also, a good fish oil supplement could go a long way in reducing those zits.

2) Chill Out

Stress can have a huge impact on your acne as well. Whenever I freaked out over a test I had coming up like the CPA exam, I always noticed my pimples get nasty and grow beyond my control.

I've noticed some people stress about the smallest things in life too. Someone shifts in front of you on the highway and you suddenly start yelling every swear word that you've ever heard. Why? What is that even accomplishing? I understand that in the moment it's hard to resist the frustration, but if you catch yourself from now on, you'll get to a point where traffic doesn't bother you much at all.

Virtually nothing is worth stressing about. Nothing! The next time something is about to stress you out, simply breathe deeply and slowly. While you're at it, keep in mind that there's a much bigger picture to life; whatever's annoying you at the moment won't matter 10 years or maybe even 10 days from now.

Unless someone is holding a gun to your face or a car is about to smash into you, there isn't really anything you should lose your mind over. I used to stress about the dumbest things in the world and it did nothing for me.

3) Wipe It Off

I've noticed that myself, and others as well, tend to get a lot of moisture and dirt on their face as the day goes on. Be sure to take a clean cloth or tissue to wipe your face a couple times each day; leaving that grease unaddressed could lead to future skin problems on your face.

It might seem out of the ordinary, but I've found Chipotle napkins to be especially good at this. I crave Chipotle's food more than almost anything, so knowing that I can bring a few of their napkins home to keep my face clean is yet another reason to love that food company.

Worst case you could always use your hands. Go to the restroom to wash your hands thoroughly, dry them, then gently wipe your face. Wash your hands again and you've successfully removed all the oil that could have led to nasty zits.

4) Buy Topical Treatments

I'm all for natural causes, but sometimes the aforementioned tricks won't fully get rid of the acne. In that case, you should turn to some topical remedy to apply to your face.

Also, be sure to use a cleansing lotion for your face when you shower. Neutrogena has some great stuff that I use. This product is relatively cheap and really seems to work well. Feel free to rub it on your shoulders and back if acne pops up there as well.

The simplest thing you can do is keep trying different brands until you find one that works. Talk to your relatives: bad acne sometimes has a genetic component and there's a good chance someone in your family has found a product that does the trick.

5) Hydrate

Skimping on your water intake can lead to a variety of health problems, including your acne. Water influences nearly every process in your body, including those related to your skin.

I personally drink about a gallon each day on my rest days, and on my workout days, that number is probably closer to 1.5 gallons. The amount varies from person to person, but you should be drinking enough water so that you urinate every 1 - 2 hours throughout the day.

Wrap Up

There you go! Some great ways to fight off acne and keep your skin clean.

Oh, and apparently Elmer was the name of the kid from "The Fairly Oddparents" I referenced above; who knew?

Sleep Reloaded

You know who's a hilarious actor? Joe Pesci. A movie of his that I watched recently was My Cousin Vinny (yep, I'm almost 25 and I've never seen this classic before now; kind of pathetic when I think about it)

The movie has tons of jokes and wit that will keep you laughing throughout the story. But what truly struck me was the running gag of Vinny's sleep. Save for a night in jail, this man spent nearly a week preparing for a court case and sleeping no more than 3 hours per night. Whether it was a freight train or a horde of pigs, something was always waking Vinny up in the morning.

Although, sometimes he had a more fun reason to stay up at night:

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Obviously it's a movie, but it struck a chord with me because I understand how little sleep that really is. I had one of my worst nights of sleep in years recently. I'm not even sure how it happened; I lied down in bed, totally relaxed, yet ended up tossing and turning for hours and hours. I slept maybe 2 hours total that night.

I don't always sleep this badly. Normally I sleep 7 or 8 hours consistently from night to night, usually waking up no more than once. Back in the day I was never a good sleeper; I did a post on sleep a while back, but I've experimented with some different tricks since then and felt the need to blog about the subject once again.

Here are the top tips for sleeping better at night.

1) Stay Active During the Day

This is probably one of the biggest tips I've come across recently. I've noticed huge differences in my sleep on days where I'm very active compared to days when I'm not.

Imagine for a moment that you didn't have to move at all. Someone would bring you diapers for your bathroom needs, meals when you get hungry, and anything else you would desire. All you would have to do is sit in your chair for 16 hours or so.

Now, imagine trying to fall asleep at night after all that. There's no way you'd be able to! Humans are not designed like sloths; we need to move during the day.

The simplest thing to do is to exercise daily or close to that frequency. Even 15 - 20 minutes of exercise first thing in the morning can do wonders for your sleep. During the work week, I don't even perform my lifting workouts; I just do sprinting workouts on my treadmill. They're quick and really get my heart rate going in the A.M.

Being active is more than just formal exercise, however. Get in the habit of taking more breaks at your job. Many of us working in sedentary jobs within corporate offices; it's imperative that you get up every hour to walk around, get your mind off work, and keep yourself active. If you find yourself in meetings throughout the day, that might help honestly since you're constantly moving from one conference room to the next.

Furthermore, get yourself exposed to bright light from the moment you wake up. Ideally you'd be able to get sunlight once you roll out of bed, but this isn't always the case; I've found artificial blue light generators to be helpful for waking me up on cloudy or rainy days.

2) Lights Out

The light that your eyes view has a huge impact on your circadian rhythyms

Blue light has gotten quite a bad rap in recent years for the effects it has on sleep. Research on it has pushed people to totally avoid television and computer screens at night. And there is truth in that blue light can negatively impact your sleep.

However, what matters much more is the brightness of lights rather than their color. Which do you think would harm your sleep quality more: staring at lights on a football field at night, or looking at a picture of the ocean on your dimly lit Mac? I don't care how blue that ocean is; the field lights are

So yeah, it's totally okay to watch television at night. Put on something funny like The Office so you can have a laugh before you go to bed. Just try to keep the brightness of your television or computer low, otherwise your sleep could suffer.

Also, make sure you close the curtains, especially in the summer. If you're watching the sunset at 8 P.M. but trying to fall asleep by 10, it's probably not gonna happen. Light is great for waking you up and keeping you awake, but when you need to fall asleep, that light will be no help to you. Close the curtains by 7:00 P.M. and sit in dimly lit rooms in the hour approaching bedtime.

3) Do Dinner Right

The meal you have before bedtime is important. I've had countless nights where I slept terribly simply because my last meal before bed was improper. Here are some key elements for a good dinner before you snooze:

  • Moderate portion sizes
  • High dietary fat
  • Low in carbs
  • Low in sugar
  • Low in fiber
  • Moderate amount of protein
  • No caffeine
  • No alcohol
  • Foods high in trytophan (eggs, walnuts, bananas, etc.)

Eat a meal like this 2 - 3 hours before bed and you'll sleep like a baby.

4) Relax

Stress is one of the worst things for your sleep; it's not easy to fall asleep at night if you have a million thoughts running through your head. Issues at work, relationship drama, financial problems... these are just some of the many things that could be stressing the crud out of you.

No matter how old or young you are, you'll always have some kind of stress in your life. People in high school and people in retirement have no daily jobs to worry about, yet there are plenty of stressed teenagers and senior citizens out there.

Here are just a few ways to relax at night:

  • Pray
  • Meditate
  • Read
  • Watch TV
  • Play an instrument
  • Bond with loved ones

5) Get Comfy

Being comfortable is essential for falling asleep. I envy my friends who can crash at apartments on a couch or even the floor; I've never been able to sleep like that.

Room temperature is incredibly important for falling asleep. The room should be relatively cool (70 degrees or lower) if you want to achieve restful sleep.

The pillow and mattress you use are also key to your sleep hygiene. If you find yourself constantly waking at night, that could be a sign your mattress or pillow just aren't up to par. For those of you who sleep with a partner, be sure to use a mattress where your movements won't disturb your lover's and vice versa.

Also, for those of you who have beards like myself, try to find the right length that it's comfortable. Short and long beards can prevent you from getting your head comfortable on the pillow; you need to find a gray area in between for comfort. I have 6 settings on my trimmer and know which one to trim my facial hair with every week. Also, trim it first thing in the morning; I made the mistake of trimming mine at night recently and it itched like crazy!

6) Stop Caring about Sleep

This one is counter-intuitive, I know, but it's helped me quite a bit recently.

If you've struggled with sleep enough, you get to the point where you're just obsessed with it; all you think about and desire is getting enough sleep, catching up on lost sleep, getting deeper sleep, etc. I've been at this point countless times myself, so trust me, it's not worth obsessing over!

Look, I'm not downplaying the value of sleep; it's vital to everyone's health. But there's so much more to your health than just sleep. I know guys who sleep over 10 hours a day that look terrible despite this. There's so much you can control outside of your sleep (how much water you drink, what foods you eat, how you respond to stressful situations, your exercise routine, etc.)

Try to re-frame how you view sleep. Frankly, you might not need as much sleep as some people do; maybe that's why you're always having with it in the first place. They might be exceptions, but there are quite a number of people in the world who need no more than 5 or 6 hours a night; you just might be one of those lucky few.

So the next time you lie in bed wide awake, don't freak out about your sleep! Learn to let go of things and you might just end up falling asleep anyway.

Wrap Up

I truly sympathize with any of you who have trouble sleeping. It's something that comes so naturally to some people yet is a constant struggle for the rest of us.

If you've been having a hard time sleeping, please leave a comment; I'd be happy to give you more tips or clarify anything aforementioned in this post.

Home Gym Essentials

I just cancelled my gym membership this past weekend. It's something I've been considering for a while now. I've decided that weightlifting exercises, especially dumbbell curls, are just too hard. I'd rather just stop exercising to drop back down to my 135 lbs skinny fat physique from high school; dad bods are all the rage now anyway.

All kidding aside, there's nothing wrong with my gym. In fact, they even added new equipment in recent months, including a squat rack and more plates. The gym is relatively clean, doesn't get too crowded when I go on the weekends, and has friendly staff members to boot.

The main reason I'm cancelling is because as good as my commercial gym has been, my gym in my basement is all that I need. My setup isn't a joke; some people's "home gym" is a rusty barbell with a pair of 5 lb dumbbells to boot. Virtually any free weight or bodyweight exercise that I want to perform can be done within the confines of my basement.

There are social aspects to the gym as well, but that was never my main focus. My focus is to get bigger, leaner, and stronger by using the gym.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

I'm a huge fan of home gyms. It's a simple matter of math to me: invest $500 in a quality home gym instead of paying to go to one, and that investment will pay off in just 2 - 3 years. That may seem like a long time, but if you're serious about your fitness, it will pass in the blink of an eye.

Being able to exercise in my home all year is amazing. It helps me get more sleep, which is a critical aspect to health that far too many people skimp on. It's also comfortable. Especially during the winter, nobody wants to go outside in the cold first thing in the morning (unless you're a psycho).

Obviously there are limitations, the biggest being that if you love using machines, it's hard to afford them in your home. Machines for weight training can cost over $1000 depending on the vendor. This is just a little too pricey; plus, I firmly believe that free weight and bodyweight exercises are superior to machines for every muscle group.

Squat Rack

This is by far the most important piece of equipment for your basement gym. You can do tons of exercises using a squat rack. Here's a few examples:

  • Flat Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Squat
  • Overhead Press
  • Rack Pull
  • Shrug
  • Inverted Row
  • Assisted Pull Up

If your basement has a low ceiling like man, get a rack that's no higher than 6 feet. Below is the one I have (a product sold by Fitness Gear Pro) in my house:

Barbell

What's a rack without a barbell? This is a cornerstone for free weight exercises like Squats and Rows, so you definitely need it in your home gym.

Many barbells come with enough plates that will increase its total weight to 300 lbs, and that's probably all you need for your normal routine. You could purchase more plates if you wish; I personally do working sets of 365 lbs on Deadlifts. If you're some freak who's repping out 500 lbs on this exercise, get ready to buy A LOT of plates.

Weight Rack

You'll need something to put those plates on as well. The Squat Rack I mentioned above does have some metal separations in the middle that you could place weights on. However, once the barbell is on there, it can be annoying to try to move around the bar every time you need to grab a plate.

Again, if you're the freak repping 500 lbs on Deadlifts, you'll probably need a second weight rack. Also, did you know that you're stronger than Jeff Seid?

Adjustable Dumbbells

If you're going to purchase dumbbells, they need to be ones you can adjust. I can't stand walking around a store and seeing dumbbells fixed at 40 lbs, 30 lbs, 20 lbs, etc. Buying them not only limits the rep ranges and exercises you could be performing; it prevents you from progressing. What if you like using heavy sets during your arms workout but you only have 20 lb dumbbells? You're going to hit the wall fast with that.

I personally use 52.5 adjustable dumbbells from Bowflex. These dumbbells could individually be as light as 5 lbs or as heavy as 52.5 lbs. Even during my heavy sets for compound exercises they challenge me; I can only perform the 52.5s for 5 or 6 reps on Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press (this is usually the second exercise in one of my Push workouts). Bowflex also sells a pair of 90 lb ones if these just aren't enough for you.

Pull Up Bar

Honestly you could build an impressive back and pair of biceps doing nothing but variations of Pull Ups in your routine. This is partly why having a bar for doing them is a key piece of equipment in your home. Here are just a few variations you could be doing with this:

  • Chin Ups (palms facing you)
  • Neutral Grip Chin Ups
  • Pull Ups (palms facing away)
  • Sternum Netural Grip Chin Ups (pulling your chest to the bar)

So clearly Pull Ups are profound for building your back. Some squat racks have bars at the top for doing pull ups, but most basements can't fit these 8 foot tall pieces of equipment. Instead, I use a pull up bar that hangs from my door frame in my basement, as shown below:

Belt

Not a powerlifting belt; this one is for hanging plates and making your exercises harder to perform. I find this equipment particularly useful for Dips and Pull Ups. Of course, you could use it on other movements as well.

As a beginner, bodyweight exercises can be tough; I couldn't do a single pull up at the beginning of my fitness journey. These days I can do over 20 with strict form. Thus, if I want to use the 5 - 7 rep range for Pull Ups, I need this belt.

Wrap Up

Your fitness routine shouldn't feel like a chore. Ideally it should be enjoyable, but at the very least it should be manageable. People with routines that they can't manage or enjoy are the ones that give up when it comes their fitness. Invest in a home gym today and you'll be investing in your future.

I truly believe that the above equipment will enable you to do virtually any effective exercise out there. Some of

Please let me know if you have any questions about my setup at home!