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!