How to Build Your Own Home Gym

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I would like to think that the most popular reason that people love UEFP is because of the training. What is all the rage at UEFP is the fact that you receive personal training done in a private setting. There aren’t any distractions, no one hawking supplements to you, and you don’t have to worry about running into that guy who just can’t get a hint (here’s the hint: you’re not interested).

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UEFP was several years in the making. Upon my last year of Grad school, I left my former employer. My wife and I did the math and realized that we could build your own gym in our garage and train the way people were meant to train – which meant barbells, medicine balls, and a squat rack. We also didn’t want to bother with the distractions mentioned above. Long story short, my wife and I realized the joy of being able to train at home with the bare essentials. In fact, in the first year of training at home I got stronger and in better shape than I ever did training at my former employer’s gym. Oftentimes, less is more.

I realize though that we can’t train everyone. Currently, our company model is still to train people in a private setting. We also have a waiting list. So instead, I thought I could explain the best way to build a home gym for the most hardcore fitness enthusiasts.

Choose a Location

In my personal opinion, you have two spots to choose for your gym: the garage or your basement. If your basement is a complete mess, then don’t bother. Your training equipment will consist of bumper plates and you may be advanced enough to do some Olympic lifts. This will require you to drop the barbell to the floor and you don’t want to crush your kids Power Rangers while training in a storage closet. The living room and bedroom are excluded from this list. If you go with the garage, then be prepared to park the car outside and have a plan to deal with the Winter if you live in a area like Michigan. If you’re not familiar with Michigan, then be prepared for a Winter that may arrive in October and not leave till April.

The take home message here is that you want a training area that you can slightly abuse and is void of any distractions.

What Not to Buy

Treadmills, an elliptical, or a cycle do not need to be purchased at this point. You’re limited with this stuff and it will eat up too much of your budget. For a complete list of some really horrific gym equipment, scope out our article on bad home fitness equipment.

First Priority: Barbell and Bumper Plates

The barbell is the best equipment money can buy. Regardless of your goal, be it strength, weight loss, conditioning, etc., the barbell is king (or queen) of training equipment. There are literally hundreds of different moves that you can do because of all the variations. Most importantly, the barbell trains the body how it was meant to be trained – as a functional unit. Your body doesn’t like to be divided into different muscles. Learning how to perform barbell movements will require core stability, coordination, strength, and will do wonders for your metabolic rate. Plus it costs one tenth the price of a treadmill!

Bumper plates are weights coated in rubber. They’re meant to take a beating because they’re designed to be dropped if you get in some trouble or are performing an explosive move where you can just drop the plates to the floor/platform. Plus they’ll last a lifetime – another long term investment. We’ve had our bumper plates now for nearly two years and haven’t had a single issue!

Second Priority: Squat Rack/Squat Stand

If you’re unsure of how to squat, then a rack might not be for you. But if you want to get in some serious shape, then a rack is a must have. For several hundred dollars (still far less than a treadmill) you can buy a sturdy rack that will allow you to perform rack pulls (a variation of a deadlift), squats, presses, chin ups, dips – the possibilities are endless. Once again, you’re spending about five months’ worth of a quality gym membership in one shot for a lifetime of workouts.

If a rack is not going to happen, then check out a squat stand. Some of your options will be eliminated, but it will still let you do specific barbell moves.

Down the Road: Supplementary Material

This is where the fitness nerd can have some fun. Depending on your goals, or how you like to train, you can purchase your preferred equipment as time goes on. This can include medicine balls, kettlebells, bands, sleds, dumbbells – whatever you feel you need to complete your gym.

If you do have some extra money to throw around, then I would encourage you to purchase 1 medicine ball, 1 kettlebell, and 1 plyo box. This will add a nice touch to your training and allow you get in some serious conditioning workouts.

The Only Major Expense: Flooring

Depending on how deep your pockets are, flooring may or may not be an issue. For some, the garage floor itself may do. Others may want to go the extra mile and supply their home gym with a protective floor. Your best bet is to go with horse stall mats; they’ll cover 4 x6 feet and only cost about 40 bucks a piece. Be prepared though, because each mat weighs a hundred pounds. If you want to protect the floor but don’t want to spend a fortune, then build a lifting platform at a cost of about 200 dollars. The construction of it goes a bit beyond the scope of this article, but it can be done.

Conditioning Tools

There are far better tools than the treadmill. For your home gym, I would just take all the running you want to do outside. It only costs a pair of running shoes and it’s much better for you. If you do want to buy some conditioning equipment, your best bet is the Concept 2 Rower or an Airbike. Both will cost half the price of a treadmill and will take up about one quarter of the room. Plus they’re also much easier to move than a treadmill. I’ve helped several people with treadmills move and I have to say that I was silently praying for the whole thing to be over.

Wrapping it Up

For a small chunk of change, a barbell should be your first investment. Where you go from there is up to you, but no matter what you spend, it will never surpass a one year membership at a quality gym. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need 20,000 square feet of machines and treadmills to get in shape. UEFP was built around the essentials and we haven’t looked back since.

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