Build­ing a home gym doesn’t have to be par­tic­u­larly ex­pen­sive

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HEALTH - By SCOTT LAIDLER

Have you grown sick of the hus­tle, bus­tle, and sweat­stained walls of the typ­i­cal com­mer­cial gym? Do you find the travel time as­so­ci­ated with get­ting to and from your lo­cal work­out cen­tre af­fects the amount of ses­sions you can get in each week? Are you sim­ply fed up of pay­ing through the nose for fa­cil­i­ties that you have to share with oth­ers?

If you an­swered yes to any one of the above ques­tions, it may be the time to con­sider cre­at­ing your very own per­sonal gym at home.

Be­fore you do, though, a word of cau­tion: plenty of good men have suf­fered the fate of be­ing se­duced into pur­chas­ing overly ex­pen­sive and ul­ti­mately fad­dish fit­ness equip­ment for their spare room or garage. Just imag­ine how many ab cra­dles, ab belts, vi­brat­ing dumbbells and other relics of the fit­ness in­dus­try are stashed in at­tics across the land, never to see the light of day again.

I’m go­ing to show you a bet­ter way to con­struct your home work­out space. But first you need to ask your­self the fol­low­ing, cru­cial ques­tion: Is this go­ing to be good for you?

Hav­ing a home gym can be great for con­ve­nience, but it isn’t for ev­ery­one. Some peo­ple draw gen­uine mo­ti­va­tion from the group en­vi­ron­ment of the so­cial gym. They en­joy the ex­pert classes and find respite from work­ing out in gym chat. If that sounds like you, no mat­ter how con­ve­nient train­ing at home may sound, it’s prob­a­bly not for you.

The truth is that some peo­ple are suited to train­ing alone and some peo­ple aren’t. Now con­sider your home life. Do you have young chil­dren? If so, a home gym can be a great way to ex­er­cise with­out spend­ing ages away from your fam­ily (and dump­ing child­care on your other half ). But it can also prove di­vi­sive: to have an ef­fec­tive work­out, you need to cre­ate a space and time pe­riod that’s free from dis­rup­tion and dis­trac­tion.

Those points con­sid­ered, if you still think it’s a good idea, lets get to work ...


Build­ing a home gym doesn’t have to be par­tic­u­larly ex­pen­sive. Peo­ple waste a lot of money on un­nec­es­sary car­dio equip­ment, multi gyms and over­priced spe­cial­ist prod­ucts that quite frankly aren’t par­tic­u­larly use­ful in a com­mer­cial gym, let alone a home train­ing space.

There is no rea­son you can’t cre­ate a fully func­tional home gym that will stand the test of time for be­tween £1,000 and £2,000 There are plenty of places to buy used fit­ness equip­ment, such as clas­si­fied ads and auc­tion sites like eBay, where you’ll of­ten be able to pick up equip­ment for less than half what you would pay for it new.

Keep in mind that your home gym will evolve over time. Start with the very ba­sics and keep an eye out for the up­grades you need. When the time and price is right you can make those ad­di­tions.

Front squat, Back squat, Lunges, Dead­lift Bar­bell row, Up­right Row, Power Cleans Shoul­ders: Mil­i­tary Press, Be­hind the neck press Chest: Bench Press (flat in­cline & de­cline) Arms: Bi­cep curls, Skull crush­ers, Close grip bench press


Eas­ily the most en­joy­able part of cre­at­ing your own gym space! Have a think about what mo­ti­vates you and fill your space with the para­pher­na­lia that will help you vi­su­alise what you are try­ing to be­come. Tai­lor your en­vi­ron­ment to your per­son­al­ity so that as soon as you walk into the gym you’ll pique your sub­con­scious mind to prime you for hard work and suc­cess.

Es­sen­tial Equip­ment Bar­bell and plate set:

This is the most im­por­tant piece of equip­ment you’ll need for your home gym and will be the foun­da­tion of pretty much all of your work­outs.

Re­mem­ber that real work­outs that pro­duce re­sults are not con­tin­gent on a vast ar­ray of flashy ex­er­cises, but rather the clas­sic core few that we know work and have stood the test of time. Here is a list of the ba­sic ex­er­cises you’ ll have avail­able to you with a bar­bell set:

1 Legs: Back:

You will be able to find all sorts of sets and plates for sale on the in­ter­net — in­clud­ing sec­ond hand bar­gains. Bear in mind that you’ll need a true Olympic bar so that you can rely on its stur­di­ness and wont out­grow it. These are about 7ft wide, so you need a room big enough to ac­com­mo­date one.

If you can stretch the ex­tra few quid or chance upon an op­por­tu­nity, I would get some pro­fes­sional bumper plates (stan­dard size, rub­ber coated). They aren’t cheap but they add that “Olympic train­ing room” feel to any gym and are a lot eas­ier on the floor if they need to be dropped.

Re­mem­ber: you prob­a­bly wont have a spot­ter when work­ing at home.

To make the most of your bar­bell sets, you’ ll need a bench. I’d opt for a sec­ond hand com­mer­cial bench over a new one de­signed for home use, as they tend to take a bat­ter­ing and the lower qual­ity ones come apart at the bolts and rip pretty eas­ily. Al­ways go for a bench that has in­cline and de­cline func­tion­al­ity: you may not use these of­ten, but if you de­cide to go for a split body­build­ing style train­ing phase it’ ll come in handy.

2 3 Bench:

The rack is an im­por­tant el­e­ment of your gym set-up;


it’ ll be the big­gest piece of equip­ment and also the most ex­pen­sive. Again you’ll want a more com­mer­cial feel here, as you need it to be ro­bust enough to sur­vive all of those gru­elling work­outs.

Some peo­ple think that be­cause of the space is­sue they can by­pass buy­ing a rack. Not so. With­out one, heav­ier leg, chest and shoul­der work­outs be­come al­most im­pos­si­ble. There is also the safety el­e­ment to con­sider as again, most of the time you will be train­ing alone so will want the re­as­sur­ance of be­ing able to rack the bar eas­ily. You may also want to seek out a rack that can eas­ily take at­tach­ments. For ex­am­ple, pull up bars are a great ad­di­tion.

A very im­por­tant as­pect of gym plan­ning is the floor­ing, which must pro­tect your prop­erty and help make your gym equip­ment last longer. Proper gym floor­ing will also help re­duce the sound level com­ing out of the gym.

Aim for com­mer­cial grade foam floor­ing (you’ ll find it in in­ter­lock­ing squares). This will last you years and is very af­ford­able.


I would opt for a pair of rel­a­tively heavy ket­tle­bells (12-16kg) over a rack of dumbbells. Some won’t agree with this, but I find ket­tle bells to be a far more ver­sa­tile piece of equip­ment. They can repli­cate most of the ex­er­cises you would per­form with dumbbells and also bring an el­e­ment of mo­men­tum and func­tional train­ing

5 Floor­ing: Ket­tle­bells:

to your work­outs, pro­vid­ing 100s more vari­a­tions with­out tak­ing up much ex­tra space in your gym.

TRX train­ing takes up pretty much zero space in your gym, which is es­sen­tial at this point in pro­ceed­ings. Just fit it up to your rack and you are good to go. The TRX and com­peti­tors like the Jun­gle Gym XT will al­low you to heav­ily tax your core and work through func­tional ranges of move- ment you wouldn’t have avail­able to you with free weights alone. Dumbbells: De­spite los­ing out to the ket­tle­bell in our list of essen­tials, there is still a com­pelling ar­gu­ment for the in­clu­sion of the dumb­bell in your new gym if you have the space. A rack of dumbbells is very eas­ily recog­nis­able and the lower weights make a low bar­rier to en­try, so if you are try­ing to get your part­ner or young fam­ily in­ter­ested in ex­er­cis­ing with you, this may be the way to do it. If space is an is­sue you al­ways have the slightly more ex­pen­sive op­tion of a set of ad­justable dumbbells, which will take up next to no space and still typ­i­cally reach weights of about 25kg. Punch Bag: Adding a punch bag to your home gym is go­ing to al­low you to en­joy great stress-bust­ing, high in­ten­sity work­outs. Be sure to put the bag up with enough room in ev­ery di­rec­tion so that you can re­ally work it. Spin Bike: I know what I just said about car­dio, but I am a fan of low in­ten­sity heart rate train­ing. My pref­er­ence would al­ways be get­ting out­side and walk­ing, but some­times it’s im­por­tant to stay in with the kids. Sit­ting on a spin bike while watch­ing your favourite TV se­ries, lis­ten­ing to a pod­cast or mak­ing a phone call can be an ef­fec­tive way to kill two birds with one stone. Mir­rors: Again, know thy­self. Some guys find mo­ti­va­tion from mir­rors; oth­ers don’t. Avoid the mis­take of adding a mir­ror to your home gym set-up and then only train­ing chest, bi­ceps and abs — ie the mir­ror mus­cles. A school­boy er­ror!

The car­dio is­sue

“Wait,” I hear you think­ing. “Where does the tread­mill go? And what about the cross trainer?”

I just don’t think that they are nec­es­sary. Firstly, we can get a thor­ough warm-up from dy­namic stretch­ing and body­weight ex­er­cises, so we’re cov­ered there. And as far as fit­ness and fat loss goes, none of my trans­for­ma­tion coach­ing clients do any run­ning. My so­lu­tion to fit­ness con­cerns is sim­ply to lift weights faster. There are plenty of mus­cle spar­ing train­ing regimes that rely solely on den­sity of rep­e­ti­tions and mus­cle spar­ing car­dio in the form of body­weight ex­er­cises.

Long mod­er­ate in­ten­sity car­dio work­outs aren’t nec­es­sary to change your body, and don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be a part of your gym set-up.

Any­way, if you re­ally have to run, go out­side and hit the pave­ments!

Ad­di­tional Op­tions

None of these are es­sen­tial, but if you have the space, money, and in­cli­na­tion, they will help you vary your work­outs:

Sus­pen­sion Trainer:

Once you have your gym, it’s time to get work­ing. But be­fore you do, it’s worth con­sid­er­ing the fol­low­ing:

gram: If you can’t en­list a neigh­bour or a friend to train with you, you may want to mit­i­gate a lit­tle risk by de­vel­op­ing a work­out plan that will de­liver re­sults with­out putting you at risk of get­ting stuck un­der a bar.

for fat loss, mus­cle gain or re­com­po­si­tion, depend­ing on how you tweak your nutri­tion. It in­volves 6 sets of 6 reps us­ing a rea­son­ably light weight, with the main fo­cus be­ing den­sity of reps rather than weight.

Get the tech­nique right

Re­mem­ber you will now be train­ing all alone, so there won’t be any­one to check your tech­nique or warn you if you are putting your­self at risk. If you are un­sure about any of the ex­er­cises in your regime, in­vest­ing in just one ses­sion with a good trainer to show you how it’s done could pay div­i­dends later if you con­sider the cost of pick­ing up an in­jury.

Scott Laidler is a per­sonal trainer from Lon­don. Visit Scott at­t­lai­ for on­line per­sonal train­ing and fit­ness re­sources.


Build­ing a home gym doesn’t have to be par­tic­u­larly ex­pen­sive.

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