Setting Up a Home Gym For the Beginner

You know how important fitness is, and you know that as a man you should be should be hitting the weights and doing your cardio.

BUT…

Going to a commercial gym sucks, am I right?

I know it does. But what can you do?

Build your own!

I’m a huge fan of the home gym, especially for beginners. My first foray into fitness was in my childhood home basement gym. I made plenty of progress there. After using commercial gyms for some time, I now have a tricked out garage gym and I’ll only go to a commercial gym in extenuating circumstances.

Let’s look at some great reasons to build a home gym:

  • a home gym is convenient. There’s no wondering what to wear or time spent commuting.
  • There’s no monthly gym dues to worry about.
  • You’re the only one at your home gym. There’s no crowds, no creepy locker rooms, and no waiting for equipment.
  • You’ll have no excuses to get it done, as the equipment is right there. This helps with adherence and consistency.

Yes, I know commercial gyms are cool and have all the bells and whistles. The thing is, beginners don’t really need all the bells and whistles to make progress. Hell, having too many tools at your disposal right away can be counter-productive. I’m in the camp that a beginner can get strong with a 20 lb rock and a solid nutrition program (okay maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I’m making a point here).

The point is that fitness shouldn’t cost a fortune and should be kept as simple as possible. The key is to create a system that works for you so that you can make continual progress for years on end.

So, are you ready to get started with your own setup? If that’s a HELL YES, Let’s get into it.

Step 1: Find a Good Space

I’ve been making good use of a garage stall out back for a while, and I love it. The space is great. It’s big enough for basic equipment, keeps me focused, and and it’s convenient as hell. The only caveat is it gets pretty damn cold in the winter, but I’ve made do by bringing some equipment inside for the coldest months of the year (be like water and adapt, my friends).

If the garage isn’t your thing, any good sized, safe, and distraction-free space to workout in would work. This could be a basement or a spare room. Anywhere works as long as it’s temperature controlled, has decent lighting, and you’re not pissing off the neighbors or housemates.

Tip: Pay attention to the flooring. You’ll be picking up and putting down weights on it, so no hardwood floors or tile. Carpet works good, or you can put down something like stall mats.

Step 2: Acquire the Basic Equipment and Learn the Basic Movements

As with any worthwhile pursuit, you’ll want to start small. Greatness comes from humble beginnings. Arnold Schwarzenegger started with old rusty ass weights and did pull-ups on tree branches. Michael Jordan started on a broken old hoop on a dirt patch. Dave Grohl started drumming on pillows.

A lot of guys try to start where the big boys play and flame out quickly. Accept your beginner status and work your way up.

I suggest starting with adjustable dumbbells and a pull-up bar. A pair of adjustable dumbbells and somewhere to do pull-ups (or assisted pull-ups) would be all the beginner to intermediate lifter would need for up to 2 years of training. You can get close to 100 lbs on adjustable dumbbells, and it’s very easy to add weight to a pull-up (adjustable dumbbell between the legs). Legs can be done with goblet squats, lunges, and dumbbell Romanian deadlifts.

Note: Don’t buy fixed weight dumbbells for your home gym unless you’ve got some serious dough to burn. Adjustable dumbbells do the exact same thing for a fraction of the cost.

Once you get some training under your belt you can go big. This likely means a power rack, a bench, a barbell, and weight plates.

That’s it.

Wait, that’s it? What about other fitness contraptions?

Unnecessary for almost everyone.

Just about every strong guy got that way with barbells and dumbbells. Everything else is window dressing and the results don’t justify the cost.

Once you get more advanced and you want to start working your muscles in different ways you can start to get fancy, but not before. Stick with a basic set-up until you’re very advanced.

The Movements: Keep ‘Em Basic!

We want to start small with equipment, and start basic with our movements. Really, we just need a few movements to make gains straight away.

These movements are:

Bench press (horizontal push) for chest and triceps

Shoulder press (vertical push) for shoulders and triceps

Pull-up (vertical pull) for the back and biceps

Row (horizontal pull) for the back and biceps

Squats for the legs

Romanian deadlifts (hinge) for the whole posterior chain

Lunges for the legs

Sit-ups for the core

Reverse crunch for the core

Plank (front and side) for the core

That’s it.

Continually get more competent in these movements and you’ll get whole body strong, build muscle in the right places, and absolutely shred body fat.

Barring some kind of pre-existing injury, these movements should be your bread and butter for the first 1-2 years.

What about starting with bodyweight training? Bodyweight training is a dirt cheap option that requires nothing but space. The caveat here is that you’ll outgrow your bodyweight quickly, in which you’ll need to turn to the weights to get bigger and stronger. Bodyweight training would do well for a complete beginner, and would be effective for around 6 months.

And what about cardio?

What about it?

Kidding.

The same rules apply to cardio. Keep it simple and don’t spend a lot of money.

Here are some great free or cheap cardio options:

  • Walking
  • Jogging/running
  • Exercise videos
  • Burpees, jumping jacks etc. for time
  • Skipping rope for time
  • Shadow boxing timed rounds

If you really need to invest in a treadmill, bike, or elliptical, be sure to USE IT and don’t let it become an expensive clothes rack.

Tip: You can also do cardio with your weights (barbell or dumbbell complexes).

Another tip: Incidental physical activity (exercise you get while doing other things like working, grocery shopping, etc.) can really help you hit your goals and get plenty of bang for your buck. Get creative and find ways to exercise while doing other things.

Conclusion

You don’t need much to get started, and you don’t need to spend a fortune.

Basic equipment should get you by until you reach the very advanced stages of your fitness journey.

Remember: Above all else, getting fit takes hard work, time, and consistency. Be wary of anyone saying that you can get easy and fast results with some fancy equipment, minimal effort, or some magic pill.

– Sonny

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