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At Home Workouts vs Gym Workouts

great home workouts

Do you enjoy working out, but hate going to the gym? Do you wish you could cancel your gym membership and just start to workout at home? The gyms are crowded, they are expensive, and you can spend just as much time driving to and from the gym as you spend actually working out.

That pretty much describes how I felt a year ago. I liked to workout, I hated the gym. Problem was that I believed that if I left the gym and tried to do at home workouts, my workouts would suffer. I thought that I needed all that equipment at the gym to get a high quality workout. I was wrong. I’ve learned that it is absolutely possible to get intense, productive at home workouts without the need for a warehouse full of equipment. You just need your garage, some basic equipment, and the same motivation that got you to the gym everyday.

crowded gym weightroom - at home workouts sound appealing?

So crowded!

The perks of at home workouts vs. the gym workouts are pretty obvious. You get to take your gym dues and invest that money into your own equipment. You’ll have more free time since your workout doesn’t require you to drive anywhere, or wait for someone to be done with the equipment you need. You can probably think of a dozen more reasons why you’d prefer at home workouts.

Pros and Cons of At Home Workouts

Of course, the gym has its benefits too. Clearly, the biggest benefit is the massive amount of equipment options you gain access  to by becoming a member. There is literally row after row of cardio machines, hundreds of dumbbells, isolation equipment galore, and on and on. The question is, do you really need all that equipment to get a great workout? I don’t think so. Matter of fact, not only do most members never touch even a fraction of the equipment available, there is an argument to be made that using a lot of that equipment is just a waste of time.

Since the array of equipment is the selling point, let’s break down what you’re really getting for those monthly dues. The typical box gym is usually something like 50% cardio equipment, 35-40% isolation machines, and if you’re lucky the remaining 10-15% is true weightlifting equipment (racks, benches, dumbbells and barbells, etc). Granted, Crossfit Gyms are different, as well as classic Iron Gyms; both of which are real alternatives to garage gyms for some folks.

For starters, already 35% of the equipment you have access to is unnecessary. Machines that isolate one muscle group are a waste of your time. Just for the record, I’m not claiming isolation machines don’t do what they say they’ll do on their little stickers. I am suggesting that unless you’re doing rehabilitation work, you probably don’t need them. Even beginners can learn to lift with free-weights properly and never need to isolate muscles with machines.

bad squat

This is a lying down squat press machine. This is an example of unnecessary.

In other words, why do leg extensions and leg curls and leg presses and separate all these leg exercises into different parts and pieces when you can just squat. Or lunge. Or clean. Not only do you combine all your leg muscles into one exercise, you also do a cardiovascular lift and hit most of your upper body as well. I’m not selling a shorter workout here (your workout should be 45+ minimum no matter where you work out), just a more efficient workout.  The point is, you don’t need all that special equipment to work out your legs. With very little of your own equipment (in this case of a squat, just a barbell, some weights and a rack) you can be getting a great at home workout.

What about all the cardio machine options you get at the gym? Treadmills and ellipticals and recumbent bikes and spinning bikes and stair climbers and rowers and probably even more that I can’t think of right now.  All those options matter little for most people, as it’s likely you have a favorite and use the same cardio machine over and over anyway. If you don’t like your cardio options outside the gym like riding a bike, jogging, etc., buy your favorite machine and add it to your gym. I suggest buying a jump rope. I promise you that jumping rope for 30 minutes is hands down better than any amount of time you can handle on an elliptical. Better yet, it only costs $10.

That leaves the smallest portion of the gym: the weightlifting equipment. This is what you should be using, and what folks with garage gyms do use. Of all the stuff in the gym, weightlifting equipment is the most affordable and easily obtainable for home use. Fortunately, it’s also all you need to be trim, healthy, and sexy as hell. Name any part of your body you think needs work and I’ll tell you an exercise that you have already heard of that you can do at home for less money than what you’ll spend on club dues in a year.

If you’ve gotten this far into the article, you’re clearly interested in at home workouts. So how do you get started? Well, I have a post that covers the type of things you should be looking at and considering when putting together a garage gym, but I’ll summarize it a little bit here.

What you’ll want to start is a power rack so you can safely perform lifts without a spotter, a bench, an Olympic bar and some plates (weights). With these items you can squat, clean, press, bench, row, snatch, and pull-up (from your rack), just to name a few. You don’t need things like curl machines, or abdominal machines, or mechanical pulleys to get strong. Matter of fact, I’ll wager that if you replaced all your isolation exercises with barbell lifts regardless of where you worked out, you’d get stronger and leaner faster.

(See my article about bumper-plates for more in-depth info on them)

As far as the other pieces of equipment available like dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, adjustable benches and the like, well you can add that stuff as you need it. A garage gym is a never-ending project. It’s something to build upon and improve as time goes by. Yes, there is an initial investment to getting your garage gym up and running, but I’ve yet to hear of anyone serious about their fitness and their health complain that they bought their own weightlifting equipment, or bicycle, or jump rope,  or what have you. It is very liberating to know your workout can be done at any time of the day, every day, and it’s right there in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

So if the question of whether or not it was possible to get an amazing at home workout was on your mind, I hope I’ve helped you realize that it’s not about the quantity of the equipment at your disposal. It’s really about the quality of the equipment that you use and the intensity of your workout. Guys and gals were in shape long before the Bowflex was invented. I left my gym of six years ($80/month x 72 months = much more than I spent on my rack, bumpers, bar, flooring, dumbbells, all of it) and I’ve never looked back. Join us garage-gymers! I promise you’ll be glad you did.

If you still don’t think people throwing weights around in their garage can get ripped, watch the crossfit games. Thanks for reading.

Rich Froning Crossfit Games

 Rogue Fitness - the leader in Crossfit and home gym equipment

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