Do you enjoy working out but despise going to the gym? Do you wish you could cancel your gym membership and just start to lifting at home? Global gyms are crowded and expensive, and you can spend just as much time driving to and from the gym and waiting in a queue to use equipment as you actually spend training.
That pretty much describes how I felt many years ago. I liked to train, but I absolutely hated the gym. Problem was that I believed that if I left the gym and tried to train at home that my workouts would suffer. I thought that I needed all that equipment in the gyms to get a high quality workout.
Well I was wrong. I’ve learned that it is both absolutely possible and arguably easier to get intense, productive workout in at home 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.
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 gyms have their benefits too. Clearly the biggest benefit is the large 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% or more cardio equipment, 35-40% isolation machines, and if you’re lucky the remaining 10 to 15% is true free-weight equipment (racks, benches, dumbbells and barbells, etc). Granted the Crossfit gyms are different, as well as classic Iron Gyms; both of which are real alternatives to home gyms for some folks (though most folks are simply members of global gyms.)
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.
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?. 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 advocating a short workout here; your train time should be 45-60 minutes 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 rack) you can be getting a great at home workout.
What about all the cardio machine options you have at the gym? Treadmills and ellipticals, recumbent bikes and spinning bikes, stair climbers and rowers and more! All those options matter little for most people, as it’s likely that you have a favorite and use the same piece of cardio equipment day in and day out. 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. Or better yet, buy 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 free-weight equipment. This is what you should be using, and what folks with garage gyms do use. Of all the equipment in the gym, free-weight equipment is the most affordable and most easily obtainable. Fortunately, it is also all you need to be trim, healthy, strong, 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 your own gym. So how do you get started? Well, I have an article that covers the type of equipment that 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 weight plates. With these pieces you can squat, clean, row, press, bench, snatch, and pull-up (from your rack), just to name a few. You don’t need things like curl or abdominal machines, or mechanical pulleys to get strong. Matter of fact, I’ll wager that if you replaced your isolation exercises with compound barbell lifts regardless of where you worked out, you’d get stronger much 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.
Men and women were in shape long before the Bowflex was invented. I left my gym of six years ($80/month x 72 months = more than my garage gym) and I’ve never looked back. Join the Garage Gym Movement! I promise you’ll be glad you did. And if you still don’t think people throwing weights around in their garage can get ripped, watch the CrossFit Games. Thanks for reading.