There is honestly no better anti depressant, confidence building, relationship creating environment than hitting the gym.
Regardless of whether someone is a Bodybuilder, Powerlifter, Olympic Weightlifter, Crossfitter, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Athlete, Gamer, Kid... most of us will agree that getting under a barbell, pushing our limits and developing a strong, confident, able body is theraputic.
Personally, I am lucky enough to be based out of an amazing facility in Evolve Strength. Having access to top of the line equipment like eleiko bars and plates, rogue rigs and equipment, a 40 yard cleat friendly turf, kettlelbells, dumbbells, sandbags, sleds, ropes, etc. You name it, we can use it at Evolve Strength. Not to say this type of facility is perfect for everyone, but I have found it to be an incredibly welcoming atmosphere for professional, and semi pro athletes, as well as moms, grandmas, people seeking weight loss or strength gains, etc. It is a truly amazing community.
And these types of communities literally exist almost everywhere. A building full of driven human beings seeking to be their best version of self.
I love it.
Now, you are probably wondering why I would paint such a beautiful picture for a facility given the title of the article.
I guess this is my way of saying, whether you are training out of a facility like Evolve, Goodlife, 24 Hour Fitness, Planet Fitness, a local Crossfit Affiliate, Orangetheory, F45, Barry's Bootcamp, etc - there is virtually nothing that can replicate this kind of atmosphere.
It truly is special. I will never deny it, and I - like many others - will prefer this option more often than not. Building relationships with like minded individuals is what makes us human.
BUT... the year is 2020.
And considering the dumpster fire that 2020 has been, one thing that this year has taught me is that "comfort", "convenience" and "ease" will always be a sign of "complacency".
This is different than content. Content, depending on the individual, can be good.
Complacency, however, is often dangerous. If leaves you exposed and at risk.
And 2020 has shown me that human beings, as much as we may convince ourselves otherwise, will often prefer complacency, convenience and comfort over discomfort and growth.
Now I don't know about you, but with this lens, I would much prefer growth. Physically, Mentally, Intellectually, Emotionally - I would not like it if I were the same person 3, 5 or 10 years ago.
What I have seen in 2020 is that many of us have taken advantage of the good times. Hitting up the gym with motivational classes, intense music, great people - all to help motivate and push us to be our best.
But take this away and many of us are left baffled and confused. Motivation is fucking HARD. But one thing that I will work on with my clients is that MOTIVATION should not determine ACTION.
ACTION will often lead to motivation.
And while logically this makes sense, when the initial shut downs happened, it shocked many of us iron paradise lovers when the very thing we loved and kept us sane was taken away from us - leaving us stranded, confused and lost.
Sure, zoom classes and "gym equipment rental programs" provided a great temporary solution. A band aid of sorts to tide us over until there was a better understanding of what will happen next.
But you likely experienced the same thing as me - the novelty of these things helped initially, but ultimately faded the longer the shelter in place orders lasted.
Top that off, many states, provinces and countries are going into their 2nd phase of lockdowns.
Now I am not here to write a political article of the validity of these situations.
I am here to help provide a solution for YOU. For your day to day.
So, without mumbling on, I put together a comprehensive list on the "Home Gym Essentials" to ensure that you stay sane and keep making gains.
How I wanted to break down this article was helpful tips on what is going to help you succeed.
First and foremost - let's recognize that even if you are a slightly (or very much so) an introverted individual, we as human beings require human connection. The world we live in with bots and automation and algorithms and shit - while all great in the pursuit of productivity - still lacks human connection.
So the FIRST two things I am going to put on my home gym essentials list is more relationship based (don't worry, I'll give you equipment too).
But relationships help more than people realize, and can be a difference maker in staying sane and making gains to becoming a permanent imprint on your couch.
1) An Accountability / Workout Buddy
This is important because there is one golden rule to staying healthy and progressing your fitness the way you want. And that rule is CONSISTENCY. MOST of us will struggle with motivation from time to time, therefore having a friend, family member or someone who is willing to sweat and struggle and work alongside you (or over zoom together) is going to be incredibly helpful in helping you stay consistent. Maybe they do the same workouts as you, or maybe you two just have an agreement to hold each other accountable. Maybe there are 3-4 of you. But having tight relationships to hold you accountable is something that 90% of the population (maybe more) needs.
The great thing is that these people rarely require payment. So the first thing on the list that is the most important, is 100% free from monetary value (unless you a garbage person and have to pay people to be your friends, in which case this article is probably not written for you).
The second thing is also relationship based.
2) A Coach, Trainer or Mentor
I hate to break it to you.
You do not know everything. In fact, you likely know less than you think you do.
And so having a mentor, coach or trainer to guide you is essential. I would even argue you need this even if you DO have access to a gym.
The reason why this is important is that this person can not only ALSO hold you accountable, but they can provide solutions and guidance outside of what you don't know.
Yes, this needs to be someone you respect, value and feel have more education than you in the area you are hoping to grow. But I am telling you from personal experience, the moment you hire a quality coach or trainer, you will notice exponential growth. Not just in your goals in fitness - but a quality coach will help you become a quality human being. They will guide you to realizing the person you want to become.
How much does this cost? It varies. But like certain things in life, you get what you pay for. From my experience, a quality coach will cost you around $200 a month to start. Again, coach to coach it varies, but typically you can find a quality coach in that $200 - $300 price range.
Yes equipment is nice. But quality information from a professional goes much further than equipment.
Owning a calculator and a computer does not make you incredibly competent to do you own taxes. Having a wrench and a sink does not mean you are a plumbing superstar. Owning a welder does not give you the ability to build a 30 story building. Owning an oven does not make you a qualified chef.
Having the equipment is great, but having someone guide you to acquire the skills and help you along the way can be the difference maker in achieving your goals and doing so faster - than simply having a bitching home gym. Having someone to go to when you hit an obstacle, a problem, or simply someone to call you out on your own shit is more powerful than people realize.
So my advice, invest in a coach before you invest in a barbell.
But that's likely not why you clicked on this article.
So here it is...
First off, for anyone interested, I recorded a YouTube video as a quick fix back in the pandemic. If you have $60 and can make it to home depot, then you can get some great makeshift home gym equipment to get you buy short term (or long term if you really want). Truthfully, I had 13 women use JUST THIS EQUIPMENT, and went from not working out to dominating their fitness test as a Firefighter and Police Officer (one even killed their training to get into the Military) using just the equipment in this video. So if you want to learn more on that, check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ard-Qixj_7Q&t=591s
Now, here is my list of things, links, and the reason behind the choice - that you will want to invest in sooner than later (because who knows when things will shut down again).
Note that I have no access to inventory. When I pulled this list they were in stock. These are not the only manufacturers available - there are literally TONS, but perhaps it can give you insight to the type.
If you want some insight, shoot me a link with the equipment you found to [email protected] and I would be happy to tell you whether its quality, whether its shit, or whether or not I have heard of it.
Also I wanted to provide options to account for the space you may or may not have.
Doorway Pull Up Bar - $25 - $200 CAD - Amazon
Gorila Apre Pull Up Bar - $229 CAD - Gorila Fitness
Rogue P3 Pull Up System - $135 USD - Rogue Fitness
Apollo Strength Squat Rack + Pull Up Bar - $464 CAD - Apollo Strength
Because when looking at all the foundational movements (Squat, Step, Push, Pull, Hinge, Trunk and Jump) it is nearly impossible to replicate a vertical pull without equipment. Regardless of whether you can do an unassisted pull up - having the ability to use a chair or something to assist you will still give you the ability to PULL from a vertical plane. Again, you would be hard pressed to be able to do a pull up without having a sturdy pull up bar.
Suspension Trainer - $60 to $300 - Amazon
Gymnastic Rings - $55 to $72 USD - Rogue Fitness (*you may also want to get a Door Strap for the rings)
TRX Suspension Trainer - Starting at $200 USD/CAD - TRX Training
After a pull up bar, the versatility for TONS of movements is nearly endless with a suspension strap system (or rings). This can give you the ability to PULL horizontally. Again, doing any sort of pulling movements can be tough without gym equipment, which is why something like this is essential for a home gym. This was personally my first purchase for my home gym, and something I got the day of lockdowns back in March 2020. It saved my ass in many situations and provided alternatives and tons of different movements that helped keep me motivated.
No this may be difficult to find. Personally, I am a big fan of recommendeding adjustable sets simply due to space constraints. However if you are not limited on space, then my preference will go to getting a set of rubber hex dumbbells from a known brand or distributer.
The reason why I recommend Dumbbells or Kettlebells is because of, again, the ability to save space AND develop strength and fitness in many different ways. You can load the body in a contralateral or ipsilateral fashion, or use two implements. This also helps you develop strength in lots of the smaller muscles that help with stabilization.
Bowflex selectek is popular and a reputable option, as are powerblock adjustable dumbbells.
But after getting a pull up bar and suspension trainer, I would get dumbbells or kettlebells next - starting on the light end (for me, this looks different for everyone) and getting as heavy as I can store and afford.
Whether you get a fancy sandbag or one from home depot, I would recommend a Sandbag next. It's easy to store, and can replace MANY barbell type movements. Paired with dumbbells or kettlebells you can really complete MOST types of workouts with a little creativity. As an added bonus, awkward implements like a heavy sandbag can have performance/results transfer as it challenges your body in more ways due to the awkward distribution of the weight. When movements are done correctly, this can help you develop a more stable trunk/core.
Adding resistance bands can change the loading on many movements. With increased resistance at the top of a movement to make the isometric muscle contraction greater to adding more resistance at the bottom of a movement to allow for easier execution of a movement (like a pull up for example). Resistance bands can have a TON of uses, and take up relatively little room in your house.
So, up until this point, you can get a pull up bar (either installed or removable in a doorway), suspension straps, adjustable dumbbells, a sandbag and resistance bands to get a HUGE variety of options for your workouts - and keep them all on the floor of your closet hiding away when you are not using them.
I like the adjustable bench as it provides WAY more options for training than a flat bench. However adding a bench now requires more storage space and workout space needed depending on what type of bench you go for. Personally, I am a big fan of Rogue and Sorinex as they are typically higher quality products that last much longer. They also carry a much higher price tag in comparison to others. BUT, having an adjustable bench can act as a bench, and incline bench, a plyometric step/box or an expensive table for your protein drink and iPhone. But I would DEFINITELY get an adjustable bench before the following as - in combination with the dumbbells, sandbag, etc - I have many more training options per square foot in my home than before.
Well... this is where you can get really fancy. I will typically get people to ensure they can afford all 3 items, as well as have the space to use and store this. However in a garage, this would be perfect. Now, the only case I would recommend getting this before all the items listed above would be if someone wanted to specialize in Olympic Weightlifting (but they still need the pull up bar). I would also add in a platform (that you can build on your own for $300 with plywood and a couple strips of rubber).
I also recommend, in most cases, for people to get BUMPER plates as again, this has more versatility and usability compared to steel (in most cases) and will be less likely to damage something (but heavy enough weights can fuck any living room up).
If you can swing it, a barbell, bumpers and squat rack is MASSIVELY beneficial to have. But I put it after everything else simply due to the investment, the storage needs and the simple fact that - in most cases at least - dumbbells and all the equipment listed above can help 95% of athletes still get effective workouts without breaking the bank or your mommas nice tile.
You may be wondering why I haven't put in any cardio machine. Simply put - these things take up a lot of space and ultimately have limited usability.
Med balls on the other hand have a TON of versatility in developing strength and EXPLOSIVE strength. Whipping it against a wall or the ground can have tremendous athletic transferability. Basically, a medball is relatively inexpensive, takes very little space, and has a ton of training options with the help of a coach and a creative mindset.
For home gym setups, I like to recommend ballistic and super durable balls like the ones on the list above from Rage Fitness. Simply because it will have higher durability and more "training options" than the others.
***Just make sure you have a sturdy wall and/or floor. Keep in mind not to put a hole in your wall if you are training in a duplex.***
ITEM NUMBER 11 - CARDIO MACHINE
Notice how this is the last thing on the list - but often the FIRST thing people buy... Basically just an expensive clothes rack...
Whipr (3 in 1 Machine) - $209 to $539 USD - Whipr.com
Assault Bike - $699 USD - Assault Fitness
Concept 2 Rower - $1250 CAD - Rogue Fitness or Concept 2 (shipping delays)
Self Propelled Runner - $3000 to $6000 USD - Trueform or Assault Fitness
A shitty treadmill you find randomly at a store or in the mall or online.
I ordered the above from HIGHEST VALUE to LOWEST VALUE. Let me explain.
Whipr - amazing little machine that is tiny (can fit it in a carry on) but also versatile in that you can use it as a Rowing Erg, Ski Erg or Paddle Boat. This thing looks SUPER cool and although I have not used it, it looks to provide the highest value as you get 3 machines in 1. Take into account that it requires very little storage, this should be a no brainer - especially if you are in a tiny apartment (maybe skip the barbell and squat rack in that case and skip to getting the whipr).
Assault Bike - Honestly, this full body machine is hands down my favorite - and least favorite at the same time. It's my favorite because it takes minimal space in comparison to some of the other options, and it is effective as hell. Low impact meaning if you have problems with feet, ankles, knees, etc, that it can still give you a great workout with breaking your body down. I hate this machine because, well, if you have used it you know that it fucking sucks.
Concept 2 Rower - Some would argue this is better than the Assault Bike, and I think both are great options. Again, this is low impact and can be a great tool. If its this or the Assault Bike, I would say go with what you want. Both are great options. The only downside to a rower is that is typically takes up a little more floor space when in use, BUT it also can usually be separated into parts easily (depending on the brand). I like Concept 2 as they are the world leader with these things - and I would rather buy a more expensive, QUALITY item first than waste money on a shitty version that I will have to repurchase in 3 months when the shitty one breaks down.
Self Propelled Runner - These are scary looking machines but man are they great. I recommend these simply because I find that they mimc true running better than traditional motorized treadmills. Many also dont think of this, but motorized treadmills also suck up a lot of electricity and require more frequent maintenance. So while the initial purchase price of a self propelled treadmill might be a little higher up front, I find that the total cost of ownership is actually lower than motorized ones. On top of that, self propelled treadmills tend to teach and reinforce proper running technique and mechanics - whereas on a motorized treadmill you aren't actually running - you are "bouncing" in place while the belt moves underneath you. But what do I know, I have only been teaching movement and fitness for over a decade...
A shitty treadmill you find randomly at a store or in the mall or online - Don't. Just don't.
I've done my best to link websites and brands that I know are typically quality and will stand behind their products. The goal is to help give you a "path" to building your own gym.
Nothing can beat the results from hitting up a well equipped facility with a great community. But hopefully this list can provide you with another option to squeeze your workouts in on a busy day - or a failsafe if your area gets locked down again.
Like I mentioned before, I would 100% recommend that you also link up with a reputable coach. Yes, $200 may seem like a lot given todays economic climate, but working with a professional like this can help you physically and mentally get through whatever shit you have to deal with. There are TONS of great trainers out there (and shitty ones too), and finding one is more like finding your significant other. You simply have to do your research and reach out to one that seems to connect well with you.
OF COURSE I have to give a shameless plug here - my coaching team and I are available if what we put out resonates with you. All 5 of us offer programs, Semi Private Coaching options and Custom Programming options that cover Training/Workouts, Nutrition, Mindset and more. If you want to learn more, check out our website at heroicathletics.com.
IF you are looking for a quality program that only requires a pull up bar, dumbbells and a sandbag, you can also check out the program I write called AT HOME ATHLETE - Athletic based workouts for your living room that is meant to help you move better, perform better, and of course pack on some muscle at the same time.
Coach Brandon Robb
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