pretty good home gym setup

The Workout at Home Myth

I want to talk about this “working out at home” phenomenon that, now and again, is used as a fitness sales pitch.

My intent here is simply to point out to you why working out at home is most likely NOT your most productive option, UNLESS:
1. You are willing to invest several thousand dollars on your home gym
2. You have the room and ceiling height necessary for your home gym, and can dedicate a space to it
3. You are willing to carefully select the right equipment for your needs and do not make some rookie mistakes doing so

Sure, working out at home can be ultra CONVENIENT, because everything you allegedly need is right there waiting in the home 24/7. But, is it convenient to stop your workout if your doorbell rings? Or you suddenly hear the washer machine buzzer go off and you just need to throw those wet clothes in the dryer real quick before they get “smelly” from sitting wet? Or, one of your children suddenly demands your attention? Or, a pet suddenly needs your attention for a few minutes? Or you notice that picture on the wall is crooked and you can’t stand looking at it like that and you just want to quickly rehang it?

You get the idea. Home is filled with many distractions that might take you out of the workout mode. Or just break your workout momentum and leave you with a sub-par workout. Plus, it is pretty difficult to just “turn on” that workout mental state on the ten second walk from your bedroom to your living room, or to your basement.

Here’s another problem with the home workouts;

do you really have all the equipment you need to achieve the body and state of health you aspire to? Sometimes, feeding you this idea that “you don’t need a gym!” and that you can just “get in shape easily and conveniently in the comfort of your own home” is nothing more than an effective SALES PITCH. A sales pitch to encourage you to buy home workout “kits” usually revolving around video instruction and selling you “special” shakes and supplements to augment your exercise efforts. Listen… you are not going to make long term OR significant progress dancing around your living room to video instruction. Even if your diet IS perfect. You’re just not. Sure programs like P90X or INSANITY can be useful at times as an effective ADDITION to a properly programmed eating and exercise regimen, but it should NOT be the foundation, or core method, of your program. At best, these type of workouts qualify as something called ACTIVE RECOVERY. Active Recovery is basically any activity that brings restorative blood flow to areas of the body (muscles, tendons, ligaments) that were tested to limits in a preceding workout. One example of active recovery might be riding the stationary bike at a light to moderate pace for 20-30 minutes the morning after a strength training workout where you squatted heavy. Your money would be much better spent on personal training with a experienced, qualified professional.

Regardless, jumping around your living room is NOT a comprehensive workout program,

and certainly does NOT qualify as effective strength training. But, if that is the only type of workout you have access to, and you like it, then have at it. Sure, you can get SOMETHING out of it and I not saying you cannot get any results whatsoever from committing to that type of program. I just know where you are going in the long(er) term with that type of program and trying to provide you the service of telling you the truth about it.

But, let’s move on. The point of this post is to suggest why working out a home MIGHT BE a very poor long term choice for your goals. By the way, I give you credit for wanting to work out in the first place, for taking the initiative to make a change. Really. Good for you.

Equipment. Here is where a home gym cannot compare to a properly equipped commercial gym. And a properly equipped commercial gym is MUCH HARDER to find than you may suspect. The planet of purple and yellow DOES NOT qualify as a properly equipped gym. In fact, don’t they claim they are “not a gym”? Well, they are dead right with that statement. Long story short, a properly equipped commercial gym has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the proper STRENGTH TRAINING equipment – there are no shortcuts. So, while some of you may have impressive home gyms, it is unlikely that you enjoy the full range and complexity of equipment commercially available.

A properly equipped gym DOES NOT mean 50 treadmills,

15 ellipticals, 15 arc trainers, circuit training “strength” equipment, a smith machine, and a bunch of dumbbells stuffed in a corner. First, circuit training “strength” machines are an incredibly bad investment of your time. If you are working back from an injury, coming back to lifting weights after and extended layoff, or just simply a beginner and attempting strength training for the first time, your program must be built around FREE WEIGHTS to succeed. Secondly, you need to understand that indoor, machine based cardio is virtually worthless compared running, or walking outside. The problem with treadmills is that you are only coordinating your steps to a motorized track that moves under electrical power beneath you – you are not actually doing much work. Compare walking on a treadmill to walking outside… on pavement… on a track… on grass… on sand. Are you beginning to understand? Imagine the level of conditioning you could achieve by performing your walking, or running, program on SAND everyday…

I am speaking from experience here. I needed to recover from a MAJOR cardiovascular event not so long ago. With a little trial and error, I noticed walking on a treadmill offered VERY LITTLE rehab value compared to walking outside. Walking outside twice per day for 20 minutes initially, then 20 minutes every day (as my average speed increased), then 20 minutes every 2 out of 3 days (again, as my speed increased) – this was the nature of my effective rehab which conditioned my cardiovascular system back to AND ABOVE my pre-CV event baseline. No arc trainer, no elliptical, and certainly no burpees. Walking. And, in the beginning, 3+ hours/day of lifting free weights. I now walk at an average pace of approximately 5 mph (at a body weight of approximately 230lbs / 105kg), which is about how fast some of you may jog. The walking outside had benefit that outweighed the benefit I might experience walking on a (motorized) treadmill. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, research has shown that the more you walk, the bigger your hippocampus (a pair of thumb-sized structures deep in the center of the human brain critical to your ability to learn and remember) will get and the less would be your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. One study showed that walking one mile a day lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 48%. Bonus.

A couple tools that were instrumental in assessing the effectiveness of my cardiovascular (walking outside) program and monitoring my health were:
1. Two Way Display Finger Pulse Oximeter. This item was great to use conveniently every morning and track the trends in my resting pulse and blood oxygen saturation.
2. Blood Pressure Monitor. Kept this on my kitchen table, checking my blood pressure throughout the day and tracking the trends.

Both of these are relatively cheap, convenient ways to monitor what is going on with your health. They can help PREDICT when you are heading for problems (when you know what to watch for in the data).

So, again, back to a properly equipped gym. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars of STRENGTH equipment, which is the real reason you should have a gym membership. A program that does not include strength training is an ERROR. Having access to high quality strength equipment is a GIFT and a privilege. For proper strength training, male or female, you need dumbbells (that go higher than 25lbs!), barbells, plates, squat racks and/or a power cages, a chinup/pullup bar and/or a friction free pulldown station, a friction free seated cable row, a large enough area to perform Bent-legged Deadlifts (even better, multiple types of deadlift platforms), adjustable benches, and at least a reverse hyper, leg curl machine, and/or a Glute-Ham-Raise station. And those are just the basics. We haven’t even mentioned bumper plates, kettle bells, a variety of specialty squat bars… The point is that a properly equipped gym will have a whole bunch more items that allow you to effectively program your workouts, help you concentrate on the right exercises, and employ advanced techniques like the Conjugate Method (a subject for a separate post).

Finally, if working out at home is really your only option, or you have the right space and would like to have a home gym available as an additional option (to your commercial gym membership), there are many online resources for purchasing great strength equipment at reasonable prices, delivered straight to your home. One vendor who quality stands above all others when it comes to barbells and bumper plates, for example, is Eleiko Sport. Give them a try, you won’t be disappointed.

For a much wider selection of high quality strength and home gym equipment, check out Rogue Fitness. Not only will you find qreat equipment at competitive prices, buy these guys can act as advisers on constructing the perfect home gym for your needs.

Wherever and however you choose to work out, I applaud you. Congratulations on taking the initiative, and best of luck.
home gym setup

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Paul Newt has a passion for learning in all its forms, and finds great enjoyment in conceptualizing, creating, and improving systems that lead to success. Paul spends his time training, coaching clients, being a good husband and father, consuming non-fiction books, tinkering with new technology, researching investments, and building on old, refining current, and discovering new successful methods to improve human health, performance, and appearance. Paul’s lifelong goal is to become the best version of himself, and add value to the world by assisting others in doing the same.

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