The simple yet efficient best home gym
In this article I’ll do my best to guide towards the essentials you should place in your personal, best home gym. You might be surprised to know that you don’t actually need a massive budget or a ton off different machines to get some solid work done. In fact I would say that for the most basic of home gyms, you only need 3 things; a pair of gymnastics rings, a squat rack, and some weights.
The gymnastics rings can be anchored to the squat rack’s pull up bar for dips, push ups, pull ups. The squat rack allows you to develop you legs and also do some bench press if you have a bench. All your basics are covered with those 3 items, and this set up is the same set up I’ve been using for the last 4 years with success.
Of course there are other things you can add to make a more complete home gym, depending on your training preferences and goals.
Why a home gym ?
I used to be signed up in a regular gym, and I have also been to a few other different gyms and although I did indeed a lots of available material to train with, I probably didn’t even use half of it. Whatever your goals are; building an impressive physique, or gaining strength, very few things are needed for an efficient workout. Compound multi-joint movements, one or two isolation movement per muscle, consistency, and a proper diet tailored to you specific goals are what you absolutely need.
Having a simple set up in my garage allowed me to stop having to drive all the way to the gym and back everyday; everything I needed was 1 minute away. I also did not need to wait ages for someone to finish his crazy 20 exercise super set with all his friends, taking up the squat rack, pull up bar, dip station and more.
Great freedom comes with having your own space to workout, and I also personally like the idea of training alone without interruption or distraction, but also the practicality of having everything so close. I also get an even bigger sense of freedom from concentrating of a few main exercises with limited material need.
Equipping your home gym
A very rudimentary set up, but effective set up. We will however go over a more complete home gym than this one.
As I mentioned above, you only need a few items to have a complete and efficient gym. It’s time to have an overview of what those items are. Here is a short list of what we are looking for:
- Something for various compound pushing exercises for upper and lower body
- Something for various compound pulling exercises for upper and lower body
- Optional: soft padding for your floor
So, what should I get ?
1. A Squat Rack
A squat rack is a rather complete piece of equipment in itself. You can use it for squats, overhead press, bench press, and most squat racks include a pull up bar that you can upgrade even further by adding some rings to it. Now although you can get some good body weight leg workouts in, nothing beats barbel squats for leg development.
Some squat racks made by the famous US Rogue brand also have attachments that allow you to add a dip station to it’s frame.
2. A barbell with some weight plates
These obviously go hand in hand with the squat rack above. You can get them from certain brands for fairly cheap nowadays. Don’t hesitate to get some second hand ones; these things last forever. I personally use them for squats, deadlifts and overhead press. The rest is body weight and thus, leads us to the next item listed below.
3. A pair of Gymnastic rings
Now if you’ve read my gymnastics rings article, you’ll know how precious these things are and how important it is to have your own pair and include them in your workouts. These things will literally give you access to hundreds of different exercises. I won’t go into too much about these here as this article isn’t about gymnastics rings but attach these to you squat rack’s pull up bar, or any random suitable anchor around you, and that takes care of your dips, push ups, pull ups, rear delt flies, bicep curls, tricep extensions… The list goes on.
And that’s it ! but wait…
Well there you go, if you think about it, those 3 items cover pretty much everything you would need. But of course that doesn’t mean you have to stop there. I also added a climbing rope and a pulley system to my set up to spice things up on some occasions. Extras like adjustable dumbbells and kettle bells could also prove useful for things like weighted pull ups and dips, and certain isolation movements.
Now that you know what essentials you should look into when building your very own best home gym, I’ll still throw in a bonus list of exercises that you can do in your newly acquired strength dojo.
A list of exercises that you can perform in your awesome best home gym
I’ve sorted out the exercises into three different categories, just like the workout split I like to use; pushing, pulling, and legs.
- Ring dips
- ring push-ups
- ring tricep extensions
- ring flies
- ring tuck planche push ups
- bench press ( if you add a bench to your squat rack & barbell setup )
- overhead press
- Handstand push ups
- Ring pull ups ( there exists tons of variants to make your pull ups harder or easier )
- Ring muscle ups
- Ring tuck row
- Ring row
- Barbell row
- Rear delt flies
- Ring bicep curls
Lower body exercises:
- Pistol squats
- Shrimp squats
- Deadlift ( also, stiff legged deadlift )
- Nordic hamstring curls
- Goblet squats
- Calve raises
Other things to consider when looking for the right equipment
There a a few things that you may want to think about before going after some of the pieces of equipment listed here. For the gymnastics rings; pick a pair with a correct, comfortable width for your hands, preferably with a non slip coating. If you are going to set your rings up outside where they will be exposed to outdoor elements like rain, avoid getting wooden rings. If you want an in depth guide about which gymnastics rings to get, for what price, and where; check out this article.
When you pick a squat rack brands like Rogue make some of the best on earth, but they are accordingly expensive. I bought mine for a very reasonable price on Amazon, and it’s all I could ever need. Be sure to pick one that will fit in whatever space you have, taking account of the barbell that will lay on it. You also don’t want a cheap, wobbly, unstable rack. Take your time and use the customer reviews to your advantage when doing your research. Most squat racks are sold with safety pins, a mounted pull up bar, and sometimes even an attached dip station; everything you need for your basic and most important exercises.
When I started working out, I bought a cheap barbell and weight pack that I use for my lower body. I never thought about the fact that I was eventually also going to buy a squat rack, and therefore, my barbell fits very awkwardly in the rack as it does not feature a regular Olympic barbell size. It’s not completely debilitating, but it is rather annoying. Measure everything !
As you now know, you don’t need an entire gym to build that physique of your dreams, build incredible strength, or simply stay in shape; in fact, you can do with the thing I have listed above. I have been using this same setup myself for 3 years now, and I don’t ever want to go back to a regular, commercial gym. My home gym has become my place of peace and somewhere I can put in serious work, without ever getting distracted.
Of course you may prefer regular gyms, maybe you get motivation out of being in an environment with other people doing the same thing as you, maybe you need other people’s help to spot you on heavy exercises or you just like having friendly conversations and meeting your friends there everyday. At the end of the day, whatever it is you want to work, whatever exercises you do to get there and where you do them is entirely up to you, and you should do whatever makes you happy.