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How I Would Build A Home Gym On A Budget - Tucson Personal Training Group Fitness Blog

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How I Would Build A Home Gym On A Budget - Tucson Personal Training Group Fitness Blog

By: Jerry Trubman, Owner and Founder


Today’s post comes from the FAQ file. Here’s how some of the questions sound:

“What equipment should I buy for the house?”

“What size kettlebells should I have at home?”

“Where should I buy/who has the best deals?”

If you’ve asked yourself any of these questions, this post is for you.

Before we get too much into the nuts and bolts, let’s visit a quick sub-topic. The first question one must ask before beginning to piece together a home gym is…

“Am I the type of person that will exercise at home with the frequency and regularity to justify making this type of investment?”

By the way, “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer here, and we’ll cover that more in just a moment. What I’m saying is that we all know someone who has had a treadmill in their house for years that served as nothing more than a very expensive clothesline. If that someone is you (purchasing equipment in hopes that it will inspire you to actually use it), I think you already know how that story ends.

I generally advise people to start with a very simple setup, see how their usage goes, then slowly build based on that. So, in this post I will discuss different levels of a home gym, and make some recommendations within each of the categories as to what to buy.

I’d also like to disclose a few things before we get started: First, Other than some stuff for soft-tissue work, I don’t have a home gym, and never have. Since I live 8 minutes from the gym, this has always seemed to be a waste. Second, when we built our first location, budget was very tight and some of the equipment I bought was cheap and of inferior quality. None of that equipment has stood the test of time, and pretty much all of it has since needed to be replaced with higher quality equipment that doesn’t constantly break. Like a wise business mentor once told me, “Buy nice, don’t buy twice.” Even in a home gym setup, I think it’s better to have a small amount of high-quality-high-use equipment than a menagerie of cheap home-gym gadgets that hardly get used.

Let me also mention that I make no qualms that 90% of my gym was outfitted through Rogue Fitness. I have an affiliate agreement with them, and will recommend their products in this post. They make good stuff, it’s made here in America, it doesn’t break, and the price is great especially considering the quality. I don’t endorse them because my income depends on it (less than 1% of our annual revenue is from endorsements), I endorse them because they make good products. Do other companies make good products? Sure they do. But Rogue has always taken good care of me, so I’m returning the favor. You can click on any of the highlighted items to go straight to that particular product. 

Level 1:

This section is for the person starting out. You’re not sure how much you’ll use or how disciplined you’ll be about training regularly at home. I always recommend starting with a foam roller and lacrosse ball. They are cheap, and should be used regularly. You can buy them at just about any sporting goods store, online, or here at The Protocol. If soft-tissue work/body maintenance is not a regular part of your routine, you are either under the age of 20 or you’re missing a key component to keeping your body healthy and mobile. Over the years, I’ve seen many people get themselves out of a significant amount of pain by simply doing a little bit of soft tissue work on a daily basis. Click here to browse other great products for soft tissue, but please don't get too carried away. A foam roller and LAX ball work great for 90% of the things you'll be doing with them.

Next, I would invest in 3 kettlebells: A light bell for warmup, a moderate bell for single-arm work, and a heavier bell for two-hand/strength work. For a beginner lady, this might be an 8kg, 12kg, and 16kg. For a guy just starting out, a 12kg, 16kg, and 24kg would work well. For some exercises, even the smallest bells might be heavy to start (Turkish getup for example), but I don’t recommend that a beginner buy anything smaller than warmup weight because you’ll ‘out-grow’ the bell fast then it won’t serve much good. You can practice a getup with just about anything (shoe, water bottle, small pet, etc) until you can master the technique to work with your lightest bell. Between these simple bells and bodyweight exercises, you can design some great workouts.

Lastly, to add some pullup variations to your kettlebell/bodyweight workouts, I would recommend a Jungle Gym XT, rings, or equivalent (men might want to invest in a pullup bar for the garage). These are simple contraptions that you can throw over almost any door (or even a tree branch in the backyard), and it will instantly give you a ton of exercises/warmups to add to your regimen and keep you from getting bored. Speaking of getting bored, as Mark Reifkind famously said, “If you’re bored, it’s too light.” See level 2.

Depending on bell sizes, and if you are lucky enough to find some good equipment used, you should be able to put this together for less than the price of a year’s membership at a decent gym. And, conveniently enough, one year is about the time I would give it (6 months minimum). Start a training log, and track how many workouts you did in that time. If you train between 1-4 times per month, this is a solid setup for you. If you are training 4-8 times per month or more, in short time you’ll start upgrading your arsenal. See level 2.

If you trained twice the whole year, put that stuff on Craigslist and come up with a better plan. A good ‘next step’ here is to hire a coach to keep you more accountable to your goals, but that topic is for another day.

Level 2

This is for someone who already has some basic equipment and is regularly using it. At this stage in the game, I would invest in a pullup bar. Even if you can’t do pullups (yet), a bar will give a lot of versatility to attach your rings, bands, etc and also be able to work on pullup progressions and more advanced ab work.

At this point you may also find that your kettlebells are getting light! The more you advance and more regularly you train, the more kettlebells you may wish to add to your collection. The most obvious one would be a step up from your current heaviest bell.

I know I said I’m not a fan of fitness gadgets, but there are a few I would consider… the main one being an ab wheel. This is a solid piece of equipment for training your abs. Click here for demonstration.

Level 3

Ok, now you’re serious. This section is for those who already have a pretty decent home gym setup and have been training regularly at home. At this point, I would say it’s ok to start to invest in more niche-type equipment for the modality you train in. Examples of this would be a squat rack, a barbell, a sturdy bench, and a plate set. If you're serious about conditioning, a Concept 2 rowing machine or a Concept 2 Bike is great investment. These are absolutely awesome pieces of cardio equipment and can serve as a great supplement to outdoor activities when the weather is not conducive to outdoor training.

The examples above are just that… examples. Frankly, if you’re at this point, you probably don’t need to read a post like this and have already gotten pretty adept at finding the right equipment for your home gym. Kudos!

As a closing thought, it would be very un-coach of me to not mention that, just because you train at home, doesn’t mean that you couldn’t occasionally benefit from a pro taking a gander at your technique and/or writing some specialized programming to get you out of your comfort zone and/or advance to the next level. Over the past couple years, I’ve started to acquire online students from all over the country who have these types of setups at home. On a periodic basis, they schedule check-in sessions with me. If you are training on your own and could see the benefit of something like this, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Until next time,

Jerry Trubman is a coach, clinician, author, blogger, and powerlifting state champion. With over two decades of of lifting experience, he has devoted himself to seeking out better answers, and distilling them into practical programs that produce great results. Jerry has coached "Team Protocol" to 4 National Powerlifting Championships in the 100% Raw federation. He writes the internationally-read blog, “The Healthy Addiction” and lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife Marie and dog Sadie. To subscribe to his blog, click here

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