Having a home gym is one of the best and worst things you can do for your fitness.  On one hand, you are only steps away from being able to workout whenever you want, on the other hand, you are only steps away from working out whenever you want.  It can become a trap, but there is a proper way to use a home gym to enhance your fitness.  Keep reading to see how to set up your gym, and how to program your workouts appropriately to take your fitness to the next level.

I’ve had a home gym in my basement for about three years now, and I’ve really enjoyed it.  It is amazing how much you can get out of so little equipment, but there is a downside to having your own gym and working out by yourself, which isn’t readily apparent until you’ve done it for a while.

This article will be divided into two parts.  The first part will be dedicated to equipment selection and layout of your own gym.  The second part will be how to use your own gym so you enhance your fitness, and not detract from it.

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Equipment Selection 

The first thing you need to think about for your gym is what you are actually likely to use it for.  It’s important to understand that we are not trying to replicate a full crossfit box here.  A box is a business that has to fit enough equipment and athletes in a given space.  Your garage or basement is not.  So there will be some things that we leave out.

The first thing you will need is a rack.  There are numerous types of racks: freestanding, wall mounted, rigs bolted to the floor.  This is one of the key pieces of gym equipment, so I don’t recommend skimping here.

If space is tight, or you still need dual use space, i.e you want to be able to store a car in your garage, try this collapsible wall mounted rig from Rogue. I have not used it, but it does look like a great piece of gear, and I have never had any trouble with my Rogue equipment.

If you have a little more space, then I recommend a W-4 wall mount rig.  These come in a couple different options.  You can see in the photo that Rogue can cut your rig shorter, to a 7’6 height (normal height 9 feet). You can also request shorter crossbars, either 4 or 6 feet in length, putting you further or closer to the wall.

The main benefit of this rig is that you can use the rack and the pull up bars simultaneously.  You can’t do this on the collapsible rack.

Rogue Infinity Rack System
Rogue Infinity Rack System

Rig Accessories 

There are a few accessories that I recommend for the wall mounted rigs.  I like the single bar (X-705) for one side of my rig.  I find it’s the perfect height for kipping pull ups.  The double bar rig is a little low for my tastes.

I also like the spotter arms.  These give you a ton of flexibility in your workouts. You can obviously set them to keep you safe when you squat or bench, but they can be used for pin presses and working on sticking points as well.

My second favorite for the wall mount rig is the Matador.  It allows you to do dips on your rig, and I’m a huge fan of weighted dips which are basically the squat of the upper body.

The Bar 

There are only a few quality bar manufacturers, and I’ve found that Rogue gives you the best quality for your money.  I don’t think there are any real benefits to using their more expensive bars, so I purchased the Rogue 2.0.

Rogue Bar
Rogue Bar

This bar has nice knurling that is sharp enough for good grip, but not so sharp that it tears your hands up.  It also has dual rings cut into the bar for power and olympic lifting.  I’ve had this bar for 3 years and had no issues, and should I have any issues, Rogue warranties their equipment for life.

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Weights 

This is one area where you can save some money. Rogue offers you pre-made packages with a certain amount of weight, but I’ve found that you can pick your plates individually, and it generally comes out to be less than the package deal oddly enough.

Bumpers
Bumpers

The amount you need will depend on your strength level.  I have about 475 worth of bumper plates.  Pro Tip: keep an eye out on Craigslist for metal 45 pound plates.  They can be used for any exercise where you aren’t dropping the weight, and they can be picked up for cheap.  I also recommend getting your 5lb and 2.5 lb plates at a sporting goods store.  They’re cheaper, and they don’t need to be especially durable.

Matting 

The easiest place to get the matting, which is technically horse matting, is from tractor supply or a similar farm goods store.  You can order it online if you don’t want to pick it up yourself.

Strictly speaking it isn’t necessary, but it is a little nicer to drop weights on.  Be warned the mats are 100lbs a piece, and a real pain to move.  Pro tip: a box cutter is the best way to cut them, don’t try a power saw, it doesn’t work.

Cardio Equipment 

This equipment is optional in my mind.  It’s nice to have, but you don’t really need it since you can go to your regular box and use theirs.  We didn’t purchase our cardio equipment until we had the basic set up for about a year.

One of the reasons that I put this equipment in the nice to have category is the expense.  Pro Tip: we asked for family members to get us Amazon gift cards for one Christmas, and it was enough for the Concept 2 rower.

Concept 2 Rower Model D

All crossfitters are familiar with the rower, so I don’t need to go over it’s utility. I personally like the rower because it only requires eccentric contraction.  This means that you will generally not get sore from it, no matter how hard you row.

My next recommendation for cardio equipment would be the assault bike.  It’s a lot more durable than Airdynes, and it’s geared for strength athletes.  You’ll find that it’s much harder to pedal than an Airdyne.  The seat is also much more comfortable and adjustable as well.

Assault Bike

The last piece of cardio equipment is a treadmill.  I use the Nordic Track X9i treadmill.  It’s a great piece of gear and is commercial grade.  It also will go up to 40% incline which is crazy hard.  I’m not sure if it’s in production anymore but there are plenty of other great treadmills from Nordic Track.

Most of their models have a nice screen and speakers, which have wi-fi connectivity.  Sometimes, when I’m doing longer workouts I’ll just watch some video’s on YouTube and it really helps the time go by.

Nordic Track Treadmill

If I only had to pick one piece of equipment due to budget constraints or space, I would definitely go with the Assault bike.  It uses the most muscle mass, and I’ve found it to be the most flexible.  You can go easy for a recovery workout, or do some hard-core intervals.

How to Use Your Gym 

Now that you know what you should put in your gym, you need to understand the right way to use it.  I do not recommend quitting your crossfit gym for a variety of reasons.  Mainly because your fitness is directly related to the group you workout with.

You’ve probably heard that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.  I would also state that your fitness is the average of the 5 people you most workout with, and if it’s you and the dog….

You’ll find that it’s very easy to plan a great workout in your home gym, get one round in, and the say, “well 20 min for an AMRAP is too long, let’s do 10 min.”

You can’t really do this at a crossfit gym, and that’s one of the reasons why you get great results,  no sandbagging.  We know we shouldn’t quit our gym, but then what the hell should we be doing with our new home gym?


Here are the rules to working out in your home gym:

  1. Use your gym for workouts longer than your crossfit class
  2. Use your gym for strength sessions that are not feasible in your box
  3. About 50% of your WODs should be with a group

 

Those rules are pretty straight forward, but let me expound a little.  The home gym is great for long workouts that can’t really be done in a class setting.  For example, if you are doing a lot of heavy squats you’ll need 3-4 minutes minimum to recover between sets.  Good luck doing that in a class.

Your home gym also gives you more flexibility. I would bet that your box has some equipment limitations, which means that certain types of WODs don’t get programmed.  I’ll give you an example of a WOD I can do at home that is impossible at my gym.


AMRAP 12 Min 

12 Power Clean at 185lbs 

30 Calorie Treadmill Run at 20% incline 


 

Use your gym to fill in the gaps in your fitness, don’t just mimic things you can do better in the box.  You’ll also find that certain movements like muscle ups, wall balls, and some of the olympic lifts are better accomplished at the box.

Conclusion 

If you have the space and the budget, and fitness is important to you, then I definitely recommend a home gym.  Start out with the basics then add equipment as your budget allows, but just remember you don’t need to replicate your box, unless your Rich Froning, blessed be his name.

I’ve recommend Rogue equipment because I personally use it and have never had an equipment failure of any type.  I’m sure there are other good brands out there, but I know Rogue and I stick to it.  Let us know what you guys use in your home gyms in the comments below, and keep on killing it.

 

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. What advice if any do you have for maintaining your equipment in your garage when you live in a humid area such as the Midwest? Do you think the gear would rust very easily?

    • I think the rust is probably more of a aesthetic issue rather than actually functional. But some a wire brush and some light oil ought to work. Also most quality bars are coated and stainless. Hope that helps.

  2. Yo Jake,

    What are your recommendations for fitness equipment for a student living in an apartment? Have any advice on a home fitness setup for a much smaller space?

    • As always it depends on your goals. If you just want some general fitness and the ability to get a decent workout in, I think probably like a set of 35’s for dumbbells and a doorway pull up bar would probably be my go to. Kettlebells aren’t bad either and if you have space for a jump rope always a good one. What are you working with now?

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