To Gym Or Not To Gym?
“CrossFit Insert Your Garage Name Here”
What You Need To Do To Set Up Your Own Home Gym
In today’s world, it seems as though everything and anything can be done successfully at home. Computers and the Internet have allowed us to bring our work to our beds, education to our living rooms and now, fitness to our garage.
In April of 1982, legendary aerobics superstar Jane Fonda released her first workout tape, bringing fitness into the homes of millions of Americans and beginning the advent of the at home workout. Since then, millions of Americans have ditched the gym in the favor of at home exercise videos and home gym sets. From Insanity, to Wii fitness, the new technological age brought fitness to homes across America without ever forcing them to leave their driveway. Social media brought on a new level of at home workouts. As CrossFit began to grow in popularity, people no longer had to pay for workout programming, as CrossFit offered free and all inclusive programming complete with “How To” videos online and a social forum for the members of this community to collaborate and share experiences. The idea that these workouts could be accessed for free and performed individually brought people out of their living rooms and into their garages where companies like Rogue and Again Faster started taking advantage of the market and outfitting home gyms across America with barbells, squat racks and pull up bars, so that the experienced experienced athlete with the busy schedule could workout on his or her own time with his or her own programming and schedule.
Maybe you’ve seen Rich Froning’s at home gym on Instagram and thought, “I could make that,” or maybe your schedule just isn’t coordinating with the classes offered at your local box. Regardless of the reason, you’ve decided that it’s time to make the transition from the box to the comforts of your own garage, there are several factors that you need to take into consideration and several steps you need to take to make your at home gym a success. It’s not as simple as simply buying a Rogue squat rack and going to town. An at home gym requires a well thought out plan and a desire to execute said plan in order to make it a success.
Before you cancel your membership at your local box, you need to ask yourself why? Why am I making the transition into a home gym. Is it because of time? This is a very valid reason for many athletes. Many of them simply cannot make their schedule fit the rigid class times that many boxes offer. Is it because of money? If this is the case, you need to understand that a good, high quality home gym will be an investment. While it may be cheaper in the long run, it does involve many up front costs, as equipment can be pricey in this business. If you are quitting cold turkey to make the full time transition into an at home gym for cost reasons, it will be important to consider the fact that you likely won’t be able to outfit your gym with everything that your current gym has or that you might want or need right away. Building a home gym also doesn’t mean you need to completely cut ties with your local box. An at home gym can be a perfect way to throw in some additional workouts during the week when you just can’t seem to make it to the box, or if you live up North, adverse weather affects your commute to the gym. Another important consideration to take into account when deciding to switch to a home gym is whether you are adequately prepared to program and workout by yourself. If you are reading this, it’s probably safe to assume that you are well versed in safe squat technique and the importance of proper form. However, if you plan on doing complicated Olympic lifts or crazy gymnastics by yourself in your garage, it’s important that you have a firm grasp on the movement before you attempt it on your own without supervision. Not only that, but you need to remember that working out on your own is not easy. The reason why so many people have found success in CrossFit, is because of the community. Working out in a home gym means no Facebook message when you’ve skipped the last few workouts you had planned or didn’t show up to open gym. However, if you’re confident in your capabilities and dedication to the pursuit of fitness, an at home gym can provide the perfect sanctuary for accomplishing your goals. In fact, 2015 CrossFit Games champion, Ben Smith, began his CrossFit career in his parents’ driveway, which he affectionately referred to as “CrossFit Cul De Sac.” Whatever your reason for your investment in your home gym, make sure you are committed to it. You don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money outfitting a home gym only to find that you never use it.
Location, location, location.
When you first begin to make the blueprint for your at home gym, you will need to consider its location. I can say that from personal experience, it’s generally not a good idea to install your home gym anywhere that is not a ground floor, because of the potential for structural damage from heavy weights. Optimally, you would plan to build your gym in either your garage or basement. If you have some sort of shed or barn, this also is a perfect place for your new sanctuary. Wherever you choose will optimally have fairly high ceilings and be big enough that you don’t feel claustrophobic while working out. While this can be the most difficult aspect of the at home gym to finagle, as most of us won’t have the funds to simply build anything beyond what we already have available to us. However, when presented with options, it's always important to consider spatial limitations when deciding basement or garage.
Shop around for the best prices
The next step to completing your home gym is perhaps the most exciting and sometimes the scariest (go look at prices of a squat rack on any fitness site). When choosing the equipment that will go in your home gym, it’s important to start with the basics and move outward from there. While it can be tempting to try to recreate your local box in your garage, this can be pricey and unnecessary. To decide what you’re going to start out with in your gym, take a look at your goals. If your goals and programming largely revolve around strength gains, then you’ll want the bulk of your budget to go towards bars, plates, and squat racks. If you’re more interested in gymnastics and conditioning, then your budget should be focused on things such as rings, pull-up bars, various mats. You also need to consider the basics of what every gym will need. One thing that is often overlooked is mats. While a concrete floor may seem sufficient at the time, 50 burpees later, the idea may not seem like the best one you’ve had. Mats not only protect your knees and face, but can also muffle crashes from falling weights and can protect the plates you just spent a couple hundred dollars on. Depending on who you buy from, mats can be pricey but will be an essential part of your home gym. Another important staple of your home gym will be a simple barbell and plates set. While not everyone will be interested in lifting, for most, a barbell will give you almost everything you need when it comes to purely strength training. When buying plates, start with one set as your baseline. From there, add extra plates in increments of 5s, 10s, and 15s, until the sum of the poundage of your plates is equal to your 1RM deadlift. You’ll want to keep the plates small, as you probably won’t be making 90 pound jumps between your snatch sets.
Buying used equipment
If you’re going to order a used barbell, make sure it’s going to last. Same goes for any other piece of equipment you might order used. While used equipment can help you to cut costs in the short term, you need to make sure the equipment you’re buying is not only safe, but will also last. There’s nothing worse than a plate breaking mid workout. While proper care will prolong the life of your equipment, nothing can save a plate that’s already been split down the middle. Other gym staples can include a squat rack, a pull-up bar, rings, and clips for your barbell. You’ll also want wipes to wipe down your equipment (yes it’s your own germs, but you don’t want sweaty build up), a chalk bucket (because who doesn’t love chalk), and some sort of trash can.
How do you decide how much to spend on each sector of equipment? Considering that generally, plates and bars are going to be more expensive than a simple set of rings, you need to allocate your budget appropriately. For someone who wants a solid balance of strength and gymnastics equipment, you can utilize the 70-20-10 strategy to budget for your gym. That is, 70% of your budget should go towards weights, plates, and racks, 20% of your budget should go towards gymnastics and conditioning equipment (note that this percentage will be skewed if you choose to buy a rower or airdyne, which can be pricey), and 10% should go towards fun accessories for your gym, like a clock, chalk, or those cool pull-up grips. These percentages are calculated based on the relative prices of each sector of equipment. As strength equipment, plates and bars, are generally a little more pricier, you will need to devote a large portion of your budget to this area.
Installing your gym
Once you have purchased your equipment and shed a few tears at the outrageous price of bumper plates, it’s time to start installing. Mats go down first. Before you bring anything into the gym, make sure you have your mats in first. Clean the floor before you install the mats (you will thank me in the long run I promise). From there, you can start bringing in the squat racks and the barbell. Some people chose to simplify by purchasing rigging which can double as a pullup bar and a squat rack. If you do choose to do this, note that it will definitely have to be drilled into the floor or wall for stability purposes. If you have bought a simple stand-alone squat rack, it can be simply placed in the corner with little work other than assembling it. When installing pull-up bars and rings take great care. We’ve all seen the funny Youtube fails of people doing muscle ups when suddenly the rigging holding the rigs up comes crashing down through the ceiling. While it’s certainly funny to watch from the comfort of your own home, it probably won’t be so funny when it happens to you. If you have any concerns about the structural integrity of your home gym, always err on the side of caution. Better safe than sorry.
Organizing your home gym
You’ll also want to organize your gym. It may be worth it to buy a cheap stand or mount for your bar to keep it off the floor and out of the way. To keep your plates in order, head on over to your local home depot and pick up some metal pipes to stick through the center of a stack of plates to keep them grouped together. Keeping your gym organized can not only make it easier when it comes to space consuming metcons, but can also prolong the life of your equipment. For example, something as simple as releasing the chain on your rower before you put it away or wiping down your kettlebells to prevent buildup can really prolong the life of your equipment and keep your gym looking brand new.
Ready, set, Train!
Once you have installed your home gym, it’s time to put it to use! Take advantage of your home gym and come up with fun and creative metcons and strength cycles. When done properly, your home gym can provide you with a sanctuary and a place for the pursuit of your sport.
Kaylyn Wiese has been CrossFitting of more than five years and has been competing against athletes from across the country since age 16. She currently coaches and trains in Boston at CrossFit Coolidge Corner and is a sophomore at Boston College studying business and data analytics. Find her on Instagram @kaylynwiese and Twitter @kaylyn_wiese.
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- Tags: CrossFit
- TuffWraps Guest Writer