Home Gym Design…The Essentials
January is a month of bombardment by the media. Whether it was commercials, news programming, or talk shows we were consistently told that we were overweight and out of shape and that now all of a sudden was the time to do something about it. So in response, we start some new diet, join a gym, or begin a running program, all of which we have probably quit by now. The gym seemed like a good idea at the time, but getting there becomes a problem. For some reason, we thought by giving the salesperson our credit card it would force us to go. We also thought that all we had to do was show up, get on some fancy, extra special machine and magically we would be transformed into a new and improved version of ourselves. But it didn’t happen for us this January, as it didn’t the January before.
Part of the problem is that we are an all or nothing society; there is no middle ground. I believe that is probably why we fall short of our new year’s resolutions regarding health and fitness. Intensity is definitely an important part of the equation, but not at the expense of commitment. Progression is the key to designing a fitness program, and being consistent is the key to success. When we are dependent on going somewhere to get our exercise there are too many roadblocks that can get in our way and keep us from making it to the gym. So this month I decided to write about home gym design. I thought it was a good idea until yesterday morning when I was watching the Today show and they promoted an upcoming segment on my exact topic. Man was I upset for not writing my piece sooner. They had beaten me to the punch. Then I watched the segment. Now I think it is a great idea.
The first item the fitness expert discussed was flooring. The flooring they were recommending cost $5 per square foot; with a 100-200 square foot room you’re looking at spending $500-$1,000 just for the floor! The next item was a $250 speed bag. Now I agree that boxing is a great form of exercise and a lot of fun. But having been trained in boxing and martial arts I can tell you that hitting a speed bag requires skill and coordination that must be taught. It is not the type of equipment that you take out of the box and use immediately without having had any instruction. The fitness expert then showed the host a home gym that folds up into a self-contained closet. It was really cool until the host asked, “how much?” and the fitness expert replied, “$3,500.” And finally, they showed a road bike hooked up to a computer with some high tech training software. The bottom line is that this home gym would cost you about $5-6,000. For the average person this represents just another roadblock to getting fit.
Designing a home gym doesn’t have to be costly to get results. All you need are the essentials and you can get a great total body workout that is comprehensive and functional. The essentials include: a pair of adjustable dumbbells, a step that can double as a bench, tubing, a stability ball, a medicine ball, and if you’re willing to try something old but new a kettlebell. Kettlebells look like a cannon ball with a suitcase handle on top. They come in a variety of sizes, and have been used as a tool for total body resistance training by Eastern Europeans for hundreds of years. The step, tubing, stability ball, medicine ball, and kettlebells can all be found at Perform Better.
You can purchase all of these items for under $1,000, and even better, with maybe the exception of the stability ball, all of these tools can be easily stored or tucked away. The initial investment is competitive with a gym membership, but will last you more than a year while your gym membership will need to be renewed. And if your budget is slightly larger I recommend getting an airdyne bike from Schwinn. For those unfamiliar with the bike, the best way to describe it is as a bike with a fan, and moving arms. It is an old-school cardio machine that has made a big comeback and can be found in facilities where elite athletes train. The cost is 1/3 of a decent home treadmill, and it delivers the same intense workout without the joint pounding. It takes up less space than a treadmill or elliptical machine and you can wheel it around your home, if needed. I highly recommend it.
You may be able to find some of these items at your local sporting goods store or gym equipment store. I have links on my website to companies that carry all of the aforementioned equipment or simply click the links above. I have used their products for years and I think they are the best on the market and can’t say enough about the superior customer service they offer. For the novice female I recommend the “Sport Block.” The “Sport Block” is $129 and ranges in weight from 3 lbs. to 24 lbs. replacing 8 pairs of dumbbells in two adjustable blocks (3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, & 24). For the novice male I recommend the “Elite” set ($349) which ranges from 5-50 lbs. with the potential of increasing the blocks to 90 lbs. and if desired up to 130 lbs. each. The step I recommend can be purchased through the Perform Better banner on my site or the above link. For use as a bench I recommend “The Step” with the risers. If you type it into the search box it will appear on the 4th or 5th page. The tubing, also through the Perform Better banner and above link, that I have found to be the best on the market as it relates to function and value are the “JC all purpose exercise bands.” They cost $24.95 a piece and come in a variety of intensities. Medicine balls are fun and easy to use indoors and out. They come in a variety of different weights; I recommend starting out with somewhere between a 2-4kg ball for most adults. As far as kettlebells, it is a little bit of trial and error. In general most men can do the most basic movements with a 12kg, 16kg, or 20kg kettlebell depending on the size and strength of the individual. For women, you’re looking at an 8kg, 12kg, or 16kg for starters, once again depending on the size and strength of the individual. If your budget permits it I would purchase 2 or 3 different sizes because some movements will require a lighter resistance while others will lend themselves to a heavier resistance. If you decide to include kettlebells in your workout routine I strongly advise buying an instructional video. If you are going through Perform Better they have a “kettlebell training clinic – vol. 1” DVD. Just about anything that you can do on a bench, can be progressed to a stability ball. Look at the following size chart to determine the appropriately sized ball for you:
Up to 5’4″ tall use 45cm
5’5″ to 5’7″ use 55cm
5’8″ to 6′ use 65cm
Over 6′ use 75cm
When it is all said and done, you want the best tools, but they only work if you use them. There are many other useful inexpensive items that can add value to your workout program. Getting exercise should be easy; doing it, well…that’s another story. For those who employ my services “basic” home gym design is included.