You know strength training is important, but many find it difficult to make time to get to a gym or cover the cost of membership. If you find yourself in one of these situations, you may be able to work around it by creating a gym at home.
A home gym will give you more time flexibility and it can be done with a surprisingly modest budget. It is also a great way to encourage the entire family to get fit. Start with a clear idea of what you want to buy and how you will use it.
Before you begin doing curls in the living room, there are many things you will want to consider. Budget, space, and activities that keep you most motivated will need to be decided in advance.
Be aware of space constraints in the room you will be using. Look for a place that is spacious, well-lit, and clutter-free. It should be free of hazards for you and other people in your home. The placement of the equipment in the room should also not pose a danger to them. The size of the room may also dictate what type of equipment you should consider. Know where you want to set up your gym before you shop for your equipment.
Keep in mind that certain areas of your home may be more prone to getting damp or moldy, dusty, or extremely hot or cold. They will not make ideal exercise locations.
It is important to invest in proper equipment, but choose wisely. In some cases, you may be able to substitute expensive equipment with alternatives, but in most cases, you cannot. Quality rules, so do not shy away from a more ideal product because of the sticker price. Remember, this one time investment will often cost less than a year long gym membership.
Some equipment is limited to a single type of exercise while others may offer a variety of exercise options. Keep in mind what will motivate or de-motivate you. Is the equipment too complicated to adjust? Are the exercise options too limited for your advanced exercise program, or are there too many bells and whistles for your basic exercise preferences?
Basic equipment needs for a home free weight program include:
- An adjustable weight bench will help you vary your workout.
- Dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and/or stability balls. Try them out before you buy. You may consider starting with one type of weight and then trying or adding another as your program progresses.
- A dumbbell rack keeps weights out of the way to prevent injury to you and your family.
- A full-length mirror can help you check that you are using proper form.
- An exercise mat to make floor exercises more comfortable.
You may also be considering a multigym. It is more expensive, but it is a good alternative for someone who is just starting out. Free weights require you to know certain activities, but a multigym is designed to assist you through specific exercises. The downside is that a multigym has a limited variety of exercises, which may leave you feeling bored as you progress.
Equipment is available at sporting goods stores, small athletic equipment retailers, and through websites. Visit different stores to find options that feel best for you.
Create Your Program
If you have not worked with weights before, a trainer can help you with a program. Some trainers will also come to your home and suggest ways to use the space to your advantage. Find a trainer through referrals from friends, gyms, or websites. Always check credentials and interview candidates to find a comfortable rapport.
A cheaper alternative is to work from a book, DVD, or website.
Remember, too, that if you are starting an exercise program, you may need to talk to your doctor first. This is especially true if you are older, have a family history of heart disease, or have other risk factors, like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Making Progress: Expert Training Tips
- Choose a schedule you can commit to. For beginners, strength training 2-3 days a week works well. Generally, a morning routine may be better. This is because we are often more tired later in the day and may be tempted to skip a workout.
- Never push yourself to full fatigue. Lifting too much weight is dangerous, especially when you are at home by yourself.
- Watch your technique carefully in a mirror. You may perceive that you are doing something correctly, but you need to see if your motions are correct.
- Lift and lower weights with slow, controlled movements. If you rely on momentum, you will not isolate the muscle group or get the results you want.
- Increase weight and repetitions gradually. Whatever the exercise, work up to 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions comfortably before increasing the weight.
- Make sure equipment is properly stored and monitored. This is especially true if you have children in the house. Parents should also make sure they have time for themselves to dedicate to exercise during a period when the children are occupied and supervised.
Always consider safety. Use weights and all your equipment properly. It is the best way to get the most out of your investment.
American Council on Exercise
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Public Health Agency of Canada
A strength training program for your home. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/access-public-information/articles/2012/02/02/a-strength-training-program-for-your-home. Accessed August 19, 2016.
Fit facts: how to design your own home gym. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/pdfs/fitfacts/itemid_2588.pdf. Accessed August 19, 2016.
Last reviewed August 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 8/18/2016