Setting Up Your Home Gym

You’ve decided weight training is for you, but the gym isn’t, so you are going to work out at home. Set aside an area that you will use for your workouts, although it can be converted back to other purposes. Whether it’s a corner of your bedroom or half of your 2-car garage, this will be your home gym.

Weight training is healthful, fun, and productive. You don’t have to be a gym member to gain the benefits of this great activity. How much space you have, how much time you want to put into it, your training experience and your goals influence how you set up your home workout area.

Let’s take a look at some options.

Do you have limited space? The easiest thing is to use your body weight for resistance. These exercises are called calisthenics. Calisthenics is great for beginners and can be used, to some extent, by advanced trainees. The problem is that there will always be a limit to how far you can go unless you do something to increase the resistance beyond your weight by wearing weighted vests or other devices.

Special elastic bands can be used for resistance, and there are some available that can be used for, say, heavy squats. The force applied from elastic bands is not the same as with free weights; the force is always greatest when the band is stretched the most, which does not often match the normal strength curve. You may have to do the exercise from several positions to get the muscle worked evenly. And for some of us, bands are unsatisfactory because we like to be able to quantify how much we are lifting more precisely. It is usually more satisfying to progress from 15 to 20 lb dumbbells than to go from, say, a green band to a purple one.

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Most people eventually will want to set up their own workout space and purchase some equipment. Free weights, which are dumbbells and barbells, can comprise all of the equipment you use or can be used to complement weight training machines.

The Pros of Dumbells

Dumbbells are inexpensive and don’t take up much room. They are easy to control and less likely than a barbell to knock a hole in your wall if you live in a small apartment. You may see recommendations to use something like a plastic milk jug filled with water or sand as a do-it-yourself alternative. But dumbbells are more comfortable to work with. You can get the inexpensive kind for home use.

The fancy chrome ones hold up better to gym use, but you don’t need them. Get at least two sets to start with. Sedentary women may want to get 5 and 8 pounds, while older or out-of-shape males can start with maybe 12 and 15. Try them out on a bicep curl. Find a weight that fatigues you at about 10 repetitions, then get a pair of those and a pair of the next lightest ones. There is no maximum weight.

Why get New Dumbells

As you get stronger, you will want to get heavier dumbbells. You may want to get some weight plates and adjustable dumbbells, which consist of a handle that you load with weights of different sizes. This is cheaper and takes less space than getting a lot of dumbbells, especially when you are ready for the heavy ones. Another approach is to get a set of stacking dumbbells, such as PowerBlocks. These are more expensive, but are worth it, if you can afford it. I urge you to get a workout bench. If you are just going to use dumbbells, you can get one without barbell supports. There are many exercises you can do without a bench, but when you start doing heavier workouts, a workout bench allows you more comfort and versatility and will be safer than that wobbly piano bench you may think you want to start out on.

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I urge you to get a workout bench. If you are just going to use dumbbells, you can get one without barbell supports. There are many exercises you can do without a bench, but when you start doing heavier workouts. A workout bench allows you more comfort and versatility and will be safer than that wobbly piano bench you may think you want to start out on.

Barbells are a nice addition. They allow you to do some heavier exercises, call for a different sort of muscular coordination than dumbbells, and have a certain mystique. Many advanced weight trainers have started with the inexpensive 110-pound weight set. If your space is really tight, you can get by with just dumbbells.