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Setting up a Bodybuilding Home Gym

What You Need, and the Advantages / Disadvantages

by James Humphreys

I thought it might be useful to write up a little something on home gyms as a number of people have asked me about my set-up, the cost involved etc. For those of you that are dedicated to working out for many years to come, a home gym may be something you want to consider just in terms of cost. What I will describe is my home gym set-up that cost less than $1000. That may sound like a lot, but considering many yearly gym memberships are over $300 a year, that's only about 3 years of memberships. I compare it to owning vs. renting a home. Paying annual membership fees to a gym is like renting... you have a cost each year, and in the end, you have nothing to show for it (well, probably a better physique but nothing in terms of material possessions). How many years will you work-out? Let's suppose we look at how much you will pay over the next 30 years (ignoring inflation)... and assuming a modest $300 / yr. annual fee. That's $9000. That's a fair bit of money... and that's being conservative! For under $1000, you can buy brand new equipment and equip your basement or work-out room for life... and you own the equipment.

So let me describe my set-up a bit. All the equipment I bought brand new... so you could pay even less if you buy used. Check out garage sales, classifieds, buy & sell papers... you should be able to get a good deal. If you want to buy new equipment, try a place like the Fitness Depot... they have a large selection. The first thing you need to ask yourself is what sort of equipment you want to buy. I believe that free weights give you much more available exercise variations than machines, and free weights are cheaper than many of the machines available commercially.

A basic free weight set-up should include the following items:

- A bench (preferably one that can incline, and maybe decline)

- Safety supports (a MUST for a home gym if you don't have a spotter)

- A squat rack, or set-up for doing squats

- Olympic weights (a 300 lb. set will do you to start)

- Dumbbells (I recommend spinlock ones where you can adjust the weight of the dumb bell)

- A chin-up bar (you can buy one that you can be attached to a door-frame)

With the above items, you can do exercises for every muscle group. One thing that might also be helpful is a book on how to do various free weight exercises... or browse the net. Here's a picture of my set-up that also includes a lat-bar / rowing station for back work. You don't need this... you can get quite a good back work-out doing chin-ups, and deadlifts.

I have been using this set-up for a few years now and find that the only thing I have difficulty working are calves... you can try one leg calf raises while holding a dumbbell. I'm considering maybe purchasing a seated calf-raise machine. One note on the dumbbells... I use spinlock dumbbells which allow me to adjust the weight on the dumbbell handle up to 80 lbs. You can also buy fixed weight dumbbells (which, if you want a range of weights, will be very expensive) or you can buy powerblocks (which are also very expensive).

Working out at home is a very cost-effective way to stay in shape... but there are drawbacks. The first is sometimes its hard to stay motivated and work out alone. Just going to the gym, and seeing other people work-out, can give you a motivation boost. The second problem is the lack of a spotter. If you're working out alone at home, make sure you have some sort of safety rack or supports! If you work out alone, its also difficult to do exercise variations like heavy-negatives or forced reps because there is no one around to help you. For many people, there is a social aspect to woking-out... meeting new people etc.... which you don't get working out at home. Also, if you need advice from gym staff or a personal trainer... you won't find that at home.

There are advantages to working out at home, though. First... your gym is open 24 hours a day and is never crowded... you never have to wait for equipment, or wipe someone else's sweat off equipment before using it. Even in a busy schedule, you can squeeze a work-out in... there's no travel time going to and from a gym. Your work-outs are efficient because there are no distractions. You can wear what you want, and it doesn't matter how you look (I often work-out first thing in the morning... with "bed head" and looking scruffy). You have ultimate control over the music being played (I have found some of the radio stations they tune in to at gyms really distracting... even irritating... I guess that's why so many people wear a walk-man).

Is a home gym for you? If you can stay motivated, and don't mind working out alone... its a great money saver! If you want any more information on setting up your own home gym, go to Home Gym Plans.


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