Anatomies of the Home Gym
Three levels of set-up to get you started
As a biomechanist, Leonardo da Vinci viewed human anatomy and physiology as machinery — bones, muscles, joints, and sinew linked into fascinating assemblies of motion. Maybe you thought the same the last time you exploded out of bed with your piston-like triceps, ready to "attack the afternoon." Or as you triumphantly trundled from your couch to your refrigerator to retrieve that bowl, like the wheel of a centurion's chariot fresh from conquest. I am a machine.
Indeed you are. But with the COVID-19 pandemic locking us out of gyms and fitness centers, production at your facility may have slowed or even come to a screeching halt, individual components packed away one by one in adiposal bubble wrap awaiting their next use. Although it's nice to have access to a full weight room or rows upon rows of cardiovascular and strength training equipment, it's possible to arrange a highly effective set-up and achieve a lean, muscular physique at home with little to no equipment at all.
Whether or not it's enough to cancel your gym membership depends on your available space, budget, fitness goals, and motivation. Today, we'll explore a home gym set-up for each inclination.
At-Home Workout Set-Up #1: I Am Enough (Fit-Curious)
The machine that is your body is the most high-maintenance piece of equipment you'll ever own. It only operates properly within an ideal temperature range and the batteries need recharged constantly. With that in mind, it's the only one you absolutely need.
Calisthenics are exercises that rely solely on bodyweight for results — the sit-up, push-up, and pull-up being classic examples and staples of the President's Physical Fitness Test you might selectively remember from high school gym class. By grouping individual exercises into training circuits and varying tempo (such as in high intensity interval training, or HIIT, which alternates periods of extreme effort with periods of recovery), there is opportunity to build up some serious sweat equity sans equipment.
Bodyweight exercises themselves can be either isometric or plyometric. Isometric exercises are all about holding a position, slow-burners in which muscle contractions are sustained over time — think planks and cliffhangers (and not letting go). Plyometrics utilize explosive, fast-twitch movements to generate power. Since this form of calisthenic is also referred to as "jump training," be sure your workout area has plenty of head clearance. And that whoever may be living beneath you doesn't already hate you.
At-Home Workout Set-Up #2: Minimalist Home Gym (Fit-Invested)
If calisthenics bring back harrowing memories of gym teachers or drill instructors screaming in your ear, worry not. Tune out the noise with a good pair of earbuds, make a few essential purchases, you can recreate fitness center zen even in a shoebox apartment on a shoestring budget. Plus, should you long for the structure and routine, having some basic equipment on hand will open a veritable world of virtual workout programs to you.
In particular, consider the following:
- Exercise mat: To increase the comfort of floor exercises
- Stability ball: Great for training core or upping the challenge of other movements
- Foam rollers: For precision targeting specific muscles and working out kinks
- Jump rope: The ideal portable HIIT tool, especially if you have a driveway or patio to work with.
- Resistance bands: Not only do these neatly fit in a drawer, they'll also help you more nicely fill out your drawers by amplifying the difficulty of lower body exercises.
- Hand weights: Add a little challenge to the plyometric movements discussed earlier; can also emulate the heft of a pair of boxing gloves.
- Dumbbells: Obviously, buying a complete range of dumbbell weight increments has the potential to quickly clutter your space and deplete your life's savings. So either go for a trifecta (light, moderate, and heavy sets) or simply opt for a pair of adjustable dumbbells to consolidate.
- Kettlebells: An extremely versatile training tool, kettlebells are weights attached to a looped handle, through which the user inserts their hands. This format is more conducive to more sweeping, fluid movements than dumbbells or barbells. Just watch where you swing those things if you're indoors (sorry, grandpa's urn).
- Gliders: Recruit your stabilizer muscles while balancing your hands or feet on these precarious platforms. Can be replaced by DIY alternatives like t-shirts or towels — whatever might slight around and make your life more difficult.
- Step: Another great tool for the calves, quads, and glutes. Can also double as a bench for the chest press.
- Multigym: If you've got a little more money to work with, these all-in-one strength training contraptions can be had for less than $300.
At-Home Workout Set-Up #3: Legit Home Gym (Fit-Religious)
Say you don't possess the acreage or financial assets for your own American Ninja Warrior obstacle course or underground elite sports performance compound, but maybe you have a garage or spare room and a cool grand to play with. Consider yourself lucky, because for just $1,000, you can confidently approximate the functionality of a fully-stocked weight room at a fraction of the cost. The investment may even render your gym membership obsolete.
- Rack: A must for Olympic style lifts, there are two main routes one can go here. Half racks have two uprights and may or may not include a pull-up bar, whereas full power racks (aka power cages) have four uprights with connecting safety bars (for catching the weight in event of failure) and always include a pull-up bar.
- Barbell and plates: Seek a bar with good balance and good grip (knurling) and a good storage system for the accompanying plates (most racks include pegs for plate storage).
- Bench: Benches are available in flat and adjustable models that allow for incline or decline movements.
- Cardio equipment: Treadmills, exercise bikes, and ellipticals are generally pretty expensive, so if you're worried about straining your budget, incorporate cardio into your regimen in other ways if you can.
There you have it. Now get those machines into gear.
The prime focus of Matt Swanseger's (email@example.com) home workouts is not hitting his head on the ceiling. Granted he passes concussion protocol, he'll be back next week for more.