The Ultimate Home Gym Setup. Workout on Your Terms!

I am not in the position right now to setup a home gym.

I live in an expensive part of downtown Seattle in a VERY small studio apartment (some of you have closets that are bigger than my apartment). I love it, but certainly don’t have space for any type of home gym. That being said, I do want to setup a home gym someday in the future.

I have spent over 20 years working out in a gym and I’m ready to spend less time commuting to a gym, waiting for equipment, etc. The bottom line is that commuting to a commercial gym can be a serious time-killer. So what would be my idea of the ultimate home gym? Here goes…

home gym workout

[This home gym is probably bigger than my entire apartment! I would love to have a room this size to work with!]

The First Step…Choosing the Best Room for Your Home Gym

There are a few things to consider here. I actually like to chose rooms with high ceilings to be able to do overhead presses. I also like rooms with very solid floors.

A place that is well ventilated helps, but isn’t necessary. You don’t need much space, but the more the better. For many people, their garage is the ideal place. Lay cheap carpet down on one side of your garage and you have the beginnings of a great home gym.

Hook up that Room With a Sound System!

If it is just going to be you working out alone, then blast the songs that you enjoy. Seriously…I love working out to new techno or house dance music, but my gym plays really generic mainstream music.

If you are at home, go onto iTunes and make a few mix CD’s. Ipod’s are great, but there is nothing like the pumping bass you experience from a couple sub-woofers. Rock, Emo, House, Hip-Hop, etc…all sound better on a big home stereo system.

The One Piece of Equipment I Would Invest Good Money In

You are certainly going to need weights, a good bench, and all of that basic stuff. The one thing I wouldn’t skimp on is a really good power rack. You can spend the entire strength training side of your workout in a power rack.

If it wasn’t for other people needing to use the power rack, I would spend much more time there. In Part II of this article, I’ll show you how to maximize the use of this amazing piece of equipment.

Just know this…you can do dips, chinups, shrugs, bent over rows, squats, lunges, hanging leg raises, bench presses, incline presses, curls, partial presses, military presses, lockouts, and a ton of other exercises…all inside of the power rack.

power rack home gym equipment

[This power rack is nice because it comes with dip bars. I haven’t seen that before on a power rack. Pretty cool!]

The Second Priority Would Be an Adjustable Bench

The ideal bench is one that goes from completely flat to completely upright. It is also best that it has wheels so you can move it under the power rack and back out.

The nice thing about having an adjustable bench that you can move is that it gives you tons of flexibility. You can do both dumbbell and barbell incline presses, flat bench press, military presses with a dumbbell and barbell, flat bench flyes, incline flyes, etc.

If you want you can even set the safety bar in the power rack as a precaution to catch the weight if you get stuck. Here is an example of a good adjustable bench.

adjustable incline bench press

[This one just has a few positions. There are some that have dozens of settings. As long as goes all the way flat and close to completely upright, you are good.]

Nothing Beats a Good Old Fashion Olympic Bar!

An Olympic Bar is an investment that will last a lifetime. Once you get used to an Olympic bar, all other bars feel flimsy. The nice thing is that the bar is thick and you can put on some serious weight without the bar digging in to your hand.

The standard Olympic Bar weighs 45 pounds, so if you need to lift lighter than this you will need to get a smaller bar as well.

olympic bar loaded with plates

[There is no need to buy a new one. Look online or in the want ads and I guarantee that you will find someone selling a used one. It will need to within driving distance, since shipping is insane for products like these.]

You Will Need Olympic Weights to Go With the Olympic Bar

Honestly this is an investment that will last several lifetimes. They aren’t very cheap either, but this is the way to go. You have the option of buying rubber coated or ones with handles, etc.

I would probably get 4 of the 45 pound plates, 2 of the 35 pound plates, 4 of the 25 pound plates, 6 of the 10 pounders, 4 of the 5 pounders, and 4 of the 2.5 pounders. I just like the basic round metal “old school” style like this:

olympic weight stand

[It is nice to have a weight stand like this, but not necessary.]

Last “Must Have” Would Be Two Olympic Dumbbell Handles

The ideal situation would be to have a dumbbell rack with weights going from 10 pounds to 120 pounds in 5 pound increments. That is nice, but not very cost effective.

Olympic dumbbell handles will allow you to add Olympic weights. The typical weight of one of these handles is 10 pounds each. Some of them allow you to add enough weight to make each dumbbell 200 pounds!

A good strategy is to buy quite a few more 5 and 10 pound Olympic weights to have your dumbbells setup without having to take the weights off of your Olympic bar. Here is a photo of the type of dumbbell handle I’m speaking of.

olympic dumbbell handles

[The bar is the exact same thickness as the Olympic barbell.]

Obviously, You Can Get By With Less

I know that much of this equipment is top notch and cost a bit. The title of this article is “ultimate” home gym, and I don’t consider this basic at all. The power rack will probably, be the last thing that people can afford…although I think it is an amazing piece of equipment.

How many of you workout at home & what type of equipment do you have?

Note: There are many, many ways to achieve the slim athletic look. I think that you can get 80% of the way there with diet and cardio.

I have actually seen people who look amazing and only do body weight exercises. This article is more about how I like to workout…I know it isn’t the only route to get the slim “Hollywood look”.


41 thoughts on “The Ultimate Home Gym Setup. Workout on Your Terms!”

  1. If I may add to the conversation.

    I think you can get away without buying 35lb plats. save the money and get an extra 25lb plate. If you think about it why do you need it. You will need the rest but save your money there.

    I also think powerblocks are the way to go. They take up less room and unless you find the dumbbells on sale the will run you a little less.

    One more thing you may want to add to the list is blast straps. Don’t buy the TRX save your money and get the blast straps, with the money you save you could buy 2 sets.

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