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Developing a Home Gym
I'm thinking of putting together my own home exercise area. What would be some good initial investments that wouldn't cost too much?
First, take a look at some of the following questions: 1) COST: What is your budget? How much would you like to spend? 2) AREA: What is the size of the possible exercise area? What is the floor like? How high is the ceiling? Are you in an apartment or home? 3) PURPOSE: What sorts of activities would you like to be able to do? 4) LEVEL: What is your current as well as desired level of fitness? How often do you anticipate using your home gym? Will it be your primary or supplementary workout area? 5) MULTI-USE: Are there other activities performed in the same area by you, roommates, or family members?Can the area be "just" a gym or does it serve multiple purposes?
If your budget is tight, you'll need to take a hard look at your primary objectives of your home workouts. If you want to do some strength training, you might opt for two sets of dumbbells (they can be found at good sporting good stores for as little as $.35/pound, as in $7 for a pair of 10 pound weights or $3.50 for a pair of 5 pound weights). Single piece dumbbells with hexagonal heads are our favorites, although you may opt for adjustable sets (that take time to adjust) or vinyl coated dumbbells (which usually are more expensive.) We'd suggest, at least initially, sticking with dumbbells, as you can pretty much do any barbell exercise using dumbbells, but not vice versa.
A fun alternative is buying a few inexpensive 4-Square plastic balls ($4 each) and filling them with different levels of water (a needle nosed pliers is useful for removing and replacing the stopper) to make your own homemade medicine balls, which can also double as weights. And if you are just starting out and are really pressed for money, fill gallon jugs with water (for 7# upper body exercises) and load books into a backpack for squats, lunges, step-ups and other leg exercises.
The most versatile piece of equipment that allows you to work in incline, seated, prone, supine, and flat positions would be a stability ball (about $35) Not only can they replace a more expensive bench, but they can double as a chair, take less space, and challenge your body's balance in ways a more stable chair or bench cannot. For additional questions about how to use stability balls, contact a Body Results trainer.
Another useful tool is an adjustable step like those you might see in a commercial gym. Reebok has a black and gray bench with 6", 8" and 10" adjustable levels; such steps might run you $75; you might consider shopping on-line or looking at a discount sporting goods store such as Play It Again Sports in Seattle. The Step has a home model that is shorter than those at commercial gyms, and run about $65. The easiest and least expensive option is to use a step in your house, or even make a single-height box step out of sturdy 2x4's and some nails (if you have a budding engineer in the household.) These steps can be used for variations on the lunges, step-ups, abdominal crunches (if yours is adjustable), as well as step aerobics tapes.
If your exercise area has an area rug or is fully carpeted, you might be able to get away with simply using a towel for a little extra support and to keep carpet fibers and dust from getting to you. If your floor is wood or tile, however, you might want to get a fold-out or roll-up mat for floor work (about $30). As a starting point on-line, Power Systems (1-800-321-6975) will send you a catalog of all their equipment.
Instead of investing in an expensive cable system, you might consider adding several resistance tubes or exercise bands for strength training. Jump Stretch Inc. has the heaviest resistance bands we've found (1-800-344-3539)--you'll probably want to start with the pink bands, then work up to green (blue bands are the thickest and toughest.) Resistance tubing through Power Systems range from $5.95-9.95, and vary in resistance from 10 pounds to 50 pounds, fully stretched.
II. EXERCISE AREA
If you plan on using a stationary bike (or even less expensive, a wind-trainer so you can convert your outdoor bicycle into a foul-weather indoor training tool), you won't need as much space as you would if your favorite activity is high-low impact aerobics. Many exercise tapes (involving a step or floor work) can be done in a fairly small open space that measures about 8' by 12'. If you plan on doing strength training and step aerobics, ceiling height is also important to consider. A living room with vaulted ceilings would be an ideal location in terms of vertical space, but if it's the main congregation area, it's unlikely you'll get to use it very often. Choose an area that has good ventilation (near a window or door, or at the very least, include an oscillating fan to make exercise more comfortable during warmer months). Also select a room with solid floors: bottom floors in apartment buildings (or else your neighbors below you might have a bone to pick with you!) or basement rooms in houses are ideal. If possible, choose an area that can be devoted solely to exercise, so you can leave your gear set up and ready for immediate use. Saving those few extra minutes on set up can mean the difference between doing your exercise and skipping it when you are pressed for time. Make it as easy to succeed with your workouts as possible!
Is your home gym going to supplement a commercial gym membership? Are you someone who prefers to do most of your cardiovascular exercise outside, but would like to supplement your training with stretching and strength training? Do you want your home gym to be the only place you work out? Once you know the answers to these questions, then you can decide how much to invest and how complete you want your gym to be. Try to remember that there are plenty of exercises you can do with very little expense -- just check out the "No Gym Required" workout as proof.
For the beginning exerciser, a home gym might consist of a few exercise tapes, some hand-held dumbbells, and perhaps an exercise step and mat. If you are at more of an intermediate level, you might add an exercise machine of some sort (they run $150 for second-hand or cheap models, to $300 or more for sturdier, more comfortable, and safer equipment), a stability ball, and additional weights. More serious exercisers might add a barbell, exercise bench with rack, and weight plates for ease in adjusting barbell weights. Avid enthusiasts who want to master their sport might go so far as to fully equip a home studio, add a climbing wall, or get deluxe model cable systems, squat racks, exercise flooring, the sky is the limit! If you want more assistance setting up your home gym, contact a Body Results Outdoor Conditioning Coach and we'll set up an appointment with you to assess your needs, your budget, space, and goals.
Finally, determine what else your home gym is used for. If you set up your garage as a home gym, car storage, woodshop, and storage area, you may find that you get squeezed out whenever you acquire new items for the house. If your television room doubles as a gym, make sure that your housemates are aware of when you want to use your exercise equipment so there are no arguments between you and Survivor Rerun fans. If you create a comfortable, attractive and USEFUL area for your exercise, equip it with favorite tunes or a good entertainment center so you can exercise while listening to music or watching a good show, you'll be much more likely to use it. Happy Gym Building!