Setting up a home gym

6.26 For those who have the means—location and funding—the home gym is a great way to go. Even if you have always thought a home gym to be out of the question, reconsider. ^e advantages you get from a home gym are so profuse and profound that, if you are serious about training, you should do your utmost to get one.

6.27 At its basic minimum a good home gym takes up surprisingly little space and is less expensive than you may anticipate. ^ough an initial investment is involved, consider the gym fees you will not be paying, and the traveling time and expenses you will not have. Also keep in mind that you can use the gear for the rest of your life and may pass it onto your offspring. It is a long-term investment that does not wear out. Unless you get into buying equipment you do not really need, your home gym will pay for itself after a few years, or perhaps less time, depending also on the cost of where you currently train.

6.28 If you pool your resources with those of a few other like-minded trainees, you can all have access to a terrific training den with very little money outlay from any one of you. You need to agree on the location of the gym. Put it in someone's spare room, basement or garage, so you have no rent to cover.

6.29 Being oversupplied with equipment in commercial gyms colors people's minds to think that a lot of equipment is needed to get big and strong. In a mere 7-foot x io-foot space you can get enough equipment to get you about as big and strong as you are ever going to get. You do not need a whole room for your home gym—a portion of a room you use for something else can be adequate. I have trained in a 7-foot x io-foot space an managed to include a full-size power rack, an Olympic bar, a bench, a weight tree, and a few small

A comparison of four different long bars. From the top: cambered squat bar, standard Olympic bar, 2-inch diameter bar, and 3-inch diameter bar.

accessories. Two people could train in such a space, alternating sets, and three could fit in, though it would be cramped.

6.30 ^e minimum equipment investment for providing a great variety of productive training opportunities is:

a. A bar and plates, including little discs.

b. A reliable method of self-spotting and securely setting up a barbell in some sort of stands, e.g., a four-post power rack, a half rack, or sturdy and stable squat stands together with spotter/safety racks or bars.

c. A sturdy and stable bench.

6.31 As time goes by, add a Trap Bar, an overhead pulley and/or an overhead bar, a pair of adjustable dumbbells, parallel bars for dips, a cambered squat bar, a few specialized items for grip work, a heavy-duty adjustable bench, and a 2-inch thick bar. ^en you will have a gem of a gym.

A bare minimum

6.32 You can train very effectively even without a rack, safety bars, straight bar or bench, if you do not do squats or bench presses. Trap Bar bent-legged deadlifts, plus chins and dips, cover most of the body's musculature. (^e Trap Bar, comparing equal strength of bars, is cheaper than an Olympic bar. ^e Trap Bar has no revolving sleeves.) Just those three exercises, if worked progressively and for enough months, can produce a lot of muscle. Overhead presses with the Trap Bar could be done too. Some method of getting the Trap Bar into the starting position would be necessary, though, because the rhombus-shaped bar cannot be cleaned to the shoulders like a straight bar can.

6.33 ^is equipment bare minimum could be the perfect starting point for a very productive home gym where economy is the priority, and space is very tight.

and plates

Bars come in different varieties, qualities and prices. ^ere are Olympic bars, power bars, exercise bars, cambered bars, and the Trap Bar. Of course all of them are used for exercising, but the "exercise" bars are for use with "exercise" plates, i.e., the ones that have small-diameter holes (usually about 1.125 inches) and thus the bars have ends a little smaller, at 1-1.0625 inches, to fit in the plates. Olympic and power bars manufactured according to the specification of the International Weightlifting Federation are 220 centimeters long, with a sleeve diameter of 50 millimeters. ^ey have revolving sleeves and large-diameter ends to take plates bored with holes 2 inches in diameter (or slightly bigger, depending on the manufacturer).

6.35 Because of inconsistencies between manufacturers of bars and plates, you may get plates (and collars) that are a tad too tight for your bar. Take your plates (and perhaps collars too) to a local machine shop and get the holes bored a little bigger.

6.36 At the most expensive end of the market are the elite Olympic bars, including Eleiko® and Ivanko®. But most of the Olympic-size bars around today are poor and weak imitations, so as to be much cheaper. If a bar bends as you are lifting, it could cause a serious loss of form, and injury. You would also end up with a useless bar.

Bars

6.34

6.37 For big poundages you need a good quality bar. You do not have to jump to an elite bar to get a good quality one, but you need to get something a lot better than the cheapest bar you can find. Several manufacturers, e.g., York®, produce quality bars that are moderately priced. For serious Olympic lifting even the moderately priced bars may be unsuitable because they do not flex during lifting under load, as Olympic weightlifters want a bar to. A bar that flexes must, however, return to being perfectly straight after use. Flexion does not mean that the bar stays bent.

6.38 For the squat, center knurling on the bar will help greatly to keep the bar from slipping while on your traps.

6.39 Plates come with large- and small-diameter holes, and either in plain metal, with rubber coating (bumper plates), or in total rubber. ^e cheap plates in particular are notoriously off weight. ^e rubber plates are cheaper than the bumper plates, a lot thicker (a York solid rubber 45-pound plate is 5 inches in width), but will not damage the plates, bar or floor if the loaded barbell is dropped. ^ey also make for quieter training. To get the advantages of rubber plates not damaging the floor, and making less noise than metal ones, you may only need one pair of rubber plates per bar. ^is only applies so long as the metal plates on the bar are of smaller diameter than the rubber ones. Alternatively, use solid-metal plates and do your lifting on some thick rubber matting, for shock absorption. But if you are using good form and controlling the bar properly, and not using the Olympic lifts, you should not be dropping the bar anyway, though you should be prepared in case you do.

6.40 Take care of your bars. If you regularly wipe an oily rag over the sleeves, this will help reduce the wear on the chrome from the friction between bar and plates. Also regularly check that the sleeves are securely fastened.

Bench, rack and stands

6.41 If a flat bench weighs about 50 pounds, or more, then it is probably a fine bench. You want weight, stability and comfort (i.e., not too much width). For very heavy use, a flat bench of 70 pounds or more would be a wise choice. If you get an adjustable bench—for incline work, and back support while performing seated presses—get a heavy-duty one with an adjustable seat. ^ere are many flimsy adjustable benches, often coming with attachments that distract from the exercises that really matter.

6.42 A power rack is perfect for self-spotting and safety. You can even do all your long-bar exercises inside the rack. If you set the pins/rods just below the lowest point of each exercise, the rack will catch the bar should you fail on a bench press or squat, for example. Do not touch the bar to the pins unless you are intentionally doing each rep from a stationary start at the bottom, or if you fail on a rep and have to set the bar down.

6.43 Using a tape measure, work out exactly where your bench needs to rest to be perfectly centered in the rack. Mark the base of the rack accordingly, so you never need to fiddle around getting the bench centered when it is time to bench press.

6.44 Number the holes in all the rack's uprights (either directly on the rack, or using masking tape), so it is easy to put a pin through holes at the same height. You also need to have the holes numbered so that you can keep notes of which setting(s) you need to use for a given exercise.

6.45 ^e power rack can be used for pullups/chins, by setting the saddles high enough so that a bar in position can function as a chinning bar. (A rack, because of its width, requires a full-length bar—e.g., an Olympic bar.) Some power racks have an integral chinning bar. Even a lat-machine pulley can be built into a power rack.

6.46 ^ere are alternatives to a power rack. You can use a half or open power rack, or a pair of heavy, stable and adjustable squat racks or stands (which are not only for squats) together with a pair of adjustable and robust spotter racks. A power rack and half rack are the more versatile options. ^e power rack might be considered safer, as it offers horizontal obstacles to bar movement should you lose control.

6.47 Consider having a power rack made locally—see the design on page 169. Box section of 60 x 60 x 5 mm would be perfect.

Other equipment

6.48 A weight tree/plate holder is convenient for storing your plates when they are not in use, but is not a necessity. You can always rest plates against a wall (first protecting the wall and floor against damage, unless you have bumper plates or rubber ones). If you have the option, get a weight tree with a chalk dish built into it on its highest point.

6.49 An adjustable dumbbell is a valuable addition, at least for side bends (though a barbell can be used), one-legged calf work, and external rotator work for the shoulders, all of which are important exercises. If you have an Olympic bar and plates, the regular dumbbell rod will be too narrow for your plates. You will need to buy narrow-holed plates for the dumbbell bars (smooth-sided plates take up the least amount of space), or get a local metal worker to weld a tube around the dumbbell bars' ends to fit the Olympic plates. If you are feeling flush, you could buy dumbbell rods especially for Olympic plates. Another option is buying spiral-lock dumbbell rods. ^ese make plate changing easy. Whatever option you use, be sure to use secure collars so that the dumbbells do not come apart during use.

6.50 ^ere are two basic types of collars. One type has some mechanism that needs to be tightened before the collars are secured in place. ^ese collars come in different sizes and variations. ^e other basic variety is the spring type where nothing has to be screwed into place. Instead, the handles are squeezed together while the collar is slipped into place, and then the tension on the handles is released to secure the collars. ^e latter are easier to use, but have only a limited use. For dumbbells, and for barbell exercises where a lot of weight is used and/or there is a lot of movement of the plates (e.g., when the plates touch the floor on each rep), the heavy-duty collars that lock the plates firmly together are a necessity for safety.

6.51 For calf work you will need a raised platform or box to stand on for full extension, or use a staircase or other improvisation.

6.52 A Trap Bar is essential in my view, and a lat-machine is very valuable. Some other equipment will help over the long term, especially a cambered bar and thick bar. But most other gear is usually a distraction that will only hinder your progress.

High-tech equipment

6.53 On the high-tech side there are several possible additions, money permitting and once you have already acquired the essentials of a good home gym. A leg press and a pullover machine can be fine additions. Hammer Strength® makes some very good machines as do Southern Xercise®, MedX® and Nautilus®. ^e Tru-Squat® from Southern Xercise is an especially good machine, particularly if you cannot squat safely with a barbell. But it is also an excellent machine for trainees who can squat safely with a barbell. ^e

Tru-Squat can be much more valuable than a leg press, because the former involves more musculature and produces a greater overall anabolic effect.

6.54 If you are considering purchasing a high-tech machine, test it first, preferably at a gym where you can use it regularly for a while. Testing it once, unless the machine obviously does not fit you, is unlikely to teach you much about its potential for causing chronic irritation, or even injury over the longer term. Ideally, and if possible, try several models/brands before you make a purchase. A machine that may be great for one person may be harmful for another.

Gym table

6.55 Place a small table in a corner of your home gym, primarily to use for entering data into your training log. Alternatively, use a sturdy shelf. Your training log is a very important item and as such should have a special location reserved for it.

6.56 Keep the table or shelf tidy, and use the space alongside the training log for your chalk (in a bowl of some sort), and any reference material you need to keep at hand. Keep a large bottle of pure water there for ready access between sets.

6.57 ^e table or shelf could also be where you keep the tools you need to have at hand, for tightening nuts and bolts on a power rack, collars on dumbbells, or whatever else that needs regular adjustment. ^ese tools may include an adjustable wrench, and Allen/hex wrenches of the appropriate sizes. Further, and not just for home gym use, keep a tape measure handy for when you may need to check, for example, if you have a bench or bar centered correctly in a rack.

Accessory items

6.58 Have a specific location for storing each accessory piece of training gear, be it a lifting belt, clean towel, specialized grip item (wrist roller, deadlift handle, pinch block), weight holder for dips and chins, etc. A number of pegs on a board fixed to a wall is ideal for hanging a number of small and lightweight items on. A clock on the wall is a good idea.

6.59 A full-length mirror can help you to master exercise form, at least in some exercises, because you can see what you are doing.

Key purchasing decisions

6.60 For exercises where you are not going to be handling more than around 200 pounds, even a cheap Olympic or power bar (or exercise bar) will be adequate. ^ere is nothing magical about an Olympic bar. It just has revolving sleeves that make for smoother and easier handling, relative to the plain one-piece exercise bar. But for heavier exercises you must have a quality bar that is not going to bend.

6.61 Rather than start with a shoddy bar and later move to a quality bar, start with a good bar. While you can manage well with one good bar, you will find a second bar useful—to spare you from having to keep stripping the same bar down.

6.62 If money is tight, rather than get a second regular-diameter straight bar, you would be better served by getting a Trap Bar.

6.63 If you are into Olympic weightlifting, you will need a bar that has the necessary flexibility, together with the smoother revolving sleeves of the higher priced Olympic bars. But if you are not into the very quick lifts—and you are unlikely to be if you are reading this book—then a good quality power bar (or a one-piece exercise bar) will do fine. You will not want the bar to flex much as you lift.

6.64 Shop around for a barbell set, or buy bar and plates separately. Get enough plates—appropriate for the diameter of the bar(s) you choose—to cover your immediate needs, and add to them as required. Hunt around for a robust power rack (or half rack, or squat stands and a pair of self-spotting stands) and a heavy-duty bench. Examine what you are considering buying, or buy from a reputable mail-order function-and-durability-first supplier. Never buy flimsy, lightweight gear. Prices vary and so does quality. Price tends to go with quality, but not necessarily so. Compare different brands for quality and price.

6.65 Do not consider buying something so shoddy that it could let you down and cause an accident. And if you buy something as a temporary measure, but plan to buy something of better quality later on, that is probably going to be false economy.

Home gym location

6.66 If possible, choose a place that has good ventilation. You may need a fan in the summer, if you live in a warm climate, and some form of heating to take the chill off the room during the winter. If the lighting is poor, e.g., in a basement, then invest in some good lighting for practicality and safety. Whatever space you use, work on it to make it really look like a small gym. Fix the floor, walls and ceiling. You will come to love the little place, so fix it up right from the start.

6.67 A room of its own is best, and more space is better than less. But a home gym does not have to have a room entirely for itself. As noted earlier, productive training quarters can occupy as little as 7-foot x 10-foot.

6.68 If the floor is wooden, pay attention to where you put your heavy gear. Away from the center of the room and next to walls will be best, and a smaller room will be an advantage as far as the strength of the wooden floor is concerned.

Horizontal training area

6.69 Hardly anyone checks to see that they are training on a horizontal surface. Go to the trouble of checking it. While a concrete floor should be horizontal, a wooden floor or lifting platform may not be. If you are squatting or deadlifting on a floor or platform that is slightly higher on one side than the other, you are going to be applying skewed stress on you body. It could be enough to throw your form and cause an injury if you are used to a perfectly horizontal surface. Over the long term it could even cause a chronic condition.

6.70 If you use a machine, e.g., a leg press, then its base needs to be positioned perfectly horizontally; otherwise, you will distort the stresses of the movement and invite trouble.

Surface to train on

6.71 It is very important you stand on a non-slip surface that "gives" while you train, especially for exercises where you have weights overhead or over your shoulders. ^is spares your joints from having to do all the giving. Do not train directly on concrete.

6.72 If you plan to train on a carpeted and/or wooden floor, or a concrete one, cover at least part of it with a sturdy shallow wooden platform (or thick rubber flooring) for performing your standing exercises on. ^is will spare your joints, floor, carpet and weights from damage, spread the load from the weights when they contact the floor (very important if you train on a wooden floor), and also reduce the noise you make in your gym.

6.73 For deadlifts, especially rest-pause ones, the plates easily roll on a smooth floor, and necessitate that you reposition for every rep. Of course you should always check that your feet are in the right position relative to the bar before performing a deadlift rep (whether with a straight bar or Trap Bar), and adjust them if need be. ^is rolling of the plates can be minimized by dead-lifting on some hard-wearing carpet or rubber fixed to a wooden surface. Two squares of plywood with a carpet or rubber surface would serve you well. Place the squares so the plates contact them between reps. Because of the give in the carpet or rubber, the plates stay somewhat stuck to the floor during the pause between reps, so long as form is good when the bar is set down.

6.74 If you do all your barbell exercises inside a power rack (other than Trap Bar deadlifts, which cannot be done in a rack), you need never set a loaded straight barbell on the floor. Instead, position the rack pins so that you can put your bar down on the pins between sets, and even between reps during rest-pause work. ^is teaches good form and controlled reps, and prevents the barbell from being dropped on the floor.

6.75 Keeping the plates off the floor also makes plate changing easy because you do not have to lift the end of the bar in order to unload or load the largest diameter plates.

6.76 If you have to load or unload a heavy barbell that rests on the floor, lift the end up and slip a disk underneath the inside plate. ^e raised end will make changing much easier. A better way, if available, is to use a device that levers the bar off the floor, and holds it in position while you load or unload plates. When loading a vertical bar—e.g., for a plate-loading lat machine—put plates on with the smallest at the bottom, or alternate a large diameter plate with a small diameter one. ^is makes it easier to unload the plates.

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