I get asked how I built my home gym setup quite a bit. I thought the easiest thing would be to post about it and link the tools I use to stay fit at home. Notice I didn’t say “in the comfort of my own home.” It’s in the garage and it’s currently winter here in Kansas City. You can imagine it’s quite cold in there until we turn the heater on!
Home Gym Big Ticket Items
Fitness Gear Pro Half Rack* – The #1 “how I built my home gym” item was our half rack. For me, the ability to squat with a safety catch and do pull-ups from a top crossbar was non-negotiable. We also hang a Gorilla Gym yoga swing off the top crossbar for our son to use for sensory needs.
*PRO TIP: Make sure that your rack has the top crossbar which is offset from the back base crossbar. I’ll explain more in a moment.
Olympic bar – The aforementioned squatting and many other worthwhile exercises require a good Olympic barbell. Do not balk at all those weight plates. Yes, you really do want the 300lbs set. If you are going to make progress in your workouts, you will need those 45s at some point. Better to buy the whole set so they match. Also, these barbell clamps are MUCH easier to use than regular springs to hold the weights on the bar.
*PRO TIP: Whatever space you have, measure to make sure the rack AND the bar fit in that space. You’ll also need to add some room on the outside of the bar for adding and removing weight plates, so keep that in mind.
Hex bar– This is similar to the Hex bar used in the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which will soon be the new standard for assessing physical fitness in the Army. Remember my post on how to DIY your own workout – I discussed the Principle of Specificity. To get better at something, you have to do it. My husband is on active duty and will be taking the ACFT soon, hence why we need a Hex bar.
Home Gym Smaller Ticket, but Nonetheless Important
Lift Pulley System – I use this attachment for about 80% of my workout. To retrofit your standard power cage/half-rack to meet your pulling goals (which you should have a 2:1 ratio in pulling-to-pushing exercises), you need a cable pulley system. It comes with Straight Bar and Rope attachments, but you can also get a lat pull-down bar and handles to expand your exercise possibilities.
Swivel Pulley – You will want TWO pulleys to maximize the functionality of your rack. Plates have to stay on the ground, so if you want to do any kind of upright pulling (cable bicep curls, upright rows) or leg work (glute kickbacks, leg abductions or adductions, lying leg curls, leg extensions) with your cable system, you’ll need a pulley at both the top crossbar AND the base crossbar.
Carabiner with hanging strap – Necessary for attaching the pulleys to the crossbars.
EZ curl bar – I love using an EZ curl bar for bicep work, and walking lunges. It’s shorter than the Olympic bar (important when you are working out next to your beloved vehicle) and easier to manage in narrow spaces. It also comes in very handy when you and your spouse are working out together and you both need a barbell for your exercise.
Nice to Have but Not Required
Extra carabiners and exercise bands/tubes – if you are doing any stability and mobility exercise (ahem, you should be), you will want to look at getting exercise bands. This set from GoFit has tubes, handles, and ankle straps. All great items for your home gym!
Knee pad – To save your knees during kneeling exercises, or extra padding for seated positions.
Storage – We installed a Rubbermaid FastTrack Rail system so that we could have a wire basket and shelf to keep the “gym” area relatively clutter-free. I hang my old gym bag off of an older power tool hook that my husband already had, but this multi-purpose hook (which we use to hang other garage items on the right end of the track) is versatile enough to hang any of your cables or exercise bands. Highly recommend!
… but honestly, the star of the show during winter. Let’s face it, cold muscles DO NOT work well and they can lead to injury. So if you are thinking about building your own home gym in your garage – do yourself a favor and get a reliable space heater! Stick it on a Kasa smart plug, and you can turn it on from your phone while you are still in bed!
Do you already have a home gym setup? Let me know what worked or didn’t work for you!
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