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  • Al Painter, BA, NASM-CPT, CES, PES


Most of my workouts take place at home or at a park. The reasons are several with one of the most important ones being, at home, I'm always near the coffee pot. The other one being an outdoor park workout is like being a kid playing outside.

Some of the other reasons are:

  • Convenience reigns supreme, ease of starting a workout is critical do doing one at home.

  • I've got kids who I love hanging out with

  • I've got a pretty tight schedule

  • I've got kids I need to clean up after

  • I own a business

  • I coach my daughter's T-Ball team and I also volunteer coach for the same youth baseball league

  • A gym membership would be impossible to justify (my wife reminds me of this from time to time. "You own a gym......").

  • There are only 24 hours in each day

  • I've got kids that I love, who are messy, that somehow got purple glitter UNDER the screen protector of my phone. Yes, purpler glitter. Under the screen protector. Of my phone. Your guess is as good as mine.

  • Did I mention I'm a time crunched parent?

If your life falls into any of the above, this post may just help you create a home gym and put together some pretty effective workouts and hopefully save you some money along the way.

This has been a recipe refined over the last few years to find the perfect combination of pomp and circumstance in terms of exercises I like doing, convenience factor, how much do I have to think to create workouts and what strength goals do I want to challenge myself with.

All You Need Is...

When you keep in mind what the body actually does, how its designed to move and what you need to do to train those elements, the home gym equation becomes a lot easier to solve. The key to a home gym is the concept of minimum effective dose. Meaning, how easy can you make simple?

How can you train our fundamental movements in the most efficient way possible? How efficient can you make it? More importantly, how will you develop a weekly fitness habit at home. Create your workouts around the following movements and you'll have your answer:

  • Squat

  • Hinge

  • Pull

  • Push

  • Resist Rotational/Lateral Forces

If you do, you'd be hard pressed to find things at a gym you can't easily replicate at home. The following list of equipment has been chosen to get you there.

I didn't mention free weights here (kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls) because while they are an amazing tool to build total body strength, as your strength levels increase, you need heavier things to move. Heavier things cost more and generally take up more space. Plus, if I'm headed to a park to play outside, taking me, bands and a suspension trainer is a lot more convenient.

If you do have free weights at home, then Juan Carlos Santana's "Essence of Dumbbell Training Companion Guide" book (or DVD) is a must have. It contains literally 100's of movements as well as some really "fun" programming.

With that said, here's what I recommend to create the perfect home gym!

Bodyweight ($0)

You are quite possibly the ultimate home gym. You're always open, there are never any crowds and there is zero commute time. You can build incredibly effective "people powered" workouts. For bang for your buck convenience, this is not only the most cost effective way to go, but you can get pretty darned strong.

As far as resources go, I recommend:

The "Elements" workout from Gold Medal Body Fitness, awesome workout, and it only takes THREE exercises to pull it off. Don't let the simplicity fool you, it can be as challenging as you make it.

I'm also really liking "Complete Calisthenics: The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Exercise" by Ashley Kalym. All bodyweight all the time here with some rings work thrown in for good measure.

"Original Strength" by Tim Anderson is an amazing people weight resource geared around floor based movements. He's got crawling variations that will blast your heart rate while you create a bullet proof core.

Suspension Trainers ($55-$199)

If you want 100's of things to do that require total core activation with each one, suspension trainers are the way to go. You can train every one of the fundamental movements from the list above with the loaded carry being the potential exception.

Although, I'd suggest you can train the rotational plank/gait function of loaded carries with mountain climber variations.

All you need is something to hang your trainer from and you're set. If you run them off of a door, just be sure the pull/push is in the same direction the door closes. Doing it the other way doesn't lend itself to having the most stable anchor point for your door frame.

In this category, you've got the original monkii bars ($149), a set of raining training rings ($55), the Jungle Gym XT ($99), SBT Extreme 4th Generation ($165) or the TRX Duo Trainer ($199). Any one of these options will provide darn near limitless training variety and help build some serious strength. The key take point to all of these pieces of equipment, you've got dual attachment for more set up options.

In terms of resources, the GMB Fitness R1 rings program is stellar and the "Complete Calisthenics" book has rings programming as well. The Red Delta Project YouTube channel also has very high quality training information and routines you can do.

Stick Mobility ($39-$229)

This is incredibly effective and even easier to set up. If your body makes the movement, Stick Mobility can make it stronger. The best part is all you need is you and ideally somewhere to push the stick into to take full advantage of the modality.

Exercise Bands ($19-$179 for a training package)

Ever since I saw Juan Carlos Santana's "Essence of Band and Pulley Training Companion Guide," I've loved training with exercise bands. There isn't a plane we move in or a movement our bodies don't produce that can't be made better with this piece of equipment.

If you pick up any of Dave Schmitz's training programs, between the two resources, you'd be hard pressed to find a more challenging way to workout for strength, balance, power or increased mobility. They are monkii bars portable, can be used anywhere and you can work up quite a lather. These are a must have for any home gym.

A Jump Rope

Cardio, high intensity cardio and boxers have been using them since day one. If you want to blast your cardio levels through the roof, get a jump rope. Great addition to any home gym.

The Ab Wheel

For less than $20, this is a must have addition to any home gym. It is one of the most effective ways to build more core strength not too mention more oomph in the lats for pullups. Dan John says as much, and if he says so, I'm on board 100%.

There you have it. If you exercise at home, this should help you not only select your equipment, but find some high quality training information to help you put together some pretty effective workouts.

As always, thanks for getting this far down the page, it is greatly appreciated!

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