The Art of Working Out Alone

After a nine year break, I began lifting weights again about four years ago. This absence had not done me any favors; and I was slow, weak and a little on the heavy side.

Having eventually made the decision to begin doing something (and believe me – after 9 years, this didn’t exactly come easily), I was faced with an all-too-common dilemma. Where?

Gyms can be intimidating places at the best of times. As an outsider, it seemed as though all the members were in pretty good shape to start with. I’d stick out like a sore thumb.

Instead, I decided to set up a home gym. Get myself into a reasonable condition before I went anywhere near the commercial options. And then I discovered it – the art of working out alone.

What equipment do I need?

That really depends on your goals. If the idea is simply to pick up something heavy – repeatedly – then almost any weighty object will do. Kettlebells, dumbbells, a bar and plates; a heavy stone from the yard. Perhaps a combination.

A typical arrangement is a bench, bar and a few plates. A Power Rack (aka Power Cage) is also highly recommended (largely for safety reasons, but it’s a versatile device). In fact, you can do an incredible amount with just this simple setup.

Further reading :

Where do I put it? How much space will I need?

A home gym doesn’t need to take up all that much space. To get an idea, lie on the floor and imagine someone walking around you; that’s the minimum. More realistically, you’ll want to make use of a spare room, basement or garage.

How much will it cost?

There’s no need to go crazy here – and your outlay is obviously connected to your own financial situation. Typically you’re looking at around $100 and up.

NB : most gym equipment – especially the simple, heavy gear – is fine second-hand. If you spot a bench, plates etc in a garage sale, grab them.

I’m renting this place – will it damage the floors? What about noise?

My first home gym was in a rented apartment with polished wooden floors. That kind of setup doesn’t need to be a problem; just a consideration.

There are a couple of things that will help here :

  • A Power Rack will keep the loaded bar off the floor at all times. Instead of digging a hole in the floorboards, a dropped bar will simply come to a stop with a dull thud on the pins of the rack (often coated with rubber).
  • The second is to protect the floor with a rubber mat or two. I found rubber doormats on sale at a local hardware store, and stocked up. If you’re a little more rural, you may want to look at horse stall mats. Usually nice and cheap.This will give you a place to put the plates, kettlebell or dumbbells down without destroying the floor. It also helps to absorb excessive noise.

Do I just stop the workouts when I’m on vacation?

Not at all. Apart from anything else, working out can be extremely enjoyable – especially once you notice yourself becoming slimmer, stronger and faster.

I’ll leave it up to you as to how intense you want to make your holiday workouts. However, I will point out that an incredible amount can be achieved with bodyweight exercises. A couple of sets of push-ups, dips and so on.

Final thoughts

If you’re slightly out of shape but dread the idea of going to a gym, give the home-based workouts a try.

Scott Bird

Scott Bird is a writer and fitness enthusiast based in sunny Sydney, Australia. When not wandering around second-hand book stores, he can usually be found over at his strength-training site, Straight to the Bar.

25 Comments

  1. The hardest part is making it past those first couple of weeks. The sense of accomplishment and good feeling derived after sticking with the routine after that long feels just all too good! If you’re doing it consistently, you start feeling slimmer and healthier and next thing you know you’re pushing yourself further and further.

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  2. Good tips for working out, Scott.

    To me, the best way of encouraging myself to work out is to make it seem less of a chore, and a lot more like “fun”.

    I find that some great, upbeat music as a soundtrack to my exercise, helps me achieve this.

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  3. It’s funny you should mention this topic as I actually much prefer working out on my own. I have a gym two floors above me in an apartment blog and rarely see other people there, sometimes kids messing about.

    I guess I’m lucky in that sense and won’t always be in this situation so I’ve taken your advice onboard, great post. And nice setup ;)

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  4. Now I work out at a gym, but I used to exercise on a treadmill I had at home (I gave it away to my sister) and do a pilates video at home as well. It worked well for me to exercise at home but I find that if I go to the gym I get a social experience as well as a work-out. Both options can work well.

    Marelisas last blog post..Creating Your Dream Life: Practical Intuition

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  5. I was a devotee of Gold’s Gym for two years until I took up an interest in yoga, and while I do miss that sharply defined look, it is possible to stay in great shape at home without weights. Plus, yoga improves your balance and flexibility a great deal. I’ve recently added bicep curls back into the routine, mainly for vanity reasons :). But I guess my point is that you can start with very little in the way of equipment and still stay in great shape as long as you have a goal and remain committed to it.

    Ken | Destiny Buildings last blog post..Conversations With Source

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  6. Just go to the gym. Stop worrying about what other people think.

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  7. Good post, I liked that you mention kettlebells. I prefer a power rack, olympic bar and a set of kettlebells over a gym anyway. My only question is, why the pictures of those douchebag bodybuilders in the background. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Nazi (don’t believe me? Look at the SS belt buckles he regularly wears e.g. Time magazine cover), no one should aspire to be like him.

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  8. Scott, this is a great post. I think a lot of people are in the position you mention – 9 years out of the weight training loop, can make your re-entry as scary as the first day of high school. But it doesn’t have to be! And it doesn’t have to be expensive to put together a home gym either. I find that a lot of people procrastinate any type of fitness program (i.e. fat loss, muscle building, or even general wellness) because they too are intimidated by the gym. This post is a great reality check, in that you don’t have to go to a gym at all, you can achieve the same results right in the “privacy” of your own home.

    Sheila
    http://www.livewell360.com

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  9. Good post. I totally agree. The options you have available to work out at home versus a gym, can still give you an incredible body. To get in great shape, it’s not like you HAVE to go to a gym to achieve this goal.

    Avy Barness last blog post..7 Emergency Tips To Stop Food Cravings Quick!

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  10. “Scott, this is a great post. I think a lot of people are in the position you mention – 9 years out of the weight training loop, can make your re-entry as scary as the first day of high school.”

    I didn’t realize people viewed fitness as something as… scary?… as the first day of high school! Yikes!

    I actually work out at home, the majority of the time, with a bunch of free weights and a piano bench. It works absolutely amazing and takes up very, very little space.

    Matt @ Face Your Forks last blog post..An Hour a Day

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  11. I tend to workout alone but at the gym. Sure, I’ve made some “friends” but I tend to concentrate on what I need to do alone – without all the chitchat that some people tend to do at the gym.

    Believe me, I know how hard it is to get going again w/ working out especially when you’ve let yourself grow out of shape (with me, I had gained 20 lbs and my stomach sure made me aware of it). Slowly but surely I’m back on the wagon, running 30 minutes each time I go there and doing weight training. Plus I’m acutely aware of what I’m eating these days.

    BTW, I don’t know if you’re aware of this but CommentLuv is hogging your wp_options table. Go in there and you’ll see a ton of “rss xxxxxxxxx” in there. Eventually this is going to slow down the load times of your blog and my theme designer told me it was because of CommentLuv. I decided to take it off despite the love it gave out. I couldn’t risk annoying new people with painfully slow load times.

    Stephen Hopsons last blog post..End of the Week Gratitude Theme #38

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  12. I am currently working out at home due to random amounts of time that I have to train. One thing I have always thought is, if you cannot motivate yourself to train in your own home, how the hell could you go to a gym? Thats what keeps me going back in to my garage gym day after day.

    PWs last blog post..Mon 4th Aug 2008 – 1st Pretty Picture

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  13. @ akshun
    nah, that’s not the ss totenkopf. just a skull.

    Reply
  14. I just recently lost my workout partner and have been struggling to change my workout to allow me to safely lift the weights it takes to keep me in shape for bodybuilding competitions. I’ve done well over the past two years in competitions and don’t want the loss of a workout partner effect my gains. I’ve been using the Smith Machine for a lot more exercises. I don’t have to lower the weights used because I can rack it if I loose stream. Without a spotter, I have to be careful. I don’t want an injury to sideline me, but I have to lift big to get big. Going it alone is strange for me, but to keep up the intensity, I have to just DO IT. I would recommend anyone who has to go it alone – take our time and accept your limits at first. You WILL get stronger and more able to hoist the heavy weights. Let the strength come as nature and your diet will allow. Don’t get discouraged and give up. I still think a gym is the best palce to train – because the atmosphere is about training and getting strong – big – muscular and fit.

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  15. I used to have a cubby house that the kids grew out of and rather than pull it down I converted into my home gym. My only fear was that the floor was able to support the weight. :D

    The thing is with home training is getting the motivation up and running and committing to a routine. I’ve tried but something always comes up and puts me behind. Dumb excuse huh?

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  16. Thanks Scott great post.
    I’m a workout at home guy, have done for a long time now and achieving some good results too. I occasionally get out to a gym for a workout when I can. If you have the motivation and have set goals then training at home should be no problem.

    Cheers
    Rob

    Robs last blog post..Kettlebells Or Clubbells

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  17. A strength program does not have to be complex; just do basic exercises that hit all the major muscle groups in the chest, abs, back, shoulders, arms, and legs. This will generally include two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps for the basics such as squats, presses (barbell or dumbbell), and pull workouts (cable pull down, arm and leg curls, etc). If you don’t own a gym system or a set of free weights, you can do a variety of lunges, leg lifts, wall sits, bridges, and ab crunches right on the floor (preferably on a mat) without any equipment at all.

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  18. You have to find out which is the right system that will work for you. Strength training combined with cardio is a great way to get you in shape. I also too work at home, because I grew tired off all of the bs at the gym with people trying to show off.

    It was just so hard to focus at the gym. I noticed a big difference when I started working out from home. No more commutes, I could just focus on my workouts.

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  19. What you mentioned in this post is correct indeed. I am in the same dilemma like you and other people does as well when thinking when setting up my home gym.

    I make some wrong purchase on cheap work out machines. Anyway, that didn’t stop me to make it more complete like what I have today.

    The machines/tools is essential for home gym, but what’s more important is realize your goal, and do it with passion.

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  20. Nice post Scott. While I don’t lift heavy weights ( I use Dumbbells ), I can truly appreciate the art of working out alone. For me I think that it’s like a meditation.
    I am a physical therapist by profession and am obsessed with how the human body moves. I love playing basketball and practice Aikido as well as Escrima. And, while I am in no way an aggressive person, I enjoy finding out what my body can do and learning how to control it.
    Working out alone gives me the opportunity to get in touch with my muscles, nervous system, and my will. No distractions. No competition. Just me.

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  21. I workout on my own because I find there is less distractions. Plus you can also workout to a stop watch to make sure you have the same amount of rest in between each set.
    This is something you can not do with a training partner because of the usual talking in between sets.

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  22. And don’t forget to set up an exercise bike in your home gym. An exercise bike is a good calorie burner and most effective for giving you a good cardiovascular workout, providing you are pushing yourself to hit a target heart rate and staying within that zone for at least twenty minutes each time you workout.

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  23. I work out at home. A door gym with resistance cords will give you a complete work out without the frustrating drive to the gym. The three key components of any fitness program are: Aerobic or cardio training. Strength training & Flexibility

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  24. i think working out with other poeple is better but i respect your view

    Reply

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