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.
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