The new year is finally upon us.
And with every new year comes the same-old routine…
New resolutions, new goals, new dreams.
People are on a high right now. And it’s cool to see.
It’s nice to see people starting to take their health more seriously. Even if it may be short-lived (let’s be honest…90% of resolution-ers don’t stick with their resolutions), at least they’re trying to do something about it.
But with every new person looking to rock a six-pack by mid January there is a new membership in the books. A new body that takes up space. A new person to wait behind at the water fountain.
And although this might be great news for the gym’s bottom line, it sucks for the rest of the people who are used to having all that free space.
You’ll notice it from the very first moment you step foot in a gym in January.
The place is more crammed than a Japanese subway, probably surpassing capacity and breaking nearly every building code known to man.
And even though things usually go back to normal by early February (that’s kinda sad :(), the brutality of January had always pushed me into a different direction.
It forced me into building my very own home gym.
Over those years, I’ve learned a thing or two about efficiency. I’ve learned how to leverage certain fitness tools to get the most bang for my buck out of my training. I’ve figured out how to build a very simple, cheap and effective home gym.
The objective is to keep things simple.
The more you simplify your environment, the more likely it is that you’d want to immerse yourself in it.
So how do you build the right environment?
How do you build the ultimate – err simple – home gym?
What You’ll Need
A Bloom to Fit home gym might be a little different than your standard home gym. That’s because I, personally, like to focus on a lot of functional, whole-body movements when I exercise. I don’t like to use machines or anything that doesn’t work with the design of my body.
To become a part of the Bloom to Fit home gym, a piece of equipment has to meet (most of) the following requirements:
- It has to allow for functional movements,
- It has to have a long life span,
- It should be relatively easy to transport,
- It should be relatively inexpensive.
Note: points two and four sometimes contradict each other, so exceptions can be made. If a tool is of obvious value and has a long life span, I don’t mind spending the extra money on it.
Let’s dig in…
Before you can bring any equipment into your home, you need to set the floor right. This is important for keeping your joints safe, your house in one piece, and your equipment long-lasting.
The best and cheapest option is to purchase interlocking foam mats. These work great for home gyms because they’re cheap, easy to install and offer solid protection for your home.
Interlocking foam mats will cost you about $0.50 per square foot. You’ll probably need to cover about 40-50 square feet to be safe. That’ll cost you about $20-$25.
Here are some simple interlocking foam mats you can use to cover your floors.
The first, and most important, part of my fitness arsenal is the kettlebell.
Kettlebells are my bread and butter. As I become more and more proficient with them, I’m finding that the other parts of my home gym are feeling a little jealous. Like older, forgotten siblings replaced by a pair of cute little babies.
All jokes aside, I have found the kettlebell to be the most effective fitness tool. It allows me to combine my strength and cardiovascular training all into one. Why more people aren’t taking the time to master them is besides me.
The kettlebell fits all the requirements: It’s very functional and it can (somewhat) easily be transported. In terms of cost, kettlebells usually go for anywhere between $1.50-$2.00 per pound. So a 16 kg (35lbs) kettlebell would come out to roughly $60, a 20kg (44lbs) would come out to roughly $77, and a 24kg (55lbs) would come out to $96. Keep in mind that these are lifelong prices. When you buy a solid kettlebell, it should last you forever.
If you’re interested, check out this short guide I put together to help you figure out exactly which kettlebell you need.
If you know me, you know how much I love jumping rope. The rope is like my second baby. I love it to death because it constantly demolishes me during my workouts.
A basic rope is usually very cheap and easily portable (I carry mine everywhere). A simple speed rope will cost you anywhere from $5 to $15. Although not the greatest quality, they should last you quite some time if you take care of them properly.
Here is a very simple and cheap jump rope you can get started with.
Once you’re ready to move on to more advanced ropes, my favorite is the CrossRope because it’s interchangeable and it allows you to take advantage of heavy jump rope training (something I’ve gotten into recently). However, these ropes are a little more expensive. If you’re interested, check out my full review of the CrossRope.
No matter what rope you choose to work with, it’s definitely an essential component of a Bloom to Fit home gym.
Barbell with weight plates
The barbell, in my dazzling opinion, is a must-have tool for any home gym.
It’s a very simple and functional tool that’s been around for generations, helping people build rugged strength, power, size, and explosiveness. There are hundreds of things you can do with barbells, even without a bench or a squat rack.
Certain barbells and plates can be quite expensive if you get them brand new (I’ve discovered this myself recently). But, nobody said you have to get them brand new.
A simple barbell (graded for about 300lbs) will cost you $20-$40.
But, it is often the weighted plates that rack up the costs. When it comes to the weighted plates, my advice is to check out classified ads. There are always people selling plates for cheap. It doesn’t really matter if you mix and match weights from different sellers either. As long as it fits properly onto your bar, you should be good.
Through classified ads, I managed to pick up a barbell and about 200lbs of weighted plates for $100. See, not bad!
Push-up bars are very simple and effective tools that every home gym should have.
They keep your wrists safe during a push-up by placing them in neutral position (not extension like regular push-ups demand). They also make the exercise more engaging because they allow for a deeper stretch of the muscles.
Push-up bars are easily portable and they’ll cost you around $10-$15.
If you’re interested, these are the push up bars I use.
The pull-up bar is an essential tool for any home-gym.
Without it you are limiting yourself to a world of poor posture and no pulling strength. This is because a pull-up bar is necessary for building a strong and stable back. It’s also a great stretching tool as it allows you to hang and decompress your spine.
You have a number of options when it comes to getting a pull-up bar, some more expensive than others. Here are two you can choose from:
You can build your own pull-up bar using plywood, pipes, tubes, and a boatload of screws and nails (at least that’s how I made mine). It’s a relatively inexpensive option, but you have to make sure it’s put together right so you don’t go flying in the middle of your set.
Probably the best option is to get a pull-up bar that you can attach to your door frame. These are very popular and will cost you about $30-$40. It’s a great option because these pull-up bars are built with a variety of grips (unlike your home-made pull-up bar, unless you’re a fancy welder).
Resistance bands definitely meet all the requirements for a Bloom to Fit style home gym: they’re light, easily portable, extremely functional, and rather inexpensive.
I use my resistance bands for two things primarily: 1) strengthening my connective tissues (see how I use it to strengthen my ankles); 2) making other exercises either easier (i.e. assisted pull-ups) or more engaging (for example, I place a band around my back and under my hands to make my push-ups tougher). Here are some simple resistance band exercises you can do.
Resistance bands are often colour-coded to indicate the strength of the resistance. I recommend getting a quality set because they’re more durable and won’t snap on you. This will cost you anywhere from $20 to $50.
Here’s a good set of resistance bands you can get started with.
The foam roller is an exceptional self-myofascial release tool. It’s an essential tool for breaking through tight areas of the body and releasing the tension built up in the soft tissues. This is something I use every single day.
A foam roller is also easily portable and you can pick up a high-density foam roller for about $30.
If you need help getting started with foam rolling, check out my ultimate foam rolling guide.
Note: The foam roller is one of several self-myofascial release tools in my home gym. Here’s a full list of my SMR tools.
These are my primary tools. The ones I use most often and the ones I would get first if I was to build another simple home gym from scratch.
The total cost for all the primary tools would range anywhere from $300 to $500 (depending primarily on your resourcefulness).
This is roughly the same cost for a one-year membership at a gym (if you’re lucky), but you now have these tools for the rest of your life.
Think about that.
Together, these tools will give you everything you need to build yourself a better body.
But if you’re looking for more, I got more…
If you happen to have some extra money laying around (maybe Santa was good to you this year) and want to expand your home gym, here are some secondary tools I would pick up…
TRX Suspension Trainer
A TRX suspension trainer is an absolutely exceptional tool that can add extreme versatility to any home gym.
It’s very powerful and I know some people who work with nothing but the TRX system. It’s super light and easily portable. But it does have a nice price tag associated with it. A full TRX trainer will cost you about $200 (unless you can find a discounted option).
Although not essential, it’s definitely worth the investment if you have the money. Keep in mind that there is a bit of a learning curve to this tool.
Set of Dumbbells
In my opinion, a set of dumbbells isn’t necessarily essential, especially if you already have a good set of kettlebells in your arsenal. But a good set of dumbbells can definitely add some versatility to your home gym.
Dumbbells are very functional indeed. You can do a lot of unilateral exercises and functional movements. You can build strength and size.
But the problem I find with dumbbells is that you quickly outgrow them. Your body adapts and requires more stress. Unlike kettlebells (you can work with a 16kg KB for years before ever moving up in weight), dumbbells constantly demand more weight and this can cost some benjamins.
If you are on the lookout for a good set of dumbbells, I’d suggest checking out classified ads for some used equipment. My buddy Alykhan from Fitness Breakout highly recommends an adjustable set of dumbbells. I’ve never used them personally, but he claims them to be his go-to tool of choice.
You can find a good set here. Keep in mind, they do come with a hefty price.
Note: adjustable tools often have complex components inside them. If you drop the tool on the ground, it’s likely those components will break. This is why I would never get adjustable kettlebells. You never know when they’ll fall out of your hand.
So there you have it guys: how to build a simple home gym Bloom to Fit style.
You’ll note that my home gym isn’t crammed with your typical benches, treadmills and swiss balls. I’m not saying that these tools are ineffective, but I think you can get much more out of the tools I’ve listed above.
Remember that the goal is to keep things as simple as possible. You want a gym that lacks clutter. A gym that is built to work around the design of your body. A gym that you can literally pick up and take with you.
That’s why you’ll see my skipping in the park, doing kettlebell swings in my backyard, performing resistance band strengthening exercises in my living room, or push-ups in my office.
That’s the beauty of a Bloom to Fit home gym.
So if you’re tired of waiting 40 minutes to get your turn at the bench station in a gym crammed with non-believers, start planning your own home gym. The primary and secondary tools I’ve mentioned above should give you some good ideas of where to start.
To get your mind brewing, here’s what I want you to do. Imagine you just found $200 on the ground and by some magical wizardry you can only spend it on fitness equipment (or it blows up). I want you to think about how you would spend those $200. What tools would you buy first? What’s most important to you?
Let me know how you would spend the money in the comments below!
And, if there are any interesting pieces of equipment that you think would be a valuable fit in a home gym, please let me know!