Walk into any commercial gym’s resistance training area and it’s easy to be impressed (and overwhelmed) by the varying array of selectorized equipment, smith machines, cables, plate loaded machines along with traditional free weights. Here is a secret, most of that stuff is crap. No joke. To be clear, I’m not necessarily saying most of that equipment is completely worthless. In fact, I have created advanced online fitness programs like MAPS Aesthetic and MAPS Split which utilize much of that equipment. But the truth is that the vast majority of the equipment in your gym is simply NOT necessary. Not only are most of them unnecessary, but using all of the fancy machines won’t give you any better results than if you stuck with the most basic free weight equipment. Why do gyms buy all that stuff? Because it doesn’t look cool if the resistance training area consisted of only barbells, dumbbells, benches and squat racks. They wouldn’t sell as many memberships.
I vividly remember the first time I lifted iron weights. I had finally gotten the clearance from my parents to lift the real weights. The year was 1993. I was 14 years old and, up until that point, the only experience I had with weights was curling my 8lb plastic sand filled dumbbells I got when I was 12. The same year I got the plastic baby blue dumbbells my dad bought himself a decent home gym setup. In our backyard, under the patio cover, he had a sturdy bench that adjusted to incline, a barbell, two adjustable dumbbells, a curl bar and over 300lbs of Olympic free weights. It was a pretty cool setup at the time. In those days, most people’s home gym equipment typically consisted of sand filled weights and flimsy benches or machines like the Soloflex (precursor to the Bowflex). I lifted weights entirely in that backyard with that equipment for a little over 2 years and made some amazing progress. Years later, I owned a personal training studio and I had just a bit more than that original backyard iron set with a full squat rack and some cables. I developed the best physique of my life using ONLY that equipment. Even though I don’t own a personal training studio anymore, I still primarily use free weight equipment and do 80% of my workouts in my small garage. I have a gym membership, but I prefer to workout at home most of the time.
The top 5 BEST exercises for every body part are either entirely free weight exercises or mostly free weight exercises. These exercises include barbell squats, deadlifts, bench presses (flat and incline), overhead presses, rows, walking lunges, barbell curls and tricep extensions. These exercises and other free weight movements are hands down the best muscle and strength builders that exist. Due to their muscle and strength building power, they are also amazing metabolism boosters and fat burners.
Home gyms have some major advantages over commercial gyms. The biggest being convenience. Having to drive to a commercial gym, park, change in the locker room and then drive home afterwards can add 15-45 minutes to the time it takes to get a workout. With a home gym you just workout. Zero travel time. Another advantage is in the comfort. At a commercial gym you are around other people. This means you can’t workout shirtless, barefoot, or in old hole-filled sweats. At home you can also blast whatever music you want, yell while deadlifting, sweat all over your own equipment, you don’t have to worry about other people’s sweat and germs, and you can walk right into your kitchen after you lift to eat a post-workout meal. The only disadvantage is the lack of the huge variety of equipment, which really isn’t a disadvantage unless you get bored without tons of variety. All in all, home gyms are the best.
Here is all you need to be able to train your entire body effectively and at any level of training. A squat rack, an adjustable bench, barbell, dumbbells, a calf block for calf raises, a physio ball for ab exercises, and maybe some boxes for step ups. That’s it. If you want to get really fancy, get a basic cable set up for tricep press downs or lat pulldowns. With all of that you have access to hundreds of free-weight exercises and you can effectively train your entire body. My most popular fitness program, MAPS Anabolic, revolves entirely around this equipment and is still the highest rated of all my muscle building and fat loss programs. If you are serious about fitness and want to see amazing gains with hardcore workouts and also value privacy and convenience, a home gym is the way to go. You won’t be disappointed.