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Creating Your Own Home Gym

So far, we have been able to navigate the pandemic during the warmer months, which has made it much easier to utilize the outdoors as an alternative to the gym. Now that winter is just around the corner, it may become a little harder and more uncomfortable to train outside. Furthermore, with Covid-19 cases rising, some people may be hesitant to continue attending their gym, but do not have fitness equipment at home to supplement. There can be several barriers to creating a home gym right now: cost, lack of space, lack of inventory, or even decision fatigue with determining what to purchase and how long you will use it. The goal of this article is to discuss how to develop your own low cost, makeshift home gym. It will simply require a little MacGyver-esque brainpower and possibly a trip to the hardware store.

Step 1: Inspect

The first step requires observation and assessment of what you have available in your home, or even around your yard (if you have one). Think about what you like to use the most when lifting weights at the gym, like a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, or resistance band. The common denominator is LOAD. Or, if you like using machines like the treadmill, elliptical, stairclimber, or stationary bike, the common denominator is steady-state exercise. No matter your interest, let’s start by discussing how to repurpose items in your home to fit those same interests.

Home Inventory

  • Stairs

  • Chairs (sturdy ones, not swivel or wheeled chairs!)

  • Backpack or duffel bag

  • Furniture sliders

  • Rope

  • Post

  • I-beam

Yard Inventory:

  • Rocks/stones

  • Lawn equipment: wheelbarrow (for outdoor workouts)

  • Tree branches (within reach!)

If you are trying to maintain speed, power, or aerobic fitness, put your stairway to the test! This could be quick alternating toe taps (like high knees marching), hopping up and down from the bottom step, or even running/sprinting up the stairs. Otherwise, hopping in place, practicing shadowboxing, or performing several exercises in a circuit can be highly effective substitutes for those exercise machines!

If you are looking for a way to add load, but don’t have any weights, this is a prime opportunity to challenge your bodyweight strength. Remember, gymnasts are masters at leveraging their bodyweight to get stronger. Big picture: weights are NOT required to get stronger or put on muscle. Test your lower body strength and balance by performing step ups, step downs, lunges, or even simple bodyweight squat progressions. Can you squat down with your arms straight overhead with ease? Can you perform a full pistol squat? If not, those can each be a worthy journey to building mobility, strength, and skill. Advance your upper body strength by placing your feet on the bottom step with your push-ups. Chairs can be the next best thing to a bench. Use them for dips or even decline push-ups. Use them for box squats or elevated bridges. If you have a backpack, duffel bag, or suitcase, load it up with books (especially textbooks!) and you now have a fantastic tool for adding weight to upper and lower body training sessions. Furniture sliders can be humbling and versatile tools for testing your total body strength by practicing lunge and push-up progressions. If you have an I-beam, test your grip strength by trying to hang from it. Or, better yet, use that for your pull-ups!

Exercise Examples:

Step 2: Bridge the Gap

If you simply need more options for increasing load, then the next step may be to make a trip to the hardware store. Below, I will discuss a few low cost, small footprint, portable, and scalable options to acquiring your own weights set. I’ve included prices from a prominent commercial hardware store as a reference. These will also take into account limitations in floor space.

Hardware Store

  • 50 lb bag of play sand: $3.19

  • 1 gallon metal paint bucket (empty): $4.98

  • 2 gallon bucket: $3.98

  • 5 gallon paint bucket: $5.01

  • Cinder block (38 lbs): $1.19 why not a pair for a makeshift set of dumbbells?

How do we put all these pieces together? Let’s first start with scalability. A one-gallon bucket of water approximately equals 8 lbs. If you have a stepwise series of 1-gallon buckets, then you can modify the weight you lift in 8-pound increments, providing versatility anywhere from 8 to 40 pounds. This quickly starts to mimic your own dumbbell or kettlebell set. If you need more load, one to three 50-lb sandbags can be a worthy alternative to a barbell. For the hearty outdoor fitness enthusiast, a heavy rock or stone can also be useful.

Regardless, you don’t need to break the bank to acquire a healthy amount of load. This is a time to test your creativity muscles and innovate! For more ideas on how to repurpose those items into a full-fledged strength and conditioning program, check out our customized online training programs by clicking here, or by reaching out to, or contacting us at (913) 396-9726!

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