How to Create a Cheap and Versatile Home Gym

Posted on 13. Sep, 2012 by in Uncategorized, Workouts

I have to brag about my friend and roommate, Mike, for a second.  Since January of this year, he has lost close to 30 lbs and is the best shape I have seen him in since college.  Not only that, but during this time he has stopped going to the gym, and pretty much kept his weekend social life intact.  The changes he made were relatively minor, but extremely important.  He cut out most of the processed carbs from his diet (except beer, of course), and replaced his hour-long Bally’s Total Fitness workouts with short 10-30 minute workouts at home.  We can talk about the dietary changes Mike made on another day, but this post is going to focus on the workouts he has been doing; workouts that anybody can do at home with the right motivation and equipment.  This is your guide to creating the ultimate inexpensive home gym.


Advantages of the Home Gym

Most people view working out at home as a bad thing.  You would only work out at home if you don’t have the time or money to go to a regular gym.  Or maybe you decide to work out at home because you’re not comfortable working out around other people.  But working out at home is not a bad thing.  Let’s look at Mike as an example.

When Mike asked me to write-up some workouts for him back in January, I actually encouraged him to stop going to the gym and work out more at home.  Mike was just starting his busy season at work, and asking him to spend an hour and a half in the gym, several days a week, was not an efficient use of his time.  Instead of waking up 2 hours early to drive to the gym, and rush home to shower, all his workouts were designed to be fit in whenever he had a spare 20-30 minutes at home.  He could now complete his entire workout by the time he would even be warmed up in Bally’s.  And the workouts were short enough where he could easily do them before or after work, even on longer days.

For many of us, time is our most precious resource.  Home workouts are a great way to save time without having to compromise results.


Principles of the Home Gym

Whatever you do, don’t buy a treadmill.  Most beginners make the mistake of thinking that they need special equipment to get started.  Don’t make that mistake.  Here are 3 principles I want you to always remember when working out at home.

1)      If you aren’t working out at home now, buying expensive equipment won’t change that.  Don’t use money spent on equipment as your motivating factor for working out.  The novelty of your beautiful new Bowflex machine will quickly wear off, and all you will be left with is a trip hazard in your garage.  Any exercise that can be done on a treadmill, Bowflex, or Total Gym (sorry Chuck Norris) could easily be replicated with your body weight or objects already lying around your house.  Only purchase equipment if you have already established a routine of working out at home and you feel that it is absolutely necessary.  If you disagree with me that you can’t get a good workout with just your body weight, do 100 burpees as fast as you can and then get back to me.  You already have all the tools around you to work out if you really wanted to.  If you haven’t been able to get yourself into a workout routine, you’re lacking motivation, not equipment.


2)      Work out for less time, but more often.  The longer a workout is, the more excuses you will have to not do it.  Beginners always make the mistake of trying to do too much at the beginning.  Like they’re trying to make up for years of not working out.  But the habit of working out is much more important than the length of the workout.  You are better off working out 5 times a week for 10-15 minutes at a time, than to work out 3 times a week for an hour each time.  Not only will the results probably be better with the shorter workouts, but you have a better chance of sticking with it for the rest of your life.  Especially at the beginning, try to keep every workout under 20 minutes.  The goal is not to do MORE, but to be MORE consistent.  You can have the best exercise program in the world, but it is worthless if you can’t stick to it.


3)      Intensity is key.  There is another reason why shorter workouts work.  Intensity.  Intensity is the secret sauce behind CrossFit, and most other successful strength and conditioning programs. True intensity, is not sustainable for long periods of time.  Think of the intensity it takes to run a world record, 100-meter dash.  There’s a reason those runners can’t maintain that pace for very long.  That’s the kind of intensity I want you to approach your workouts with.  If you attack your workout with the right intensity, it won’t matter if that workout is 2 minutes long, or 20 minutes long, you will see results because of it.  It also means that if you are always trying to do longer workouts, it’s impossible for the intensity to be there.  You can’t physically maintain a high intensity when you are asked to do it for 30+ minutes.  Choose workouts that are shorter, but more intense, whenever possible.


Outfit Your Home Gym: The Only 2 Pieces of Equipment You Need.

I know I already told you that you don’t need any equipment.  And you don’t.  But there are still 2 pieces of equipment that Mike and I use that I think everyone should own in their home: a jump rope and a kettlebell.

Jump Rope:  It is one of the cheapest and most portable pieces of equipment you can buy.  For $10, you can get a workout tool you can fit in any bag and take with you anywhere.  They have been famously used for years by boxers to help develop speed, agility, and conditioning.  I usually bring one with me on every trip or vacation that I take.

  • How to Buy: I recommend buying a speed jump rope versus the heavier ones you can find in most stores.  This will be good for trying double unders later down the road.  Most jump ropes come in one long length and can be adjusted with a screw driver based on your height.  Muscle Driver has them for $9.99 online.

Kettlebell:  No other piece of equipment allows you to do so many functional movements with just one object.  It’s also portable enough that you can take it anywhere your car will go.  The kettlebell swing may be the best overall movement for full body strength and conditioning.  It can replace a whole gym’s worth of equipment.

  • How to Buy:  I recommend guys choose a kettlebell between 40 and 55 lbs and ladies choose a kettlebell between 25 and 35 lbs.  Any lighter than this and you will quickly outgrow your kettlebell once you learn how to use your core and hips correctly.  Any heavier than this and it will limit the number of exercises you can do, since it will be difficult to do things like Turkish get ups or overhead presses with a heavier weight.  You can find kettlebells at your local Dicks or Sports Authority, but the quality tends to be better online.  I personally like the gray series kettlebells you can find online.


Get Started Now!

You already have everything you need to get started now!  Even if you don’t have a jump rope or a kettlebell yet, you can get started with your body weight right away.  I recommend checking out our post on How to do CrossFit Workouts at Home for some workout ideas.  I will be providing additional ideas in the upcoming week.  If you’re too lazy to click on the link, here’s a workout for you to do instead.

Set your phone or a stop watch for 10 minutes. 

Do as many reps of the following exercises as you can in 10 minutes:

5 Burpees

10 Push Ups

15 Squats 

Record the number of reps completed and post them to the comments below. 

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4 Responses to “How to Create a Cheap and Versatile Home Gym”

  1. Jaime

    15. Apr, 2014

    I just want to say thank you for all of this information. Yesterday I went to my first Crossfit-like class. I made it half way through the 50 minute session before it felt like my muscles were no longer going to participate, I was dripping sweat, and I couldn’t breath. Everyone else in the class was moving right along. I didn’t fit in and I was in way over my head. I had wanted to like it so badly, but I couldn’t even finish. I left early, and I’m pretty sure the look of pity in others eyes is something I’m not soon to forget. I was humiliated. The fat kid in school. I felt hopeless. I was scouring the internet looking for something, anything, that I could keep up with and afford. I came across this, and today I feel more hopeful that even though there might not be a place for me out there, I can still make this work on my own. I’m grateful that your site is such an open book. I really appreciate what you do and the hope you’ve offered.

  2. Sarah

    03. Jan, 2014

    Thanks for this article. I am currently at home with my 3 kids and don’t have the money and/or time to attend Crossfit. I would love to try it. Just did the 10 minute routine. It was difficult (especially with three kids jumping on my back)!

    Thanks 🙂

  3. Maddi3

    20. Oct, 2012

    Just came across your site and it’s very helpful. I’ve tried cross fit but it’s a little out of my price range so this helps keep me motivated to have fun working out at home!

    • Tony Frezza

      31. Oct, 2012

      Thanks Maddi! Just keep doing it and before you know it that CrossFit gym will be paying you to help train there! Keep it goin!