Matt & Niki discuss the tradeoffs of training in a home
gym or commercial gym and how to build your home gym. Learn the
equipment and gear to prioritize versus the nice-to-haves as well
as the minimum amount of space required to have a functional home
Not all commercial gyms are created equal. The big box or Globo
Gyms may allow you to barbell lift, but deadlifting and chalk may
be prohibited. Some gyms are simply not worth your time. Long
contracts or the inability to do the four main lifts--squat, press,
bench press, and deadlift--make the gym not worth it unless,
temporarily, it's your only option.
CrossFit gyms tend to have the equipment and space you need, but
some may have an issue with you not doing CrossFit. That being
said, they could be a valid option for you.
Powerlifting gyms or black iron gyms are the best typical option,
as a good one will have everything you need and you'll find people
with similar goals.
The rare but optimal commercial gym solution is one like
The Strength Parlor
in St. Louis
or Next Level Barbell
where you not only have access to the equipment you need but you
get a great community of people who are excited to see you and will
cheer you on. You also get access to expert coaching when you need
it. If you are close to one of these gyms, you really should take
Matt's quick go-to rule for evaluating a gym is if they provide
chalk. If they provide chalk, it's a good gym. Niki adds an
addendum, that if they provide chalk and the floors are clean, it's
an excellent gym.
The downsides of a commercial gym can be crowded space and waiting
for equipment. You can't pick the music and there you lose time on
For benefits, you can often begin training with barbells sooner, as
it may take time and you may have to budget over months to have
enough equipment to barbell train at home (though you can always
train TODAY with WHAT YOU HAVE ON HAND).
A home gym is YOUR SPACE that you can design, improve, make your
own, fill with the equipment you want. You control the music, the
climate (as much as possible). You don't have to wait for
equipment. It also provides a space for you to mentally take a
break from other aspects of your life--it's not work, it's not
family, it's your space for your health and fitness.
Beyond this, the biggest benefit is the time efficiency. You have
no commute time, and because no one is waiting on your equipment
you can set up equipment to alternate lifts, do circuits, etc. to
make preparation, gym time, and recovery as quick as
A last huge benefit is your home gym stays open if the gyms close
down again. Lots of people suffered interruptions and an inability
to continue to train with barbells because of COVID. Have at least
a functional home gym so you can always train.
If you're looking to build a gym, you can design it and put
some creativity into it. 4'x8' is Matt's minimum space required for
a good gym.
Prioritize the barbell and weight first, as you can begin to do
certain lifts without a squat stand (though there are also ways to
build your own temporary squat stands out of construction
For the space, a power rack that can be bolted into a platform is
best. If you can't do that, a squat stand with safety pins and
enough weight to keep it grounded works. Also, ensure you have a
place to store plates. Many power racks have this built-in, but you
can also purchase things like a-frame storage.
For all your gym equipment needs, there is no better place to look
into options at all price ranges than Garage Gym Reviews.
Here are some notes on the small things. You need chalk. You can
get this anywhere. Liquid chalk can also be good if you travel
frequently. Springs collars stink but are cheap. Something like
Rogue Oso collars are expensive but great and should last for
decades. Having a deadlift jack makes loading and unloading your
deadlift more convenient and quick. Get some fractional
has well-made yet
affordable fractional plates made in America. Lastly, get a flat
bench. Rep Fitness has a great one.
Shifting to personal gear, you need to get lifting shoes. Lifting
shoes are designed for lifting. They have a flat, hard sole (no
squishy). Boots or Converse all-stars are okay, but get some
lifting shoes, only wear them when you lift, and they're last at
least longer than a decade. Running shoes are the worst option.
Adidas, Nike, Reebok, and Rogue all have good options, though
ensure you don't get some hybrid cross-trainer.
You'll need a belt after awhile. You want it to be leather. We
. You can get
3" or 4", though 3" is the safer bet unless you know you have a
long torso. Lever and prong also is an option and based on personal
preference. Lever requires more work to change holes but it easier
and faster to take off during a workout. Prong you can change holes
quickly but you lose the convenience of the quick snap to take
Lastly, it's always important to start. That might mean walking,
doing bodyweight exercises, or picking a gym as you build your home
gym. Convenience matters regardless of home gym or commercial gym.
A long commute or lots of work to do before a workout is a hurdle.
You want to limit the mental, effort, and time commitment it
requires to get started each workout.