Let me start out by saying this post is based off of my opinions. I am not an expert by any means but have found what works for me. Everyone's route is different.
Personally, I am not used to going to a gym outside of my home. Mornings are my favorite time to work out and it never seemed logical or practical for me to get to the gym before working my usual 8-5. It's much easier and actually helps me get up in the morning when I know I can throw shorts and a t-shirt on, walk downstairs, and be working out in less than 5 minutes. I've noticed that hitting the bench press, deadlift, or squat first thing in the morning before I go off to work makes me much more energetic throughout the morning and sets a good mood for the day.
I believe there are only a few things that are essential in a home gym and here they are:
This is the most important item that everyone should have in a home gym. The main lifts - The Big Three: the bench press, deadlift, and squat all revolve around the barbell. These are known to be the most effective compound lifts. You can do similar work with kettlebells and dumbbells but those are mostly used for accessory work that focus on certain muscle groups.
While you can do floor presses with dumbbells, I would say that the Bench Press is an essential exercise. A bench also opens up a lot more exercises like the inclined bench press and a spot to do kettlebell rows, dips, etc. I suggest having a bench that allows you to do leg exercises as well.
There is a reason that dumbbells have been so popular for so long: they are great for working specific muscle groups and the movements are easy to figure out. Curls, Lateral Raises, and the Overhead Press all have their place and specifically strengthen your biceps, triceps, delts, traps, and shoulders which, in the end, also help improve your bench press, deadlift, and squat as well.
The kettlebell is my favorite tool used for accessory work because of the variety of workouts and the element of endurance with most movements. Many people have never picked up a kettlebell and have never heard of Kettlebell Swings, Kettlebell Clean & Jerks, Turkish Getups, or the Goblet Squat but I think that these exercises are important to learn and they also make workouts fun.
One important thing to note with kettlebells is the common but good advice to start small. Personally, I started with a 35lb kettlebell and did not get another one until I could do high reps with good form. Now I use a 70lb for Kettlebell Rows and Goblet Squats, 50lb for Clean & Jerks and One-handed Swings, and 35lb for Turkish Getups.
To me, kettlebells naturally feel great to pick up and exercise with and are an absolute essential.
This may seem like a lot if you are a beginner but it really is not. If you do not have the $200-300 to get all of this, start small and work your way to getting each of the essentials. You only need a small room as well. Preferably, set aside a room specifically for working out that you can play music, start the stopwatch, and get down to business.
From here, there are of course other things like the squat rack, rowing machine, pull-up bar, and other things that are great additions to your home gym that open up more options but these 4 things, I believe, should be the core because they will form the majority of your workout program.
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, looking for suggestions, or have suggestions of your own, please comment below. Also, please share this post with friends - in this time, especially, with gyms closed and people asked to stay home, now is a great time to set up a home gym and start working on yourself right at home. Go to my Contact page to subscribe to the blog and be notified of new posts!
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