A few weeks back we had an open thread discussing the preferences between a home gym and going to a gym. Having spent a month in a conventional gym after 3 years of using a home gym, I’ll weigh in on the pros, cons and my outlook going forward.
I have a pretty nice set of plates and a barbell, bench, a few dumbbells, a kettlebell, and makeshift squat stand. This set up was my go to when I first started lifting seriously 3 years ago. At this time I was doing high weight, low rep power lifting routines. For someone doing a power lifting routine, this set up seems to be the cream of the crop sans a power rack. As I took on the Team WB Fitness bodybuilding routines, it didn’t seem to have the same luster. That said, you can make gains with whatever you have as long as your dedicated.
No Waiting/Sharing: This is probably the best part of home gyms. You don’t have to wait to use equipment, and you’re the only one who does use it. Shit, you could lift bare ass naked if you wanted to because you’re the only one there.
A Little at a Time: If you don’t have the cash to fork over on a fully stocked garage gym, the you can just buy things as you can afford them. Its an upfront cost, but that’s it. Even mid-tier gym equipment can last years if taken care of correctly.
Its a Few Steps Away: If your closest gym is far from your home, then this is a no brainer. You can lift whenever you want, and don’t have to travel far to do it.
All Alone: You better have safety bars in place if you’re going to to test your 1rm. No spotter and no help if you seriously fuck yourself up. Not just that, you don’t have other people that can direct you if you have a question about a lift.
Temperature: While some have a spare office or bedroom to lift in, most of us are forced into a garage or even worse like I was, outside! Lifting in 14 degree weather is no joke and really fucks with how your muscles feel.
Space: Unless you have a huge garage, you’re going to have to make sacrifices as to what all you can keep in your home gym. Need a high ceiling for a power rack. Need a lot of space to store dumbbells and barbells. Throw in a stair climber or air bike and your space can get pretty tight fast.
All in all, as I said above, a home gym can be good for some people, and its certainly better than not working out at all. One thing to keep in mind, especially if you’re going super heavy weight is how to protect the floor and your plates. Some guys put horse mats down where they do deadlifts or if you have the cash, get bumper plates, but they are a bit pricey.
All the Equipment: I’d say my favorite part of going to the gym is access to all the equipment they have there. There are whole different groups of exercises and training I can do now that I have access to all this new equipment. Bodybuilding requires you to hit your muscles in many different ways, so the more equipment, the better. Another benefit is they keep the place clean and all the stuff in working order.
The Trip: Luckily my gym is only about 10 minutes from my house, but actually venturing out from home makes it fun. I get time to do my own shit away from the the house and family. I like getting my bag prepped the night before and leaving at 4:15 am while everyone else is still sleeping.
People: My kid brother has been going to the gym with me in the mornings an having a lifting partner is pretty cool. You kind of hold yourself accountable to the other person to show up and that can get your ass out of bed when you aren’t feeling it. Even if you go alone, there are typically other people that can give you a spot or shoot the shit with while you’re there. Also, if you’re single, there are tons of women at the gym, even at 4:30 in the morning.
People: On the flip side, people can fucking suck. The guy taking up a bench to sit there and text for 5 minutes between sets. The guy who doesn’t re-rack the weights at all, or does so incorrectly. That old dude who swears its his job to be naked in the locker room way more than necessary. The guy who hasn’t discovered the invention of deodorant. The list is endless. Most people are cool though.
Fees: You’ll end up paying more to go to a gym over time than to buy your own shit. Most gyms aren’t too pricey and if you can give up things like saunas and pools the fee will be much cheaper.
Rules: At the end of the day, you’re in someone else’s establishment and you have to play by their roles. Most people don’t give a shit about what you’re doing but if you’re not playing by the rules then the staff can ask you to leave. Something home gym owners don’t have to deal with.
Conventional gyms offer some advantages over a home gym. The experience is way different and you can have access to tons of equipment. You have to deal with people, but if you go at a non-peak time, it’s not so bad.
While I prefer going to a gym over a home gym, I think the best if both worlds is great if you can make it happen. Personally, I’m thinking of setting up a pull up bar, dumbbell rack and air bike at home just for general fitness on days I can’t make it to the gym or for a quick session over the weekend, but I’ll train my program at the gym during the week. You have to decide on what works best for you and will help you reach your goals faster. Whether you are a home gym guy or a gym rat, getting up and getting your training in is most important.