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For any fan of Westside Barbell new or old, it should be well known that Louie Simmons started powerlifting at home, first in his basement, and then like so many of us in his garage gym long before the Westside Barbell we all know so well today ever came to be.
Strength training at home does not necessarily mean you are condemned to a series of inescapable no equipment workouts, or bare-bones online weight lifting programs forever. In order to successfully train at home, whether it be by decision or necessity, a little thought and organization on the front end will pay dividends into the future.
BUILDING YOUR HOME GYM:
IDENTIFY YOUR PRIMARY TRAINING OBJECTIVES
The first step in creating your home gym is identifying your primary training objective(s) and needs. This does not have to be a terribly long process. The answer can probably be found in one or two very simple questions.
Everything has a starting point, including your journey into training at home. Now that you have your starting point, which we are going to assume is somewhere between strength training in your home with an emphasis on GPP (General Physical Preparedness), or traditional powerlifting.
Both of these efforts can be done in the home and done so at a very high level. This brings us to the next step which is selecting and sourcing your equipment.
CHOOSING YOUR EQUIPMENT:
In order to begin actually building your gym, you must create a hierarchy of importance in regard to your equipment, and the belief that each piece, in the beginning, must offer the most training variety for the money it cost, and the space it occupies.
Power Rack, Utility Bench, A Quality Barbell, Olympic Plates, Dumbbells, Band Set, Rubber Floor for Dead Lift, Pull Sled, Squat Box, 1x Specialty Bar, Dip Bars, Plyo Box
The above list is what we consider to be the absolute essentials to begin strength training at home. Each individual gym is going to come with a different set of circumstances ranging from budget to square footage and much more.
While we do want everyone training the right way, which is the Westside Way, all methodologies can be trained using the essential equipment list; be it the Conjugate System, CrossFit, or nearly any online weightlifting program out there.
WHAT TO PRIORITIZE
To some, primarily those that are going to have training partners over, completing the full rubberizing of the floor first may be the right call ahead of just creating a pulling platform. Again you must identify your current situation and weigh the must-haves against the “nice to have” items.
If you are going to have training partners, quality training partners- even though not listed above, are considered ESSENTIAL at Westside Barbell, then a larger lifting floor may be more important than a person who is going to train their strength solo at home, even at the expense of one of the other items on the list.
These items do not have to come in all at once, this is 2020 though, and quality training equipment has never been more affordable and available than it is right now! Used equipment is always posted on sale websites and often times on various online weightlifting platforms as well in comment sections so stay on the search.
SECONDARY EQUIPMENT LIST
After moving through your essentials we begin to look at ways to increase the quality of not only your gym but also your training. Assuming most of the people reading this article are going to be powerlifting training at home or in the garage we move into the next phase of equipment selection.
Reverse Hyper, More Dumbbells, Additional Specialty Bar(s), More Plates, GHR (Glute Ham Raise) Bench
Topping this list is a Reverse Hyper, the RH2 by Rogue Fitness is the most common choice for this piece, but any Westside Barbell Reverse Hyper will increase the quality of your training, it all depends on demand.
More dumbbells (heavier dumbbells) will continue to ensure your strength increases and your list of accessory exercises is always growing, Used dumbbells are everywhere, grab them whenever possible.
These beautiful iron treasures are also one of the greatest trading commodities amongst the home gym population, whether it be the well-equipped gyms or the minimalist style / at home with no (very little) equipment crowd, so stock up!
Increasing the number of specialty bars also equates to increasing the number of main movements and special exercises you can implement into your at-home strength training routine, but may not be the right choice IF you are following a different method or a traditional online weightlifting program that doesn’t utilize the Conjugate System, so choose wisely. A quality GHR will always have a home in any sport, be it powerlifting or track and field. Get one and keep it forever.
LUXURY EQUIPMENT LIST
After the secondary list, we move into what we consider the “Luxury List” or Nice to Have Items. These pieces are tremendous for strength training at home or in the gym, everything on this list can be found within the walls of Westside Barbell, which in itself if you remember our history, evolved from Louie’s power rack in the basement!
ATP or Belt Squat, Inverse Curl, More Specialty Bars,
Kettlebells, Lat Pull Down Machine, Leg Extension, Inverse Curl, Always More Plates!, Adjustable Utility Bench, Pec Deck / Rear Delt Combo, Chains, Storage Options, Seated Row Machine, Indian Clubs / Mace, Competition Bench Press
While most of these machine-based exercises do have a free weight or banded/makeshift alternatives the training adaptations that occur from the machines are far superior. That being said, training at home, at its core, is all about making the best of the situation. The greatest gym in the world is located at 457 Industry Dr in Columbus Ohio, but we have seen some gyms and at-home training setups that come in a very close second!
GRAB EQUIPMENT WHEN YOU HAVE THE CHANCE
Please do not mistake this list and interpret it as “must follow in sequential order.” If at any point one of the recommended pieces from the secondary or “luxury” lists becomes available GRAB IT UP BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!
If you are new to the world of strength training or training from your home, you will see these pieces appear on resale sites for sometimes only minutes. Which brings us to one of our few, but very important rules, MAINTAIN A GYM FUND! Have as much money as you possibly can be staged away for the very real possibility you can grab great gear, very quickly at a reduced cost!
We all know that one guy who just scored an (insert a jealousy-inducing piece of gym equipment here) for about 30% of what he should’ve paid for it… BE THAT GUY! Trust us you will find a use for your Inverse Curl even if it shows up prior to more dumbbells
No excuses… If no equipment is currently available, or even if training at home without weight is the plan we can still apply elements of the Westside Barbell Methods to your strength program from home.
First, we will need to identify what your new main movement will be outside of the traditional squat, bench, and deadlift. This new bodyweight main movement should be at the peak of difficulty so your training will support it. Movements such as the one arm pull up, handstand push up, and the pistol squat are great goals.
To train them we will want to create special exercises that support these movements, but ensure we add modifications such as hand placement or elevating the feet so that sets of 3-5 reps will lend themselves to training the upper end of strength. At-home training using only bodyweight movements needs to focus the same spread of special strengths as weight training provides, not just strength endurance via the high rep and high volume.
Each of these “new main movements” can be achieved by creating a progression of variations that is ever-increasing in difficulty, and then supported by movements that target the muscle groups involved as well as correcting weakness.
There is always a way to increase strength, know the types of special strengths and understand the path you will need to take to excel in each one, whether you are training at home or in the gym it does not matter, you must overcome training stimulus to increase strength
SETTING EQUIPMENT TO STRENGTH TRAIN AT HOME
So we have our sport or “theme” for the gym, we have some if not all of our equipment, you have THE BEST online strength training program to follow… What do we do with it? The answer: GET TO TRAINING!!!
In order to start training the equipment has to be built and installed. DO NOT neglect space in the beginning. Keep your infrastructure equipment, such as your racks and weights tight, but ensure that you allow for safe movement for you and your training partners.
You should know that you are going to be training the low body on Mondays and Fridays, this means equipment that is upper body specific can be moved and staged if needed in order to free up space for squats, deadlifts, and accessory work.
The same idea can be applied to your Wednesdays and Saturdays where the upper body is the focus… It doesn’t take much for one or two people to slide a plate loaded leg extension into a corner, or out into a driveway to free up space for more exercises or partners to train, bolt things down at your own discretion.
You will notice that a 2-3 car garage begins to fill up pretty quick when strength training at home. If you are following a workout without, or with minimal, equipment plan then your gym will probably have much more open space than a plan for powerlifting at home. So adapt accordingly, open space is not necessarily wasted space, but occupied space that doesn’t serve a purpose is 100% wasted.
STRENGTH TRAINING AT HOME NOW:
You can not rush results, that aspect of training requires years of dedication… it is obvious that dedication is in place because you are modifying your home to facilitate training. We can expedite the construction of the gym though… Recall the unspoken essential from above… Training partners.
If you are going to have a small group of partners at your home perhaps these men and women can contribute a piece or two to the gym? We will never recommend “splitting the cost” and “joint custody” of a piece of equipment, but is there any reason Parter A can’t grab the bar and weights, Partner B covers the utility bench, and you the host perhaps purchases the rack and flooring? Something to think about.
As always identify problems, eliminate excuses, and train optimally, or as close to it as circumstance will allow. If your training isn’t currently optimal you should be working to get there as fast as possible. Strength training at home does not mean forfeiting quality. Some of history’s strongest men and women have trained at home. Be one of them!
Apple, Google, Metallica, Westside Barbell…we all started at home and in garages, add your name to that list and create something great!