MONEY... MONEY... MONEY... Nothing but consistently empty pockets and doom, gloom breaking news on daily tv. In the land of regular, daily living for us ordinary hard working folk, the daily costs of just getting by in everyday life, can be financially tough. Finding a balance to save, pay bills, buy essential things like food and water (and beer lol) can be extremely challenging. This is where Visa cards become your new best friend (not recommended). I should be happy with what I've got in life but unfortunately one important thing is annoying me... I CAN'T BUILD THE HOME GARAGE GYM I DESPERATELY WANT!!
Eight years ago, back in 2012 I moved into a new home. What caught my eye was the outdoor garage which formed part of the back garden (see photo above). It wasn't a large garage by any means but it had potential to be transformed into the "ultimate" home garage gym lol! If you're curious to know the dimensions of the garage, here they are. I've used the units feet (ft), metres (m) and centimetres (cm).
- (L) 17ft 2 / 5m 20 / 524 cm
- (H) 7ft 1 / 2m / 216 cm
- (W) 8ft 10 / 2m 78 / 246 cm
LIMITED TRAINING SPACE / BASIC GYM EQUIPMENT
To put the above garage dimensions into perspective, prior to buying my new home, since my teenage years back in the 90's right up to my early 30's (2010 onwards), I had either been using my bedroom to train in or a spare room when I used to rent. Gym Equipment I used back then was very basic...
Living at home with my parents involved the use of a weight bench, 1" loadable dumbbell handles with large, bulky, plastic weight plates made by either Weider, York or Marcy, can't quite recall sorry (see above) and a 4ft or 5ft standard 1" barbell. Years later when renting and I had the luxury of having a spare room, so I purchased a 250 kg Olympic Weight Set which included a 7ft Olympic barbell. To go with this, I also treated myself to a set of adjustable squat stands which could be used for shoulder pressing, squats and bench presses (similar to photo below).
For some reason I never had a weight bench so spent one year basically training all body parts directly with the exception of chest (and calves too - calf training bores me!). That was strange at first because I always loved benching. However after a year, my overhead pressing power was the strongest it had ever been due to solely focusing on only one pressing movement. I should point out that before I became a home gym trainer, i used to train at commercial gyms and a really good "Hardcore Hell-Hole Dungeon" which used to be owned by the Scottish bodybuilder, Steve Creighton. However, being the introvert I am, I much preferred training at home.
One of my earliest memories of training at the 'Hell Hole' gym was being asked to lift a 70 kg (154 lb) dumbbell up to my shoulder in order to pass to Steve to do seated two arm dumbbell shoulder presses with. His training partner was lifting the other 70 kg dumbbell to pass to Steve, which he managed to lift just fine. Me on the other hand, I could barely budge the dumbbell which was embarrassing lol. That was my first time seeing a real professional bodybuilder in the flesh and working out!
COMPACT GYM EQUIPMENT FOR SMALL TRAINING AREA
Anyway, back to the story....Due to financial reasons I would later need to move back home (around 2010) and live with my parents again. Say goodbye to the Olympic weights, squat stands etc (never had the space to keep these) - Sold on the cheap to make some quick money which had to be done at the time. At that point I decided to save and "invest" in some compact adjustable dumbbells which could easily be used in a small bedroom. After researching online I came across "Ironmaster" (been around since the 70's). An established "Home Gym" company with a strong reputation for producing heavy duty, compact, home training equipment. This is what I purchased..."Quick-Lock Dumbbell Set - 75 lbs (34kg)...
For a more in depth, honest, no bullsh*t review of these adjustable dumbbells, you can read my thoughts on these Ironmaster dumbbells by clicking here.
And if you wish to purchase them...
(UK): If you are based in the UK click here.
(USA): If you live in the USA click here.
Granted the equipment from Ironmaster is expensive, I'm not going to lie, you will definitely need some money in your pocket to afford these. That's why I said "investment", because it is. I don't want to turn this article into a product advertisement but Ironmaster products are "LEGIT". They will last you years and no-doubt a life-time, and I highly recommend them. The adjustable dumbbells are solid, and the weight plates are thin and stackable due to their unique design, and the storage rack is small enough to keep in a fairly small bedroom or as I do now, keep it in my livingroom (see photo below).
The black, stylish, minimalist storage rack by Ironmaster looks good in my livingroom. Blends in nicely with the furniture ha ha. I would later give the Ironmaster equipment to my brother to try out and use as he was after some training equipment for a spare room in his own house. The photo above actually shows my "SECOND" purchase of the adjustable Ironmaster dumbbells. That shows how much I like them!
I would later move out from my parents house to a rented ground floor flat, one bedroom. It was open plan so felt quite spacious. Back to the drawing board again in regards to buying equipment. I would eventually get the urge to buy Olympic weights again, which is what I did. I went back to an Olympic barbell, Olympic weight plates, and squat stands. Everything could be lifted out the road and stored to the side of my flat and when getting used, could easily be lifted into place. Now this wasn't a major hassle to do but it did become annoying after a while and it actually sapped my enthusiasm for training at times because I became lazy to move my gym apparatus about daily. Thankfully I only stayed in the flat for a year or two which would take me up to 2012, where I would step on to the property ladder and actually buy my own house!
As I previously said at the beginning of this article, the outdoor garage grabbed my attention. Below is a video of what the inside of my garage looked like when I first moved in and the training equipment I was using at the time. Very basic and typical of what beginners would buy.
Now, as the title of this article refers to 'Home Gym Problems', let's begin focusing on that....
CHEAP GARAGE GYM RENOVATION
From around 2013 onwards I began renovating the gym (on the cheap). Want to see my training log showing my first ever workout session within my garage gym? Click here! I simply painted the single brick walls, replaced the garage door and ripped out some stuff to clear some extra floor space (with the help of my brother, cheers bro!). I then proceeded to build my gym by adding the following equipment (not cheap!! )
- Large 6ft wide Mirror (£100 - UK British Pounds)
- Treadmill (£1000 - £1500 - Which I used maybe only 5 times! - Just recently gave this to my brother)
- Multi-Press and Squat Rack i.e. half rack (around £400) - 'Bodysolid' brand.
- Foldable Wall Dipping bar (£160) - Purchased from 'The Gym Revolution' website
- Hex Rubber Dumbbells (1kg up to 30kg) and storage Rack (£1000+)
- More heavier Hex Dumbbells (35kg up to 70kg) and another storage Rack (£1000+)
- Cheap Gym Rubber Flooring (black jig-saw square panels) (do not buy!) [LINK] - Amazon purchase
- Various Barbells i.e. Ez-Curl bar, Cambered bar, 5ft Straight bar etc
- Thick Grip accessories i.e. Fat Gripz, Ironbull Grips etc.
Gym equipment is not cheap, especially during these covid times. Hell, you'll be lucky to even buy brand new equipment as its likely to be sold out! However if you shop around you may get lucky with second hand equipment. Or just build your own if you're a DIY expert. Unfortunately I'm not.
One of the most important gym pieces to buy I think, is a good, strong, heavy duty Power Rack which can support a lot of weight, not just the rack itself but more importantly, the safety bars. If the safety bars can't support sh*t, then don't buy! If something goes horribly wrong i.e. you fail a lift or you tear a muscle, you definitely want safety bars setup to protect you. This is all relative though, at the end of the day, it really depends on your style of training, for example... are you preparing to be a strongman and build herculean strength? If yes, get a really strong, heavy duty power rack. If no, you can settle for a cheaper, more slim-line style that still offers 'somewhat' peace of mind in regards to safety, in case of a failed lift. I was unfortunate and wasn't able to buy my "dream power rack" due to the very low ceiling height of my garage (which was a major pain in the a**!), this stopped me from buying a full power cage, so I had to settle for something in between. Despite limited space restrictions, overall, the garage became a really nice training area where I could zone out, forget my troubles, listen to "my" music and just simply train by myself without any distractions.
Below are some photos displaying the 'step by step' transitional progress of my garage gym renovation...
Between 2013 up to the present date (Dec 2020), the garage gym has changed and is currently not in use. Some equipment has been sold off to hungry strongmen (50 kg Hex dumbbells up to 70 kg!!, 50 kg olympic weight plates - that's kg not lbs, and some other stuff). And the reason why I sold off a lot of my equipment you wonder, AND why I no longer train in the garage.... ALL MY EQUIPMENT WAS RUSTING AWAY!!!!
PREVENTING RUSTY GYM EQUIPMENT
A little tip for you should you consider setting up your own garage gym... MAKE SURE your garage is INSULATED and has heating and ventilation, especially if you plan on buying EXPENSIVE gym equipment - This will help prevent / minimize rusting. Looking back, I should have insulated my garage from the start before buying any equipment. A rough estimate of the total cost involved in renovating my garage at the time (on the cheap - no insulation measures) was around £4000+ which included buying the gym equipment, painting the brick walls and other materials such as covering the ceiling with plastic white sheets etc - this was purely for aesthetic reasons. Without knocking down my garage and building it again from scratch I figure the costs involved in properly insulating my garage at the time would have been around £3000 to £4000 extra, which isn't too bad to be fair.
Some recent photos of my garage gym can be seen below...
The first photo actually looks inviting as the light contrasts with the darkness outside, producing a warm seductive glow....until you step into the gym and are unpleasantly greeted by a billion insects crawling the walls, along with leaves, some rubbish and stones everywhere after being blown in under the main metal garage door. My exceptional photography skills (lol) really don't do justice as to what I've described and probably for the better. I'm not a spider fan so walking into my garage covered in spiders and cob-webs doesn't appeal to me. So I removed as much equipment as I could which I have now stored in my house. Some remaining items had been sold off as I previously mentioned and other stuff which I was planning on keeping, I am now selling. My days of heavy lifting are not over but at this point in time, heavy lifting isn't my main focus.
If I had kept everything in the gym till this day, I would have pi**ed away so much money for nothing. Spending so much money on gym equipment to just let it rust is stupid in my book. Granted, you might be thinking I could just clean up the dumbbells and equipment every year but when you have so many dumbbells, it becomes a major chore. See photo below:
If you happen to have rust on any of your gym equipment watch what I did to remove the rust in the video below...
PROTECTIVE GYM FLOORING
You have probably looked at some of the previous photos and wondered what type of large mats were in my garden? If not, I'm going to tell you anyway..."Horse Mats". These mats were purchased back in 2018 with the intention of replacing my current, cheaper quality jig-saw mats. Each large mat measures 6ft X 4ft, is 18 mm (1.8 cm) thick and weigh 40 kg (88 lbs). So each mat is pretty damn heavy to move around. At the time of purchasing the 'Horse Mats' I honestly thought they were a great idea and still kinda do. The plan was to renovate my garage for a second time but get it done right, professionally insulated, proper heating, plastered walls etc and then bin the old gym mats and roll in the brand new ones. However this didn't happen.
You can see from the photos below how bulky of a purchase the new Horse Gym Mats were.
I had ordered six large Horse Mats. The quality was high, the mats were thick and solid and definitely looked heavy duty enough to protect my concrete garage gym floor but there were problems.
[A] DIFFICULT TO KEEP CLEAN
No-matter how many times I took a mop to these mats, the bucket of bleach turned a muddy black every time. I assumed it was dirt but maybe it was just the rubber material, I'm not sure.
Upon delivery I stored the mats in my house as you can see from the photos above. As previously stated, the plan was to keep the mats in the house until my garage got renovated. However, after a few days, there was a STRONG rubber smell that grew worse as the days went on and began spreading throughout my house. I'd wake up in the mornings and go to bed at night smelling that intense odor. It would actually give me headaches. I needed to keep the windows open all day to get some fresh air in. IT WAS THAT BAD!! After several days it was just too over-powering to the point where I complained to the company whom I purchased the mats from and seeked help on getting rid of the smell. I was told to clean the mats using "White Vinegar" I believe (can't quite remember), which did help.
After cleaning the mats, I left them outside to dry for close to a week to try get rid of the rubber smell for good. I later decided to store them flat in the garage instead of taking them back in the house. I figured that since the garage isn't insulated, the rubber smell would eventually go away after a period of time, which it has done.
FROM GARAGE GYM TO HOME GYM
Fast forward to present times, and as I've already stated, that lovely outdoor garage photo at the beginning of this article no longer gets used as a gym. Due to work commitments these last few years, I wasn't able to devote time to training (finding a work/life balance has been tricky for me for several years now) and up to this present date, training in general has been pretty much non-existent (kind of). It's not for a lack of motivation, just simply life has unfortunately got in the way these last few years, and not for a good reason. Stress is a killer, that's all I'll say. Training can help with stress, that I know, but when you haven't got time or really the energy to even train an hour a day, due to work commitments, training slowly but surely comes to a halt. Starts off being only a day or two, then progresses to weeks, months, a year, etc. Sure, every now and then, like the common New Year resolution made by millions of people around the world to get in shape, you decide to start training again which lasts one or two gym sessions, then STOPS!
On a positive note, for the last month or so, I've taken personal time to get my frame of mind sorted out which has been good as I've focused on training again and reading old magazine articles to kick-start my motivation - I recommend "Keys to Progress" by John McCallum who was a famous writer for Ironman back in the 70's, his stories on training were absolutely brilliant and will have you in stitches of laughter.
So each day, I read a little, go online and watch bodybuilding Youtube videos, check out gym equipment companies to see what's the latest design in dumbbells, racks etc - this helps fire me up for a workout. Doing this everyday has also motivated me to get back into making Youtube Bodybuilding Motivational videos. It's also sparked an interest in writing my thoughts down, hence why I'm writing this article (thank you John McCallum). I plan to write more articles on a weekly / monthly basis (if possible) - I'm not the best writer but If I help inspire or motivate just one person, that's all that matters.
Before Getting back to 'Home Gym Problems', firstly a quick tip on moving heavy Horse mats around, should you decide to buy any. Buy this tool...
It's called a Grabbitt Mat Moving Tool which is used for moving heavy Horse Mats. I wish I discovered this tool over two years ago when I first purchased the Horse mats. I was lifting all six mats through sheer macho brute strength when I could have been using this little device. It cost's around £35 for one (you only need one), there are more expensive ones on the market but no need, this cheaper "Grabbitt" tool above will work perfectly and make lifting and moving Horse Mats a piece of cake! You can thank me later.
So what's happening with my lack of gym?...Well, I do still have a gym but all equipment is now within my house as i previously said. I basically train in my livingroom. See the photos below:
It's not exactly ideal. I don't live in a huge house, its relatively small (two bedrooms), has low ceilings (although a tad higher than my garage) and because I'm not solely using compact equipment, space in my livingroom is pretty limited. Plans were in action several years ago to professionally renovate my garage which I almost went ahead with. However I then decided that my garage required extending in size and this proved problematic and very costly. The garage for me would definitely need extending in size, both height and length but due to building regulations, I'm not sure if I would be able to alter the height of the garage and that really annoys me. I could move house but I'm not interested in the hassle at this moment in time plus I do actually like the house.
I also just recently inquired about extending my house (not the garage) as an alternative solution to creating extra space for a home gym. In theory, it sounded great because it would also allow me to extend my kitchen. Again, I'm viewing the extension as an investment in the hopes that it would add value to my overall property. However... the cost involved is astronomical, £40,000+ !! So there's no way that's happening. Maybe if I win the lottery! So the short-term solution is to simply use my livingroom as a training area. Space will be tight but I'll make it work. The funny thing is I've just ordered a new piece of custom gym kit for my livingroom from UK gym manufacturing company called Watson . It's a heavy duty, Lat Pulldown Machine customised to accommodate the use of bands. Very expensive!! I'm crazy I know! I'll post another article and review this new piece of equipment in the coming months. As it's custom made it will take about six weeks to manufacture and be delivered. Should arrive early 2021. I'm pretty pumped to see it live. I just hope it fits in my livingroom, otherwise I'm fu**ed!
NEW HOME GYM EQUIPMENT?
I've already mentioned the new piece that will arrive in the next couple of months, but I'm also considering a new Rack to replace my old Bodysolid Multi-Press / Squat Rack. (see photo below).
There's nothing wrong with the rack I currently use (photo above), however, I do feel I need a change and my current rack lacks certain features I wish to have. For example, I'd like a pull-up bar at the top of my rack, not just for performing pull-ups, but to enable myself to do extra band exercises like tricep pushdowns or weighted hangs to tax and strengthen my grip - the top cross bar can prove really useful for more creative training.
I do strongly believe that the Power Rack should be the most or one of the most expensive piece of equipment in anyone's gym. Companies today offer so much choice with racks now from adding band pegs, thick bar pull up attachments, cable machines, jammer arms, you name it, if you can think it, it's likely it can be designed and manufactured. After researching many different rack designs, I'm still struggling to select one I really like. At the end of the day It's likely I'll opt to contact the company "Watson" again and choose one of their Power Racks but have it customised to suit my own specifications. Gym equipment today is definitely revolutionary, some of the designs online are incredible, which allows lifters to train so many exercises but within a compact, limited space. I plan to write more about this in the near future.
The two most important things stopping me from purchasing my "Dream Rack" is my current lack of training space and MONEY! I always told myself I wouldn't buy expensive gym equipment until I had my garage renovated but the reality is, that renovation could take years to happen but its highly likely it may never happen due to the associate costs involved. For both those reasons I'll likely choose to buy a reasonably priced rack in the mean time, which caters to my extra requirements but at a much lower, affordable price. I probably won't sell my old rack but instead stick it in the garage just in case I wish to switch back at a later date.
One rack which I am considering buying is the Ironmaster IM1500 Half Rack. (Photo below)
This rack has most of the extra features I'm currently looking for:
- Lower Band Pegs - This would allow me to use cables for benching, deadlifts etc.
- Barbell Storage - I have a couple of barbells on my livingroom floor so this would help.
- Top Cross Bar - I can do chins, inverted rows, cable exercises etc.
A dipping attachment can also be purchased for this rack. The Half Rack is priced at around £800 and given its compact design, it's certainly a contender.
To conclude this article, my advice to others including myself (and I keep having to tell myself) is to take your time when looking to purchase new gym equipment. Do your research and shop around for prices. Some companies will actually give you discounts if you ask nicely, especially if you are ordering more than one product from the same company.
Browsing gym equipment is fun to do but you can easily get carried away if you see something you like and desperately want. It's not until you actually buy the product, have it delivered and proceed to build it and discover the thing doesn't bloody fit in your gym! So make sure you get the measurements of equipment right and measure your training area to double check. Its not just the size of the equipment, you also need to leave room for moving around your equipment and have space for actually using it!
You really need to know what type of lifter you are i.e. light weights (pumper), strength athlete, maybe both, whether you prefer cable machines, free weights, everyone is different. Free weights tend to affect the joints more, so if you are prone to injuries or you wish to err on the side of caution, you may be better off looking into using more cable based equipment than free weights, or a combination of both, for example, Ironmaster's IM2000 rack offers a built in cable system which you may find more appealing?
Always think before you buy, and even when you believe you are sure on something, take another few days to think about it. As far as planning my own Home Gym setup, I have a while to go yet. In the meantime, I'll settle for training in my livingroom and continue the hunt for a brand new rack!
Keep training hard folks,
All the best,
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