If you have the capability, meaning you have a garage, creating a garage gym is one of the best ways you can invest in yourself. No more globo-gym memberships where you stand around looking busy as you wait for the squat rack to open up. In your garage gym, you wait on no one and your effort to get to the gym is dependent on how long it takes you to tie your shoes.
Your effort to get to the gym is dependent on how long it takes you to tie your shoes.
Your garage gym sets no limits on what you can achieve. The only thing holding you back is your desire and creativity. There is some essential equipment you will need that we will discuss to get you started but even with less, body weight movements are a good place to start.
In your garage, workouts will be most effective if you make it a place with no distraction. That means moving all the crap you’ve accumulated over the years into another place whether that is a closet or a storage bin. You want to get the most space you can out of your garage and tripping over your lawnmower isn’t going to help you with this.
With everything cleared out of the way, you can now begin to piece together the most bada** gym in the neighborhood! You’ll want to establish a budget for your project and once you have this set, all systems are a go.
To help you with getting started, I’ve listed some equipment below that will get you on your way to your next great workout.
Garage Gym Equipment
Though this isn’t a piece of fitness equipment you can use on the daily to burn fat and build muscle, it’s important enough for me to discuss with you. You’ll want to have some protection between you and the cement floor. Best way to handle this is to purchase 3/4″ thick, 4’x6′ stall mats from your local tractor store. Measure the area of your garage and buy enough mats to cover the entire area. You may have to do some cutting but don’t let that hold you back.
Olympic Barbell & Bumper Plates
The most essential part of your garage gym is a sweet olympic barbell. I own the Ohio Bar from Rogue and it is has held up well over the past couple years. Take your investment seriously when purchasing a barbell new. Your barbell should be able to withstand the lifting of a lifetime!
Bumper plates are awesome for your garage. Unlike steel, they’ll take a bounce should you have to drop your barbell from overhead and the plates won’t bust your floor up should the barbell come crashing down. You can shop around for plates and watch Craigslist to see where you can find the best deal. Only downside to bumpers are the size. As you increase the weight on the bar, which you will do sooner than later especially with squats and deadlifts, you’ll be left with minimal room to add more weight. To circumvent this, you can purchase competition plates (a bit pricier) later or add steel plates if you insist.
Squat Stand (Preferably a Power Rack)
Once you have a power rack in your garage, lifting will never be the same. This will be the centerpiece of your garage gym and where your lifting dreams will become a reality. Along with your barbell, this is another piece of your gym where you do not want to skimp on quality. Nothing worse than being inside a rack that feels like it will collapse on you once the weights start getting heavy.
There are a number of different racks out there. The one you choose will come down to two things:
1) Space. You’ll need to know how much footprint your rack will take up. The less space in your garage, the smaller your rack needs to be. Height is another factor when determining your space. Lower ceilings will prohibit you from buying a taller rack. Taller racks are a plus when it comes to using the pullup bar.
2) Money. Power racks can get very hefty in price. Make sure to do your research before buying the first one out there. With all the options available, take your time with this purchase. Find the best deal but don’t go to cheap. If you’re going to buy a simple squat stand in place of a power rack (to save money), buy a stand that converts into a power rack so you have that option later. It’s a way to save a few dollars now and get the benefit of a power rack later.
If you want to get strong, body-weight strong, there is no better way to do it than with a pull-up bar. By default, power racks and good squat stands come with a pull-up bar but even if you can’t afford this route yet, there are other options available to you. Preference is to invest in a pull-up bar that you can either mount to your wall or ceiling and stay away from the cheap pull-up bars you jam into your doorway or you might end up like this:
Working with rings will make a man (or one strong woman) out of you. The coordination and strength you need to use rings will build solid muscle and they’re relatively cheap. Just throw the straps over your pull-up bar and you’re good to go. Whether you’re doing ring dips, ring pushups or muscleups you can expect a versatile workout using them.
The incline bench is another piece of versatile equipment. They typically cost more than a flat bench but the incline gives you more flexibility in your training whether you’re using a barbell or dumbbells. Pay specific attention to the max load capacity when shopping. If the bench gives a max capacity load of 400 lbs. and you weigh 200 lbs., guess what? You hit max capacity with a 200 lb. bench press. Do your research.
To help strengthen your aerobic capacity, outside of running, there are a few options out there. However, to make the most of your space in the garage, a rower is a good fit. When not using, it stands up quite nicely and will stay out of your way.
Another benefit of a rower is it’s ability to work every muscle in the body from your legs to your shoulders and arms. When you’re running short on time, this is one of the better ways to get in a quick and efficient workout.
The very first time I used a sled was at a CrossFit competition on the beach. People were cheering, everyone was amped up, and my sled wasn’t moving. Between the thick sand and my inexperience in pulling weight from behind me, I was stuck. Not to mention, after completing the relay, I was completely wiped out. I can still feel the shakiness in my legs as I walked off the beach. Just know that it took every bit of willpower within me to walk and not crawl off that beach.
That being said, a sled is a must. Throw light weight on to help increase your speed. Make it heavier to increase your strength. Just start pulling.
Hopefully this article has helped you in brainstorming the creation of your garage gym. If you haven’t already started putting your gym together and are still unsure on what to do first, just do something. Building up your garage will take some time. Piecemeal this thing together and just get started.
If you want to see some cool pictures of others who have built up a nice garage, Rogue Fitness has pictures up of their customers garage gyms that will give you a source of inspiration.
You should also check out CrossFit Journal’s article on building up a garage gym. Some of the information is a bit outdated but a terrific source of information, nonetheless.