I’ve talked a fair bit about strength, for a good reason. Humanity evolved with men having a much higher upper level of strength than women and the average man is generally stronger than the average woman.
I’m not about to get into all that again because, well, I’ve already said it.
So let’s say that you’ve decided you need to workout, but you have no clue where to start.
It’s easy to say, “join a gym and start doing X program,” and that’s not exactly awful advice. However, it doesn’t take a few things into account, namely your personal situation.
First, gym memberships can be expensive depending on where you live. Even if it’s not, it still costs money, and even $20 a month can get to be a problem after a while. This doesn’t account for time away from the family that can occur.
Some people look at all that and decide to workout at home. Frankly, that’s what I do in what I call The Temple of Iron (more on that another day).
Yes, I miss out on some of the cool equipment in a traditional fitness facility, but I also can squeeze a workout into my morning schedule between pitching stories for the day and actually writing them.
“Yeah, I hear ya,” you might say, “but just how in the hell can I get started? Weight sets are expensive.”
You know what’s expensive? Paying a gym membership month after month only to have nothing to show for it after years of paying out money.
There are a lot of ways to train at home, and I’m going to present a handful that are the most viable.
Body Weight Exercises
Also known as calisthenics, body weight exercises are old standbys. Most of us have done pushups, for example. Especially if you’ve been in the military.
There are people who have built some strong, impressive looking physiques through bodyweight training, and you can get stronger with bodyweight exercises…to a point.
Eventually, you will run out of options for increasing resistance, though.
I used to be a kettlebell guy, and for a good reason. One kettlebell does an awful lot and it one hell of a workout. These come out of Mother Russia where they grow some tough hombres, and these are ideal for making you into a beast…
You see, while they create a great workout, they’re not really ideal for people looking to just get stronger or bigger. It can be done, but since kettlebells aren’t adjustable, that means bigger and heavier kettlebells need to be purchased as you progress. That gets expensive.
These are what most people think of when they think weight training, and for a good reason. These are standard for gyms throughout the world, and most workout programs think about these in particular.
Unfortunately, they’re also so ubiquitous that there are so many choices available that many people waste their money. Even if you know what to get, these aren’t exactly cheap either. Further, there’s not a lot in the way of “compact” weights.
Which Should You Get?
Your own situation is unique and that should be considered first and foremost. The challenges I faced and what you face may look similar but may be very different when you look at specifics.
First, think about what you want to focus on. If you’re flat broke, living in your Mom’s basement and eating out of her fridge…well…get a job. Seriously, what are you, some kind of leech?
OK, maybe you’re just a broke student who is using as much time as possible to focus on his studies so he can get a great job later. I still think you should get a job, but whatever.
In your case, body weight probably makes a lot of sense. You don’t really need a lot of stuff after all. Most parks have places you can do pull-ups and that’s about all you’d really need besides gravity.
On the other hand, if you’re fat and out of shape, you might want to go with kettlebells to get stronger as you burn fat. Nothing wrong with that.
However, I think in time everyone will want free weights. The problems with scaling up kettlebells certainly pushed me in that direction, and I believe it’s ultimately the most versatile option of the three I’ve listed here. I may detail some of the other alternatives later.
Not All Free Weights Are Created Equal
Weight sets vary in a lot of ways. Here are a few things to consider before making your purchase.
First, are you working out by yourself or with someone else? If you’re flying solo, you probably don’t want to train with barbells since there won’t be anyone to spot you.
For me, I went with dumbbells for a number of reasons. For one, you can train every body part with them and do so safely even while alone.
I personally think that if you’re going to train alone with a dumbbell, a power rack is practically mandatory, which is an additional expense that most of us would rather not fool with at the onset.
What I did was buy a dumbbell set extraordinarily similar to this 105 lbs set. (This is an affiliate link. You click and buy, and I get a few bucks for sending you there.)
At 52.5 lbs. each, they provide a whole lot of weight for less than $100. For most people, that’s plenty of weight to start with for the vast majority of exercises. By buying two, you can swap around the weight a bit and bump one of the dumbbells up to 65 lbs.
Further, these are standard 1″ plates, meaning the hole in the center is 1″ diameter.
That means you can buy additional plates almost anywhere. Many big box stores like Walmart sell these plates as does Amazon. Additionally, you can pick up second-hand plates off of eBay for even less.
Dumbbells like this can scale up to 120 lbs. Each. That’s a lot of weight. Frankly, these may well last you a lifetime even without all the additional weight.
But what about the bench?
If there’s one piece of equipment that seems to be ubiquitous to weight training other than weights, it’s probably the bench. I know I’ve been there myself.
Frankly, there are exercises that you just can’t do without a bench. Incline presses, dumbbell flies, the classic bench press, etc., all require a bench to lay on.
However, there are no body parts you can’t work without a bench. None. Even the chest, which is where most bench-focused exercises are designed to work can be trained without a bench.
For example, the classic floor press is a bench press motion, but it doesn’t actually require a bench. In my case, it seems I only lose about 2.5-3 inches on the range of motion, so my chest is still getting trained.
Now, that said, benches are awesome. Frankly, it should be one of the first purchases you make after you get your weight (additionally, there are options to build a bench for weight lifting all over the internet including one I may include next week). They’re great, but not required.
This is only the most basic of overviews, I know. Frankly, I think there could be an entire book about building your home gym (and I may well write it). However, this is enough to get anyone started.
Once you have your weights, you’ll need to look at programs, but that’s a topic for another day.