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Make Yourself at Home

by StephenKelly

For some guys the gym can be a home away from home. But with a little space and some imagination there’s an easy way to turn your home into your gym.

Working out at home is a great option for people who are short on time, intimidated by a gym situation, or who can’t afford a gym membership. Depending on your living arrangements, there are many alternatives to a home gym set-up. But before you begin you need to ask yourself some serious questions about space and budget.

Those who live in houses with garages or basements, or even those in multi-bedroom apartments, are in a good position to build a home gym that consists of both cardio and a variety of weight lifting equipment. Ironically, the temptation to fill this extra space with more gear can also mean more of a financial investment.

Ideally, the best and most versatile place to start is with a multi-purpose bench that can be configured for flat, incline and decline presses. The more expensive versions of these benches sometimes have uprights that rise as high as five feet, letting you rack a barbell for squats or shoulder presses. Very often these benches also allow you to perform leg extensions and presses. You get what you pay for, however, and a good multi-purpose bench can run between $300 and $500.

Of course, no home gym is complete without at least one barbell, an EZ curl bar, dumbbells, and a wide selection of free weights, ranging from 2.5 pounds to large 45-pound plates. While fixed weight dumbbells are the type used in most gyms, they are more expensive and less versatile than adjustable dumbbells, which can be as cheap as $7 each. Avoid buying threaded dumbbells handles with screw-on collars, which always seem to come loose midway through a set. Adjustable dumbbell handles with spring collars are all you need.

Other equipment worth investing in are Swiss and medicine balls ($15 to $45, depending on the quality and size), chinning bars, and rubber floor mats.

Larger spaces also allow the luxury of cardio equipment. A good treadmill, elliptical machine or exercise bike can start at $1000 and can go as high as $5000. Of course, those on budget constraints can do without the cardio equipment and use that money for a good pair of running shoes or a bike. But those with knee and ankle problems who can’t take the pounding of running may want to invest in a piece of cardio equipment.

Those living in smaller accommodations such as one bedroom or studio apartments will probably wind up spending less money as limited space may force you to make the most of a little. So a simple flat bench (starting at $120), adjustable dumbbells and a nice variety of weights are more than enough to get you started.

However, a Swiss ball can be a space saving alternative to a bench and usually comes with a chart showing how to do the same exercises that you would do on a bench (and will give you a great core workout as well). Those in small spaces may also want to invest in jump ropes and exercise bands, which will not only add versatility to your workout, but can be easily packed in a suitcase or travel bag.

No matter what your space, be sure to do your research before laying out a big investment. Get a good feel for the equipment while in the store (a thirty second jog on a treadmill may not be enough to determine if that piece of equipment suits your running style). When buying a bench, press your finger into the middle of the pad. If you can feel the base of the bench, the pad is too soft and may result in an uncomfortable workout. Always beware of bells and whistles.

But a little bargain hunting can save you a lot of money. It’s always a good idea to check out newspaper classified ads or the Internet for used equipment, and some sporting good stores offer fantastic deals on used gear.

Working out at home offers allows you the luxury of privacy, listening to music you actually like, and letting you choose the time of day that suits your schedule. But there are disadvantage as well, such as the motivation and boredom factors that are inherent in working out alone. If you can get past these obstacles, a home gym situation may be right for you.