Apr 20, 2013

I often get asked whether or not it's possible to get lean, mean, and brutally strong without having a gym membership?

Well I'm here to tell you it's easily MORE beneficial to train at home than in a fancy shmancy commercial gym.

In fact, in this post I'm going to outline exactly what you need to start your own kick ass garage gym and make the greatest gains in strength, muscle building, and athleticism you ever have in your entire life!!

When setting out to create a workout haven for yourself you need to capitalize on what you'll actually need. That means stop drooling over the shiny equipment that the commercial gyms have and think about what really matters - results. So, our set-up will include nothing but the bare essentials. However, I will provide 2 options: one for those with a tight budget and one for those with a little extra scrilla to spare.

So let's get started ...

Option 1: Tight Budget

If you're short on cash your greatest tools will be homemade. Now don't for a second think that homemade means crap because I have a great deal of homemade equipment that's lasted me longer than some of my store-bought stuff so quality is far from an issue.

The top tools you'll need on your quest for awesomeness are sandbags, a tire sled, and some miscellaneous odds and ends. The cost is minimal and the results are maximal. Here's the breakdown:

These are an essential piece of equipment for the budget garage gym. If you don't have money to spend on a barbell then this is your weapon of choice. My suggestion is to go ahead and make 2 or 3 sandbags of varying weights. I lean more towards making fixed weights because it's just a hassle to constantly load and unload little filler bags from the outer bag. For a full instructional on how to create your own sandbag please check out Ross Enamait's website. Very well put together and easy to read and follow.

You can use sandbags for all your big compound exercises as well as explosive exercises and carries. These will be your squat variations, deadlifts, overhead presses, floor presses, cleans, shouldering, loading, lunge variations, bent over rows, throws, and carry variations. You can load them up pretty significantly so they are just as effective as barbells. In fact, they're even more effective because the sand has a tendency to move around as you execute movements. This shifting forces your core and stabilizer muscles to work overtime making you more balanced and stronger from the inside-out. Make them heavy or light, just be sure to make them and use them often.

Tire Sled
The tire sled has been one of the greatest tools I have in my arsenal from the first time I started using one. They only take about 10 minutes to make and are 99% free. Who doesn't like free? Grab an old tire, toss a piece of scrap plywood inside it, and tie a tow strap to it. Voila! Instant tire sled ready for action.

The sled is great for everything. It's quite literally a gym in and of itself. One of the greatest benefits of having a tire sled is the eccentric-less training that can be performed with it. As I've explained before, there are 3 types of contractions your muscles make: eccentric, isometric, and concentric. Eccentric is where gravity takes over the majority of the load (lowering), isometric is when the muscle is in a state of static contraction (holding), and concentric is where the muscle is fighting to move the load against gravity (raising). The eccentric portion is where the most damage is done to the muscle and is what causes the greatest amount of soreness. Sled exercises remove the eccentric portion and allow for completely concentric movements giving you all the benefits of strength and muscle-building without the added soreness or muscle damage.

The sled can be used for a myriad of exercises including forward/backward/lateral dragging, sprints, rows, high pulls, lunges, crawls, presses, curls, triceps extensions, and rotational core movements. The best part is you can load it up as heavy or as light as you want, work on speed, strength, hypertrophy, or even conditioning with just one tool!! Dedicate a day to the sled or tack it on at the end of a session for a metabolic boost.

Miscellaneous Odds and Ends
Here is where you pick up the little odds and ends that you can either make yourself or buy for almost nothing. These little tools will aid to your growing equipment stash and will add some variety to your training.

The top thing on my miscellaneous list would have to be an ab wheel. You can pick one up at any sports store for about 10 bucks or you can make one yourself. The ab wheel will add some serious core, grip, and lat strength and will all-around just make you more awesome. Next would be some bands. Bands are great for rehab, warmups, and really come in handy for things like face pulls and pull aparts to work the upper back and keep you balanced. Heavier bands can be used for assisted chin-ups, adding some resistance to your pushups and dips, or for resisted sprints. I didn't mean to throw this in last as it's an integral part of training at home, but you have to have a pullup bar. It doesn't matter if you make one, buy one, or just use the one at your local park. Make sure you're adding chin-ups, dead hangs, hanging leg raises, levers, and hanging L-sits to your programming. If you don't, trust me you'll regret it.

Stay tuned for the 2nd installment where I'll detail some more essentials for the home gym warrior with a little extra cash to spend.

In Strength,
Franco Crincoli


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Franco Crincoli
I am a personal trainer, strength coach, and all around iron addict, with a philosophy deeply rooted in old school methods. My training has been influenced by strongmen, powerlifters, Olympic lifters, gymnasts, and the Golden Era bodybuilders. I believe in reaping the greatest rewards the simplest (not easiest) way possible and having fun doing it.
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