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The category of how to build a home gym is so broad in scope that I’m going to focus more on old-school fitness and weight training. Think along the lines of picking things up off the ground and putting them overhead rather than contorting your body on machines.
Granted, I used machines when I first starting training in 1998 because, like most people, I didn’t know any better. On my first day, I had a free training session with a guy whose calves Rep. Steve King would envy. He took me through the machine area of the gym and showed me how to use the lat pulldown machine, the leg curl machine, and the leg extension machine, etc. Of course, he used free weights to look as impressive as he did but that was a small area of the gym where I, as a lanky newbie, I feared to tread. I spent the next eight years wasting time with various Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Journal workouts as well as consulting a champion natural bodybuilder trainer. He got me not skinny-fat using machines and then bulked me back up using free weights.
Sometime in 2007, it finally clicked – free weights were the key to getting strong. Soon during my daily Internet time wasting sessions I stumbled upon a Mark Rippetoe-ripoff workout focusing on the Big Three – squats, bench, deadlifts – and began treading to the little-used corner of the gym where the power racks were gathering dust and rust. Few people ever used them and so I had to teach myself from whatever I could find on the Web.
CrossFit started to blow up around that time and more and more people were going back to the basics of cow tipping and tire flipping along with doing Fran and Wendy and Lisa. I only did CrossFit for a month before getting laid off and not being able to afford to go to a Box so back to XSport I went.
I started learning more about people like Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline and Marty Gallagher along with old-time legends like Vince Gironda and Reg Park. I also started taking diet tips from Lyle McDonald’s books and got fantastic results leading up to my wedding in 2011. I even got my fiancee (now wife) to do squats and presses, saying the only difference between us was plumbing so why should she train “like a girl” using innie and outie machines? She’s in better shape now in her 40s than ever before but that’s a post for another day.
I don’t have anything against TotalGym or BowFlex or any other giant piece of all-in-one complicated machinery. I just don’t use them and may be limiting my forthcoming readership. So be it. For me, when you’re building a home gym simple is best and old-school iron is about as simple as it gets – and about as effective as it gets.