Crossing Over To A Home Gym


With Chris LaLanne (Jack’s grandnephew) at LaLanne Fitness CrossFit in San Francisco, October 2008

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.

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Home Gym Workout – Vodka and Pickles

Sanibel Island

Labor Day 2014 on Sanibel Island, Florida.

So I’ve been sick the last couple of weeks after getting back from a glorious vacation to Sanibel Island, Florida. The weather there was sunny and in the 90s all week and then once we got back to Chicago the temps here took a nosedive into the 30s, 40s, and 50s for a few days. Couple that with a stressful return to catching up on all the work that piled up during the vacation and adding to it some weekend wedding DJ gigs and poor nights of sleep along with the sudden urge to go lift something heavy in my home gym and well, you know, it all adds up to a toxic brew of sickness.

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Build Your Own Home Gym

Chad's Squat RackWhy build your own home gym?

There are some pros and cons when you build your own home gym but definitely more pros than cons.


  1. Save time – When my wife and I lived in Lincoln Park we were a five-minute walk from a Bally’s and a 10-minute drive from an XSport Fitness. I belonged to both and used Bally’s in the morning for easy treadmill cardio and XSport at night for lifting weights since my wife only belonged there. Fast forward to our move to Northwest Chicago and we were suddenly 20-30 minutes from the gym on top of our one-hour commute each way to work. Needless to say we didn’t have much time to work out once we did get to the gym. Then it was time to head home, eat, shower, and head to bed. Now we just get home from work, change clothes, and walk downstairs to either hop on the treadmill or grab a barbell in the squat rack or swing some kettlebells. My wife often doesn’t get home until after 7:30 P.M. so she still has time for a quick workout. Or if we’re heading out of town I can get in a workout before we leave.
  2. Better equipment – when it’s your gym you don’t have to worry about bent barbells or ripped benches or battered kettlebells that shred your hands, unless you’re an animal and don’t respect what you’ve spent hard-earned money to buy. And no more dreaded hex plates like they have at the gym, which are actually designed that way so you won’t deadlift.
  3. Your own music – no more will you have to listen to the
  4. Chalk – use it and love it.
  5. You can make as much noise as you want. You don’t have to worry about menacing looks from the cardio bunnies when you’re grunting and straining to get that last deadlift rep off the floor. Or getting the same menacing look from said cardio bunnies when you drop that last deadlift rep.

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