Archives For January 2012

Garage Home Gym

January 31, 2012 — Leave a comment

Going from the commercial gym to a home gym was one of the best decisions I ever made.

For those who are considering setting a home gym but are torn between garage or basement, I’ll share with you some of my thoughts and notes while going through the decision making process. I hope it helps if you’re deciding to quit your gym membership and train at home.

Now, my situation might be a little different than yours. I recently moved, so the basement and the garage were empty. That means that I did not have to deal with having to move or re-arrange stuff that’s stored in the garage or basement. Also, the basement is unfinished and the floor is bare concrete, just like the garage.

I ultimately choose the basement as the location for my home gym, however the garage was my first choice.

I mean, take a look at this picture and tell me it’s not awesome (note: not my home gym!)

Garage Home Gym

Anyways, here are some of my notes of the positives and negatives of having a garage home gym:

Benefits of A Garage Home Gym

Moving Equipment

It’s easy to move exercise equipment in and out. This is beneficial because if I order heavy equipment and/or anything that requires assembly, I can tell the delivery guy to unload everything into the garage. From there, I can unpack, and assemble everything right in the garage.

With a basement home gym, all the equipment would need to be brought into the house and then moved down stairs. During this move, extra care would have to be taken to make sure that the walls, floors, and whatever else are not damaged. I can tell you that I have a few black marks on the wall from moving 10 4’x6’ rubber stall mats from the garage to the basement.

Moving all the equipment out from the garage would be easier compared to the basement. If I decide to move and don’t want to take apart my power rack, I move the entire thing (without having to disassemble it) through the garage door, and then into a moving truck and be done with it. But because my power rack is in the basement, I would have to disassemble everything, make sure I don’t lose any bolts and washers, and then reassemble the rack. Hauling hundreds of pounds of weights, equipment, and those stall mats up the stairs not be fun.

Ceiling Height

The height of the ceiling in my basement is about 92”, whereas my garage is 112”. It’s fine since I’m somewhat vertically challenged at 5’4”, standing overhead presses with 45lbs plates is no problem in the basement.

But for someone taller, pressing a bar with 45lbs plates on both sides may not be possible without hitting the ceiling. A taller person could substitute the seated barbell should press, but this exercise is far more inferior than the standing overhead press.

If I decide to program plyometric exercises into my training (such as box jumps, etc.), I wouldn’t be able to do it in the basement. Whereas the garage, with an over 9’ ceiling, wouldn’t be an issue.

Also the Rogue power racks are 90”, or 7'6” tall, which will barely fit into my basement. Doing pull-ups and chin-ups would be an issue if I only have 2” of head room to work with. However, according to this video, you can request a customized 7 foot version of the Rogue power rack for an extra $50. You’d probably want to contact Rogue’s customer support for details about a 7’ rack.

Opening The Garage Door

Opening the garage door allows you to let in the fresh air from the outdoors while letting out any sort of odours from your training session. A garage door screen can be used to keep the insects, dust & debris out.

Any sort of strongman training that involves carrying a weight and walking around would be easier with a garage because you could make use of the driveway. Training outside would be as simple as opening the garage door.

And lastly, for better or worst, training with heavy weights with the garage door open will probably attract the attention of your neighbors.

Negatives About A Garage Gym

Temperature & Humidity Control

I live in a part of the world where it’s too damn hot in the summer, and too damn cold in the winter, and not enough in between. Because of this, the garage, if not properly insulated, will be subject to the temperature and humidity levels outside.

You can combat this by first insulating the garage door. I’ve read the “Owens Corning Garage Door insulation kit” makes it easy, but there are other DIY solutions as well.

Next would be heating & cooling the garage. Cooling the garage would be easier because you could just use a fan and/or open the garage door.

As for heating, portable electric heaters and utility heaters designed for garages works well, provided that the garage door and walls are insulated (I’ve tried heating the garage with an un-insulated garage door made of wood using a Garrison oil heater and it has no effect. However, the same heater can heat up the basement just fine).

Humidity would need to be controlled, or else it can make all the weights, racks and bars corrode. Which is the last thing I want, since I removed the rust and refinished my Olympic plates, and do not want the bare steel B&R bar to rust.

Sloped Floor

From what I understand, garage floors are normally sloped down towards the outside.

Dan Thomson writes:

“Heavy things and liquids go downhill.

To maintain safety in the garage, it is necessary to slope the garage floor 1/4" per foot so things like gas fumes (which are heavier than air), fuel, water, etc. can exit the garage safety without building up and possibly causing a hazard.”

This is not good because the last thing I want is having a 400lbs+ barbell rolling into the garage door (or worst, rolling outside onto the driveway into the road!)

There are ways around this, such a building a lifting platform to accommodate the slope, or level the garage floor with self levelling cement (I don’t think I can do this because apparently a sloped garage floor is part of the Ontario building code).

Either way, it will be a pain in the ass and add addition work and cost into the home gym.

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Overall, I decided against setting up my home gym in the garage because I didn’t want to deal with the issue of a sloped floor. Even though a garage home gym has many benefits, the negatives pushed me towards a choosing the basement as the location for my home gym.

And now, I have to figure out what to do with my garage! Right now it’s just a storage area for boxes that I’m too lazy to break apart and recycle.

For my next blog post, I’m going to talk about the benefits of a basement home gym, so stay tuned.

Squat

  • 330lbs: 5,5,5,5,5

Bench Press

  • 237.5lbs: 5,5,5,5,5

Some of my post you might have missed:

  1. Mircoloading with Rogue Fractional Plates
  2. 10 Things I Miss About Commercial Gyms
  3. 10 Things I Don't Miss About Commercial Gyms

And a few helpful articles I've come across this past week:

  1. Logging Progress from 70sbig
  2. Squats vs. Deadlifts by Charles Poliquin
  3. Squatting 101 & Deadlifting 101 by Christine aka "Cookie Monster"
  4. The Truth About The Bench Press by Nick Tumminello
  5. All About the Bench Press by Jim Wendler
  6. The Art of Olympic Weightlifting by Nick Horton
  7. A Few Words About Discipline & Sacrifice by Matt Kroczaleski

One of the comments left on my last blog post entitled “10 Thing’s I Do Not Miss About Commercial Gyms” was from Craig Hirota, who suggested a great idea about writing my top 10 things that I DO miss about commercial gyms...so here it is!

Some of these might not apply to you, but I’m sure there will be a few you could relate to:

1. Observing Others


Human females with a symmetrical face and a waist to hip ratio of about 0.7, wearing form fitting gym apparel, and performing just about any exercise correctly using a full range of motion are nice to look at by most, if not all heterosexual human males.

It can increase performance for some, but distracting for others.

2. Secretly Competing With Others

Treadmill Racing

I do something similar, in the weight room, lifting weights.

I’m sure I’m not alone on this one.

I like to be the strongest one in the gym. When I am not, I push myself to get stronger.

When I was living in Bangkok, there was a really big guy (well, big upper body at least) who used to partial bench more than I could bench press.

This motivated me to bench more weight than he did, but with full range of motion (that is, the bar touching my chest with every rep), which I did.

Training at home, I don’t have anyone around me to compete with. Although I do compete with myself, trying to break my previous personal records, it’s really not the same as out lifting someone you see on a regular basis at the gym.

3. People Watching You

I’m not an attention whore, but having eyeballs on me when I lift weights is motivating, especially during my main sets. This is also known as social facilitation.

There’s a sense that an audience is around me and I would have to perform.

And because people are watching (at least, I think they’re watching...), I don’t want to look like I added too much weight to the bar and bit off more than I could chew, so there’s an extra bit of motivation to complete that last rep and not fail.

4. Mirrors

I don’t have any mirrors in my basement home gym. At least not yet.

I’m not the type of guy who trains for aesthetic purposes, but I have to admit it’s pretty awesome seeing yourself in the mirror after getting a huge pump.

Often times I would look in the mirror and see some guy with a big traps, huge back and a bubble butt. I’d think, “Damn, this guy is huge!”

Then I’d realize that I was looking at a reflection of another mirror on an opposite wall...and it was me all along. Sweet.

5. Answering Questions

I’m not the most approachable guy at the gym. I tend to be focused on my training and tune everything else out.

However sometimes people would ask questions, and I don’t mind answering as long as people listen (and as long as they’re not interrupting my training or taking too much of my time in between sets like that Mr. Million Questions guy who seems to manifest himself in every gym).

It’s rewarding to see that I helped make an impact on other people’s training, strength, and overall health.

6. Non-Verbally Inspiring People

At least in my past experience, sometimes I don’t have to say anything to inspire others in their training.

For instance, when I used to go to a gym in Bangkok, there would be a group of kids (either fresh out of high school or just starting university) who I knew watched me while I trained. After a few days, I would see them attempt the same thing, albeit a bastardized version of what I was doing. For example, my squat in the squat rack became their squat in the StarTrack Maxrack (a 3D Smith machine).

I even saw that they purchased the same equipment as me. I have the Schiek weight lifting straps that I use for deadlifts. One day, I saw the group of kids with the same straps using them for incline dumbbell bench presses and on the EZ-bar on the preacher curl bench.

I also carry around a belt at the gym. I use it during my main sets (and sometimes during my heavier warm-ups) during squat, deadlift and overhead press. After some time, I saw this same group of kids carry belts with them too and wore it for ALL lifts. But mainly the ones where you sit or lay down on a bench.

7. Personal Trainers with an Area of Expertise

At Fitness First Rama 3 in Bangkok, there were at least 2 former competitive Muay Thai boxers.

When I found out about this, I signed up for a few weeks of personal training sessions with one of the trainers and began my Muay Thai training (ironically, in comforts of an air conditioned commercial gym).

His English wasn’t that great, but through body language, he could communicate what I needed to do and what I was doing wrong.

Hitting the Thai pads with an experienced pad holder and former fighter sure beats any other conditioning exercise I’ve ever tried. And on top of that, he’s given me tips on improving my punches, kicks, knees and elbows.

There’s nothing like getting a killer workout while sharpening your skills under the guidance of someone who has been fighting in the ring even since he was a kid (children competing in full contact Muay Thai is normal in Thailand).

8. Rubber Coated Olympic Plates with Grips

I’m talking about something like this:

Urethane-Olympic-plate

Simply put, those rubber coated Olympic plates with built-in grips are easier to work with compared to steel Olympic plates with a bevelled edge.

It’s easier to carry around, doesn’t make that clanging noise when the plates hit each other, and are less vulnerable to rust.

Perhaps I’ll upgrade my weights in the future.

9. Super Expensive Specialized Machines

I’m not a big fan of exercise machines, especially those that are designed to replace their free weight counterpart.

But there are some machines I miss, and although I could buy them myself, they would cost an arm and a leg.

The machine I miss the most is the Freemotion “functional trainer” machine, pictured below:

freemotion-functional-trainer

Now, why would I miss this somewhat gimmicky looking machine?

It’s because the adjustable height of the pulley makes it easy to train my neck. What I do is attach my Ironmind neck harness to the machine, and adjust the pulley at the lowest level to do neck extensions, and then adjust the pulley to around eye level to do neck flexion and side flexion.

I’ve tried attaching a plate to neck harness and perform neck exercises. It works fine for neck extensions, but it doesn’t work as well when I’m trying to train the front and sides of my neck.

I would also use the same machine for face pulls.

The other machine I miss, and have only seen it in one gym (Popeye’s, which is now World’s Gym in Kitchener, Ontario), is the 4-way neck machine. These machines don’t come cheap either.

4-way-neck-machine

10. Compliments

Getting compliments from others feels good.

It’s a small reward for the time, money and energy I’ve invested in the pursuit of strength.

There’s nothing like a “YOU’RE A MONSTER!” from someone after nearly crushing myself with 400lbs+ on my back.

Feels Good Man

Feels good man!

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Have you switched from a commercial gym and started training at home?

If so, what do you miss from training at the last gym you were a member of?

Leave your comments below :)

Squat

  • 367.5lbs:5

Overhead Press

  • 207.5lbs: 3

Deadlift (Hook Grip)

  • 317.5lbs: 3
  • 337.5lbs: 3
  • 367.5lbs: X

Notes

Used the hook grip for deadlifts. Felt OK, but it seems as though my pain tolerance is only up to 3 reps for now.

At 367.5lbs, it felt as though I was going to rip my thumb off. Try again next time.