Body Conquest Articles | Training at Home
Can you Train Effectively at Home?Is it possible to train at home and achieve the same results as if you trained in a commercial fitness centre? You may be interested to know that yes, you can, and that it is perfectly feasible to achieve brilliant results and within a reasonable budget. It doesn't cost the earth to set up your own playground of iron without burning a hole in your pocket-you just need some useful tip and savvy purchases.
Training at home can actually be very liberating and convenient. No more will you be commenting between home and the gym, no paying yearly gym membership fees, no waiting in line for a piece of machinery, and definitely no having to sit on someone else's' pile of sweat.
So what's the first step? The very first thing that you should do is designate a spot that is now going to "your gym". Choose the best place, such as the rumpus room, an old shed out the back, convert part or all of the garage or even the basement. If you can, choose a room that has some fresh air ventilation. If this is not possible, at a minimum, a heating and cooling system and portable fans should provide air circulation. Make sure that you have adequate lighting. Natural light from windows or skylights sparks the exercise spirit and can also provide visual distraction.
Once you have designated a space, make it feel and look like a gym. Re-create a gym atmosphere by having a sound system, at least one mirror to watch your technique and perhaps some inspirational posters around. Nothing like the likes of Ronnie, Jay and Monica to inspire you to sets of failure. Take the same attitude that you have at your fitness centre into your home gym-"workout time-lets get down to business". Plan your program and workout as you normally would and stick to a daily routine. You will find a lot of your previous excuses cannot be used when training at home.
So what exactly do you need in terms of equipment once you have chosen your gym space? Well, to start with I would suggest a barbell and dumbbell set, a platform and an adjustable bench is all you need initially to get you going. A homemade platform is a great idea if you dead lift heavy or you drop your overhead lifts. What you can do which is cheap and easy is to cover 6 old tyres of the same size, arranged in two tight rows of three with a thick set of plywood. Nail a couple of 4 by 2's on the edge of the platform to prevent the barbell from rolling off. Top of the contraption with a thin sheet of rubber, and voila, there you have your ready platform.
An adjustable bench will allow you to do a multitude of angles and variations for chest, shoulders, back and abdominals. Don't have one straightaway? Don't stress, do floor presses instead, it's the same movement as the bench press except that you are lying down on the floor. What about legs you ask? Dead lifts and Jefferson squats will take care of them. If you have some extra dollars, invest in a power rack. Avoid cages with all the fancy attachments although a pull-up bar would be advantageous.
A barbell set and dumbbell set is going to allow for a full-body workout and the ability to target each muscle group just as you would in a commercial centre. As with a multi station available space, cost, ease and feel of use and safety are all factors to be considered. If you aren't lifting heavy weights a standard bar of around 1.5m in length will normally be adequate. For the more serious trainer an Olympic bar will be a better choice. They are just over 2m in length and have a greater cross-sectional area, making them considerably stronger and heavier-an Olympic bar weighs over 20kgs. They are also made of higher quality steel that flexes less under a heavy load and which also exhibits more "springiness" (the ability to return to the straight again once that load is removed. It would be remiss of me not to mention locking collars. I'm sure you have all seen gym bench presses loaded with plates without any collars on them, however they may be even more important to use at home as you may be training by yourself. Unless you have a death wish you need safety collars even if the weight is relatively light.
Screw-down collars are available for both standard and Olympic bars and consist of a metal outer sleeve with a threaded hole into which you tighten a knurled bolt. As the bolt is screwed against the barbell sleeve, the collar sleeve is held rigidly in place, thus preventing the plates from slipping off. The major advantage of these collars is that they are cheap. However they can be fiddly to use and because the bolt only makes contact with the barbell sleeve at one point, they are not particularly secure when used with heavy plates. If you choose to purchase an Olympic bar, a better alternative is a 'spin-lock" type collar. These use a heavy-duty sleeve whose internal radius can be increased or decreased by rotating an outer threaded section. The collar radius is adjusted so that it's just slightly larger than the barbell sleeve and slips on easily. Then a quick turn of the threaded section reduces the internal radius of the collar and clamps the collar onto the barbell sleeve. Crucially, this system clamps the sleeve over the whole of the contact area, rather than at just one point, making it an extremely safe and reliable method of securing the plates. The drawback to is cost-spin-lock collars are serious bits of engineering!
Adjustable barbells are popular for home gyms, but that begs the next question, which is what weight plates to use? If you are putting together your home gym ask your fitness dealer if they can supply you with a set of plates as this will work out considerably cheaper than if you buy the weight denominations separately. Olympic plates are normally made of cast iron. The higher the quality, the better will be the machining and the finish on the plates. some Olympic plates also have rubberised rims-not only do they look aesthetically pleasing, they also offer safety advantages. Some of the cheaper standard plates are made from vinyl. The plates wont get scuffed but they do tend to be bulky.
An alternative, nifty addition that doesn't cost very much is the kettle bell. A kettle bell is a classic iron tool available from russiankettlen\bell.com and enables you to do everything that you can with dumbbells plus many things that you cannot: repetition quick lifts, various presses, Turkish get-ups, overhead squats and arm wrestling curls. What is important when you are on a budget or tight on space, the traditional kettle bells training protocol does not require multiple weights; one or two bells are just fine.
If you decide that you want to purchase a home gym with several stations there are a number of basic things that should contribute to your decision on which gym is right for you. For example, what available space do you have, what exercises do you have, what exercises do you want to be able to perform to build your physique and what are your total fitness goals.
You need to examine the structure of the machine to make a judgement call on its durability and lifespan. When you perform an exercise does the frame remain rigid and strong or does it bend and flex. Equipment that bends and flexes should be avoided at all costs as undue movement can cause metal fatigue and ultimately results in the home gym failing. Upholstery of various home gyms vary considerably and you should pay attention to the thickness and density of the foam and also to the stitching as attention to detail or lack of is a sign of quality.
Another important criterion to consider is the biomechanical quality of an exercise. This is sometimes referred to as "trueness" of the exercise. For example, if your station has a seated chest press, how much do you feel the exercise in your pecs? Do you feel it in your lower, middle or upper pecs? Your inner or outer pecs? Do you feel they have been completely worked, or only so so? You are advised, if your budget allows, to pay a bit more and purchase off a leading manufacturer who has spent considerable money and research developing their gyms so that biomechanical trueness is at optimal levels.
You should also consider balancing your weight training with some kind of cardio activity. Three of the main components of fitness include cardiovascular conditioning, strength training and flexibility, and a choice decision on your cardio options can also ensure you can drop your body fat when you want or need too. Some examples of the more popular cardiovascular equipment you can choose from include treadmills, steppers and climbers, elliptical trainers, ski machines and lateral trainers, recumbent and upright bikes and rowing machines. Choose your cardio equipment based on the activities you enjoy, that way you will be more likely to use it. If you like running or cycling outdoors you may choose to balance that activity with a stepper or stationery bike for indoor workouts when time or weather don't permit.