Why Your Home Gym Should Have Real Equipment, Not All-In-One Machines
Alright, I know that you’ve seen the commercials. Guys who are absolutely ripped, women who are slim and ultra-toned. And what are they doing? Exercising on a multi-weight trainer or similar home-workout machine! Of course that’s how they got those muscles, right? That’s what they’d have you believe, anyway. In truth, some of these machines aren’t quite as effective as the commercials make them out to be. In fact, they cost a small fortune while failing to deliver real results.
And this is a big deal…you want to get your fitness routine right and you want something that actually works, considering the dire statistics out there. Like this: based on information from the National Center for Health Statistics, the United States has reached an all-time high for obesity with almost 40 percent of adults being overweight and 19 percent of youth. If you’re going to commit to fitness, make sure it counts!
What’s Wrong with an All-in-One Machine?
While the producers of the these at-home all-in-one machines may not flat out lie to you, research studies have shown that machine based exercises are not as effective at helping you gain strength or improve other things like balance.For example, in this study, they showed that fixed form (machines, basically) exercise was significantly beat out by free form (free weights, basically) exercise. The results speak for themselves. Those participants who did free form exercises had a 58% advantage in strength gained, and a whopping 196% advantage in balance improvement.The biggest problem stems from how you’re not working as many muscles as the gym equipment claims. In fact, while it claims to be an all-in-one piece of gym equipment, it severely lacks in exercising a diversity of muscles, which will have an impact on your progress. As the study helps outline, the reason for this is often because the machines take away much of the stability work that you get from lifting free weights.
Those machines don’t require you to have perfect form, and they don’t require you to be in absolute control of the weight you’re lifting. Just think of a squat in a squat rack versus a smith machine squat. In this study, they showed that there was a 43% increase in muscle activity (via EMG) when doing squats versus smith machine squats. And while machines and “all-in-ones” have increased the amount of exercises you can do with them, you will still have a hard time getting a complete workout. Not to mention, once you have made it up to a certain level in bodybuilding, it’s tough to get a real pump and lift enough weight with an all-in-one machine. They’re typically tailored for newer fitness enthusiasts. Of course, it’s true that some kind of exercise machine will be better than nothing, but it lacks in too many areas for the dedicated bodybuilder. Studies have even been done that show increased hormonal responses for things like testosterone and growth hormone, when comparing a squat to a leg press. And a leg press is still a pretty good exercise!
Finally, you can tell a big difference between a machine and dumbbells. The workout feels much better, and you realize how you’re not as strong as you may have thought. This comes back to the muscles activated for stability, which I touched on above. And those muscles are insanely important when it comes to basic, everyday things like sitting down, picking up the groceries, bending over, and more. Without a good core, all of those things can bring with them pain and discomfort, and for me, that’s a huge reason why I choose to lift weights regularly. I don’t want life to hurt!
Getting Real Equipment for a Home Gym
Some of the most basic pieces of equipment that you may want for your home gym will include a barbell and weights, a bench, a squat rack, kettlebells and maybe something like a jump rope. While it may seem daunting to set up your own gym, if you focus on the basic compound movements like squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, and that kind of thing, you realise you only need a few things. You can also do curls and skull crushers with the barbell, or for more finesse work, even pick up some dumbbells.
Other than the actual pieces of equipment themselves, make sure you get some soft interlocking tiles to go on the floor to protect both your floor and the equipment, especially if you’ll be doing things like deadlifts, which may hit the ground pretty hard if you miss a rep or finish a set quickly. Then, make sure to measure your space to get the right size rack and bench. They do come in different heights and sizes, so you should be able to get what you need, even if you only have a small space in the basement or your garage.
Choose the weight set that makes sense for your current (and goal) lifts. If you know you’ll never lift more than 300 pounds on anything, and keeping in mind your barbell will likely weigh 45 pounds, build a set that has enough pieces to do incremental increases each week, but not enough that you’ll never use them all. Once you get the equipment, choose an exercise routine (not a 12-week program or something) that you can follow for months, that has you slowly increasing weight each week to make sure you continue to progress. Then it’s all about setting up your gym and getting to work!
Changing Your Mindset
A lot of people who search for a “home gym” come into it thinking they’ll buy an all-in-one cable machine or something, and I think it’s pretty obvious from the studies I’ve linked to here that that’s not the best choice. It does require a bit of a mindset shift, but it doesn’t have to be as daunting as you originally assume it’s going to be. I mean, if you’ve never been in a gym and haven’t spent years trying routines and reading about fitness and how to get results, how are you going to know how to actually use what you buy? But I promise you, if you get the basics as we’ve outlined above, all you need to do is pick the right program, and start to use the weights regularly.
For most people, I like to see them do something that will build strength by focusing on the core, compound exercises. Things like StrongLifts 5×5 and PHUL are a great place to start. Honestly just pick one of those, start, and you’ll see what works for you. I know personally that they get results, so they should be a great place to start for many people.
So now you’ve got the basic formula for a successfully built home gym experience that uses free weights and things that will actually get you results.