I am very blessed to have an awesome CrossFit gym super close to my home filled with great people, great equipment, and great camaraderie where I can both train and coach. That wasn’t always the case and there are seasons in life when a solid garage gym serves you well. My top reasons for having a garage gym are 1. You can train whenever you have the time, whether it’s 5am barefoot in your pajamas, 1-2pm while your toddler naps, or 8pm after the kiddos are asleep, 2. You can work out together with your spouse in the early morning hours before heading off to work , 3. You can practice skills that need work or interest you (some of which you’d rather not have an audience for!) and 4. You can get your kids involved by doing family WODs or CrossFit kids homeschool style.
Our garage gym has taken on several forms as we’ve moved around. It’s a living breathing project. As we develop new interests we save money for new equipment. My best advice is to think about your strength and conditioning goals and prioritize your shopping list. If you can’t bust the bank for a squat rack right away, aim for a solid pull up bar, and a barbell with plates. While you won’t necessarily be breaking PRs in your back squat, at least your Olympic lifts will shine on. Rogue Fitness has an impeccable website with more information than I could ever provide, but here’s how we got started:
1. Assess what you have that could work for you.
- Old dumbbells make cheap replacements for kettle bells and all around effective training tools.
- Bench from your “lifting” days.
- Yoga mat, jump rope, rowing machine, treadmill (gasp….but think 800m sprints when it’s pouring rain or your kids are sleeping!)
- Sandbag. With just this alone you can do almost anything you can do with a barbell. Click here and scroll down to sandbag for a comprehensive list with instructional videos from Mountain Athlete. Love.
2. Buy a PVC pipe from your local hardware store.
- Do the Burgener Warm-up and practice overhead squats with it every training day.
- Consider taping it with barbell knurl marks.
- Even if you never purchase your own barbell, you can still perfect technique with a bit of purposeful intensity.
3. Measure your useable floor space and consider flooring options.
- 3/4 in rubber horse stall mats from your local feed and supply house are your best bet.
- We started with puzzle piece rubber gym mats, but they proved to be too thin and came apart easily.
4. Select a squat rack with pull-up bar or stand alone pull-up bar.
- S2 or S3 from Rogue are good places to start.
- Dirty South bar upgrade has multiple pull-up bar heights–handy if you and the husband are sharing a rack.
- Choose a stand alone pull up bar depending on your mounting requirements.
- Doorway bars are excellent for maintaining minimal daily sets (every time you walk through a certain doorway, etc) but limit your training options for true dead hang or learning to kip.
- Build your own mounted pull-up bar or garden pull-up bar.
- Build your own power rack.
5. Select a barbell.
- Burgener & Rippetoe (B & R) bars for all-around use, durability and reasonable price.
- Bella bar is the perfect gift for the lady in your life.
6. Select bumper plates and clips.
- Rogue bumber plates by HI TEMP for indestructibility. You will not regret these.
- Consider 5 or 10lb technique plates or make your own from plywood.
- Economy spring collars or fancier Rogue HG collars.
7. Think about plate storage.
- Keep it simple with plates stacked on the ground
- Vertical plate storage to keep your rack grounded–especially while doing kipping pull-ups.
- Make your own plate rack.
8. Select rings and straps.
- Rogue rings and straps.
- Ours simply hang from the top pull-up bar and slide to the side or wrap around when not in use.
- This ceiling mount is on my wish list.
9. Think about plyo boxes.
- We used 20in tall “tough boxes” with plywood nailed to the top for a long time–adequate and basically free.
- Upgraded to the Rogue games boxes–again, better with multiple heights if you’re sharing with your hubby.
- Construct them yourself if you’re handy, which I am not.
10. Make a wish list of equipment for the future.
- Kettlebells, medicine balls, AbMats, GHD, climbing rope, speed rope, sled, atlas stones.
- Make your own: paralettes, slosh pipe, and more.
All that aside though, when life gets busy and the summer vacations start, I never leave home without this bodyweight workout resource. It is super comprehensive and has saved me from slumps many times.
Here’s to summer!