While strength, fitness and good health are not my sole passion in life, they are an important piece of what makes me tick. In the Summer of 2008, I decided to get out of commercial gyms entirely and put together a gym of my own right in my basement.
Since I get asked a bit about my gym, what kind of training and I do, etc., I thought it might be easiest to just put it all in one spot.
The Video Walkthrough:
There are some definite updates since I did the video above, so if you are not interesting in listening to the dulcet tones of my voice (which seems impossible, but I suppose it could happen), here is a photo tour through Acerbus et Ingens/Fierce and Mighty.
As you first walk in, this is what greets you at the bottom of the stairs. Acerbus et Ingens (Latin for “Fierce and Mighty”) is the name of my training space and that is a good-sized custom sticker I picked up on-line and slapped up on the wall. In addition, we have the requisite manly movie poster with “300” and then a free poster I got from EliteFTS.com (more on them in a bit since they are the major contributors to most of the equipment in my gym).
This is the absolute cornerstone of my home gym (as it should be for any truly properly assembled home training space). From here, I can do pretty much anything strength training-related. This is the Build Your Own 3X3 Professional Rack from EliteFTS. This should last me for the rest of my life and because of that, it was not overly difficult for me to plunking down the chunk of change required to get it. In terms of weight you see hung on the sides, I have a total of 535 lbs of plates (eight 45 lb. plates, two 35 lb. plates, two 25 lb. plates, four 10 lb. plates, two 5 lb. plates and two 2.5 lb plates.) There are some other specialty weights here as well that I will get to in a second. The bar you see resting in the rack is a 1500 lb test bar… so… umm… it should pretty much handle anything I can throw at it outside of my getting some kind of gamma radiation and turning into the Incredible Hulk.
A little bit of the close-up of more of the rack. So you can see the plates hung neatly on the sides of the rack (I don’t leave my plates just lying around – it’s important to me to treat the place I train with the utmost respect. You get out of it what you give it.)
The middle photo is the monkey chin bar option for the rack. I’m a big fan of it because it allows for so many options for pull-ups and chin-ups from wide to narrow grips and some nice neutral grips as well. As you can see, I am a fan of the chalk for improving grip – heck, this alone practically makes training at home superior to any commercial gym where chalk is shunned as “messy” (regardless of the improved safety it provides).
The final photo here on the far right is the dip attachment for the rack. I’m a really big fan of dips for upper body development and strength. I’ve heard them described as the “upper body squat” and I cannot say I disagree.
Here are some of the more specialty weights and such. On the far left I have my fractional plates. These are 1.25 lbs. each and magnetized, so they allow for smaller jumps in weight over the course of sessions. While it may seem goofy to go to, for example, 227.5 lbs from 225 lbs (as opposed to just jumping to 230 lbs), but every little bit of improvement matters. Hell, if I could improve a PR in one of my big lifts by 2.5 lbs every week for a year, that’s a 130 lb. improvement (and most people NEVER get that kind of progress).
The middle photo is one of my two 45 lb. bumper plates. These are rubber coated plates designed for any kind of lifts that involve dropping the bar on the floor (deadlifts, Olympic lifts, etc.) so that the bar and your floor don’t take too much of a pounding in the process.
The last one is one of the more recent additions – a 24kg (53 lb) kettlebell. I’m not one of those people who use kettlebells for every part of my training session, but they are actually a good tool for doing different sorts of strength work as well as being a pretty kick-ass conditioning tool. Some people treat the kettlebell as if it were the Holy Grail of training and no other equipment is required. To each their own, I suppose. I just think it is another tool in the toolbox.
The bar you see on the far left is a Swiss bar from the nice folks at EliteFTS. It weighs 35 lbs. and provides some cool variety for all kinds of pressing and rowing movements. The beauty of it is that with the neutral grip (i.e. palms facing each other), you take a lot of stress off your shoulders. I just like it because it provides a nice change of pace.
In the center is one of the more ghetto pieces in my gym. On the bottom is a milk crate with a piece of wood duct-taped to it. Currently this is what I use for step-ups and box squats… and let’s be honest here… it’s an absolutely abomination from a safety standpoint. I need to get (or build) something more sturdy soon. On top are some 2X4’s, some of which are either wood-glued or duct-taped together. I use these to raise the height of the milk care of death and also for board presses (which if you do not know what they are, please see here).
The photo on the far right is my Xvest which is an adjustable weight vest that can go anywhere from 1 to 40 lbs. depending on how many of the weight rods you place into it. This basically takes any bodyweight exercises and makes it A LOT harder. I use these most for all kinds of push-ups, but I have also put it at less than maximum weight when kicking around the soccer ball.
Outside of the power rack, this is another essential piece in my home gym arsenal and really one of my favorites. This is a Glute Ham Raise bench from EliteFTS. This is one of the best ways to develop your entire backside – calves, hamstrings, glutes and lower back (aka the posterior chain and one of the critical areas for anyone with any kind of athletic interest). There are some hooks at the bottom to attach bands to in order to increase the resistance on the exercise… which, truth be told… a lot of people do not seem to know what it looks like. So I submit for your consideration, the following:
Magical isn’t it? Plus you get more video of me and that’s always a good thing… errr…. yeah.
No home gym would be complete without some dumbbells, but the problem is always space. How can you have as many options on weights to use without cluttering up an inordinate amount of space and not resorting to really old school and completely difficult adjustable dumbbells? Thankfully, the Quick-Lock dumbbell system takes up very little space, is easy to use and is rock-solid when used.
In addition, from the same company that makes the Quick Lock dumbbells (Ironmaster), I got an adjustable bench/pulley system. The bench I use for any kind of (surprise!) bench press movement or anything else seated. When I need to do some kind of pulley/cable work (usually different kinds of seated rows), I lock the bench into the cable stand, load on weight plates and away I go.
Bear in mind that what is great about all of this is that it is space-efficient which is something to always be mindful of in planning a home training space. Most people do not have 1000 square feet of open space to just do whatever they want with. I am very fortunate with my space which, while not large, is perfect to accommodate everything I do with my one man show.
Now onto some of the “accessories” and such found around the place:
Starting on the far left is my Bose iPod speaker system. I am laughing a little looking at this because I am thinking back to the other day when one of my soccer teammates came over to lift. I am not one for lifting in silence – ever. I like to use music to get me geeked up and focused in my training. It always makes a difference for me. Well, my buddy likes to lift in either silence or with soft music. I am still blown away by that…
The center photo is of the chalkboard I use for keeping track of any of my personal records (although I am probably keeping a much more accurate list in Evernote where I log all of my training). Either way, I think it’s important to know what marks you are looking to beat whenever you have a training session. It gives more purpose to what you are doing and I would much rather be improving than simply standing still.
The final picture on the right is not a bowl full of flour as I prepare to make a delicious batch of buttermilk biscuits (although that does sound good right about now). That is just a pretty regular stainless steel mixing bowl from Target that I glued down to a shelving platform and filled up with my lifting chalk. If you have never used chalk to improve your grip, I cannot barely describe what you are missing out on. The difference between using chalk and attempting to grab a barbell in a commercial gym that has the greasy residue of every person before you on it is night and day.
Here are a couple of pieces of gear that I’ve found to be pretty indispensable for certain aspects of my training. On the left we have my lifting belt (OK, so the link I gave is not to the exact one, but EliteFTS does not sell this one any more so I linked to a single prong belt… hmm… which has the ElitEFTS logo. Snazzy.) I tend to use this for my biggest sets on squats and deadlifts so that my vertebrae do not attempt to flee my body during a particularly gnarly set. No on needs that… certainly not me.
On the right are my right are my very trusty Rehband knee sleeves. I started using them based on an article I saw from Mike Robertson a few years back as an effective way to knee your knees warmed-up and comfortable during leg workouts. I would be borderline paranoid doing squats without them at this point and my knees have certainly felt a lot better since I started using them.
Almost to the finish line. Can you almost taste the sweet nectar of victory?
On the far left we have a collection of some items for a variety of training purposes. The yellow contraption with the chains is a neck harness for doing direct neck work with weight. Given my recent issues with the bulging disk between by C5/C6 vertebrae, I am a little gunshy about using this recently. The light gray pouch is basically what I used to keep my chalk in. Now that I have my nifty chalk bowl, I will probably just use it in the event I go elsewhere to train and want to bring some chalk along. Behind the chalk are some lifting straps which, truthfully, I never use. I stopped using any kind of assistance to my grip like that a few years ago when I switched to just chalk. The result? Much stronger grip and forearms. Imagine that. Next on the right in bright red is my dip belt that I used to add weight for any dipping I do. Finally, tucked in behind the dip belt (and barely visible) is my jump rope. My warm-up routine before every training session involves foam roller, stretching and some jump rope.
The center picture shows my EliteFTS bands. These are a handy way to add resistance (and sometimes assistance) on a lot of different exercises. I use the red minis when I am doing my glute ham raises to make them tougher, but I can also use one gray band near the end of my pull-up/chin-up sets to get some extra help in as I get tired. They are endlessly useful, easy to transport and a great way to freshen up your training.
The final photo on the right are my various tools for recovery and to keep my body working properly. First we have the foam roller (that lovely black pillar) that I use before every lifting session. It gets out a lot of knots and loosens me up nicely before I start my lifts. On top of the foam roller are 2 Spiky Balls. These handy little suckers are great for a more targeted way to get at tight spots in your muscles, but can even just be used to roll under your feet for a nice little foot massage. Last but not least is the Monster Stick (no seriously… that’s what it’s called). It’s basically a rod that is semi-rigid and has a series of 1 inch spindles on it that you roll along your muscles to loosen them up. I find these great for my lower leg since my calves (and whatever that muscle along the front of my shin is called) get a bit tight and this gets at them better than anything else I’ve tried.
Final item is my Polar Heart Rate Monitor. I wear this whenever I am doing my conditioning work, especially hill sprints or my beloved Prowler. It’s always a good time to see how close I am coming to my heart exploding in my chest. I mean, if it’s gonna happen, I would at least like to know what the number was when it did. For posterity sake and my training log, of course.
Wow. That was a lot longer than I thought it would be, but that is the full overview of my home gym and the training implements contained therein (updated as of August 20, 2010). As new toys come my way (and they will), I will revise this page accordingly. As always, if you have any questions on any of this madness, drop me a line.