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Home Gym 101. The ESSENTIALS and how to MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU.

Posted by Mark Quesada on

You used to train all the time when you were in University, hell I know you probably skipped a few classes to train. Who needs Geography 201 anyways, right?. Even after you graduated you had little responsibility and likely more money which left no excuse to not look your best. You were probably training regularly like your university days. Fast forward a few years. Half your co-workers are laid off so you’re doing the work of 4 people. Your boss doesn’t care about your fitness goals; he wants those damn cover sheets on the TPS reports. So when are we gonna find the time to start rippin' burpee box jumps? 


Maybe your job isn’t a journey into the literal pits of hell but you’ve got something significantly more important to dedicate your time to; Your family. You’re home at a reasonable hour and working a regular schedule but you’d rather not have to turn around and drive to a gym or CrossFit box. Maybe you want to train first thing in the morning? Maybe you're just sick of having to deal with "Gym Guy" for your entire work out. Nobody drops dumbbells and drinks water out of 4L milk jugs around here but me...


Perhaps you’re having great success at your gym or CrossFit box but want to improve your strength and technique through additional work or accessory exercises. Perhaps you are a stay at home parent and your family’s schedule dictates that you split up your strength and conditioning to open time slots in your day. Perhaps, embarrassingly, you can only hit PR's with a little help from the Beibs. 

You can likely guess what I’m point towards now. Yes, the MIGHTY HOME GYM.



  1. Home gyms allow for unlimited flexibility in how and when you train.
  2. With quality gyms or CrossFit boxes ranging from $120-$200/month a home gym investment often pays out in less than a year especially if your spouse/kids/friends/neighbors utilize it as well.
  3. You can improve weaknesses in your training that you wouldn’t normally be able to address either due to a lack of time, schedule conflicts or lack of equipment at your training facility.
  4. Maybe you like training to a strange mix of DMX and Mariah Carey. 


Building your home gym


Obviously you need adequate space. Basements and garages are the first choice. If there’s not enough room to train it can be dangerous especially with overhead movements.

  • Roof height: Ideally you’d want 10 ft for overhead work otherwise 8-9ft will be adequate.
  • Flooring: You’ll want to lay down rubber matting to protect you and your gear.
  • Insulation: If you’re building your gym in your garage and you live north of San Francisco you should ensure your garage is properly insulated. Trust me, -20C with no insulation takes warming up to a whole new level.
  • Room Size: 24x24ft is ideal but that’s likely your entire garage. Half of this space in some form is ideal either in your garage or in your basement.
  • Ventilation: The stench of rubber matting or fresh bumpers will make you want good ventilation.


 And the wife of the year award goes to….!

Kitchen Home Gym




Now the fun part! They key is to not cheap out here. Commit to quality even if its second hand.



We’ve got a great buying guide for all the Vulcan gear we carry. Really, you should stick with a quality bar that’s geared for your training style. If you’re powerlifting, stick with a power lifting bar. If it’s CrossFit, roll with a good bushing bar with no center knurling. If you’re passionate about weightlifting splurge on a nice Olympic bar with IWF markings and center knurling.

 Barbell Bros - Vulcan Strength Olympic and Specialty Bars Canada



I can’t stress quality enough…. don’t let THIS happen to you:



Pretty simple here. Black bumpers will do for most home gyms. If you want to show off to your neighbor, grab some colored bumpers. If you love weightlifting snag some competition bumpers. Vulcan Alpha bumpers are also a great option for home/garage gyms - A better alternative to traditional crumb rubber plates, Alphas are 25% quieter when dropped overhead, low odor, and can be used outside if you want to work on your tan while you lift. Again, quality is key. All Vulcan bumpers have forged stainless inserts that are anchored in the plate. The insert is usually the Achilles heel of cheap bumpers…. You’ve been warned!


Squat Rack/Rig:

You’re going to want something that has a pull up bar and is sturdy enough to handle any weight you can throw at it. Be conscious of your roof height…. you don’t want have to use a bike helmet to complete pull-ups. Sturdy J-hooks are important too. Most racks with come with spotter arms also.



These are essential for accessory or isolation work and are ideal to build strength if you’re not ready for barbell work. Traditional Hex DBs are the most durable and cost effective, but if space is a concern I’d recommend an adjustable set like Bowflex DBs, or Powerblocks.



Who would have thought you could do so much with such a simple thing? You can perform kettlebell swings with these or switch it up to unilateral movements like one arm push press or snatches.


Conditioning Gear:

Everyone has a love hate relationship with WODs that leave that tin taste in your mouth. Assault Bikes, Concept 2 rowers, battling ropes, speed ropes and slam balls are the tools for the job when coming up with these punishing WODs. Thankfully all of these items have a very small footprint making them ideal for smaller spaces. The rowers, while long can be stored vertically.  


Sound System:

I don’t know about you but I can’t throw down 100% in dead silence. This isn’t the library; this is where you’ll impose your will on your brand new weights. I need my rap remixes!  Music is a must have.


Getting Results

You’ve got your swagged out home gym and you’re ready to start killing some PRs. Before you start you need to ask yourself if you are skilled enough to complete all movements you’re going to be banging out in your new gym. If you’re relatively new or uncomfortable performing all the movements, I recommend spending some time with a personal trainer or at your nearest CrossFit box.

Don’t let this be you:


Once you’re comfortable on your own you definitely need a plan if you want your home gym to pay dividends in the form of you kicking ass during WODs or weightlifting. Below are some resources for programs that will get you the results you’re looking for.


Barbell Shrugged:

They have programs for muscle gain, prepping for the games and getting shredded. The great part is their programs often include nutrition advice that is invaluable. Having completed the 6-month muscle gain challenge I can confidently vouch for their programs. Plus the shrugged crew has hilarious videos that you’ll love.


California Strength:

While I’ve personally never used Cal Strength programming they have trained a plethora of elite level athletes including games competitors and NFL players. These guys are the real deal.


Catalyst Athletics & Mash Elite Performance:

 These are 2 other excellent reputable sources for programming. 

There are lots of choices to suit whatever goals you have. Take some time to research them and ask lots of questions.


Finally, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking care of your nutrition if you want your hard work to pay off. If the program you’ve selected doesn’t include a meal plan I recommend renaissance periodization. I currently use their auto templates. The templates are laid out so well, your greatest obstacle to navigating them will be your ability to read….. THEY ARE THAT SIMPLE AND STRAIGHTFORWARD. I’ve been really pleased with my results so far.

Have a look locally for online nutritional coaching. There could be businesses that operate online but are based out of your city and may allow some face to face opportunities before you make a commitment. One such example in my hometown of Calgary is Project PR.

This should get you going to build your dream home gym that you’re looking for. Follow a sound training and nutrition program and you’ll be getting faster and stronger while training on your schedule.


Have you built a home gym or are planning to? How’s your training going?

Let me know!

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