Join a Gym or Train at Home?

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Go check out my blog at: for more articles and commentary. Let’s examine the obvious disadvantages first. One of the biggest disadvantages of training at a commercial gym is the time required to drive to the gym. Sometimes one spends more time driving to the gym than actually working out. Bummer! Next on the list is the money spent on gas. And let’s not discuss the sizeable down payments that some gyms require, not to mention the monthly dues… It quickly becomes obvious that it is totally possible to spend close to $1,000 a year or more on the associated gym fees and the fuel expense. For a lot of folks this sum is exorbitant, especially in this recessionary environment. What do we do then?

The obvious answer here is to build a home gym. I have plenty of experience in this area. Many, many years ago I casually mentioned to one of my good friends that I wanted to start working out so that I would have some preparation for a required P.E. class. He told me that he had some equipment (a small bench and some weights) that he no longer used and that I was welcome to keep if only I would transport it to my apartment. I gladly accepted and started training shortly thereafter. What a great experience that was! I trained whenever I wanted, played whatever music I wanted, and no one barked at me to “rack the weights.” Cool.

After a few months of training I grew stronger and I realized that I would have to invest in more weights-the cement weight set totalled about 130 lbs. My brother drove me to the local Academy and I purchased a Weider 130 lb. cast iron weight set for like $30. I used this very basic setup for my first years of training-there’s no way that I could afford a gym membership at this particular juncture of my life. A few years after this I bought an olympic bench with attachments AND 310 lb. olympic set for like $120. What a steal! I published the lifting program that was handed down to me by my college coach in another blog.

What’s the point of all this? To illustrate the fact that I spent a little over $200 to procure all the equipment that I currently still use. Not bad, eh? Nevertheless, I feel compelled to mention some of the disadvantages of owning a home gym, if only to offer a fair and balanced perspective on this important topic.

The biggest disadvantage of owning a home gym is the necessity of periodically moving the equipment by virtue of being an apartment dweller. This is a non-issue for home owners (lucky bastards!). Believe me, it’s no fun climbing a flight of stairs with a 130 lb. barbell on your shoulders…several times. My pal who helped me move several years ago nearly passed out from moving all the heavy weights up a flight of stairs. Poor guy!

Another big disadvantage of training alone in one’s home gym is the lack of a spotter. This is probably why serious weightlifters always join a gym. Having a training partner who’s really pumped up about lifting will usually bring out the best in the fitness enthusiast. If your partner is benching 3 plates and you’re only able to press 2, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll close the gap shortly. Also, you can pick up alot of advanced training methods at a commercial gym and increase your progress as a result.

The home trainee will have to be informed, disciplined and highly motivated if he desires to extract maximum utility from his equipment. Otherwise the equipment will become a not-so-gentle reminder of a bad investment. I have many friends who thoughtlessly purchased ab rollers, medicine balls, soloflexes etc., with the intention of acquiring that six-pack just in time for summer. All these devices eventually ended up collecting dust in the closet or in the garage. All this can be avoided with a little bit of follow-through and discipline.

Personally, I feel that the money I spent on my gym has been the best investment by far. I still made liberal use of the university gym, don’t get me wrong. I just never liked the fact that it was always packed from 5-7 pm, like all commercial gyms everywhere. I trained with a few lifters who were as, or more motivated than me to train. I always enjoyed that.

Join a gym or train at home? Train at home, hands down. The great thing about it is that one could build the gym gradually, like I did. I eventually purchased sets of dumbells from 20 lbs. to 60 lbs. I’ll eventually procure a squat rack and some other accessories when I settle down. Training at one’s very own home gym is definitely the way to go. You won’t regret it.


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