Building the Garage Gym
Bottom Line Up Front: I have gone to a gym to workout most of my life. I would occasionally exercise without a gym, but once I got into CrossFit in 2008, it became a necessity to have not only a gym but a CrossFit-equipped gym. This is how I built my own garage gym.
I had always managed to find a gym to use that some CrossFitter before me rigged up on a military installation (pull-up rig, bumper plates, boxes, GHD machine, med balls, etc.). I did, however, have occasion to have my own mecca closed for a holiday or a weekend. I decided to invest in some base-level home gym things so I could get a good workout in no matter what.
My initial investment was in kettlebells, rings, and a medicine ball. I felt like these would offer me the best bang for my buck being small enough to put in the garage and useful enough to keep me entertained. Rings are super easy to hang from pull-up bars too for some ring dips, ring rows, or ring push-ups. I got 3 KBs: 35lbs (1 pood), 53lbs (1.5 pood), and 70lbs (2 pood), one set of Rogue rings, and a 20lb medicine ball (Dynamax of course). I got them all from Rogue Fitness. I already had a jump rope as well. With this equipment, a piece of land, a track, and a pull-up rig that you can find on any military installation, I could never be unable to exercise.
Phase two was to buy some bumper plates and a barbell to have at home too. I got a Rogue Operator bar, two 45lb bumpers, and two 25lb bumpers. I ended up bringing the barbell to the gym with me since the bars they had were terribly old powerlifting bars (no whip, not meant for Olympic lifting).
At this point I had a good amount of things I owned to keep me busy.
To recap, these are the exact items I bought and I can vouch for their quality years later:
- Rogue Operator Bar 1.0 (the link is to the new 2.0 version which I want but cannot justify in terms of cost. Mine is still rock solid.)
- Rogue Rings (Ranger Green)
- Rogue Kettlebells
- Rogue Hi-Temp Bumper Plates (excellent price to durability ratio)
Then in 2013, I moved to a new duty station where my daughter’s school was 100 feet away from my office. I didn’t have mandatory morning physical training either, so I could actually go to work at 0830. They also happened to have a stacked CrossFit affiliate on the installation for me to use for free, so it was a no-brainer for me to get up early and workout before work. My wife floated the idea of me taking my daughter to school every day (bus wasn’t an option) which would save her a trip to and from every morning. Initially I thought it was a bad idea because I hate working out in the afternoon. But I thought about it more and the improvement on my wife’s day would be huge, so I decided to augment my initial investment in equipment with what I needed to be able to workout at home. Over the course of a few weeks, I ordered the following large pieces:
- More Hi-Temp Bumpers (400 lbs in total)
- Rogue S-4 Squat Stand
- Concept 2 Model D Rower in black
- Rogue Games Box (20″, 24″ and 30″ high based on how it sits)
- Rogue P-4 Pull-up System (installs quickly into the wall with lag bolts in a stud)
The deal with all of this was that it had to be collapsible into a corner of my garage so I could still park my car in there at night. I have a thing about cold cars in the morning. This was meant to be transportable too with my inevitable next PCS move. If I was in my “forever” home, I may have gotten a large rig and more fixed pieces. Here are some photos of the finished product.
As I said, the move was inevitable so I put all my gear into a van (along with some other essential things like my family, dog, and clothes) and moved again. This time I was able to set up the gym pretty quickly.
Turns out my new house has the best thing ever: A John Deere room! I use it as a permanent garage gym that is located in my basement. If you don’t know, it is a second garage that opens up into the backyard to put a lawn mower or yard tools. I just use it for my gym so I could put the permanent-ish (I can move it to change homes but not every day) floor down without an issue. I used the opportunity to put in some Horsestall Mats from Tractor Supply for gym flooring. Huge addition that I put off for a while because they are too static. These are about 1/5th the price of a true “gym” floor material. They are heavy as hell but they are awesome. My regular garage is just now a garage and doesn’t have to transform. It is a lot warmer than my last garage which was serious business in the winter in the midwest.
Additional smaller items I purchased over time before, during, and since setting up the gym:
- PVC Pipe
- 50lb Slam Ball
- Rogue SR-2 Ballistic Speed Rope (you have to be really good at jumping rope to use this)
- Rogue “E” Sled
- Rogue Parallettes
- Foam Roller: This one and this one and this one in large firm (Mobility!!!)
- Brute Belt (for weighted dips and pull-ups)
- GoRuck Sandbag (60lb bag filled with 80lbs of sand. Excellent quality as with all their gear. Worth the money if you are into this sort of thing.)
I re-purposed some old tech to use as an entertainment center as well. I took an 25-inch computer monitor and hooked up a Chromecast to it. I stream music (usually Pandora) and watch YouTube videos, Netflix, podcasts, anything that uses Chromecast technology. I use a pair of Logitech desktop computer speakers for sound. I had them for at least 5 years, got a new set even though I didn’t need to (they work really well still!), and put the old set into the gym. Logitech peripherals are my go-to for anything computer-related. I have countless keyboards, mice, speakers, and web cams, all from Logitech. I also hooked up my old Playstation 3 to it as well. I use it to watch football on the weekends (NFL Sunday Ticket!) but not really for anything workout-related.
I use an old Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (first gen!) as a clock. Downloaded a great Android app called…wait for it…Stopwatch & Timer. The premium version is worth the few bucks for greatly added features useful for CrossFit style workouts (EMOMs, Tabata, different time intervals, etc.). The tablet is only used to control Pandora and run the clock.
Finally, I built a few things as well. I wanted some jerk blocks, but the cost was outrageous. I found some good plans online from Catalyst Athletics that we modified in the process of construction. Ended up costing me less than 300 bucks. I stained them later on for durability which is why they look different in some later photos.
I also built a bench to do flat presses with. My Rogue Squat Stands can drop the bar all the way down to be able to bench press from. I didn’t want to buy a bench as it is too expensive and I would use it too infrequently. So I built a small box that looks like a flat bench without the legs. Turns out it is just right to not hit your elbows on the ground. Cost less than $20 to build.
Finally, like any good CrossFit gym, I installed a large white board. They have giant squares of these at Lowe’s for less than $20. Cut to size if needed, throw in some screws, done.
All in all, I have no issues at all working out at home. It is unbelievably convenient and I have the discipline to keep it up. I hate working out in gyms now. I go sometimes to do rope climbs or GHD work that I can’t do in my place, but it isn’t the same. Nothing like creating your own space for something as important as this is to me. Turns out I am not the only one.
QUESTIONS: Do you have a home gym? Do you like the idea of a home gym? Do you have some minimalist equipment you own but still attend a gym for the majority of your workouts? Post thoughts to comments.