Build me a home gym.
March 16, 2007 10:48 AM   Subscribe

What's minimal but sufficient equipment for a home gym?

I'm building a house and have space to put in some gym equipment. You can see the space here.

I want to put in as little equipment as possible, but I don't mind paying for something that's going to work really well. (If Apple made a gym I'd buy it).

The obvious choices are a decent spin bike and a set of weights, plus an exercise ball (which I already have), but I wonder if there are better choices, especially for the resistance element? I really hate free weight training/lifting with a deep deep hate and much prefer the machines you find in gyms.

Bonus points for equipment which is actually fun and enjoyable to use. More bonus points for equipment which the wife and kids will want to use. Even more bonus points for links to specific things I should buy!

My main sports activities are mountain biking in spring/summer/fall and snowboarding in winter. The gym is targeted at health/weight rather than performance though.
posted by unSane to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I really hate free weight training/lifting with a deep deep hate and much prefer the machines you find in gyms.

While I can't give you exact recommendations... I would say this is an important part of your answer...

Basically you want equipment that will cover both strength or cardio. So a bike would cover the cardio, and something for the strength, but while a weight bench and weights would normally be enough, if you hate them then avoid them at all costs.

I would really suggest going to a fitness store (or two or five) and finding out what you love to use.

But, I'll add one piece of equipment I'm guessing everyone else will forget... Get a television or a stereo. Ideally both, giving you something to occupy your mind with while you work out.
posted by drezdn at 11:01 AM on March 16, 2007

I love the elliptical. I don't know what it's called, but there is also one which doesn't have the handlebars, just the feet part - that is also very good. Your wife would probably enjoy those.

The problem is it doesn't look like that's really a good high is that ceiling? It looks very short, and with any equipment you'd find in a gym you're going to have trouble fitting it in there and being able to use it. Plus, that looks like an attic area, so you've got at least one flight to take that stuff up.

There is a ton of stuff you can do with just weights and an exercise ball, that won't get boring. For resistance, if you mean what I think you do, why not get those stretchy bands and do those types of workouts?
posted by jesirose at 11:05 AM on March 16, 2007

(I didn't preview)
drezdn is right. I listen to music while I work out, but I also like to have a TV on just to give me stimulus. Working on a machine means you see the same thing the whole time, and it gets boring quick. The TV gives you visual distraction to help pass the time on cardio, and music is very motivational.
posted by jesirose at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2007

I agree that the elliptical is a really fun machine which provides a really great cardio workout, and it's easy on the joints too. As for strength training, I believe that free weights are generally better for you than machines, but if you are dead set against them, maybe look into a Bowflex or Total Gym or something.
posted by tastybrains at 11:09 AM on March 16, 2007

Best answer: This article from Women's Health magazine should give you lots of tips. It breaks down home gyms by price range, and it gives specific equipment recommendations.

I think a simple treadmill is pretty versatile - you can vary speed & incline so anyone (without physical limitations) can get a great cardio workout.
posted by Amizu at 11:10 AM on March 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Rowing machines are expensive, but an incredibly good full body aerobic and strength workout. A pull up bar costs twenty dollars, takes up essentially zero space except for the top of your door frame, and will allow you to work many muscles in your upper body.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:24 AM on March 16, 2007

I also like the elliptical machines. I belong to a gym, and that's pretty much all I use.
posted by xammerboy at 11:26 AM on March 16, 2007

seconding a pull-up bar. cheap, takes up no space, great upper body workout.
posted by gnutron at 11:30 AM on March 16, 2007

Response by poster: The peak of the room is about 8 feet and the sloping walls are 45 degrees. It's quite a bit bigger than it looks.
posted by unSane at 11:31 AM on March 16, 2007

Response by poster: I was thinking about the rowing machine -- thanks -- I may consider that.
posted by unSane at 11:33 AM on March 16, 2007

Oh, and free weights really are better for you than machines. Machines are often touted as being able to effectively isolate muscle groups. The downside to this is that unless you make sure to carefully balance all of your exercise, you will over-develop one set of muscles while ignoring another set meant to work in conjunction with the first (obviously, this can lead to injury). Free weights generally require more balancing and therefore bring a wider scope of associated muscles into play, developing a balanced physique. Or so I was told by my powerfifting coaches in high school.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:34 AM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Minimal but sufficient? Nothing.

A little bit of floor space is all you need for bodyweight exercises (pushups, curls, crunches, yoga, tai chi, burpies, Hindu squats, etc.), and, for cardio, you can run around the block, or jog in place inside the room.

Whether this kind of routine is fun and enjoyable, either for you or for the wife and kids, is something that you can judge better than I can. And it's not performance cycling training, although bodyweight exercise will do more for your balance and kinetic sense than a whole gym full of machines.

(And as you probably already know, while Apple doesn't make a gym, they do make, or co-brand anyway, the Nike iPod running gizmo.)
posted by box at 11:51 AM on March 16, 2007

a Cable Cross Over Machine is capable of exercising most of your major muscle groups, if you use it right. here's a picture, here are some prices.
posted by crayolarabbit at 1:09 PM on March 16, 2007

If you do get a rower, or an erg as I've always heard them called, it would be worth making the effort to find someone who can teach you how to use it properly (if you don't know already) so that you get the full benefit of the machine. It takes a little practice to do it right, but it is a fantastic full body workout.
posted by nnk at 1:12 PM on March 16, 2007

LOL, nice link blink.Here's the site:
posted by exhilaration at 2:06 PM on March 16, 2007

Can anyone whose had or used the WaterRower comment on it? Quality? How to buy? It looks exactly what I've been looking for, but I don't think I'll have a chance to try before I buy.
posted by vers at 3:16 PM on March 16, 2007

1. A kettlebell. (Please ignore the high-testerone, hard-core "comrade" attitude here.)
2. This DVD.
3. When you're ready, this DVD.

I hate hate hate traditional weight training, too, but working with 'bells is actually far more enjoyable and I get a great cardio workout at the same time.
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:50 PM on March 16, 2007

a pull up bar and a couple sacks of concrete
posted by Caper's Ghost at 6:04 AM on March 17, 2007

I have this assisted chin/dip machine ( it's pretty nifty. Allows you to work your way up jerking or tugging. Don't know if the height is a good fit given your limitations. This and a jump rope ought to cover most your needs.
posted by subajestad at 6:39 AM on March 17, 2007

High quality flat bench. Three sets of dumbells. The best workout ever.

I know you like the machines, but there's a reason the pros never, ever use them--free weights work better. The work you do controlling the weights works your muscles harder, and moving them from place to place is a workout in itself.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:39 AM on March 17, 2007

I really hate free weight training/lifting with a deep deep hate

Check out Ross Enamait's book, Never Gymless. Ross is a first-rate trainer and his book shows you how to stay fit with minimum equipment and space.
posted by keith0718 at 2:24 AM on March 19, 2007

i nth the rowing machine.

i'm still heartbroken over the lack of one in any of the gyms in my area. upright rowers just aren't the same, i want the full body exercise experience a proper rowing machine with the sliding seat make you get. /sigh
posted by yggdrasil at 1:45 PM on March 19, 2007

Response by poster: My PT nixed the rowing machine saying it will further fuck up my back. Bah!
posted by unSane at 5:09 PM on March 21, 2007

Response by poster: Okay, for anyone who searched and found this, here's what I decided:

The arguments for free weights are really compelling in terms of building core strength and balanced muscles. So I bought a set of adjustable dumbells, a bench, and a mat. I will probably augment this with a couple of medicine balls and a step.

It really met my goal of being minimal and sufficient.

For cardio, I am going to rely on biking in spring, summer and fall. I still haven't quite figured out cardio for the winter... maybe a bike trainer or maybe an elliptical.
posted by unSane at 9:54 AM on April 5, 2007

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