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Basic Home Gym

By: Steve Holman, Iron Man Editor in Chief

Last month I gave you the routine to get you in shape by summer; this time I want to outline the basics for a good home gym. The order in which I've presented these two columns may seem backward'shouldn't the gym come before the workout?'but my thinking is that those of you who already have a home gym need the routine so you can get started. Those who don't have a gym can look at the routine in the June issue, see that it's not very demanding timewise, check out the equipment list here and realize that training at home is the answer you've been looking for. Here's the list, which I lifted from IRONMAN's Home Gym Handbook:

Space. The first priority is a room, porch, patio, garage, basement or small area in your bedroom suitable for lifting. It can be as small as seven-by-seven feet, but try for a 12-by-12-foot space. This gives you more freedom of movement and extra space for equipment additions later on. Carpet and/or rubber flooring is optional, but it helps keep equipment scuffs and floor dings to a minimum and also reduces the noise.

Basic weight set. Next, you'll need a good, basic 110-pound barbell and dumbbell set. The best type to buy is either a metal or a rubber-coated metal set. Don't bother with the thick, cement-filled, plastic variety. While they cost less initially, they'll soon crumble, whereas a quality set will last a lifetime.

Extra poundage. In addition to your basic set, you'll want to buy some extra plates. Add four 25s to begin with. This will give you a total of 210 pounds, enough for just about any exercise-at least until your strength begins to skyrocket.

Bench. You'll need a good, sturdy, adjustable bench-one that inclines and has uprights. You don't need the uprights if you spring for a power rack, but that's usually too costly for the beginning home trainee. Your bench should be sturdy enough so that it doesn't topple when loaded with a heavy poundage. You'll also want a leg extension/leg curl attachment for the bench.

Calf block. A high calf block for doing heel raises is also a necessity. You can make one out of an 18-inch four-by-four and an 18-inch one-by-eight, which forms the base. Simply nail the four-by-four to the center of the one-by-eight, leaving two inches of one-by-eight on each side.

Chinning bar. One other useful piece of equipment is a chinning bar. If you don't have a pulldown apparatus, chins are the only effective way to work your upper back from the overhead position. Many sporting goods stores carry a chinning bar that you can wedge in a doorway.
Before you spend your money on a chinning bar, however, check the bench in your home gym (or the one you're thinking about purchasing). The uprights on many benches are wide enough and go up high enough that you can put a barbell bar across them and do chins with your knees bent. This actually isn't as bad as it sounds; you can keep your feet on the ground for stabilization and get a great back workout.

Accessories. Your list should also include a lifting belt for back support on heavy exercises, lifting gloves to protect your hands and a weight belt that straps around your waist for adding extra poundage to chins, dips and calf raises.

Home Gym Checklist

* 12' x 12' area (or at least 7' x 7')

* 110-pound metal barbell/dumbbell set (rubber-coated, if possible)

* Extra weight (four 25s)

* A comfortable, adjustable bench with uprights and leg extension/leg curl attachment

* Calf block

* Lifting belt

* Lifting gloves

* Weight belt

You may think that all this equipment will wreak havoc with your bank account, but once you price each piece, you'll see that it's not all that costly to put together a basic, functional home gym. In fact, you'll be surprised at how inexpensive equipping your gym can be, especially when you compare it to the cost of a few years of commercial-gym memberships.

Editor's note: Steve Holman is the author of IRONMAN's Home Gym Handbook, a complete guide to bodybuilding at home, available for $14.95 each plus $5.50 postage and handling ($15 s/h outside North America) from Homebody Productions, P.O. Box 2800, Ventura, CA 93002, or from Home Gym Warehouse at