The Home or Garden Gym is a perfect solution for people who are self-motivated and happy to workout alone. The at-home convenience means you can prep a family dinner between sets and you never need to worry whether the squat rack will occupied by a big fella.
For the price of an annual gym membership you can build up a pretty snazzy home gym. You don’t need to buy it all at once though. Most of the gear in my garden gym has been acquired piecemeal and while I can’t resist the lure of new clobber, you don’t need it all to start making significant strength gains. I’ve made some suggestions at the end of the article about how you might want to amend your home gym setup, depending on your budget.
Garden Gym vs Home or Garage Gym
The considerations here relate to the weather and the terrible toll it can take on your kit. My home gym is a garden gym and I don’t have any cover to protect my weight plates or indeed any of my kit. After a year of exposure to the elements they are showing signs of significant decay.
The most important piece of kit I have is the power rack and as this ensures my safety while training alone I can’t accept any rust related failures and have therefore had this galvanised. It still looks as good as the day I bought it.
Everything else is in a slow decline and I have accepted that my bar and plates will need replacing eventually, in the meantime I spray regularly with WD40, like I used to do with my motorbike stuck outside in all weathers.
I have noticed quite a difference in the way my different plates stand up to the weather and will make sure every new plate I buy is plastic coated. These rubber tri-grip weight plates are excellent, the grip style is really convenient for carrying and they seem very durable so far.
Much as I enjoy exercising in the fresh air and there’s a certain romance about bench pressing while looking up at the stars, if I had the option I probably would set my gym up under cover. A garage gym would be ideal. You could take some of the kit outdoors to warm up on a fine day without worrying that your kit will disintegrate between seasons.
Garden Gym for £1000+
- Full power rack – for safety and flexibility – £400+. As mine sits outside I had it galvanised which adds about £500 to the price.
- Barbell, collars and weights – you can spend almost limitless amounts here but you can get a selection from £200-£250
- Bench – £50+
- Kettlebells – £20+
- Slam ball – £30 for a 15kg version
- Truck tyre and sledgehammer – we found the tyre in a skip and everyone has a sledgehammer in the shed. Great warm-up activity and who doesn’t feel great after flipping a tyre
- Olympic lifting platform – for protecting the patio when deadlifting or trying olympic lifts. If you buy a proper one you will soon blow your budget. I made my own from plywood and rubber horse stall matting that I found on eBay.
- Weightlifting app – free
The power rack forms the staple of my garden gym. It means I can squat and bench without the need for a spotter but I can also practice pull-ups and suspend no end of gadgetry from it to enhance my options. I have olympic rings, a trx style suspension trainer and a punch bag that I found on the street. It’s all a bit overkill but its fun if you have a short attention span.
I’ve tried a number of apps.
- Stronglifts 5×5 is clean app and is a great program for beginners
- Big Lifts 2 is my current favourite as it allows you to switch programs and its the best I’ve found for Weider 531 training
- Freeletics Gym is a fun way to bring crossfit style routines into your home gym but it often calls for the use of a rowing machine as well as a barbell
Garden Gym for £500
- Half Cage Squat Rack – deals abound but the Bodymax squat rack usually goes for £250
- Barbell, collars and weights – £200-£250
- Bench or step – £50 I happen to have a Reebok Step lying around so use this for bench press. Probably not ideal if you are benching huge weights.
You are not as safe with a half rack as the full powerrack so you may still need a spotter. You can adjust the supports so it is fit for squats and bench press. Most also have chin bars and you can easily anchor stuff like TRX suspension trainers or Olympic rings.
Garden Gym for Less than £50
- Kettlebell – a 12kg kettlebell costs about £20
- Exercise mat – sturdy rubber equipment mat £25
- Freeletics app – free if you don’t go for the coach option
I am so impressed with the Freeletics option, they have 3 versions of the app, running, bodyweight and gym. You need weightlifting equipment for the gym version but you don’t need anything beyond a mat for the other two. It is seriously hardcore – crossfit for the home and you can get transformed by following the program. The coach option is pricey but now allows you to use all 3 apps on a single subscription but you can use it without, you just need to be more disciplined in choosing the workouts and sticking to them.