The Challenges Of Home Training!

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Setting up a home gym can be the smartest thing you ever did. No time to drive to the gym? Tired of ever-increasing gym dues? Sick of the perpetual smell of dirty socks in the locker room? Hate to wait in line to use equipment?

All of it can be solved with a phone call to your cheerful home gym retailer. Click here to read more about assembling your perfect set of equipment.

But hold on just one second. It is not unheard of to see the once proud home trainer head back to his old gym a year later, while his expensive equipment now primarily function as a clothes hanger. What happened? What can you do to make sure you don't lose your focus?

Step 1: Reviewing Your Goals

The biggest culprit tends to be a decline in motivation. To counter this hazard, sit down with a notepad and think through your game plan.

What made you start training in the first place? Was it to pack on weight for football, lose the flab in time for beach, or just general health? Have your goals changed over the years? Whatever your story is, write it down on a piece of paper in a few simple sentences. This tells you where you're coming from.

Next, think ahead a few years and try to nail down exactly where you want to be, physique-wise. Is it more important to be big than ripped, or vice versa? Do you aim for a bodybuilding stage or do you want to focus on developing brute strength? Try to pick just one primary goal.

    What Made You Start Training In The First Place?
    To Lose Fat
    To Gain Weight
    General Health
    Family/Friends Got You Involved

Sure, you will most likely make progress across the board, but keeping your focus singular will prevent you from chasing two rabbits at once. Write it down, and there's your long-term goal.

Now you have to plot the course between these two entries. This is done by breaking down the long-term goal into a number of smaller goals. For example, if the goal is to pack on 30 lbs of quality mass in 2 years, you have a monthly "quota" of just over one pound per month.

However, since we don't live in a perfect world it is highly unlikely that you'll have such a smooth development curve. You know how it is - even with smart, varied training you can go nowhere for 2 months and then suddenly gain 5 lbs in 2 weeks for no apparent reason.

In our example above, quarterly goals may be more realistic. This translates to an average of 3.75 lbs of mass increase per quarter - a pretty realistic goal for a drug-free, intermediate trainer. You'd obviously want to keep an eye on your body fat percentage to make sure it's actual mass rather than fat and water.

For other goals you may go with different approaches. For getting ripped, monthly goals with careful monitoring of body fat levels and nutritional tracking is more suitable.

For the powerlifter, poundages and combined lift stats take precedence over the caliper. The bottom line is that you should break down whatever your main goal is into manageable chunks.

This approach has dual benefits. First, it keeps motivation up by providing direct proof that you're making progress; dropping 2 percentage points of body fat is much more motivating than just pinching the jelly roll and wonder why it never melts away.

Secondly, it provides you with continuous feedback that immediately tells you whether you're losing momentum; three quarters of consistent 3.5 - 4 lb gains followed by a zero gain sends up an obvious red flag you may have otherwise missed.

Step 2: Avoiding The Rut

Even a well-equipped home gym is primitive compared to most modern gyms. It may not be until your gym is safely installed in the garage that it strikes you just how comfortable you were with that awesome incline chest-press machine. Now you have a barbell, two dumbbells, a bench and perhaps a cable crossover machine at best - that's it.

Does this mean you're left with a ho-hum routine of bench presses, dumbbell presses and perhaps a few cable crossover flyes? Heck no! Having at least 3 different fancy machines for every obscure muscle group has spoiled you rotten, but now it's time to get innovative.

You may be used to doing regular bench presses, but why not try the narrow- and wide-grip variety? Flip the bench and do a superset with decline/incline dumbbell presses. You can do dips between two sturdy chairs. With a cable cross machine, experiment with leaning forward at different angles, move back and forth, or even try a light one-handed set as a mind-muscle exercise.

Wide Grip

Close Grip

Perfect Grip

But that's not all you can do. As the owner of your own gym, you can customize and set things up as you please. Hands give in before your abs when doing cable crunches? Get extra-long, thick rope that you can loop around your elbow and take the pressure off the hands.

Always found the regular barbell hard to balance when squatting? Get an extra barbell and bend it a little (make damn sure it's right at the middle!) for a special, pre-balanced squat-barbell. Handy guys can even create their own pieces of equipment that may not look good but fits their needs like a glove. Your imagination is the limit.

Step 3: Managing Isolation

Some people go to the gym for the purpose of hanging out with their buddies. Others are all business; headphones blaring and no eye contact with anyone until the workout is over. If you're getting a home gym, my guess is that you belong to the latter category. (If not, you may want to think things through BEFORE you blow a fat check on what may become an expensive decoration.)

However, unless you have other hardcore bodybuilders in your regular social sphere, there is the risk of a creeping demoralization that derives from the fact that you are a bodybuilder in a world of non-bodybuilders. Much as you love your wife/girlfriend, odds are she has little understanding of your efforts.

Your coworkers and friends may be reluctant members of a health club, but start a discussion about the finer points of deadlift technique and watch their eyes glaze over. And let's not talk about getting ripped for summer. Dieting is tough enough as it is, but to be what seems like the only schmuck in the world who does it is disheartening.

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Of course you're not alone in the world, but if you never interact with other bodybuilders, what difference does it make? The bottom line is that going to gym provides a subconscious sense of belonging. You may not give a rat's ass consciously, but it can sneak up on you from behind over time.

Likewise, no matter how much tunnel vision you have, on some level you still register the powerlifter next to you squatting twice as much as you do. This may not impact you directly, but this small, subconscious stuff keeps reaffirming your motivation, ambition (if he can squat that much I can squat this much!) and general sense of the norm being a bodybuilder.

So, how to stay focused once you're on your own? Get involved with the sport as much as you can in other areas! You're reading this article on a bodybuilding web site right now - that's a great start! Keep reading online and in magazines to stay abreast of new nutrition research and training philosophies.

Buy books on advanced training techniques. Participate in online bodybuilding discussion forums and exchange ideas with others.

You can also attend a local bodybuilding contest, or better yet - compete yourself! A small amateur contest will give you a specific goal to work towards.

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Motivation generally isn't a problem once you're officially signed up (just visualize a few hundred people either cheering or laughing, and resisting that donut becomes considerably easier.)

Other Factors To Consider

Just because a home gym makes training more convenient doesn't mean you can back off on intensity. Sure, nobody can see you wimp out and choose a smaller weight, but that doesn't make it ok. Continue to give everything you've got - otherwise, what's the point of hitting the weights in the first place?

Maintain a healthy, protein-rich diet. It is easy to start justifying a bit of junk food here and there. "I'll just spend some extra time on the treadmill tomorrow" sounds perfectly reasonable, right? Wrong!

This Is A Slippery Slope Where People Tend To:

  1. Underestimate the extra calories in the junk food.
  2. Overestimate the number of calories burned during the following workout.

You may have the best of intentions, but before you know it, you've settled in for a crappy diet and a "calorie debt" that would take a week to work off.

Of course, the simplest solution of all is if you have a brother or friend who doesn't like to shell out $50 a month in gym dues. Partner up and hit the weights! One caveat: he must be reliable and have some actual interest in bodybuilding for this to work; otherwise it'll be a downer for you. But if that's not a problem, you should be all set.

Check Out: All Home Gym Articles.