Your neighborhood gym may have the latest exercise machines, rows of benches, and squat cages lining the walls, but if you never make it there, you don't get any points for good intentions. You'll still see that monthly ding against your checking account, though!
For many Americans in search of their RDA of exercise, lack of convenience is the first and greatest obstacle. That's why setting up a home gym in a garage or spare room could be your low-cost answer. It's hard to blame commute time when your fitness workshop is just a few feet away!
You may think a home gym is a cost-prohibitive space hog, but it doesn't have to be. Sometimes, you just have to choose between implements. For example, while there's no doubt that having a squat rack can be a wonderful thing, they're expensive and take up a lot of space, especially when you factor in barbells and plates. Plus, if you're training with muscle mass rather than powerlifting in mind, you can get all the stimulus you need with a few dumbbells, a bench, and a bar.
This gym is all about doing more with less! Get ready to have your expectations shattered.
Adjustable bench: You could theoretically survive on a steady diet of standing presses and floor presses, but given how many ways you can use a stable, well-padded bench, it's worth the investment. Look for one that offers multiple incline and decline positions. A bench that can be positioned at a 90-degree angle will provide back support for overhead presses, too. As a bonus, you can always toss your back foot on the bench and do Bulgarian split squats.
Adjustable dumbbells: Dumbbells are great when your goal is to build muscle; they allow for a longer range of motion than a barbell, and they're harder to stabilize. This one-two allows you to stimulate more muscle fibers.
Because it's expensive and space-prohibitive to own a full rack of dumbbells, a solid alternative is to select from among a growing number of adjustable dumbbells. These modular weights allow you to use weight ranging anywhere from 5-100 pounds per bell, giving you all the versatility you need for a fraction of the dough. If you opt for a pair that allows for quick weight changes, you can include more dropsets and supersets in your workout.
Pull-up/dip combo: A pull-up/dip tower is one of the most valuable pound-for-pound pieces of equipment you can own. It allows you to wield your body weight through a variety of pull-up variations, all of which emphasize different areas of your back, and a few incarnations of the dip, which is a proven pec-and-triceps builder. If having the tower won't work for your space or budget, you could use a fixed pull-up bar, tall boxes, or parallettes for dips.
The 3-Day Home-Workout Split
If your adjustable dumbbells top out at 50-60 pounds, you may not have enough weight to stimulate hypertrophy in the ideal 8-12-rep range on every move here. If you've reached your top weight, one solution is to reduce your between-set rest intervals to increase carried-over fatigue, which is still considered a measure of progressive overload.
Low-rest supersets allow you increase the intensity while keeping your joints happy at the same time. The judicious use of the pull-up tower allows you to batter a ton of upper-body sinew with just your body weight, and you can use a loaded backpack or dip belt to manipulate your rep range.
Workout 1: Chest and Back
You'll alternate chest and back moves throughout this workout before ending on a move that hits both—the classic bent-arm dumbbell pull-over. Because these are such large, strong body parts, you may have to manipulate rest periods to fail within the target rep range. Keep your smartphone handy.
Workout 2: Legs
Start with jump squats, which prime your muscles and nervous system to fire more rapidly during the moves that follow. Just don't go to muscle failure on this move; keep a few reps in the tank.
You'll pair these with goblet squats, which hit your quads and glutes and place a high demand on your core. If your weights don't go heavy enough to really challenge you in the rep range, put two heavy dumbbells in a backpack and hug it to your chest. Romanian deadlifts, a key hamstring/glute builder, come next, followed by alternating dumbbell lunges.
Workout 3: Shoulders and Arms
You can do this workout in straight sets, or use supersets or trisets to speed up the work and get a fast muscle pump. Here, quick-changing weights are ideal. Supersetting antagonist muscle groups like triceps and biceps works especially well to get the blood pumping in your arms.