Many people think that if they can’t get an effective workout in a home gym. It doesn’t take much or really anything to be able to work out and train effectively at home, except some empty space, dedication and a little knowledge. You don’t need any weights, your body weight is just fine, and you don’t need any expensive treadmills or anything either. I personally have a gym membership because I love to lift weights and enjoy the atmosphere in the gym (as well as it only costing $11 a month) but I still can’t do everything at the gym I want and still have a home gym to train in. There is no punching bags or speed bags at the gym, no one to train self defense techniques with and no space to do it in safely, and training self defense techniques in public always seems to draw people with dumb comments or wanting to test you, and that’s not what I am there for.
In this article I am going to let you into my home gym and go over the equipment I use, which is effective and inexpensive to not only train for fitness, but self defense as well. The greatest benefit to having this space is that it is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which removes the excuse that I can’t make it to the gym. This is actually a benefit, because it then places all of the focus on me, my desire and dedication as to whether I work out or not. So let’s go see what’s up here at home!
Welcome to my home “gym”, also known as my garage! I also train in my back yard when it isn’t 90-100 degrees outside here in Florida, and even the garage is a sweat box most of the year. SAFETY TIP!!! – If you happen to live in a hot climate, and train outdoors or in a garage with no air conditioning, be sure to stay hydrated and listen to your body. If you begin to get overheated, dizzy, or light headed, it is time to quit or at least take a break. Heat injuries sneak up on you very quickly! It’s technically fall and it’s still in the low nineties here still!
Okay, looking at my equipment above, you can see I have a kicking shield and focus mitts, both of which are red, which you can use with your training partner to practice your punches, strikes and kicks. They are hand held, are cheaper than getting a punching bag, and your partner can move around while you strike, adding a bit more realism to the training. The black baseball bat looking thing is a blocking target used to practice blocking strikes that come from overhead or around (like a haymaker type punch) or simulates getting struck with a club or stick. It is padded so that the defender feels the impact but is not injured. Those are the partner training tools and are used to train your self defense techniques.
Because of my work schedule and things I need to do at home, I don’t have time to go to the gym every day of the week. I go three days a week and the other days I do a fitness work out at home in my garage. For upper body (Chest, shoulders, back and arms) I use the black rotating push up bars to perform push ups. What I like about this particular set is that they rotate to allow my hands to find the best position for me and my wrists. You can also do push ups with your hands on the floor, but using bars allows you to go lower at the bottom of the movement, getting a better stretch and range of movement. I also have a 25 pound kettlebell (red and black in color) to perform kettlebell swings, rowing, pressing and curling movements as well. The dumbbells pictured in the photo are blue hand walking weights ranging from 3 to 5 pounds and are used primarily for warming up my shoulders and I hold them while walking or performing punches to strengthen the muscles needed for that technique. The green dumbbells are 8 pounds and are used for the same thing.
The resistance bands (red, black and green) is the most versatile piece of equipment I have and are very economical. You can use them to get a full body workout, working all of the muscle groups and not spend more than 30 dollars on a good set! I use them to work my chest, back, arms, shoulders, legs and abs, and they vary from a very low (easy) resistance to a higher (more difficult) resistance. Resistance bands should be a must in any home gym! To the left of the push up bars, also black in color is an ab wheel, which is a pretty old piece of equipment and has been around for a long time. It is a difficult exercise but a very effective one for strengthening your abs and core stability!
The exercise ball and white piece of PVC pipe are used for abdominal work, crunches and twisting with the bar across my shoulders. I also use the bar for stretching movements as well. The black things between the striking mitts and the padded bat are ankle weights, 5 lbs each, which I use when performing kicking techniques and even on my wrists while punching. The key with using ankle weights is to perform the techniques slowly, not full speed, because when performing them at speed with the weights on it puts too much stress on the knee, shoulder or elbow joint, especially at the end of the movement when you have to reverse direction and bring it back. (Because we do not leave our punches/kicks hanging out there!) Last but not least, the 2 x 4 piece of wood is not in there by accident! I use it under my heels to do bodyweight squats so that I can go deeper than my calves allow. No mater how much I stretch my calves, when I go into a full squat my heels will start to come off of the ground and having the wood under them allows me to stay stable instead of rolling forward onto my toes. I also use the wood to do calf raises and work my calf muscles.
To practice striking, punching and develop my hand eye coordination, I have a floor based punching bag, a makiwara board and a speed bag. Each one develops different aspects of your striking, whether it be hand speed, timing or power and conditioning. I will go over each in turn and explain the benefits and drawbacks.
The floor based punching bag (pictured left) is great for practicing full power punches, strikes and kicks and is an excellent cardio workout as well. The benefit of the floor based model is that it can be moved anywhere you have space without having to worry about where or how to hang the bag. The one drawback that I do not like about the floor based model is that the bag is not as solid or tightly packed as a hanging traditional punching bag. It may just be personal preference, but I would rather have a solid body to strike and dig my punches and kicks into. The body on this particular bag is a bit too soft for my liking. It is also tall enough to practice striking at all levels except shin level and down, where you would be striking the hard base. The base is filled with sand or water, whichever you choose and can be easily emptied if you have to relocate it.
**SAFETY TIP** – Be sure you are using proper form before you begin striking the bag full power!! Many a wrist has been sprained or even broken by people punching a heavy bag with improper form!!
If you do not have room for a floor based or hanging heavy bag, but wish to have something to strike and perfect your punches, there are various wall mounted striking pads. One of which is the makiwara pad (pictured left) which is an updated version of the traditional karate striking post/pad used in Japan. Rather than a wooden board wrapped in rope, this is a wooden board with a foam pad wrapped in canvas. This type of pad is used to condition the surface of the knuckles and hand, which was and still is practiced in traditional karate, to develop a hard striking surface when punching. It is not believed that hand conditioning is necessary, and I agree that it is not necessary to practice to the extent of developing large calluses or deformity of the knuckles, but someone studying self defense should practice striking a fairly solid surface to strengthen the hand and bones of the wrist and forearm. If you never punch anything solid and practice on soft targets all of the time, the first time you punch someone and hit their skull, you will be unpleasantly surprised at how much it may hurt. As I stated, there are variations of wall mounted striking bags, made of canvas or leather and can be filled with sand, rice or even beans to provide various levels of resistance.
The final piece of striking equipment is the speed bag, which everyone knows from boxing and Rocky movies. Once you learn how to strike it and get the rhythm down, the speed bag is a great tool for hand-eye coordination, timing and conditioning of the hands, arms and shoulders. The only drawback is that it is loud no matter where you mount it, so anyone inside the house may get annoyed, but it is only temporary! It is also very frustrating when learning to strike it and keep it going, and there are good days and bad days. Some days I can keep it going smoothly no problem, and others (mostly when I am distracted and not 100% focused) I can’t keep it going to save my life. It is a good training tool and fun to use.
A mirror is a basic piece of equipment and a MUST in any home gym! Not so you can admire yourself, but so you can practice your techniques in the mirror, paying attention to proper form and aiming your strikes at specific targets on your reflection. A mirror large enough to see your whole body is preferred so you can see the twist of your body as well as your foot placement. It is also beneficial while doing fitness exercises to check proper form and to actually see the muscles which are working during the exercise. This leads to a better understanding of the exercise and it’s effect on the body.
There is one last thing which you may or may not have noticed in the photo at the top, and that is the hook that I have screwed into the bottom of the wall. These are there to hook one end of the resistance bands on and perform various exercises. By doing so, I can imitate various cable movements I perform in the gym, such as shoulder raises and cable crossovers. They are just metal hooks I purchased at Home Depot for a couple of bucks. It is a cheap way to add variety and give you even more exercises to choose from. I have them mounted near floor level, waist level and a bit higher than head level. The most important thing is ensuring you screw them into the stud inside of the wall. Invest in a cheap stud finder to locate the stud behind the drywall in your garage or room, and screw the hook into the stud. If you just screw it into the drywall it will just pull right out when you use it and the screw will come flying right at YOU! Your home gym should be a place to train hard, but it should always be set up to be safe.
So that is it! That is my home gym and some inexpensive options for you to set up your own workout/training space. If you have any questions or comments on any of the equipment or have ideas you would like to share that you have done, please comment below. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my posts, I appreciate each and every one of you. Be sure to check out the upcoming video by the same name, where I will go over everything and demonstrate how I use the hooks. There will also be exercise videos to follow for each body part and the exercises that can be performed with this equipment!
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Train hard, be safe and God Bless!
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I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a martial artist for over 32 years, a husband, father and grandfather. I am on a journey to become all that God created me and other men to be. Leader, protector, warrior, son, husband and father. I hope that through my journey and this website that I can help other men in getting on their feet and standing tall in all God created them to be.