Invest in Home Gym Equipment – Gains Lost

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Greatest regret in life?

Not buying lots of Apple stock when it was $0.52 per share in 1997.

But my second greatest regret is that I didn’t invest in proper gym equipment early on in my life.

So, I’m here to tell you – your 20s and 30s will be your most productive age for your training and physical accomplishments.

Don’t fritter them away by doing the wrong things, in the wrong places, with the wrong equipment.

And even worse – don’t let time pass you by because you are too cheap, or “don’t know how.”

Let me explain deeper.

Get ready for an old guy rant…

This is a tale of gains (gainz?) lost – or more accurately never to be had in the first place.

Older weight lifter
I wasted my youth – and by the time I figured it all out – it was too late. I was old.

Why Younger Is Better

When you are young(er) your hormonal levels are better for training.

You recover quicker – which means you can train more.

You don’t have much “wear and tear” or chronic over-use injuries.

Young people working out and training hard
Young people can train a lot – their bodies are physiologically in the best place to make easy gains – which helps keep your motivation up.

And if you don’t train much now – you have tons of room for improvement. You haven’t reached all the “easy” gains – so it’s super motivational to train hard.

You also have the TIME to invest in lots of training.

And lots of training is what you need to set and break Personal Records (PRs).

And, this holds no matter what your goals – strength, power, low body fat, or cardio performance.

In contrast, as you age all these things change (maybe not at the same rate for everybody – but this does happen regardless.)

I have been training for 30+ years. So I speak from experience.

Very few people train hard at age 47 – and even fewer set any PRs at this age.

And now I can explain why.

Your time will be fully taken up by family and career.

Your joints won’t feel like they used to – and every injury takes “forever” to recover from.

And trust me – your joints will become the limiting factor sooner or later. Knees, hips, elbows, shoulders – and your spine of course.

A big deadlift by a powerlifter.
Victories lost – My goal was to get to a legit BIG deadlift (like this one shown here.) I didn’t get there. I made it part of the way – but I ran out of time.

I can’t PR my deadlift any longer. I can’t put together a 9 week training cycle to reach a peak – before an serious ache or pain derails progress.

Flat out – I just can’t train as hard. A hard workout now can mess me up for days – whereas I used to do those sorts of things regularly when I was younger.

It’s a physiological certainty – you won’t be able to recover as quickly when older – and that means less training volume.

“All Time” PRs are in the rear view mirror for me.

I now celebrate “old guy PRs” – where I’m happy to reach some percentage of what I could do when I was younger.

I “train to maintain” – because that’s the best I can do.

Your best bet for maximum physical performance is – do it while you are young.

Don’t get me wrong – I loved training and working out and I still do.

But I’m haunted by the feeling that I could’ve done so much better.

If only I had known these things…

Get a Power Rack – The Ultimate Enabler of Heavy Lifts

When it comes to strength training – more is better.

This is obvious, isn’t it?

But let’s talk about the limiting factors for many people.

Do you have a way to safely lift?

Being fearful of getting stuck under the barbell in the bench (or squat) is a real problem.

You can’t train as hard – even if you have a spotter.

Do you have a way to get the bar in the right starting position without inviting an injury?

To solve these problems you need a power rack.

A power rack let’s you get the bar at the right starting height – for bench or squat.

Young woman squatting in a power rack with a barbell
You can’t be serious about strength training without a good power rack. It let’s you lift safely (even when alone) without fear of getting stuck.

And it let’s you use a variety of safety gear – straps, safety pins, or spotter arms – to ensure you don’t ever get stuck under the bar.

With the right gear your confidence levels are at their highest – and the fear of getting stuck under that really big squat goes away.

Can’t you just train with a spotter?

The fact is the squat is tough to spot.

And you are putting a serious limitation on yourself if you can only train with a training partner.

If you have a home gym or garage gym – you need a good power rack.

So stop being a cheap-ass and get a good power rack.

Don’t have room?

They even have FOLDING Power racks now.

Have More Than Enough Weight Plates – At All Times

Here’s the other recommendation – make sure you have MORE weight than you can lift.

At one point I “maxed out” my home gym weight on the deadlift bar.

But, it really wasn’t that much weight – it’s just that was all the weight plates I had.

New iron plates aren’t cheap – not if you are a young person or student on a tight budget.

Sexy woman with weight plates in the gym
What are we talking about here? Weight plates of course. Get more than you think you need – don’t let lack of weight impede your progress. Consider a lot of plates a "stretch goal".

And tracking down and acquiring used iron plates takes a lot of time.

I had other things to do with my time – and money.

And that was 6 months (a significant fraction of my lifespan) where there was no progress to be made to my goal.

So, get more weights than you think you need.

Because the ultimate progress in the strength training is lifting more weight.

Get a Good Pull-up Bar

How many pull-ups can you do?

If the answer is less than 20 – you are leaving gains on the table.

The pull-up / chin-up is one of the best “functional” exercises anyone can do.

And all it takes is your body weight and a pull-up bar.

A woman performing muscleups on a pullup bar in a CrossFit box.
A good pull-up bar is very versatile – and if you have overhead space you can do "muscle ups" too – but that’s optional. You get most of the benefit from regular pullups (no kipping please!)

Further, with the simple addition of a dip belt – you can add plates and really blow-up your arms, lats, and back.

Are you serious about strength training and physical development?

Then why aren’t you doing pull-ups (chin-ups)?

Further, there’s all sorts of cool bodyweight gymnastics you can do with the right pull-up bar – levers, etc.

These are some of the most effective exercises you can do.

And if you aren’t taking advantage – you are wasting your time – literally.

So get a good pull-up bar.

sexy woman using a lat pulldown machine at a gym
The lat pulldown is a poor replacement for real pull-ups. The pull-up bar is far more effective and versatile. So don’t waste your limited money on a cable machine.

And max out on pull-ups when your shoulders and elbows aren’t a limiting factor.

Hell, you can probably have one on that awesome power rack you are going to get…

Bumper Plates and Bearing Barbell – For Olympic Lifting

Bumper plates are expensive – and hard to find.

And so I never had any – until my 40s.

And as such, it was never practical for me to learn the Olympic Lifts.

You know – the snatch, clean , and jerk.

Female trainee about to perform Olympic lift - the clean
Once you have a good bearing bar and bumper plates (and a place to drop them) you can learn the Olympic lifts the right way. These are the most athletic lifts you can do in the gym for speed and power – and therefore well worth your time. Speed and power especially max out at a young age. You only get slower as you get older. Ain’t no old Olympic lifters setting records…

First of all, I didn’t have the right gear.

(Or the knowledge, but that’s a different topic.)

Without a really good bearing bar and bumper plates I couldn’t really even get a start.

A bearing bar uses needle bearings in the sleeves – and has spin for days.

It is significantly better for the Oly lifts than a regular bushing bar – which is what you are probably using.

Bearing bars are expensive – and hard to find.

But now we have the Internet – and a dozen vendors that will ship you a bar in days – for a few hundred dollars.

Secondly having good bumper plates lets you do the lifts right.

Can you do the Olympic lifts with iron plates?

Yes, you can. That’s how they did it in the olden days.

But that’s a dumb way to do it in the year 2020.

Bumper plates let you safely and easily “bail out” from a lift by dropping the bar.

It also saves energy as compared to lowering the bar under control – and therefore lets you get more productive reps into your training session.

Woman performing deadlifts in the gym
Bumper plates can be used for the slower strength lifts too – like the deadlift. They are good looking, make little noise, and last a long time – so get some bumper plates already.

I was too cheap, I didn’t know how or where to get this gear.

But you have no excuses – get into Olympic lifting.

Rowers & Bikes – For Cardio & Metcon

I hate running.

I like to sprint, but honestly even that has always given me knee pain – even when I was young.

Like it or not, running is probably the best way to develop your cardio vascular fitness.

But if you hate running, and find walking incredibly boring there are other options.

Indoor rowing, for example, can be used to develop monster cardio power.

Concept2 Rower in the gym with an attractive woman
Rowing is a low impact, full body exercise for cardio aka metabolic conditioning. It’s a great option for haters of running – all it requires is the rower – and functioning hip, knee, shoulders, and elbows. So do it while you are young.

And all it takes is some floor space – and an indoor rower.

Is it expensive?

It depends – is $900 + tax + shipping expensive to you?

Once you have a rower like the Concept 2 Model D – it will last for years, and years.

And they hold their resale value really, really well – so you can always hock it for cash later if you had to.

So, if you hate running and want a cardio workout – take a serious look at indoor rowing.

There’s also spin bikes and air bikes.

These two devices make look superficially similar – but I assure you they are two very different things.

Woman on a spin bike in the gym
Spin bike is a great way to get cardio fitness with low impact and little soreness. All it takes is a bike, and maybe some classes. So just do it!

A spin bike will let you get an intense workout indoors at any time of the year.

You can spend a lot on a Peloton and get the benefit of the really great online classes and instructors – or you can go cheaper and just get something simpler.

Either way it’s gonna cost you a few hundred dollars minimum.

But if not now – When? When you are too old to really train hard on it and put the seat time in to really get good?

Remember, the clock is ticking.

The Air Bike (Assault Bike Or Fan Bike) is another piece of gear I wish I had years ago.

The air bike is brutal – largely because you never stop working on it.

Woman on an air bike.
Here’s a pleasant scene – a woman on an air bike. Riding an air bike isn’t this much fun – because the work never stops. There’s no coasting, no free-wheeling, it’s all work, all the time. But it’s a HIIT monster machine – great for "engine building"

It doesn’t coast, it doesn’t free-wheel – and the faster you spin that fan, the more work it is.

It’s a brutal HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) machine.

But to really get benefit from it – you need to be able to handle extended biking.

That means knees, hips, and shoulders have to have range of motion and be functional (By the way, you need all those things for rowing too – as it has a large, full body range of motion requirement.)

Had I gotten an air bike when I was younger – I really could’ve made more use of it.

So, my advice to you is find something that works for cardio / metabolic conditioning – and don’t let cost, time, or knowledge be a barrier.

Get it done while you are young.

Invest in Home Gym Equipment – In Summary

Time feels limitless when you are young.

You also feel invincible – you can do anything and recover quickly.

But trust me, those days will come to an end.

Genetics will play a role, but old age comes for every body – no exceptions.

So maximize your training opportunities while you are young.

Do the right exercises, with the right equipment, in the right way.

It’s an investment in yourself (your body and your mind) that will pay dividends in the future.

And maybe you’ll one day write a blog article about all your amazing training accomplishments…

Like this? Check out our best CrossFit shoes for 2020 review article on our sister site.

Photo Credits

The photos in this article are property of BigStock.

Woman performing barbell back squat in the gym
The barbell back squat is a great exercise – if you can do it. If you can’t – finding another exercise that uses as much muscle mass intensively is a challenge.

1 Comment

  1. I am 54 and just started strength training in my garage gym with the right equipment: good rack, good dumbbells, barbell, lat pulldown, etc. Plus an echo bike. Plan to get rower as well. I wish I understood this 20 years ago.

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