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How To Set Up A Home Gym That Works (You Out)

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

“Traffic is a nightmare.”

“There’s  some muscle-head who won’t get off the leg-press who’s only working out his jaw.”

“I like to work out naked.”

Your reasons for wanting a home gym don’t matter, but the strategy you use to set one up can mean the difference between getting in the best shape of your life and shopping in the plus-size section next spring. I’ve had home gyms in five different houses and at my place in Chamonix its my favorite place to workout. Here are the five keys to setting up a home gym that works:

Location, Location, Location

At our house in Chamonix I’ve got the deck set up as my home gym. The light is awesome, the views amazing and there isn’t a ton of clutter around to get in the way. If you put a rowing machine down in a moldy, dark basement and think you’ll get down to business everyday, you’ll soon feel like a prisoner. Find someplace light, clear and open if you can.

Set up the gym for circuits

When I was training for the Olympics one of our most impactful workouts was circuit training. The disciples of cross-fit have adopted part of this strategy because it provides results. More importantly for a home gym it makes the workout quick and keeps you focused. Pick ten exercises (check out my circuit workout here) and do each one for one minute. Take 15 seconds to switch to the next exercise – no more – and work the entire minute, no slacking off. If you can’t do push ups for a minute, do as many as you can and stay in plank position until the timer releases you at one minute. Do 25 jumping jacks and 25 inchworms as a warm-up. Starting with ten in a row will only take 12 minutes and 15seconds but done right will keep you focused and working hard.

All audio, no visual

Don’t put a TV or computer in your home gym.  Music is OK, but to make it effective you’ll want to be present and focused on your workout.  Having a Bluetooth speaker, or Sonos system will give you all the motivation you need, and hide your grunts and groans from your neighbors who might not believe you’re working out.

Think Leatherman

Most people are space constrained in home gyms so whatever you have should serve several purposes. I love kettlebells because they are so versatile. If you have one machine a squat rack with a detached bench is probably most versatile (squats, benchpress, shoulder press, pull-ups, hang TRX straps or ring, etc). When I was training for the Olympics we used to do testing on the Concept II ergometer – it still makes me nauseous just looking at them because I pulled beyond my limit so many times, but they are great full body and cardio machines

Mirror, mirror on the wall

I’ve got a 13 year old daughter, so I’m probably oversensitive to narcissism and selfie worship, however a mirror can make a small room look bigger, brighten up a dark room and most importantly give you a chance to verify your form. So many people are getting injured doing cross fit, or rowing, or trying plyometrics because they are not starting with proper form. They start out doing cleans or box jumps at a low enough weight that they can get away with bad form, but when they start going up – ka-pow! Something pops. A mirror (and a personal trainer at home or in a gym) can be the best preventatives for bad form.

Patrick Sweeney’s ass-kicking circuit workout for adventurers

Patrick Sweeney Adventurer & Keynote Speaker

As a full-time adventurer I’ve got to be in shape and ready for anything at a moments notice. In addition to following a ketogenic diet and staying fat adapted most of the year I focus my training on six specific attributes and include at least three in each workout. The six attributes are:

Endurance, Strength, Speed, Agility, Balance, Flexibility

This circuit workout focuses on endurance, balance, strength and agility. Do each exercise for one minute and take 15 second to switch to the next one. If you can’t do the movement for the entire minute hold it in place statically:

  • Turkish get-ups with kettlebell
  • Kettlebell goblet squats
  • Ring push ups
  • Front raises with weight
  • Side plank (30 seconds each side)
  • Ring rowing
  • Burpees
  • One legged squats
  • Leg lifts
  • Pointing dogs

Do 25 jumping jacks and 25 inch-worms to warm up.

The key to success is staying focused for the specific exercise, since the next one will rest the last muscle group. For extra motivation get your partner, kids or friends to join you and feel the burn! If you can do the circuit once your off to a good start. Do it twice and you’re ready for most adventures, three times and you can join me on my next outing!

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Written by Patrick Sweeney

Inc. magazine called Patrick one of the world's most interesting men. He was an Olympic level single sculler, graduated with honors from a Top 5 business school and went on to found four successful technology companies. He has invested in over 30 start-ups sits on several corporate and University Boards and is the first person attempting to cycle the Seven Summits. He is a competitive aerobatic pilot, avid rock climber and winner of the Race Across America.

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