This weekend Arrow was on Zoom showing off his lovely home gym. It’s been the reality of the past 11 months that many of us have had to invest a bit in making our home workout-ready in order to stay on track with our fitness commitment. To that end I have received a lot of questions about where your money would best be spent.
An Olympic-style barbell is a great tool. For Olympic lifts you want to have sleeves that spin. If you lift heavy you want the barbell to be rated. A good barbell will start at $400 and go up past $1000. If you do not lift heavy you can get away with a cheaper bar at least for the short term.
2. Plates & Collars
Now you need weight to load on the bar. Pairs of 2.5, 5, 10, 25, 45lb plates should suffice. 15lbs are nice if you have the budget. Metal plates are cheapest. Rubber-coated plates are not much more expensive. But if you plan to deadlift or do Olympic lifts I strongly recommend bumper plates for the big plates (15, 25, 45 and maybe even for the 10lbers). Cheap bumper plates will do just fine, you do not need top of the line for home use. Almost any collars will do. For my money I still prefer the cheap spring clips but go with whatever you like. Do not blow your budget on high end collars.
3. Pull Up Bar
We want a place to do pull ups. Door mounted is fine. If you want to kip or hang gymnastics rings you will need something sturdier. It need not be expensive and if you’re handy, I’ve seen DIY pull up bars that are as good as anything you can buy.
Dumbbells are very versatile tools. I think they are great to have. Compared to a barbell they take up less space and less budget. Price per pound I prefer the rubber hex dumbbells. You do not need a full set. Adjustable dumbbells are great if you can afford them but for CrossFit purposes pairs of 25, 35 & 50lbs will accommodate the needs of most people and get you through 80% of the workouts.
This may be the most expensive item on our essentials list but rowing shows up a lot in CrossFit. You can substitute a run for cardio but the rower works the posterior chain of the body in a way that running does not. It is also easier on your joints. If you are investing in a rower, get a C2. There are no competitors to C2 that come close to the quality, durability or service. A C2 will last you a lifetime and it will hold its resale value if you ever decide you do not want it. If it isn’t C2 don’t bother.
Stall Mats will do the trick. There are fancier products out there. You do not need them. Some of the high priced flooring options will be too squishy and not durable enough. Stall mats will protect your equipment and your floor.
7. Skipping Rope
Fancy isn’t better. Price and quality correlate poorly when it comes to skipping ropes. Your rope should take up no space and very little of your budget. If you compete in CrossFit then you can splurge a bit and invest in your favourite rope but know that ropes are not durable and will need replacing regularly so don’t imagine that the rope you buy will last you forever.
We can substitute dumbbells for most kettlebell movements so if you have to choose, choose dumbbells. But the dynamic load of the kettlebell challenges your strength in a unique way that the dumbbell does not so I’d prioritize dumbbells but if you can afford it, a couple kettlebells will be useful. For CrossFit one each of 1 and 1.5 pood (16 & 24kgs) will allow you to RX most WODs. If those are too heavy for you replace the 1.5 pood with a fractional kettlebell, a 12kg is probably your best bet. The 8kg is only useful for beginners and will become useless from a fitness perspective within a couple months of training.
2. Gymnastics Rings
While not essential, the unstable support of the rings is great for developing the shoulder stabilizers in a way that no other training tool can. Ring dips, ring rows, ring push ups, and if you can hang them high enough, ring pull ups and ring muscle ups. Not as important as a pull up bar but cheaper and far more useful than the TRX.
3. Foam PlyoBox
You can get by without these which is good because they are stupid expensive but if you have space and the budget a multi-sided box offering 20” and 24” heights will come in handy. Get a foam plyobox. It is way more expensive than wood or metal plyoboxes but it will not send you to the hospital. Every time your shin scrapes the edge of your foam plyobox during a workout you can celebrate the fact that you are not going in for stitches. After a few bumps and wipe outs you will start feeling pretty good about the obscene amount of money that plyobox set you back. It’s an investment in your safety.
4. Squat Rack
I realize not everyone will have space at home or in the budget for a squat rack. In CrossFit we really only need the squat rack for back squats. Why I like the rack if you can accommodate one is because they have a pull up bar built in and provide a place to hang gymnastics rings. So a squat rack takes care of the pull up issue, gives you a great place to hang rings and store plates while providing you with a lifting station. It is costly and takes up a lot of square footage but if you can manage, it is one of the more versatile items on this list.
You Can Live Without
Coop loves the bench. For CrossFit purposes it just takes up space and money that can be better spent elsewhere.
I love the medball but unless you have a good spot for a wallball target you won’t be using it very much. You can easily substitute dumbbell thrusters for wall balls.
Most of us are safe to do sit ups without the support of the abmat. If sit ups bother your back, by all means, go ahead and purchase an abmat but it costs more than you’d expect that little piece of material should.
4. Glute-Ham Developer
While there is no doubt that these are great for developing superior midline stabilization, their utility does not match their high price and foot print.
There’s a lot more fun toys to play with. I like many of them because I’m a sucker for fitness equipment but most of it is non-essential. One of the attractions of CrossFit at the start was just how basic it was. A very short list of equipment got you everything you needed to produce elite level fitness. That hasn’t changed. A few key pieces of equipment account for most of your fitness results. 2020 and 2021 provided us the opportunity to test how little equipment we actually need to maintain basic fitness.
For those of you determined to up your game in 2021 by building a pandemic-proof fitness sanctuary, I hope the list above will help you determine how best to allocate your resources!
If you cannot access a glute-ham developer, v-ups will make a fine substitute. A dumbbell or dumbbell substitute should be found that makes the 10 overhead lunges challenging while allowing you to maintain correct form.
1 min Each:
Upper Body Rolls
Lower Body Rolls
Cross Touch Dead Bugs
Judo Push Up Rock
Cross Touch Bird Dogs
Hands & Knees Crawl
Full Body Rock
Cross Crawl Reverse Lunge
GHD Sit Ups/V-Up
12 min AMRAP
20 GHD Sit Ups
10/10 DB OH Lunge R/L