Setting Up a Garage Gym for Home Workouts

GarageFit! You won’t need a spare wheel that randomly arrived from Amazon…

GarageFit started as a joke in 2017, a goofy name for garage strength workout with a friend. It soon blossomed into a 2x/week community workout for a group of guys. (Well, until the damndemic hit…)

With covid blaring away, cold weather upon us, and outside options diminishing, a garage gym is ever more important. Per a couple of requests from readers, this post shares my setup, plus three quick workouts.

A few main points:

  1. I gear these workouts toward functional strength to keep me strong and mobile for the primary reason I lift: beach muscles outdoor activities and mobility.
  2. I avoid heavy Olympic lifts (too many loud grunting noises required).
  3. My lifting sessions are short (~30 minutes) and aim for whole-body movements. This isn’t a bodybuilder’s “calves and triceps” setup. I target entire muscle groups or a chain of muscles.

Before You Order All The Gear

Let’s face it. Working out often loses to easier endeavors, aka Netflix and eating potato chips. Even if you buy a bunch of gear, it’s common to beat ourselves into submission the first workout, wake up too sore to move, and drop it all. The recurring shattered remnants of New Year’s resolutions testify to this!

My advice: a) set up accountability with someone and b) keep the workouts short.

If someone is counting on you to show up, science/my made-up number says you’re 67x more likely to workout. If the exercise routine is short, there’s no “welllll, I’m tired…” You just do it.

I’m quite self-motivated with physical fitness (understatement?), but consistent GarageFit pushes me to new levels. Even at my advanced age, I feel stronger and fitter in a well-balanced way than ever. (Sure, I could bench press much more in high school, but my lower body was weak and my mobility matched that of the Tin Man after a rain storm.)

With in-person workouts shelved, Chelsea and I substituted a 3x/week FaceTime GarageFit sessions with Chelsea’s parents. Surely there is someone in your life who wants to join you for a recurring workout! If only her parents weren’t so dang tough…I’m always more tired after the workouts than they are.

Workout Equipment List

Gyms are intimidating to noobies. Walk into one and brawny, loud, sweating people bang around weights. Is that a weight machine or cardio? (“Hey you, get out of the painter’s scaffolding!”)

Forget that. Save the cost and commute and work out at home.

Especially for a home gym, keep it simple! Bodyweight exercises alone are sufficient. Pushups, pullups/rows, squats, lunges, core… These movements don’t require fancy equipment. Entire fitness empires revolve around bodyweight exercises.

Still, a few key items turbocharge the experience.

My Primary Workout Gear:

  • Gymnastics rings: So versatile and perfect for pullups, rows, pushups, dips, and swinging upside down hooting like a monkey.
  • Kettlebells (I use 18, 35, 50, and 70 lb varieties): Great for squats, lunges, kettlebell swings, overhead press, and much more.
  • Elastic tubing: the hated physical therapy mainstay, but it isn’t thaaat bad. A simple addition of 1-2 exercises each workout can majorly stabilize shoulders, hips, and core.
  • Stall bars: My favorite piece of equipment with SO many uses. Picture a wide vertical ladder with a pullup bar at the top. (Easy to build, easier to buy…) In the photo above, my feet are resting on the stall bars.

That’s it! My gym features other equipment, but the basics are all you need.

Bonus Workout Equipment

  • TRX straps: Good for many upper and lower body workouts
  • Gymnastics climbing rope: no-leg rope climbs are the best grip/arm/back workout I’ve found.
  • Box with various heights (18, 24, 36” for my DIY model): Excellent for box jumps, single-leg squats, and sitting down when you’re exhausted.
  • Dumbbell weight set: I got mine off Craigslist for a screaming deal (set up a search!). Sadly, weight sets are impossible to find right now since everyone wants to have a home gym. Heavy elastic tubing can accomplish much of the same though.

Three GarageFit Circuits To Keep You Primed For Action

My circuit workouts for my GarageFit crew involved a 3×10 circuit workout with a core session at the end. For solo workouts, aiming for short, more frequent workouts works well for me. Less motivation needed and less soreness=sticking to a consistent plan for longer.

If you’re looking to get after it, here are the three workouts (links to Google Doc) we’re doing with Chelsea’s parents. I developed these with guidance from a certified strength coach, but I am not a personal trainer. This is simply what works well for me. The most important thing is to do SOMEthing.

All to say: If you find yourself confused about what to do with rings or somehow get stuck in your stall bars, please consult a professional.

Happy GarageFitting!

6 replies
  1. Go Jules Go
    Go Jules Go says:

    Ooh I’ve been so curious about this – thanks for sharing! (And I encourage you to market this extensively using the Tin Man line.) I’ve also had to sacrifice in-person strength workouts, but keeping it simple (and not punishing) has been working so far! I haven’t even TRIED to look for more weights – luckily what I’ve got on my rear is challenging enough, HA.

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Behind the scenes with GarageFit. You’ll make your calendar someday!

      Tin Man: Workouts to turn you to steel, but with mobile joints. (Working on the tag line.)

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Yup, all set for lifting! Great to have a home setup.

      As for the elastic, I sawed 1/4 of the way through some of it during GarageFit with my crew and that tubing always feels like it’ll slap me in the face. Not yet though… Living dangerously, aren’t we?


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