photo of dumbbell near black mat

Can Working Out At Home Be Effective?

The idea of working out at home can be a very enticing one. Not having to travel to and from, no crowds, and having your own space can be enough to make you want to cancel your gym membership and start working out in your garage, basement, or even right there in your living room.

Or if you’re just starting, never having to set foot in a gym in a public gym in the first place.

But not so fast. You might be asking yourself:

Will I really be able to make gains at home like I would in that fully loaded commercial gym?

Will I be short-changing myself and the results I could possibly have by switching to an at-home setting, or is working out at home just as good?

The short answer is: Yes, working out at home can be very effective. You can achieve many of your health and fitness goals without ever having to stray too far.

However, there are some nuances and caveats to this that are worth considering. 

As someone who made the switch from commercial to home training myself, I will go over some things to consider to help better answer this question, pros and cons as well as drawing from my own experiences. 

Specificity Of Training & Goals

The first thing we have to do to answer this question is to define the word “effective”. Effective for who and what are they training for?

The main thing to consider when deciding if working out at home is the right fit for you is to analyze your goals.

The more specific and lofty they are, the less likely they may be to be able to be reached without training in a commercial or specialized gym. 

If you are someone whose main purposes are to stay healthy, stay generally “fit” and active, and improve your body composition, then working out at home may be perfect for you. 

This can be done with minimal equipment and space, which for many of us working out at home are limiting factors. 

A bodyweight routine with a cardio component like jumping rope or jogging around the neighborhood can suffice. 

If you have a bit more room and the desire to lift weights, an adjustable bench, and dumbbells with varying weights should be pretty much all you need to get you where you are looking to go. 

On the flip side, if you have aspirations of becoming a powerlifter, competitive bodybuilder, or strongman for example, then working out at home may not be an effective way to do that depending on your situation. 

You are going to need more specialized equipment, space, and the finances to be able to afford it, which can be limiting for a lot of us. 

If you’d love to compete in powerlifting, you are going to have to train the barbell squat, bench, and deadlift. There is no way around this. 

With that being said, you are going to need at minimum, a squat rack, an adjustable bench, a barbell, and enough weight plates to satisfy your current strength levels as well as the levels of strength you will progress to. 

Likewise, if training strongman style looks fun, you might have to get yourself some sandbags, atlas stones, and some boxes of different heights to lift them onto. Not to mention enough space to do your farmer’s walks. 

Now, if you have the means to hook yourself up with everything you need to accomplish your objectives from the comfort of your own home then more power to you. 

And I will say that I’m quite jealous.

When I made the switch from commercial to home, I started off super basic with an adjustable bench, spin-lock dumbbell handles with plates, and a pull-up bar. 

This sufficed for a long time. I was satisfied with the types of exercises I could do and the way that I could train.

It was probably a couple of years before I started to get the itch to start training with a barbell again, so it was at that point I decided to bring in a bench with a stand for bench pressing, and a barbell with plates. I also got myself a stationary spin bike for my cardio training.

This is working for me just fine right now and will ride this setup out unless the time comes when my training goals change, which is probably the most important factor to consider when trying to decide if working out at home can be effective for you.

So in short, define your goals, see if you have (or can get) what you need to get to work on them, and start moving forward. You can always start at home, and adjust as needed as your plans change, whether that means adding equipment or venturing out to an appropriate gym.

Pros & Cons

Working out at home versus at the gym has its perks and its downsides. I’ve experienced both and I will talk about a few of each.

One thing I love about training at home is that I don’t have to travel to and from the gym. After a long day at work, one of the last things I feel like doing when I get home is changing into some gym clothes going back outside, and making another trip. 

This is something I used to do nearly daily, but since moving into a garage gym I’ve honestly become a bit spoiled in this regard. 

Speaking of not having to travel, it makes it even better when the weather doesn’t want to cooperate. Nothing beats not having to go outside in the freezing cold or pouring rain when I want to get a workout in. ‘

Lastly, not having to deal with crowds is another great benefit. I don’t have to wait for the bench to become available, or feel like I’m being inconsiderate if I’m taking too long between sets.

However, I will say that the crowd factor isn’t always a bad thing, which brings me to my main con of working out at home. 

Aside from maybe not having the space or equipment needed to train in a way that aligns with your goals as we spoke about earlier, training by yourself can get a little boring at times. 

The main thing I miss about the commercial gym setting is the gym buddies you make along the way. The camaraderie is very enjoyable and encouraging and can help your motivation to be surrounded by different people on a similar journey. 

Also take into consideration that some people may have a tough time switching from “home mode” to “gym mode” when the gym is right there in the house.

This may sound counterintuitive. It would make sense that it would be even easier to get into the mood with your equipment right there with you.

For some people that is the case, but some may continue to push off training until “later” since they can get to it whenever they want since it’s so convenient. But what could sometimes happen is continuing to defer training until later causes it to never happen at all.

“Later” becomes “tomorrow” and “tomorrow’s training” never happens.

A quick tip that could help avoid this is to have a gym ritual that sets the tone in your mind that it’s time to train.

It could be your favorite pre-workout meal or snack, or putting on some of your favorite gym clothes to get your mind right for training.

Final Thoughts

I hope that you were able to narrow in on some details to consider when trying to decide if working out at home is the right fit for you.

With a little foresight and planning, I would imagine that most of you will be able to get well on your way toward whatever vision you have for your future self right there at home.

And for those of you who have no choice but to get into a gym, the good news is that there are also benefits that they provide in their own right that will make that experience very enjoyable for you as well.

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