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Turning Your Home Gym Into A Powerhouse

sandbag fitness equipment

Training at home is nothing really new for me. Even when I was running my own gym I enjoyed having a great home gym. Believe it or not when you run your own gym and you get there when it is dark and you leave when it is dark, it is nice to not be there. So, my home gym was an awesome escape for me, I could just focus on my workouts and what I wanted to do. Plus, living in Phoenix at the time, a lot of times the weather was a motivation as well (okay the summers were super hot and Jess and I would sneak inside as you will see!).

sandbag training

So right now when gyms are so hit and miss with being open, available, and so forth, many people are going to home gym workouts or training outside. The obvious concern for many is that they won’t get the same awesome workouts than if they were able to go to the gym. I remember a funny conversation with a client of mine that helps shed some light on what is really important in your training.

I opened my first gym around 2003, at the time it was seen as crazy to do because there weren’t a lot of personal training studios that did what I was doing. There were pilates, there were some yoga studios, there was personal training gyms, but they focused largely on a bodybuilding approach. My gym was considered nuts because we had kettlebells (which people largely had not seen yet), gymnastic rings, tires, all sorts of bars, a climbing rope, and even the infancy stages of Ultimate Sandbags. You can imagine how I crazy I got when everyone thought Crossfit was the first to use this style of training because I learned it from coaches that were doing it even longer than myself. None the less, my client Terry was one of my most consistent clients. He came 5:30 am every M, W, and F almost without fail.

Terry actually followed me from a commercial gym I was renting from and so he really saw my vision come to life. One day Terry chuckled to himself, when I asked him what he was laughing at he said, “you know, I could have a lot of this stuff at my house.” I agreed, he easily could. That’s when he said, “I don’t come for the equipment I come to train with you!”. It was a great compliment and something that I hope a lot of coaches can relate to with their clients.

The point though was Terry could have a lot of the key pieces of equipment that we had in our gym at his house. In fact, one of the biggest shifts that started to happen in the next almost 20 years was the fact that great strength training equipment became accessible to more people. Kettlebells, bands, suspension trainers, battle ropes, gliders, and yes, Ultimate Sandbags weren’t “strange” pieces of gym equipment anymore, they were pretty common place. This would mean that a successful coach couldn’t rely on the novelty of their gym anymore, they had to be about good training programs. That’s what I want to share in today’s post.

How The Craftsmen/women Use The Tools

I’m reminded of something a friend of mine said about gyms that try to base their value on their training tools. He said, “the problem with trying to be unique with training tools is that all I have to do when I open up a gym is have the same piece of equipment plus one more thing and I win.” His point is true, it would become a simple and expensive arms race that doesn’t build true value to your training. That is because training tools only give the POTENTIAL to do great things. How we choose to use them and the intent we put behind their use is where the powerful effects of a tool come into place.

So, why am I such a big fan of kettlebells, suspension trainers, bands, gliders, and Ultimate Sandbags? These are items that make up 95% of my own home gym and what I would focus upon if I opened another gym. It isn’t they are “hardcore”, or from some secret Easter European training method. It is because these tools allow me so many options in progressing my training and they each do things that are unique. One of the biggest pitfalls of not just the home gym, but any gym is that people just randomly choose different tools not understanding how or what the tool does that is special (this is a big emphasis in our L.I.F.T. certification HERE where we show how to systemize these tools).


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A post shared by Cory M. Cripe (@corymcripe)

What DVRT Master Cory Cripe shows is this very idea in using each tool in a way that is uniquely impactful. 


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A post shared by Cari Satre (@coachcariii)

Coach Cari Satre shows that when you really understand the tool you can often get way more out of it as well!

What You Should Focus Upon In Your Training To Make Your Home Gym Powerful

A friend of mine once told me he hated airports because of all the “time travelers”. I was like WHO?! He was referring to people that just look lost and wonder around the airport seeming as they just been transported out of time. Chances are you know what I am talking about if you go to the hardware store, the grocery store (one of my biggest places for time travelers), but also gyms. One of the things that I like about having less “stuff” in my home gym is that I am focused on the training and why I am doing what I am doing. So, what should you be focusing upon (either in your home gym or if you are going to the gym)? These are 3 great ideas!

-Focus On Movement Patterns

We discuss this A LOT in DVRT but I am continually surprised how many people still have a hard time using this in their workouts. It makes figuring out what you are doing in your home gym so much easier and leads you to the right equipment.

stability training

Time and time again I see people make this mistake. For example, someone does a deadlift, a high pull, a clean, and a snatch. Well, those are all hip hinge movements. There is no reason (unless some super specific goal) to have that type of redundancy in your training. That is why what coach Robin Paget shows is a great balance of these movement patterns.


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A post shared by Robin Paget (@rdpaget)

You will see a hip hinge (rotational clean) and push (a rotational press), a lunge (MAX rear slide lunge), resisted rotation (the crawl with drag), squat (with sprinter squat), and pull (coming out of the sprinter squat). We can make an argument for locomotion too, but that will be a post for another time:) While you don’t need to get every movement pattern each time, you can see how easy it is.

-Use All Three Planes Of Motion

I’ll probably have to use another post to fully do this idea justice, but it is one of the most effective for allowing you to make an exercise more challenging without needing a lot of equipment. The great part is that it doesn’t just make an exercise more difficult, but actually makes them more effective. That is because when we move in different planes of motion it activates both more muscles and raises the coordination in the nervous system ( meaning that your strength training transfers to life better), it also allows us to build stability and mobility with our strength training.

Lina Midla shows how we can apply both principles into powerful home gym workouts that really make us appreciate all that we can accomplish with smart training!

-Program Your Workouts Wisely

Exercises, like training tools, are pieces of the larger workout puzzle. If you choose great exercises and tools, but have a pretty bad program, you probably still won’t make great progress. So, what can you do? First, I would look to make many of your workouts a circuit. Even if strength is your primary goal, fatigue is somewhat specific so you don’t have to take long rest periods if you have a non-competing exercise in the series. For example, if you perform Front Loaded Squats and then push-ups, those are non-competing movement patterns. If you pair a power clean and bent row (they both require a hip hinge even though the upper back is more of the exercise in the bent row) those can be competing movements.

DVRT UK Master, Greg Perlaki does a great job of laying out how we can construct a good workout. Intervals also tend to work well, especially if your equipment is somewhat limited. That is because you can use the intervals many different ways and progress based on them. We have many posts on how to use HIIT workouts better (HERE) because most do miss how to use them correctly.

A home gym or going to the gym, your principles and thought process shouldn’t change all that much. The great thing about going to a gym is if you need a good coach to help you with technique or help lay out smart programs. Tools and exercises are easy to have anywhere now, it truly is how you use them!



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A post shared by Cari Satre (@coachcariii)