What Exercises Can I Do With A Home Gym?
Home gyms are often touted as All-in-One workout machines. That is partially true – they are often very big, look exotic and even a bit scary. So many features and “stations” they have. So this begs the question: what should you actually do with your home gym then? You can surely play around with it and do everything a little, but a more efficient way is to pick a goal and do whatever is necessary to reach that. Here, I will give you a brief introduction to various movements and exercises you can do with a home gym. After reading this you know how the home gym can help you to achieve that goal of yours!
Almost all home gyms have a pec deck! You know, the padded arms that you move in a butterfly-like manner in front of you. It’s a machine meant to activate your pectoralis muscle, which in layman’s terms means chest. Doing the butterfly press is actually a great way to hit that chest muscle – there are even studies saying it recruits the pectoralis major as much as a bench press!
However, please note that not every home gym has the pec deck. But if yours does, and you want to grow that chest, do not skip it!
The smith machine is essentially a fixed bar on rails that moves vertically up and down. The smith machine simulates two free weight movements: the bench press and squat. Indeed, the home gyms that come with smith machine also have a separate bench, meaning you can do both smith bench press and smith squat with it. And as we know, bench presses and squats are among the best exercises one can do for his body. If your home gym has this feature, I certainly recommend considering that smith!
However, I must also say there are people who warn about smith machines. The opponents say the smith machine forces you to move in a fixed path (which is admittedly true). This can make your joints or ligaments sore because you can not move them into position that is favorable for them, as you could with the free weights version of bench press and squat. My advice is, do the smith exercises, but stop if you start getting weird pains that don’t go away after a day or two!
With this you can do chin ups and pull ups. Pretty self explanatory, but I can’t stress enough how effective pull ups are for your strength and muscles. In fact, many people say pull ups are the best upper body strength exercise. The thing is, they will really widen your back, the latissimus dorsi muscle to be exact. Also your biceps will grow with them.
The only disadvantage of pull ups is the challenge they pose. See, not many people can do a pull up (palms facing away from you). Even chin ups (palms facing you) are hard for many. It takes time to become good at these. But if there’s one thing you should not skip, it is pulling yourself up!
High and low pulleys
Pretty much every home gym has these. A host of exercises can be done, probably the most common ones being tricep and bicep movements. Tricep extensions and pulldowns on the high pulley make your “back” side of upper arm grow. Some home gyms include a special tricep rope that can be attached to pulleys, and with this rope the execution of these tricep exercises is handy.
One feature that some home gyms support is cable crossover exercise. For that, you need two pulleys/cables and they need to be far enough apart from each other. According to the same study I linked above, cable crossovers are almost as effective for pectoralis muscle (your chest) activation as bench press and pec deck. They even win dips and dumbbell flys. Go figure!
The low pulley is good for bicep training! The most visible muscle of your arm. I know that direct bicep work is resented in some circles because of its egoistical and “show-off” aspect. But let’s face it. Big arms look good and biceps make a good portion of that. And direct arm work is the best exercise to grow them. So I really recommend not caring what other people think and hitting those biceps hard. You can enjoy the fruits of your work next summer walking around in a tank top!
Let’s not forget your lower body. It’s important to keep the muscles down there activated as well. You don’t want to end up with “chicken legs”. With this station, you can often do leg extension, curls and even press. They’re good movements to give some muscle to your hamstrings and quadriceps. However, don’t forget that squat is considered the king of lower body exercise. So, if your home gym has smith machine, use it for squats. Or better yet, if it has holders for a real Olympic bar, get one and do free weights squats – the best choice!
Now, the special type of home gym is glideboard. It’s pretty much a board on rails, set on a level of incline. You lay on the board and pull yourself up and down. Of course, you can change the angle which gives more or less resistance for you. So in essence, the weight comes from your body, not external plates. These kind of machines work differently than regular home gyms. While they offer certain kinds of “money” exercises such as pull ups, they are not really strict versions of the movement. However, for beginners the glideboard is a decent tool.
As you can see, there are plenty of exercises available for home gyms. The important thing is, you should choose the ones that make you reach your goals the most efficient way. For example, concentrate on pec deck, cable crossovers and pull-ups if you want to grow your upper body. In a similar vein, hitting the smith machine and leg station and doing those extensions will work your lower body. If you don’t know what your goals are, I suggest doing a full-body workout for now and begin thinking what you want to specialize in!