We’re all born into a box.  You drive to work in a box.  When you get to work, you work in a box.  You think inside the box.  You come home and live in a box.  You eat of a box.  You even workout in a box.

Some have bigger boxes than others.  What if you were in prison cell?  What if you worked in a submarine?  Or what if you just lived in a cramped studio apartment?  How would you train?  How could you build a better body in a box?

A lot of people ask me how to train at home with limited equipment and limited space.  There are a number of reasons why people would want to train at home:

1) You save time. For a commercial gym, you have to drive to there and from there. For a home gym, however, your commute time is ZERO.

2) You can work out whenever you please. Whereas most commercial gyms have business hours, your home gym is open to you 24/7. So you have no excuse to miss a workout.  Since you can work out whenever you please in a home gym, you can work out multiple times throughout the day.  Shorter multiple workouts throughout the day burn more fat and develop strength more quickly than one workout a day.

3) You save money. Once you make the initial investment on the home gym equipment, that’s it. No initiation fees. No membership fees. Many commercial gyms require initiation fees, which often cost as much or more than the cost to setup a home gym. By setting up a home gym, you save money in the short term and even more in the long term.

4) You get a better workout. How often have you worked out at a gym and waited for the equipment to be free? Do you think you’re getting a good workout if you have to wait 5-10 minutes between every exercise? In your home gym, you don’t have to wait. You don’t have to put your workout on hold, because some screwball is curling a barbell inside the squat rack.

5) You have no distractions. There are no sweaty, obnoxious people in your home gym (unless you happen to be one).

6) You have privacy.  A lot of people are simply intimidated by the gym environment.  If you’re fat and overweight, then you may find it very discouraging to go the gym and see athletic bodies and people in incredible shape.  With a home gym you have some privacy and concentrate on yourself and not others.


Building Your Own Box

If you have the money and space, then you can build yourself a pretty nice gym.  Let me make some suggestions to help you minimize the cost. First and foremost, always go with free weights. Machines are costly and take up a lot of space. Dumbbells and barbells, however, are versatile and can work every body part.  I suggest the following pieces of equipment for a home/garage gym:

  • A power rack for squats and pull-ups
  • An adjustable bench
  • An Olympic barbell
  • A pair of adjustable dumbbells
  • 300 lbs. of weight (or however much weight you will need)
  • A calf block
  • Rubber matting for the floor

Now what if you had a smaller space to work out in?  This factor will determine your equipment purchases and exercise programs much more than price.  If you’re living in a cramped studio apartment, then buy yourself some kettlebells, a pull-up/dip station and a set of resistance bands.  Kettlebells complement calisthenics and can be used to add weight to pull-ups, squats and dips.  You can get a complete full body workout with just these three pieces of equipment and some bodyweight exercises:

Calisthenics

Back and Biceps:

  • Pull-ups
  • Chin-ups

Chest and Triceps

  • Dips
  • Pushup variations
  • Handstand pushups

Quads:

  • Pistols (one-legged squats)
  • Lunges
  • Reverse lunges
  • Sissy squats

Calves:

  • One legged calf raise

Abs:

  • Hanging leg raises
  • Gecko plank

Mobility and Flexibility:

·       Yoga

Conditioning:

·       Hill sprints

·       Jump rope

Kettlebell Exercises

  • Swings
  • Clean and press
  • Snatch
  • Windmills
  • Turkish get-ups
Resistance Bands

  • Band pull apart (mid back)
  • Face pulls (mid back, deltoids)
  • Upright rows (deltoids)

The Small Box Program

Here’s a minimalist program that you can use to build muscle with little equipment in tight spaces.  Since there’s minimal equipment and the equipment is portable, you can do these workouts outdoors if you wish.  Once a week I bring a 50 pound kettlebell to a pull-up station on a parcourse (fitness trail) in the City and do an outdoor workout of pull-ups, one arm pushups, pistols and kettlebell snatches.

The Small Box Workout is a two phase program.  Follow the Density Phase for 2 weeks, then switch over to the Decompression Phase for weeks 3 and 4.

Weeks 1-2: Density Phase

These are full body workouts.  Alternate between Workout A and B throughout the week, every other day:

Workout A

  1. Kettlebell windmill (2 sets of 5-8 reps, 1 minute rest period)
  2. Pull-ups (2 sets of as many reps as possible [AMRAP], 1 minute rest period)
  3. One-legged squat or Bulgarian squats (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
  4. Dips (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
  5. Kettlebell swing or snatch (2 sets of 5-8 reps, 1 minute rest period)
  6. Hanging leg raises (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
  7. One legged calf raise with weight in hand (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 1 minute rest period)
  8. Band face pulls (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 1 minute rest period)

Workout B

  1. Turkish get-up (2 sets of 1 rep on each side, 1 minute rest period)
  2. Chin-ups (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
  3. Diamond pushups (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
  4. Kettlebell lunges (2 sets of 5-8 reps, 1 minute rest period)
  5. Kettlebell clean and press (2 sets of 5-8 reps, 1 minute rest period)
  6. Gecko planks (2 sets on each side, 1 minute rest period)
  7. One legged calf raise (2 sets of AMRAP, 1 minute rest period)
  8. Band upright rows (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 1 minute rest period)
  9. Band pull apart (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 1 minute rest period)

Weeks 3-4: Decompression Phase

Alternate between Workout A and B throughout the week, every other day:

Workout A

  1. Kettlebell windmill (2 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
  2. Pull-ups with weight (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
  3. One-legged squat or Bulgarian squats with weight (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
  4. Dips with weight (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
  5. One arm kettlebell swing or snatch (4 sets of 5-8 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
  6. Band face pulls (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 90 second rest periods)

Workout B

  1. Turkish get-up (2 sets of 1 rep on each side, 2 minute rest periods)
  2. Chin-ups with weight (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
  3. Lever pushups (4 sets of AMRAP, 2 minute rest periods)
  4. Kettlebell reverse lunges (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
  5. Kettlebell clean and press (4 sets of 4-6 reps, 2 minute rest periods)
  6. Band upright rows (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 90 second rest periods)
  7. Band pull apart (2 sets of 8-12 reps, 90 second rest periods)
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