5 Ways to Build the Ultimate Home Gym

It’s 2016 and you have some serious fitness goals, but trekking to the gym isn’t your thing. I can’t say I blame you. It’s freezing out (long live El Niño), and nearly impossible to find a traffic-free moment on Long Island. Forget the elements and leave your keys in the basket. Build the ultimate home gym.

“I think the biggest thing is that it should just reduce your excuses,” said Dana Cavalea, who conditions pro-athletes and the public at his ML Strength facilities in Port Jefferson, Huntington and Port Washington. “The biggest excuses we get here are, ‘I don’t have time’ or, ‘It’s too far,’ so when you’re home, distance is not an issue. Time is something you have to have the willpower to create for yourself.”

Create the right atmosphere and buy the right equipment and you’ll want to make the time. A one-time strength and conditioning coach for the New York Yankees, Cavalea has helped pro-athletes including Derek Jeter and CC Sabathia set up home gyms. Pulse got him to help you set up yours.

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Hip to Be Square 

You might think sports superstars have gigantic spaces allotted to set up home gyms. Think again. When it comes to choosing a spot for your workouts, it’s more about shape than size. “You want to find a room that’s a perfect square or rectangle,” Cavalea said. “Rooms that have multiple angles make it hard to set the equipment up and have a nice flow.”

Open Gym

Think about where you want your TV and keep the floor open for mat work image: andresr

Think about where you want your TV and keep the floor open for mat work. image: andresr

In terms of layout, Cavalea suggests putting equipment, such as weights and weight racks, along the perimeter. “You want to keep the middle open so you can do your open training,” he said. Also, make sure to have one or two outlets on every wall in case you need it for equipment and think about which way you’d like to be facing when you do your cardio. That’s where you’ll want to put your TVs, so make sure you have enough outlets for that.

Looks Matter

Most people associate working out as something that’s not easy. The results are positive but the trip is not fun,” Cavalea said. Make your at-home gym a space you love by decorating it to your tastes. Cavalea is more relaxed, so he personally leans towards more subdued tones. “Other people who want to really get after it can use a bolder color,” he said. “Decorate it with motivational sayings or pictures or things that remind you of positivity.” One of his friends has framed photos of all his favorite sports moments.

What You Need

Have a mat on hand for your yoga day image: peopleimages

Have a mat on hand for your yoga day. image: peopleimages

With so many options to choose, it can be tempting to walk into a sporting goods store or log onto Amazon and buy everything. Resist the urge. Keep it simple and use equipment that has a purpose.

Start with a functional trainer. For cardio, Cavalea likes to train athletes on an Airdyne bike, which has a fan and uses the arms as well. “It doesn’t move unless you put the effort in,” he said. If you’d prefer a treadmill, look for a space-saver one that you can fold up to conserve space. “I have some folks that on a Sunday afternoon instead of sitting on the couch and watching football they get on the treadmill and walk for four quarters,” Cavalea said.

Other must-haves: a selectorized dumbbell, power block with a stand, medicine ball stand with balls ranging from 4 to 15 pounds, multi-purpose bands (they come in light, medium and heavy) and mini-bands. “They go around your ankles to strengthen the glutes.” He also suggests a mat for floor work. “Airex makes a nice thick mat that’s spongy and well-crafted.” This will protect your joints during floor work. Finally, invest in a heart rate monitor. “I find most people don’t know how to train. If you want to maximize your conditioning, calories burned, use a heart rate monitor to maximize your effort.” Cavalea opts for Polar monitors that strap around his clients’ chests instead of the trendy wrist monitors because he feels it gets a more accurate reading.

Try to find equipment that is of commercial grade, even if it’s used. “It’s more durable,” Cavalea said.

Safety First

“Make sure you have enough space and you’re not trying to fit so much into one room, especially with a treadmill,” Cavalea warned. Don’t put the belt against the wall. “God forbid you trip on a shoelace.” And when you’re using your gym, remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t build a six-pack in that time frame, either.  “Everyone wants to fly out of the gate, and then you don’t see them for 4-6 weeks because they hurt their shoulder. Do a little bit, then do a little bit more and a little bit more, but don’t do it all at once.”

beth ann clyde

beth ann clyde

Beth Ann Clyde is a social strategist of Long Island Pulse. Have a story idea or just want to say hello? Email bethann@lipulse.com or reach out on Twitter @BAClyde.