Your Home Gym Needs These Underrated Upgrades

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

I’ve been training at home since March, and I’ve gotten to know my home gym (aka “some piles of rusty stuff in my garage”) pretty well during this time. Besides the obvious — weights and such — it turns out there are a few little things that can make a garage feel a bit more like a real gym.

A horse stall mat

You can install fancy flooring, you can buy squares of gym mats, or you can just head out to your local farm supply store and get a four-by-six foot horse stall mat for roughly $60. You can use one mat, or buy two and put them side-by-side for a 6×8 platform.

They’re great for heavy lifts that you might drop, like deadlifts. The mat is also flatter and harder than most squishy gym flooring, meaning it can act as a nice stable platform for olympic lifts or anything else where you need the ground to be solid beneath your feet. (I drag mine out to a nice flat spot in my otherwise rough, gravelly driveway.)

Chalk

A lot of gyms don’t have chalk because it’s messy. People get it all over the equipment, they don’t clean it up, they leave streaks of it on the ground. But when you’re in your own space, you know you’re going to take care of it.

Chalk is great for securing your grip on a deadlift bar, a pull-up bar, or anywhere else you might need a little extra help holding on when your hands are sweaty. This isn’t the footpath or chalkboard stuff, though: Look for “gymnastic” or “weightlifting” chalk, which comes in blocks. Break up a block into a resealable plastic container, and then you can either rub the chunks on your hands or dip your hands into the dust at the bottom.

Tunes

Why listen to music on headphones when the whole place is yours to blast whatever you want? It’s worth getting a nice bluetooth speaker, or digging out an old boom box to enjoy some music without having to keep earbuds in all the time.

Charts and chalkboards

In a home gym, even the walls are yours. Why not put up a chalkboard with a chart of your best lifts or workout times? You can also post your favourite workouts, or reference charts for converting kilos to pounds or calculating percentages of your best lifts (handy if you follow a percentage-based program).

I haven’t put up a chalkboard yet, but I do let my son write his best deadlifts on a piece of cardboard on one wall. I also have a cheesy thermometer chart that I fill in when I get a little closer to one of my big goal lifts. Hey, it’s my gym, so why not?

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