Since about the middle of last year, a lot of people have been moaning on Twitter, Reddit and elsewhere about gym closures. But personally, I have started thinking I am happy to not return to the Church of Iron any time soon. Putting aside the fact that it seemed like more people were upset about gyms closing during lockdown than actually went to gyms pre-lockdown, do the benefits of a well-equipped gym really outweigh – no pun intended – their down sides and expense?
Don't get me wrong, I like going to the gym. We have lists of the best dumbbells, best barbells and best multi-gyms here on T3 but what you get in any good gym is usually of a higher standard. At a gym I can hop on the leg press and push some serious weights then walk over to the free weight area and feel like an absolute beast lifting one and a half my bodyweight during deadlifts. Despite not talking too much to other people when in the gym, there is a sense of community there, especially if you workout after hours: you see the same faces doing their workouts around you, smiling as you walk past or awkwardly trying not to disturb you when they take the plates off the rack as you're busting out some squats.
However, having been forced to move out of the Church of Iron and into the Shed of Cheap Dumbbells – what I like to call my home gym – I am in no hurry to return.
Like you, I was forced to come to terms with working out at home with the limited quantity of home gym equipment available to em. At first, I thought I will lose all the negligible amount of muscle mass I had in the first place: after all, I only had a couple of kettlebells, a pull up bar and a few resistance bands at hand. How was I supposed to do deadlifts or squats?
To my surprise, after a few months of milling about, I learned to love working out at home and finding ways to get a good pump using the equipment I have. Of course, I purchased some more equipment as time went on. Recently, I bought a Mirafit M3 7ft barbell (opens in new tab) and Mirafit M1 bench (opens in new tab) – yes bought; it wasn't sent to me for free by grateful brands. Not having all that high-end, proper gym equipment at my disposal made me focus on my form and the way I perform the exercises in order to grow my muscles.
The situation also helped a lot in strengthening the muscle-mind connection and really making the most of each rep. Rather than trying to bench a little bit more with heavier weights every single time I went to the gym, I started applying longer muscle-under-tension times to work the muscles more and to counterbalance the effect of not being able to use heavier weights.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbell | Buy it for $399.99 at Walmart (opens in new tab)
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbell replaces 15 dumbbells making it extremely space-saving and perfect for home gyms. Changing the weight is as easy as turning the dial at the end of the dumbbell. Bowflex dumbbells are like gold dust nowadays, buy this while you can!
The lack of variety also pushed me out of my comfort zone. Not having a weight bench and a barbell at home, until very recently, I switched to doing kettlebell floor presses instead. To create an incline, I propped my back up with a medicine ball and did chest flys that way. Instead of lat pulldowns, I did wide pull ups. Instead of cable row, I did inverted rows using the TRX HOME2.
Did it work? I feel like it did, and not just in terms of building muscle. I workout more often now – pretty much every day as I don't have to commute to the gym – and pay more attention to my body too.
On top of that, my nutrition plan is more fine tuned and precise than it's ever been before.
Okay, I am not denying that I'm looking forward to when we can all get back to working out in the gym. But I'm also glad I've had the last 12 months to really tweak my technique at home. I'll probably split my workout time more evenly between home and the gym in the future.
PowerBlock Sport 24 Adjustable Dumbbells (2020 model) | Buy it for $499.95 at Best Buy (opens in new tab)
PowerBlock Sport 24 Adjustable dumbbells replace eight pairs of dumbbells in the space of one pair, so it's slightly less versatile than the Bowflex dumbbells but it is cheaper and you get not just one for the price but a pair. Sport 24 has a weight range of 3-24 lbs per hand in 3 lb increments.
This is part of T3's Fit for 2021 programme, which will be running throughout 2021 to get everyone fit and healthy. We aim to bring you tips on diet, lifestyle and exercise that will help you shape up for what is certain to be a challenging year for many. One thing we can guarantee: it WILL be better than last year. And hopefully we'll help you get the most out of it.