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How to create your own home gym

From the equipment you need to designing a programme, here’s what you need to know for the perfect home workout

CrossFit trainer and national rugby player Sourabh Dubal working out at home.
CrossFit trainer and national rugby player Sourabh Dubal working out at home.

With the covid-19 pandemic showing no signs of subsiding, and the months of lockdown and gradual easing of restrictions giving us enough time to prioritize health, it is as a good a time as any to finally set up a home gym. If you can’t do that, at least aim for a dedicated workout space in the house.

Will that involve huge investment? Not necessarily. Sometimes all you need is a yoga mat and a skipping rope. Ultimately, it all depends on how active you have been and how intense you want your workouts to be.

First, select a spot for your workouts.

Let’s face it. You did not design a house with a gym in mind. Maybe you live in rented accommodation or share the house with others. While it is possible to do a simple workout anywhere, you still need to make sure some basic criteria are met. Choose a place which has a solid and stable surface, one that will not let you slip. If you have access to a lawn or a terrace, that works well too. If you have heavy weights, choose a place like a garage or a lawn. If you wish to do yoga or Pilates, any space with some natural light will work.

Next comes the important question: What exactly should you invest in?

It is very easy to get daunted by Instagram posts which show extremely toned people using all sorts of equipment. But it is important to know what suits you, and what you will enjoy. According to CrossFit trainer (CF-L1 ) and national rugby player Sourabh Dubal, your investments should depend on your fitness level. “It does not mean that if you are very serious about your workouts, you need to spend a lot. You can easily use lesser number of weights, or replace them with things you can find at home for a workout, till the time you are sure that you want to actually purchase something,” says Dubal.

After Kolkata-based businesswoman Sayantani Ghosh’s gym shut down, she did not take another membership or sign up for online classes. Through the lockdown, Ghosh has used her skipping rope to do cardio workouts daily. She sometimes combines it with light yoga—she has bought a yoga mat for this.

For beginners, says Dubal, the initial investment can be a yoga mat, a skipping rope and maybe a small dumbbell or kettlebell. If the latter are not available, you can substitute with a bag (fill it up with packets of rice, pulses or books). The idea should be to use more bodyweight movements at a beginner’s level since you may not be aware of the proper techniques to use equipment or weights.

Pune-based archaeologist Malavika Chatterjee used to do CrossFit before the lockdown. Now Chatterjee, who shares a hostel room, doesn’t have enough space to work out with big weights. After trying to be consistent with bodyweight movements, she bought three pairs of dumbbells—of 5kg, 10kg and 12.5kg each—and a few resistance bands.

“I work out in my room; however, I am not consistent any more. From six days a week to possibly once a week. My CrossFit box is doing workouts online through Zoom but due to the patchy Wi-Fi of my hostel, I cannot join! Plus doing it on tiled floors with lack of space ain’t great,” says Chatterjee, who now follows YouTube videos and Instagram accounts to get ideas for her workouts.

For an intermediate athlete, such as Chatterjee, a few dumbbells and kettlebells of varying weights and maybe a box (for jumps) can be added to the workout equipment. “The intermediate athlete knows the movements, and will probably need guidance only for programming and sometimes for technique corrections. For this, online classes or online videos can work well,” says Dubal.

In Mangaluru, entrepreneur Shravan decided to invest in a home gym. In June, he learnt about a sale of second-hand equipment and purchased a squat rack, a bench, barbells, weight plates, dumbbells, a rower and an air bike. He also lined his garage with about 200 sq. ft mats so that the tiles would not be damaged by the weights.

“Those who know how to use the equipment can actually choose to invest and purchase as many things as they want—starting with a few dumbbells, barbell and weights, a pull-up bar and squat rack. They might be able to do their own programming, or can choose to get a personal trainer who can help them achieve their goals,” explains Dubal.

Investing in a few dumbbells and barbells is enough to get started on an effective home fitness journey.
Investing in a few dumbbells and barbells is enough to get started on an effective home fitness journey.

Programming, for most, is the most deceptively difficult part. Often, people work the same muscle group for several days, leading to fatigue, and in some cases, injury. Or they ignore strength training in favour of cardio, or the other way around. The key ingredient to fitness, according to Dubal, is to maintain a balance. He suggests a five-day workout programme with two days of active or complete rest.

A weekly workout programme by Sourabh Dubal

Monday: Metabolic conditioning workout with sustainable and repeatable efforts. Roughly of 20-30 minutes each, to help improve your metabolism.

Tuesday: Upper-body power and strength workout, followed by core strength and stability work.

Wednesday: Lower-body power and strength routine, followed by high-intensity interval training. Do 40 seconds of work, followed by 20 seconds of rest or 30 seconds’ work, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat this five-six times.

Thursday: Active rest. Do some cycling, Pilates, yoga or work on your mobility.

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