Lifting weights is one of my favorite hobbies and activities. It really helped transform my life. I spent my youth substantially overweight and picking up the habit of lifting weights in high school helped me transition to focus on my health and well-being. When I was 18 years old I was at least 50 pounds overweight. However, at this time I began a huge focus on my health after witnessing relatives undergo serious health complications stemming from weight problems and diabetes. I began a two-pronged attack focused on lifting weights and cleaning up my diet which featured too much fast food and soda.
I began completing four weight workouts a week featuring lifts such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, bench presses, and barbell rows. These workouts combined with eliminating the crap from my diet such as fast food, fried foods, added sugars, and soda helped me drop 50 pounds over the course of a year.
Weightlifting has been an activity I have maintained ever since and I believe it should be a core fitness activity for everyone. Consistent weight training helps build lean body mass, improves bone density, functional strength, and elevates metabolism. These contribute to helping your body run as a more efficient machine while helping slow the effects of aging. Aesthetically, one can build a leaner, more muscular, and desirable body by implementing weight training workouts into their weekly routine.
This physical activity also has personal finance implications. The cost of health care is skyrocketing as the United States now spends more than 20% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare costs which is far more than other countries. Many of our citizens are on a viciously failing wellness and health care system featuring overweight, unhealthy, sedentary individuals feasting on a combination of processed, packaged, addictive, fatty food and sugary sodas produced in mass for huge profits coupled with the eventual pharmaceutical cocktails designed to keep the citizens doling out big bucks to endure crippling side effects. Health is one’s most valuable asset as millions of dollars of cash saved cannot compare with or be substituted for good health. The best course of action is to embrace your health in the realms of nutrition and physical fitness to not have to depend on the big pharmaceutical business to keep your body chugging along.
The really frustrating component of the sad state of our health and high costs of healthcare is that the side effects from being overweight are entirely preventable and we have more information than ever available to research and unlock the truth about our health. Despite the sheer volume of information available, the basics are quite simple. Focus the diet on natural foods untouched by man or laboratory including vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, and lean meat. Get a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity daily including several weight workouts weekly. These two actions alone will help eliminate 99% of all the health implications from being overweight.
Let’s examine some of the considerations for starting a weight training program. The first consideration is whether to complete the weight training activities at home or join a commercial gym. For newcomers to the iron game, I would recommend starting at a commercial gym to learn how to complete some of the movements, determine what equipment is useful, and verify that they will be committed to weight training. If after a sustained weight training experience of a year or more is complete and the trainee is inspired to create the lifelong habit of fitness, they can then explore building their home gym. Joining a commercial gym can be very pricey, however, the price of improving one’s health is worth spending money for. Below are the considerations I made before joining a commercial gym,
- Location in relation to my home and work-
This should be a primary consideration as one needs to pick a gym that is close to the home base and workplace. This helps ensure that you will actually attend as it makes it much harder to make the excuse that you don’t have time when it’s conveniently located nearby. Furthermore, financially this move helps limit your cost from attendance by minimizing transportation costs when travelling to the gym. Ideally, the gym should be within a walking or biking distance. This provides a good warm-up as you can walk to the gym and have your body primed for the daily workout upon arrival
- Cost per month-
Cost is the other primary consideration when choosing a gym. The main thing to remember is that membership prices are negotiable. I have never paid the full monthly price at a commercial gym. Always haggle, and walk away if you need to. The key is to do your homework and know what other gyms nearby are charging. By calling around and knowing the market, you can leverage the gym you like into matching a price of another competitor. I have done this multiple times with success. The most recent occasion, I scouted the gyms in the area based on these criteria and decided upon one. However, they were the most pricy. So, I went in and sat down with one of their associates after touring the facility and told them what I was willing to pay. They argued that they wouldn’t be able to accommodate that, but I just mentioned that I would just join the competing gym. Finally, they brought out a manager to play hardball and make me acquiesce to their steep price. I didn’t cave in and eventually left to walk out of the gym before being caught at the door and having them agree to my offer.
This 20 minute discussion enabled me to negotiate down to a zero money down, $29 per month deal. Their standard “deal” involved a $200 initiation fee couple with monthly rates of $49.99. My negotiation has saved me $20 per month over the last four years plus the initiation fee totaling $1,160 in savings to date. My brief haggling period has returned nearly $3,500 per hour thus far and the savings continue climbing monthly.
- Number of Locations available-
Depending on your work situation, this may not need to be a priority. I travel frequently and move to different job locations often, so I wanted to make sure that I joined a gym with many available locations rather than a standalone offering.
- Range of Equipment Available-
My equipment needs are fairly basic, but it pays to check out and see what is available. One of the gyms I looked at didn’t even have power racks available for completing squats and other heavy lifts which promptly scratched them from my list.
- Quality/Variety of facilities-
Ultimately I selected a gym that features a large offering of weight and cardio equipment in addition to basketball courts, racketball courts, and swimming pool.
HOME GYM SETUP CONSIDERATIONS:
Creating a home gym is the ideal scenario for the enthusiastic lifter. It provides huge convenience as the gym is always available and open at all hours. Cost wise, it also makes sense if someone is devoting a lifetime to fitness to have their own setup and save the monthly dues accompanying commercial gym memberships. There are significant start-up costs to creating the proper gym, but one can minimize this by researching and investigating all sources for equipment including craigslist, garage sales, yard sales, and gym liquidation sales to minimize expense. There are a few pieces of equipment I would consider mandatory for a home gym weight training setup including:
- Power Rack- this rack pictured below is used primarily for squat exercises. One can also complete shrugs, bench press, incline bench press, and overhead press when a moveable bench is available. Many are also setup with chin-up bars to complete pull-up variations.
- Bench Press- used for completing, wait for it……bench presses, and incline presses to build upper body strength
- Platform or area of heavy rubber mats- the raised platform or area of thick rubber mats is required to complete heavy barbell lifts off of the ground. This includes deadlifts, barbell rows, and Olympic style lifts such as the power clean, and clean-and-jerk.
- Dumbells- I would endorse also investing in a range of heavy dumbells for lifts such as dumbbell rows, dumbbell press variations, lunges, reverse lunges, and dumbbell step-ups.
I have setup the foundation for the benefits of weight training, why someone should embrace it, and what considerations you should make before joining a gym or getting equipment to do it at home. However, I’m now approaching 1,500 words and I will devote my next post to uncovering some of the key movements, lifts, and how to build a basic weight training program to unlock better health.