Building A Hero Worthy Home Gym

*Since I was not going to be able to get any work done while on vacation, promised my wife I would actually relax, I had some friends contribute some articles to the site.  Funny enough they both wrote about Batman.  Last week Tanner Baze told you how you can train to “Become the Batman“, today Nick Sorrell will lay out how you can build your own Batcave in home gym.*

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”
-Ben Parker

We all love Superheroes.

From full grown men, to 6 year old kids, we all have trouble looking away when our favorite Hero is getting some screen time.

Geektyrant Geektyrant

Some of us may have certain preferences or biases. Whether it be DC vs Marvel (hard), Superman vs. Batman (impossible), or even Star Wars vs Star Trek (not even close).

Regardless of where our allegiances lie, we love them all the same.
This is no secret.

What seemingly has become a secret is exactly why we love these heroes so much.

From the outside-in, it can appear rather simple. Who doesn’t crave the idea of having the Hulk’s brute strength, Wonderwoman’s invisible jet, or Goku’s black hole of a stomach?

And while I love Wolverine’s Adamantium Exoskeleton, and Iron-Man’s supernatural gift for sarcasm, that is not why we’ve fallen in love with these Caped Crusaders.

We love our heroes not because they saved the world.

But because of the journey they took to do so.

The Hero’s Journey and Discovering Your Own Bat-Cave

Back in the day, American Scholar Joseph Campbell (read: some smart guy) identified a specific pattern that all Heroes go through.

This pattern (aptly referred to as “The Hero’s Journey”) is one that appears in the story of nearly every hero that we hold dear.

Whether it be Peter Parker’s transformation from High-School-Nerd to Web-Slinging-Vigilante, or Clark Kent’s journey from the cornfields of Smallville to the streets of Metropolis, each of them go through a very consistent series of events that mold them into something greater.

Some of these events are pretty basic, and you’re probably fairly familiar with most of them.

The first event in The Hero’s Journey is known as “The Call to Action”. During this event, our hero receives some outward stimulus meant to inspire him to action. This could be Harry receiving his letters to Hogwarts, Frodo being entrusted with the Ring, or Luke meeting Obi-Wan for the first time.

Within this first event, our heroes often stumble across a very important tool. One that becomes extremely crucial throughout the arch of the Hero’s Journey.

The Hero’s Lair.

Let me tell you the story of how I discovered mine:

It was an overtly gloomy afternoon. The kind in which the sun never breaks, and the clouds never seem to fade. Leaving just a cold grey backdrop across the horizon.

The dreariness of the day was fitting. Because it aptly described my mood as well.

I set off to stumble around the grounds of my parents estate.

“Exploring” I had told our butler. But in reality I was simply trying to escape the tragedy that had become my life.

I’m not entirely sure how long I walked, but it had begun to get dark. Realizing that people would begin to notice my long over-due absence, I decided to make the long trek home.

Right as I began to turn around I experienced the uneasy feeling of the ground breaking away underneath my feet.

The fall was a brief one, but it was enough to leave me rattled. Rolling over to my back, I happened to catch a quick glimpse of the sky. The sun had finally broken through the clouds and illuminated the cave I had just fallen into.

Almost instantaneously the room erupted. The walls had seemingly given loose, making it seem as if the whole world was spinning. But after a brief moment I realized what was going on.


Screaming. Flying. And nearly frightened as I was.

Amidst that horror I felt something transcendent burning deep inside of myself.
A calling.

In that singular moment, it became clear who I was.
Or rather… who I would become.

Okay. Maybe that story was not my own…That may or may not have been the story of Batman and the Bat-Cave.

But whatever- you get the point. This shit is important.

Superman has the Fortress of Solitude. The Fantastic 4 have the Baxter Building. Thor has the Hall of Asgard. And of course there is Batman coming in clutch with the Bat-Cave. Superheroes need Super Headquarters.

And guess what?

It is time for us to build yours.

So sling on that cape, pull out that checkbook, and let’s get to work.

5 Must Haves for the Hero Worthy Home Gym
(And 3 Extras)

1. Power Rack

This is the cornerstone.

At the heart of every hero hideaway is one piece of equipment that holds everything together. For Batman, it was his supercomputer. For Iron-Man, it was J.A.R.V.I.S.

For you, my tight-loving brethren, it is the Power Rack.

The Power Rack will allow you to do almost any pressing or squating variation you can think of. And depending on the type of rack you choose, you may also have a place to do pullups, rows, dips, bandwork, and just about anything else… outside of hanging your dirty laundry.

Although I guess you can do that too.

Which brings up a good point. What kind of rack are you going to choose?

A Full Power Rack? A Half Rack? A Squat Stand?

Each can make due in a pinch, but I highly suggest going with a cage style rack. This allows for much more safety than a free standing Squat Stand, and much more versatility than a Half-Rack.

Pro Tip:

Make sure to be cognizant of logistics when ordering your rack.

Of course an 8 foot Hammer Strength Power Rack would be badass. But that may not be the case of if your ceiling is only 7 feet high. And a squat stand may be relatively light on your wallet, but may not be ideal if your a 6’9″ behemoth.

Decide not only what fits your budget and your needs, but what is also realistic for your current situation.

Recommendation: The Atlas Power Rack

2. Olympic Barbell(s)

While some Heroes are born with their source of power, others must go acquire them.

For Harry this meant a quick stop by Ollivander’s to scoop himself a wand. For Luke, this meant construcing his first light saber based on schematics found in his mentor’s hut.

Choosing your tool is an important process. It is also one you will go through when deciding on a barbell.

In the world of Strength and Conditioning, this guy is the big shot. He is the Batman, the Superman, the Alpha, and the Omega.

The barbell will also work as the main key to your fancy new Power Rack.

Starting out, you may be fine with your standard barbell. But eventually you will outgrow it and need something more. Olympic Bars can handle more weight, are easier on your joints, and most importantly… they just look cooler.

Save yourself some hassle and invest in a high quality bar from the get go.

Pro Tip:

Don’t forget about collars for your bar either.

They keep the weights from sliding around (or off) the bar while you are using it. They’re relatively cheap (here) and are well worth the investment.

Unless you find yourself envious of this fella:

Recommendation: Body Solid Oly Power Bar 7 ft Black

3. Plates

You’ve got yourself a barbell. Now you just need something to load it with.

Everyone is at a slightly different strength level, so the quantity of plates you need will vary slightly. But instead of catering to your present level of strength, I would strongly suggest investing in your future.

A few years ago I stumbled across a specific breakdown for buying plates.

While no split will be “perfect”, this one seems to do fairly well.
(via Anthony Mychal)

Enough 45’s to curb your strength level.

  • 4 / 25’s
  • 6 / 10’s
  • 8 / 5’s
  • 4 / 2.5’s

Pro Tip:

45 pounds will always be 45 pounds.

But having said that, there is a surprisingly large variance in the type of plate weights available.

Weights can be pricey, so budget can be an issue, but you can’t go wrong with Olympic Sized Bumper Plates. Not only are they more convenient than their metal counterparts, they’re also a little more “forgiving” if dropped. Which will happen.

Whatever you do, don’t buy hex plates.
Just. No.

Recommendation: Black Bumper Plate Solid Rubber with Steel Insert

*Side Quest Note: shop around via the internet and even on Craigslist or hit up local gyms who might be remodeling for old plates.  Plates can be SUPER expensive, especially the rubber olympic plates, so do some research if you are cash strapped*

4. Adjustable Dumbbells

If the Barbell was Batman, then I’d like to introduce you to Robin.

The Dumbbell.

While the dumbbell may not be as brutely intimidating as the Barbell, it can perform many of the same basic movements. Bench Presses, Bent-Over Rows, Goblet Squats. You may not be able to load them quite as heavy, but that is not always the point. Not so ironically, they tend to be much safer. Due to less total weight, and the easy ability to “ditch” them if things go wrong.

The one area they tend to exceed the Barbell in?
Hypertrophy-Based Isolation work.

Or as the bros say, “curls brah”.

Pro Tip:

When purchasing your dumbbells, you have 2 real options.

You can either:

  • Buy individual dumbbells at each incremental weight. (ex: 5,10,15,20,25,30,etc.)
  • Purchase a single pair of adjustable dumbbells.

For most of us, the adjustable dumbbells will make more sense. Luckily, this method is typically much more affordable as well.

Recommendation: Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells

5. Adjustable Bench

Lets be real, no gym is complete without a bench.

What else would you do on Monday?

If you plan on doing presses, hip thrusts, step ups, chest supported rows, and God knows what else, you’ll need a bench.

While the bench is not quite as important as a Power Rack, it is still pretty key. Maybe the bench isn’t your super computer, but it is one hell of a Utility belt.

Pro Tip:

When deciding on your bench, make sure to find one that is sturdy and simple. More is not always better here, so go ahead and skip out on the weird leg attachments and “extra” crap.

The one thing you do want to make sure of:
That your bench of choice is incline adjustable.

This unlocks a plethora of exercises like incline presses or curls, and also makes your bench much more versatile.

Recommendation: CAP Barbell Deluxe Utility Bench

*Side Quest Note: again for a bench, shop around, the internet is a treasure trove of deals*

[Extras-But Still Important]

6. Resistance Bands

For whatever reason- resistance bands get a lame rep.

While it can definitely be easy to overlook the neon color rubber band in the corner of the gym… Don’t.

These guys are no slouches. And to be quite honest, there are not many better multi-purpose tools.

Stretching. Prehabilitation. Bro-Pump-Work. Power and Accommodating Resistance Training. Whipping your buddy in the ass.

These bad boys can do it all.

They can also replicate nearly any exercise you would perform on a cable column. Flys, Palof Presses, Face-Pulls, etc. Get creative, it’s pretty easy to do them all.

Pro Tip:

When choosing bands, I only have two real tips.

Buying a multi-pack is always ideal. But if budget is an issue buy them in singles and avoid the extreme resistances. While Thunder-Bands are cool, they’re not always super practical.

Go for the fully looped version. They are typically a bit more durable, and immensely more versatile than the handle-bearing kind.

Recommendation: Serious Steel Assisted Pull-Up Band, Resistance & Stretch Band

7. Olympic Rings

Olympic Rings are a funny piece of equipment.

So useful. Yet absolutely absent from 95% of gyms.
(Yes, I know your buddy’s CrossFit gym has them.)

They work beautifully as a light (and incredibly space efficient) version of a pull-up bar and dip station. Outside of just that, they work great for an absolutely ridiculous variety of bodyweight exercises.

When purchasing them, you’ll quickly realize you have 2 ring options. Wooden or Plastic.

The plastic ones are fine, but the wooden ones are typically more frequently recommended.

Pro Tip:

When I originally wrote this, I almost put TRX straps here instead of Olympic Rings.

Not necessarily because the TRX is better. But because Olympic Rings can be a bit difficult for newer trainees.

This is something you will need to gauge for yourself. If you feel as if you may not be ready for the rings yet, that is fine! Look into a quality pair of TRX straps and you will be set.

Recommendation: Wooden Gym Rings

8. Flooring

Life is full of cool things. And as of recently, people have begun modifying these things to make them even cooler. We’ve got phone-watches, 3D televisions, push-start cars, and other super cool things releasing daily.

One modification that is pretty uncool?

A Broken Floor.

Enter the padded flooring. Why do you need padded flooring? Mostly to limit the likelihood of damaging your (or your mom’s) floor. The padded flooring will also help limit the wear and tear on your equipment if (and when) it is dropped.

Believe me, this one is important.

Pro Tip:

When picking out the placement of your home gym pay attention to the initial flooring.

Oftentimes this will allow you to make a much wiser long-term decision.

Things like concrete versus wood flooring, the general size of the room, and upstairs versus downstairs should all factor into the placement of your future Swole-Hole.

And yes, I just came up with that nickname.

Recommendation: ProSource Foam Interlocking TIles

Bonus Notes:

  • Home gyms do not make sense for everyone.
  • Those who it does make sense for:
    • People with a busy lifestyle.
    • People without a conveniently located gym.
    • And people who just hate working out around other people.
  • The equipment listed above are not the only things you can have. Jump Ropes, Ab Wheels, Sleds, Ropes. There are plenty of other great additions to any Home Gym. At the beginning though, focus on the basic staples.
  • Remember, building your own gym can be an extremely costly investment. Decide wisely if it is something that genuinely makes sense for you. If so, take the plunge. You’ll be glad you did.
  • It will take some time before your Personal Swole-Hole takes on the image that you want. It may not start as the gym you “deserve”, but it is the one you need.

 +10 points to Charisma for ending on a Batman quote.

Want to know how to train and build a body like Batman, click the picture and read last weeks article. Want to know how to train and build a body like Batman, click the picture and read last weeks article.

*Side Quest Fitness, LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to*

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