Written by Ben Prinsloo
Should You Be Training At The Gym Or At Home?
Very rarely do transformations occur in the corner of someone’s garage. Home workouts can be great, and hugely effective when done right, and depending on the equipment you have at home they can be just as good as a workout at the gym. The concerning factor, however, is “when done right”. What often gets forgotten when recreating your gym at home, is that even if you get all the same equipment, what you can’t bring with you is the culture.
Some people thrive in a competitive environment, some do not. If you thrive in a competitive environment, of course, you ought to be training with people that you can compete with, and the best place for this is in the gym. If you don’t thrive in competition, I still think the gym is better for you. Even if you prefer to not encounter the egos present in the gym, gyms are generally filled with people highly knowledgeable on weightlifting, training, bodybuilding, or whatever it is that you want to achieve in the gym.
Striking conversation with such people doesn’t necessarily need to be done by challenging them to state “what they bench”. If you prefer not to be competitive you can approach these people in a humble way. People who are passionate about their training will generally jump at the opportunity to talk about training, and by giving them this opportunity they are likely to happily help you out. Once you have established an introduction with these people, hopefully, they will tell you when your form is out, or if you could be doing something in a better way.
Additionally, provided you are at the right gym, the range of equipment means that your routine does not go stale. Occasionally you need to change up your routine, that can mean swapping your dumbbell flys for cable flys, and other such changes, and unless you have invested a lot of money into your home gym, this would obviously be quite difficult to do. Similarly, your cardio ought to change up now and then – from treadmill to cycling, to rowing, to stepping. Again, this is easier and cheaper if you use a gym.
Undoubtedly you must have caught yourself eyeing someone doing a strange move before. Or a clever set, or combination. I once noticed someone doing an interesting bicep routine – 6 curls with the hands facing 45 degrees away from the body, immediately followed by 6 curls with the hands in front of the navel, immediately followed by 6 hammer curls, immediately followed by 6 reverse curls. I would probably have never come up with such a combination myself or at home, so thankfully I use a gym, and I pick up these clever little tricks. Noticing little nuances in other people’s routine builds up your own, and again you need the gym, and its culture, to do so.
Of course, a home workout comes with its advantages. Sometimes it is nice to go into your own space, with no one around, and bust out a heavy workout. You can scream and shout as you please, and if you feel like leaving the weights, and not racking them, the only person that’s going to get upset is yourself! But I feel that the benefits of a home workout are often only evident in the shadow of a gym – it’s a good way to break from the gym, but in isolation, I do believe that a workout at the gym will be better.
Knowing that you made the effort to go to the gym helps you motivate yourself. Some days we feel flat – it happens to everyone eventually. If you drive yourself all the way to the gym, on one of these days, it helps you complete a full workout – you don’t want to be that person that goes home after ten minutes. At home, however, it is another story. If you are feeling flat, and you are at home, alone, it’s a lot harder to keep yourself motivated. It is very easy, in that environment, to shrug your shoulders (unweighted!), and migrate back to the couch for some chill time. All the equipment in the world can’t change this. Of course, with the right mindset, it does not matter because you still can motivate yourself at home. But in terms of nuance, being in the gym gives you the edge.
Lastly, as someone who works in a gym, it is good to keep your spaces separate. Home is a place to relax – for some it is where they work, and they will probably know they need to keep their relaxing space and their working space separate. Equally, it helps to keep your fitness space, your relaxing space, and your working space, separate. At the gym I train clients, I find it much harder to do my own training. When I enter a different gym, it becomes ‘me-time’, and I can train how I please. In the same way, when you’ve got a kitchen inside, and a nice TV and couch, it is much harder to make yourself work hard in what is technically your relaxing space.
With all of the above being said, I encourage a little bit of home gym infrastructure. Sometimes motivation strikes – a quick pump, a good core session, even a desire to punch and kick a bag a bit. It’s nice to have the ability to quench that appetite when it occurs. Having a few pieces of small equipment – push-up slides, resistance bands, dumbbells, a good mat, is all you really need. Of course, if you’ve got the space and the resources for a full power rack, do it. But first and foremost I think it is best to keep your primary training in the gym.