Home Gym: Part 1

I’ve been working out seriously for over 2 years now. I started off doing a bit of research into how to lose weight on a few of my influential sites at the time (namely Art of Manliness and [Nerd Fitness] (http://nerdfitness.com)) who said strength training is the best way to get in better shape, and specifically a program called Starting Strength.

The Starting Strength program is a barbell-only program that emphasizes only adding 5 lbs more than your previous lift. Squat 135 last time? Today, squat 140. Easy enough, right?

I’ve heard many things over the years about people injuring themselves at the gym, and I wanted to ensure I wasn’t going to be included in that statistic.

New York City is a big place, but I was surprised at how few Starting Strength coaches there were in Manhattan. I ended up training under Ryan Peller at a place called Focus Integrated Fitness, which if I were honest, I chose because it was the most closely located on my walk to/from work.

I worked with Ryan for over a year, culminating in my first weightlifting competition, something I never thought I’d ever be apart of.

I eventually joined the Barbell class at the same gym, this time lead by Brent Carter, one of the head instructors at the gym.

Under Brent, I transitioned to the intermediate Texas Method program, which is a harder, more intense way to keep the weight on the bar going up.

I can’t thank my coaches enough for their patience and expertise over the years.

When we started the process of buying our house, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go to Focus as often as I had been. Having a big, open area for a home gym was a priority for me, and luckily the house we chose has 8ft tall basement ceilings.

The basis of my home gym is the platform - the thing you stand on when lifting. It is critical to get the platform stable, because when you have 300+ lbs in your hands or on your back, even small fluctuations under your feet can cause you to be thrown off balance.


I found online a basic design using 5 sheets of plywood and some rubber matting.

It looked simple enough, even for a non-handy-man like myself.

I went over the design with my coworker Matt, who is much more experienced at building… well, everything, than me, and he noted that I planned on putting this in the basement. And basements get wet, so I should use a vapor barrier and pressure treated plywood.

Furthermore, those two black strips of rubber matting are not easy to find in 2’x8’ size. Horse stall mats are commonly found in 4’x6’, so that’ll have to do, and I can put 2’x2’ plywood squares at the top.

Materials list

  • 4 sheets of pressure treated plywood (usually Pine) (4’ x 8’ x 3/4")
  • 1 top sheet of nicer plywood to act as the center piece (I chose Red Oak)
  • 1 4’ x 6’ rubber horse stall mat (3/4") from the local feed store
  • 3 tubes of Liquid Nails Subfloor adhesive
  • ~50 1 1/4" wood screws
  • 10’ x 12’ vapor barrier

If you’ve never shopped for plywood (which I hadn’t), you should know that pressure treated plywood is significantly heavier. They basically soak the wood in liquid chemicals to prevent rot, but wet wood weighs much more than dry wood.

I bought all of the materials from Home Depot and used one of their Load ‘n Go flatbed trucks to get it home for ~$25 with tax.

Putting it Together

I called my friend Keith to come help me take the plywood down to the basement. I originally thought he would just help me truck it downstairs. I realized midway that even if the middle two pieces were downstairs, I couldn’t lift one of those plywood pieces by myself in order to get it into place. We might as well start actually putting it together.

A big thank you to Keith for helping put this together!