Wrong Ways To Work Out At Home

Photo credit © gav tatu

Gym memberships make frequent appearances on “biggest wastes of money” lists, whether compiled by the media or from people’s’ individual experiences.  Signing up for a gym is something that many people end up regretting, either because they caved under the pressure of the sales person, or because of their own laziness and loss of motivation after the initial excitement phase wears off.  What a lot of people are turning to is building their own home gym.  Be careful not to cheap out on this endeavor if it is something you are planning on doing.  Not only can you can just as easily lose the motivation here too, you may end up causing more harm to your body than your wallet.


Cheap options can lead to further expenses

It’s perfectly fine to look for a good deal when buying almost anything.  It’s even ok to do it yourself in some instances.  However, when it comes to putting together a home gym, these steps should be taken very carefully.

 If you decide to purchase equipment used, especially those items which contain moving parts or which need to support your body, you need to be particularly cautious.  Treadmills, steppers and ellipticals need to be inspected thoroughly.  Without testing them completely, you can not only be left with a monstrous piece of junk sitting in your home, you may also be in danger of causing serious damage to your body should any piece suddenly malfunction.  Benches and cable/pulley towers should also be inspected for any sign of severe wear or compromise in structure.  When it comes to anything that is relied upon to either support or move any amount of weight (particularly your own) you need to ensure that the structure is in perfect condition.  A bench failing can lead to serious damage should it collapse under you, and is even more dangerous should you be in the middle of a lift.  A pulley that fails can lead to not only the potential for injury due to recoil, but also damage to your home if the weight comes crashing down uncontrolled.

The same can be said for do it yourself home gym equipment.  Many people think that a weight bench is easy to build, or that using scraps for making jump boxes, step-up tables, or any other form of equipment is an economical option.  What they may not realize is that when you purchase any piece of equipment manufactured by a reputable company, the items are assembled of quality (hence the reputable precursor) parts and are tested to support maximum loads.  If you try to make your own, unless you are an engineer experienced in load testing, you are taking a tremendous risk with your body.


Household items do not make stable weight lifting equipment

Another popular trend, especially among the frugal or cheap, is the use of household goods in home workouts.  This is not only dangerous from a physical standpoint, it is also ill-conceived from a training stand-point.  The reason weight-training equipment is shaped the way it is, and made of the materials used by manufacturers is because of reliability and ergonomic issues.  There are a few myths out there regarding DIY training equipment that not only can cause bodily harm due to both of these issues but also negate any effort you put into working out:


1. Using household containers as weights–Milk or water jugs are simply not designed to be used as weights.  The handles do not provide the grip necessary for any recognized training routine, and the placement of the handles place unnecessary stress on the joints.  The reason barbells, dumbbells, and kettleballs all look the way they do is to provide even and balanced distribution of the weight throughout the entire range of motion of any exercise.


2. Stuffing cans of food or books into bags as weights–See above.  Also, things like grocery bags and canvas books bags are not meant to carry heavy weights.  Then you have the issue of imbalance from the fact that cans or books or anything else you use don’t conform to the shape of the bag (and vice versa) meaning that the “weights” are imbalanced and unstable. Again, this is just an accident waiting to happen


3. Strapping a backpack to you for added weight–Again, another instance of being cheap leading to possible injury.  Unless you are going to duct tape the backpack to your body, the weight will simply shift around.  There is a reason weighted vests are made the way they are–they have the weight rods (or whatever form of weight is used) strategically placed all the way around the vest and the vest straps to the body in a way that keeps it close in all positions.  Have you ever tried running with a backpack on?  It leaves your body and slams back into as you move.  Imagine trying to do situps or pushups or even running with that going on.  Not only will you lose the proper form, but also will have the annoyance of constant shifting to deal with.


It makes perfect sense to not want to waste money on a gym membership that you will likely never use.  It also makes perfect sense to not want to spend a fortune to be able to work out at home.  Staying healthy and active are very import, but not when those benefits are lost when going about it the wrong way.  And, the money saved doing it the wrong way isn’t going to be worth anything if you end up having to spend significantly more in time and pain should you end up getting injured by taking the cheap route and having it backfire in any of the ways mentioned above.  


Do yourself a favor–don’t put so much emphasis on saving money all the time. Sometimes, it simply isn’t worth it in the long run, and putting your body and health at risk is not an equitable trade-off.

  • http://twitter.com/MarriedWithDebt John | MarriedW/Debt

    Ha, I like the redneck weight bench in the photo. I’m not a big guy nor am I trying to be, so I prefer bodyweight exercises like pullups, pushups, squats and plank. Those are free, minus the 20 dollar pullup bar. I think some people think that spending a lot of money will “force” them to work out, which is why it’s even more disappointing when it doesn’t happen.

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      When I saw that pic, I knew that it was the “one” for this post.

      I’m not a fan of bodyweight routines simply because of the time that it takes to accomplish anything toward my goals, but yours are different from mine.  I’m looking to build muscle so that’s where the motivation for this rant came from, and I remembered reading about those so-called “hacks” in a few places. 

      If you want a really good investment, get a set of pushup handles.  The are awesome for getting a really deep stretch, and they aren’t expensive at all.  It makes for another little twist as opposed to standard pushups.

  • http://www.dqydj.net/ PK

    Haha, good stuff, and I’m totally guilty of the backpack one.  I jam the backpack full of hardcover books to do weighted pullups.  In my case, the backpack has one of those front straps, so I buckle it just loose enough to, you know, breathe during my set.

    I’m actually worried I’ll take the frame of my door down before I hurt myself (or possibly do both at the same time?).

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      Pullups are the only possible exception to the backpack rule (which is why I didn’t mention them!) since the only movement that should be occurring is the flexion of the elbow joints.  Unless you’re one of those that do the little kick-type move when nearing the top in order to push yourself over the bar.

      That’s actually another problem entirely.  So much talk about door frame pullup bars, yet no one considers how much weight the frame can hold.  If you think about it, if yo do manage to pull the frame off, the odds are pretty good that you’ll get hurt in the process of falling or having something land on you at the same time.

  • http://www.moneylifeandmore.com/ Lance@MoneyLife&More

    I’d definitely go the craiglist way personally because most equipment is barely used and then sits in a corner for a long time. I would definitely thoroughly inspect it first but I’d try to buy from someone who bought it with good intentions and never really used it. Are you supposed to do regular maintenance on some of the more complicated machines?

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      It’s funny Lance, I keep hearing about the steady decline of the quality of craigslist as a resource for all of the things it skyrocketed to stardom for.  It could just be here, though.

      Anything that is made of moving or mechanical parts should be maintained regularly, so I don’t think exercise equipment would be excluded (I’m no expert).  Keeping them well oiled will prevent burnout and accelerated friction wear.  Even something like the Gazelle or other cardio type machines can break down more easily f not maintained. If you have a bench or cage that has a pulley system, oiling and certainly keeping an eye on the cables for any fraying or other structural damage is a good idea, and any benches should be checked for loosening bolts (particularly if it was something that you put together yourself).  

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    If you don’t want to build your own gym or pay the membership fees to hang out a the meat market otherwise know as Fill in the Blank Gym, you can get really good deals at a YMCA or municipal rec center. Our city has a great one. It’s $300 a year for a family membership. I go at least 4 times a week, and we can take our daughter to the pool and use the rock wall year round. 

  • http://squirrelers.com/ Squirrelers

    Totally agree that money saved shouldn’t equal bigger risk of injury.  Health takes priority, and it can be compromised if the wrong items are purchased or makeshift equipment is used.

    Also agree that wasted gym memberships are common. That being said, I think that a decent quality, low-cost gym near home can offer benefits that are worth a small investment.  If used, of course :)

  • http://www.mymoneydesign.com/ MyMoneyDesign

    This is pretty awesome!  I love the pic!  If you can’t have the proper gym equipment, stick to push-ups, sit ups, and other gravity resistance exercises.  Want some good affordable equipment?  Hit up Sears around the Holidays.  I got a great deal on a multi-station gym.

  • http://twitter.com/nickelbynickel Andrea

    Hmmm I had never considered the ergonomics of diy-gymming at home. I haven’t done it myself but I’ve read quite a few things of people that do. Building a home gym sounds like an expensive endeavour, I think I’d rather deal with the guilt of wasting $40 a month on a gym membership that I’m not using than spending lots on proper equipment and doing the same thing. Maybe if my future dream house comes with one… I wouldn’t say no :P 

  • http://blog.familymoneyvalues.com/ Marie at FamilyMoneyValues

    Good points, but yet in real life we often have to carry these ‘weights’ around!