I actually wrote this post a while ago, but forgot about/didn’t finish it. It’s a little dated: I wrote it when I finished university, but I’ve since started a job and have moved to a building that has an OK gym in it. But I am approaching the limits of what that gym can do for me, which got me thinking about this post again. And yes, I actually did this workout for several months.
Since leaving university, I’ve had to come to terms with a few things. I’ll need a source of income; I’ll need some kind of health insurance (my parents’ plans will no longer cover me); and worst of all, I’ll need to pay to go to a gym. For the past seven years I’ve had free* access to the gyms at the university, but no longer.
So when I left school, I approached my local gym to see what a membership would cost. To my surprise, it was $55/month (or $13,200 over the next 20 years!).
$55 is more than my monthly cellphone bill (see my upcoming post, “I have a better phone than you, and pay less for it”). But even if my cellphone bill was more than $55, I could justify paying that. I need my cellular service provider; I can’t send or receive information from my phone without their network. But do I need a gym? Can I maintain good health, even put on some muscle, without a gym?
Cardio workouts can easily be done outside of the gym. You can jog and bike and do jumping jacks anytime. But what about weight training? Bodyweight exercises are easy to do at home, but if you’re looking to put on muscle, you’re going to want a safe way to move around heavy weights.
I thought about my gym routine, and realized that if I could come up with a way to do the big three compound exercises on my own (squats, deadlifts, bench press), I wouldn’t need a gym. So here’s how I safely and price-effectively blast my body’s biggest muscles.
-Two 5-gallon buckets with handles
-10 feet of rope
-A 6ft metal bar
All of these things should be available at your local
hardware store dump for free. You may want some reliable rope (couple bucks) and a nice metal bar (maybe $20-$50), but if you put in an hour or two of looking, you should be able to score this stuff for free. For weight, fill up the buckets with water, or dirt, or rocks, and hold the buckets while standing on a bathroom scale so you can check that they’re the weight you desire.
Probably the best place to do these exercises is in a garage, but you can do them inside too if your buckets are clean.
Deadlift. Put the buckets 5ft apart. Slide your metal bar under the handles of each bucket. Grab the bar while assuming proper deadlift position. Lift. If you find that the buckets hit the ground before you get to the bottom of the lift, stand on something. I use some planks of wood.
Benchpress. Leave the buckets in the same position as they were for the deadlifts. Take the metal bar in your hand and lie down between the buckets. From there, slide the bar under the handles of each bucket. Grab the bar while assuming proper bench pressing position. Lift. If you find that the buckets hit the ground before you get to the bottom of the lift, lie down on something. I use some planks of wood with a beach towel for comfort.
Squat. A slightly more elaborate setup. Tie a rope from one end of your bar to the handle of one of the buckets. Tie another rope from the other end of the bar to the other bucket handle. Adjust the lengths of the rope so that when pulled taut, the bar is up around your belly button. Grab the bar and crouch under it so it’s resting on your shoulders behind your head. Assume proper squatting position. Lift. You might have to adjust the ropes or stand on something so that the buckets don’t hit the ground before you get to the bottom of the lift.
If you need more weight, and your bar is long enough, add a 3rd and 4th bucket (for my deadlifts, I use 6 buckets filled with varying amounts of stones/paint/oil). And go as heavy as you want. You don’t have to worry about being crushed under the bar like at the gym. The buckets will hit the floor before the bar crushes you. And don’t limit yourself to these exercises. You can do upright rows, bicep curls… all sorts of things.
I’ve always had free access to bodyweight exercises, but now, with the big three lifts in my home gym arsenal, I might never have to go to a gym again. And it’s not that I don’t like going to the gym; it’s a good place to run in to bros, check out girls, and look at your muscles in the mirror. And if I am one day employed, and that employer decides to give me a free* gym membership like the university did, I’d consider going back.
But until that day, I’ll be using my new home gym. And the cost? Just a drop in the bucket.