OutsideSubmission-3 columnist

It’s six o'clock in the morning. It’s quiet, cold — possibly snowy — but the coffee is ready… and so are you. The sun rises and so does your garage door. And here you are, in your own garage gym. Nothing beats the feeling of owning your own space, playing your own music, and wearing whatever the hell you want. No distractions, no excuses, just hard work.

Having your own gym is a statement. You take lifting seriously and you are willing to do anything to pursue strength. You'd rather buy your own equipment than paying another damn commercial gym membership. And you are smart, so you look for quality equipment that will optimize your training, your garage space, and — most importantly — your money’s worth.

However, your space is a one-car stall garage and there isn’t enough room for all the toys you’ve seen in and want from Dave Tate’s training videos at his gym. Does this sound like you? Great, say no more. These are the five things every small garage gym owner should have for endless training possibilities and year-round gains.

small garage gym wishlist gallery

1. Cambered Squat Bar

This multifunctional barbell sits better on the shoulders when squatting and on the hands when benching due to the thicker bar, which helps to reduce the stress off the shoulders and elbows. The downward handles also help those with limited shoulder mobility to set up more comfortably under the bar. Because of the instability of the bar, it requires increased activation of stabilizer muscles, allowing for new growth stimulus. Don’t be fooled, this bar is anything but easy, but if you like gains, this bar is for you. Use it for squatting, benching, good morning, overhead pressing, and even bicep curling.

2. Squat Box

Dave Tate mentioned in one of his podcasts that using a box for a squat might be the most functional thing to do. If you are not standing, you are sitting, and when you sit, it is either on a chair, a couch, or a toilet. The elitefts box squat allows for three different heights to train different areas of your squat — or your potty training. Utilizing the box increases hip activation, leg drive, and serves as external feedback to prevent rounding of the spine at the bottom of the lift. Depending on your stance, the box might also help on increasing your deadlift. It’s a win-win.

3. Sled Drag

This is arguably the best thing you’ll have in the gym. Whether for prehab, rehab, speed, or heavy work, no other tool gives you such versatility for training. For about $100, you can unlock a thousand possibilities for training for lower and upper body. Want to lose weight? The sled is also great for aerobic and anaerobic work. Any way you look at it, you can’t go wrong with a sled.

4. Hanging Straps

Either before or after training, use the straps to decompress the spine and open up the anterior chain for better squats, presses, and deadlifts, or simply to pop that six-pack. If Dave has his training crew do this before every session, you could probably benefit from this, too.

5. Shoulder Saver Pad

Whether it is the 1.5 or 2-inch version, the Shoulder Saver Pad allows you to do speed or heavy work while protecting the shoulders. It takes the hassle of needing someone for your block work, for example, and it opens many bench pressing variations. Your tiny calves might also benefit from this tool, allowing you to perform calf raises with an increased range of motion. And if it’s not for growth, remember that good ankle mobility is beneficial for your squats and overall health and longevity.

Bonus: elitefts Bands

band pack

You got a few extra bucks to spare? Select between various bands to expand your training programming. Bands could be used for warm-ups, like pull-aparts, face pulls, and good mornings; for strength and speed work as accommodating resistance; or finishers, like banded pullthroughs and triceps extensions. Along with the sled, bands are one of the most versatile tools you can in your garage gym. My favorite is the pro light band, but there are many more to choose from.

Well, there you have it. These five (or six) things will help optimize your training space tremendously, save you money, and last you a long time. Whether your goal is athletics, strength, hypertrophy, or general fitness, these tools should cover your training for Christmas and every other season throughout the year.

In good health,

Federico Caballero

Federico Caballero is the head of training and education and a personal trainer at the University of Iowa's fitness program. He’s a powerlifting enthusiast and the proud owner of FC Strength Garage Gym based in Coralville, Iowa. Federico specializes in strength and performance training while prioritizing health and longevity in all his clients. Find him at @fico_caballero on Instagram.

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