So while most of the US is worried about toilet paper or hand sanitizer, lifters like yourself are worried about how to get their training in. By now you have been home a day or so from your gym, or perhaps longer if you were at a large corporate gym. Here in Illinois, as the big corporate gyms were closing, the smaller hardcore powerlifting and strongman gyms remained open a little while longer as they were a gathering place of fewer than 50 per the guidelines at that time.

As of this writing, all gyms in Illinois, the land of Coan and Frantz, are shut down until April 8th, although that is only as current as this post. That reopening date could be pushed back at any time. Things are very much in a state of flux so keep that in mind reading this, as the more time that passes, the more out of date this post may be.

RECENT: Rising to the Challenge

Lifting stuff around the house is for sure a way to get in some training and the exercises one does are as limitless as their own imagination. Throw in some bands and you have a great way to maintain some muscle through the blood flow ala “the pump” and the higher rep range of hypertrophy.

This for sure will get folks through the Governor’s executive order if that maintains an April 8th return date (for Illinois). But with regard to those looking for a little more training security for the future, I have some thoughts.

What I don’t know about the COVID-19 could fill a library, so I am no help there beyond what the CDC is stating. But what I do know about gym equipment might be useful. My gym, Monster Garage Gym is one of the premiere powerlifting gyms in the US. I say that not as a boast but to give some perspective as it started out literally in a two and a half car garage, hence the name and thus my experience with a garage gym lifting setup.

I had no intention at that time (a little over a decade ago) of starting my own gym, but out of necessity with regard to training for larger scale meets, and moving further away from the legendary Frantz Gym I needed the basics to get me through the times I was not able to train at Frantz Gym. What I also needed was a place close by with equipment where I could lift the type of weight I needed to without the corporate gym issues, and frankly their lack of appropriate bars, benches, and racks. Nothing was closer than opening the door to my own garage gym. Over time, more lifters joined me at my home garage gym and one thing let to another, and over a ten plus year period, and moving into ever larger sized warehouse units, the Monster Garage Gym, now located in Waukegan, Illinois has produced some of the best current lifters in the game and some of them ALL-TIME record holders in the process. Although we have literally tons of equipment the original elitefts equipment from the home garage gym is used to this day and by some of the best in the power game.

So what we are talking about with regard to the gym's closing, is an emergency home gym and that goes back to my roots in the garage. You are looking for something you can throw together to get through a worst-case scenario with regard to all that is rapidly evolving around us. We are also talking about doing this without breaking the bank as many are having to stay home from work and until-or-if money comes through the government for those people, building a gym in a hurry and on a budget is the goal here.

olympic handle

First on the list,  FAT BAR OLYMPIC DUMBBELL HANDLES. You might never have seen these highlighted on elitefts, I know I haven't. But these are pretty much the best-kept secret at elitefts in my opinion. Dumbbell sets are great, but they are very expensive (over a thousand, and much more once you cross that 100-pound dumbbell threshold) and take up space even with a rack (which again is expensive). We are on a budget and in a hurry and we don’t have the space, we just need stuff to press, hoist, lift with and not break the bank.

If you have any Olympic plates laying around, you can put them on these handles. These bars are 22 pounds each 23" long, 2 3/8" thick and machined ends to fit any collar. You put two or three 25’s on each end and you have some weight for presses or rows. Some 10’s or 5’s and you have more options for training, triceps, biceps, shoulder work. Some 45’s and you have farmers’ walk, shrug, weighted step-ups, calve work on a front step, goblet squats and lunging options.

Go online be it Facebook or wherever social media you choose, and there are always folks selling Olympic plates they have laying in a pile in their garage or basement for cheap. While putting this together I took a quick look online and there are a ton of Olympic plates for sale within a 20-minute drive for practically nothing. Nonlifters just want to get rid of them.

Even during times like this, someone is going to be willing to set the plates out for you in their driveway and you can drop the cash off in their mailbox, ala social distancing. Old rusty Olympic plates will do the trick. Half of the plates we have at Monster Garage Gym are from old gyms going out of business who needed to dump plates. Nobody cares how a 45-pound plate looks, they just care that it can be picked up and put down.

With regard to collars, elitefts has some phenomenal collars to choose from, but for our purpose, the OLYMPIC EZ SPRING COLLAR PAIR is the way to go. They are like eight bucks and they don’t take up a lot of room on the bar.

Remember, you just need something to get you through this time. We are going cheap as this is not the time for filet mignon, this is the time for cans of tuna.


If you have a little more cash, same deal but add to the aforementioned, the ELITEFTS GARAGE LINE DUMBBELL FLAT BENCH (BOLT TOGETHER). It is about $179 but as of this writing, is on sale for $161.10. By adding the bench, instead of floor pressing with the dumbbells, you are pressing with full range of motion, doing flys, dumbbell step-ups, pullovers with a plate, tricep dips with feet on a step, and a hundred more exercises that combine that bench with the Olympic style dumbbells.



If you have a little more cash for the emergency home gym add a $299 ELITEFTS POWER BAR. It has a 2000-pound capacity, and knurling you would need for pulling, pressing, squatting or really any movement.


Keeping the price down, your go to is the ELITEFTS GARAGE LINE 3X3 POWER RACK for $679 but as of this writing is on sale for $611.10. This rack is bread and butter. It is like the old Ford model T, meaning it comes in either black, or black. Here are the specs on this rack. There is no weight storage, no band peg attachments, it is super basic for squats, bench press, pin press lockouts, pull ups, shrugs, rack pulls, military press, if you have bands you can tie them from the top. You can do reverse band squat, reverse band deadlift, reverse band bench press. You can also go old school with your bands and put them around the bottom horizontal support as you are bolting this into your garage or basement slab.

This rack is really one of the very first items the original Monster Garage Gym had and we had several guys squatting 800-900 pounds, and benching 600-700 pounds out of it.

Here are the specs:

  • 1 1/4" pull up bar
  • 1 set of J-hooks
  • 1 set of safety spotters
  • 7.5 feet tall* Squatting area is 30 inches
  • 3-inch hole spacing
  • 3x3 tubing
  • 11 gauge steel
  • 3" x 3" 11 Gauge Frame
  • Backer plates on all bolt points
  • Powder-coated finish
  • Total footprint of 36"L x 49"W x 90"H

The point of this post is just to show you some options and selfishly to have an answer in one place as I keep getting text messages asking me “What should I buy as they need to train and my gym is closed, and I don’t know for how long.” So this is beyond the obvious, which are bands and household stuff to lift during this time out of the gym.


Speaking of bands, they are amazingly versatile and really cheap, so get what you need. If you have no clue what you need in bands, you can do the MOUNTAIN DOG BAND PACK which is $84.95. Personally for the purpose of emergency home gyms, and saving money, if you got a pair of monster mini-bands and a pair of light bands you are set. Monster minis are somewhere around $14 and light bands are about $18.

Hopefully, this article will all be for nought and you will be back at your local gym fairly soon. Or minimally, if you were thinking about how to slowly start a modest home gym this will be of value. But for those going through massive training withdrawal, and if gyms are closed for a longer duration, this information might give you the direction you were looking for.

In any case, during this time of uncertainty I wish you and your family health and wellness. Ever onward.