Interview by Sheena Leedham and filmed by Josh Geodker

Years before Steve Diel became CFO of elitefts, he had competed as a powerlifter, trained at the S4 Compound, and designed his own home gym with elitefts equipment. His belief is that the value your home gym delivers isn't just about your training, but also about your life: not only does it enable you to train on the equipment you choose in order to help you better reach your goals, but it also puts you in control of your training schedule, allowing you to take care of everything else in your life that matters to you.

"Anyone who wants to be serious about training and wants to be able to put in the time, I strongly urge you to think about getting a home gym. It has allowed me to have the time to fit everything together. It has allowed me to have a strong robust career, a strong marriage, and raise children without any issues."

Steve's First Home Gym

Steve's story as a home gym owner began when he left Ohio—and thus the S4 Compound—and moved to Texas. It was in Texas that he built his first home gym, with a foundation of a monolift, a 3x3 power rack, and a platform. After five years in Texas, he moved back to Ohio and joined elitefts full time as CFO. With his relocation to Ohio in mind, Steve explains why he still has a home gym despite being able to train at the elitefts S5 Compound. His answer is important but simple: time and convenience. The training crew at the S5 trains max effort on the weekends, which leaves Steve with his mid-week training to do on his own. The home gym enables him to train without ever having to interfere without work or his role as a husband and a father.


Advantages and Disadvantages of a Home Gym

Steve then goes through the advantages and disadvantages of a home gym. First, it means you'll be training alone, which sometimes involves workarounds for your training, such as not having a hand-off for your bench press or a person to run the monolift when you squat. Steve has managed to train in multi-ply gear by himself and hit big PRs on all his lifts, without ever coming in danger. Additionally, in a garage, you may deal with the winter elements, or like Steve experienced in Texas, harsh summer temperatures. If you're able to set up in a basement rather than a garage, these will not be concerns.

Prioritizing Equipment

For Steve, a 3x3 power rack was first priority. You can do pretty much anything you need to in training for competition if you have a power rack and a couple bars. Second on his list, because Steve competes multi-ply, was a monolift. If you're in gear it's necessary to use a monolift, but it also fantastic if you plan to train with multiple lifters in your home gym, as it makes changing heights very easy and many exercises can be performed out of it.

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Third on Steve's list was a glute ham raise. Most lifters have a weakness in their glutes and hamstrings, and this is the best way to work them. You can also use a GHR to work your low back and abs. Finally, Steve purchased a high/low pulley machine. He explains that in your accessory work, you need the ability to hit muscles from different angles and work weaknesses after doing your main work. The high/low pulley gives you many options for exercises and is a great addition if you already have a rack to do your main work in. You can buy this machine in a plate-loaded or selectorized version, but either option will provide the same exercise capability.

Secondary Equipment

Once the basic items are covered, if you have some additional space you can start looking at secondary machines and optimizing the layout. Steve's gym is set up with both racks on one side of the basement, where most of the heavy plate-loaded activities happen. On the other side of the basement is his deadlift platform with some bumper plates and space for bars and dumbbells.

Off to the side is his chest-supported row machine. He explains that next to hamstrings, the biggest weakness for new lifters is a weak back. A chest-supported row is a great piece of equipment to have to work all parts of the back, and enables a lot of rowing and even shrugging variations. If you have space, a designated deadlift platform is also a great perk. Steve's setup for deadlifting is four sheets of 8x8 plywood with carpet laid over it to reduce the shock and noise reverberation throughout the house.

After these items, you can consider specialty bars, such as the SS Yoke Bar, trap bars, cambered bars, American press bars, etc. You will also need a decent set of bands of all different sizes. Chains, just like bars, are something to add over time. Save some money, and once your gym fund has grown a bit, add a few chains. Over time you'll end up with a full set.


Ordering from elitefts

Almost everything in Steve's gym is from elitefts, and many things in his gym he didn't even know existed until he went on the website.

The process of ordering from elitefts is simple: go to the site, find what you want, and add it to the cart. If it's a big order, you're confused about what you need, or you want advice on designing the layout, call the elitefts office at 888-854-8806 and ask for Director of Sales Matt Goodwin. He will walk you through everything you need and will help you optimize your home gym so you get the most bang for your buck.

Once you're ready to pull the trigger, you'll have four to eight weeks of lead time depending on what items are in your order. If there are a lot of specialty items that will require custom work to produce, you should expect to be in the higher range, around six to eight weeks. If the order is standard items, you're looking at the lower range, between four and six weeks.

Custom Built

The thing to remember with your order is that every piece of equipment elitefts sells is made when you place the order. It's custom-made just for you, based on the specs that you want and need to optimize your setup. If you wonder why you can't get elitefts equipment next-day, this is the reason. It's made on a custom basis and then shipped to your home.

All items are shipped freight, which means you should expect to be there to receive the shipment when it arrives. Unless arranged ahead of time, in most cases it will not be delivered into your home or assembled. It will arrive on a pallet and you'll put it together. Steve was able, by himself, to put together the monolift, the 3x3 rack, the cable machine, and every other piece of equipment. When the truck drops off your equipment, you will be responsible for getting it into your home and putting the equipment together, so plan for this process.

By the minute:

  • (0:14) Steve's training background, first home gym, and joining the elitefts team full-time
  • (2:02) Why Steve has a home gym when he can train at the S5 Compound.
  • (3:03) Advantages and disadvantages of a home gym in a basement or garage
  • (5:19) Steve's priority list of home gym items
  • (7:50) Home gym layout and secondary equipment
  • (10:46) Ordering equipment and lead time
  • (12:41) Shipping from elitefts
  • (13:47) Final thoughts of having a home gym

In this video, Steve welcomes you into his home gym in Hilliard, Ohio. He begins by sharing his training background, which began with training for high school sports. He then lifted casually in his early 20s, got into powerlifting in his late 20s, and began competing both raw and in single-ply gear. At one point he was planning to stop powerlifting to get into better shape and to help with this goal he attended an elitefts seminar to learn more about nutrition. But at the seminar, Dave coached him on the bench press and then invited him to become a regular weekend lifter at the elitefts compound. This is how he got introduced to multi-ply gear and quickly went full bore into powerlifting. Steve then hit his first elite total at the age of 39. He is still actively competing in powerlifting now, and in his most recent meet just this year he hit a total PR of more than 100 pounds, squatting 870, benching 765, and deadlifting 644 for a 2279-pound total.

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