Growing up both of my parents owned workout equipment. My mom had one of those home plate stack gym monstrosities that had ten different stations and came with a poster of the 40 or so exercises you could do. My dad had a very antiquated version of the same thing that he probably got in the 80’s. It had one plate stack that connected to a bar on a guide rail. You could do bench press, seated row, and possibly squat although I never gave it a shot. They both still own them. My mom’s is up north at her cabin. My dad’s has been broken and useless for a number of years but still resides in the same place it has always been.
Since having a home gym was nothing really new to me I decided to make the plunge when I was 23. I was working at NX Level and we would get super busy during the summer months. I knew that there were going to be nights when the last thing I’d want to do was to stay for another hour or two and workout. So I bought a set of bumper plates and bar thinking that on those days I’d go home, workout, and go to bed instead of skipping the workout all together. Thus was born what would eventually become the Hometown He-Man Crushatorium.
Phase I- 609 E. Broadway Waukesha, WI
After I had gotten the bar and plates I needed something to lift on. I employed my friend Tim and his “truck” (it’s a Hyundai Santa Fe, hence the quotes) to help me get some plywood sheets and horse stall mats to build a simple lifting platform. And that’s all it was, just a platform, a bar, and some weights. It was Spartan to be sure and I didn’t use it as much as I thought I was going to. Part of that was because I was usually able to sneak workouts in at work. But it was there when I needed it. After about a year I moved- about two blocks to live with some college buddies.
Phase II- Hartwell Ave Waukesha, WI
Hartwell was very much like East Broadway. Just a platform, a bar, and some weights in a basement. The only difference was that my friend Ben who lived there before left a heavy bag hanging in the basement. This was perfect because I had just dipped my toe into the world of boxing. If my memory serves me correct at this point I also borrowed my friend Kirk’s squat stands. So now I could do just about everything. But I mostly hit the heavy bag. I’d do a few rounds in the morning before work and maybe on weekends or snow days I’d lift in the basement. But that’s the point of a home gym, to be what you need it to be. You don’t need it to have every bell and whistle out there. Just the things that are essential to your fitness needs.
Phase IIIa- West Allis Barbell, West Allis, WI
|Very disorganized but very effective.|
|Man I loved this place. The neighbors however, not so much.|
This is where things started to take shape. My friend Kirk and I bought a duplex together and with it came a two car garage. We combined the equipment that we had both collected over the years and it was pretty basic and somewhat unorganized but still kicked ass. Kirk had some stones and a stone loading platform on one side and we had the squat stands on the other side. In the middle was the platform.
When Kirk started his own gym he took his equipment out. Now that there was room for it I decided to get my own squat rack. Since squat racks are a few hundred dollars for the cheapest ones it was Craigslist to the rescue. If you are careful about it Craigslist has a lot of great deals on used gym equipment. That’s where I got both my bench and rack along with a bunch of my weight plates.
After the equipment was bought I rearranged things a little bit and ended up only using about half the garage. It was small but it had everything I needed. I have a lot of fond memories from West Allis Barbell. Sometimes when people couldn’t make it to NX Level I’d let them come over and work out there. Most times it would just be me, Saxon, some loud music, and the banging and clanging of lifting weights. PRs were set, people got strong, and friendships were forged through the iron. My only hope is that everyone that passed through West Allis Barbell had a good time even if they didn’t have a particularly good lift.
Since the garage wasn’t insulated or heated it could only used for about 6-7 months throughout the year. This brings us to Phase IIIb.
Phase IIIb- Nitro St. Justice’s Barbell Club and Gentleman’s Lounge
|The Main Stage.|
|The Bad Room. Also where I'd break bottles and cry.|
This was basically West Allis Barbell South, meaning it was in my basement. The basement had a low ceiling so I could only have the squat stands instead of the rack. It also meant there would be no overhead pressing. But I still had the bench, a makeshift platform, weights, and squat stands. There was also a slight right to left downward slant which made any squatting tricky if you weren’t used to it.
I liked it down there but I always looked forward to when it would get warm enough to lift outside. There’s something about the open air that I love when I’m lifting. Maybe it’s because I can take my shirt off and let my chest hair run free after months of being cooped up during the winter. Maybe it’s because I can scare the neighbors with my music. Whatever it is if I have my choice, I’m lifting outside.
As much as I loved West Allis Barbell (and to a lesser extent Nitro’s) all good things come to an end. The siren from the south sang her song and I was powerless to resist. So in June of 2012 West Allis Barbell closed its doors.
Phase IV- The Hometown He-Man Crushatorium
|Needs some color and some decoration but it's done.|
|Older picture of the cardio area.|
Like the glorious Phoenix being reborn, The Hometown He-Man Cushatorium rose from the ashes of West Allis Barbell. What was once a garage is now a gym. With the help of my beautiful wife, my father-in-law, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend we made it an awesome place to train. It’s insulated, heated, and has a growing arsenal of equipment that will be used to produce PRs, slabs of muscle, six packs and other awesome results.
I’ve also turned it into a career investment. Starting 1 March of 2013 I will be a completely independent personal trainer. I’ve had a few clients over to check the place out and they are pretty excited about it. I even asked if they think I should change the name and they said, “No way.”
If you’re thinking about investing in a home gym stop thinking about it and do it. Honestly it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And if you are patient it can be done fairly inexpensively. My one word of advice would be to buy nice so you don’t buy twice.