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So here's the thing. In my apartment, I have a gym with a weight machine or two, some cardio machines, and a set of dumbbell freeweights, and a bench. Using this gym costs me nothing extra, but it lacks a set of barbells.

However, finding a gym here in the NYC area is annoying. It costs so much extra and I have to go out of my way to fit it in my schedule (I work fulltime) and then go home, etc.

I am overweight with low muscle mass and looking to start a strength routine. However, this is hard to do without barbells for things like squats and presses. I was considering buying my own barbell + weights to bring to the gym but I don't know.

Recommendations?

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5 Answers

I highly recommend joining a gym.

Being able to mix things every now and then is a crucial to making progress with lifting. You need to have options. A home gym costs big bucks and will limit you in your options, which you will grow bored of very quickly.

I find that going to a gym is also a good motivator. Once I am there, I have invested the effort of getting to the gym and want to make it worth my while.

That said, by all means work out at home in the mean time, it's certainly better than nothing.

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I belong to two gyms but am considering quitting both to do exactly what you are thinking, build a home gym.

The cons would be that you would need the space, and it would cost more. I spend about $100 on gyms right now, and I might keep at least one for the classes (spinning, aqua) and courts (basketball, squash, racquetball). So, I think the only realistic reason for joining a gym is if you don't have a free alternative for those. I've currently started playing a lot of soccer and the local parks are free to go to.

At the same time, if you hit up craigslist, I've noticed that you can find some good deals for weights. I'm like you I would probably get a barbell first, but then you've got to have a place to rack it. Then you have to get the weights. By craiglisting everything it looks like I'd spend probably upwards of 500 bucks for everything I'd want with a barbell set. Barbell+500pounds in weight+rack.

So if I quit my gym, within 5 months the costs would be the same, except I can keep them till I'm dead. Plus I have the convenience of working out whenever I want in my own fashion (I like doing circuits myself) where ever I want to do it. I'm thinking that I'd move them inside next to the TV, blast out some bears, then go store them back in the garage.

I do do bodyweight exercises, but squats, RDLs, rows etc just require weight. A lot of it. Having a barbell for me would keep it interesting. I like to do something different almost every work out and it's worked pretty well for me the past two years. I mean, I get bored just doing pullups/chins/situps/pushups everyday. I'd rather do that every few days, with weight in between. Maybe I'm a ADD weight lifter...wouldn't shock me.

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Why do you belong to two gyms? –  Burhan Ali Sep 19 '12 at 11:34
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Starting a strength routine without a barbell is not hard to do; it just isn't the "optimal" approach. There are plenty of ways you can build strength and muscle without using barbells.

First off, there are body weight exercises. You got push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, squats, wall squats, pistol squats, planks... the list goes on and is quite extensive. You can, and in fact others have, build very successful strength routines using nothing but body weight exercises.

Second off, some barbell exercises also have a dumbbell equivalent. Rows, bench, and overhead press, for example, all can be used interchangeably between barbell and dumbbell. Dumbbell is harder overall to do because it engages your stabilizers more, but in that sense it is also more rewarding.

As far as your question is concerned, you could avoid having to join a gym by supplementing your strength workout with body weight and/or dumbbell equivalents. Given your circumstances, I would say this is the ideal approach.

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My # 1 recommendation is: start working out now with what you have. Body weight exercises, some dumbbells and a few cardio machines should keep you busy for a long time. Don't wait until you have all the equipment you might need or gym membership - those are nice to haves. The most important step is starting....there are plenty of people who get in great shape with the basic body weight exercises like pushups, crunches, body weight squats....keep the focus on building a strong base to develop a more advanced weight lifting routine. For now, focus on nutrition and 30-45 minutes a day of exercise to get you to that point.

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+1, I'm in the same situation. Eventually I hit the point where the dumbbells weren't providing enough resistance, so at that point I looked at finding a gym. –  Robin Ashe Sep 17 '12 at 20:00
    
+10,000 just get out there and move! You can get plenty strong with dumbbell workouts and will understand your own body and goals better to be able to make a decision after reaching a basic level of fitness anyway. –  Affe Sep 17 '12 at 22:49
    
Nerd Fitness has some great body weight exercise routines: nerdfitness.com/blog/workouts –  DForck42 Sep 18 '12 at 20:26
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I would vote that you join a gym. It can certainly be expensive (and less convenient), but the net positives outweigh the negatives.

First, an Olympic barbell costs ~$100. Basic, cast-iron weights cost a little more than $1/pound (at least where I live.) So just to get started, you're probably looking at $300, just for a barbell and weights.

Second, unless your gym has a squat rack without a bar, you may find it very difficult to do squats, which are a major part of any Strength routine. I'd go so far as to say that doing barbell squats without a squat rack/power cage is genuinely dangerous.

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I agree in general, but I'd like to point out that those prices are for new equipment. You can reliably get quality used equipment on Craigslist for half that. –  Greg Sep 17 '12 at 19:36
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