How To Build A $100 Home Gym

Become a roaring lion once more with Super Fit Dad's workuts

Nipping down to the gym when you have a child under two is one of the more perilous undertakings a chap can attempt.

I mean that in all seriousness..

You know that picture you occasionally see on Facebook of the most dangerous road in the world?

The one cut into the side of a high mountain with no guard rail, a gravel surface and lorries being driven at breakneck speed. Somewhere in South America, I think.

bolivian road

Probably give the overtake a miss for a while.

Well, that road is easier to navigate than a trip to the gym for a new Dad.

Here are the reasons why:

  1. You will feel bad about leaving the missus at home with a crying baby.
  1. In fact, nix that, if the baby’s crying you have ZERO chance. Don’t try the old, “Well, I’ll just pop out, then,” whilst backing towards the door. Her eyes will convey a fury that is impossible to misinterpret. Imagine a Wolf in hell. With rabies. And multiply it by 10.
  1. If – hallelujah – the baby is asleep and you get a pass to hit the gym, you will probably be so tired from the sleepless night before that you sack it off in favour of some bullshit on the TV and three-quarters of a bottle of red.

The answer to this eternal quandary?

If Mohammed can’t get to the mountain (or the gym), bring the mountain to Mohammed.

That’s right.

Build the gym at home. And prowl around it like the dominant alpha-lion you are.

And because space is at a premium, by ‘gym’ we really mean workouts. We’re bringing the workouts home, baby.

[Note: if you have a garage to spare like my buddy Stig, by all means go for it. Build a real gym.]

But the beauty of the set up I’m advocating below is that it requires virtually zero space.

If you live in a space that has sections of floor that are not covered with crap and detritus [i.e. unless you live in a crack den], you can build this $100 ‘gym’ and perform the workouts prescribed below.

And loads more.

If you live in a crack den, we’ve probably got some other issues we need to, erm, clean up before we think about the home gym set-up.

Anyhow, here’s all the gear you need to create your pseudo-gym at home.

The beauty of it is this: you can hit every major muscle group and perform the most important movements with this selection of kit.

And don’t just take my word for it. Other people who recommend this kind of set-up include human lab-rat Tim Ferriss (in his book The 4 Hour Body) and Dan John (author of some of the most readable and intuitive books on strength training. If you want to strip out almost all the noise around strength training and come away with actionable insights Dan’s books are the place to start).

It’s also the kind of protocol advocated by strength and fitness legends like Steve Maxwell, Mike Mahler and Pavel Tsatsouline.

These guys know that the practicalities of life sometime require smart action and smart work. And if skipping gym sessions to be a better husband and father are required, then that’s what you’ve got to do.

But it doesn’t mean we have to miss the workout altogether.

Here’s what we need to get the home-gym party started and build an armour-clad body.

1. Kettlebell

[ Key exercises and muscle groups targeted ]

Swing – hamstring, back, shoulders, glutes, forearms

Goblet squat – quads, glutes

Where to buy: Look on Gumtree for cheap ‘bells. I found a 12kg bell for $30 and then 16 and 20kg bells for $50 for the pair. I also came away from that trip with a 30kg weighted vest that I could barely get into the car. He threw that in for another $20.

Or search online for the best deal – this one seemed pretty cheap.

2. Doorway Pull-up Bar

Pull-ups – back, biceps, general minerals

You can get bars that hang over the back of doors or regular ones like this for $16.95

If you can’t do chin-ups (palms facing you with greater emphasis on the biceps) or classic pull-ups (knuckles facing you, more emphasis on the lats (back), don’t worry.

Nobody can to start with. When I moved to Australia in 2010 I could only do 2/3 at a time. And they were ugly.

Start small – maybe 3 per day for a week. And gradually build up. There’s no hurry with this.

Then start to Grease The Groove, an approach popularised by the legendary Pavel Tsatsouline that is so simple and effective it it truly genius.

3. Foam Roller

Mobility and myofascial release – quads, calves, ITB (side of your thigh), back.

You can buy fancy, studded rollers like this one. You don’t need to buy a studded one though. Kmart (like the one pictured below) and Target do pretty cheap foam rollers for something like $15.

foam roller

Again hustle around on Gumtree. I got one roller from a friend for free because he didn’t use it. Another I found in the street on Council pick-up day. I gave it a scrub and it was good as new.

4. Skipping Rope

Skipping – shoulders, legs, ticker.

Whilst you can pay big ($50-60) for a pro-grade rope and they definitely make a difference, it isn’t necessary. Mine was $10 from either Aldi or K-Mart.

5. Power band

Bicep curls – guns

Pull-aparts – shoulders

The Workouts

Now that we’ve got the gear, it’s time to “don’t lose it, just use it” to quote Rocky from Paw Patrol (dads of toddlers will appreciate this).

These workouts will hit just about everything, get the heart going through your chest and start to rebuild muscles you’d forgotten existed.

The look simple enough but they’ll get you.

Workout 1

Warm up with:

5 mins skipping variations

5 mins foam roller

5 mins kettlebell ‘play’ – pass-arounds, halos, deadlifts – these are primer exercises used to fire up your central nervous system and let it know it’s going to be doing a little work.

Then into 5 rounds of:

25 swings (if you’re new to swings, a great correctional video from kettlebell Godfather Steve Maxwell is right here)

15 goblet squats

5 pull-ups (or to failure if you can’t do 5)

Rest 1 minute between rounds

Finish with 5 mins on the foam roller to cool down

Workout 2

5 mins skipping

3 mins kettlebell play

100 swings

100 banded pull-aparts – see this video for technique and variations

break these up however you want

every time you break – do 5 pull-ups

Finish with 5 mins easy skipping


It’s that simple.

Spend somewhere in the region of $100 and perform each of these workouts once per week to start with.

That gives you 2 workouts plus my weekend HIIT burners.

This alone will start to get you into shape; it will get you fitter, you will develop better muscle tone, you’ll torch some fat, you’ll look healthier and sexier without clothes…the list is endless.

But you must do the work.

The beauty of it, though, is this: once you start and develop the habit, it actually starts to become enjoyable. And the feeling afterwards as the endorphins surge around your body making you almost high is something truly magnificent.

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  1. avatar image
    Sean at July 14, 2016 Reply

    Spot on with this one. Put together a home gym when we had our first little fella and got some major brownie points with the misses for spending more time at home. Did however, spend a lot more than $100…

    1. avatar image
      superfitdad at July 14, 2016 Reply

      Awesome work, Sean. It was a massive bone of contention in our household, both real and imagined. If you’ve got the room for more equipment, then, yeah, spend some more $$$ and increase the variety.

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