I value simplicity. Minimalism appeals to me because it gets to the essence of what you really need.

I also like to exercise. I’ve put some thought into what a minimalist gym looks like.

In fact, I’m making my own minimalist gym right now in my garage.

When designing my gym I considered three things:

  • What is going to give me the best bang for my buck in terms of time?
  • What is going to reduce friction to exercise?
  • What is the least amount of equipment to get that done?

Bang For The Buck

If you want the 80/20 on exercise for fat loss, health, and looking great, it’s heavy weight lifting for strength. It’s not cardio and treadmills.

In terms of heavy weight lifting, the 80/20 on that is heavy compound lifts like bench press, squat, and deadlift.

So, that means you need barbells and heavy weights to lift with them.

Reducing Friction

The biggest optimization to exercise you can do is to improve compliance. The easiest way to improve compliance to anything is to reduce friction.

The way I reduced friction is to put the gym in my garage.

Going to the gym normally is a lot of friction. You need to get in the car, drive there, bring a gym bag, change clothes, then you get to exercise. When you are done you do the whole thing in reverse.

I estimate there is something like an hour lost total just in extra stuff in going to the gym. Compare that to just walking out to the garage and lifting. Way easier.

Also, I’ve tried to have exercise equipment in the basement, but that doesn’t work for me. It’s just far enough out of the way that I never use it.

It’s even more than that for me because I like to deadlift at the gym, but there are no stations setup for that. So, I have to grab a bar, put on weight, do my lifts, then take the weight off and put the bar away.

That is obnoxious.

My minimalist gym always has a bar with 45 lb. weight plates on the bar. I still have to load up whatever I’m going to do that day, but it reduces the setup time even further.

Also, right now it’s winter time and the garage is cold. I have weight lifting gloves and I put on a long sleeve shirt to make it comfortable.

Every investment in reducing friction makes exercise easier.

Minimal Equipment

Having the least amount of equipment lowers the cognitive load of the entire exercise experience. Complex equipment like treadmills and cable machines are how fitness companies make their money.

Simple weights are cheaper and work better.

What I did is I bought an olympic weight lifting bar for $50 on Craigslist, and I bought used weight plates at Play It Again Sports. The great thing about buying weights used is they still work exactly the same, even if they are a bit battered or rusty.

I also bought a floor mat and some lifting gloves to keep my hands warm. I already had a couple kettlebells and a punching bag.

For fun, I got a 50 lb. bag of play sand and wrapped it in duct tape. It makes a good weight for picking up, carrying around, and other simple exercises you might not do with traditional weights.

It also only cost about $5 total to make.

The only other thing I’m going to get at some point is adjustable dumbbells like the Bowflex SelecTtech and a bench to use for some exercises.

For now I’m avoiding a squat rack or bench press rack because those I would want a spotter and I don’t have one. Also that takes up a lot of space.

Instead, I’m going to double down on deadlift, and kettlebell training instead.

The Goal

The goal of me exercising is to lose fat and build muscle. I want to look awesome and feel awesome. The minimalist gym I’ve designed will help get me there.

The Plan

Even with the gym, I need to show up, work out, and do the diet and recovery right to make this system work.

To begin with I’m training about 3 days a week, but my goal is 4-5. I’m doing my own variation on the Faleev training method as described by Pavel.

I do 5 sets of 5 deadlift at the same weight. If I can do all 5 sets, I will add 10 lbs. (2 x 5 lb. weights) next time I’m lifting heavy.

I have a lighter day where I do a minimal weight in 3 sets of 5. That might be just the bar and 45’s on there for a total of 135 lbs. On that day I might do kettlebell swings or other exercises too.

Right now I’m alternating between light and heavy depending on how recovered I feel. If I need another day of recovery I might stretch, do yoga, hit the punching bag, etc. for 15-30 minutes to keep the habit going.

More than anything, showing up and doing work 3-5 times a week every week is going to make the biggest impact.

Wrap Up

My gym is simple. It doesn’t take up a lot of space. It’s easy to get to. I use it.

You don’t need a lot of equipment and stuff to get fit. You need basic weights, basic lifts, and the discipline to show up to work and use them.

My gym is minimalist. Is yours?

-Brian

P.S. I unpack more ideas in Creative Genius