Faithful blog reader here. I respect your straightforward no BS writing and opinions. My background. I have a home gym with a Smith machine that has pulldown, pushdown and rowing capabilities, a vertical leg press, a hyperextension bench, Olympic bar, dumbbells and hundreds of pounds of weight plus a treadmill. Due to unforeseen and serious financial issues, this will be my only means of training for a while.
My question is this. Can someone still compete in local and state contests with this limited equipment? I had access to a gym that had some specialized equipment that I loved. I weigh 240 and love the assisted dip and pull up machine and the leg extension and leg curl machines. Now those are not an option, and other gyms are 3 times the amount which forces me to be a home trainer only. While I will never stop lifting and improving, I am wondering if I can get enough to compete this fall in an over 50 contest. Or, should I put it on hold until things maybe shake out for the better? Like I said, I value your opinion and thoughts.
Thank you Jerry W.
Hey Jerry, thanks for being a longtime reader. The first thing I want to let you know is that while the vast majority of competitors do train at commercial gyms, not all of them do. A friend of mine in New Hampshire named Moe Demers has been competing for years while training at home. If all you had were a bench and weights, you would be in a sticky situation and very limited. But even then, you could still do every barbell and dumbbell exercise. Squats and overhead presses would be a challenge, as you would have to clean the weight from the floor and then get it back down at the end of your sets. But like my friend Moe, you do have a pretty decent amount of equipment at home. It sounds like the only exercises you can't duplicate at home are the leg extension and curl. I honestly don't feel leg extensions are a necessary movement for bodybuilders. I do them and I like the fact that they isolate the quads so well, but I could live without them; and I doubt my quads would look very different. At your home you can do squats, front squats, lunges, and leg presses. Your quads are covered. Leg curls, on the other hand, are a 'must' for the hamstrings as far as I'm concerned. You can still do stiff-leg deadlifts for the hams, and there is a dumbbell version of leg curls (search dumbbell leg curls on YouTube for demonstrations) that you can do on a bench. It's a very awkward movement that some swear by. I recall IFBB Pro Eddie Robinson, who had some fantastic quads and hams, did them as part of his regular leg workouts.
As far as everything else, you can hit every bodypart with what you have at home. The assisted chin-up machine is cool and especially useful for heavier men, but you can hit the lats in a very similar way with pulldowns. You can also do barbell and dumbbell rows, deadlifts, and you say you can also do cable rows with your set-up. Assisted dips are great too, but you can do bench dips as well as close-grip bench presses for your triceps in addition to cable pushdowns, lying barbell extensions, overhead dumbbell extensions (1 or 2 arms at a time), and dumbbell kickbacks. Shoulders are covered with lateral raises, rear laterals, overhead presses, and upright rows. Chest just needs a flat and incline press as well as dumbbell flyes. If you can do cable rows with the bench you have, you could even figure out how to do a one-arm cable crossover. Biceps just need curls, and you don't need any equipment for abs. Calves can be done off a step or block.
Your cardio can obviously be done on your treadmill. So you can definitely train for a contest at home. More equipment would be nice and surely more convenient, but necessity is the mother of invention. I haven't trained at home since I was 16, but I often think of how I would make the most out of limited equipment if I had to. I feel fairly confident in saying that with a few key pieces of equipment, I could train for a contest at home. I sure would miss the gym environment and the wide variety of equipment options, I can't lie. Plus, I work at home and honestly don't get out of the house much. The gym is my escape and my 'playtime!'
I wish you the best of luck Jerry, and hopefully things do turn around for you soon!