What is the best full body workout machine for your home?

Published by Jason Narog on

Fitness Rack

“I’m on a limited budget, I have limited space, my significant other doesn’t want me turning the garage into a gym…, etc, etc. But I want the best full body workout machine in my home. What is it?!?!”

Let’s start with what the best “full body” workout machine for your home isn’t. It isn’t one of those gliding machines that locks you into a particular range of motion (smith machine.)

Smith Machine

Why not?

Because Smith machines, and any machine that involves locking you into a particular range of motion through your entire range is missing a good portion of the stabilizing muscles you’re looking to hit, so it fails under the definition of “full body” or “total body.” Then there’s the arguments around these things being designed for certain body sizes / types where if you don’t fall into the “correct” size you’re starting and ending in an awkward position.

To be a “full body workout machine” you need to be able to hit these missing muscles, so we’re going to focus on targeting the total body when discussing options.

Total body workout with a set of kettlebells

The first of two options I’m presenting aren’t technically “machines” but they will give you a total body workout in your home and don’t take up much space. The first is a set of kettlebells. The number of kettlebells you need, the weight, etc, etc is going to change depending on the person and what you’re doing so let’s just say go grab an 8kg, 12kg, 16kg and 20kg bell to start.

A typical workout routine would include some sort of cardio component, upper body push and pull, hinge, squat, lunge, a core component, and then probably some sort of dynamic agility exercise. I’m ignoring stretching / foam rolling / cooldown but those components should cover you.

With the kettlebell you can hit cardio, upper body, hinge, and core with a kettlebell swing so we’re already good there.

Agility somewhat happens with a Turkish get up (it’s a slow movement but there’s a lot of balancing on one leg / one arm and the slower you go, the more challenging you make it on yourself to stay balanced [which sounds beneficial for agility exercises where you’re pushing off one leg to change directions as you stabilized yourself with the get up] , plus you have a lunge, core, and a bunch of stabilizing of muscles in the upper body.

Kettlebell clean to squat would give you another hinge / core while also adding the squat. You could cardio this exercise with some jump squats.

Need an upper body push? Kettlebell pushups on the horns / strict press / clean to press / push press.

Halos help with stretching / hitting some of those stabilizer muscles and you can smash your legs with the bell if you want a “form rolling” type experience with something a bit more heavy.

So let’s move on to option two, which is in the same world.

Buy a Bulgarian Bag for a total body workout at home

The Bulgarian Bag falls into pretty much the same category as the kettlebell (or sandbag) in that its not a “machine” for your home, but it will turn you into a machine while you’re using it. Being that the Bulgarian Bag was developed by an Olympic wrestler, I do give it an edge when it comes to more MMA style conditioning programs than the kettlebell (though you’ll hear about both the kettlebell and the Bulgarian Bag from martial artists.)

Depending on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school, they’ll either lean towards kettlebells or Bulgarian Bags. Most of the people at the SFG1 I attended were also BJJ players, so that bodes well for kettlebells. Everyone at the Suples Lvl 1 Bulgarian Bag certification I went to were also BJJ players, with the cert taking place inside of a BJJ academy. The current BJJ school I go to (that shares a room with wrestlers) have Bulgarian Bags available.

You can swing a Bulgarian Bag, you can throw it on your shoulders and run with it, you can do grip exercises (specific to BJJ / wrestling / Judo) and you can come up with a variety of cardio and SAQ (speed, agility, quickness) exercises to do with it. I would give the Bulgarian Bag the edge in the SAQ department over the kettlebell, but that’s probably because I’ve never even thought of attempting to do frog hops across the room with a kettlebell, whereas you can stick the Bulgarian Bag up on your shoulders and go hop around like a crazy person without even a second thought.

I have a collection of both, and I like them both for different reasons. I think the Bulgarian Bag snatch is a goofy exercise, but that’s probably because I tried it with 2 hands and a 37lb bag, after I spent months preparing for the SFG1 snatch test doing single arm kettlebell snatches with a 54lb bell. But I can switch exercises faster with the Bulgarian Bag.

Suples Spin (you rotate the bag around your head like a kettlebell halo, only you do it really fast) to upper body push and pull movements to a swing squat to lunges and calf raises to another cardio-ish movement followed by isolated bicep and tricep exercises is a snap with the multiple grip options of the Bulgarian Bag.

And it fits in your closet or in the corner of a room so you can keep your garage a garage.

What machine should I buy if I have room in my home gym and want to get a total body workout?

Let’s start with what you’ll need to go buy before you buy the machine

Buy a corded drill, I tried doing my second home gym with a battery powered on then wound up at the local Ace Hardware to buy a proper, corded masonry drill. Your anchors and bit will vary based on the size holes you need to drill in the base plates (Titan is 1/2″ holes so you want a slightly smaller drill bit if you’re using regular concrete screws otherwise the screws will just fall into the hole if they’re the same size) and the shop vac is to suck all the dust out of the hole you just drilled.

If you’re using more of a hammer in type concrete anchor you’ll want either a hammer, mallet, or sledge to get those things into the hole. A rubber mallet might bend or puncture on you while you’re hammering away, so probably best to lean towards a small handheld sledge or a heavy hammer.

So what are you building?

A squat rack!

I own the Titan T3 Squat Rack and love it.

Fitness Rack

The socket set you need is to put all the bolts on. If memory serves you need at least a 20mm socket, for some reason I’m thinking some of the bolts might even be as large as 24mm (I’ve built a lot of fitness equipment and can’t quite remember if the 24mm goes to this or something else….) 16, 20, 24mm sounds right to me….

Why is a squat rack the best full body workout machine for your home?

Because its modular!

You can add different bars, buy attachments, string random things to it, turn it into a recovery device, make it a cardio machine, etc, etc.

Want to do crazy pull up or Ninja Warrior type stuff? They have several different attachments and ladders for that, you just need to add them and bolt them on.

Want to punch and kick things? There’s an attachment for a heavy bag called the Extended Arm.

Battleropes, landmines, medicine ball tosses, speed bag, rolling devices for recovery…. there’s literally 50+ available attachments for this thing and that’s just from Titan!

In the photo above you see my attached TRX suspension trainer. What you don’t see is the attached TRX Rip Trainer. Many of the random gadgets available on the fitness market today that screw into your ceiling or anchor into your doorframe will also easily attach to the pull up bar or battlerope attachment or frame of your squat rack. Build once, drill once, and you can add on indefinitely to build out your ideal total body workout center. As your tastes or goals change you can pull off attachments, sell them on the internet, and buy new ones.

Just make sure you have space for the tools you’ll need to build the thing before you get going and you’ll be happy as a clam.

Happy home gyming!