For trans guys, working out at home can be a perfect solution because you can build a brand new body in private. And it does not have to cost a lot of money. In this post, I explain how to set up your own private body building center in the privacy of your own home.
Personally, I absolutely love my home workouts. I have my phone broadcasting podcasts of my latest obsessions. I take my time, and I enjoy feeling my muscles pumping up. I make notes of my progress, and just basically give myself a great slice of Me Time. I have a mirror on the wall to check my form and (I admit it) to occasionally admire my muscles.
Body Building is a Wonderful Investment in Yourself
You will never regret investing time in body building. Personally, I have got so much stronger with resistance training that I can now do things I last did as a child. Such as getting out of the pool without using the stairs! Also, I hardly recognize myself in the mirror.
As you progress in your weight training, there will be days when you look at yourself in the mirror and think: “Wow, is that really me?” It is a great feeling, and makes all the work worthwhile. The financial outlay to set up a home gym is not huge, and it will pay huge dividends.
You Do NOT Have to Start Your Body Building Journey in Public
When I was living as a woman, I felt pretty good about myself in the gym. I was always the woman doing the most advanced exercises and lifting the heaviest weights. I was usually the only woman doing squats with a weighted barbell. People told me I was an inspiration to women. I never did know how to take that.
Then, I started to transition gender. Finally, it got to the point where I was passing. I moved to a new gym. But now, I was the freakishly WEAK guy, instead of the freakishly STRONG woman. I felt very self-conscious.
The fact is, I am a trans man who only transitioned at the age of 50. Despite a lifetime of exercise and working as a personal trainer, I am still at a disadvantage compared to cis men. I will never be as strong in this life as I would have been if I had been born in a male body.
So, I have accepted myself as a relatively weak man. But, that does not mean I have to flaunt it. I LOOK strong, and I want to maintain that illusion with other people in the world. There are a lot of advantages to having other men think that I would be a formidable opponent. Despite being short, I look wide and ripped. So, I almost always work out in my own private gym. No one else has to know how much I can bench press.
Whether you work out in a public gym or at home is entirely your own choice, of course. But if you do decide to work out at home, you can get going with a minimum of equipment, and build up over time.
#1 Requirement: A Good Workout Bench
You need a good, strong, well-made workout bench. And the back rest needs to be adjustable. A leg extension and preacher curl add-on are nice, but they are a nice-to have, not a need-to-have. However, an adjustable back rest is definitely a need-to-have. That is, if you want to build a well-muscled chest.
# 2 Requirement: Bars
You basically need three bars: a full-size barbell, plus two shorter bars to use as adjustable dumbbells.
These will all come with gadgets to hold the weights on securely. Always use these! It is just too easy to drop weights on yourself if you don’t secure your weights every time.
# 3 Requirement: Weight Plates
Build up a set of weight plates to provide varying weights as you progress. You will need larger and smaller plates, of course.
Pro Tip: Wear good strong shoes to protect your feet. I usually wear work boots, because they provide more protection than sneakers. Don’t be tempted to go barefoot just because you are at home. Sooner or later, you are going to drop a weight plate. When it happens, don’t let it break your toes!
Should You Use a Barbell or Dumbbells?
This largely depends on your preference and your age. For example, the YouTuber behind the Fit Father Project recommends that men over 50 use dumbbells whenever possible, rather than barbells. This is because with each arm working independently, your individual arms and shoulders have more freedom to follow a comfortable path. This means you are less likely to injure yourself.
Also, with exercises such as a chest press, dumbbells allow your to push both upward and inward. This is actually better for stimulating the growth of your pectorals, as their chief function is in fact to enable you to push your arms inwards, across your chest.
Recommendation #1: Try Gymnastic Rings with Cables for Modified Pull-Ups
One of the BEST ways to build muscle is to do chin-ups and pull-ups. But the problem is, most of us cannot actually do them.
An excellent alternative is to buy rings with cables and start off with modified chin-ups and pull-ups. This makes way more sense than trying in vain to pull yourself up, and just dangling there feeling silly. Or jumping up and then trying to lower yourself down.
The reality is that you don’t learn how to bench press 200 pounds by starting off with lowering 200 pounds. Or trying in vain to lift 200 pounds, and only getting it two inches off the ground. Instead, you start with a smaller weight.
The same can be achieved by using rings to decrease the amount of weight you are pulling up. By using rings, you can do a sufficient volume of modified pullups to build the strength you need to one day impress yourself (and the world) by doing full pullups.
Check Out this Video which Shows you How to Use Rings to Progress to Doing Pull-Ups
I have used this progression with friends learning to do pull-ups, and it really does work.
Recommendation #2: Get a Power Rack for Safety
When working out at home, you usually don’t have anyone to spot you. You need to get weight all the way from the ground up, and then get it safely back down again.
That is where power racks come in. Most of them can be set up so that you can safely do chest presses, squats, or shoulder presses. You simply position the barbell at the correct height, so that it becomes safe and accessible for the exercise.
Recommendation #3: Get a Set of Exercise Bands
The easiest way to exercise your rotator cuff muscles is by using exercise bands. Find out more about the importance of exercising your rotator cuff muscles in our post on the best body building workout for trans men – click here.
I very strongly recommend that you pick up a set of exercise bands. They are also useful for a huge range of other exercises. And they are ideal if you are traveling, or exercising in a small space. A set of bands comes with a range of resistance levels, so that you can use them to exercise light or hard. I am the proud owner of a set of exercise bands, and I am very happy with them.
Full Body Workout with Exercise Bands
The video below shows the amazing potential of exercising with bands. This video features a full-body workout that you can do with bands anywhere, any time. I plan to try it on my next trip.
Recommendation #4: If You Can Afford Nothing Else: Get an Adjustable Dumbbell Set
This brings me to what I think is the single best piece of exercise equipment you can buy. If you can afford nothing else, start with an adjustable dumbbell set. These will enable you to do most of the essential exercises for muscle building.
If you can’t afford those, get two dumbbell bars, and an assortment of small weights. Buy the weights four at a time, to balance out any weight you add.
But Wait – There’s More!
This is the fourth in a series of posts about weight training and body building for trans guys/FTMs. This is the complete series:
- Why Weight Training is Important for Trans Guys/FTMs
- Tips for Success with Body Building for FTMs/Trans Men
- How to Set Up Your Own Body Building Program
- How to Set Up Your Own Private Body Building Center in Your Home (this post)
- The Best Body Building Workout for Trans Men – Our Complete Guide