Home Gym Hacks: Training With Low Ceiling Restrictions

How To Train With Low Ceiling Restrictions

When we we went from turning the vision of having a lot of great home gym equipment to a reality the first thing that needed to be dealt with was how to train and get exercises done in an area with a low ceiling.  This was always my main concern and I was not going to fork out the money for a power rack or bench set if we weren’t going to actually be able to use it to the fullest in a basement.  Sure, there are a variety of exercise variations or substitutions that you can use to get the job done, but I really didn’t want to be limited by our training space if at all possible.

What exercises become an issue with low ceilings?

The first thing that I did was to decide what exercises were included in our training and out of those exercises, what would be a problem in a low basement.   Here are the list of our personal exercises that we perform at some point during our training

  • Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Pause Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Incline Press
  • Incline DB Press
  • Standing Military Press
  • Deadlift
  • Stiff Leg Deadlift
  • Deficit Deadlift
  • Lat-Pull Downs
  • Chins/Pull-ups
  • Tricep Push Downs
  • Facepulls
  • Bicep Curls

That is a pretty common list of exercises and if you follow any type of bodybuilding/powerlifting routine then you will most likely be doing the same types of things.  What I didn’t want was to build a home gym if I could only do 1/2 or 3/4 of the exercises.  It would be stupid to spend that money and either neglect body parts or still have to pay a membership to attend a gym for one day to finish accessory work.  The exercises that you will either need to find a substitute for or figure out an alternative method are the

  • Standing military press
  • Lat pull downs
  • Push downs (or anything with a cable)

Low Ceiling Adaptations

Hack #1 :Lat pull downs/cable work

I searched long and hard online for a home solution with that would allow me to do lat pull down variations as well as other cable style work.  The solution that I found is from www.southcarolinabarbell.com and is called the econo tricep and lat pulley.  This is a great piece of equipment that I got during a sale for about $90.00 and has be worth every bit of that.  While it is not necessarily a low ceiling specific piece of equipment, it works extremely well in low ceiling situations to get lat work, overhead tricep work, and cable ab variations done at home.  The product consists of a triceps/ab strap, a pulley and an 18″ loading pin.  South Carolina Barbell suggests that it is used for racks that are 6′ to 7′ in height.   We have managed to make this work in a short squat stand set-up that you see pictured below.

Econo Tricrp and Lat Pully

The top pulley is choked around a power bar that is resting as high as possible in the squat stands. I set it up a bit low for the picture but I usually choke the piece around the bar 2-3 times to get as little slack in the strap as possible.  The loading pin is another piece of the Spud Inc strapping with a ring that is larger than an olympic plate hole so that when you load weights they will not fall through the strap.  It’s a pretty ingenious idea that makes you go “why couldn’t I have though of that?”.  On the other side of the pulley attaches whatever type of handle that you want to use.  The product comes with a short ab/tricep strap that is shaped like a “Y” with two handles to hold on.  All in all this is a great solution to any type of cable work in the home.  South Carolina Barbell sells a variety of attachment handles should you not be satisfied with the one handle that comes with the package.

Caution: We use a beater bar for both choke the pulley around as well as do chins from the bar in the top of the rack.  This WILL put stress on your bar over time and possibly bend the bar.  Use a different bar or one that you don’t mind being bent for this.

Hack #2: Lat Pull/Triceps Work

The second home gym hack for lat pull/triceps work involves usage of exercise bands.  Whether these be jump stretch, iron woody or any other style band, I highly suggest you pick up some of these for your home gym.

Pictured is a single pack of Jump stretch bands that retails for 89.00 with free shipping from Amazon.  For most people, you will not use the average and strong band (green and blue).  They provide too much resistance and unless you are squatting heavy I can’t think of one thing you will use them for.  To save some cash, here are the two bands that you need

The mini band is rated for 25lbs and the light band is rated as 50lbs.  Honestly, those are pretty arbitrary numbers for what we use these for.  You can choke them around the barbell the same way we have done above and perform tricep push downs, lat pull downs, and even put a knee through for assistance when doing chin-ups.  This is a pretty cheap investment that will give you the option to do a wide variety of assistance movements.

Check Price

Overhead Pressing

The last thing that we will discuss is any type of overhead pressing.  I had tried numerous variations such as the z-press

and even attempting to only standing press with very small plates so that they would have ceiling clearance.  Nothing really worked.  The solution was to finally purchase a cap barbell deluxe utility bench and switch to a seated overhead press.  While this isn’t the best solution it is the best that we could come up with and still do overhead work.  Unfortunately, this adaptation requires you to drop the standing press for a seated variation.  No big deal, I am still happy to get the work in.

Final Thoughts

You now are armed with two equipment hacks that will allow you to incorporate some assistance exercises  that you probably thought were not possible in your home gym due to ceiling restrictions.  If anyone has any other secrets to training in a space with a low ceiling I would love to hear them and add to this list!

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