Joe has built one of the more impressive, organized, and efficient garage gyms that I've seen. His garage gym journey, as you'll see below, is one that started from humble beginnings. Today, he's the envy of the neighborhood.
Join me as we step into Joe's ‘Gray Matter Lab.'
Joe's journey started like many of us garage gym owners. With a training style that mixed bodybuilding and powerlifting, he grew tired of not having access to quality equipment at the commercial gym. He was stuck fighting for the one squat rack and he was sick of having to be delicate on deadlifts. Finding an open bench was difficult, and trying new things like SSBs, chains, and weighted carries, was impossible.
In addition to the training issues, Joe's real-life time commitments were ever-increasing. Not only was he in the process of getting a master's degree and moving through a career in HR, but his wife was finishing up nursing school and working nights. When they had their daughter, driving to the gym was simply wasted time.
Can you relate to any of this?
I know I can.
So, Joe, being the intelligent and rational-minded person that he is, set out to do something about it. In 2014, a year after buying his house, he started his garage gym. His first purchase? A metal pipe, some clamps, and about 100 lbs of plates. Can you say ‘humble beginnings?' Later that year he took advantage of Black Friday and bought a Rogue R3 power rack, a Rogue Ohio Bar, and a few accessories. Since then, he's been accumulating equipment to create what is now version 4 of the Gray Matter Lab.
In my opinion, Joe's gym is a perfect example that you don't need everything at once. Part of the garage gym journey is growing it over time. Firstly, not many of us have the money to throw down on an epic gym in one fell swoop. Secondly, new equipment is being introduced all the time. And thirdly, when you look at your gym that you've worked hard to create, there's a sense of accomplishment knowing where you started.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter how you get there… just that you do.
Gray Matter Lab Equipment
Joe has no shortage of awesome equipment. From specialty bars to DIY gear and everything in between. Let's break down his impressive gym piece by piece:
Bars & Dumbbells
The Gray Matter Lab has an awesome assortment of bars, including numerous specialty bars from the likes of Edge Fitness and the Strength Shop. If you're looking at either powerlifting or general bodybuilding, you'll find some great stuff in this list. I particularly like the slim football bar from Edge, and I use it regularly in my own training.
- Earthquake Bar
- Edge Fitness Systems Cambered Squat Bar
- Edge Fitness Systems Safety Squat Bar
- Edge Fitness Systems Slim Football Bar (I have a review of this bar here)
- Edge Fitness Systems Rickshaw
- Ivanko OB-84 Power Bar
- Cambered Bench Bar
- B&R Bar
- Strength Shop Fat Bar
- Ironmasters Dumbbells – with 120 lb kit
- Umax Urethane Dumbbells – 5,10,20,30,40 lbs
- Thompson Fat Bells
- Loadable Mace
- Oso Kids Bar
- Rogue Bar Holder
Rack, Bench, & Accessories
Joe has the R3 power rack, which I find to be the perfect rack for most garage gyms. It's compact, strong as hell, and it looks nice too. There's a reason the Westside Barbell guys use this rack. Joe also uses the Thompson Fat Pad, which is a great pad to create a better foundation on which to bench.
- Rogue R3 Rack (I have a review of this rack here)
- Extra J-Cups
- Rogue Spotter Arms
- Fringe Sport Dip Handles
- Tuff Stuff Bench
- Thompson Fat Pad
- DIY Platform
- DIY Pull Box Tops
Joe is the king of plate restoration. You can check out the video of how he beautifully restored these 100 lb plates here:
In addition to these, Joe also has:
- 140 lbs of Again Faster Bumper Plates
- 885 lbs of Vintage American Olympian Plates
- Standard Weights for Loadable Mace
- Maxicam Weight Tree
- 400 lbs of Misc. Hundos
Machines and Cardio
The Powertec WB-LS headlines the machines in the Gray Matter Lab. What Joe has been able to do with the unit is really cool. For instance, he rigged up a belt squat (video below) and he also uses the machine for banded one-armed rows, among other things.
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Testing out the belt squat I rigged up for the Powertec Levergym. This feels GREAT. The set-up and dismount are terrible though. I'll be testing the landmine belt squat next week again, I think my "platform" has evolved enough that it'll hold me tight. Regardless, this set wrecked my quads in just the right away. Great follow up to heavy squats. – If you are interested in more, follow along in these various formats: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/GrayMatterLifting Blog: https://graymatterlifting.wordpress.com/ Garage Gym Magazine: https://www.garagegymmagazine.com/ Music by: DJ Quads: Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/aka-dj-quads My personal motto is #betterthanyesterday. This defines who I am, my view of the world, and my goals in #life . Each day I try to be a little better than I was the day before. A little smarter, a little #stronger, a little happier. I lift 5 times a week in my #garagegym with the equipment I’ve acquired taking full advantage of the #garagegymlife . You’ll notice my dedication to organization and affinity for uniformity in the color #black . I eat mostly locally grown and harvested meats, eggs, vegetables, and dairy products from #NorCal . I don’t eat 100% “clean” any more or have cheat days, instead my #nutrition is more centered around #flexibledieting . I have a love affair with #powerlifting that I simply can’t get away from, as #squats and #deadlifts will always be a part of my routine, but my first #love is #bodybuilding . #legday and #thepump play equal parts in my programming. I’m constantly trying to find better ways to utilize my time to balance my #home life, work, education, and this thing we call #fitness . I’m a part of team #nofilter .
- Airdyne Air Bike
- Concept 2 Rower
- Powertec WB-LS with Bench
- Powertec Leg Curl/Extension Attachment
- Powertec Preacher Curl Machine Attachment
- Get RXd GHD
- Atlas Tibia Dorsi Calf Machine
- Tire Sled
What gym is complete without some awesome miscellaneous and accessory pieces? The organization in this gym is absolutely top-notch. The Wall Control pegboards are a brilliant solution to cleaning up your gym and making your space much more efficient. Check out some of Joe's remaining equipment below.
- 120lbs of Chains
- 15lb Slam Ball
- 40lb Weight Vest
- Ab Wheel
- Airex Pad
- Battle Ropes
- California Flag
- Converse Chucks
- CSU Chico Flag
- Dead Wedge x 2
- D-Handles x 2
- DIY Chalk Bowl and Stand
- DIY Kid's Plates
- Fat Grips
- Foam Roller
- Impact Custom Mouthguard
- IronRebel Knee Sleeves
- Ivanko CO-2.5kg Collars
- Lifting Large Knee and Elbow Sleeves
- Lifting Large Knee Wraps
- Mag Grips – Wide, Med Supinated, Med Pronated, Close Supinated
- OSO Axle Collars
- Pendlay Olympic Lifting Shoes
- Rogue Bands
- Rogue Jump Rope
- Rogue Loading Pin
- Rogue Olympic Lifting Straps
- Rogue Rings
- Serious Steel Figure 8 Lifting Straps
- Spud Inc. Belt Squat Belt
- Spud Inc. Rope Anchor
- Spud Inc. Short Ab Strap
- Squat Pad
- Thompson Bowtie x 2
- Titan Wrist Wraps
- Triceps Rope
- US Flag
- Wall Control x 4
Joe lives by the motto ‘better than yesterday,' and I think we can all take something from that. When you look at his gym today and consider the fact it started with a metal pipe and a few plates, it's easy to see he's been living by his own motto.
I've personally really enjoyed following Joe's journey. He puts out great and helpful content on his various channels, including DIY stuff, product reviews, etc… He's truly passionate about garage gyms and training.
I want to thank Joe for sharing his journey and list of equipment for the community!
If you would like the chance to be featured on the site, shoot me an email at Adam@garagegymlab.com.
The bar is loaded,