Shawn is a former collegiate offensive lineman at Kent State and now a father, husband, high school teacher, curator of morninglifter.com, and a podcast host.
Shawn is one of the most consistent guys I have seen in the gym community. He’s a morning lifter, like me, and he’s as dedicated as they come.
Over the last few years, Shawn has been transforming his basement into his dream gym, and he’s done a great job by mixing new and used equipment.
Join me as we step into Shawn’s home gym.
Shawn started his home gym in the summer of 2016, shortly after the birth of his son. Like many of us home gym owners, he found that making time for the gym while caring for a newborn was a challenge… one that led to his fair share of arguments (can anyone else relate?). Shawn has been lifting since his sophomore year in high school, over half his life. He understands the importance of it and, after losing over 90 lbs from his playing weight in football, he didn’t want to quit.
So, what did he do?
He started a home gym, of course!
To start, Shawn and his wife agreed on purchasing some starter equipment. He found the early advantages of home gym life to be obvious. Most notably were not having to travel to the gym and being able to help with the baby whenever it was needed. Unknown at the time, this would lead to Shawn ultimately starting the Morning Lifter and meeting great people along the way.
Before children, a home gym wasn’t even a consideration for Shawn. Now, and especially with COVID impacting the fitness world, he can’t imagine life without it.
Shawn, I agree, and I think a lot of others do as well.
In the beginning, Shawn’s gym was very modest. Situated in the corner of the basement in their first home, he had a 300lb bar and weight set, a Fitness Gear Half Rack, a bench from Dick’s Sporting Goods, and a set of PowerBlock Dumbbells. Except for the half rack which he sold, Shawn still owns and uses all of his original pieces.
Over the last four years, he’s slowly added more equipment and upgraded his square footage in the process. He likes to save money during the year for cornerstone pieces that he typically purchases around Christmas time. His process is very strategic. Before he makes larger purchases, he spends time researching the equipment, measuring his space, looking at similar pieces from competitors, and even writing out a pros & cons list on a spreadsheet.
For his next big purchase, he’s eyeing the Fray Fitness Iso Lateral Row Machine. Just recently, Shawn scored one of his “white whales” in the Body Masters pullover machine. It has been on his list for over a year, and he was finally able to find one at a great price.
As I often say, building a home gym is a process. Sometimes patience is required. I think Shawn and his deliberate approach to growing his space is a great example of that!
A big part of the process for Shawn is buying both new and used equipment. He considers himself more of a thrift/utility buyer, and that while buying “new is nice, it’s not required.” For the bigger purchases like his rack, dumbbells, and his smith machine, he purchased new. The same is true for barbells and specialty bars. Shawn’s stance on bars is that buying them used is liked buying tires used… he’d rather spend more money on a newer bar. For the other pieces, he looks to maximize his dollar by buying high-quality used equipment at a great price.
When I asked Shawn what his favorite piece was, he answered with a breakdown by category… not an answer I’ve received before, which I love! Here is his list:
- Utility: Titan Fitness X-3 Rack with lever Arms
- Chest: BATL Cerakote Bar
- Legs: Marrs Bar
- Back: Titan Fitness Lat Tower/Body Masters Pullover
- Shoulders: Nautilus Double Shoulder
- Auxiliaries: PowerBlock Dumbbells
With that, let’s dive in a little deeper and have a closer look at Shawn’s gym.
Rack and Bench
Shawn is a big believer in maximizing the utility of equipment in your space, and you can tell that with his rack setup.
- Titan X-3 Short Flat Foot Power Rack with 24″ extension
- Titan X-3 Lever Arms
- Titan X-3 Safety Straps
- Titan X-3 Dip Attachment
- Titan Landmine Attachment
- Titan X-3 Vertical Barbell Holder x2
- Titan Fitness FID Bench
Shawn has an impressive barbell lineup ranging from traditional bars to specialty bars.
- BATL Cerakote Bar
- CAP Olympic Bar x2
- CAP Deadlift Bar
- Titan Fitness Fat Axle Bar
- Titan Fitness Safety Squat Bar v2
- Titan Fitness Camber Bar
- Titan Fitness Swiss Bar
- Titan Fitness Short Fat Axle Bar
- Titan Fitness Rackable Hex Bar
- Titan Fitness Rackable EZ Curl Bar
- Fringe Sport Longhorn Buffalo Bar
- Marrs Bar
PowerBlocks are Shawn’s dumbbell choice, and they’re excellent for saving space and time. Their rapid selection is effortless and it makes it easy to perform supersets. Standard PowerBlock sets go up to 90 lbs, but you can also buy expansion sets up to 125 lbs, which Shawn has done.
- PowerBlock U-125 Dumbbells
- PowerBlock Dumbbell Stand
- PowerBlock Pro Series Kettlebell Handle
Shawn has a great selection of machines in his space including a couple of vintage Nautilus pieces from the 1970s. His functional trainer adds a ton of versatility, and he has a couple of other pieces for more specificity.
- Titan Fitness Plate Loaded Lat Tower
- Hoist Mi6 Functional Trainer
- Hoist Mi Smith Machine
- Body Masters Pullover
- Nautilus Double Shoulder
- Nautilus Rowing Torso
From cable attachments to chains, Shawn has a great assortment of accessories to make his gym well rounded.
- Titan Fitness Lever Arm Leg Press Attachment
- Titan Fitness Single Arm Landmine Handle
- Titan Fitness Fat Grip Cable Attachment
- Titan Fitness Multi-Grip Cable Attachment
- Titan Fitness Triangle Grip Cable Attachment
- CAP Wide Grip Pulldown
- CAP EZ Curl Cable Attachment
- CAP Pro Style Lat Pulldown
- Titan Fitness 9-Bar Vertical Barbell Holder
- Titan Fitness Mini Bar Jack
- Titan Fitness Full Bar Jack
- Titan Fitness 6 Ft. 3/4″ Heavy Chains
- Titan Fitness 6 Ft. 5/8″ Heavy Chains
- Mark Bell Slingshot
- Grey Fit Strongman 200 lb Sandbag
- Various other cable attachments
I commend Shawn for taking the slow and steady approach to building his awesome basement gym. His strategic approach is paying off and I’m excited to see what his gym looks like in a few more years. Shawn is a lot of things: a father, a husband, a high school teacher, a podcast host, a website author… and… a home gym owner! I love the dedication – keep up the great work!
I want to thank Shawn for sharing his journey and his gym with the Garage Gym Lab community.
If you would like the chance to be featured on the site, shoot me an email at Adam@garagegymlab.com.