HomeInspirationStep Into This Competitive Powerlifter's Compact Home Gym

Step Into This Competitive Powerlifter’s Compact Home Gym

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Meet Brian.

Brian is an accountant from Arkansas who has transformed half of his two-car garage into a beautiful powerlifting home gym.

As an award-winning powerlifter in multiple weight classes, Brian takes his training seriously, and you can see that with his equipment selection.

Since 2020, he’s been iterating his home gym into the beautiful space that it is today. It includes some of the best equipment on the market – all selected to help him reach his goals without taking up too much space.

Join me as we step into Brian’s compact garage gym.

The Journey

Brian Pham Home Gym - Early Days

Brian’s journey isn’t unlike many people who have started home gyms since 2020. During the heart of COVID, Brian’s gym shut down, leaving him without a place to train. He decided to take matters into his own hands by starting a gym in his two-car garage.

Thinking his gym would only be closed for a few weeks, his initial investment was small. His first haul included a 255lb weight set with a barbell from Academy Sports, an inexpensive foldable bench/rack from Amazon, and some horse stall mats from Tractor Supply.

At first, Brian liked the idea of the foldable bench since it was a big space-saver, and he still parked a car in the garage. The rack was getting the job done too… until he had a safety issue that could have been much worse than it was.

Squatting was particularly dicey because his bench sat so low and didn’t offer safety arms. One day, when re-racking a squat, he missed the small j-cups, which resulted in the bar falling on him. Brian was OK, thankfully, but he knew he needed something stronger and safer for his heavy powerlifting training… especially considering there were no signs of his normal gym reopening anytime soon.

Brian Pham Home Gym - Bridge Built Phoenix Rack 2 - Garage Gym Lab

His choice: the Bridge Built Phoenix Rack. Not only is the Phoenix rack much more durable and safer, but it takes up very little space since you can fold it up – an important consideration for Brian and his family. Additionally, Brian invested in a better bar and more weight.

Since making that switch, Brian has seemingly become hooked on the home gym life. He’s added several benches, specialty bars, and even a functional trainer.

Let’s take a closer look at his equipment lineup.

The Rack & Benches

The Phoenix Rack is the centerpiece of Brian’s gym. This made-in-the-USA rack is made by Bridge-Built in Cincinnati, OH. It’s a great choice for anyone working in a tight space since the center cross-member can fold up, bringing the entire rack into a compact 12″ wide footprint. With optional wheels, you can quickly move the Phoenix rack out of the way when needed, freeing up a considerable amount of floor space.

Brian Pham Home Gym - Bridge Built Phoenix Rack 1 - Garage Gym Lab

This rack has 3×3 uprights, 3/4″ holes, and optional accessories that include an adjustable pull-up bar, spotter arms, landmines, etc… I own a Phoenix Rack myself – it’s a great rack option. When I asked Brian what his favorite piece of equipment was, he quickly picked the Phoenix rack.

In terms of benches, Brian owns three: The Bridge Built Foldable Flat Bench, the Ironmaster Super Bench, and the REP AB-4100. With this lineup, Brian can perform flat bench press on an IPF-spec’d bench, incline movements, and decline movements.

RELATED: REP AB-4100 Bench Review

Brian Pham Home Gym - Benches - Garage Gym Lab

When I asked Brian if he could do anything over with this home gym, he mentioned that he would have waited until the Ironmaster Super Bench Pro was back in stock before purchasing. That’s because the Super Bench Pro sits much lower to the ground (17.2″ height). The Super Bench he owns is 20″ in height, which many lifters find to be too tall to get optimal leg drive when pressing.

RELATED: Best Squat Racks & Best Weight Benches

Bars and Plates

After selling the Academy Sports set, Brian upgraded his bar collection to include more premium power bars and specialty bars. He also added higher-quality plates… and a lot more of them. His plate collection now includes a mix of calibrated powerlifting plates, urethane plates, and rubber bumper plates.

Brian Pham Home Gym - Bars and Plates - Garage Gym Lab

RELATED: Best Barbells & Best Weight Plates

Dumbbells and Kettlebells

Another area where Brian upgraded his gym was with dumbbells. Not only did he add a fixed set of 10-50lb dumbbells in 5lb increments, but he also added adjustable Nuobells from 0-80lbs. This type of setup allows for multiple lifters at once (although Brian prefers lifting solo) and/or makes supersets even easier. Also, kudos to the DIY labels on the storage rack for easy dumbbell identification.

Brian Pham Home Gym - Dumbbells - Garage Gym Lab

RELATED: Best Dumbbells

Machines & Miscellaneous

Wrapping it up, Brian added one very versatile piece to his gym in the Inspire FTX Functional Trainer. This dual column machine includes two 165lb stacks with a 2:1 ratio for an effective load of 82.5lbs per pulley. It’s an economically priced and sized functional trainer, and it comes with various attachments, including a tricep rope, D handles, curl bar, and a dip belt. There are also optional attachments you can add.

Brian Pham Home Gym - Functional Trainer - Garage Gym Lab

RELATED: Best Barbell Collars

Brian’s gym is a great example of maximizing your space with equipment that fits your training style. He can hit his big 3 power movements while also rounding it all out with accessories thanks to the dumbbells, functional trainer, etc…

Brian’s parting advice for those looking to build a home gym: “Buy once, cry once. You save money in the long run. Do your research; watch and read reviews to see if that piece of equipment is right for you.”

Brian Pham Home Gym - Garage Gym Lab

I want to thank Brian for sharing his gym and journey with the Garage Gym Lab community.

You can follow Brian on Instagram @PHAMBRI

If you would like the chance to be featured on the site, shoot me an email at Adam@garagegymlab.com.

The bar is loaded,


Adam Hensley
Adam Hensley
Adam is the founder of Garage Gym Lab and has over two decades of fitness/training experience. He serves as the chief content creator and runs our YouTube channel and social media accounts. When he's not testing equipment or sharing his love for home gym life, you'll find him with his wife and two kids in sunny South Carolina.
Adam Hensley
Adam Hensley
Adam is the founder of Garage Gym Lab and has over two decades of fitness/training experience. He serves as the chief content creator and runs our YouTube channel and social media accounts. When he's not testing equipment or sharing his love for home gym life, you'll find him with his wife and two kids in sunny South Carolina.

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