Home Gym Spotlight - @gray_matter_lifting

This Month we are super excited to have the one and only @gray_matter_lifting  follow his and Appleton Coffee's Instagrams for the chance to win some free gear! Check out this pictures below or click here!
Don't Forget to use discount code: graymatter for 20% off your entire purchase!, make sure to use the code on our new T-Shirts!


  • What is your name? Joe
  • Location: Northern California, just north of Sacramento
  • How old are you? 33 in October
  • Tell us a little about yourself: I've lifted on and off since I was 13 years old, and after graduating high school I stopped playing sports and needed something physical to keep me going. The gym filled that gap permanently as I dug deeper and deeper into the lifting realm. I've owned a garage gym for the last 6 years, and it has helped me through a masters degree, a broken ankle, a seizure that took my license for 6 months, a new born child, and more. In my professional world, I'm an instructional designer and human resources professional. I currently work directly with the HR director teams to build strategy and solutions to move us forward as a team. I've been married to my wife Jamie, who we met at CSU Chico getting our undergrad, for almost 6 years, and my daughter Audrey recently turned 2 in April. My wife lifts 3 days a week in our gym as well, and my daughter already loves hanging from the rings, pull-up bar, and carrying around the 1.25 and 2.5lb plates. As Gray Matter Lifting I am a moderator on Reddit r/HomeGym, I write and shoot product reviews without affiliate links, and I created and coordinate the #GarageGymCompetition on Instagram.
  • What is your favorite exercise, lift, WOD? Favorite exercise is without a doubt the weighted carry. As much as I hate the question "If you could only do one exercise..." if I honestly could only do one, I'd take my rickshaw, and do 5 reps of deadlifts straight into a weighted carry up and down my sidewalk. We touch almost every muscle group, including strength, coordination, and conditioning. Major bang for your buck there.
  • How would you describe your fitness/strength level, currently?  In terms of the Big 3, I've benched 330, Deadlifted 515, and Squatted 515. I'm pretty sure I have more in me right now, as I hit those numbers while sick.
  • What are your fitness/strength goals - I actually have a blog article coming out on the 10th describing that exactly. But the tl;dr of the post is: I want to maximize a roughly 240lb, 6ft tall frame, to achieve an Elite Total of 1735lbs, with a 680 squat, 425 bench, and 630 deadlift.
  • Current Program: I write my own programming. I've found that it allows me to tinker with different things, utilize the full array of items in my garage, etc. If I hit a plateau in the next few years towards my goals, I am leaning towards using Matt Wenning as a coach.
  • Describe your garage gym. It is 1/2 of a 2 car garage dedicated to the gym, with horse stall mats and what not laid out. The main pieces are the Rogue R-3 rack, Powertec Levergym, my plethora of barbells, my Wall Control board with MAG grips chains and tons of other stuff, about 1000lbs of vintage plates, and then my GHD.
  • Why did you build a garage gym? - When I was in a commercial gym, I was always fighting for the 1 or 2 places to squat, bench, or deadlift. My gym started banning chalk, and you could only deadlift with their limited amount of bumper plates. They were introducing more and more classes that used up the space around the racks...you know the rest. Add to that an increasingly busy and demanding life with work, school, house requirements, you name it, and shaving off some commute time, frustration, etc. was well worth the investment.
  • What is your favorite piece of equipment in your garage? That is a tough one. I'm going to go with the one item if I moved to a new planet, I'd figure out how to take with me. That is my plates. My wife went down to her parents house in Southern California, and I spotted on their local craigslist an ad for these gorgeous, made in California in the 1980s plates. $.65/lb. She grabbed me almost 1000lbs of them, drove them back up the 8hour road trip, and I spent the next several months cleaning them and painting them. They are one of the reasons I've been called the G.O.A.T. of plate restorations.
  • What piece of equipment was a waste? I've bought a few items from Spud Inc that just didn't fit the bill. They were well built in terms of longevity, but they either weren't built well for a garage gym setting, or they were such a pain to use that they just got pushed aside. I think Spud makes good stuff, but they continue to find solutions to use their various straps for stuff it should have never been used for.
  • What is the next piece of equipment you are going to get? End of the year I have a set of Rogue Monolift hooks on my radar. They've been on my list, off my list, and back several times. I plan to pull the trigger this year.
  • How did you build your garage gym? I built it in several phases. I started with a pipe and hose clamps from home depot along with 100lbs of plates from Play It Again Sports. That was my pilot phase. I bought a bar, bench, and 500+lbs of plates off craigslist, and then a big order from Rogue later that year. From there, it has been a mix of craigslist items and brand new stuff. I've bought some things used for the sake of flipping and making money, others to keep that I ended up selling later as things changed, etc. But at this point, it is probably 40% used, 60% new.
  • Underrated homegym equipment? If you have no money, build yourself a DIY Tire Sled. Effective leg workout, conditioning, etc. If you have money but no space, get a SandDune Stepper. Really effective active recovery tool that takes up no space, moves well, and should help you stay in one piece for a long time (among a bunch of other awesome uses). If you have money and space, a Levergym, either from Powertec or BodySolid. You could get something like the Hoist V Series as well, but a really solid All-in-one unit is LIGHTYEARS ahead of a Bowflex or those cheap ones from Walmart. You can fill in the gaps for both high and low cable work, machine presses, leg extensions and curls, and a ton more. Extremely versatile piece, you just need the dedicated floor space and budget for it.
  • Do you have any tips for anyone else looking to build a garage gym? I have an entire series on my blog I called The Garage Gym Basics. I'd attack a garage gym build the same way I attack a project at work. Analyze your current situation in terms of dedicated space for a gym, the kinds of workouts you do, your budget, your personality, etc. Determine if a garage gym is the right fit for you first and foremost, and then start building the basics like a rack, bar, bench, and plates. If your used market is solid (Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, Craigslist, etc.) go there first. If not, wait for deals. You can save a ton from Rogue by shopping black friday. Start small, experiment, and expand as needed. If a garage gym was the right solution for everyone, we wouldn't see people selling them on Craigslist. So just make sure it fits you, you have the space to do what you want, and get to work.