Garage Gym of the Week: Mike Clift

What’s your name? Mike Clift

How old are you? 34

Do you have an Instagram handle or website you’d like linked? @themclift

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am a chemistry professor at the University of Kansas living in Lawrence, KS. My wife and I started working out in our basement about three years ago using some equipment we found on Craigslist. We have since expanded and we now have a pretty expansive basement gym that has even taken over parts of the garage and our backyard. Our shared love of fitness has not only strengthened our bodies, but it has also strengthened our relationship with each other.

How would you describe your training style? We combine classical strength programs (Wendler, Hatch, etc.) with CrossFit WODs that we program ourselves. We use programming templates from the CrossFit journal as a starting point, and then we choose some focal points for each 12 week cycle based on our personal goals.

How would you describe your fitness/strength level, currently? At the age of 34, I feel stronger and fitter than I did in my early 20's. This is more than just a "feeling", the numbers back it up. Since opening the garage gym, I have bested all of my previous PR's in powerlifting, weightlifting and CrossFit benchmarks.

What are your fitness/strength goals? There is always room to get better. I hope to continue to push the limits of my strength and conditioning in order to live a long and healthy life. I have also started to test my fitness by way of obstacle course racing and next year I plan to run at least 5 races. There is nothing better than using one's fitness to have fun!

Describe your garage gym: In our basement space we have a full rack, along with an extra pull up bar and squat stand. We also have 4 barbells, about 500 pounds in bumpers, a C2 rower, a Schwinn Airdyne, a sled, 2 kettlebells, 2 ab-mats, 2 wall balls, a 3-in1 box, and a few other smaller pieces of equipment. There is enough space for the two of us to lift comfortably, and we have manage to design partner WODs to get some of the neighbors involved in the action. We also have a tractor tire in the backyard and gymnastics rings/pull up bars in the garage. Much of this equipment comes from Fringe Sports and we absolutely love it!

Who works out in your garage gym? Mostly my wife and I - but we frequently have the neighbors over for "garage games" throw downs!

Why did you build a garage gym? My wife and I live pretty busy lives and we wanted to have a space to workout when we couldn't make it to our affiliate gym. Soon we fell in love everything about the garage gym atmosphere - there is so much freedom. Freedom to program your own workouts, freedom to get in a quick workout or spend all day in the gym, freedom to choose your own music - it's truly addictive. We eventually realized that we could put together a world-class garage gym and actually save money if we stopped paying membership dues - how could we pass that up?!

What’s your favorite piece of equipment in your garage? This is almost impossible to answer, but if pressed I would say its my Bomba bar. I use it almost everyday and absolutely love it.

What piece of equipment was a waste? We bought a bench press unit from Craigslist that we ended up getting rid of. It was a space hog and we found that using a portable bench and squat rack for bench press was just as effective, less costly and more space economical.

What’s the next piece of equipment you’re going to get? More bumpers - my wife and I have gotten so much stronger that we can no longer squat or deadlift at the same time!

Any dream piece of equipment? A GHD, but space is at a premium in the garage gym setting so I am not sure that this is in the cards.

How did you build your garage gym? We started with a few essentials that we found on Craigslist (barbell and weights) and a pull up bar from Fringe sports. We built a 3-in-1 box and went to work. Slowly we added some new pieces - a portable squat rack, medicine balls and kettlebells were next. At that point, we had enough stuff to do just about everything. It didn't take long before we felt compelled to replace our Craigslist barbell and steel plates with better gear; this is the most essential gear in the gym - if you want to save some money, don't do it here! We have continued to add new pieces by saving the money that we would have otherwise spent on gym memberships. Each time we finish a 12 week program, the garage gym gets a new piece of equipment!

Do you have any tips for anyone else looking to build a garage gym? Start small. All you really need is a barbell, some bumpers, a pull up bar and a jump rope. This stuff won't take up much space and its more than enough to get super fit. After that, put some serious thought into each purchase and avoid space hogs - what kind of rack will work best in my space? do I really need that calf raise machine? There are no right answers to these questions; the answers depend on your garage gym space and your fitness goals. Buy equipment that you can stash in the corner of the garage when its not is use, floor space is the most valuable asset in your gym - there is one exception; the power rack; you will never regret buying a relatively immobile rack. Finally, don't buy crappy equipment - you will just want to replace it later. Start with a few quality items and go from there.



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