What’s GOOD Fringe Fam?! In this latest installment, we’re featuring something special. We’re giving you the inside scoop and a sneak peek at Peter Keller, CEO and Founder of Fringe Sport’s personal garage gym. Trust us… we were as giddy as you think we were to get the opportunity to take a look at what our Fringe Sport leader keeps for himself in his personal pain cave and show it off to you, our brothers and sisters of iron.
We’re going to dive into this most recent iteration of PK’s garage gym, give you a little background, and some more info about why his garage gym is the way it is, how PK got started, his training, and how Fringe Sport came to be along the way.
Back in 2005, PK was running marathons, 10ks, 5ks, racing, and was getting really skinny and not very strong. He had all sorts of injuries cropping up in that time period, and he was trying to figure out how to solve his injury problem and get stronger at the same time.
He was buying Men’s Health magazines and doing the routines they prescribed, but wasn’t getting any answers or much strength from those. One day, on an internet message board, someone said that he should try something called “CrossFit.” This was in 2005, and the responses to that suggestion were less than supportive. PK followed the link included in the suggestion, and he thought it looked interesting so he downloaded episodes 1 and 2 of the CrossFit Journal. Episode 2 of the CrossFit Journal is “The Garage Gym.” This was a game-changing article for PK, and one sentence has stuck with him ever since: “You can build an elite strength and conditioning facility in your garage.”
PK got to work, cleaned out his garage, and started surfing Craigslist for bits and pieces to add to his up and coming elite strength and conditioning gym. He built the first version of PK’s garage gym. Between 2005 and 2009 when he was assembling his gym, it was really difficult to find the equipment he needed and was looking for, and there really was no one place you could go to get everything. So, in 2010, PK realized that strength had changed his life, and garage gyms were the way of the future (boy, was he right!). This is why Fringe Sport came to be: to make it easy for others to build a gym in their garage.
One of the saddest things about founding Fringe Sport was that PK had dismantled his own garage gym for the sake of filling the space with all sorts of racks, kettlebells, bumper plates, etc to sell to others. He could see all of this amazing fitness equipment in his own garage, but there was no space to use it at that time. (Don’t worry… he joined a gym and managed to keep his gains!)
One of the happiest days of PK’s life was when Fringe Sport became successful enough to get it’s own warehouse. He was able to get most of the boxed equipment out of his garage and reassemble his pain cave even better.
Since then, PK and his family have moved houses, and one of things his wife had looked for in a house was a good school and a safe neighborhood. When asked what he wanted in his new living space, he said, “a three car garage, and I’m going to build an amazing garage gym.” He did just that, and you can see that in the video behind him. You might notice that there are no cars in his garage… but there is an amazing gym!
Let’s discuss building a garage gym from the bottom up.
PK recommends a few things. First, start with what your goals are. Find those goals and get a crystal-clear understanding of what you’re looking for out of your goals and your gym. At 41 years old, one of PK’s goals is to extend his youthful life as long as possible. He’s got 11 and 8 year old daughters, and he wants to keep up with them as long as he can. His second goal is to be durable, and get injured as little as possible while still taking on many athletic activities. His 3rd goal is to be fast for a weightlifter and strong for a runner.
The second thing to consider when building your gym is programming. This is the “how” in reaching your goals. Programming is the strength training, workout routine, or fitness program that you follow. For PK, his programming is currently provided by Atomic Athlete here in Austin, Texas, and it comes with high recommendation. A few others PK recommends if you’ve got a similar blend of goals to his are different CrossFit Programs, Garage Gym Athlete, Street Parking, or others focused on strength specifically like Starting Strength, StrongLifts, etc. If you’re confused about what programming you might need to reach your goals, hit us up at email@example.com. We LOVE this stuff and we’re happy to help you.
Next, let’s talk about the fun stuff, the cherry on top: the gear.
The gear is the piece of the puzzle that’s going to help you follow and crush your programming and reach your goals.
First up in PK’s garage gym is the squat rack. We truly believe that the squat rack should be the centerpiece of your garage gym because it allows you to execute three different movements that are absolutely key to a strength program: the squat, the bench, and pull-ups.
We know you’re probably thinking that you can just clean your barbell to your shoulders for some serious squat-action, and you’re not wrong. But, in order to build truly amazing strength through your posterior chain, you’re going to need to be able to rack your bar for back squats and other squat variations. The “getting the bar to your shoulders” part of the former is the limiting factor instead of being able to build up heavy as heck weight.
The second movement is important in a squat rack as well. If you move your j-cups down lower, you can bring them to a bench press height. PK’s got a bit of a nuanced view on bench press because some individuals are focused too much on bench press, and likely bi’s and tri’s as well. Just because some people are experiencing that does not mean that the bench press is not extremely valuable.
The third crucial movement paired with a squat rack is the pull-up. PK loves pull-ups, and thinks they’re one of the best exercises you can do with just body weight.
PK’s squat rack is bolted at the floor and into the studs in his wall. It’s permanently installed, and the reason he likes that set-up so much is because it makes for a great platform underneath, and it’s entirely stable. He never has to worry about racking a heavy weight on it. He’s also got a strength band that hangs from the pull-up bar because his kids love to play on it, too. It’s great for putting in work, and play.
If you’ve got a squat rack, it’s obviously not much use if you don’t have a barbell to rack in it. PK has quite an extensive collection of barbells, but his barbells are one of the pieces of equipment that tends to cycle a little bit, but PK is going to walk us through what he’s lifting with right now.
First of all, PK’s got his personal Wonder Bar. The Wonder Bar was designed by Fringe Sport to be the ultimate box barbell. It’s lifetime warrantied, and it’s a badass bar at a great price. PK could use any barbell in the industry, but chooses our Wonder Bar time and time again, and we’re not NOT trying to sell you on this bar ;)
Next, he’s got his rusted up, “antique” split-sleeve York barbell. The reason this bar is in his arsenal is because it reminds him of a connection to the past. This bar is at least a late 1970s, early 1980s barbell, and everytime he picks it up, PK is reminded of all the others who’ve lifted with it (even Arnold ;) ). Every time he’s feeling a lack of motivation, he tells himself to pick up Arnold’s bar and get through the work.
The next bar in the arsenal is a prototype, so we can’t say too much… but it is pretty sweet ;)
The second to last bar is a 15 kilogram bar PK’s wife uses, and the arsenal is complete with a kids bar.
You might think PK would have a fancy-schmancy barbell rack to hold his precious excaliburs, but it’s actually homemade. This just goes to show that even if you’ve got an unlimited budget or access to sparkly new home gym gear like PK, you still might mix in some DIY stuff. We think it’s a pride thing.
Next up is the rowing machine. PK’s got a Concept 2 Model B Rower that he got on Facebook Marketplace on $250. If you’re looking for a rowing machine, take some time to shop hard enough and you can find gems like that. PK let us in on a little secret though: he hates rowing. No, really. The longest he’s ever rowed at one go might be 10 minutes, max. So, why the heck does he have a rower in his garage?
It’s a fantastic workout, even for relatively quick workouts. Typically, he’ll use the rower for about 5 minutes at a pace of 1:50 per 500m. The reason he loves having the rower in his garage gym and doing those 5 minute workouts is because he always comes out of those 5 minute workouts happier and with more clarity than before. It’s probably dopamine and norepinephrine… so PK says he’s got a rower for brain and mental health more than for physical health. We believe it.
He hates the rowing machine, but he loves the treadmill. If there’s one splurge in his garage gym, it’s his treadmill. He always recommends the barbell, squat rack, and rower to basically anyone who’s building a garage gym. His treadmill is a prototype, but typically runs as a $5000 piece of equipment, and is absolutely a splurge.
PK does have feet, and can go run outside and on trails or the road, but he loves the treadmill (even though he used to hate them). Having a treadmill in his garage means that no matter the weather outside, he can always bang out some speed work, no excuses. There’s great speed work that you can do on a treadmill that’s difficult to do elsewhere, or might require a track if not a treadmill.
One of his favorite pieces of speed work to do on a treadmill is TABATA. 20 seconds of work for 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds, or 4 minutes worth. It’s only 4 minutes of work, but if you’re keeping your pace for all 8 rounds, those 4 minutes will wipe you out.
In the front corner of his garage gym, PK’s got his dumbbell rack, and his beautiful Lisa Frank-esque dolphin and unicorn Fringe Sport flag. Yes, you read that right… it’s for his kids ;)
Along with the dumbbells in the front corner, he’s also got his sandbag trainer. The one he’s got currently is only filled with 30lbs of sand, but if you’ve followed anything that PK does, you know that he loves sandbag work. He’s got a 30lb sandbag for his wife and for some light work for himself, he’s got a 60lb sandbag, and an 80lb bag as well.
One of his favorite things to do with the sandbag is a sandbag get-up. Start standing up, throw a sandbag over your shoulder, sit down, and lean back until your back or the bag hit the floor, and stand back up. If you set a timer for 10 minutes and count how many times you can do that, we can promise you’ll get a tough, quick workout in.
Just like it took PK a while to come around to the utility of a treadmill, it took him a while to come around to the utility of dumbbells. He’s got a basic collection of a few different sizes, and he does a lot of different work with them. Your accessory work is complete with a few different sets of dumbbells, but if you’re someone who has constraints on budget or space, you can typically hold off on dumbbells for a while.
PK has some kettlebells down below, and kettlebells can be a much more versatile and useful piece of equipment for building strength and mixing in conditioning. If you’ve got the choice between dumbbells or kettlebells, we’d often recommend you go with the latter instead.
PHEW, we know that was a lot of content, but we hope you found it useful in your own pursuit of the garage gym. If you’re looking to join the Garage Gym Revolution (literally or figuratively in our private Facebook group), and don’t know where to start, send us a message and we’d be happy to help. This is what we love to do!
Don’t forget to comment below and let us know what your garage gym must-haves are after reading about PK’s garage gym.
As always, lift heavy, lift happy :)