jared padalecki
Arturo Olmos

WHEN THE pandemic shut down gyms around the country, Jared Padalecki, 38, found himself relying solely on a home gym that needed some upgrades and improvements. And when you spent 15 years fighting demons and monsters on the CW’s Supernatural, a subpar gym won’t cut it. “You can’t pick somebody up and throw them into a table when your legs are exhausted,” he says.

men's health home gym awards 2021
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So Padalecki, who's also slated to take up the mantle of Walker (as in, Texas Ranger) in the CW's upcoming reboot of the classic Chuck Norris series this month, reimagined part of a garage at his Austin home, where he lives with his wife, Genevieve, and their three children, as a kick-ass dedicated strength-training space. He pondered the gym conundrums you’ve probably noodled about, too: How much do you really want to lean into newer tech when old-school weights work just fine? (Or, vice versa, what badass tech are you missing out on by sticking with old-fashioned weights?) And in a year that saw gym-equipment manufacturers flood the market with home gear, how much of the new stuff is actually any good?

In the end, he loaded up on a mix of high-tech fitness gear and classic strength tools that fit his needs. With the help of a few tips from Padalecki, the fitness team at Men’s Health has put together their own picks for what you’ll need to build a home-gym paradise, no matter how big (or small) your space and budget.


YOUR GARAGE-GYM ESSENTIALS

jared padalecki
Arturo Olmos

Forget the Shake Weights. Padalecki knows gimmicky gear doesn’t work: Years ago he sprang for a cheap treadmill—and his knees, ankles, and lower back weren’t happy. “It was like running on a roller coaster,” he says. He eventually demoted it to clothing-rack status. Avoid that fate by investing in quality fitness equipment, even if you have to purchase just one piece at a time.

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FIND THE ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELLS YOU NEED

jared padalecki
Arturo Olmos

Every home gym starts with adjustable dumbbells. Get the right pair and you can instantly do lightweight exercises like lateral raises and heavyweight total-body crushers like farmer’s carries, a Padalecki favorite. The best part: One perfect set of adjustable bells replaces an entire rack of free weights. And there’s a pair for just about everyone.

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STOCKPILE QUALITY GEAR YOU CAN USE ANYWHERE

jared padalecki
Arturo Olmos

Not every workout can happen in a badass home gym (especially if you live in a tiny city apartment). Even Padalecki sometimes needs a quick sweat without gym access. So stockpile some extra-versatile gear for those times you’re tight on time or space.

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This story originally appears in the January/February 2021 issue of Men's Health.