Blue lights shine off of a dumbbell rack, painting its cobalt hues onto the surrounding black walls. Next to the dumbbell rack is other equipment you’d find at a gym — a deadlift platform to its left, a squat rack across the room and a cable machine next to the squat rack.
This is the home of Texas Iron PT, an Austin-based gym and company patiently pieced together by personal trainer Josh Nitzberg.
However, Nitzberg’s collection of gym equipment wasn’t always for his personal training company.
“Initially, I wanted to have a place where I could have friends over and we could work out, have fun and goof off,” Nitzberg states.
When COVID-19 shut the doors to numerous public gyms, people looked for alternatives to get their fitness kick. Nitzberg capitalized on this opportunity and founded Texas Iron PT in 2021, offering a personal gym environment for his clients. Nitzberg has been a certified personal trainer since 2018, previously working for larger gyms in the Austin area.
Nitzberg didn’t buy all of his equipment immediately. Rather, it was a slow collection process that started in 2016.
“The first piece of equipment was a barbell and some plates,” Nitzberg says. “It’s the most bang for your buck — you get the most versatility with a barbell. It’s not the best piece of equipment, but you can train your whole body, which is a gym necessity.”
By 2018, Nitzberg’s collection grew to include a deadlift platform — which he made and even burned a Texas outline on its center to make it his own — along with a dumbbell rack made by a friend and a pullup bar. He crammed his equipment into his garage where he and his friends worked out, sometimes opening the garage door to use the outdoor space.
Nitzberg preaches about the importance of getting multifunctional equipment.
“With home gyms, your biggest limiting factor is space,” Nitzberg says. “Being efficient with your space is important.”
Having your own gym or dedicated workout area feels synonymous with having your own place for the first time. And like having your own place, the quality of time spent in your gym can be increased if you make it feel familiar. Nitzberg painted his gym walls a sleek black and hung plants and posters to give the room a sense of freshness and motivation.
What truly stands out at Texas Iron, however, is what greets clients when they first walk in.
“Tucker is always here,” Nitzberg says.
Sitting in his dog bed is Tucker — the gym dog, mascot and employee of the month for 14 straight months. He patiently waits for clients to work out so he can cheer them on.
“I give clients the option to not have Tucker there, but they all love him,” Nitzberg says. “They complain if he is not here.”
Assessing the kind of exercise you plan on doing can determine what type of equipment and quality that’s needed. This can also help maximize space, like getting machines that are multifunctional for your intended exercises.
“Make sure to fit your needs,” Nitzberg advises. “Not everyone needs five to 100 pounds of dumbbells.”
Finding things to make your space stand out can help you keep coming back. Adding things like plants, posters, mirrors, a Bluetooth speaker or even a couch and TV combo can turn your gym into a personal area of solace.
Today, Texas Iron houses an array of machines, nearly completing Nitzberg’s bucket list of gym equipment. He has a hyperextension bench, which can be turned into a glute-ham raise, a dumbbell rack and a calf raise machine. There is also a cable machine, a power cage with an adjustable weight bench inside and a belt squat machine. Aside from the major pieces, there is also an assortment of bands, weights and barbells.
Despite the excitement that comes from building a home gym, you must still have wisdom in your purchases. A qualm Nitzberg has with home gym equipment is that it typically doesn’t function as smoothly as commercial-grade equipment.
“You need to know which equipment you don’t want to be cheap on,” Nitzberg says. “A squat rack is a squat rack. The things that make squat racks better or worse don’t change a whole lot person-to-person.”
Gym equipment is a lot like bed sheets — you get what you pay for. Something like a cable system or multipurpose bench demands more of an investment if you value quality. The better the equipment, the more likely you are to return, which is the goal at the end of the day.
So if you’re hoping to make your own gym, remember to make your space truly your own and always ask yourself — what are the demands of your fitness journey, and what equipment can satisfy those demands?