Thinking about building a home gym? You’re not alone, this is something we help clients with regularly. It’s a great way to make getting to the gym easier. I mean if it’s inside your house it’s harder to skip it…at least in theory. You can also save quite a bit of money with some smart purchases. While a big dumb elliptical can be up to $5K, you can outfit an entire home gym set up with everything you need for about 1/3rd of that. Quality barbells and weights aren’t as expensive as you’d expect, and with quality equipment you can pass it down to your grandkids. Your globo-gym membership not so much. I’ll walk through everything you need to get you started:
The center piece of any home gym is a solid power rack. It will be where you perform the majority of your exercises like squatting, bench pressing, and maybe even pull ups. Take stock of your space available (an extra room, or garage) including ceiling space to make sure you have clearance for the rack plus a bar. A standard barbell is 7 feet wide, and it’s smart to leave 6 inches to a foot on either side. This goes for ceiling height as well when compared to your power rack. A “full” rack will give you maximal stability and safety, but a half rack still works fine for most people. A full rack has 4 supports like a cube, while a half rack only has two. You can also add plate storage on the sides which is quite useful. A pull-up bar attachment is a great idea if it can fit. Absolutely add the Pin/Pipe safeties. This will not only ensure safety but will also allow other "rack" movements such as rack pulls, pin squats, pin press, etc. This is the one I recommend to most folks with the pull up attachement, safety pins, utility bench, and ohio power bars all included. This is 90% of what you need to do absolutely everything, and train smarter than most people and even other trainers. Follow the link below to see some options for a full rack or squat stands which are cheaper but just as good for what you need. We have a pair of squat stands at TrueFN that have handled 600lb+ squats:
They are super versatile, and work great on the road for almost anything you need with a little imagination. They serve a home gym best for Pull Ups, Chin Ups and Pull Aparts mainly. I wouldn’t worry about the exact poundage of tension either, as this changes based on the length of the band and by how worn out they get. Pick a band tension for an exercise that makes it hard but still allows you to use good form. Here is the one I recommend, it’s the Pull Up pack #2
There are a lot of options here, but the Ohio Power Bar is the one you want. You can get it either as Steel or Black, either is fine. A terrible bar that will rust and bend at a globo-gym is about $200, and a OPB which you can use forever and is used in powerlifting competitions across the country is only $250. It’s a steal as it will last forever. Tack it onto your power rack order for sure
Plates you can usually find on Craiglist for relatively cheap, or even at a sporting good store. I like to get them used because they really never wear out. $1/lb is pretty standard and anything more than that is a rip off. If you can find plates for as low as 50c/lb that’s a great deal and you should jump on it.
Bumper plates allow you to lift the bar from the ground from the proper height due to the standard diameter of the plates. They also let you set down deadlifts more aggressively without breaking your plates or your floor. Most beginners really only need one set of 25s, and one set of 45s. The main goal is to get the bar to the right height for any weights less than 135. Too many bumper plates looks cool, but you eventually run out of room on the bar which is great for impressing people who don’t know what they are looking at.
Horse Stall Mats:
These protect the floor and give something solid to stand on. Two does the trick and they are usually around $40 each. You will likely have to go pick them up from a Tractor Supply Co though. They also stink when you get them (they have a film from the factory) so I suggest hosing them down with soap and water outside, letting them dry for a day (flip once) before bringing them in. I would NOT lift on a carpet. It’s squishy and doesn’t transfer force well which decreases strength. The floor is the only thing you push into, so pull up the carpet if you have to and put some solid mats down. These things would survive a bomb blast.
This isn't at the top of the list, but it's my top travel device since it hooks up to any door jam. I've had many a hotel workout with this one, and it works great for variation and especially core work.
Again not totally necessary, but the adjustable sets have really come a long way. Here is a set which gets you every weight up to 90 for around $500 which is a great deal. An entire DB set with these loads would cost more than your entire set up combined, so skip that and go adjustable
A great option for more intermediate to advanced lifters, and definitely fun for those who are into that sort of thing. You can find them cheap on craigslist or go for the competition set if you really want to wow your neighbors with all the cool stuff you’ve got
One last thing…
I hope that helps get you started, but before I go, I should mention some of the upsides and downsides of the home gym set up. Life is all about trade offs, and with money you save here, you do miss out on some other components I feel are necessary for a successful training career
Cheap- This whole set up is around $2K, which is around the same as 3 years membership at a gym. You should be training for longer than 3 years so this seems like a no brainer to me
Easy Access- It’s literally in your house. You have time.
Nice equipment- This stuff is BETTER than what most gyms have anyway
Music- Bump those beats, listen to podcasts, it’s your show to run
No other people- This is great sometimes isn’t it?
Distractions- It’s easy to check the TV, answer an email, or work on this one last thing between sets and easy to lose focus
Coaching- You miss out on having someone take a look at your lifts, and help with your technique and make judgement calls about your progressions. I think coaching is so important I started a business to bring it to more people. No one successful goes it alone forever
Family Members- If they don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing they will distract you versus help you. A toddler walking into the room when you’re holding a heavy DL will not make your workout better
And there it is! If you decide it’s the right move for you home and training career, I hope this gets you started feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or situations to trouble shoot and I’d love to help out. Lifting weights and saving money are in my top 5 favorite things, and with a smart gym set up, maybe they can be for you too.