This isn’t a knock on any of the commercial gyms out there, but have you noticed that there has been a rise in athletes who prefer to train at home?
Whether you’ve thought about training exclusively where you live or having a home gym for those days that the local gym is closed, there are several advantages to having your own space for your daily pursuit of gains:
- You save money on a gym membership if you choose to train at home only.
- You have 24/7 access to your own place, so you can train when you want even if it’s in the middle of the night.
- You’ll be the only one using the equipment unless your family trains too or you have people over.
- You can make your home gym suit your individual needs.
Without going into too much detail about myself, I started training at home in 2015 and now it’s the only area I train at regularly.
It would be tough to nail down specific prices because we aren’t going to recommend brands, but if this is something you want to commit to, you’re looking at close to a $2,000 budget by the time you buy everything that is recommended here.
The good news is you can buy everything as your budget allows it to or you can catch local advertisements to see if you can buy second hand equipment from someone else.
Olympic Plates and Bars – Around $500
Buying plates and bars should go without saying, but we do need to cover it briefly because it will likely be among your most expensive investment.
Think about your one rep max on your biggest lift. Let’s say you can squat 300 pounds for one good rep and that’s your best lift. You should shoot for 100 pounds more than your one rep max. Your goal should be to get stronger, so you should prepare accordingly.
You shouldn’t need more than one pair each of 2.5’s, 5’s, 10’s, 25’s, and 35’s. That’s 155 pounds in total. So invest the rest of your plates budget on 45’s. It’s the best way to go heavier without taking all the space on your barbell.
Related: Gym Membership vs Home Gym - Choosing the Right Gym for You
Speaking of barbells, it’s going to be very tempting to get the cheap one on sale. Don’t do it. Most bars you find in local stores will only hold up to 300 or 400 pounds. For beginners, that might be ok but if you’re a committed and advanced athlete, you want a bar that can hold more weight and last longer.
Investing in a quality bar will serve you well in the long term because you won’t get frustrated going back to the store to buy another cheap one. If you want to get an EZ Curl Bar as well, make sure you work the extra cost of that into your budget.
Squat Rack – Around $500
Now that you have your plates and bar, you need something to set them on. Before you buy your rack, measure your room from floor to ceiling. If you have a ceiling that’s seven feet high, you don’t want to buy a rack that’s eight feet tall.
When you go to choose a rack, make sure your squat rack has two things:
- Strong safety racks to support the weight in case you hit failure.
- A pullup bar.
There should be no need to buy a second station just for pullups. A good squat rack will have the pullup attachment at the top which you can use for pullups as well as hanging leg raises for abs. It would be a great bonus if your rack has places for you to place your weights as well.
Adjustable Bench with Leg Attachment – Around $200
Instead of getting a flat bench and an incline bench, save the money and the space in your room by getting a single bench that adjusts from flat to incline to a seated position. There are some out there that even allow you to work from a decline position.
Also, make sure that bench has a leg attachment so you have more options for leg day. You can do leg extensions and leg curls with both legs or one at a time, so that attachment alone adds at least four options to your leg routine.
Dumbbells – Around $100
If you want to buy fixed dumbbells, that’s your choice but be prepared to spend a lot of money and have a lot of space committed to them. My recommendation instead would be to choose handles that allow you to add individual plates.
Standard plates are easier to work with when it comes to dumbbell exercises, because they are smaller in size compared to the Olympic plates. If you buy a pair of five pound handles along with 4 25’s, 10’s, 5’s, and 2.5’s than you can make up to 90 pound dumbbells.
Obviously, if you want to make heavier weights you will need to buy more plates. It might take a little longer to change plates as opposed to having fixed weights, but if you want to save money this is how you do it. There are also adjustable dumbbells out there that change up to certain weights that you could look into.
Home Gym Station – Around $150
This is optional, but here is my argument for having a home gym station. It allows you to add so many different exercises to your plan that work like machines at your gym.
You could do seated rows for your back or flyes for your chest and many more exercises for every muscle group. This variety can make a world of difference when it comes to developing your physique.
It isn’t essential to the success of your home gym, but I believe it will be well worth the extra investment if you choose to get one.
Fitness Bands – Around $50
Fitness bands allow you to recreate some cable movements like cable curls and lateral raises. Consider two features when you’re looking for bands.
Find those that have the amount of resistance on the packaging so you know what you’re working with. Also, if they have the attachment that allows you to use them in a doorway, that would allow you to perform high band movements as well like rear delt flyes and pushdowns.
Related: Home Or Gym Training - Which Is Right For You?
The best part of bands is they take up very little space and are easy to store away.
Heavy Bag and Gloves – Around $100
Along with weight training, you should consider cardio options for your home gym. Weather might not allow you to go on a run or walk and having more options will keep the routine fresh and help you improve all aspects of your fitness.
The most popular cardio for home gyms is a heavy bag. It does a great job of helping you relieve stress as well. You can find a bag with the hook for you to place in the ceiling, or there are more expensive choices that have stands that come with them.
Make sure your bag is at least 50 pounds. Since you’re getting the bag, you might as well buy gloves as well.
Don’t work on a bag bare handed. It can do damage to the skin on your knuckles and could lead to a hand or wrist injury if you hit it wrong.
Sawhorses – Around $50
Wait, sawhorses? Yes, you’re reading that right. You should have a quality pair of sawhorses around for one reason. If you get the right pair that hold a lot of weight, they work great for dips.
As opposed to buying a station specifically for that purpose, buying sawhorses doesn’t require much space and will allow you to work the chest and triceps in a different way. You would likely need them for other projects around your house anyway, so you might as well get them if you don’t have them already.
Mats – Cost Depends on Your Space
You don’t want to damage your floor and you should also want to protect your weights. You need to measure the size of your room so you can figure out how many mats you need.
The cost of the mats is determined by the amount of space you’re committing to your home gym, so you will need to decide the cost of this for yourself.
As far as basics go for a home gym, this should get you started.
There are more advanced things you can add to cater to your specific needs and you should consider the expenses of those once you decide you need them.
The good news is that this investment is a one-time deal and that is it.
The key to getting the best return on investment on this is to make sure you use the space often so you can achieve the results you want.
Everything you said makes a lot of sense. I just started lifting a couple years ago (I'm 43). I had never lifted before, and was very weak/skinny-fat. I just bought a basic inexpensive 300# barbell set for $199 on Black Friday, and put it on some jack stands in my basement. It is simple, but it works for me. I do floor press instead of bench press, and therefore don't need a spotter. My squats are limited by the weight I can lift over my head and put on my shoulders (so I've added a backpack full of weights to my squat). My deadlift is now 300# (7 reps), so I've maxed out my 300# set. So far, I'm just increasing my number of reps, since I can't increase the weight (don't know how much more my cheap bar could take).
Last year I build a pull-up/chin-up bar in my back yard, using wooded posts and steel pipe. Now I'm up to 15 chin-ups and 10 pull-ups. The other day, I started doing chin-ups with my weighted backpack. I even do chin-ups and pull-ups out there when we have a foot of snow on the ground. Good times. I've also been thinking about adding a kettle bell to my "home gym".
I also jump rope a lot in my garage, bike during the warm weather, and have a stationary bike in the basement for the winter. It is all kind of a redneck system, but it works for me. I am not a bodybuilder, or serious athlete. I just want to be healthy, strong, and good looking for a guy in his 40's. I'm getting there.
Bart, thanks for sharing your home gym tips and ideas. Looks like you have what it takes to get the job done for you which is what matters. Hopefully these tips can help other folks add to their own collections as well. I do recommend a kettlebell to help add more movements and to provide an option for circuit training. You can also take a bag of sand, wrap it in a trash bag to minimize leaking, and place it in a duffle bag. Boom, sandbag training. lol. Keep training hard. Thanks for reading and supporting M&S.
Thanks Muscle & Strength for sharing my newest article. Hopefully this answers some of the home gym questions I've been getting lately. If you want to see some of what I have in my home gym, follow me on Instagram @rocklockridge .
Excuse my ignorance, but what is a home gym station?
Dan, this isn't an endorsement of the product but basically something like a Total Gym or Bowflex. Some can be pricey but there are versions you can buy for around $150-$200 out there.
Personally, I think a basic barbell and some weights will take you a long way. I'd rather have that "old schoo" setup, than some sort of machine like the Bowflex or Total Gym.