With home gyms becoming more and more popular, there are a lot of questions you may have. What equipment do you buy, what brands, how much to spend, and even where to start?
When I built my first home gym, I was right there with you, and when it came to building our RTC studio, I had many more questions and lessons to learn because I built the studio the same way I built a home gym, starting with one piece at a time and not spending tons of cash upfront.
We at RTC have helped build many home gyms for many people and have learned quite a few things for those who are trying to do this without breaking the bank (because it’s very easy to do). You don’t need to spend tons of cash upfront, like some websites would like you to believe.
Take a look below, watch the videos, and hopefully, you have a much more clear picture of what YOU need to consider when building your home gym set up.
Level 1: Under $100
When you start building your home gym, I always recommend starting with pieces of equipment that are very versatile and easy on the pocketbook.
The first thing many think of when building their first home gym is a piece of cardio equipment and some dumbbells, but I’m going in a different direction.
You can do a lot with a pair of dumbbells, don’t get me wrong, but with dumbbells since the resistance/weight is fixed (never changes) then it will be appropriate for some exercises but too light for others or even too heavy for some.
And a piece of cardio equipment… well before you make that investment review the cardio section of this guide first.
I’m going to recommend you start with a suspension trainer or flat bands (not tubing). Because the exercise selections are virtually limitless AND the resistance can quickly change to a level that is appropriate for the exercise you’re doing.
You don’t need or have to get all of these; I would pick one and start from there.
Things to note:
With a suspension trainer such as a TRX or Jungle Gym, you’ll have questions about how to mount these in your gym space.
You’ll have 3 options
- In the door frame. Each piece provides an option to fix inside a closed-door frame. This mounting option is useful for travel OR those that don’t want to mount anything to a wall.
- Wall mount. You can search on Amazon for suspension trainer mount and see a few options for wall anchors for your suspension trainer. This option is useful if you can’t use the door frame option, make sure you screw the mount into a stud in the wall.
- Pull-up bar. Even if you’re not ready for pull-ups yet, this will give you a bit more options for exercises with a suspension trainer. You can get the pull-up bar that mounts to a door frame or get a pull-up bar that mounts to the wall.
With bands, you don’t necessarily need a wall anchor, but if you want to go to the next level, then you can buy a handicap rail from Lowes or Home Depot and mount that to your wall (vertically is preferred) to allow you to anchor your bands to something solid for additional exercises. I will say from experience that suspension trainer wall mounts won’t work with bands.
Level 2 – Under $400
When it comes to the adjustable dumbbells, do NOT skimp out on price. I know it’s tempting to, but I’ve handled some adjustable dumbbells and have had a few plates slip off during sets due to cheap materials.
You may have noticed that I didn’t just recommend dumbbells. Why?
Again, they are great, but you have a few things to consider:
- You’ll need more than one. A pair of 10’s to 40’s will be close to the same cost as a pair of adjustable DBs
- Storage. You don’t want them just lying about, so now you have to consider storage options such as dumbbell racks, and this is what usually sets the cost over a pair of adjustable DB’s.
If you’re still partial to iron or rubber DB’s (or if the cost is another factor here and it’s easier to add one pair of dumbbells at a time), then read below for some buying tips to get the best deal.
Buying Tips for Dumbbells:
Always check craigslist or FB marketplace.
Someone close by is ALWAYS selling their dumbbells. I would recommend that you check the price they are asking against Amazon or a few sport goods stores. People always overestimate the value of their dumbbells when, in many cases, you can buy new ones cheaper than what they are asking, and this can give you leverage with them. No lie, I’ve picked up sets from Academy cheaper than what people were asking online, so compare.
As of a flat bench, you don’t need anything fancy. Just make sure it had a broad base (at least 17 inches wide) to keep from tipping to the side.
As of pull-ups bars, this is entirely up to you and your set up. You can get one that mounts to the wall or ceiling, or the ones that go over the door frame.
If your a taller person, then maybe a wall or ceiling mount will be your better option so you can get a full range of motion, but if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, then a door frame mount will be just fine.
When you make this decision, don’t forget to take into consideration other people’s (family, friends) height that may want to use the gym as well.
Level 3 – Under $750
- Barbell (see links below)
- Bumper Plates HERE <===
- Squat Rack (see links below)
Barbells are the universal tool in every gym, so picking out your barbell can be a process, but below I’ve given you a few options to consider.
- Starter Barbell HERE <=== (we have this in our garage gym)
- Moderate level barbell HERE <=== (this is the favorite bar at RTC)
- *Optional Moderate level barbell HERE <=== (this has center knurling)
The big difference between many barbells is the amount of weight it will hold AND the grip (knurling).
If the barbell is going to have over 300lbs of weight on it (this may not be just you, but your spouse or other family members will use it), then it’s worthwhile to spend a few extra bucks to get one of the ones I recommend above.
They won’t warp under heavier loads (this is very common with most inexpensive sporting good barbells), with the ones I’ve recommended the weight moves well around the sleeve of the barbell, and the knurling (grip) feels secure.
What I just listed above may not sound like a big deal until you try lifting with a barbell that’s warped/bent with no grip.
The ones I have listed above will last a decade.
Also, if possible in your budget, try to avoid chrome-plated barbells since the knurling (think grip) tends to be softer, thus leading the barbell from slipping out of your hands or off of you often.
I recommend bumper plates for when you drop the bar, which you WILL. Intentionally or not. You want something that can absorb the shock and not damage the floor or the barbell. Metal plates on concrete can cause some damage to the floor, weights, and the barbell, but rubber or bumper plates will save the floor AND extend the life of your barbell.
The options are almost as limitless as the barbells. You have some that can fold away, some that have pull-up bars, lat pull down and dipping bar options, movable arms, multi-item attachments. I’m going to keep this basic for you because let’s make sure you are going to use the rack quite a bit first before investing in the higher end multi-option squat racks.
You don’t have to get those big powerlifting racks or cages you see at most big box gyms, though they can double with a dipping bar and pull up bar. Instead, you can get a squat stand, which is what I have in my garage gym from the attached video.
Side note: If you get a squat stand, be sure to set the barbell DOWN on the rack and NOT forward into the rack if it’s not bolted down if you do it once you understand why when the stand pitches forward.
Some examples of the squat racks or stands are:
- The fold-away rack HERE <=== great for tight space
- Squat Racks HERE <=== (the universal rack)
- Squat Stand HERE <=== (this is the one I have at our home/garage gym)
These racks that I mentioned above are great. I will recommend though to take a look at Amazon and Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist for other ideas, or used options. It’s not uncommon to see someone selling one of the above racks.
For Part 2 of How to Build Your Home Gym go HERE <===
In Health and Awesomeness,
Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other letters behind the name) is the Owner of Rowlett Transformation Center in Rowlett, TX.
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