The convenience of home gyms is hard to beat. Are you wanting to build one but don’t know where to start? Building a home gym can be a lot to tackle, especially if you have a small budget! This guide will show you exactly what equipment you need as well as some equipment that is just fun to have.
This is based on my personal experience with home gyms as well as hours of research online, however yours may be different than mine. Especially if you have a good budget to work with! You may even be able to put together something you prefer to your local commercial gym!
Home gyms aren’t for everyone. If you aren’t wanting a full gym try this article: Essential Home Exercise Equipment for Results
I tried to get as much information as possible for putting together a customized home gym. Here is what the guide will cover for you (just click the link to go to that section):
- How to build a home gym
- What does a home gym cost
- What location will best suit your needs
- What to get first on a budget
- How to choose home gym equipment
How to Build a Home Gym
Before you start building a home gym, it’s a good idea to see what other options are available in your area. Local gyms will typically save you a lot of money up front. Depending on your goals, you may be able to make due with little to no equipment and some YouTube video trainers.
It is always important to understand your own goals before taking on a project like this.
Benefits of Building a Home Gym
- More free time
- Easier to go to the gym
- Avoid people
- All the typical gym benefits (strength, health, etc.)
- Long term money saver
Does a Home Gym Actually Save Money?
A great home gym can actually be set up for under $1,500 with all new equipment, and I will show you how!
Here is something to consider first:
If you cut out just the gym membership you are saving money after the first two years based on buying all new gym equipment (squat rack, bench, barbell, and 300 lbs.).
If you are willing to put some additional effort into finding deals it will pay off even sooner! I’ll get into this further down the article.
Beyond that, you can wear whatever clothing you want and its unlikely anyone will see you. You will be close to your own kitchen, so getting the right food in is a breeze. You also won’t be pressured into personal training you don’t want! Besides, online training can be secured from anywhere with an internet connection!
What Does a Home Gym Cost?
Getting brand new home gym equipment will average out at about $3,209 for most people. It is possible to spend significantly more, but I want to show you how build a home gym for this much or less using affordable products you can easily access.
When I started, I built my own home gym for about $500, BUT because I saved up front I did end up spending more to update it over time. It’s also worth noting that if you require less weight you can save substantially there.
Here are some rough numbers to give you an idea of what to expect for costs:
|Price Range||Barbell||Plates |
|Recommendation||Mid Cost||Budget||Mid Cost||Budget||$800|
There are also a ton of additional items you can buy for a gym. But further in the article I will discuss why this is what I recommend you start with.
Where to buy your home gym equipment
If you are wanting brand new equipment you can buy from:
- Local Stores
- Online Stores (reputable brands further down the article)
However, if you are trying to save some money you can get used equipment from:
- Facebook Marketplace (this is what I did)
- Local Garage Sales
- Second Hand Stores
- Sometimes: a local commercial gym selling old equipment
You can even build some equipment yourself such as:
- Platform with stall mats and plywood
- Power racks (yep, some people do this!)
- Plate holders
- DIY pulling blocks
- And much more!
I personally have traded work for gym equipment or even picked up equipment from gyms that were getting rid of it.
What Location Will Best Suit Your Needs?
IF you haven’t thought about this, here are three common choices:
- Garage (or basement)
- Spare Room
There are pros and cons to each of these areas that you could build your home gym:
Garage (or basement)
- Doesn’t take up space in the house
- Usually plenty of space for equipment
- Often concrete flooring that is hard to damage
- It can be cold in the winter/ hot in the summer
- Can get overlooked as it’s out of the way
- Easy to clutter a garage and not make it appealing
- More convenient
- Temperature control
- Most appealing environment
- Takes up space in the house
- Could be dangerous with small children
- Need to protect the flooring
- Fresh air
- More space
- Less likely to damage flooring
- Can make your garden look ugly
- Weather dependent
- Rust and damage to equipment
The real question is- how much space do you have?
This will help you while making purchasing decisions.
What to get First on a Budget
If you are needing to know HOW to build a home gym, pay attention here.
I recommend starting with just 4 pieces of equipment (for most people):
You could also include dumbbells on this list, but they don’t necessarily get you the same results as a barbell. If you want to add dumbbells, I would recommend adjustable ones to save money and space. You can also start here if you are super budget-minded.
Why only 4 items?
Efficiency. The most common movements an average lifter will complete to get results are:
- Bench press
- Overhead press
- Tricep press
A barbell is perfect for all of these movements!
Plus, this will cut your costs down substantially.
Where’s the treadmill?
Some people love a treadmill. If you are one of them, here are some options to check out.
Otherwise, it is much more budget-friendly to run outside or jump rope.
What about an “all in one” home gym?
There is a huge debate about this stuff in the “home gym” space. Free weights engage more muscles than machines do, so they have the potential to build more muscle long term. However, some people prefer machines as they:
- Are safer to push yourself to failure
- Help prevent damage to the floor and equipment
- Anyone can use them
You can find them here, but here are the reasons I don’t recommend all in one machines (for most people):
- You will use fewer muscle groups during exercises
- There’s a limit to the exercises a machine can perform
- A decent machine costs more than the decent “essentials” list (see table above)
- There is a limit to how much weight you can lift on a machine
- Machines can be boring!
Simply put, if you actually want to use your home gym and see good progress I highly recommend using free weights in your home gym.
How to Choose Home Gym Equipment
Here are 4 basic steps to choosing your home gym equipment:
- Figure out how much space you have
- Decide what type of lifting you’ll be doing… or eventually doing
- Determine your budget
- Look for reputable brands
If you’re on a tight budget it’s almost always better to buy things over time. You don’t want to buy cheap equipment that breaks.
Here are some of the more reputable brands:
Barbell buying guide
Barbells, being one of the most frequently used pieces of equipment, are one of the most important pieces. You can do a full body workout with just a barbell!
OK, you’ll probably want plates on there too.
What to look for in a barbell
It is important to get a bar with “sleeves” (the ends) of 50mm diameter. This will be just under 2 inches. That is the standard Olympic barbell size and most plates will fit. Watch out for budget bars with smaller diameters. Other than that pay attention to:
- Tensile strength: if you are lifting heavy weight you don’t want the bar to bend or break. Anything over 180,000 PSI should be more than enough for most people.
- Knurling: this is this grip on the bar. It comes in different levels of “aggressive” that go: Hill, Mountain, Volcano. Volcano offering the most grip but also the most aggressive on your hands.
- Spin: if the sleeves don’t spin it can be easy to injure yourself especially if doing Olympic or CrossFit style lifting.
- Finish: will the bar rust or corrode? Finish levels are: Black, Zinc plated, and Chrome. Chrome will last the longest but is also the most expensive.
- Price: a budget bar will be between $75-$150, a quality bar will cost $250-$350, and they just go up from there.
A good bar is something you may only have to buy once. However, if you’re on a budget and don’t currently lift heavy weight, you can start cheaper and upgrade when needed.
Weight plates buying guide
This is where you will most likely spend the most money. The quality is usually reflected in the pricing as well.
What you don’t want to do is build a home gym and then find out you can’t use the plates you bought!
What to consider when buying weight plates
Here are 5 things you need to check out when buying plates so you don’t end up ordering only one 45 lb. plate that weighs 40 lbs. and doesn’t fit on your bar.
- Type of plates:
- Traditional iron= biggest variations in quality.
- Bumper plates= all weights are the same diameter (different thickness) & made to drop from CrossFit/ Oly weightlifting lifts.
- Competition= very accurate weight and dimensions.
- Size & shape: The center hole of an Olympic plate should be 2″.
- The standard diameter of a 45 lb plate is 450mm or 17.7″.
- The thinner a plate the better (you can put more on the bar!)
- Buy round plates (flat surfaces can be dangerous and jump back at you when you drop them).
- Handles and sloping edges make a plate easier to move.
- Different weight: Be aware that some cheap plates can be 10% off the stated weight.
- This can be dangerous if you have an unbalanced bar from buying different brand plates over time.
- Iron plates range $1- $1.50 per lb (a 250 lb set will cost $250-$375)
- Iron plates with rubber or urethane coating range $1.50-$3 per lb (a 250 lb set will cost $375-$750)
- Bumper plates range $1.8-$4.50 per lb (a 250 lb set will cost $450-$1,125);
- competition plates can be $6+ per lb
If you want to save money, plates are a great place to do so.
Squat rack buying guide
If you have any interest in performing squats or a bench press then squat racks are a must. You simply won’t be able to lift your maximum weight without it.
Not only will it help you perform more exercises but it’s also a crucial safety device if you are lifting alone. And there’s a strong chance you’ll be doing that in your own home gym!
There are also so many extra things that a squat rack can do. For example, you can get add ons such as a pull-up bar, dip bars, storage for plates, a place to hang gymnastic rings (great for pull-ups, dips and rows) and much more.
There are four main types of squat racks [in order from smallest to biggest footprint]:
|Foldable/ Wall Rack||Squat Rack or Stand||Half Rack||Power Rack|
|Depth||9″ (folded) 20-41″||26-62″||48-64″||40-85″|
|Upright bars||2 (folds to wall)||2||2 (+ 2 behind)||4 (or 6)|
|Safety bars or arms||Arms (additional)||Arms (additional)||Arms (additional)||Bars or straps|
|Pull up bar on top||Usually||Sometimes||Yes||Yes|
|Mid range price||$590||$350||$500||$599|
- Foldable rack: Mounts onto a wall and can be folded away to save space.
- Usually, only two upright bars to hold the barbell.
- You should add safety arms if not included.
- Squat rack or squat stand: Two upright metal bars to hold your barbell.
- With or without a pull-up bar on top.
- You should add safety arms if not included.
- Cheapest option
- Half rack: Two upright metal bars to hold your barbell.
- Usually 2 more metal uprights on the back of the unit for more support and weight storage.
- Usually have a pull-up bar on top.
- You should add safety arms if not included.
- Power rack or full rack: Four upright metal bars.
- Sometimes two extra uprights at the back.
- A pull-up bar on top.
- Includes safety bars or straps.
- Most expensive option & most stable.
What to look for in a squat rack
Gauge steel is one of the more important factors when looking at squat racks and benches. This tells you how thick the steel is that’s used to build the equipment. The lower the rating, the thicker and stronger the steel.
Typically, the thicker the steel, the more expensive the equipment will be. Here are the other things to consider:
- Size: Think about your space first! This will decide what type is best for you…
- Hole size & spacing:
- Hole sizes can be 5/8”, 3/4” or 1”.
- Hole spacing can be 2” or 1” apart (1” or “westside spacing” gives you more control of the position when you bench press).
- Quality & weight capacity:
- Try to find the gauge steel rating (gauge 11 or lower is more than enough for 99% of people).
- Some websites only tell you the “weight capacity” but they have been known for overexaggerating this number.
- If a rack is heavier it usually means better quality steel is used.
- Feet type:
- “Upright” is the least stable.
- Flanges can be bolted to the floor or a platform.
- “Flat foot” has about a 1-foot span base and is more stable than the “upright”.
- Safety arms & j-hooks are essential.
- A pull-up bar (some say essential), band pegs, dip station, and plate storage are nice to have.
- $100-$250 budget.
- $300-$450 should get you a 2×2” 11 gauge steel rack (fine for most people).
- $450-$600 can get you a 3x 3” 11 gauge steel rack.
- $1,000+ for some “monster racks”.
Don’t cut corners on these! A squat rack is a huge safety aspect, especially if you work out on your own. If you can afford a 2×2” 11 gauge steel rack or better, you should be good to go!
It’s better to build your home gym safe!
Weight bench buying guide
You will use your weight bench almost every time you use your home gym. Not quite as much as you could use the rest of the equipment though. It is still important to get a safe bench that meets your needs.
What to look for in a weight bench
- Adjustable- is it adjustable or a flat bench.
- Is it FI (flat & incline) or FID (flat, incline and decline)?
- Does it include a leg attachment so you can use the decline function?
- Do the front legs get in the way of your feet when you bench?
- Does it have wheels making it easy to move/ how heavy is it?
- What’s the weight capacity? Many won’t tell you so use these tips…
- What type of steel gauge is it made from? Remember anything under steel gauge 12 is more than enough for most people.
- What is the weight of the bench (if it’s under 40lbs it’s probably made of pretty thin steel- if it’s over 75lbs it’s going to be strong steel).
- The gap: between the seat and the bench on adjustable benches.
- Some people find too big of a gap very annoying.
- Some people don’t care at all.
- There are “no gap” benches that will be more expensive.
- Typically a 2″ or more pad is comfortable enough for most “home gymers”.
- Flat bench- $50-$150
- Adjustable FID bench – $250-$450
- Adjustable FID no gap bench – $500+
Most people will advise you to get an adjustable bench. If you can afford to spend an extra $150 or so on a good quality adjustable then that’s ideal. But, if it comes down to buying a wobbly adjustable or a decent flat bench, get the flat bench. Home gyms should be safe, so don’t be cheap if it could cause you harm.
Make the Home Gym More Fun
If you don’t like to use your gym then what is the point?
- Mirrors like these will help with form, posing, and enjoying the space.
- Heating is recommended!
- Make sure there is plenty of light!
- Gym Flooring– especially if you are using a spare room.
- A sound system and or a TV.
- Bands are a great way to make the gym harder/more fun depending on how you use them!
Summary of How to Build a Home Gym
Building a home gym can really be done on any budget if you have the space and time! Just don’t settle for crappy equipment!
Want a free training plan to go with your new home gym? Check these out!