Let’s face it, we’ve all thought about it. It’s every fitness fanatic’s dream. It comes with the freedom and space to work out how you want, when you want, with no “hunk alarms” or “machine hoggers”, no Jonas Brothers or cheesy pop ringing in your ears! It’s what you’ve dreamt about so many times, but never made a reality–It is of course, the home gym!
Why Invest In a Home Gym?
Ahhh, the beloved “hogger.” There’s no shortage of those around. It’s all too often these days you find people hogging machines, weights and racks in the gym. And more often than not you end up standing around like a plank for 10 minutes trying to figure out what you can swap your squats out for.
Unfortunately, as the fitness industry continues to grow, commercial gyms are quickly becoming over-populated, and they can be a bit of a “free for all” at times. I don’t know about you, but when I go to the gym I want to get in, train, and get out, not stand around chatting and waiting for someone to move so I can get a set in.
Still waiting for that squat rack? Yeah, me too!
You’ll notice I put the word music in quotation marks. That was, of course, sarcasm.
The truth of it is, not everyone likes the same music, which is perfectly normal. The problem is, however, the gym can’t cater to everyone so the majority of the time they succumb to playing chart hits because, well, that’s commercial.
Sure, headphones are a solution. But why should you have to blast music in your ear drums to drown out Justin Beiber’s latest hit?
Make it what you want
Train when you want, how you want and with whomever you want! It’s your own domain to do as you please. By building a home gym you can personalize every last detail just how you want it. That way you will feel comfortable training and should be able to really push yourself without the worry of any funny looks or slaps on the wrist for making noise or odd faces (we all do it).
Put your favourite posters up, play your favourite music and really make it your haven to train!
Save money long term
With the growing popularity of working out, it’s no wonder the cost of a gym membership has continued to grow over the years.
The average gym membership in the USA is reported to be roughly $58.00 per month. That’s nearly $700 per year! What’s even more shocking, according to Statistic Brain, is that the average amount of money wasted each month by way of gym underutilization is a staggering $39.00. It is also estimated that a whopping 67% of people with gym memberships never actually use them.1
That is a hell of a lot of money to throw away, and at the end of it what do you have to show for it? If you had invested the money into a home gym at least you would own the equipment!
Whatever your reason for wanting to build a home gym is, you need to make sure you put a bit of thought into your setup and don’t just steam ahead–it could cost you a hell of a lot of cash.
In this article I will go over some key things you need to think about when building a home gym and give you some ideas that will enable you to build a gym of any level, whether it be a beginners, intermediates, or all-out pro gym.
Things to consider
Regardless of how big or advanced your gym is going to be, there are a few key things that need to be considered before you start building:
OK, one question you need to ask yourself before you go off and start buying kit is: What do I want to use the gym for?
Sounds like a dumb question, but bear with me, there is some thought to it.
What are your primary goals? Are you a powerlifter? Are you mainly after cardio and circuit equipment? Are you an aspiring Bodybuilder? A Crossfitter? Or do you just want a bit of everything? It’s important to know what it is that you want to do in your gym before you start buying equipment; the last thing you want is a light wallet and a room full of useless gym kit. As time goes on you can expand and acquire new kit, but it’s best to start with the basics.
Another very basic but important thing to think about is space. Where are you going to build your gym?
Most people will be building it in a garage or spare room of some sort, but bear in mind things like the weight and size of equipment–you don’t want to have a lot of heavy weights and cardio kit loaded on the first floor unless you are absolutely certain the floor can bear the load.
Ok, if you’ve got those key things covered and have some kind of plan ready to execute, let’s take a look at three different levels of gym setup.
Beginner’s Home Gym
Let’s start at the smaller end of the scale, a beginners gym. Ideally you want to get a good range of equipment for fitness and muscular development without spending a fortune. Fortunately, it can be done.
The best way you can spend your money here (in my opinion), is to invest in an elliptical trainer. Whilst a treadmill would probably be the more obvious choice of cardio equipment, the elliptical trainer offers some benefits over the treadmill, and can actually be found to be a bit cheaper.
“Using an elliptical machine can be less stressful on your knees, hips and back than is running on a treadmill,” says Edward R. Laskowski, a co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center and a professor at College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic. He also professes that “Unlike treadmills, some elliptical machines are equipped with movable upper body handles or poles, similar to ski poles. These allow you to exercise both your arms and your legs.”
There are many to choose from on the internet, but one that represents good value for money and is rated well is the Palm Springs 2 in 1 Elliptical Cross Trainer & Exercise Bike, which boasts the ability to be both an exercise bike and elliptical trainer! That’s two pieces of equipment in one, which makes your hard earned money go further!
If you want to grow, you’re going to need to weight train!
As we are looking at a beginners setup, I would recommend going for a “standard bar” set of weights rather than an Olympic set. The difference here is the thickness of the bar. A standard bar measures at typically 1” diameter, whilst an Olympic bar is roughly 2”. This is obviously reflected in the price, as well as the amount of weight you can load on to the bar. With a standard bar, you are looking at it starting to bend at around 200lb load, whilst an Olympic bar will handle a lot more.
A good starting point would be the CAP Barbell Regular Grey 110-Pound Weight Set . It comes with a 1” barbell and two 1” dumbbell handles, fully loaded with 16 plates (6 x 2.5 lb, 6 x 5 lb and 4 x 10 lb) which should see you growing in no time!
If that’s not enough weight for you then you can grab some more for roughly $11 per 10lb plate:
If you’re using barbells then you need a cage, simple as that. They should be at the heart of any home gym, in my opinion. Not only do they offer safety if you don’t have a spotter with you, but they also offer versatility and storage for your weight plates.
Most of the time they come with a pull-up bar attached, and a large majority of them have anchor points at the bottom which allow you to attach resistance bands to add difficulty to squats, bench presses and other full body movements. This especially comes in handy when you are on a tight budget and can’t really afford to buy more plates.
An absolute steal is the Cap Barbell Deluxe Power Cage which comes in at an impressive $244.96 (51% discount) with free delivery. It has everything a beginner’s gym needs and more.
So you’ve got your weights and power rack, now what you need is a bench to finish it off. When looking for a good bench to use in your workouts there are a couple of things you should be looking for.
First of all, you want a bench that is going to be comfortable; you don’t want to feel like you’re laying on solid concrete whilst you’re trying to get that new PB! Try and find something with nice durable padding that will provide comfort whilst you’re under a load.
Secondly, the range of movement the bench has is important. To get the best value for money here, you want to look for a bench that can go from a declined position, to an almost fully vertical seated position. This will expand the amount of exercises you can do; for example, you will be able to perform crunches on a decline as well as bench press on an incline.
One that catches the eye is the Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Bench Series 3.1. It features fully adjustable back support and seat as well as removable leg braces for use in a declined position. Whilst it is classed as a mid-range bench rather than a beginners, a bench is something that will get a lot of use in your gym, so it is worth investing in something sturdy and reliable.
That’s all you really need as a beginner! It may be basic, but it has all the equipment necessary to train both aerobically and anaerobically–and all for roughly the same price as a year’s gym membership!
Push up handles, foam rollers, resistance bands, exercise balls, and ab rollers are all examples of cheap but effective pieces of equipment that you can feature in your gym to expand your range of exercise.
Push up handles, for example, should not cost you more than $10.00 for a simple set and rotating ones no more than $20.00.
Building off the back of the beginner’s gym, let’s take a look at how you can take it to the next level. I won’t go over all the equipment previously mentioned in the beginner’s home gym because I feel that is the utmost basic amount of kit you need in any level of home gym, so I will just suggest some additions you can make.
One surefire way to expand your gym is to get yourself a multi-station. A multi-station is like having 3 or 4 resistance machines all compacted into one small, convenient machine. They are a great way to expand the amount of exercises you can do, without the need of having lots of different cable machines around. Think cable flys, single arm rows, leg extensions and curls–in fact, over 30 different exercises!
A versatile–and pretty damn stylish–one that is great value for the money, is the Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym. This beauty of a machine can give you a full body workout on its own! This particular one catches my eye due to its unique design. It features 210lbs of resistance, 2 high cable attachment points (as well as 3 low), an adjustable bench with removable back support, and a sliding seat rail which turns it into a rowing machine! All that packed into a design that can be folded and stored upright just in case you are tight on space.
Olympic weight set
Rather than opting for the standard 1” bar and weight set here, a more intermediate/advanced solution is an Olympic weight set. As I previously mentioned, the difference here is the bar thickness and load that the bar can take; and chances are, if you are of an intermediate level, you are going to be lifting a bit more weight so an Olympic setup becomes a necessity.
A good set to get you started is the USA Sports by Troy Barbell 300 lb. Olympic Grey Weight Set with Chrome Bar. The bar has a 600lb capacity–more than enough to see you training for a while–and comes with 14 cast-iron Olympic plates for you to play with. They also chuck in the EZ-On spring collars, which is a plus.
Make sure you check your power rack weight rating when buying an Olympic setup. You need to make sure your rack can handle the amount of weights you have.
Dumbbells are brilliant tools for training with as they are so versatile. They are also very good for developing symmetry and balance as you are handling two loads rather than just one, and they also can help you train with a more natural range of motion. They can also be a bit safer than a bar, as you can just dump them if you are really struggling.
Unfortunately, a full set of dumbbells is going to cost you A LOT of money (after all, you need two of each). A better way to spend your money would be on an adjustable set. These dumbbells are great as they save you space and money but allow you to get a good range of weight.
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (Pair) are outstanding value at $299.00 for the pair. These unique dumbbells allow you to quickly change the weight from the 5lb minimum to a whopping 52.5lbs each! This is incredible if you ask me, and is the same as having 30, yes 30 dumbbells (15 pairs), all in one neat little package controlled by the spin of a dial! Astonishing.
Rubber floor mats
When spending a nice sum of money on shiny weights for your gym, you want to make sure your equipment is going to last a long time. One thing that can damage weights and wear them out quickly is not having any kind of protection on your floor.
To solve this problem you should invest in some kind of rubber floor padding. This will help protect your weights and your floor when you are training heavy and need to drop the weights.
ProSource Puzzle Exercise Mat High Quality EVA Foam Interlocking Tiles, 24 Square Feet, Blue are reasonably priced at roughly $1 per square foot of protection. To get the best value for your money here, pad out a designated area for weight training rather than all out padding the whole floor.
Let’s move on a bit… the professional gym! This is where we can get really creative and splash out a bit. This type of home gym is an investment; it’s something you are going to be using for years to come, so it’s wise to take a few minutes to plan how you will spend your money.
Rather than going over everything again, let’s just look at some nice additions that will take your gym from intermediate to professional.
Oh boy, oh boy! I’m getting excited here. This is the kind of gym equipment that I dream of (I’m not that sad, I promise).
A smith system is a must have in a home professional gym, and with good reason. Not only is it a smith machine, a power rack and cable machine, but the Marcy Diamond MD 389 Standard Bench with Butterfly even has a pec deck, preacher curl bar and leg extender!
You can literally train your whole body with resistance using this machine, and all with the added benefit of safety!
There are also 6 Olympic plate storage pegs so you can keep all your weights neat and tidy!
Kettle bell set
A kettle bell workout is a great way to improve strength and power. They combine the benefits of dumbbell training and mix it with intense endurance training. They are also a nice change from your standard weight training sessions and they will challenge you in different ways.
A good value buy here are the Iron Kettlebells 5-100 lbs. Singles by Body Solid (80 lb. Kettlebell) set that comes with a handy rack to show them off.
If you’re going to spend a lot of money on a gym that’s fully kitted out, it’s worth putting the finishing touches on to make it look just a little bit more polished.
Mirrors not only allow you to check your form whilst working out, but they will also open up your gym and give it a feeling of having more space.
The best way to spend your money here is to go for the adhesive acrylic style as you can cut them to however big or small you need.
Some Final Thoughts
I could talk all day about the various pieces of equipment you could buy; however, I feel that the pieces I have discussed are the most important things to have when building a home gym.
Whatever level of gym you are trying to build, remember to do a bit of research and plan accordingly. And remember that whilst it may seem like a lot of money to start with, a personal gym is an investment, so start small and grow as you see fit.
- International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, Mint, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Club Industry, Club Manager Central. Statistic Brain: statisticbrain.com/gym-membership-statistics/