**April 2020 Update: With the COVID-19 response, many people have been displaced from their gyms, bringing into question how they will train. With as much uncertainty as there is surrounding the virus, there may not be a better time to invest in a home gym. Similarly, with as much volatility and uncertainty surrounding the economy, building a home gym on a budget is at the top of many people's list.
My hope is that this guide will help you find a path to that – if I can help directly in any way, please reach out to me. My name is Adam and you can reach me at Adam@garagegymlab.com.**
**June 22nd, 2020 Update: As you will note in the article, several pieces that I recommend are from Rep Fitness. On 6/22, they will re-launch their site to accept orders on in-stock equipment. This will be done using a lottery system, so be sure to check frequently.
Let's be honest here…
Building a home gym isn't always the cheapest endeavor.
Depending on a number of factors, including quality, brand, product, etc… a home gym can vary wildly in terms of cost.
That said, you don't NEED a $10,000 home gym to get strong and fit.
Sure, those home gyms are sexy, functional, and downright awesome, but not everyone has a budget to support such a space.
You can build a cheap home gym without having a “cheap” home gym… if you catch my drift.
Knowing where to look, being diligent in your search, and at times being patient during the process, are a few keys to building a quality, budget home gym.
In this ultimate guide, we'll take a deep look into exactly how to build an awesome home gym on a budget.
- Buying Used Equipment
- Building Your Own Equipment
- Buying New Equipment
Building a Budget Home Gym
When it comes down to it, there are essentially three ways to build a budget-friendly home gym:
- Buy used equipment
- Build your own equipment
- Buy new equipment from low-price providers
In this article, we'll touch on each, but before we do that, let's consider the key pieces of equipment that you'll need to maximize your training and minimize your all-in cost.
Below is a list of the essentials along with a few nice-to-haves. These will serve as the basis for this discussion:
Let's dig in.
Arguably the best way to build a home gym on the cheap is by scouring the used marketplace. If you haven't read my article on the 10 must-use tips for finding gym equipment on Craigslist, I strongly consider you check it out. It's full of great tips to take your search to the next level.
The fact is, however, Craigslist isn't the only place to find used equipment. In fact, it's not even my favorite. My top sources of used gear are as follows:
- Facebook Marketplace (my favorite)
- Local garage sales/estate sales
I especially love Facebook marketplace because it generally has a great assortment of gear and it gives you one distinct advantage:
You may share a connection with the seller.
Unlike Craigslist, where you're flying blind so to speak, on Facebook Marketplace you can see the seller and you can see if you share any mutual connections. In the negotiation/awarding process, this could play a CRITICAL factor.
As an example, I was awarded a fantastic set of gently used Ironmaster adjustable dumbbells for $250. That specific posting had a ton of action because the price was so good, but because I shared some mutual connections with the seller, I was able to leverage that and ultimately get the deal. By the way, the Ironmasters are excellent for home gyms and garage gyms. They feel like traditional dumbbells, they're easy to use, and they take up a minimal amount of space.
You'd be surprised how many amazing pieces are posted on these sites. If you're lucky enough to find a commercial outfit unloading their gear, you're in for a real treat.
Check these sites frequently and get ready to pounce when the right pieces are posted. You'll be well on your way to building an excellent home gym without paying a bunch.
If you're a handy person, building your own gym equipment is an incredibly effective way of building a cheap home gym.
There are tons of things you can DIY, ranging from power racks, to reverse hypers, to plate holders, and everything between.
For instance, I (and many others) built my platform with stall mats and plywood. It cost a fraction of what it would cost to buy one new.
Toaster rack plate holders can be built very easily for less than $40 (probably even cheaper). If you purchased that new, you could expect to pay 3x or 4x as much.
Reverse hypers, whether rack mounted or stand-alone, can be built for less than $100. New, you can expect to pay 5x-35x (yes, 35x) more than that depending on where you buy.
You can check out another example of a post I put together on a set of DIY adjustable pulling blocks.
The reality is that a lot of gym equipment can be built, saving you a metric crap ton of money on your journey to a budget home gym.
Google search DIY gym projects and you're sure to find many options. You can also check out Catalyst Athletics' Ebook on DIY Equipment. It's full of great ideas for your home gym.
The meat of this article will be based on buying new equipment from low-price providers in order to build your budget home gym.
There are a number of quality manufacturers that are producing budget-friendly gear. These include Rep Fitness, Fringe Sport, Titan Fitness, CAP, etc… the list goes on.
Let's have a look at where you can focus your search to acquire those pieces listed above on a budget.
The rack, be it a full power rack or only a squat stand, is really the centerpiece of any home gym. I personally recommend picking up either a full power rack or a half-rack, but squat stands are perfectly acceptable, especially if you're on a budget.
Check out these options for budget-friendly racks:
This rack from Rep Fitness is priced at only $275 and it's great for beginner lifters or anyone on a budget. It has a 700-lb weight capacity, which is enough for most people, and there are several add-on options. One of the most intriguing things about this specific rack is that there's a lat/low pulley attachment that affixes right on the back of the rack. That will set you back an additional $150, but your all-in cost would only be $425.
The Titan T-3 rack is a very popular rack because it's modeled after the Rogue R-3, which is a Westside approved rack. I personally owned the R-3 myself for over two years in my garage gym. The T-3 from Titan is quite a bit cheaper, coming in at $534.99 (or less) vs. the $695 price tag on the R-3. The T-3 also comes with plate holders and it includes free shipping. With the number of attachment options available for the T-3, it makes for a very compelling option for the home gym crowd. They also sell a short version of this rack $453.99 (or less) if you're in a basement or garage gym with lower ceilings.
The Fringe Sport Garage Series Squat rack is a nice example of a squat rack that's economically priced and sized. This squat rack uses 2×3 uprights with 5/8″ holes and it includes westside hole spacing through the bench zone. You can bolt this unit into the floor if you prefer the extra stability, but it isn't required given its design. It also includes two weight pegs for storage, which can also be used to stabilize the unit. Lastly, this squat rack from Fringe includes a pull-up bar, which is a really nice feature at this price point. At $249, it represents a great budget-friendly home gym rack.
If you can “spend up” on anything, I typically suggest you do so on a barbell. There is generally a strong correlation between price and quality when it comes to bars. With that, I'll suggest three recommendations for under $275, which is still in a sweet spot for building a budget home gym.
This bar, AKA “The Beast Bar,” virtually has a cult following when it comes to budget-friendly bars. This 20kg bar has a 28.5mm black oxide shaft, which many will love. 28.5mm is a great multi-purpose diameter and black oxide offers excellent feel, despite its tendency to oxidize over time. Oxidation is something to consider if you're operating in a garage gym or in a humid environment. If you're looking for a workhouse bar on a budget, the Beast Bar is a great option. It's priced at only $141.11 which is just a terrific price.
The Rep Fitness Stainless Steel Power Bar is priced a bit higher at $379, but its value is great. With this bar, you're getting a fully stainless steel bar, including shaft and sleeves. This is not common among even higher-priced SS bars. The bar offers a 29mm shaft and bronze bushings, which are ideal for powerlifting. The knurling is on the mild side, but it's a great all-around power bar, especially if you're just starting or you're on a budget. Check my full review here. With this bar being fully stainless, you can rest easy knowing it will withstand rust for years to come in your garage gym.
The Fringe Sport Wonder Bar comes in at $199 and it includes free shipping. This multi-purpose bar has dual knurl rings and a 28mm black zinc shaft. This diameter is especially nice if you have smaller hands or you generally prefer your bar to have a bit more whip. The $199 version includes a bronze bushing system or you can pay an additional $20 and get 4 needle bearings per collar.
When buying plates, you'll want to ask yourself if you want iron plates or bumper plates. Each offers their own pros and cons and it largely depends on your style of lifting. If you're only powerlifting and using plate-loaded machines, iron plates are a good option if you don't mind the noise. If you want a more versatile option, bumper plates are definitely the way to go. They're multi-functional, quieter, and typically safer for your floor if you're not lifting on a platform.
Either way, both iron plates and bumper plates can be had in a budget home gym.
If you elect to buy iron plates, I typically suggest you stick to Craigslist, Facebook, etc… as you will find them sometimes for crazy cheap prices. If you can target $0.50/lb or less, you're in good shape. Who knows, maybe you'll find some vintage Ivankos! It happens.
If you're buying bumper plates, consider these two recommendations:
It's just hard to beat the price on these plates. They're well-made bumpers with a high level of accuracy and they're very durable. In fact, Fringe Sport has drop tested these plates 30,000 times and they're still holding strong. They're accurate to +/- 1% and they have a relatively high shore durometer rating (90 on 10s and 15s and 85 on others). This means they offer a nice, dead bounce. Fringe Sport sells these plates as pairs or in sets. I personally like the 250lb set for a beginner/budget shopper. It includes 10's, 25's and 45's, leaving the 15's and 35's out. I like this better since 15's and 35's aren't necessary. The 250lb set will run you $421 and it includes free shipping.
If you like the idea of more of a competition style plate, you can consider something like these Elite Olympic plates from Titan Fitness. A 230lb set will cost you $519 (or less) and it also ships free. These plates have a great durometer rating of 90, so you're sure to get a low bounce plate. They're also accurate to +/- 5 grams. A 340lb set can also be had if you're looking for additional weight. That set will cost $660 (or less). For comparison, Rogue training bumpers are sold in a 320lb set and those will run you $925 before shipping.
The Rep Fitness competition plates are an upgrade pick over the Titan plates shown above. These plates are fully colored to IWF specs and they can be purchased in pound of kilo variations. They offer a shore durometer rating of 92, which will provide about as low of a bounce as one can expect. They have a tight weight tolerance and they've been factory tested to over 30,000 drops. They also carry a very nice warranty of 5 years. In a garage gym or home gym setting, I doubt you'll have to worry about that. The 250lb set will run you $575, making it a budget friendly option overall.
There are a lot of budget-friendly benches out there, most of which share a very similar design. For this article, I'm going to recommend three benches: one with that basic design, one with a 3-post design, and one adjustable option.
You're going to notice a trend in this category: All of the recommendations are from Rep Fitness. I think they're making the best benches out there, including my #1 recommended bench (FB-5000). Plus they're great for a budget home gym.
This bench is my current #1 pick for a flat bench. Period. Check out my full review here. I just love this bench. The 3-post design is excellent, as it eliminates the feet getting in the way of your own feet. The frame height is such that you can add a Thompson Fat Pad to it and still have a total height of 17.5″. Even with the Rep pad, it's 17″, which is excellent. The bench is constructed with 3×3 11-gauge steel, it weighs a beefy 62lbs, and it has wheels on it for easy transport.
The amazing thing about this bench is that it only costs $149. Compared to the Rogue Flat Utility Bench ($179.50) and the Monster Utility bench ($265) it represents CRAZY value. For the record, I think it's a better bench than either of those.
This bench from Rep Fitness is not unlike a lot of cheaper benches. Priced at ~$94, this basic bench is rated to hold 1,000lbs. It offers a 4-foot design with a 17.5″ tall frame and a 12″ wide pad. The height of 17.5″ is a nice touch, as this meets IPF regulations and it allows for better leg drive than the Rogue flat utility bench (18″). The bench is lightweight, easy to move, and obviously low-price.
The Rep Fitness AB-3100 is a great bench for the money. Priced at $189, it's hard to beat. This bench is 17.5″ tall with an 11.75″ wide pad. The back adjusts in six different positions, ranging from 0 degrees to 85 degrees. The seat is adjustable in three different positions, from flat to incline. The gap between the seat and the back is approximately 2″, which is pretty good. The bench also has wheels and a handle for easy transportation and it has a weight capacity of over 1,000lbs. All-in-all, it's a wonderful budget adjustable bench.
Dumbbells are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can add to a home gym. They can be used in a seemingly endless number of ways and, depending on the style you buy, they can take up a very small amount of space. For this article, we’ll look at two styles of adjustable dumbbells and a set of 5-50lb dumbbells if you prefer fixed-weight.
The Powerblock Elite adjustable dumbbells are a very popular option because they function well, they’re priced low, and they take up very little room. These made-in-the-USA dumbbells have weight increments such that 16 fixed-weight dumbbell pairs are replaced by just 1 Powerblock unit. They’re quickly adjustable with a simple pin-like system and they come with a 10-year home use warranty. Another big benefit of this system is that it can be expanded to 70lbs and even 90lbs. At a price of approximately $280 for the 5-50lb set, it’s a very compelling option.
Also a massive space-saver, the 20” loadable DB handles from Titan fitness are a great cheap dumbbell option. Priced at only $69.95 for the pair, they represent very nice value. These handles have 6.5” long sleeves that are sized to accept Olympic plates. The 28mm shaft is knurled to enhance grip and it measures 5.75” in length. Two of the drawbacks to this style of dumbbell are that they are relatively long and they’re not the easiest to work with since the plate isn’t always at the end of the sleeve. In other words, resting these on your thighs in preparation for a DB press may not be ideal. Still, there’s a lot to be said about their overall function, value, and footprint.
If you’re keen on fixed-weight dumbbells, rubber hex DBs are typically very good for a budget home gym. The ones from Rep Fitness are priced at $550 and they come in 5lb increments. On pairs up to 15lbs, the shaft is 28mm thick, but this jumps up to 34mm on higher weights. I personally like this since I prefer a thicker shaft on heavier weights. The handles are also fully knurled. This style of dumbbell is certainly the easiest to use, but it comes at the cost of additional money and additional space requirements. You would also need to purchase a dumbbell rack unless you’re OK with stacking them on the floor (nothing wrong with that).
Rep Fitness also sells another variation of these dumbbells that are slightly smaller in size and they include a rubber grip vs. steel. This is great for those training in a garage gym where it gets really cold. They're slightly more expensive than rubber hex dumbbells.
Similar to dumbbells, kettlebells are extremely versatile pieces for the home gym. You can use them for strength building, conditioning, prehab/rehab, etc… In this article, we will also look at fixed weight versions as well as adjustable versions.
These kettlebells are the ones that I personally use and I can attest to their quality and value. Price-wise, they’re quite a bit cheaper than Rogue despite being the exact same thing. They range in weight from 4lbs all the way to 106lbs, with 17 weight increment options. I typically suggest 35lb, 53lb, and 70lb kettlebells, as they are among the most versatile options. The matte black coating is very well done – it's grippy and it's free of any sharp edges that some other cast kettlebells have. Overall, these are great KBs.
The adjustable Ironmaster kettlebell is a really cool, cheap option for your home gym. Similar to their adjustable dumbbells, which I also own, these kettlebells use the quick-lock system that is very easy to use. You can buy the 57.5lb version for $199 or you can upgrade to the 80lb kit for $259. Both ship for free in the U.S. lower 48. The lowest weight increment is 22.5lbs and then you can add in 2.5lb increments, giving you 24 total options on the 80lb kit.
The Kettle Gryp is a really intriguing product and that is perfect for a cheap home gym. If you already have some dumbbells laying around, this may be a great option. Priced at only $34.95 with free shipping, the price is hard to beat. The Kettle Gryp works by latching it around the shaft of a dumbbell. The Gryp can hold up to a 55lb dumbbell, and it's made of a durable plastic that from most accounts is capable of handling the demands.
Thankfully, there are cheaper options.
The Sanddune Stepper is my personal #1 recommendation because cardio/conditioning is highly effective and it's far more versatile than any of the other pieces.
If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I absolutely love my Sanddune Stepper. In fact, it's one of only a few pieces in my gym that I cannot live without. The Sanddune is a revolutionary balancing tool that mimics sand. In this way, the Sanddune is excellent for cardio/conditioning, rehab/prehab, strength preparation, active recovery, and even neurological disorders. You can read all about it in my review here. I can't say enough good things about this product. You can use code ‘gglab' at checkout to get 10% off with free shipping.
The Inertia Wave is a relatively new product that is taking the community by storm. It's essentially a battle rope alternative with some clear benefits. There are a number of ways to use the Inertia Wave – all of which will activate your core and lead to serious cardio gains. The Inertia Wave weighs less than 3lbs, it can be anchored in over 30 ways, and it simply works. I own the Inertia Wave personally, and you can also see it used by professional sports teams, Olympic teams, Sorinex, etc… It's really a fantastic solution for the home gym or garage gym. At less than $125 (currently on sale for $115), it's also a great option for the budget-minded.
You can also save $10 by using the Code ‘GarageGym' at checkout.
Jump ropes are a great, cheap way to get in some killer cardio in your budget home gym. There are seemingly a billion jump rope choices out there that are all going to get you results. After using some of the cheaper $9 ropes and the more pricey $30+ ropes, I do think there is a difference that is worth paying slightly more for. This Sonic Boom M-2 is a good option that has a lot of great reviews on Amazon.com. The heavy-duty handles on this rope include a non-slip surface and they even have ball bearings for smooth spin. The rope itself is also self-locking, so you don't have to worry about losing screws like in some of the cheaper models.
So now that we've listed a few really nice options for your budget home gym, let's price out a couple of scenarios to see where it may shake out on the total.
In this first scenario, I've priced an ultra-budget version that comes to a total price of approximately $1,065. This gets you a full power rack, a workhorse barbell, a 250lb set of bumpers, a flat bench, loadable dumbbell handles, loadable KB, and a speed rope.
That's a very solid entry into the home gym space.
If you're looking to possibly spend a bit more, let's take a look at this scenario showing the higher-end options. Here, you're spending approximately $2,059, but you're getting a higher quality setup. This includes the Titan T-3 power rack, an excellent stainless steel power bar, the same 250lb bumpers, the best flat bench for the money, adjustable DB/KB, and the almighty Sanddune Stepper.
This is simply an awesome setup!
Consider the fact that I didn't include anything here that you could buy second-hand as mentioned or that you could build yourself.
Your total cost could, therefore, be even cheaper.
The payback period on these two scenarios is less than two years on the first scenario and just over three years on the second assuming a $50/month membership. When you consider all the other benefits of having a home gym, that's pretty freakin' awesome.
When you boil it all down, building a cheap home gym is very achievable. By buying used, building your own, and/or buying new from low-price providers, you have a TON of options when building a budget home gym.
Remember this too…
You can always upgrade later. Building a home gym, in general, is a process. A lot of gym equipment retains its value pretty well so can always flip gear down the road.
You don't need a $10k gym to get strong, especially if you're just starting out.
If you've built a home gym on the cheap, I'd love to hear from you.
How did you do it? Did you buy used? Build your own equipment? Buy new?
Let me know in the comments below.
The bar is loaded,