As the world begins to return to a new normal in light of COVID-19, home gyms are still experiencing unprecedented growth. I believe the home gym movement is just beginning. If you’re looking to start a home gym of your own, you’re in the right place.
To make your life easier, Garage Gym Lab has released its new equipment finder. You can now find equipment that meets your exact needs, including a budget, right inside your browser. No emails and no funny business – just helpful content at your fingertips in less than 30 seconds.
Alternatively, you can also check the Garage Gym Lab deals page to stay current with noteworthy available equipment and the best deals out there.
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.
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 to build your budget home gym.
Numerous quality manufacturers are producing budget-friendly gear. These include REP, Fringe Sport, Titan Fitness, LUXIOAJUN, 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. You can also check out folding squat racks if you’re tight on space.
Check out these options for budget-friendly racks:
The REP PR-1100 is one of the best budget racks on the market. Priced at only $359.99 (with free shipping), 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 $259.99, but it provides a lot more variety in a very small footprint. You can also purchase the PR-1100 in four colors: metallic black, matte black, red, and blue.
RELATED: Read the full review of the PR-1100.
The Titan T-3 rack is a very popular budget rack because it’s modeled after the Rogue R-3, which is a Westside-approved rack. I 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 $559.99 (or less) vs. the $825 price tag on the R-3. The T-3 also ships for free, whereas Rogue does not. 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 starting at $489.99 (or less) if you’re in a basement or a garage gym with lower ceilings.
RELATED: Read More about the Titan T-3 Power Rack.
The Fringe Sport Garage Series Squat rack is a nice example of a squat stand 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. Given its flat base design, you don’t have to bolt this rack to the ground, which is a benefit for some. 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 $349 (w/ free shipping), it represents a great budget-friendly home gym rack.
RELATED: Read more about the Fringe Sport Garage Series Squat 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 in the $300 (or less) range, which is still in a sweet spot for building a budget home gym.
The Fringe Sport Wonder Bar comes in at $298, includes free shipping, and is often on sale for 15%-20% off. 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 $298 version includes a bronze bushing system or you can pay an additional $34 and get 4 needle bearings per collar. This bar includes a lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defects and it has a great reputation with hundreds of positive reviews dating back to 2013.
RELATED: Read more about the Fringe Sport Wonder Bar.
The LUXIAOJUN E1 Training Bar is unquestionably one of the best value bars on the market. Designed by renowned weightlifter Lu Xiaojun, this bar has several great features. The most notable thing about this bar is that it has 8 needle bearings. For a bar that often costs less than $200, that’s practically unheard of. Retail, this bar costs $235, but it’s frequently on sale. It includes a 28mm shaft and dual knurl rings, making it a multi-purpose bar with some Olympic weightlifting leanings. You can purchase this bar in black chrome or hard chrome.
RELATED: Read the full review of the E1 Training Bar.
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 ~$155 which is just a terrific price.
When buying plates, you’ll want to ask yourself if you want iron plates or bumper plates. Each offers its own pros and cons and it largely depends on your style of lifting. If you’re only powerlifting and/or 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 or other rubber flooring.
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 recommendations:
When someone hears “Rogue Fitness”, the first thing that pops into their head likely isn’t “budget”, but the Echo Bumpers actually fit that bill very nicely. These virgin rubber plates are very affordable, they’re high quality, and they’re arguably the most popular basic black bumpers in the world.
Spec-wise, the Echo bumpers all have a durometer rating of 88, which leads to a very low bounce. They’re also accurate to a guaranteed +/-1% tolerance. One of the best features of them, however, is that they’re some of the thinnest basic bumper plates on the market. A 2.4″ width on the 45lb plates means you can load up to 590lb on the bar depending on what type of collar you’re using.
These plates are also approved to be used in the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which is something to consider if you’re training for that specifically. Aesthetically, the contrasting white lettering pops nicely on the black plates and they help in identifying the plates more easily. Overall, these are very nice plates at a very reasonable price for a budget home gym.
RELATED: Read more about the Rogue Echo Bumpers.
In the same sense as the E1 Training Bar above, the E1 Bumper Plates from LUXIOAJUN are some of the best budget bumper plates available. Frequently on sale, you can find a pair of E1 45lb plates for under $100, which is extremely good for quality bumpers. And these bumpers are just that – quality. I’ve owned and used them in my home gym since early 2021 and I’ve been very impressed overall.
These bumper plates have a shore durometer rating of 85 on 25lb+ increments and 90 on 10s and 15s. This results in a medium-to-low bounce, so you won’t have to worry about chasing your bar around between reps. They’re also very accurate with a guaranteed weight tolerance of +/-1%.
Another favorite feature of mine is the channel groove on both sides of these plates. Not only does this contribute to a beautiful-looking plate, but it makes it much easier to grip and handle than other plates. If you’re looking for basic black bumper plates, the E1 Bumpers are a great place to start and you can buy them in pairs or sets.
RELATED: Read more about the E1 Bumper Plates.
If you’d like a little more color in your gym, the Fringe Sport Color Bumper Plates are very hard to beat for the money. 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 very necessary. The 250lb set will run you $640, which includes free shipping, and it’s frequently on sale for even less.
RELATED: Read more about the Fringe Sport Color Bumper Plates.
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 #1 pick for a flat bench – it’s fantastic. The 3-post design is great because it eliminates the foot/frame from getting in the way of your feet while using the bench. 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″, both of which fall under IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) guidelines. While you can add the Thompson Fat Pad, which I own and use, you can also purchase the REP Wide Pad Version and accomplish basically the same thing for much cheaper. 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 great thing about this bench is that it only costs $209.99, including shipping. Compared to the Rogue Flat Utility Bench ($210) and the Monster Utility bench ($295), neither of which include shipping, it represents outstanding value. For the record, I think it’s a better bench than either of those. You can also purchase this bench in five colors, including metallic black, matte black, clear coat, red, and blue. I’ve owned this bench now for several years and it’s my go-to at all times.
RELATED: Read the full review of the FB-5000.
The REP AB-3100 is a great bench for the money. Priced at $249, it’s the most economically-priced REP adjustable bench. 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 very common for this style of bench.
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, especially considering you can also buy this in multiple colors: metallic black, matte black, red, and blue.
RELATED: Read more about the REP AB-3100.
This bench from REP is their mid-level flat bench, but it’s $50 cheaper than the FB-5000 and only $20 more expensive than the FB-3000. The reason I’m picking this over the FB-3000 is because it has a tripod design and an IPF height. The FB-3000, which is a fine ultra-budget pick, sits 1″ higher (not IPF height) and it doesn’t have the narrower front post.
This FB-4000 is basically the FB-5000 but with a smaller total weight capacity (700lb vs. 1,000lb) and a lighter frame (14-gauge vs. 11-gauge). You can also add the REP Wide Pad to take this from a 12″ pad to a 14″ pad. Shipped, this bench will cost you $169, making it a stellar budget pick for your home gym.
RELATED: Read more about the REP FB-4000.
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 starting at $419 for the 5-50lb set, it’s a very compelling option with upgradeability down the road.
Also a massive space-saver, the 20” loadable DB handles from Titan are a great cheap dumbbell option. Priced at only $99.99 for the pair shipped, 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 can be purchased as pairs or in sets. As a 5-50lb set in 5lb increments, you’ll be looking at $999 shipped, but individual pairs can be purchased for as low as $15.99 shipped.
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.
RELATED: Which REP Dumbbells Should You Buy?
In addition to these, you can also read our list of the Best 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 also ship for free. They range in weight from 4kg (8.6lb) to 48kg (106lb), with 17 weight increment options. I typically suggest 20kg, 24kg, and 32kg kettlebells to start, 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 Kettlebell from PowerBlock is a really cool, cheap option for your home gym. Similar to their adjustable dumbbells, these kettlebells use a steel pin magnetic lock system that is very easy to use. You can purchase the ‘Normal’ version, which ranges from 18-35 lb or you can purchase the ‘Heavy’ version, which ranges from 35-62lb. Both include powder-coated handles and they come with a 5-year warranty.
The Kettle Gryp is a really intriguing product that’s 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 use daily. The Sanddune is a great 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.
Sandbags are some of the most effective and affordable conditioning tools. You can also use them to build serious strength with movements like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, and more. REP makes some of the best workout sandbags at fantastic prices. With sizes ranging from 25-200lbs and prices lower than $100 with free shipping, these bags are awesome for building a budget home gym.
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. The heavy-duty handles on this rope include a non-slip surface and they even haleve ball bearings for a 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 a budget version that comes to a total price of approximately $1,402. 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 $2,512, but you’re getting a higher quality setup. This includes the Titan T-3 power rack, an excellent multi-purpose bar, 250lbs of colored 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 just over two years on the first scenario and just over four years on the second assuming a $50/month membership. When you consider all the other benefits of having a home gym, that’s pretty 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.