I hope you haven’t been mesmerized by some late night infomercial into buying some expensive piece of equipment that’s now nothing more than an overpriced clothes rack.
Setting up a home gym doesn’t have to be expensive, in fact, it can be totally free if you like.
Below are my recommendations for setting up your ultimate home gym at any price.
The Ultimate Home Gym…
FREE (or the price of a pull-up bar). Yes, you can get in excellent shape with no equipment necessary except for a pull-up bar. The workout for beginners at home of push ups, pull ups, and squats are really all you need. Throw in some burpees, handstand push ups, lunges, and single leg squats if you feel like adding some variety without adding any equipment.
But the pull up bar is not optional. You must balance the pushing movements with some pulling or you risk muscle imbalance and even joint injury. If you have access to a jungle gym at a park or an appropriate tree branch, your equipment costs are still zero.
If you want to purchase a pull-up bar, the pull-up bars that attach inside a doorway are the least expensive ($14.77) but also the lowest quality. You can find them at most department stores, like this one I pulled from Amazons website: Doorway Pull Up Bar.
For about thirty bucks, there are also doorway pull up bars that attach outside of the doorway and can easily be put up and taken down like THIS ONE.
Or if you have the floor space and the budget, you can go with the model that I personally use from Torque Athletic that goes for $425.00 plus shipping.
Whether it’s your neighbor’s tree branch, the top bar of your kid’s swing set, the top of your door or the fancy stand alone one that I use, you MUST have access to a pull up bar.
$100 or Less. If you give me $100 or less to spend on fitness equipment, I recommend getting a pair of moderate weight dumbbells. What is moderate weight? Select a weight that you can press overhead for about 12-15 reps.
At that weight, you will be able to use them for virtually any exercise. I prefer the hex dumbbells as they are perfect for Man Makers. Here’s a link to a 25lb. hex dumbbell for $39.99 – remember to get TWO dumbbells!
You can also pick these up relatively cheaply on Craiglist & at local garage sales.
$300. For $300 you should be able to find a 300-pound weight set that includes a barbell and two each of 45, 35, 25, 10, 5, and 2 1/2 pound plates.
Actually most sets will have four 5 pound plates. Sure you could spend closer to $500 on for a higher quality set. But weight is weight. Go the for the bargain like this $133.99 weight set especially if you are just getting started on your fitness quest.
Again this is one of those things that you’ll also find a lot of on Craigslist. Plenty of people buy a full basement gym, and then it just sits there and collects dust. Next thing they know, they’re late on a mortgage payment so they try to sell off the weight set for a bargain at $150.
$500. Go ahead and add a squat stand for about $200 to your 300 lb. weight set to come out with a total cost of about $500. Granted, this is not going to be a top of the line squat stand. But if you are the only one using it, and you’re not squatting more than around 300lbs, you don’t really need commercial grade equipment. Check out this squat rack at Target for $169.99.
Over $500. Most of you will want to add a bench to do the bench press. Also, many prefer the power rack to squat stands – but your costs will go up with the rack. If you’re looking to invest about $2000, I recommend considering this high-quality package from Elite FTS ($1799.50 before shipping).
If you workout at home, what’s your setup like? And if you have any tips on grabbing good deals on home workout equipment, leave them in the comments below…
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If you have access to a park (at least in Israel our parks have pull up bars), then you can have a body weight home gym free. 🙂
Also, I’m pretty sure the free weights are cheaper than the other dumbbells (and that’s what I own myself), but it gets annoying to change the price all the time.
Good post Vic.
Thanks, Rafi. Always good to have a comment from you at GymJunkies!
Very nice post. Having a home gym is the best way to go. I originally started off by buying a 100lb beginner weight set then I looked on craigslist a couple years later and bought 345lbs of Olympic weights with barbells for $100! I love craigslist! It’s the right way to go. Also what you could have added is that there is a way to make your own power rack that would cost at most $200 by making it out of wood. There’s a site where this guy gives out instructions on how to make one. I am going to make one in about a month. I’ll find the link and post it here. 🙂
Here it is: http://www.home-gym-bodybuilding.com/homemade-power-rack.html
I really suggest making one of these if any one is interested!
Yes, please post the link if you think to come back to this post. I’m not the handy-man type, so I wouldn’t make one myself. But plenty of folks are, so please drop the link if you get a chance. Thanks!
Thanks for this post. I am in the process of buying my first house in the UK and it’s VERY expensive. Just for a deposit I have been required to pay £23,000 cash… So as you can imagine my wallet is hurting.
To compensate and furnish my new bachelor pad with everything I want, I have sold the car I had on credit and paid that off, bought a push-bike but now struggle to get to the gym (distance/time) so am seriously considering cancelling my gym membership and working out exclusively at home. That’s why I LOVE this post!
Now the summer is here I plan on doing a lot more steady state cycling but also do some spring-cycling intervals to burn the fat. Also now it’s warming up outside i’m going to do lots of bodyweight push/pull exercises outside (and during commercial breaks when it rains!) and use an old set of DB’s to work through your video workouts, turbulance training and the ‘Spartacus workout’.
I’d really love to see you follow up on this post with some back-garden workout videos for those of us with little extra cash to spend on equipment! 🙂
Thanks for the comment Matthew and congrats on buying your first home! If you have a pull up bar and some dumbbells, you will be good to go with home workouts. Good luck!
Just got back from my garage, where I did Kettlebells for an hour and am about to go ride my bike the couple miles to drop off my son’s lunch, which he forgot. That is my workout today! Totally agree on all your recommendations…I just ordered my pull up bar and it came in the mail yesterday…still sitting in it’s box…but I’m going to see if I can get it mounted when I get home. And Craiglist ROCKS for weight equipment! I got 2 oly bars, 2 squat racks, 700 pounds of plates, a plate rack, assorted dumbells, a dumbbell rack, a preacher curl bar, etc etc all for $200 and a 2 hour drive. Totally worth it, if you’re willing to be patient and keep looking! And don’t forget to just ASK for stuff. I tongue-in-cheek asked if anyone had any tires…and I totally got one! A huge cement mixer tire delivered to my driveway for absolutely nothing! So now I can flip it and jump on it and kill it with my sledgehammer! And the one thing you can save money on is mirrors…I totally DON’T need a mirror in my ‘gym’ to see what I look like when I’ve just rolled out of bed and stumbled into my garage!
Thanks for the comment, Jen. Damnnnn, you found a killer deal on Craig’s List!
What about the power blocks? I heard you talking about those when you did your manmaker video, and was curious why they didn’t make the cut in this article? Are they still recommended or was the intent just to display a variety of easy to acquire gym equipment?
3 weeks of the beginning body + diet and im down from 221 to 211 😉 Still goin’ strong too.
I love my PowerBlocks! I’ve had them for years and they have held up well. You can get a set that will go up to 50 lbs. for about $300. About double that price will get you to 90 lbs per dumbbell. Definitely worth the investment in my opinion.
I would add, a punching bag with stand-$120, a jumprope-$6, and I recently made a bulgarian training bag which cost me about $20 to make, it emulates many of the kettle bell workouts(the swing, the snatch), as well as some very unique movements. Easy to make, and a killer workout. There are videos showing how to make and use one. I am curious to know if you have ever tried the BTB and what you thought of it.
Yes, punching bags are great as long as the user has proper technique. A novice on a heavy bag with no instruction is a sprained wrist waiting to happen.
I have not used a bulgarian training bag personally, but I am familiar with the tool. From what I’ve seen, it looks like a solid piece of equipment.
Buying a pull-up bar changed my life. I’m not good at them, but at least now I can do more than I could before.
Yes, the pushing movements must be balanced with the pulls. No doubt about it!
I have a pull up bar! I can only go about half way but I also use it for ab raises (this one came with elbow holds) and body rows (I suspended a rope from it)
3 for the price of 1!
Keep doing those body rows and you’ll eventually get to that first pull up, Tusc!
WIth a pull up bar, I can keep in shape completely. When I bought my house, it had an unfinished basement, to most this would be a turn off, and I was oh, yeah, baby, perfect for my hardcore home gym. I found a chunk of steel bar and suspended it from the floor beams in the unfinished ceiling of the basement through a couple of 2×6 chunks with holes drilled in them for the bar. Works perfect. My upgrade was to get a set of rings to hang from it off of ebay. Now I can really do almost anything, with the inclusion of dips and ring fly’s for the chest workout.
Sounds like a great set up, Brett!
Thanks for this post. I looked foward to it ever since you said you were writing it.
I bought a pull up bar a year ago and can now do 10 pullups (I could barely do 1 when I started). My workouts are usually supersets of pull/push/squat exercises with burpees thrown in occasionally.
Will you do a follow up post on what to do with the each level of gym? I’m especially interested in what you’d do with the barbells (besides manmakers).
Keep it up.
You really can’t go wrong with a pull/push/squat combo. Especially with some burpees thrown in for good measure! 🙂
For the dumbbells, you can do damned near any movement you can do with a barbell. There are some ocassional adjustments that have to be made, but overall the movements are the same.
I love the TRX.It runs about $180/190, but is worth it. The best thing about it is you can take it anywhere.
I haven’t used the TRX yet, but I love ring training. It seems to me the TRX allows all of the ring movements, plus much more. Thanks for the comment.
Another great post, Vic 🙂
Just a suggestion regarding a squat rack …
I use two old 44 gallon drums that I got from a mechanic in town …
They cost me nothing and they work great.
Awesome suggestion, Kira. Thanks!
i put a scaffold pole across the rafters in my garage and two scaffold clips to hold it in place got some second hand rings from a boot sale and hung them from it,used two rolls of gaffer tape on a bag of builders sand for something a bit strange looking but it works for bag training
I thing i’ll go look for the bulgarian training bag on the net sounds interesting
nice post Vic
I made a squat rack/spot stands by just stacking up two walls of cinder blocks. They were actually pretty stable, and I used it for a couple years. Total price: about $18.
Also you can make one of those cantaliver doorway pullup bars out of plumbing pipes and joints.
I was surprised to see that you omitted a Swiss Ball at your low end price point. Any personal or expert reasons for this?
I personally think it compliments a dumbbell set very nicely working as a bench plus all of its other usages.
I used to use the swiss ball exactly as you mention – to substitute for a bench – especially when I was training clients in their homes. Overtime I’ve steered clear of the swiss ball not because it’s a bad piece of equipment, but just in favor of other exercise choices.
Brilliant advice Vic, I admit I used to feel a little silly using kids playgrounds but hey anyone who wants to laugh is welcome to beat me in a pullup contest first. I actually made my own rack out of wood and got myself an Olympic bar, with weights and some rings. It’s cost me about 300$ so far.
Sounds like you have a great set up at home. And at the park. . . let ’em laugh. 😉
Amazing post! You share such great info about a portable home gym. I am impressed! how much deeper you describe all equipment. Again thanks for sharing. Anyone looking for a portable home gym