Setting up a home gym can be exciting and equally as overwhelming.
If you open up IG or Pinterest to begin a search, you may quickly find that this can be a large undertaking. Many home gyms are very detailed & complex (read: time consuming and costly).
I’ve been a home-gym-owner for a long time. While I admittedly continued to lift at a commercial gym for many of those years, it was more so about having a built-in transition time to get away from working (from my home gym!) so that I could re-focus and not feel like I was “lifting at work.”
My home gym was sufficient enough that I built a business out of it- so, everything below is exactly what you need to:
-lift at home
-train clients out of your space (if you’re into that kind of thing)
What you won’t find in this blog post:
-a bells-and-whistles gym build out. That’s not my style and it never has been.
If you’re a member of The Barbell Collective, this is the exact home-gym set up you need to follow our gym programming from home exactly as prescribed with little-to-no equipment swap outs.
Depending on where in your home your gym will be, flooring can make or break your experience.
If you’re lifting inside and in an insulated room that has carpet, you may not need to spend the money on gym flooring.
If you’re lifting in your garage, depending on the climate in which you reside, putting down gym flooring can make all the difference between a cold and uncomfortable floor and a floor you can really move around on.
IG and Pinterest will make you feel like your home gym sucks if it doesn’t have professional gym flooring.
I’m here to tell you that if my current home gym wasn’t reusing my gym’s flooring, I may not have it at all.
So, flooring is totally up to you, your budget, and your space.
I bought my gym flooring from rubberflooringinc.com in 2016.
It’s held up for years in a private strength and conditioning gym setting, traveled from my gym back into my garage, from that garage into a new garage, and is in its final resting place (so help me god!) in our new home gym.
You can look at their rubber flooring selection here.
I recommend these rolls (not what I currently have, but what I would choose if I had to start over)
For a more budget friendly gym flooring option, you can try click-together tiles that work just fine.
You can find those at Home Depot here.
^^^ Garage gym. Flooring was a carpet remnant and it worked just fine!
^^^ Hard to see, but this is click-together flooring.
It also worked just fine!
(Midwest winters, in a garage, for context!)
At the time I’m writing this, that squat rack is sold out, but it might be worth the wait.
It has a small footprint (won’t take up all your space), has a pull-up bar, and is the biggest bang for your buck in my opinion.
I have always chosen to not spend on “name brand” lifting equipment. Rogue makes very popular gym equipment, but due to their rise in popularity and demand as a company thanks to CrossFit, you can find high quality equipment for a fraction of the price.
I’ve spoiled myself over the years and have grown partial to lifting at home with a woman’s bar.
They’re thinner and lighter in your hands than a standard men’s bar, which weighs 10# more than the 35# woman’s bar, respectively. They’re also a bit shorter in length which is great what considering your available space.
You can look at women’s barbells here. (I have that exact barbell!)
If you want a pink barbell (like I also have! It’s taken about 6 years + 3 moves for the paint to start chipping, so yours may last a while!) This pink barbell is from Rogue, which I don’t have this exact one, but at this time it does look comparable in price to the other brand listed here.
You may have some good luck looking Facebook marketplace for things like dumbbells.
I’d have to estimate that 90% of my dumbbells were purchased as used.
Most weights are sold by price per pound. Over the years, I’ve seen the price per pound vary anywhere between $1 per pound all the way up to $2.75 per pound. Recent inflation costs worldwide, but especially with the increased demand of lifting from home, you may expect to pay closer to the higher end.
Compare the price per pound of any new DBs to the price of any private sellers and decide from there.
Example: if I’m buying two 20# dumbbells, I’ll expect to pay anywhere between $40-110 for both dumbbells.
And yes, even when you’re buying a pair of something, you will still pay for the total weight of your purchase.
If you find used pair of 20#s on FB marketplace for $50, but they’re selling for new closer to $80, I’d totally get them used, wipe them down with a Lysol wipe and bam, they’re good as new.
You’ll want your home gym to have a wide range of DB weights. DB’s are versatile and can be used/substituted for just about everything.
Grab: a light (for you) pair, a medium pair, and a heavy pair to start.
That’s a total of 6 dumbbells.
Keep any super light DBs you might have laying around the house- you’d be surprised how often you need 2-5# for things like shoulder (p)rehab 😉
You will pay per pound for bumper plates, too.
If it were up to me, we’d do away with anything that isn’t a bumper plate in all gym settings.
Unless you’re a competitor needing to lift with kilo plates, bumper plates are THE BEES KNEES when it comes to lifting due to all of the plates having the same diameter, which makes pulling a deadlift from the floor much easier long before you’re pulling 135# (which is what you’ll need to master to be able to easily and properly deadlift at a gym using hex-plates or any sort of iron plate that isn’t a bumper plate which are made of rubber/composite material.
You may or may not have luck purchasing bumper plates second hand.
Here is what you should consider when buying bumper plates:
Many folks go buy a whole set which usually contains: (2) 10#, (2) 25#, (2) 45#.
I almost would never recommend that for most folks and here’s why:
Unless you’re lifting 125# (35# woman’s bar + (2) 45’s) you will almost never get use out of your 45s, except for deadlifts and squats for quite some time, and even then, that depends on your overall strength.
What may fair better would be to purchase 4-6 10# plates or even some 15# or 25# plates instead, this way you can mix and match and have everything you need now and even when you’re stronger.
Because things are priced per pound, you’re going to spend about the same amount of money either way.
YES! Sometimes you’ll pay less per pound if you’re buying a 45# vs 10#, but what’s the point if you can’t ever really use it compared to the 10#?
In my home gym now, I use my 10# more than any other weight, with 15# coming in at a close second which allows for me to easily mix and match my weights depending on the day, movement, and workout.
Compare prices before you decide 🙂 Different companies hold different sales throughout the year, so something to keep an eye on.
Kettlebells are such an important staple for any gym, but especially a home gym.
If I had limited space, limited money, and even limited time, I’d choose a KB over a BB in terms of versatility.
Make sure you know if you’re purchasing in pounds or kilograms. It will most likely be kg’s.
1kg is 2.2 pounds, so this can make or break your ability to use the KB you buy.
For KBs, you can start off with one of each weight.
Similar to DBs, you’ll ideally want a lighter (for you) KB and a heavier (for you) KB.
For reference: what weight might you want to use for KB deadlifts?
Swings? Goblet squats?
How about for: KB cleans, snatches, windmills, KB OHP? Rows?
That’s just a broad overview, because we can use KB for an infiniate number of things.
Inside The Barbell Collective, we use DBs in more ways than we use KBs, so just something to keep in mind- it depends on the versatility of not only your program but also with how comfortable you are making equipment swaps.
I’ve purchased a lot of benches in my lifetime.
This one from Amazon has been my favorite.
Ones with adjustable parts are a pain in the ass, have a higher likelihood of malfunctioning, and are heavier- so harder to move around.
The one listed above is cost effective and gets the job done better than any other brand I’ve tried.
^ Plastic ones like this are WAY BETTER than spring loaded clips. These are not the exact ones I have, but this is what to look for.
^A variety of loop bands in different sizes will be great.
Think: assisted pull-ups & band pull aparts. You’ll want a heavy-enough band to support you for pull-ups (if you’re still working towards unassisted pull-ups) and a lighter band for many accessory movements.
^ Yes. They’re often called “booty bands.” Don’t worry, I hate that too.
The thick, fabric bands like the ones listed here are so much better for many things, however I still find myself reaching for the rubber kinds to for a number of movements. So, both to have on hand is probably best, but it’s up to you.
Hear me out on this one: a wooden plyo box is going to be the most cost effective and in some cases, the more compact choice.
It will be heavier to move, but offer much more stability in terms of its use. You can easily use a wooden plyo box for a number of things including step-ups & jumping pull-ups, but if you’re squeamish around actually jumping onto a wooden box, they may not be your best option for plyometric work- and that’s ok!
A foam box is going to give you a softer place to land (literally) however, consider some of the downsides. A foam plyo box is a lot less sturdy. Because plyo boxes have 3 sizes built into one box, if your foam box is on a more narrow side to give you more height, it can become very wobbly. However, if working on box jumps is important to you and if the fear of jumping onto a solid wood option prevents you from progressing, consider a foam box.
Foam plyo boxes are pricier, but they are also much lighter and so easier to move in and out of the way as needed.
Don’t forget you can also use your bench for a number of things as well.
Another option might be using a stepper + risers. This can be a great option for step-ups, split squats, and is my current preferred way to set up for hip thrusts. Be careful if using this option for plyometric work- it’s not the safest option for these! I use my stepper + risers FREQUENTLY, but I also have 8 total risers, so 4 on each side. Keep in mind I am short! So this height works for me for a number of things- hip thrusts being my favorite.
Don’t forget you can use bench for as long as you need to for a lot of things, too! If you’re short on space, I would just use a bench for as long as I could.
Squat sponge: for hip thrusts. Not for squats 😉
Fractional plates: stuck between plates? These are great!
Exercise Ball: The bigger sized ones are more versatile in my opinion than smaller ones. This would be low on my list of things to buy if I was building my gym over from scratch because they take up a lot of room once inflated- and while I do use and program with the use of swiss ball fairly often, it’s easy enough to swap out for a bench. Think: elevated hip bridges, etc.
Bumper Plate storage.
You can also look at wall mounts, but I’m trying to reduce how many holes I put in the wall 😉
I do not recommend a weight tree if using bumper plates. The diameter of each plate will make it so that you can only
use the bottom 2 prongs. I’ve also had it where if you do not take the weights off the tree in the “right order”, everything tips over- yikes!
I have one that’s like this one, but I also have A LOT of DB’s at home. Depending on your space and how many DB’s you’ll have, you may be able to do without a rack for quite some time. I do not have a KB storage rack, and I just line them up on the floor.
3M hooks can work great for storing bands, although you’ll want one hook for each band for the thicker/heavier bands or you risk the bands pulling the tacky strip off the wall due to the weight, so be mindful of that.
Final note: If you’re lifting in a non-climate controlled area like the garage, and if you live somewhere cold, know that everything made of any kind of metal will be VERY COLD to the touch during the cold months. You may want to consider purchasing a reliable space heater, and setting it up in such a way prior to lifting that it begins to warm-up some of your equipment. I do not encourage my clients to lift with the use of lifting gloves- but since gloves (and shoes) exist to protect us from the elements, if you do not have the ability for any reason (including time) to “warm up your equipment with a space heater” (LOL) then lifting gloves may be the next best alternative. I am telling you, they can get so cold to the touch that it’s almost painful to hold on to, which we DO NOT WANT when we are trying to hold something heavy in our hands!