Bargain basement home gym

It’s been around two years since I’ve had a gym membership and I can honestly say that I’m in better shape now than I ever was before. I believe that this can be attributed to a few factors:

1. There’s rarely a point in my life where not having time is a legitimate excuse anymore. All I have to do is prepare myself the way I normally would for a session and then walk down into my basement. Eating, digesting, and working out can all be achieved within a two hour window.

2. I’m willing to try new things. I practice some exercises and techniques now that I would have never had the guts to try when I was attending a public gym. No one wants to fail or look ridiculous while trying something that they’ve never attempted before (especially in front of a group of critical people).

3. My workouts have changed dramatically. Now that I’m not at a  gym using machines, I can complete a great workout using minimal equipment (and I feel like I’m better for). There are many gym machines that don’t really build much functional strength.

So those three are not only reasons that I believe that I’m in better shape now. They are also benefits of building a home gym. The other big reason is…money. On the low end, gym memberships cost $9.99 per month, but that’s Planet Fitness (click here for more information on that). On the high end, you could pay $100 or more per month to attend a CrossFit box. Gym memberships may be a tax write off depending on your line of work, but on the average most people who exercise regularly are spending around a grand on gym memberships every year. I realized this a couple years ago and turned an extra bedroom in the townhouse I was living in the time into a room for workouts. I didn’t want to spend much money, so I didn’t. And on that note, I continue to add on to my home gym and I’m still doing it on the cheap.

Here’s what You’ll need:

1. Weight set, barbell, bench and a rack. A lot of people seem to have this stuff sitting around there house collecting dust. Its really not worth it to buy this stuff new (unless you’re buying a high grade Olympic barbell). If you surf Craigslist for a few days, I can guarantee that you will find a decent deal on some used stuff. I personally found an amazing deal within twenty minutes of my house. I was able to purchase the four items listed above at the same time ($100 ). They aren’t that pretty from what you can see in the picture above, but who doesn’t like a little bit of patina. Side note: Buy olympic equipment over standard.

2. Lifting platform. You may or may not need this. The need is dependent on your living situation and the style of lifts you plan on performing. I’ve seen a lot of people do their lifting on a square shaped piece of plywood with rubber gym mats on the outside or on just a rectangular piece of gym matting. If you’re planning on dropping your weights and your floor is not rubberized, you definitely will want to build a platform (outlined here). If you want to drop your weights and you’re planning on build a home gym above the ground floor of your residence, you may want to re-think your fitness arrangement or not drop your weights (the ceiling below your gym area could suffer).

3. Pull-up bar. You can opt for one that can be mounted permanently or temporarily in a door frame (I found one of these Craigslist for $10). Make sure its not one of the ones that holds itself up with pressure though(unless you want to damage your door frame and your person). The note worthy fact here is that if you don’t get a pull-up bar that can be permanently attached to a surface, you won’t be able to kip your reps and you won’t have the peace of mind knowing that you have no chance of coming crashing to the floor. I would recommend purchasing something like this. Or if you want to consolidate and kill two birds with one stone, you could buy something like this

In my opinion, this is probably the best deal out there. Especially considering its heavy and the shipping is free. This piece is a power rack that also has a bar that can be used for pull-ups or hanging gymnastic rings off of. It also has a slot for storing a olympic barbell upright and a post for storing olympic plates. I could picture this to be a little bit unstable, but it has tabs so that it can be bolted into the floor below it. The base could also be weighed with sand bags or extra plates.

4. Gym rings. Also known as gymnastic rings. In my opinion, the bang for your buck factor is pretty high on these. 

The going rate on these rings is $29.99 to $34.99. There are hundreds of exercises that can be performed on. These can also be substituted for a TRX system for many of types of movements and workouts. The most common/basic exercise I’d recommend performing on these would be dips. You can buy a set of Equalizer bars for $99.99 and be able to do less than half of the exercises that you can do with gym rings. Gym rings are a third of the price of equalizer bars. I’m not very good at math unless its in increments of 45/135/225 [;)], but it seems like gym rings are around a 300% better value by my calculations. All you need is a pull-up bar or some basic hooks screwed into your ceiling to mount these.

5. GHD (Glute Ham  Developer). There aren’t exactly a plethora of different exercises that you can perform on one of these machines, but those few exercises are very effective. Rogue Fitness (an excellent company and proud sponsor or CrossFit) sells their version of this for around $700. Its a very sturdy piece of equipment, but not really necessary to purchase for personal use. There are several other options to choose from which are far less expensive. I ordered this roman chair and it works perfectly for the price. Its fairly sturdy (much better than I anticipated). Even if a piece of equipment of this kind ends up being tippy, you can always weigh down the base with sand bags or bolt it to the floor (Yea, I’m a broken record).

6. Rubber plates. These can be a little bit pricey and you can rarely find them used because people keep them in use. Its common for the lowest quality ones to go for +/- $2.00 per pound. They can also be expensive to ship (obviously). I’ve gone to Dick’s Sporting Good and bought some. The advantage to buying them in a store is the lack of shipping costs. I have also ordered them from various websites when the shipping is free and/or they’re on sale. I recently found another company (Wright Equipment) that sells rubber plates for extremely low prices. I was able to order two 10kg plates for $52 including shipping. The shipping was fast too. I got them in the mail the other day. I tried them on my barbell , but unfortunately one of them didn’t fit correctly and Wright Equipment wasn’t terribly accommodating. The jury is still out on this, but for the price of these plates I may be inclined to trim the small amount of material it will take it fit these.


You can go as crazy as you want with a home gym set up. The contributing factors to your decision would be: size of your space, type of fitness, your goals, and how much money you want to throw. The reality is that its hard to beat the convenience of having a small gym set up in your house. Over time, the gym will pay for it itself if you actively pursue fitness. Thus far, I’ve spent approximately $400 on my home gym. Working out at my more normal rate of three to four times a week, the amount of money I’ve spent is definitely reasonable. Especially considering that its been two years since I attended a public gym.

*drops the mic*



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