Have you ever gone to a crowded gym on your lunch break only to realise you wouldn’t be able to use the equipment you need? Or maybe you’ve gotten home after a long day and the thought of leaving your house again is incredibly unappealing. One solution to both of these issues is setting up your own private gym. Think you can’t afford it? Building a gym in your house may actually be more affordable and actionable than you’d expect. Keep these two words in mind when thinking about building the perfect private gym on a budget: versatility and durability.
Flooring is incredibly important for your home gym, and also relatively inexpensive. First and foremost, ensure the flooring is not slick. We recommend purchasing rubber flooring that will absorb shock, provide durability, and keep the noise of dropping weights to a minimum. Be sure to plan out what activities you’ll be performing where in your gym space, as this will affect the type of flooring you need. For example, Olympic lifting will require much thicker rubber, if not a treated plywood platform, and weight training areas will need to have rubber that’s thick enough to protect from any heavyweight that may come crashing down. Flooring can be found at many online retailers or traditional home improvement store.
If you want to keep your home gym affordable and maximize your workout space, avoid purchasing compound workout machines that focus on isolating individual muscles. The key to making the most of your area and your dollar is versatility. The only machine we’d recommend purchasing is a dedicated cardio machine, such as a stationary or recumbent bike that can be wheeled out of the way once you’ve warmed up for your workout. Aside from a bike, you’ll want to focus on investing in equipment that facilitates free weight training.
Your biggest purchase will likely be a power rack, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. We recommend researching brands to find one you love and then keeping an eye on Craigslist, garage or estate sale postings, or moving sale notices. A power rack is a durable and incredibly resilient piece of equipment, which means that purchasing it used is typically the best deal. You’ll want a power rack that’s stable and durable enough to hold at least 250 kg and comes with adjustable safety arms, so you can use the rack for squatting, benching, pressing, and deadlifting.
Once you’ve secured the power rack, you’ll want to accessorize by picking up an Olympic barbell and a set of plates. Notice that we specifically recommend purchasing an Olympic bar. Standard bars are great for most lifts, but the focus here is being budget-savvy and thinking about versatility. Olympic bars have higher weight thresholds, which means that you won’t have to purchase a sturdier bar if and when you choose to increase the weights you are training with. Most gyms stock a mix of Olympic plates and regular plates, but buying both means you increase your budget and take up more space than necessary. Consider buying two 20-kg Olympic plates and purchasing any others you need as standard plates. Not only will this be cheaper, but any plates you add to your bar in addition to the 20-kg Olympic plates won’t touch the ground so they are easier to load.
Another large piece of equipment your home gym won’t be complete without is a bench. Since you’ll want a bench that you can perform multiple exercises with, consider purchasing an adjustable bench. You can leave an adjustable bench flat for bench press and dumbbell rows before elevating it to perform overhead press or incline bench press. Adjustable benches can be found online and at retailers like Walmart for as little as $40-$60. Look for a bench that is highly rated for durability and versatility instead of something that comes with a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles.
The equipment we’ve recommended purchasing thus far are ideal for performing free weight routines. To minimize cost and maximize the number of muscles you can target in your workouts, most retailers will recommend purchasing dumbbells. Dumbbells are incredibly versatile pieces of equipment; however, we strongly urge you to consider buying kettlebells as an alternative.
Kettlebells serve the dual purpose of building lean muscle mass and boosting cardiovascular fitness. If you’re really looking to save money, you can skip purchasing a stationary bike and use kettlebells for cardio instead. Since kettlebell workouts are dynamic routines that engage the entire body, there is less need to isolate targeted muscle groups. Just the combination of Swings and Turkish Get Ups alone will develop your hamstrings, glutes, quads, core, back, shoulders, triceps, and lats. There is so much to do with a kettlebell that you can make a huge amount of progress even if you don’t have a range of different weights available. Consider increasing repetitions and lengthening sets to keep encouraging muscle growth and cardiovascular endurance.
Cast iron kettlebells are also incredibly durable, and a great long-term asset to any home gym. Our only warning is to be sure the kettlebells you purchase are from a company that knows the value of good construction, over a non-specific retailer like Walmart or Academy. Once you start using a premium kettlebell, you’ll see that their versatility, durability, and portability makes them the perfect tool to purchase for any home gym – without breaking the bank.