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Two of the biggest buzz words among those that workout at home are “budget” and “home gym.” The reason is largely that everyone wants a gym at home, but also wants to spend as little money as possible (especially when starting out.)
Thankfully, building a budget home gym is easier than ever. For one, there are a ton of companies making budget-level home gym equipment that although cheaper than what was available in previous years, is still of decent quality. The second reason it’s easier than ever is that there are a ton of reviews available on equipment. On Garage Gym Reviews alone, we have over 2,000 reviews and ratings from both us and users that is ever-increasing. Lastly, and this is the basis for this article, is there are many people posting their setups on how to build a home gym on the cheap for inspiration.
This gym is the ultimate response to the phrase, “buy only what you will use.” Rather than buying a massive power rack that takes up an egregious amount of space, this gym uses a Rogue R-3 Power Rack as the centerpiece.
The R-3 is based on a design from Westside Barbell with fully welded panels, 1” hole spacing through the bench area, and a thick powder-coat. This is the rack I used in my garage gym for nearly 3 years and I still have it. Although this is made by Rogue, it’s one of their most budget-friendly squat racks and is great for those short on space due to it’s short depth.
The squat cage sits on a DIY Weightlifting Platform that is just big enough to allow deadlifts without feeling cramped. Do-it-yourself equipment is a common theme among gyms that are trying to stay on a budget and is something everyone should consider. This one uses rubber puzzle style mats that should limit the noise from dropping weights and protect their foundation.
In addition to the squat rack, this gym has a barbell gun rack with a curl bar, Rogue Ohio Power Bar (our Top Pick for the Best Powerlifting Barbell,) a Rogue Bar 1.0, a Rogue Boneyard Bar, and the EliteFTS SS Yoke Safety Squat Bar. None of these barbells are what you would consider “cheap,” but they are on the lower-end price-wise for quality barbells. The two places we suggest people spend money are barbells and racks and that’s exactly what this gym has done.
In between the rack sits a REP FB-5000 Competition Flat Bench. We’ve written various reviews on the FB-5000 and it is currently our Top Pick for the Best Flat Bench for Most People. Although a great bench, it’s still priced well.
On the other side of the gym sits a Titan Mass Storage Rack. This is the same storage rack I have in my garage gym, but he has the smaller version. There are a few bumper plates, and quite a few 45 LB plates that were likely purchased on Craigslist as well as a small amount of dumbbells. Lastly, is a Wall Control Pegboard setup that has all sorts of attachments, bands, knee wraps and the like. These are quite cheap on Amazon for the versatility they provide.
Thanks to @am7jeremy for providing the gym inspiration.
Lack of money is not the biggest reason for not starting a home gym. It’s honestly a lack of desire. The reason I say that is because I constantly see people with hardly any money figuring out a way to start working out at home. You don’t have to have an insanely tall squat rack or overbuilt barbell, you just need some basic items to get you started.
This home gym is in a bedroom right next to where the guy sleeps. He didn’t have a ton of space or money, so he made do with what he had.
The centerpiece of the gym is a low price power rack from Amazon called the Fitness Reality 810XLT Super Max Power Cage. This is a great beginner rack due to its price and features (there’s actually quite a few accessories available for it.) On the back of the rack, a lat pulldown attachment was added that increases the price quite a bit, but isn’t needed unless you do a lot of bodybuilding type of movements. The multi-grip pull-up bar and spotter pins allow for a lot of versatility in addition to the normal functions of a power cage.
In addition to the rack is a standard Olympic Barbell, a multi-grip bar and some Olympic plates. It doesn’t look like there’s a ton of weight, but plates are something that can be added slowly over time as you find them on Craigslist. In the middle of the rack ists an adjustable bench that also includes a preacher curl and leg extension attachment. Although we don’t love these types of benches, they work if you want extra versatility, just don’t expect them to feel that great or be very stable.
The other standout piece of equipment that likely gets quite a bit of use are the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells. These are probably the best value adjustable dumbbells on the market, although we prefer Powerblocks.
The rack and the rest of the equipment all sits on a DIY Weightlifting Platform that appears to have some cushion on the bottom for sound suppression. I would estimate this entire setup could be had for under $1,500, maybe even $1,000 if bought on sales or on Craigslist.
Now this one is definitely a bit off the wall, but when you don’t have a ton of space, you do what you can. This is the first time I’ve ever seen something like this, and to be honest, it’s pretty genius.
As you’ll see, in place of a bed, Ryan (who posted this in our Garage Gym Community Facebook Group) placed a deadlift platform outfitted with rubber stall mats that can be folded up to hide his entire gym.
Once laid out, the pieces that were hidden are a barbell that sits on built-in notches that simulate a squat rack (we wouldn’t recommend lifting very heavy on this, however) and some shelves for various pieces of equipment. These include some bumper plates (see our guide for the Best Bumper Plates here) as well as a budget-friendly adjustable bench, some gymnastics rings, and Powerblocks Adjustable Dumbbells.
This is how you get creative without spending a ton of money or having a lot of space.
This is an extremely clean and well-lit garage gym (largely thanks to the glass panel garage door.) I think the perfect descriptor for this space is that it’s minimalist. There are very few pieces of equipment cluttering the area and a ton of working room.
There are really 4 main pieces of equipment. On the left is a lat pulldown made by XMark Fitness called the XMark Heavy Duty Lat Pulldown. For the price, it’s probably one of the best value plate-loaded lat pulldowns due to how smooth it operates for the price.
Next to that is a bench press called the Powertec WB-OB16 Olympic Bench. This is a surprising piece of equipment to be featured in this gym because it’s really not designed to be used as a squat rack. That said, this may just be a home gym that’s used when the owner can’t get to their commercial gym. Then to the right of that is a plate tree with iron plates and a dumbbell rack with rubber hex head dumbbells.
What really makes this gym appealing in my eyes is the awesome photography along the back wall and the massive mirror contrasting the garage door. Although I prefer more equipment, this is enough to get the job done for most.
This basement gym has everything you need to squat, bench press, and deadlift without nothing extra. Literally, there are plates, a combo rack (designed for squatting and benching out of,) a deadlift platform with band pegs, a couple of barbells, and some plates. That’s it.
The centerpiece and most expensive part of this gym is the combo rack. A combo rack is called such because it can be used for both squatting and benching from. It’s what is most often used in Powerlifting Meets and is great to use because it’s easy to change heights while the bar is still loaded. I don’t love this combo rack because there are no spotter arms which is dangerous when training alone, but it appears to possibly be homemade.
The most expensive piece(s) of equipment in the gym are the Rogue Calibrated Powerlifting Plates. There are quite a few 25KG plates which are the heaviest and therefore the most expensive, but if you want to practice like you play, these are your best bet. I’m not sure what all of the barbells are, except I know one of them is a Texas Power Bar from Buddy Capps which is one of the most legendary power bars ever created.
Although there are some expensive items in this gym, there are only a few pieces so we would still categorize this as a great budget-friendly setup for a competitive powerlifter.
Not everyone has space in their home for a gym. Some decide to build theirs outdoors while others decide to buy a shipping container, drop it in their backyard and build it up into a compact, low price, DIY setup. This is just that scenario.
The main piece of equipment in this gym is a Titan T-3 Squat Stand. This squat stand is modeled after the Rogue S-2 Squat Stand and is a compact, free-standing rack with a built-in pull-up bar. This type of rack is actually the first squat rack I ever had and it gave me many years worth of serviceable performance.
The most impressive part of the gym, and I’ll think you’d agree is all of the DIY Storage areas. In the back of the gym is a standard bookshelf type of storage, but along the walls are both barbell and sled storage that gets heavy, large pieces of equipment off the floor and onto the walls. This includes kettlebells and weight plates as well. He even is using a cable pulley system for low rows to target his back muscles in the picture, showing just how versatile a shipping container gym can be.
This is about as unique of a gym as we’ve ever posted. One, it’s on a roof in China. Two, the entire thing is covered in repurposed football field turf. Three, you can see the entire layout thanks to a drone shot overhead. I love it.
Although I wouldn’t suggest to most to cover your entire gym in turf, it’s probably the best option for this outdoor gym. The equipment that’s featured here is pretty simple. A Rogue SML-2 Squat Stand (see our full review here.) A fold-away Rogue RML-3WC in a matching Bright Blue colorway as well as some barbells, plates, and crash pads for dropping weight.
There’s a whole lot of fitness that could be accomplished here, outside, on top of a roof.
Olympic Weightlifting only requires a set of bumper plates, a barbell, and a platform. Sure, a squat rack would be helpful for accessory movements, but even it isn’t needed. This makes this sort of training absolutely perfect for a barebones budget home gym, or in this case, shed gym.
This gym is built inside of a standard shed that includes a roll-up garage door, horse stall mats, and a concrete foundation. Although it likely gets pretty cold in the winter, most of the year this would be an absolute dream to train in.
The equipment that fills this gym is a DIY Weightlifting Platform (pretty common among cheap home gyms,) a Rogue EU Weightlifting Barbell, a Rogue S-1 Squat Stand, and some American Barbell Urethane Bumper Plates (full review here.)
All of this equipment is top of the line, but because there are so few pieces, it makes an awesome setup within reach for most people trying to lift at home.
Depending on your climate, a backyard gym would be the absolutely ideal setup. This gym features a lot of used or low-cost gym equipment to create a mini CrossFit Box in his backyard.
Both the squat stand and bench are made by CAP Barbell. The squat stand is called the CAP FM-905Q Squat Stand and at under $125 most of the time is one of the cheapest squat racks available. It has plate posts on the back to increase stability and a pull-up bar to do kipping pull-ups and muscle-ups like I’m sure this guy does.
In addition to the rack setup, this gym has an Assault Bike that is the favorite among CrossFit Games Athletes as well as a plyo-box from Rogue and some gymnastics rings. Although this is a pretty basic CrossFit setup, there are a ton of different metcons that can be accomplished with this equipment.
Not everyone trains with a barbell and plates. Some like to focus on bodyweight movements like pull-ups, levers, pistol squats, and gymnastics ring movements. For that kind of training, this setup is great.
The pull-up bar is there for static movements and the gymnastics rings are available for more dynamic, instability type movements. If you don’t have a lot of space or money but still want to be able to do some training at home, this type of setup can be both cheap and effective.
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