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As with any hobby, a home gym can be extremely costly to start, however, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, you can start a home gym with as little money as you have or even nothing but the things you have lying around the house. We want to bust the myth that a home gym is only for the wealthy and well to do. A home gym, if used properly, has the power to benefit everyone physically, mentally, and fiscally. We’ve seen people drive down debt, increase energy, and decrease body fat through the building of a gym in their home or garage. Join the community and you too can reap the benefits.
Have you ever wondered why everyone in your life with a home gym is constantly telling you how great it is? I was that way. Before I started my garage gym, I worked out at a CrossFit gym, paying nearly $200 a month for both my Wife and I to workout at a gym that we certainly enjoyed, but saw many areas for improvement. I noticed that although our monthly membership fee was around $200, we were spending much more when the gas, car maintenance, and time was factored in. Throw in the fact that the gym wasn’t super close, and it began to seem pretty frivolous to be spending so much to use someone else's barbells and plates (especially considering how low quality the equipment was.)
There are a few things that nearly everyone reading this could benefit from and I certainly could then when I was a slave to the monthly gym membership. These are:
Time is our most finite resource. You may feel like you have a very long life ahead of you (and I hope you do,) but the reality is, time is ticking away and we aren’t guaranteed our next breath. I want to maximize my time here on Earth as much as possible and I believe others do as well. Not only that, but when you factor in the cost of your time, your time spending habits may change. For instance, how much is your wage if you were to break it down hourly? Now, consider that time that could be spent making money (or running errands, pursuing a hobby, building a business, hanging with family, learning something new, etc) is now spent on your commute to the gym.
This illustration of time doesn’t even factor in the amount of time it takes to get your workout done at the gym. A majority of commercial gyms are lacking in the most important piece of equipment in a gym for most people’s goals, namely squat racks. So, that time spent on the sidelines waiting for Mr. Superset Everything to complete his ¼ squats and barbell curls (done conveniently in the squat rack of course) could be spent much more productively should you not have to wait to workout. Every decision has a seemingly infinite amount of choices not chosen. Essentially, by saying I’m going to drive to the gym, pay for the gym, take a long time to use the gym, and drive home from the gym, is you saying “no” to an insane amount of things that would probably be better for you to say “yes” to, like more money.
A home gym, although a cost, can, in fact, be a very frugal cost and money-saver if done properly. Think about this, the difference between a home gym and a commercial gym in terms of money spent is very similar to the difference in buying a car and leasing a car. When you buy a car outright, you own that car. You can do whatever you want with it and it’s yours. If you lease a car, you pay a fee to use somebody else's car. Leasing, also known as “fleecing” by various financial experts (I’m a former financial planner so I’ve spent a lot of time with these concepts) is a much more expensive way to drive a car.
A home gym, like buying a car outright, is now yours to keep forever. However, a home gym doesn’t depreciate as quickly as a car (if bought following our suggestions,) and never has to be upgraded unless you simply want to. You can literally keep your home gym equipment until you pass away and give it to your children or your children’s children. Powder-coated steel lasts that long and unlike technology, is never out of date. A home gym is also much cheaper over its life-span versus a gym membership. We’ll get into more of the nitty-gritty numbers in the next section, but a majority of home gyms could end up being cheaper for their owner in less than three years versus the cost of a commercial gym membership.
The last thing that everyone reading this could benefit from is more health. More health will likely equal more time alive and therefore can mean more money made. Regardless of this, health is what all of you reading this are striving for. You want better physical and mental health, both of these can be achieved by a home gym in a way a commercial gym cannot facilitate. Think about the way you use a commercial gym, you go for an hour a few times a week and that’s it. A home gym is always there. Always available to be used. And always taunting you to get better.
Not only will a home gym allow you to work out more frequently, but it will also allow you to be closer to your kitchen, which will allow you to eat better. Rather than driving by dozens of fast-food restaurants on your way home from the gym, you can simply walk a few feet to your kitchen and cook up a healthy post-workout meal whenever you please.
A home gym could truly be one of the best investments you make for your health, wealth, and happiness.
The cost of a home gym versus a membership at a commercial gym like a CrossFit Affiliate, Gold’s Gym or something similar is the main determinant for people considering home gym ownership. Sure, there are a ton of benefits to having a home gym, but I find that for most people, it simply comes down to cost.
“Can I build a home gym that allows me to accomplish my goals without ruining myself financially?”
I always find our purchasing decisions kind of funny. For instance, many of us are likely reading this on a phone that costs upwards of $1,000, not including our unlimited everything plans. Many also eat out for most meals and have a rather nice vehicle. It’s your money, so you should do as you please with it, however, if I were to ask you what the most important things to your were, your cell phone and car would likely not even make the list. It would be some variant of your family, friends, faith, and personal health.
I say this to illustrate the fact that it’s become acceptable to purchase a 4-figure phone that must be upgraded every few years (many upgrade every year...don’t worry, I do the same), but a purchase like a home gym that never has to be upgraded and can improve pretty much every area of your life is highly scrutinized. A home gym can literally be one of the best financial decisions you make as well, and here’s why:
According to research done by the Statistic Brain Research Institute on Gym Membership Market Analysis done in 2018, they found that the average gym membership costs $58 per month. That equates to $696 per year. If you train at a CrossFit Affiliate, the average gym membership in the United States is $155 per month which comes out to $1,860 a year according to Rounds For Time!
Here’s an interesting tidbit on this though—these numbers don’t include annual fees, initiation fees, the cost of gas and car maintenance to get to and from the gym, or extra things purchased at the gym like supplements, apparel, etc (trust me, I own a gym so I know how often these things are purchased.)
So, if the cost of a commercial gym is currently around $696/year (this is also growing by ~3% per year due to inflation and other factors, FYI) which is $6,960/decade, then how does that compare to a home gym?
Well, let’s take a look.
First off, unfortunately, we have no accurate market data on people who have built a gym in their home. I’d love to come up with a number and declare it as fact, but that would be disingenuous and I don’t want to lead anyone astray.
What I will say, however, is that based upon what I see through the people who send us their setups, ask for advice, and offer recommendations, the average cost for a home gym is between $1,000-$2,000 for most people. This number can be both less and much, much more, but this seems like what most people spend on their home gyms in the short-term.
So, let’s compare these numbers to a gym membership. As we’ve established, a membership to a local gym costs an average of $58 a month into perpetuity. If the average home gym costs on the high-end of my estimate of $2,000, then it would take just under two years and 8 months to recoup the costs of a very well-equipped setup in comparison to the average gym membership. With the home gym, however, you have an asset that can be traded for other goods or money (and if you buy right, it will have outstanding resale value) and the only ongoing fee you have is the cost to keep the lights on in your garage or spare room.
If we’re looking just at financials, to me, the cost of a home gym is a much better decision than a gym membership.
Now that I’ve at least drawn your interest in enough to have you consider a home gym, the next thing you need to determine is what equipment you should use to build your setup. Before I give some recommendations, I will say that everyone has different goals and objectives in terms of their mental and physical health, so the tools you choose should reflect those goals. However, there are a few movements that can benefit nearly EVERY human being, and thankfully, the equipment needed to accomplish those movements are readily available and not overly expensive.
For most people, the equipment we suggest starting out with are:
There are a myriad of other tools that can be added to this setup as well, such as adjustable dumbbells, kettlebells, a treadmill, lat pulldown, etc. But, these are things we suggest adding over time as your needs and desires grow. The only economic reason to buy everything at once is to save on shipping. But, this is detrimental if you’ve never worked out at home and don’t know if:
A. You’ll like it
B. You don’t know what you’ll ACTUALLY use
For these reasons and more, we suggest starting small and building over time to save money and avoid having things sit in the corner or trying to salvage some of your money on Craigslist. You can achieve just about any physical goal you have with these tools. Want to get stronger? Great, do higher weight and lower reps. Want to increase hypertrophy (bigger muscles)? Awesome, do more reps with more isolated movements. Want to lose fat and showcase your abs that have been hiding for years? Perfect, do more HIIT-type training with less rest (and work on your diet!)
Nearly every home gym utilizes these items and just about any training program you plan to follow will use these for a majority of the workouts. Do not make the mistake of overbuying and underusing; you will be much better off buying less and upgrading over time.
With this said, I’d like to provide some suggested equipment at various price points for each of these categories:
The barbell will be one of your most used pieces of equipment in the gym (probably right behind the squat rack.) When you begin researching barbells, you start to notice the wide variety of both options and prices that are available. You can get a barbell for anywhere from $100 to $1,500 or more. We don’t want to bore you with all of the details to look for in buying a bar (we’ve already done that here), so we’re just going to list a few different options that are the favorites of ours and our readers.
The Rogue Bar 2.0 won our Best Olympic Barbell title recently, and for good reason. The Rogue Bar 2.0 is one of the most popular barbells in the world. It combines Rogue Fitness' attention to detail, outstanding customer service, and their large manufacturing power to create a bar that can handle any training style, any weight, for as long as you care to use it. Throw a lifetime warranty and a sub-$300 price tag and you have one incredible bar.
If you plan to mainly stick to the big-4 — the squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press, then we suggest going with a power bar. Power bars, unlike the Rogue Bar 2.0 previously mentioned have a bit thicker diameter shaft, a more aggressive knurl, and a center knurl to help stick to your shirt when squatting. The Rogue Ohio Power Bar has been the go-to power bar for most people for some time.
Rogue has used the same qualities that make the Rogue Bar 2.0 such a popular pick, but thickened the shaft diameter, made the knurl more aggressive, and used stronger steel. Whether you squat 135 LB or 700 LB, this bar will do the job and do it well.
If you’re looking for the cheapest bar we’d recommend. Then the Rep Sabre Olympic Bar from Rep Fitness is a good option for under $200 shipped to your door with 2-day Amazon Prime Shipping. It’s not the best bar, but it does a great job for the price and should hold up to the workouts of most people who are reading this.
Now that you have a bar, you need a squat rack. The squat rack will be the centerpiece of your gym and if you’re like most garage gym owners, it will be the most used piece of equipment you have. Due to the amount it’s used, and the fact that it’s largely designed to help save your life should you fail a lift, your goal shouldn’t be to just buy the cheapest rack possible. However, thanks to the growth in home gyms, there are now more racks available than ever before and even better than that, they’re lower in price than at any time in history.
The Rogue RML-390F is a rack we often suggest and for good reason. It’s a flat foot rack, meaning it doesn’t have to be bolted down to the floor and therefore can perform equally well in a garage and bedroom. It’s made of heavy-duty 11-gauge steel, 3”x3” uprights and has a ton of available accessories. For most people, this is a great option (it also currently has a rating of 5.0 with 120+ reviews.)
If you’re set on Rogue and just want the biggest, baddest rack you can buy, check out their Rogue Monster 2.0 Series. The RM-6 is one of the beefiest racks you can buy and if you can afford it, you’ll be happy you went that way.
If you’re on a tighter budget than what the RML-390F from Rogue Fitness allows, then we recommend the Rep PR-1100 Home Gym Power Rack. It’s available with a myriad of features, is sturdy enough for most people, and best of all, is quite affordable at under $300 shipped. We’re big fans of this rack for beginners or just those wanting to save some cash.
Weight plates will be used mostly on the sleeves of your barbell, but they can also be used for other movements as well. They can easily be attached to a belt for weighted pull-ups or dips, held in your hands for Russian twists, or even used for farmers walks to increase your grip strength. We most often suggest searching out used sources for weight plates as they can get expensive quick. Both Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are great places to search for both used iron and bumper plates. If you plan to drop the bar from overhead after cleans and snatches, then get bumper plates. If not, you’ll be fine with cast iron and your wallet will thank you.
Many home gym owners, due to the desire to reduce noise and prevent damage to their foundation, prefer rubber bumper plates over iron. If you’re looking for bumper plates, FringeSport Black Bumper Plates are both a high-quality and affordable option. We suggest sticking with just the amount of bumper plates you’d like to use for the Olympic Lifts, and going with iron plates for the rest. So pick up a couple 45’s, 25’s, and 10’s and you should be set.
If you want a competition bumper plate, the Rogue Competition Bumper Plate is one of the most popular, but expect to pay a pretty penny.
If you want steel plates and don’t want to take our advice of buying used, then the Rogue Machined Olympic Plates are a great option that is very consistent and accurate. Iron plates will often range in weight from 5-10% off the stated weight which is far from ideal. The Machined Olympic Plates from Rogue Fitness are guaranteed to be within +2%/-0% of the stated weight. Meaning they’ll only be more, never less and if they are, Rogue will trade them out.
The cheapest iron plates we suggest are the Rep Iron Plates. These plates aren’t exactly pretty, but they weigh very close to their suggested weight and are priced extremely well compared to the competition. If you just want to get something that works and don’t want to buy used, these are likely your best bet.
The next piece of equipment we suggest getting is some sort of bench. A bench, whether flat or adjustable will allow you to bench press, but also do much more than that. A bench can be utilized for various pulling movements, step ups, box jumps, box squats, split lunges, and much more.
Rep Fitness is making some of the best value benches. The Rep FB-5000 Comp Flat Bench is one of our favorite flat benches at just about any price point, and it’s thankfully very affordable at less than $200 shipped. It’s sturdy, easy to maneuver, sits at a proper height off the ground and just works.
If you’re looking for an adjustable bench, then we suggest looking at the Rep AB-5100 Adjustable Bench. It’s very sturdy, has a wide variety of incline options, has the option of attaching feet holds for decline situps and bench and is priced well compared to the competition.
If you just want something to get the job done, then the AmazonBasics Bench at under $50 is a steal. It’s not the best bench we’ve ever used, but it held up much better than we expected and it’s hard to make any complaints considering the price point. One suggestion we’d make though is seeing if there are any benches in the Amazon Warehouse as we’ve occasionally seen them in there for less.
We do not recommend buying an extremely cheap adjustable bench. You’ll find them very to be unstable, awkward, and easily breakable.
The last thing we suggest, and this is really more of an optional piece of equipment, and that is cardio equipment. Conditioning can easily be done without equipment and is often best done that way, in the sun and fresh air. Sprints, runs, bear crawls, bounding leaps, handstand walks, and more can be done without any additional equipment and can get you in excellent condition.
For most people, a simple jump rope would do the trick. A sled would work extremely well as well. For sleds, we really like the Rogue Slice Sled as it can be dragged or pushed and is priced pretty well. If you’ve never done sled walks, then you and your hamstrings are in for a treat.
If you’d like to get something more robust, then we suggest looking at a rower and more specifically, the Concept 2 Model D Rower. It’s one of the most well-liked pieces of cardio equipment and will outlast you. We did a full breakdown of nearly every rowing machine available and the Concept 2 Model D Rower was still our top pick despite the amount of newer competitors.
If you want an air bike, then we suggest the Rogue Echo Bike, you can see the full review we did on it here and the breakdown of the Best Air Bike here.
Due to the explosive growth of people working out at home, there are now more places to purchase equipment than ever before. Although it’s great to have so many options, not every company is worth your time and money.
Here are a few we’d suggest:
Rogue is largely considered the premier gym equipment maker in the US. They definitely have competition, but it’s hard to argue with their price to quality ratio. Not only are they making great equipment, but they spend a lot of their time focusing on helping people set up home gyms.
Rep Fitness is making a lot of great equipment for the home gym crowd and although most of their equipment isn’t to the level of Rogue, it is often much cheaper. We suggest Rep Fitness often.
FringeSport is making some outstanding equipment, and again, are focusing on the home gym market. Based out of Austin, Texas, FringeSport imports most of their equipment, similar to Rep Fitness, but puts their own unique spin on a lot of items.
If you’re looking for equipment that is space saving (most home gym owners are) then we suggest taking a lot at some of PRx Performance’s fold-away racks. They’re built extremely well and use an amazing amount of ingenuity. They have some additional fold away pieces as well.
Amazon is the world’s largest e-commerce store and this power extends to home gym equipment. Although they don’t have a lot of higher-end equipment, they do have a large variety of budget-priced pieces so they’re always worth looking at.
As you can see, a home gym can vary widely. We see the average cost for most home gym’s around $1,000-$2,000, but you can get one for less or much, much more. We suggest budgeting a couple thousand dollars, buying the equipment you need to get started and build your gym out further over time.
I do want to say this though, regardless of whether you choose a home gym or a commercial gym (you should choose a home gym) you need someplace to workout. Healthcare costs continue to grow at an exponential rate and we at Garage Gym Built just want to see people get healthier. So, join us in the fight against obesity and complacency. Build a home gym and reach your goals!
How much should I spend on a home gym?
This is honestly up to you. We suggest starting small and growing over time, but if you know you're going to use the equipment, it can save you shipping costs by making one large order versus small orders.
When is the best time to buy gym equipment?
Should I buy the cheapest equipment I can find?
This depends on the various pieces of equipment. We suggest spending the most on your barbell and squat rack, other times are typically less important to have high quality (it does depend on the piece, however.)
Check out my recommendations for the best budget home gym equipment if you're working on a lower budget.
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