When you look for garage gym ideas on the internet you can quickly be put off the idea – you’ll see some incredible set ups, the kind of thing you could only dream of! When you read about guys with 3,000 square feet of space, top of the range equipment and enormous budgets it’s easy to think that a garage gym isn’t for you.
Worry not though, amigo – I’m here to show you that you can build a great garage gym without needing a huge room or $100,000 budgets!
In this article I’m going to break down garage gyms into a maximum of 11 items – and even then you won’t need to buy all 11. It’s designed to be a clear and simple list of items to consider if you want to build an amazing home gym, without spending a fortune.
I’m a gym owner myself, so let’s just say I’ve got some experience of gym design! I’ve also worked with dozens of personal training clients to help them design their own home gyms.
Here’s the gym I own, to give you an idea of the scale of projects I’ve designed…
Designing a gym can be really overwhelming. There’s a lot of questions – what equipment should I buy? How much should I spend? Where should I put it? What kind of space should I use?
By reading this article, you’ll have a practical, how-to guide written by someone who has designed well over 100 gyms in his career.
I’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to.
In a garage gym you’ve got fixed elements and variable elements. Each of these will determine the equipment that you’ll want and need, plus the set up on the place. Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you will need to buy.
Let’s go through these in more detail…
In summary, think about what you’ve got to spend, how much room you have and how you like to train. That’ll inform your decision making.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume you’re not Arnold Schwarzenegger, but rather someone who wants to lift and get stronger, but more for general health than for bodybuilding competitions.
Instead, I am assuming you want a home gym because:
You want to lift weights–you want to do a bit of cardio. You’ll throw in some bodyweight work and you’ll mix up the intensity. You’ll need somewhere to stretch and stay mobile.
I’m assuming you’ve got a ‘normal’ amount of space of no less than 15’ x 15’ (any less and you’re seriously limiting your options).
I’m also assuming your budget goes into the thousands rather than the hundreds. Again, building a great home set up is easier with deeper pockets, so if you’ve got less than $1,000 to spend, pick elements of this range rather than the whole thing.
If you’re after a figure of what you should expect to spend, you can build a good home gym for $1,500, a great home gym for $2,500 and an elite home gym for $4,000-$5,000.
Enough of the preamble, let’s get into things.
I’m going to break this down into strength, cardio and accessories, with suggestions for each. Bare in mind that this is a minimum – by all means, add to this list if you’ve got the money and the space.
You’re going to need five things here:
By picking up all of these things, you’ve got all of the strength training versatility you’re likely to need. If space and budget allows, you could also pick up a set of dumbbells, but that’s serious money.
You could cut the dumbbell cost by only buying the weights you need, rather than the whole rack.
For those who want a quick overview, below is our comparison table:
When it comes to build quality, usability and cost, this is tough to beat. For only $239, you’re getting a rack that can support up to 700lbs and is usable for squats, rack work, split squats, inverted rows, pull ups and hundreds of other movements.
The multi-grip pull up bar is very useful and unique at the price point, too. Interested in more options? Learn more by checking out our piece on budget power racks & squat racks by clicking here.
Factoring in price, versatility and sturdiness, this bar is a great option. It’s a strong and moderately stiff bar with a medium knurl and fast-spinning sleeves, so useful for powerlifting, bodybuilding and weightlifting. At $224.99 it’s competitively priced and will never let you down.
Let me explain why I suggest bumpers–versatility.
You can use bumpers to do weightlifting, CrossFit and Powerlifting. You can’t use cast iron plates for weightlifting, so think of the versatility.
There’s also protection–bumpers are better for your floor. These Rogue training plates are well made and a good price.
Pro tip – Purchase the biggest set you can afford, because buying plates in bulk is far cheaper than individuals.
I always suggest two kettlebells–a heavy one for swings, pulls, and squats, and a lighter one for higher reps or overhead work.
(Pro Tip: If you’re looking to save space and money in your home gym, you may want to consider getting some adjustable kettlebells.)
I don’t think you need to go for top-end competition spec, so I’d always strongly suggest a quality iron kettlebell at a reasonable price. The Rep LB Kettlebells fit the bill. I use them myself and I highly recommend them.
Further Reading Suggestion: 4 Best Adjustable Kettlebells
It’s tempting to save the money and go for a flat bench, but I’d urge you to go for an adjustable bench because it gives you way more versatility.
The AB-3100 is a well-made, well-reviewed and sturdy bench. It’s a great choice for a home gym and doesn’t take up much room.
**Suggested Further Reading: 5 Best Adjustable Benches For Your Home Gym (In Depth Review)
A lot of people have questions about cardio equipment for your home gym – do you really need it?
When it comes to cardio I’d go limited–there’s never a need for a treadmill in a basic home gym–if you want to run, save the cash and go run outside.
I’d always look towards an air bike, skierg, or rower because they’re the best value for money and take up the least room.
Cardio is usually the most expensive single item, so I’d only buy one of the below, unless you’ve got the money and space then go for them all!
The Rogue Echo is the best value air bike on the market. It’s built like a tank, will take anything you can throw at it and is a complete conditioning workout in one item.
It’s pretty big, so be aware of that but not as big as say, a treadmill. It’s the CrossFit equipment go-to for a reason.
If you’re on the market for an air bike, I’d highly recommend checking out our in depth review on the best air bikes for your home gym, here.
The best on the market. If you’re looking for a whole-body conditioning workout a rower is hard to beat. It’s no-impact, easy to set up, easy to store and doesn’t take up much room.
There are newer models of the Concept 2 rower, but in my opinion the upgrades don’t reflect the extra $200. Buy this and you’re buying a solid machine.
If you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, check out our review on budget rowing machines under $500.
If you’re not into bikes or rowers, the ski-erg is another useful option. Bear in mind the base plate is an optional extra, but if you don’t buy it you’ll have to drill your ski erg into the floor to make sure it’s stable. Benefits are similar to the rower, but the ski erg also takes up less floor space.
A home gym containing all of the above is a set up capable of keeping you fit and strong for life, but in case you have the budget here’s a few items that you’ll benefit from having around the gym – they can help with your conditioning and accessory work
If you’ve got a good set of bands you have a lot of versatility in your workouts. You can pick these up for very little money and they’re really easy to store.
A simple set of rings adds an extra dimension to your training without costing as much as a TRX. They’re cheap and versatile, plus they are easy to store.
When it comes to floor work, you’re going to need something more comfortable than concrete, so for the sake of less than $20 it’s worth picking up a some flooring your home gym.
Of course you can add to the list here (dumbbells, more kettlebells etc), but this is designed to give you an idea of what you need to build an excellent home gym on an affordable scale.
The goal isn’t to replicate the hundreds of thousands that you can spend on commercial equipment–it’s to strip back a gym to the essentials and streamline your equipment to fit the space.
If you’re looking for more of a platform that can handle more weight, click here to read our fantastic review on deadlift platforms for sale [Rogue Vs Titan].
Wall-mounted squat racks are a fantastic way to maximize space and provide a solid structure to safely support squatting weight.
On the same token, wall-mounted pull-up bars are great alternatives to power racks if pull-ups are all you’re after. They mount straight to the wall and take up much less space for those who want to take their pull-up game to the next level.
If you want a simple pullup bar to mount for over your door in your house, a doorway pull-up bar is another great option.
Another piece of equipment that didn’t make the list, but that I absolutely love is the safety squat bar. Its versatility is unmatched, it destroys your upper back in the best possible way, and is great for those with shoulder pain and/or lower back pain.
And let’s not forget medicine balls. I use medicine balls with my clients on a regular basis during our sessions and actually wrote this article outlining the best med balls for home gyms.
If you were to purchase what you needed from this list it would set you back around $2500 (assuming you only bought one of the cardio machines).
If you consider a gym membership can cost over $1300 per year, it doesn’t take long to pay itself back.
There’s more than the financial element here too–in your own gym you don’t have to worry about travel time, you can play your own music (and as loudly as you want to!), you will never have to wait for equipment and afterwards you can shower in your own bathroom!
You don’t have to share your workout space with people you don’t like and your training time isn’t determined by opening hours.
There’s so many advantages to a home gym.
While we left some items off our list (like crossfit shoes, weightlifting shoes, ceiling pull-up bars, and fitness sandbags), with the kit list in this article, you can work on your strength, conditioning, mobility and anything else in between.
It’s only a maximum of 11 items long, so shows how you can keep things simple but build something fantastic at the same time.
Even if you don’t have a couple of thousand dollars to spend, you can pick elements from this to suit your requirements–if you took out the cardio kit and bought just a bar and some plates, you’d have change from $1000.
Interested in more garage gym ideas, but on the cheaper side? We’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to buying used fitness equipment here. You’re wallet will thank you later.