How to Build Your Sweet Home Gym


You’re tired of dealing with fighting for a machine, wiping up other people’s sweat.  The commute makes you less likely to go, and you just want to get your fitness on in the comfort of your own home, listening to the music you like, as loud as you want, wearing whatever you want.

So, you’ve decided to build a home gym.

Building a home gym can seem like a daunting task, but by breaking it down and taking it step by step, it doesn’t have to be.

Here is what you need to get started to build your very own home gym.

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Horse Stall Mats:  If you’re going to be picking things up and putting them down, particularly if those things are heavy ass weights, you’re going to want some kind of flooring to protect your floors, your equipment, and your joints (if you plan on jumping around at all).  There are lots of cheap gym flooring mats that you can get at places like Home Depot, but if you’re planning on getting serious about your fitness routine, then you’re probably going to want to avoid those as they will fall apart quickly, and if you have a lot of space you’d like to cover, the costs can add up quickly.  On the other end of the spectrum are super expensive, heavy duty rubber flooring made especially for gyms.  These can run you a pretty penny, but they are great quality.  The secret is: Horse Stall Mats!  Horse stall mats are just what they sound like–they’re mat’s put in horse stalls to protect the horses joints as they stand in there most of the day.  These are basically the high end gucci gym floor mats, but with a  different name.  In fact, they’re the exact same thing at a fraction of the cost.  Head over to your local farm or tack store and pick up a few of these.  They’re 6′ by 4′ and run about fifty dollars a piece.  You don’t need to cover your whole floor in these, mostly just where you’ll be deadlifting, jumping, or dropping weights.  When you pick them up be sure to bring a truck and a friend.  These babies run about a hundred pound each and they are very awkward to carry.

Bench: You’re definitely going to want to get a sturdy bench.  It doesn’t have to be brand new, and looking on your local CraigsList page will probably yield you a lot of options.  If you can find something that goes from upright, to incline to flat, even better.  Just this one type of bench will add many exercises to your arsenal.

A Power Rack: Like the benches above, you can usually find a decent power rack on CraigsList, but even if you have to buy a new one, they are pretty affordable these days on Amazon.  The key is that you want to make sure that the weight capacity is something you can see yourself working with for the next few years at least.  Ideally, you want something that has adjustable safety rails, J hooks, and pegs so that you can use bands with it as well.  In finding this, you will be able to incorporate heavy squats, rack pulls, heavy bench without a spot, military press, even things like inverted rows.  This will be like home base of your gym.

Olympic Barbell: A good barbell will last you forever.  You can check with local gyms and see if they have any extra that they would sell to you, or again….CraigsList.  If you are going to buy a new one, this is a decent place to invest the money and get a good one.  The Rogue Ohio Power Bar is hands down, the best barbell I’ve ever used.

Free Weights & Dumbbells: This is one that you are almost foolish if you get it anywhere other than CraigsList!  There are so many people selling used dumbbells and weight plates.  They basically last forever, and buying brand new weights will usually run you about $1.25 per pound! You can find them for less than half of that on CraigsList usually and people generally sell them in lots.  You at least want a full set of free weights (two 5s, four 10s, two 25s, and anywhere from two and up of the 45s, depending on your strength.).  If space is a concern (because a full set of dumbbells takes up quite a bit of room), you can look into getting adjustable dumbbells which change weight by moving a lever on the dumbbell and they take up far less space, although they do cost more.  Our friends over at Vegan Muscle and Fitness like the Power Blocks quite a bit.

Pull-up Bar: A pull-up Bar is a fantastic piece of equipment, that even brand new will run you less that fifty dollars.  Hitting your upper back properly is usually one of the most challenging things about working out in a home gym, but with a pull-up bar, it doesn’t have to be.  What, you can’t do a pull-up you say? No worries, just be sure to get a set of…

Iron Woody Bands:  Incredibly sturdy bands that allow for all kinds of movements that you can do with bands, and they come in a very wide range of resistance.  My favorite thing about the Iron Woody bands (seriously….they couldn’t come up with a better name than that?) is how incredible they are as a tool to help learn how to do pull-ups.  By looping the band around your pull-up bar, you can put your foot in the bottom loop, and the band assists you up.  I actually prefer this to Gravitron/assisted pull-up type of machines because it allows your body to really go through the full motion of a pull-up and progress more quickly.

Jumprope: Is there better, more home gym friendly cardio than jumping rope?  I think not.

Extras: If you can swing it, or happen to find a good deal, here are a few extra things to take your gym over the top.

  • Leg Extension/Leg Curl attachment to your bench
  • Stability Ball
  • High/Low Cable Stack
  • Decline Bench
  • Spin Bike
  • Mirrors for form checking
  • Dip Bar attachment for your power rack
  • EZ Bar
  • Space Heater if you’re in a colder climate/garage gym
  • Fan or Air Conditioner if you’re in a warmer climate

I may have beat this point home, but I can’t stress it enough–CraigsList will be your best friend when building a home gym. How many times do people, with the best intentions, by fitness equipment promising themselves they will get in shape and then it just ends up collecting dust?  These people are just itching to get rid of this stuff and make some money back that they lost.  If you can be patient and build your gym piece by piece, you will be amazed at the deals you can find there.  I actually got almost my entire gym from one man on CraigsList for less $2500.  It was easily worth more than twice that amount.  And he was happy to see it go to someone who would appreciate it!

What sort of equipment is in your home gym?  Tell us what you’d put in your dream gym!

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