For a start, training at home is much more time efficient. You can train when (and how) you want, there’s no driving to and from the gym several times per week, and you never have to hang around waiting for the bench or the squat/power rack to become available. You also save money on your membership fees, as well as your travel costs, so the moderate cost of setting up a home gym will usually be recouped in 2–3 years.
You will need a reasonable amount of space, however, either in your garage, basement, or a spare room. And if you’re the sort of person who finds it difficult to motivate yourself to train at home, then you’ll need to stick to a commercial gym. But otherwise, if the idea of building your own home gym appeals to you, this article will tell you what you’ll need to do it.
Power Rack (or Squat Rack)
A good, sturdy power rack will allow you to squat safely, and you can also do bench presses, overhead presses and several other exercises inside it. Also, most power racks come with a pull-up bar and dip bar attachments as well.
Ideally, you want a rack that’s strong enough to handle weights of up to 1000lb (450kg), as you never know how strong you might get on your squats.
As an alternative, you could just get a squat rack instead, if you wish, but these are not quite as safe or as versatile as a power rack.
If you just want a good, basic power rack, at an affordable price, I would recommend the Atlas Power Rack.
But if you are prepared to spend a bit more, the Body-Solid Pro Power Rack would make an excellent choice.
It’s very important to get a good quality barbell, as this will feel better, and be far safer to use, than a cheaper one. So don’t waste your money on a cheap, 6 foot standard bar, weighting 15–22lb (7–10kg). An Olympic bar is 7 feet long and weighs 45lb (20kg).
Your bar should be strong enough to handle weights of up to 1000lb (450kg), and it should have revolving sleeves, as fixed bars are very hard on the wrists. The grip should be 28mm in diameter.
The Troy Texas Power Bar is my recommendation here, as it is a top quality bar that’s really strong, durable and represents great value for money.
Next, you need a set of plates, with 50mm holes, to fit onto your barbell. These should be round, as hexagonal plates are not suitable for deadlifts, or any other exercise where you pull the bar from the floor.
Iron plates are generally cheaper than rubber coated ones. But get a couple of thick, rubber mats to reduce the noise, as well as to protect your floor.
You’ll need at least 6 x 45lb (20kg) plates, plus a selection of smaller ones (e.g. 2 x 2.5, 5, 10, 25 and 35lb), and Power Systems Pro Olympic Plates would make a great choice here.
You also need a good, solid, flat bench, for use inside your power rack. A particularly good example is the Rep Flat Bench, which will handle up to 1000lb total weight – that’s body weight plus weight of bar.
In addition to this (or alternatively, if you don’t have a power rack), you might want to get an adjustable bench, so you can do incline/decline work as well.
Although not absolutely essential, dumbbells are very useful for all kinds of exercises, and are certainly worth having. Plate-loadable dumbbells are much more economical than either selectable (e.g. Bowflex) or fixed dumbbells.
The set I’d most recommend is the Unipack Pro Iron Dumbbell Set. These are extremely good quality and excellent value on Amazon.
In addition to the equipment listed above, there are a number of accessory items that you could also get for your home gym. Three in particular are worth mentioning:
Shoes – Good lifting shoes have hard, incompressible soles, for maximum stability and power transfer (this is especially important for squats and deadlifts). A couple of good examples are Chuck Taylor’s and Adidas Powerlift 2’s.
Chalk – This improves your grip by absorbing sweat. It’s essential for deadlifts, and can be useful for a number of other exercises too.
Dip Belt – A dip belt is the easiest way to add extra weight for exercises like parallel bar dips, chin-ups and pull-ups.
And that’s about all you’ll need to build your own home gym. The total cost is around $1500–2000. Then, just put a few posters up, to help keep you motivated, put on some rousing music, and you’re all set to go.