Building a Home or Garage Gym (For Almost No Money)

If you’ve looked at working out at home, you’ll know that building a home gym can get very expensive very quickly. When you consider all the costs associated with a home or garage gym, the costs can skyrocket quickly.

However, you don’t need to spend $10,000 on a home gym to get fit. Hell, you don’t even need to spend $1,000!

Sure, those hyper-expensive garage gym images you see shared in Instagram may look impressive, but we all don’t have the budget (or space) to support dropping a deposit on a house on your home gym.

Luckily, if you know where to look and if you’re patient in waiting for the right deals instead of buying everything up front, you can build a quality gym on a fraction of the price.

In this article, we’ll look at how to build a home gym, or, if it’s more your style – building a garage gym.

You can build a cheap home gym without having a “cheap” home gym… if you catch my drift.

Building a Home Gym on a Budget

Ultimately, when you get equipment for your own gym, there’s only three ways you can go:

  1. Buy new equipment
  2. Buy used equipment
  3. Building Equipment

Here, we’re going to look at all three options. As, over time, odds are you’ll do a range of all three. Or, at the very least, you’ll do a range of buying new and used equipment.

What Equipment Do I Need?

Now, obviously a lot of this comes down to the size of your workout space at home. We all remember those corny home-workout infomercials, don’t we…

Realistically, over time, you’ll want a range of equipment for your home gym including:

  • Power Rack
  • Barbell
  • Plates
  • Bench
  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebells and TRX Equipment
  • Some Multi-Use Machines
  • Cardio/Conditioning

You’ll also want other comforts like flooring mats, cooling, etc, to make your home gym a safe and inviting environment.

These items listed above will be the main driver of conversation throughout

Buying Used Gym Equipment

One of the best ways you can build a home gym on a budget is to find used equipment on marketplaces like:

  • Facebook Marketplace (my favorite)
  • Craigslist
  • Local Classifieds (newspapers etc)

You can even find a bunch of great equipment for sale in local garage sales.

I’ve had great success over the years using the Facebook marketplace. It’s a popular platform so it has a wide range of gear, it’s easy to use, and you can chat with the seller directly. This is different to something like Craigslist, where you’re flying blind a lot of the time.

Probably my best buy on the Facebook marketplace was a spin bike.

My Sping Bike and I share a “love-hate” relationship

This was my best buy for two reasons.

First, the price! Now, this spin bike doesn’t have displays or calorie trackers or anything fancy like that – but it does have a mad range of resistance settings! Still, I picked up a spin bike for around $40. The bike was owned by a middle-aged couple in my town and had hardly been used under any stress. There was a little rust on the frame as it was kept outdoors, but it cleaned up an absolute treat.

I went from contemplating browsing the marketplace to lugging the heavy thing into my apartment at the time within about an hour. Great success.

The second reason it was a great buy was timing. This honestly happened about two hours before the local government announced that they’d be closing gyms due to COVID. So I definitely got lucky timing-wise.

Then, the very next day, my girlfriend and I found a small cross-trainer for her house for only $20 on Facebook Marketplace!

Bargains…

You’ll be surprised how many good deals are on those marketplace sites. However, do your due diligence. I’ve seen some people charge stupid prices for heavily used equipment before. Sometimes the prices are more expensive than buying new ones! 

Another pain about buying second-hand is the fact that you have to be patient. Odds are, you won’t find the perfect piece of equipment at the right price the first time you look. Buying second-hand equipment requires patience. So make sure you keep tabs on the sites often and only buy the right things.

If you’re willing to be patient and wait for the right deal, then you can definitely get some great bargains though.

Building Your Own Equipment

If you’re good on the tools, you can certainly build your own exercise equipment as a cheap alternative.

You can build a bunch of equipment that’ll give you a project to do, along with a cost-effective way to get a wide range of equipment.

Many of the racks that you build will be a little different in performance than the metal racks you can buy, so make sure you play around with your routine to fit your new equipment.

There’s a heap of DIY Gym gear videos on YouTube that can give you tips on building equipment.

That video was a power rack, but there are plenty of other things you can make.

There’s even a way to make weight plates out of concrete!

Personally, I haven’t used the concrete plates before but they should work as long as you’re careful and don’t hit the concrete.

Obviously, not everyone has the space or know-how to build their own equipment. And hiring a professional or handyman to do it will probably cost more than buying new.

Buying New Gym Equipment On the Cheap

Buying second-hand equipment can be cheap, but it’s also super frustrating waiting for the right equipment to come up for sale. It’s a long process and you might have to wait years for the right equipment at the right price.

And while building equipment is good, you can’t build everything, and depending on your tools and knowhow, it may cost more to get the right equipment to build gym gear!

With that in mind, the crux of this guide will look at buying new gym equipment that’s cost-effective but still good quality.

There’s a wide range of places you can buy your equipment from, but I think Amazon is a great store for it. It has the widest range of equipment and with Amazon Prime, you can have gear delivered to you overnight!

Power Rack

If you’ve got the space, you should definitely be in the market for a squat rack or a power rack for your home gym.

If you’re on a budget though, you can make do with squat stands too.

You can check out our list of the best power racks here, or see some of our best picks below.

This is a great rack as it shows that you don’t have to spend $500+ to get a great rack. It obviously doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that other racks do, but if you’re looking for simple, this will work a treat

As this has the full power rack included, it is a heavy-duty piece of machine that’ll last a long time. If you’ve got the budget and the space, I’d definitely be looking at this rack – it’s also a far higher grade than one you’d make from timber at home.

Barbell

Of all the things we’ll look at here, one of the pieces of equipment where you really notice the difference in quality when you go up a price category is the dumbbell which may surprise you.

Simply, you get what you pay for here.

Having said that though, we will include some barbells that come in at a decent price-point.

This barbell is a mid-price barbell if you’re running a gym, but for a home-gym this would be the top-end of what you should be paying price-wise.

The CAP Barbell Warrior Bar is designed for heavy loads for Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and cross-training. So, if you’re used to living heavy, this should do the trick. The bar is a top pick for professional weightlifters and club owners. It’s long-lasting too, so you’ll pay once, instead of buying cheap and having to buy twice. 

  • 230,000 PSI tensile strength steel
  • 2 x 10 pin needle bearings and 2 over-sized oil-impregnated bushings provide an extremely smooth spin and prevent the bar from bending
  • The 16.35” loadable sleeve length allows plenty of room to fit Olympic weights or Olympic Bumper weights when going heavy
  • This bar weighs 20KG (standard 44 LB) and has a shaft diameter of 28mm.

This bar packs a punch. I see plenty of people who use this bar aimed at “beginners” easily throw 350 or even 400 on the bar with no problems! However, it’s important to know that the manufacturer says it has a 200 max. So there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to put on double that without the bar bending out of shape.

Plates

Unless you’re making concrete plates like the videos above, the biggest question you’ll ask yourself is if you want iron plates or bumper plates. This will really come down to your lifting style.

If you’re just going to be powerlifting, doing some bar work, or using plate-loaded machines, then iron plates will be fine.

Otherwise, you’ll want bumper plates which will also be a better fit on most floors too. Although, we’ll chat about flooring options later on.

If you’re looking to buy iron plates, look to buy second-hand. You’ll likely find a great price on iron plates – sometimes even under 50c/lb. If you can buy at that rate, jump at it. 

The beauty about players. No matter how old they get, 45lbs of iron is still 45lbs.

Otherwise, if you’re looking for bumper plates, these from Amazon are probably one of your best bets.

Bench

Weight benches can be very cost-effective (which is awesome!). When it comes to the bench there isn’t really too much that separates the top few. They all do a great job.

The only thing you’ve really got to think about is the mobility you’re after. Do you want a stable flat bench, one with limited movement (a three-point), or full mobility?

You can check out our list of the best weight benches here, or check out some of my favorite options below.

For the price, this bench has everything you’ll need. It’s comfortable, folds away for storage, and has a wide range of movements – seven baskrest, three seat, & two foot pad positions!

If you’re after something a little different and low on space, this could be a decent option. This step also folds into a bench which is more than enough for dumbbell training. However, if you’re doing heavy barbell work, I’d look at our first option.

Dumbbells

If you’re long for bang-for-your-buck, dumbbells are the way to go. They can be used in almost an endless number of ways when working out and take up hardly any space.

You don’t need the full rack like in a commercial gym (although, that’s the dream if you have space), adjustable dumbbells will do the trick – or simply just a few set weights that you use a lot.

Check out our list of the best dumbbells here, or see some picks below.

The PowerBlock 5-50 adjustable dumbell is an incredibly compelling choice for many garage gym owners. The are good quality, take up hardly any room and pretty cost-effective.

There’s also add-one you can buy to increase the weight, which is good too.

The PowerBlock has a pin system too, so changing weights is quick. There’s nothing worse than having the old cast iron dumbbells where you’ve got to unscrew the cap and new weights every time you want to add or remove weights – then after a while the cap will start to un-do while you’re lifting.

While I just ragged on these spinning dumbbell handles, I can’t deny they don’t have their place in a home gym.

  • They’re easy to use
  • They save space
  • They’re cost-effective
  • They make use of the plates you’ve already got

If you’ve already got a range of plates, these dumbbell handles are a great option.

Kettlebells and TRX

I’ve lumped these two together for a number of reasons.

  1. They’re both incredibly versatile
  2. They can be used in the smallest spaces
  3. They’re cost-effective
  4. Once I had to move for work and was in a tiny apartment. I was able to create enough of a workout routine with just a TRX and a Kettlebell – so personally, they’ll forever be linked.

If you want to see our list of the best kettlebells for a home gym, you can read our article. Otherwise, see our picks for both pieces of equipment below.

These soft kettlebells are great for home gyms that don’t have the proper flooring. They’ll also save any bumps and bruises that come from dropping the weight or accidentally banging it against your knee when you’re not paying attention because a great podcast is playing (totally not a story taken from experience).

Talk about a space saver! This grip will attach to a dumbbell and transform it into a kettlebell. Great as an add-on or if you’re trying to go as lean as possible equipment-wise.

Rep is a go-to brand for many home gym enthusiasts. They make great gear that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to buy. This kettlebell is no different. I’ve included the heavy one here to show the max price, but you can buy a wide-range is sizes which obviously are a range of prices.

You can find TRX alternatives that are cheaper, but the quality isn’t as good – especially when you’re buying online. If you’re going to be suspended at a 45-degree angle facing down to the ground, the last thing you’ll want is a dodgy suspension trainer to break or slip – unless you’re into having a black eye or a broken nose.

You can do so much with a TRX and I think they’re a great addition to any home gym.

They’re also a handy thing to have because of how portable they are. You can keep them in your garage gym, but also take them with you if you have to travel.

Gym Machines

Now, gym machines are usually pretty pricey and many-single movement machines are will fit outside most people’s budgets or space-requirements. However, if you are interested, here are some articles for further reading on the topic.

Cardio/Conditioning Machines

Historically, as a general rule, cardio or conditioning machines aren’t exactly cheap. However, that isn’t the case these days. Now, technology is a lot cheaper to produce so you can find great equipment that’s in most budgets. Here are some of our articles on the topic.

Or, check out our article on Treadmill vs Elliptical vs Rower, to see which equipment you should use. Otherwise, here is my personal favorite for those who are space-conscious.

This elliptical transforms into a bike, which is great for those who want to save space.

If you’re lacking the space for even a bike/elliptical though, you can still get a sweat on from a jump-rope.

However, if you really want to punish yourself and don’t mind spending extra to do so, a good assault bike will really get you sweating.

The original and the best. The assault bike is the ultimate cardio workout you can do on a machine. Honestly, I’m cracking a sweat just looking at the pictures.

If it’s in your budget and you like to do a lot of high-intensity interval training, then this bike is the best choice for you.

Other Must-Haves

You know you need a lot more than just equipment. You need to make sure your space is functional. Here are some articles on getting your garage gym ready to handle even the toughest workout.

When it comes to cooling your home gym in the summer, here’s your best option.

It’s also important to know that depending on your home gym and space you’re using (along with where you live), you may need two fans to make sure the garage is kept cool. You’ll need one air to move cool air in, and another to move the hot air out and stop it re-circulating through your space.

Pricing Options

Okay, so you’ve got this far. That means you’ve either read through the entire article or skipped straight through to here when you saw it in the contents.

Anyway, here is a list of pricing options that you can use.

Absolute Budget Option

If you have a lack of space and a limited budget, you’ll want versatile equipment. For me, that would be:

  • Kettlebell
  • TRX
  • Jump Rope

You can buy top-shelf for all of these items and it’ll cost you around $200-$400, depending on the weight of your kettlebell. Honestly, that’s a pretty good starting point and more than enough to get you started.

Entry-Level Full Gym

If you want something a little more like a full gym, I’d buy don’t have the budget, I’d go with the following combo.

  • A full power rack
  • Barbell
  • A set of bumper plates
  • A bench
  • Speed rope
  • Dumbbell Handles
  • Kettlebell Grip

All in all, you can probably get away with spending under $1200 for the complete package. That’s a great entry point for most who want the full gym experience in their home.

And, depending on what you’d pay in a commercial gym, you’ll make that money back quickly.

Budget Level Home Gym Setup

If you want to up the price a little, there are a few things you could buy depending on your space. I’ll list them in order of priority.

  • A better power rack
  • Higher quality barbell
  • More weight plates
  • Cardio and conditioning equipment (if the assault bike is in your price range, I’d go for that first as it’s something that’s harder to replicate without equipment)

Final Thoughts on Building a Home or Garage Gym on a Budget

We’ve looked at a few price points for home gym gear that you can look at when you’re building your first home gym.

It’s super important to remember though, you don’t need the perfect set up straight away. It should take you years to get your entire gym together. What’s important though, is that you’re always looking for bits and pieces to add or improve what you’ve already got.

You can flip things (sell what you’ve got and upgrade), continue to browse second-hand markets, and build your own equipment when necessary.

Either way, start with something achievable. There’s no shame in starting small. You can condition with just a kettlebell, your body weight, and a TRX while you slowly upgrade.

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