Building a Home Gym on a Budget

There are so many good reasons to workout from home that it’s almost impossible to list them all in just one article. If you workout at home then this means that you will be far more likely to find the motivation on days when you don’t have much energy to workout. No longer do you have to face a commute to the gym which may or may not involve walking through rain and wet weather, and no longer do you need to worry about people watching you train and sweat. Instead you get privacy, you don’t have to cue, you can get there and back in less than a minute and you can watch whatever you want on TV while you train.

With all this in mind it’s a wonder more people don’t have their own home gyms. Most likely the reasons though come down to budget and lack of knowhow. In the long run a home gym will save you a huge amount of money as you won’t be paying for an expensive membership somewhere which can very realistically cost you upward of $100 a month. At the same time you won’t need to pay for petrol or parking each time you go. However it does require some upfront investment and you will find that to get the basic equipment that you need to start training you still have to put some money in up front.

Here then we will look at how to go about constructing a home gym with a relatively small amount of cash and minimal knowhow. Like an episode of Blue Peter if it was directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Essentials

First of all you need to understand what the essentials of a gym workout are. Recognize that little of what we use in the gym is actually essential and you don’t need to have countless high tech machines in order to get started. Rather, all you actually need is a few items that can count as your ‘staples’ and from there you can work out every part of your body to a satisfactory degree. The rest you can do with your own bodyweight, or using a range of other items.


The first staple of your training is dumbbells and here is something that you can’t really do without. Dumbbells can be used in a variety of ways to train the upper body, and anything where you press, curl or lift weight can be accomplished by holding two dumbbells. Bodyweight training can be enough for you to train your pecs, your shoulders, your abs and much more, but in order to train your biceps and lats you will need to have dumbbells (unless you subscribe to the self-resistance training described by Charles Atlas). These shouldn’t be too expensive at first – you can buy good sets for around $30. When you buy them though, make sure you leave room for increasing the weight. You want dumbbells that have long ends and brackets for sealing the weights on so that you can add as many weight plates as you see fit.

Some Kind of CV

If you want to lose weight and tone up your stomach then all you need to achieve that is some kind of CV training (cardiovascular training). Many people will benefit from having some kind of machine for this and will want a treadmill or rowing machine. These aren’t really necessary though as you can always use a skipping rope to burn fat, or just run around the block. However make sure you have some kind of facility to burn fat, so if the block isn’t suitable for running buy that rope.

Additional Extras

A Bench

Actually, the only things you need are the dumbbells. You can train your pecs with dumbbells for instance by lying on the floor and doing pec flies. However if you want to open your workouts up a lot and to allow for many more creative and intensive movements, then you should consider adding a bench. Now using your dumbbells you can do dumbbell presses, and you can also do tricep kickbacks, seated curls, bent over rows and a lot more than you simply wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

Of course if you’re using dumbbells rather than a barbell then this doesn’t have to be an expensive bench, you can look into any narrow bench and simply add some padding to it to make things more comfortable for you when you’re lying on the surface bearing heavy weights.

A Pull Up Bar

A pull up bar is probably the ultimate piece of training equipment for your lats and biceps and is great for toning up your abs too. You can do a vast range of exercises from a pull up bar from plain pull ups to chin ups to leg raises, and it will get you tired and aching quickly which is a hall mark of any good training routine. It’s incredibly versatile and at only around $10 (or less) it’s an ideal investment for a budget home gym.

A Barbell

A barbell can help you to make much more use of the bench as well as offering a range of exercises on its own. This will provide the possibility of bench presses, deadlifts, clean and presses, skull crushes, pull overs and barbell curls among others.

This is really not only all you need for a basic home gym, but close enough to all you need in any case. While you can find a whole range of superfluous training gizmos and gadgets, most of them don’t do anything that you can’t mimic yourself with some creativity and a pair of dumbbells.

As You Progress

Of course as you progress you will want to add to your selection of gym equipment. The best way to do this is simply to add more weight plates to the dumbbells and barbells to make them heavier. Once you reach a certain point you might want to have multiple dumbbells and barbells so that you can do fast drop sets and quickly swap from heavy to light weights for a range of movements. This will get quite expensive when you consider you pay $10-20 for every 10kg you add, but over the amount of time you use them it actually represents a huge saving over buying a gym membership.

Creative Solutions

The benefit of those aforementioned gym ‘gimmicks’ (such as bullworkers, ab rollers, press up stands etc) is that they can help you to target the muscles in a slightly different way, and that they force you to be more creative with your workouts and to try something a little different. This then ends up working different muscles and that helps to make the workout more difficult and to ‘shock’ your body into action.

There’s no reason though that you can’t do the same thing with a range of inventive gym workouts that you use yourself. For instance try doing press ups using an array of chairs arranged into a triangle rather than using press up stands – you can actually go lower this way. Likewise you can use chairs to dip. You can use a dry cloth on a shiny floor too to slide backward and forward and that means you won’t need an ab roller. Roller blades on your hands as well can help you to do the same thing.

One great creative piece of gym equipment you can use is to tie a rope to a pull up bar. You can then use this to train all kinds of muscle groups and especially your grip and forearm strength. Anything large and heavy that you can pick up from a concrete slab to a boulder to a log from a felled tree, can be used for a range of compound exercises. There are also a huge range of exercises you can do simply with your bodyweight and some of these can be quite challenging. Think bodyweight training is beneath you at this stage? Then you clearly haven’t tried doing handstand press-ups yet.

And if you want to train your biceps but don’t want to buy a pull up bar or dumbbells? Well even that is possible if you have a tree branch or a suitcase you can fill with heavy items.

In short there are hundreds of exercises you can do and you certainly don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive gimmicks you’ll only use once or machines that do everything including the washing up. In fact the less there is to get in between you and the hard work, the better your training will be.

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