The 10 Best (And First) Equipment Purchases For Your Garage Gym
Equipment is an integral part to not just building a home gym, but for the goal of general health and fitness itself! While there are almost endless variations of movements and workouts that require NO equipment at all, the addition adds in both challenge and more variation, a way to break up the burpees and situps and lunges.
Outfitting a complete gym all at once can run several thousand dollars at best, and the more ‘unusual’ equipment you have, that number can rise rapidly. Starting out for most people, a few items is the foundation to build on.
But what to get first?
Putting aside individualized or specialty goals, and “basics” like a jump rope, the focus should be on value-not just cost. Budget is the biggest factor of course, followed by space, but the ability to use a piece of equipment in the most ways possible, with frequency, ease, and with minimal real estate, is the true value in equipment.
This is my opinion on the 10 most valuable pieces of equipment for a home gym.
- Kettlebells: Easily the most value out there. A set of mid-weight kettlebells allows the most usage, as both single and double entities. Various swings and Olympic movements, presses, pulls, squats, carries, core work-almost every standardized movement can be done. They take up very little space-2, 4, even 6 bells can be lined up against a wall in a garage, a bedroom, a closet. Throw them in your car on a road trip, depending on the size, you may even be able to check them in in your suitcase on a plane. If I only had the ability to buy one thing (or a few), this is it.
- Dumbbells: Just about as versatile as kettlebells, a 1A if you will. You trade some of the more dynamic movements of the bell to static movements for accessory work and body building though. Any dumbbells will work, but it goes without saying that the “rubber hex” style of dumbbells is the best way to go.
- Rower/bike/ski erg: A big ticket, big real estate item. But if you can swing it, you’ve at least doubled your ‘cardio’ ability (running outside for free as the #1). If there’s inclement weather, this keep you dry and warm, they tend to be lower impact and a little more forgiving if your form isn’t the best (however there are online training tutorials you can do literally AS you do the work), I’m also a fan because they can work as a built in coach. Setting intervals keeps you on track, and also provides data that can show progress. It’s somewhat harder to measure your own stride rate, pacing and splits in the middle of a workout, where all this data is stored for you and acessable. The rowers are nice, as most offer the ability to easily take apart for storage. Search Craigslist etc often to try to score a good one second hand. (On that note: assume ANY used cardio equipment has been beat to shit-every post will say “used twice”. Unless it’s new in box, be sure you’re paying at least 20-30% below retail minimum)
- Medicine or Slam Balls: If you could only get one, I’d go slam. Again, you have a relatively inexpensive, smaller item, that can be used for a LOT more than wall balls. Med ball cleans, core movements, carries, and, if you get slam balls, all sorts of variances on the slam itself. They tend to be durable, and the quality across brands is pretty much the same. Unless the brand name is important to you, buy the cheapest one you can find, in a few weight options if you can.
- Pullup Bar: If it’s part of a rack, awesome-two for one! If it’s a door or ceiling mount, the next best option. Pullup variations are obvious, but the ability to hang straps or ropes is nice, a place to hang bands for stretching or accessory work is great, but the best part is they tend to be completely out of the way. You can buy a system online, or just some pipe from Home Depot and a little DIY ingenuity
- Barbell and Weights: Can get very costly (especially if you want a nice bar), a LOT of real estate, and possible weight issues-be sure your structure or gym area can support 400+ pounds in the same spot. Barbells are of course fantastic and open the door to so much, the limitiation is space and money. Almost everything with a barbell can be done with Kettle and Dumbbells, but if your focus is strength, you’ll need to move more than 50-100 pounds. Craigslist, local business or competitions, and constantly checking for online deals will help ease some of the cost. Shipping can be pricey, so factor that in your total cost: if 500lbs of plates is $500 plus $120 in shipping, then the 500 pounds at $600 with free shipping is STILL a savings of course!
- Box: For jumping, stretching, and sitting. A 3 sided soft plyo is worth the investment, over a wood one. Obviously, not bashing your shins is one reason, but it also makes it easier to move around. They’re moderately priced, the only reason they are ranked so low, is because of real estate cost, and actual usage. You could jump on a stack of plates, a bench, even up a few stairs, over a specific box.
- Rack: The main reason it is rated so low, is the real estate. Nice racks, with pullup bars, are not overly expensive. It’s just space based. If your focus is strength training predominantly, this is going to be a priority piece. Realistically, you could bring a bar from the floor for squats or presses-you’re just limited by what you can clean or snatch. Beyond strength training and gymnastics movements, racks are extremely versatile when it comes to stretching, accessory work, and storage (hanging rings, holding a barbell and bands, etc). I have never used a fold-flat rack, but people swear by them, and that obviously frees up a LOT of room.
- Bench: Bench press is the most obvious use, but can also be used for stretching, and an obstacle to jump over or on to. And adjustable one, while typically much more costly, does of course add versatility. If you don’t have a rack, it’s not really something you are going to need.
- Rings: If you have ceiling clearance, and a structure that can support the apparatus, a set of rings hanging from the rafters has a lot of versatility. Muscle ups and ring pullups are gimmees, and if you can purchase straps long enough, you can also drop them low enough to use for ring rows and ring dips. If muscle ups aren’t your thing, or you don’t have the ceiling clearance, they can hang from the rack. A nice variance on standard static bar movements. Rings are cheap, and take up little space, but not a necessity for most.
Beyond that, you start moving into specialty equipment. If you have space for these items, or they are part of your goals, great! Having a GHD is awesome, but at $500-$700, and a huge footprint, not really a Must Have (floor situps are free and the size of you!) As you begin to carve out your space, how you can maximize it, and what kind of goals you have, you can really begin to build out the perfect gym for YOU.
Venice Beach, CA
When I started my first garage gym with a Wife in nursing school and very little income, I was a Craigslist fiend. Seriously, there was not a soul on this planet that would out wheel and deal or get to the sellers’ location quicker than me. I’d show up so quickly that it would actually creep people out, but I was also able to pick up Concept 2 Rowers for under $400 and Airdyne’s for $10 (not exaggerating.) There are some things that you’re definitely going to want to buy new, it s one of the great benefits of a home gym, you get to use equipment only you use. Either because you know they’ll be in good condition or so it comes with a warranty, but for many of the heavier items, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are your new best friend.
100%. I’d find people to barter with too. I got my Rogue GHD by trading a sled and a set of truck tires