Before 2020 rolled around, working out at home was something mostly only done by Yogis, people obsessed with bodyweight movements, and hardcore lifters. Then we entered the year of Covid, everything got weird, gyms shut down, and everyone was left with 2 choices; become a slob or invest in gym equipment for the house. Now, garage gyms are more popular than ever with kettlebells, dumbbells, and plates even being hard to find for purchase over the course of the last 12 months.
Working out at home has more benefits than just being able to get in a sweat in the event gyms shut down. Much like everything else in life, the less friction you have between you and your goal, the more likely you are to reach success. If you want to fight the “dad bod” give yourself fewer chances of making excuses.
How many times have you wanted to start hitting the gym before you head into work or when you finish for the day only to find yourself losing motivation to pack your bag, grab all your supplements, drive to the gym, park, and find an empty locker only to be forced to wait for each machine to open up so you can take your turn? Each one of these small events sucks just a little bit of motivation out, but it all adds up to you deciding to “just do it tomorrow”.
Now I know what you are thinking, “but I can’t afford all the equipment”. I think you will be surprised by just how easy and affordable it can be, and that’s what we want to do in this article. Help you build a budget-friendly garage gym that is still functional.
Working Out At Home: A Guide
Here at Never Weaken we are obsessed with garage gyms that are both functional and budget friendly. Like with most things when it comes to garage gyms we are big fans of getting the most bang for your buck. We have made the mistakes of buying equipment that never gets used so you don’t have to.
In this article, we will begin by discussing different setups for garage & home gyms depending on what style of working out you prefer, necessary and unnecessary equipment, and budget hacks. We will then discuss different programs and workout plans that pair well with a garage gym.
By the time you are done reading this, you will find yourself placing orders and waiting for the FedEx truck to arrive.
Working Out At Home: The Essentials
As with anything else building a garage can get expensive fast. I have seen some people whose gym costs more than the cars they drive, and they don’t drive 89 Corollas either. Just like if you are really into playing pool there are pool cues that cost over 5,000.00. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case. That is why we are here to help.
For getting started on barebones minimum we suggest for working out at home are the following pieces of equipment.
Weight Plates (Rubber or Iron)
Squat Rack with a pull-up bar
The 6 items listed above are what we think are one hundred percent necessary when building out a basic garage gym & home gym to be able to get an effective workout at home. Of course there are a thousand more items you could add, but lets hold off on that for a little bit.
One thing I do want to note is that budget does not mean cheap. When it comes to working out at home cheap equipment will break, cause you to not want to workout as much, and overall be less satisfying to you.
I once tried to buy a budget multi-grip bar from amazon to save a few dollars. Within a few months, the end of the barbell literally fell off while I was doing skull crushers. Turns out the ends were bolted on, not welded.
*A lot of the equipment I am going to mention here is from Rogue Fitness. I have chosen to do this because I have always had a great experience with their equipment, it is made in Columbus, Ohio, and is reasonably priced. Sorinex is another fantastic brand but tends to be a bit more on the pricey side.
Olympic barbells come in a variety of specifications, prices, and options. In my opinion, the barbell is going to be the most important purchase you make when it comes to building out a garage gym you are happy with.
The type of barbell you buy will also take into account what your goal is. Do you want to perform standard compound lifts I.E bench press, squat, overhead press, and deadlift, or do you want to dabble around with Olympic lifts I.E The clean and jerk and snatch? Believe it or not, these two types of lifts require different specifications of a barbell. They will have different knurl patterns ( the part of the bar that has the rough pattern where you grip), be made out of different material sometimes, have different ball bearings, tensile strength, and even whip (the amount the bar bends).
It is a rabbit hole you can go down deep on if you are not careful.
Olympic Bars I recommend For Working Out At Home
Standard Compound Lifts: Rogue Ohio Bar $300.00 (This was my first barbell I purchased and still using it 8 years later) Titan Fitness Atlas Bar $224.00 (Solid reviews for a budget multi-purpose bar)
Olympic Lifts: Rogue Olympic Bar $585.00 ( This one’s cost is almost double, but if you are looking to master the art of the Olympic lifts it is a necessity). The one hidden secret though is to look at the Rogue Fitness Boneyard Bars collection. These are bars that did not pass the strict inspection of Rogue Fitness before selling and are typically half price just due to incorrect knurling or scratches. I was able to pick up the Olympic bar for 285 a couple of years back. Not bad!
Main Things To Look For When Shopping For an Olympic Barbell
Coating I.E Stainless Steel, Black Oxide, Cerakote
Bearings and Bushings
It goes without saying that without weight plates your barbell would be useless unless you never plan to lift more than 45lbs, but since you are reading this on The Never Weaken blog I am going to assume that is not the case.
Just like with barbells, when choosing which weight plates to buy there are a few different considerations to take into account.
Do you want iron or rubber plates? This is the biggest question to ask yourself. Iron plates have been the industry standard for years and work great for any standard lift you may want to do. They are also relatively cheaper and easier to find used on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace than bumper plates.
Bumper Plates A.K.A rubber plates have spiked in popularity thanks to CrossFit and are great when used for lifts that involve slamming the weight back down on the ground I.E Clean and Jerk and Snatch. Bumper plates also come in handy when you want to use them to stand on for certain exercises as well. Outside of those two situations, going with iron plates and saving the money might be the move to make.
Steel Plates: Honestly, the best place to look is your local Craigslist, Facebook Market Place, or Garage sales. Will almost always find good deals on these.
Squat Rack With Pull Up Bar
The Squat rack is going to be the biggest initial purchase you have to make and it is vital that you do not just go with the cheapest option. Don’t believe me? Next time you are in a Dicks Sporting Goods go back to their gym section and take a look at their cheap squat racks. They are flimsy, wobbly, and feel like they would collapse within 3 months. Also, with the proper purchase, your squat rack will last essentially forever.
Why is the squat rack so important? This is going to be the home base for your gym when working out at home. This one piece of equipment will be where you spend most of your time between squats, bench press, overhead press, bodyweight rows, pull-ups, deadlifts. Also, many of the better squat racks will allow for adding on pieces as you go I.E Dip bar etc..
Also, by getting one with a pull-up bar you have now eliminated one more thing you have to worry about purchasing, installing, making room for. It should be a no-brainer.
The One Squat Rack I Recommend For Working Out At Home
*Important to note that a large number of racks will require you to bolt them down to the floor. If you do not want to deal with concrete screws, make sure it is not required of the rack you are looking at.
When I made the initial purchase of my garage gym equipment I was trying to be as frugal as possible without sacrificing quality. So what did I do? I bought a flat bench to save money and I have unfortunately regretted it ever since.
If you have strict budget constraints the flat bench may be the way to go, but if you have a few extra dollars to shell out look into a bench that can incline as well.
Why An Adjustable Incline Bench For Working Out At Home?
Remember, the goal of setting up a garage gym is to find pieces that are versatile and can be used for multiple exercises and body parts. An adjustable incline bench does just that. You can use for it incline bench press, flat bench press, dumbbell rows, seated overhead press, variations of dumbell curls etc.
Bands are one of the most versatile and underrated pieces of equipment for your garage gym when it comes to working out at home.
You can use them to warm up, virtually do any exercise with them, and use them with your barbells and dumbbells to increase resistance while working on building more power in your lifts. The Best part is they are inexpensive.
You can find these all across Amazon, but I have found the quality to not be very good, and the cheaper bands usually just come in increments of light, medium, and heavy. I would recommend staying away from these. If you pay a little bit more you can pick up durable bands that will be the exact resistance you want and even come in pairs.
Bands I Recommend For Working Out At Home
Rogue Monster Bands $16-$61 Depending on the resistance level you need. Over the last 6 years I have only had one band tear and thats because my kids play with them and they are capable of breaking literally anything.
I use the light bands often for shoulder and back warm-ups, curl and push down burnout sets, and will often attach them to the ends of my barbell for squats and deadlifts to work on increasing my power in lifts.
In my opinion a jump rope is necessary for two main reasons 1. For warming up, getting the heart rate up, and getting a sweat going 2. To use in between lifts to keep your heart rate up or if you ever want to do a circut with both strength lifts and cardio
You can pick up a decent jump rope anywhere including amazon. Look for a speed rope when picking one out. If you are new to jumping rope with a speed rope just be aware that it will sting like you have no idea when it smacks you in the back.
You should now be ready to confidently purchase your first garage gym. Just make sure you tell your spouse first…Trust me on this one.