Building a home gym can be an expensive project. Unfortunately, most of us don't have a couple of grand allocated to such a project. This means that you need to be smart with your purchases. You can still build an incredible home gym on a tight budget; you just need to know where to shop and what to prioritize.
In this article, we will discuss some of the many tips and tricks you can use to build a home gym on a budget.
Table of Contents
- What is Considered a ‘Budget’ Home Gym?
- Why Build a Budget Home Gym?
- How Much Does it Cost to Build a Garage Gym?
- What Should I put in my Garage Gym?
- How to Build a Garage Gym on a Budget
- Cheap Mirrors for Garage Gym
- Cheap Crossfit Garage Gym Ideas
- Cheap Garage Gym Flooring
- Money-Saving Tips
- Be Patient
What is Considered a ‘Budget’ Home Gym?
A budget home gym is what we call a space that has been designated within your house to be turned into a gym. Most people use their garage, but there are no rules on where you can have your home gym. We have seen some epic attic gyms as well as a couple of gyms built down in a cellar.
A budget home gym is one that has been built with cost in mind. This differs from a full-blown full-cost home gym. There is an art form to doing things as cheaply as possible. In budget home gyms, you might find everyday household objects recommissioned into workout equipment as well as second-hand weights, benches, and bars.
Functionality reigns king when building a garage gym on a budget.
Why Build a Budget Home Gym?
Long Term Savings
Although the initial setup can cost a fair chunk of your hard-earned dollars, you will never have to pay for a gym membership ever again. This means that a home-gym setup pays for itself eventually.
Gym equipment may also seem like an initially high cost but if you are smart about how and what you purchase then this will also saev you money.
Easy Home Workouts
The biggest reason that most turn to building a budget home gym is the convenience. You are the boss and owner of a home gym. This means that you set the opening times.
Having a gym at your house means you no longer have to travel too. A 15-minute journey to and from a gym adds up to 5.7 days of your life a year. Removing this journey will give you longer to work out and more time to spend with your family.
Want to do some strength training at 2 am? Sure thing.
Want to listen to Barbie Girl by Aqua while smashing some bicep curls? Who's going to be around to judge?
You don't even have to wear clothes if you don't want to. Just make sure your kids don't walk-in at the end of your 30 minutes of naked cardio. Nobody needs to see that.
Exercise in Private
The gym can be an intimidating place. If you are tired of the grunting steroid jacked hulks taking all of the plates and dumbbells for their 500 rep 20 set superset or the gym bunnies hogging the treadmill, a private home gym could be the cure.
In the privacy of your own space, you can work on your pull-ups in peace or work on new movements without being judged.
You will also never have to sit around waiting for a machine to come free.
How Much Does it Cost to Build a Garage Gym?
The average cost of building a home gym tends to be in the region of $1000-1500, depending on your choices. If you are on a budget, you can reduce that cost to around $500-750 if you are willing to buy second-hand and build some of the equipment yourself.
There are lots of guides online for building things like a DIY platform or a dumbbell rack as long as you have some basic DIY knowledge. If you want higher-quality or new equipment, you can spend as much as you want.
While this may seem expensive at first, let's break it down.
Let's imagine that you have managed to set up your perfect home gym space for $2000, which is a higher cost than the average build.
The average cost of a standard gym membership over 10 years is nearly $7000. That means you will make a saving of over $5000 over 10 years. And that is just the money talking.
In a home gym, you save over 50% more of your time on average compared to a normal gym-goer. You are also 30% more likely to work out than those who have to travel to their commercial gym.
So garage gyms mean you will save money, time and you will end up working out more. No brainer? We think so.
What Should I put in my Garage Gym?
Dumbbells (Not Expensive)
A good set of dumbbells is the best starting point for most people building a garage gym. If all you have at the moment is the budget to buy a set of dumbbells, then that is where you should spend your money.
You can do a lot with just a basic bench and a range of dumbbells. This will allow you to workout from the very beginning while you save up and buy the rest of the equipment.
If you have quite a tight area to work with, buying a good set of adjustable dumbbells can be a great way to save space.
Kettlebells (Not Expensive)
Kettlebells are another piece of really versatile equipment. Dumbbells are excellent for building mass and isolating specific muscles. Kettlebells are perfect for conditioning and rehab.
If you want to train your core and build explosive power, they are second to none.
Good kettlebells are also pretty cheap; you can find them both new and second-hand at an incredible price.
Cardio Equipment (Cheap up to Expensive)
Pieces of equipment designed for cardio, like Treadmills and Air Bikes, can be one of the highest costs for any garage gym on a budget.
So firstly, you should make sure that you really want one. Running outside is free, and you can do HIIT workouts without the need for fancy equipment.
You will need to consider whether you have the space to sacrifice.
Power Rack (Cheap up to Expensive)
Your power rack/squat rack is going to be the centerpiece of your garage gym. If the budget allows, you should try to buy a full power rack if possible, but a second-hand squat rack can be a great stand-in while you save up for the full power rack.
Buying a squat rack/power rack or a squat stand will allow you to do some of the harder compound lifts. This makes it an important purchase as it will allow you to feel more like you are at an actual gym.
Barbell (Cheap up to Expensive)
One place where you don't want to cheap out is your barbell. This is one piece of garage gym equipment that you should buy new if possible. High-quality barbells can be picked up for around $300.
A poor quality bar will cause a number of problems. Firstly, the bar might bend over time. This can be dangerous. You don't want a bent bar while bench pressing; for example, you might not be able to get it back onto your rack.
A low-quality bar may also have poor quality plating and knurl. This means that over time you might start to wear the protective layer off your bar. This will reduce grip and may even result in rust and metal wearing off onto your palms.
Plates (Cheap up to Expensive)
Depending on your workout style, you will need to decide whether you want bumper plates or traditional iron plates. Both styles have their own benefits.
Iron plates can usually be found cheaper second-hand, but they cause a lot of noise when you drop them. Bumper plates are generally harder to find, so you might need to buy them new, but they make a lot less noise.
Plates are one of the best pieces of equipment to buy second-hand. If you head to Craigslist, you may be able to find a full set from a gym for relatively little.
Bench (Not Expensive)
A good bench will be crucial if you want to get the most out of your garage gym.
This is another piece of equipment that may be better if you bought new. Even a brand new flat bench will tend to be affordable.
This is going to be your throne, so spending a little here will massively enhance your experience. A second-hand flat bench might be a bit worn.
How to Build a Garage Gym on a Budget
What Do You Need?
The first thing you need to work out is what you actually need for the kind of workouts you like to do. There is no point buying a full cardio setup with expensive bikes and a treadmill if you hate cardio.
If you like bodybuilding, focus on the weights and the rack. These are the most important things necessary for your kind of training.
If you like Crossfit, make sure you purchase bumper plates and kettlebells.
If you prefer bodyweight exercises and calisthenics, then you might want to look at getting a pull-up bar and some dip bars.
Even if you intend to eventually own all of this equipment, figuring out what you need first will help you prioritize your budget.
Building Your Own Equipment
You can save a lot of money if you are good at DIY. There are hundreds of different guides online that you can follow. You can build racks to hold your plates or a platform for lifting.
You can even get creative. A friend of mine built a power-sled. It was pretty simple, a couple of old skis and a single metal pole we could load plates onto, but it was incredibly efficient for hardcore cardio bursts. It took him a few hours, but it gave us a whole summer of amazing unique workouts.
If you need some inspiration, this E-Book is a great place to start.
Buying Used Equipment
The best way to build a budget-friendly garage gym on the cheap is to source your equipment from second-hand sellers. Online marketplaces like Craigslist are a great place to start.
If you find someone selling a piece of equipment like a dumbbell, look at their profile. This way, you might be able to spot someone who is selling a lot of equipment. You may be able to approach them and negotiate a deal for multiple pieces.
Building a budget-friendly garage gym can take time, so be patient if you find something you like, don't jump straight in and pay over the odds. This is a game that takes patience, but there is always another seller.
Buying second-hand is also the best way to buy all of the small stuff that would cost a fortune if you bought it new. You can get a pull-up bar for 20% of what they cost new.
A pull-up bar is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment, and getting one for this cheap is a god-send. This is the same for stall mats and iron plates, your flat bench, power racks, and other training equipment like a jump rope or squat stands. Wait for the right deal, and your budget-friendly garage gym will take shape in no time.
Buying New Gym Equipment
Unfortunately, not every piece of equipment can be found second-hand. You won't want every piece of equipment to be second-hand anyway.
Some things can be bought new. They will either be the important items like your barbell, or they will be things that are cheap to buy new like your adjustable bench. These can make your garage gym feel a little more professional. Plus, it's nice to work out on a new bench anyway, right?
When it comes to buying new training equipment, you need to be just as savvy as you are when you are buying used. High-quality gym equipment can be expensive, but it's also an extremely competitive market. This means that there are always regular sales and deals to be taken advantage of. You just need to be alert.
Cheap Mirrors for Garage Gym
A good mirror set up in your garage gym can bring enormous benefits. Being able to see your form is always good for building muscle-mind connections. This is especially important for movements where you don't have a good vision of what you are doing.
Good mirrors also have the benefit of making your home gym area look a lot bigger. They also spread the light better. This makes them the perfect addition to a smaller garage gym.
We often get asked what the best gym mirrors are. Most of the time, though, we don't use a specific brand of mirrors designed for the gym.
Where to get cheap mirrors for my garage gym?
If you want to go for the cheapest possible route, you can simply head to Target or Walmart. These stores sell hanging door mirrors for as little as $10 per mirror.
If you get the frameless variety, you can simply stick them to the wall in sequence to create a full wall of mirrors for minimal cost.
The only problem with this method is that they are plastic, not glass. This means if they are mounted onto a surface that isn't quite level, they can give off distorted reflections like a fun-house.
If you have a larger budget, you should head over to Lowes or Home Depot; both these shops sell vanity mirrors with a low price tag suitable for a fitness space.
If you want a premium DIY garage gym mirror, then you should take a look at Fab Glass and Mirror. They offer safety glass panels for gyms from as low as $300 for a 50x90" sheet.
Cheap Crossfit Garage Gym Ideas
For those that want to kit out their garage gym specifically for Crossfit workouts, then you should make sure that your bumper plates, power rack, and barbell are of the highest quality.
For this kind of setup, it is probably wisest to keep it simple but high quality instead of buying a full gym kit. Companies like Rogue offer a great design for this, costing under $1500 for a full bumper plate setup, foldable power rack, and Rogue 2.0 barbell.
Cheap Garage Gym Flooring
Gym flooring can range from cheap to expensive, depending upon the brand that you use. Often the commercial gym flooring packs cost more than they are worth.
You can kit your gym out with high-quality cheap flooring for relatively little if you shop in the right places.
The best way to do this is to purchase a set of rubber tiles that interlock. These floors can take a beating due to their rubber design and are easy to install, uninstall, and clean.
If you are into CrossFit, you might want to consider purchasing larger mats. These mats have a lower trip hazard compared to standard flooring.
The Facebook marketplace has become one of our favorite places for finding good deals on used equipment. You can get in touch with people close by instantly and chat with them about the item.
You can message multiple people quickly and easily. Because things are free to list on the Facebook marketplace, people don't need to spend money listing their items. This makes it more likely that people will list their items, especially if they are low-cost ones like plates and dumbbells.
While many people know of the amazing deals you can get on your electronics during Black-Friday, less know that the fitness industry throws similar deals at the same time.
This is by far the best chance you will get at purchasing the higher quality brands at a discount. This means you can spend the same amount and get an even better piece of equipment, or you can save money on what you were going to spend.
Buy Refurbished or Demo Equipment
Many of the biggest and best manufactures have a section on their website where they list equipment that has some small manufacturing issues or has been on display at a show or in a store.
These items are usually only marked cosmetically and can be a great way to get a discount on high-quality equipment.
Don't Buy Gimmicks
With the fitness industry so competitive, gimmicky equipment has flooded the market. These items tend to be high-priced and make claims that they cannot keep. Fitness equipment you have seen during cheesy daytime television ads has no place in a true gym. They are just a waste of your money.
Don't Skimp on Certain Items
This one is really important. Don't be suckered into buying low-quality pieces of equipment by the price. Equipment like barbells can be hazardous if they are low-quality. They may be fine for several years, but once you start piling on higher weights, they might bend and warp to the point where they snap or become impossible to re-rack.
Remember the old saying, "Buy Cheap, Buy Twice." These pieces of equipment might be cheaper in the short run, but when you have to buy them a second time, you end up spending more.
Save Shipping Money by Buying All-At-Once
Weightlifting equipment can be costly to ship. The shipping cost for heavy items like power racks can be eye-watering. For this reason, it makes good sense to purchase as much as you can during a single purchase. The shipping cost will most likely be the same for one item as it is for 4-5. This means that buying all your equipment at once can save you hundreds of dollars.
If you can't afford to buy all at once, try and group heavy items together like your plates and power rack.
Buy Items 1 at a Time
I know this is counter-productive to the last tip but hear me out.
Many of us get so engrossed by the idea of our garage gym that we end up spending lots of money on items that we don't need.
A good way to stop this is to buy one item at a time every couple of weeks. Make sure you stick to one item. This will help you decide what is really necessary and save you a ton of money.
If you have to spend two weeks waiting for your next piece of equipment, you are much more likely to make a sensible decision on what to buy next.
Horse Stall Mats
A while ago, a new garage gym trend emerged. Someone realized that Horse Stall Mats are perfect for the gym. They are thicker, fit together in the same way, and have a higher build quality than your average gym flooring. The amazing thing is that they cost less too.
Fitness equipment is usually more expensive than it is worth. This means manufacturers add costs on they don't need to.
Horse Stall Mats can be picked up from any local Tractor Supply.
Many of the biggest manufacturers offer a package deal where they include all of the basics necessary to set up a garage gym. These can be outstanding deals but make sure you do your research into each item offered.
This kind of deal may be perfect for someone who has absolutely nothing, but they may include items you already have or don't need.
Our final tip, and perhaps the most important one, is to remain patient. Everybody wants their garage gym to look like it does in their dreams straight away, but thinking like this will cost you money.
Your gym will look like that in the end but remember, all the little stuff adds up. A fully equipped garage gym like the one in your dreams is full of $4000-5000 worth of equipment and decor.
Focus on creating the perfect gym for your workouts and fill in the spaces later on. This gym is going to be your sanctum for as long as you want it to be. Just like the perfect body, it will take time to craft.
Carving out space in your own home where you can work on yourself can be immensely rewarding. Don't let the stress of it ruin the fun.
Do what you can, keep an eye out for the best deals, and keep putting the effort in.
Your garage gym is like a new plant; you need to water it with your blood and sweat for it to become the space you need it to be.