I am a big believer in home gyms. Even if you have a gym membership and want to keep it, a home gym will allow you to do more, accomplish more, and have more freedom in your fitness career. The stuff I’m going to recommend here will be useful whether you are a beginner with no gym membership or a gym rat who needs to be able to do more accessory work at home to keep progressing in the big lifts.
The biggest complaint I get about a home gym is that it’s “too expensive” and that there’s “no space” for one in your house/apartment/van. Well, here’s my solution, which you can use to train your entire body with infinite exercises and actually get results.
You need only a few items, and none of them take up much space:
1. Pull-Up Bar ($10-20)
You can make this yourself out of a metal pipe from the hardware store for a few bucks. You want to be able to screw it into either a wall or a ceiling in your garage, basement, or apartment (if you can find wall studs and if you are allowed to hang pictures, you can hang a pull-up bar). Don’t buy a doorway pull-up bar with foam handles, these are garbage and can’t support much weight anyway. Get something you can screw into a wall or ceiling and you’ll never need another one. There are many tutorials for building your own pull-up bar. Here’s one example of many:
The Pull-Up Bar will allow you to perform pull-ups and variations, as well as leg raises and various planche/flag moves, but more importantly, it will give you a place to hang the next two items:
2. Gymnastics Rings ($30-40)
These are the single most useful piece of exercise equipment you can buy. You can do almost anything with a pair of rings: pull-ups, dips, rows, chest presses, flyes, biceps, triceps, jump squats, pistols, trunk twists, one-legged burpees, the list is endless. More importantly, you can scale exercises very easily with rings so that even as a beginner you can get a lot of use out of them, and progress to harder versions and new exercises over time. You can get a good pair of rings on Amazon for about $30. Alternatively, you can get a suspension trainer for about the same price. The trade-offs are that the suspension trainer is easier to put your feet in, while the rings are sturdier and easier to support your whole body weight on. Hang these up on your pull-up bar and you are set.
3. Resistance Bands ($10-30)
Resistance bands can be used for all of the exercises mentioned above (rows, presses, arms, etc) and they are especially useful for performing assisted pull-ups and dips. You can buy a set of 4 bands (super light, light, medium, heavy) for about $30. If you can already do pull-ups, you might just get a light band for stretching, prehab, and light assistance. You can wrap them around your pull-up bar to do assisted pull-ups as well as any other movement.
Do not buy the rubber tubes with handles attached, those are trash and will break, and aren’t as versatile. Get a set of big rubber bands. Here’s a set similar to the one I have, as well as a video of me doing a few exercises with them. (You have to buy handles and a carabiner yourself but that isn’t that hard. You also don’t need handles to do these exercises).
4. A light kettlebell ($20-40) and a heavy kettlebell ($40-65)
The Kettlebell is an extremely useful and versatile piece of equipment. Like a dumbbell, but less awkward to handle. You need two: a light one, for use in exercises like shoulder presses, bicep curls, snatches, overhead squats, get-ups, and so on. You also need a “heavy” one to use for things like deadlifts, squats, swings, rows, cleans, and other movements.
Choosing a weight for these can be tricky, but you can always get another kettlebell in the future. I recommend starting lighter and adding on bigger ones as you get stronger and learn more about using kettlebells. For a beginner, a good place to start might be a 12lb “light” kettlebell and a 25lb “heavy” kettlebell. If you are a bigger guy you might go with a 20lb and a 40lb, or somewhere in-between.
There are many brands of kettlebells and some of them are nicer than others, but for a beginner or a home gym you can get by with a plain cast-iron bell that costs around a dollar per pound. You can find these at any big-box store like Walmart, or you can look at retailers like Titan Fitness or Amazon for cheap ones. Don’t overthink it- if it’s only being used by you, at home, chances are you aren’t going to break a cast-iron kettlebell.
That’s it- the whole gym will take up about 10 square feet and will cost $200 at most, and maybe a lot less if you can find pieces used or if you already have a pull-up bar in the garage somewhere. You can put together an infinite number of workouts using this equipment, and you can find all kinds of workouts on Youtube for free. Just search for things like “TRX workout”, “Kettlebell workout”, “Gymnastics rings workout”, and so on. Or ask me about my 8-Week Full-Body Program for this gym.
Joe from Hammer Forged Fitness