The Ultimate Guide to Building a Home Gym

By Jeff
Last Update
Home Gym

If you’re reading this article you’re probably starting to research the best options for building a home gym. The good news is that you can totally customize and tailor your home gym to fit your budget, space, and requirements. The bad news is that it can be overwhelming with so many options to consider.

Start to narrow it down by asking yourself why you’re considering a home gym. Sick of paying high monthly gym fees?  Tired of waiting in line for specific equipment? Having trouble finding the motivation to pack up and leave the house?

As a Certified Personal Trainer, I have done hours of research into the most cost-effective equipment that will complement the largest number of exercises. I have also helped design and stock the gyms at a number of the firehouses where I work. The firehouse gyms are set up more like a home gym than a commercial gym with a few extras that are nice, but unnecessary for most home gyms.

Why Should I build a Home Gym?
Where to put a Home Gym
What Equipment do I Need for a Home Gym
Olympic Barbell
Olympic Weight Plates
Squat Rack
Weight Bench
All-in-one Home Gym Machine
What Next?

Why Should I build a Home Gym?

Home gyms are becoming more and more popular as people realize the many benefits they offer. Depending on your answer to the previous questions, you can customize a home gym space that you’ll be proud of, and excited to use.

It takes a little planning but home gyms can be more cost-effective. Buying gym equipment adds up quickly, but with a home gym, you’ll be able to save money in the long run by not having to pay for memberships or other fees. Plus, you won’t have to worry about extra costs associated with going to the gym like getting yourself there and paying for classes.

The average monthly cost for a gym membership in the US is $58 which is almost $700 per year. In the guides below, we’ll show you how you build a functional home gym for $1000-$2000. In three years of working out in your home gym instead of a commercial membership, you can have all of the equipment paid off.

The hard part is sticking to your budget. You can easily spend over $10K customizing your home gym with all the wishlist accessories. As nice as some of the optional things are, keep in mind that you can do 90% of the exercises with the basics that we’ll show you below.

Next to cost savings, the nicest part of building a home gym is that it provides convenience. With a home gym, you’ll have access to equipment and workouts any time of the day or night – no need to brave the traffic to get to the gym during rush hour. Before building a home gym, the most common excuse I used to convince myself not to go was how much of a hassle it was to get there. This is even more applicable to those of us in winter climates. The last thing I feel like doing when it’s miserable and cold outside is making another trip out of the house.

Don’t forget about the January rush at pretty much every commercial gym. It sucks waiting for equipment, especially when you’re in the zone and have a good sweat going. Being able to use the equipment I want, when I want, is my favorite feature of my home gym. I don’t have to feel guilty tying up a bench, dumbbells, kettlebells, and rower at the same time when doing circuit training. At the gym, I’d get halfway through the circuit and have somebody using the equipment I needed, while also giving me the side-eye for not cleaning it. 

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of cranking your favorite playlist as loud as you want and getting lost in the workout without fear of being judged for singing horribly off-key!

Where to put a Home Gym

You probably already have this one figured out. The space you have to build your home gym will greatly affect the equipment you can fit inside which will play a part in how much you’ll be spending.

Bigger rooms will allow you to space your equipment out and have plenty of room for exercise. Smaller rooms force you to get creative with storage ideas and folding racks to have enough space to work out in.

The most common options are the basement, garage, spare room, or outside. All of these options have pros and cons.


Doesn’t take up living spaceUsually don’t have the best temperature control
Lots of space to work withDungeon feel with no big windows and natural light
A concrete floor is a good base for equipment


Doesn’t take up living spaceTakes up space for vehicle parking
A concrete floor is a good base for equipmentCold in winter, hot in summer
Less worry about damaging walls and flooringEasy to clutter with other garage items and become unusable

Spare Room

Lots of light/appealing environmentTakes up living space
ConvenientThe flooring needs to be protected, carpet is not a great base
Temperature controlled


Lots of spaceWeather dependent
Fresh airNeed to build custom storage options
Unusable in winter climates

What Equipment do I Need for a Home Gym

This is where things can get out of hand! There are 2 main routes you can go to start out building your home gym: total gym machines or free weights. Both options come with pros and cons and which option is better is highly debated in the fitness industry. The choice will be based on your personal preference, fitness level, and fitness goals.

Free weights are more accessible and versatile than machines. As you perform an exercise you engage and work stabilizer muscles to keep you balanced. Free weights require discipline to maintain proper form, especially as you tire out.

Machines are more expensive and work the same muscle groups without the added stabilizer muscles. The fixed range of motion helps teach proper form and can reduce the risk of injury as it’s harder to sacrifice form when you start to tire out.  

If you want to go the free weights route, the bottom line is that 4 pieces of equipment will allow you to effectively work out all of your muscle groups and provide enough variation to keep you interested and motivated.

The equipment we strongly recommend as the basis for any home gym are:

The price of these items alone can range greatly depending on the brand, quality, and in the case of weight plates; the material, and the amount of weight you want to have on hand.

In the guides below, we will give budget options that allow you to build an entire home gym for around $1000. Budget equipment options are often built cheaper and might not last as long as more durable counterparts. We will also give options that we feel are a good middle ground of price and value.

For those with no budget (I wish…), we give some higher priced premium options, as well as a wishlist of equipment we’d buy if money was no object.

We will also touch on a few complete home gym machines if you’d prefer to go in that direction.

Olympic Barbell

An Olympic Barbell will be the most versatile piece of equipment in your home gym. It is used in exercises done by beginners as well as the most advanced gym goers. Some of the exercises I use a barbell for are:

  • Squat
  • Deadlifts
  • Romanian Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Military Shoulder Press
  • Clean and Jerk
  • Snatch
  • Bicep Curls

An Olympic Barbell is so versatile you can do a full-body workout with just a barbell and a couple of weight plates.

What to look for when buying an Olympic Barbell

  1. Olympic-sized sleeves: The sleeves on Olympic bars are slightly under 2″ and will accommodate Olympic-sized weight plates.
  2. Knurling: The cross-hatching on the bar that helps you grip. There a different options for how aggressive the knurling is, as well as where it is placed on the bar.
  3. Bushings vs Bearings: Barbells with bearings tend to have a smooth rotation and allow the weight plates to spin making them better for Olympic-style lifts. Bearing bars generally will cost more but might make the weight feel slightly unstable in slower movements like the bench press. Barbells with bushings are cheaper and you won’t get quite as nice spin (or friction-free movement) on a bushing-only bar but they are fine for lower weights and most home gyms.
  4. Finish: This will help the bar from corroding and make it last longer. Some finishes also change the way the knurling will feel on your hands.

The most common finishes are:

  • Black oxide: offers minimal protection and will rub off over time.
  • Chrome: electroplating process adds a layer of protection. Very durable but can get slick to hold when you start to sweat
  • Cerakote: a ceramic-based coating that provides protection in an extremely thin layer so it doesn’t affect the way the knurling feels. It can also be applied in any color.
  • Stainless-Steel: Not actually a finish, but a product to have the bar manufactured from. Stainless steel is inherently resistant to rust and extremely durable metal. Stainless bars cost a premium price.

All of these factors will play a role in the price of the bar. You can find a budget bar for around $100 and a premium competition bar for over $1000.

Check out our more comprehensive buying guide.

Here are our recommendations for a couple of different price points.

Best Overall Olympic Barbell

Rogue Fitness Ohio Bar

The Rogue Ohio Bar is hands-down one of our favorite barbells that Rogue Fitness has ever made. The standard Ohio Bar comes in a black oxide finish, but we prefer the durability and grip of the Cerakote finish.

This Olympic barbell features a balanced knurling for a good grip. It is designed to produce normal “whip” during Olympic weightlifting but enough stiffness to hold for heavy powerlifting.

Best Budget Olympic Barbell

Bells of Steel Barenaked Powerlifting Bar 2

Bells of Steel created a great budget Olympic bar when they started producing the Barenaked Powerlifting Bar 2.0. This Oly bar has a multipurpose design with knurling to meet IPF specs.

This Olympic bar is a fantastic option if you cross-train. It is an even better choice if you’re looking for a solid performer that won’t empty your bank account.

Best Premium Olympic Barbell

Eleiko XF Bar

If you enjoy Crossfit or want to train in different lifting sports, the Eleiko XF Bar is an excellent choice for a multipurpose Olympic barbell. The XF has mixed knurling layouts and shallow knurling, so you can train for long workouts without damaging your hands.

This Eleiko bar is a fantastic option for anyone who engages in any sort of functional fitness training and will last you for years but comes with a pretty hefty price tag.

Olympic Weight Plates

An Olympic Bar is almost useless without weight plates unless you plan on lifting the bar weight for every exercise. A variety of weight plates are required to use the barbell for different exercises and to keep progressing with your fitness goals.

At the end of the day, 45 lbs are 45 lbs, but there are quite a few options to get there. Cast iron plates are the cheapest option, but are prone to corrosion over time and are not meant to be dropped. Coated steel plates are more resistant to corrosion but are still not meant to be dropped. Bumper plates are made of highly durable rubber. They are resistant to corrosion and can be dropped without damaging them.

What to Look for When Buying Olympic Weight Plates

  1. Size: The weight plates have to fit properly on the sleeves of the barbell. Olympic-sized plates have a center hole with a 2″ diameter designed to fit all Olympic-sized barbells. Putting an Olympic-sized plate on a standard barbell with 1″ sleeves is dangerous and begging for injury.
  2. The material the plate is made from: As mentioned above, your common options are cast iron, coated cast iron, and rubber bumper plates. The quality of cast iron plates can vary by manufacturer and cheap plates can be over 5% off the listed weight. Competition bumper plates are the most accurate and will be within 10 grams of the listed weight.
  3. Price: The average price of cast iron plates is $1.42/lb. The average price of coated cast iron plates is $2.14. The average price of bumper plates is $1.95. The really high-end International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) approved competition plates were not included as they are just too expensive to consider for a home gym. 

Check out our more comprehensive buying guide.

Here are our recommendations for a couple of different options for weight plates.

Best Overall Olympic Weight Plate

Vulcan Alpha Bumper Weights

Our top pick for Olympic weight plates is the Vulcan Alpha Bumper Weights. These gorgeous flecked plates can stand up to substantial wear and tear. Whether you’re lifting on concrete, asphalt, or horse stall mats, these weights can handle it.

These plates are less noisy when you drop them, don’t have a potent rubbery smell, and offer less bounce than other bumper plates. The biggest downside to the Alpha Bumper Weights is the price. They’re an investment!

Here are our recommendations for Olympic weight plates:

Best Competition Olympic Bumper Plate

Rogue Competition Plates

If you’re going to compete in Olympic weightlifting or CrossFit, you should consider Rogue’s competition plates. Rogue is a trusted brand for good reasons. They create American-made products and back them up with incredible warranties.

These competition plates meet all the IWF specifications. They match the IWF weight colors, have a tight weight tolerance, and feature a precise 450-millimeter diameter.

Best Budget Olympic Bumper Plate

Bells of Steel Dead Bounce All Black Bumper Plates

If you need bumper plates that won’t put you into debt, consider Bells of Steel Dead Bounce All Black Bumper Plates. These basic bumper plates aren’t flashy, but they’ll get the job done.

Unfortunately, Bells of Steel doesn’t offer 55 lb black bumpers, so this set caps out at 45 lb plates. Still, given how affordable they are, these are a great starter bumper set.

Best Budget Olympic Metal Plates

REP Fitness Old School Iron Plates

Unless you plan to compete in powerlifting, you probably don’t need competition-level metal weights. So, save your hard-earned cash and consider our budget pick for metal plates: REP Fitness Old School Iron Plates.

The plates feature a matte finish coating to prevent rust and damage. They also offer a great fit on the barbell, given the price. Unfortunately, they aren’t machined which means there are some imperfections. They’re bumpy to the touch, and the weight tolerance is more than we like to see.

However, given the price, starting at around $20 per pair, REP Fitness Old School Iron Plates are a great budget option for home gyms.

Squat Rack

A squat rack or power rack provides the frame to support numerous exercises as well as various options to perform those exercises safely.

There can be a big difference between a robust, versatile power rack and a flimsy bottom-of-the-barrel model that will let you down when you need it most. Like most gym equipment, you get what you pay for.

Fortunately, there are some budget options that still hold up to a rigorous workout. They may not have all the bells and whistles of the more expensive choices but will get the basic job done.

The first thing to decide is the type of rack you need for your home gym. This will greatly affect the price. The four types of rack designs you will find are:

  • Squat Stands – not technically a rack, just 2 individual uprights to support the barbell.
  • Half Rack – Half the size of a power rack. More stability than squat stands with the option to add safety and workout attachments like spotter-arms, and a dip station.
  • Folding Rack – A full power rack that mounts to a wall with a series of hinges to allow you to fold it flat when not in use.
  • Full Power Rack (Cage) – The full rack allows you to step inside the cage and lift between full-length safety bars. Offers the most options for safety and exercise attachments as well as plate storage.

Other important factors to consider when shopping for a squat rack are the material it’s made of and the size. Most reputable manufacturers use 11 – 14 gauge steel and at least 2″ x 2″ columns. Anything smaller, or lighter gauge steel, will be flimsy and a safety concern if you were to drop the bar mid-set and expect the rack to hold up.

For the “footprint” of the rack, you need to know your available space for height, width, and length (depth). There are dozens of squat racks of different dimensions, often customizable, so finding one that will fit should be easy.

Check out our more comprehensive buying guide.

Here are our recommendations for squat racks:

Best Overall Power Rack

Rogue RM-6 Monster Rack 2.0

The Rogue RM-6 Monster Rack 2.0 is part of Rogue’s Monster series of racks. We like the RM-6 because it’s a little deeper and offers more storage than some of the smaller Monster racks while being more affordable than the more giant Rogue Monster Cave.

Rogue uses heavy-duty 3×3″ 11-gauge steel tubing for the RM-6 and a bolt-together design that is easy to assemble with the pair of included Rogue Monster 1.5″ Wrenches.

Best Budget Rack

Bells of Steel Power Rack 4.1 – Residential

Bells of Steel is one of our favorite brands, and their Power Rack 4.1 – Residential makes the perfect budget buy for anyone looking for an affordable full-sized rack.

The Power Rack 4.1 comes with a pull-up bar, pin-pipe spotter arms, and padded J-cups. This power rack is also compatible with plenty of attachments, including dip bars, storage, landmine attachment, lat-pulldown attachment, and more.

Best Half Rack

Titan Fitness X-3 Series Tall Squat Stand and Half Rack Conversion Kit

The Titan Fitness X-3 Series Tall Squat Stand has gotten a fantastic upgrade in the form of the X-3 Series Half Rack Conversion Kit. Purchasing the squat stand and conversion kit is not only more affordable than many standard squat half racks but also a significant upgrade over inferior half rack models.

This half rack saves on floor space while giving you the robustness and security of 3″ x 3″ 11-gauge steel uprights. You also get four plate holders, two stabilizing gusset plates, and a couple of nice-looking, laser-engraved Titan Fitness logos on the top braces for a little extra style.

Weight Bench

The final piece of your Home Gym puzzle is the weight bench. A weight bench can be tricky to find as there are an astounding number of options at various price points.

Your first consideration when shopping for a weight bench should be whether you want a flat bench or an adjustable bench. Each has its pros and cons.

Flat benches are straightforward and affordable. They’ll allow you to bench press, step up, and perform other, less traditional movements like decline push-ups or Bulgarian split squats. So, they can add a lot of versatility to your workouts.

An adjustable bench will add far more utility to your home gym. With an adjustable bench, you can do all the above and more. With multiple seat angles and back pad positions, the opportunities for exercise variation are much higher than with a flat bench.

With either style of bench, you’ll want to make sure you buy one that is sturdy enough to support you. Adjustable benches that are built cheaply will feel unstable when you’re in an inclined position. A flat bench without enough support can tip over when performing exercises like a barbell hip thrust and can lead to injury.

Check out our more comprehensive buying guide.

Here are our recommendations for weight benches:

Best Overall Weight Bench

REP AB-4100 Adjustable

REP AB-4100 Adjustable Workout Bench offers a decent number of set-ups while remaining surprisingly affordable.

At under $400, the REP AB-4100 allows for seven back adjustments and three seat placements. It has a decently high maximum weight capacity of 700 lbs and meets International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) competition standards.

Best Budget Adjustable Bench

Proform Carbon Strength Adjustable

The ProForm Carbon Strength bench offers a lot of versatility and stability while still remaining affordable.

It has 11 back positions and six positions for seating with a large weight capacity, of 610 lbs. Plus, it uses a quick-pin system to change positions. This system is the same one most commercial gym equipment uses and is relatively intuitive.

Best Overall Flat Bench

Rogue Monster Utility 2.0

Rogue’s Monster Utility 2.0 bench is a beast of a bench that features 3×3 inch, 11-gauge steel, all sourced and welded in the USA providing unreal stability.

It also has a high max capacity of over 1000 pounds and an exceptional lifetime warranty on the frame plus three years on the padding. So, you know this bench will last regardless of what you throw at it.

Budget-Friendly Flat Bench Option

CAP Barbell Flat Weight Bench

If you want a basic flat bench without any extra frills, the CAP Barbell Flat Weight Bench might be your best choice. This bench is simple to assemble, extremely affordable, and if you’re new to strength training it’s a nice addition to a home gym.

All-in-one Home Gym Machine

If you are leaning towards cable machines instead of free weights then a complete home gym will be the better option for you.

When it comes to home gyms, all-in-one machines are becoming a more and more popular choice. But with so many different models on the market, it can be tough to know which one is right for you. That’s where this buyer’s guide comes in. We’ll walk you through the different features of all-in-one home gym machines, and help you decide which one is best for your needs.

With such a broad range of styles and options, you really need to figure out where you want to put this thing before you buy it.

There are some smaller options with a single-weight stack that will fit in just about any room, and there are some monstrosities that offer tons of versatility but have a giant footprint.

Some double-stack functional trainers would need to be paired with a weight bench to be able to add a few more exercises to the repertoire.

Here are a few recommendations for different price points:

Best Overall Home Gym Machine

Force USA G20 Pro All-in-One Trainer

The Force USA G20 Pro combines a power rack, functional trainer, smith machine, leg press, chin up, suspension trainer, core trainer, lat pulldown, low row, calf raise, and Swing Arm station into a single space-saving power rack footprint.

With dual integrated 289 lb weight stacks and 30 attachments included, you can easily crush a full-body workout on this machine. It also includes a built-in storage rack for attachments with enough room to fit barbells and posts to store weight plates.

The G20 Pro comes with an integrated smith machine bar, but a bench and Olympic barbell would have to be purchased separately. 

Best Budget Home Gym Machine

Marcy Club Home Gym MKM-81010

The Marcy Club Home Gym is an all-in-one home gym machine with a single 200 lb weight stack.

The machine includes a dual action press arm that allows you to do chest presses, chest flies, and rows. There is a high pulley for lat pull-downs, a low pulley and a removable preacher curl pad for bicep curls,  and a leg developer for leg extensions.

Best Premium Home Gym Machine

Body-Solid S1000 Four-Stack Gym

The Body-Solid S1000 is only an option if you have deep pockets, and a large space to set this bad boy up.  It is a commercial-rated machine that has everything you need for a comprehensive total body workout.

The four stations include:

  • a column with an adjustable pulley for cable exercises
  • a seat for bench press, mid-rows, leg extensions, and leg curls
  • cable lat and mid row
  • leg press and calf raise.

This option is better suited in a commercial setting with numerous users at a time. For a home gym, it’s a little overkill, but it’s a glance at what you can buy if money isn’t a factor.

Check Price on Fitness Factory

Best Smart Home Gym


Tonal is a really cool option if you’re tight on space, and enjoy the interactive workouts that have taken cardio classes by storm like Peleton and iFit.

The Tonal unit mounts to your wall and requires about a 7′ square in front of it for space to allow you to do all the exercises without anything in your way. It consists of 2 adjustable arms with cables and carabiners to connect various handles and 200 lbs of electromagnetic resistance.

Some of the noteworthy features include Spotter Mode which automatically senses when your form is failing and lowers the resistance. The Dynamic Weight Modes automatically adjust the weight throughout the workout as if your trainer was in the same room.

Membership is required to access the programming but there are tons of multi-week programs, custom workouts, and a team of different coaches to keep things interesting. An accessory bundle is also available that includes:

  • Smart Handles
  • Smart Bar
  • New Rope
  • Bench
  • Roller
  • Workout Mat

What Next?

This is a pretty good starting point for building a Home Gym. Regardless of whether you choose to go the free weights route or the machine route, you’ll have a solid base of equipment to knock out some great workouts on every muscle group.

This article will be like a living document with constant updates and additions as I find things that would be a benefit to your Home Gym. I’m working on some DIY equipment right now and am excited to add that later for those of you that are into that sort of thing.

Until then, have fun building a home gym you can be proud of and one that will keep you motivated to achieve your goals.

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