If you have an open basement, big backyard, or spare room in your house, there’s a good chance you’ve considered using it to build a home gym. Is it worth it? Should you spend the cash on home gym equipment? Isn’t it far easier to get a gym membership? Let’s review the benefits of a home gym, why it might be your best option, and the home gym equipment you need to get started.
BENEFITS OF A HOME GYM
Not sure if building a home gym is for you? Let’s review the benefits of a home gym and how it’s more convenient than a commercial gym.
1. SAVE MONEY
While there is an initial upfront cost, over the long term you’ll be saving yourself quite a bit of cash by building a home gym.
If you’re like most, you go to a commercial or chain-based gym. In the U.S., the average cost of a commercial gym is around $50. This doesn’t include the initiation fee, renewal fee, cancellation fee, and any hidden fees within the contract. In a year, a gym membership can cost you no less than $600, and this is the best-case scenario.
What about the costs associated with getting to your gym? You’ll have to pay for gas and car maintenance.
Between the membership and transportation, you will easily spend over $1,000 per year on a gym. Don’t forget: This is for one person, if you have a family-based gym membership, that cost will easily double.
For $1,000, you can easily build a home gym. Many people do it for far less, especially if you’re savvy with buying things at yard sales. In one year, not only will the home gym pay for itself, but it’ll help you to save money for years afterward.
2. NO TRAFFIC, COMMUTE
If you’re going to the gym, it’s safe to assume you want to focus on improving your health, right? Do you think sitting in rush hour traffic is doing much good for your wellness?
Studies show that stress related to traffic can increase symptoms of depression and make you more susceptible to mood swings. Researchers confirm there is a direct relation between the amount of time you’re stuck in traffic and your health status. (1)
Having a home gym lets you avoid the morning or afternoon rush hour. Simply come home from work, change into your gym clothes, take your supplement of choice, and begin your workout. No traffic, no commute, no unhealthy stress.
3. NO WAITING TO USE EQUIPMENT
Who hasn’t looked down at the workout program in their hands, then looked up to find all of the equipment you need is taken?
Going to a commercial gym and hoping the squat rack, bench, or barbell you need is free is always a gamble. This time spent waiting for a piece of equipment can quickly add up. A 45-minute workout becomes an hour and a half at the gym. This is especially bad during January and February when everyone wants to achieve their New Years resolution of getting into shape.
Having a home gym means there is no line for the power rack. You’re not visiting the gym at odd hours in order to avoid the rush of people. You work out on your time, the way you want to.
4. CLEANER AND SAFER
Two things happen in January and February at the gym, people get a new membership and people get sick. Cold season happens to fall in line with everyone wanting to start on the path to their fitness goals. Not a good combination.
Gyms are breeding grounds for bad germs and illness. Using a machine or weight after someone else comes with a risk for rash, infection, or illness. While there are sanitary wipes for machines, there’s not much you can do about the stale air you’re breathing inside the gym, which is how common cold germs are spread.
If you get sick, you won’t feel like making the drive to your commercial gym – and you shouldn’t as you’ll be putting others at risk for getting sick. As you stop going to the gym to recover from illness, you’ll be losing out on the money you paid for that membership.
Building a home gym is a far cleaner and safer option. There will be fewer people using the equipment and you can make sure everything is wiped down after use.
EQUIPMENT FOR A BEGINNER’S HOME GYM
Buying home gym equipment can become a slippery slope that starts with the question, “Should I buy this?” Building a home gym that is functional and allows you to perform dozens of exercises only requires two categories of equipment:
BENCH WITH BARBELL RACK
There’s no getting around owning a bench as it allows you to perform dozens of important muscle-building and fat loss exercises. We highly recommend investing in a bench that has a wide base, a rack for a barbell, and the ability to adjust it for decline and incline variations
BARBELL WITH WEIGHT PLATES
A barbell with weight plates is going to be your bread and butter for adding resistance to your workouts. A barbell is a requirement if you want to perform the three most important exercises: squat, deadlift, and bench press. We recommend investing in a thick-style barbell as it will dramatically increase your grip strength.
(OPTIONAL) DUMBBELLS OR KETTLEBELLS
Dumbbells or kettlebells are an excellent substitute or complement to the barbell. You can use dumbbells for the same exercises as a barbell with the added bonus of isolation exercises.
Again, we recommend thick dumbbells for grip strength; however, if those are out of your price range, you can simply buy thick grips. Wrapping a thick grip around your dumbbell or barbell will provide the same benefits of thick bar training.
For a full list of what we recommend, check out our article on home gym equipment.
SHOULD I BUY CARDIO EQUIPMENT FOR A HOME GYM?
Maybe; it depends on what type of cardio you enjoy doing. If your idea of cardio is to walk or jog on a treadmill, it would be more cost-effective to do so outside. You’ll get the benefit of fresh air and sunshine. If you enjoy specialty cardio equipment like a VersaClimber, then the investment could be worth it.
Take a look at your workout program and see how many days you have set aside for cardio-based exercises. If it’s only a day or two per week, ask yourself, “How else can I perform a cardio workout? Can I take a class, watch an at-home workout DVD, go for a run?” Cardio equipment can be useful but only if that’s your primary fitness goal.
You can also use simple bodyweight exercises in a rapid-paced format with no break for a high intensity interval workout. A HIIT workout has been shown to be effective in improving cardiovascular health. (2)
READY TO BUILD YOUR HOME GYM?
What does your dream home gym look like? Are you going to take the barebones approach and buy a bench, barbell, and weight plates? Will you make the long-term investment and stock your basement with dumbbells, kettlebells, and the works? Tell us about it on our Facebook!
- Gee GC, Takeuchi DT. Traffic stress, vehicular burden and well-being: a multilevel analysis. Soc Sci Med. 2004 Jul;59(2):405-14.
- Foster C, Farland CV, Guidotti F, et al. The Effects of High Intensity Interval Training vs Steady State Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity. J Sports Sci Med. 2015;14(4):747-55. Published 2015 Nov 24.