Home Gym | The Best Fitness Equipment for Exercising at Home

Throughout my posts you will often hear me talking about training in a place called ‘The Pit’. To put it simply The Pit is my gym I have set up in the garage of my home. I don’t know how I came up with the name, but it has stuck. I think naming it was my way of feeling like I am a member of a gym. I now have my mates and Mrs Niko calling it The Pit.

 

Why to set up a home Gym?

 

Throughout my life I have been a member of various commercial gyms in various locations within Queensland, Australia. The last time I was a member of a commercial gym was around June 2007. I remember this time specifically because it was around the time my first son was born and it was just before my 30th birthday.

During this time my gym membership expired and I decided not to renew it as I was never getting to the gym due to being pretty time poor. I decided instead of spending money on renewing my membership at the gym, to get a home gym set for my 30th birthday, my theory being that I could save on travel time and therefore spend more time with my family. The decision to buy the home gym set turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made in relation to my fitness.

 

The Best Home Gym Equipment

 

I have always been an advocate of free weight training so I decided to buy a an adjustable bench with a pulldown attachment, a stack of free weights, a bar and a set of adjustable dumbbells.

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Not being overly flushed for cash as we had just had our first child, I decided to the bench brand new, and source the rest of the equipment 2nd hand. Further to save money I made the decision to buy standard weights and bar, not Olympic weights and bar. This decision was a purely cost based decision.

When it came to selecting the bar and dumbbell my selection criteria was to buy equipment that was relatively rust free with spin lock collars. Whilst spin lock collars are more time consuming to take on and off the bar and dumbbells, I like the safety they provide, given that most of the time I would be training alone.

My criteria for selecting weights was I need the plates to come in pairs. By that I mean if I was to buy a 10kg plate I wanted it’s matching equivalent. My reasoning is that there can be slight variances in the manufacturing process, from one factory to another. So to ensure I was loading both sides of a bar or dumbbells up was the same weight I wanted the pair of plates.

Weight is weight. It doesn't matter if it looks pretty!

Other than wanting the plates to come in pairs I had no other specific criteria except I wanted them to be pretty much rust free. My thinking was weight is weight, I don’t care if it looked pretty I jut wanted weight, and a lot of it.

With my budget and given that brand new standard weights in the shops retail for about $3 (Australian Dollars) per kilogram, I would not have been able to set up much of a gym with brand new weights.

Instead I searched ebay and my local papers for people selling weights. You would be surprised how cheap people are selling weights for. Most people just want to get the weights out of their houses as they are taking up room.

Another source of equipment was mates, who just wanted to get rid of weights that were sitting under their houses or in their sheds taking up room. I had 2 mates who said I could have their equipment as it was just taking up room that they didn’t have and they had not intention or room to set up a gym at home.

Think about it logically, there must be billions of kilos of weights sitting in peoples home. Companies keep making it, retailers keep selling, but it is a truly unique product, that unless left out in the elements, will outlast most of the people who buy it.

My quest to locate weights resulted in me being given or buying fairly cheaply 240.5kg of weights consisting of the following:

Plenty of Free Weights

• 20kg x 2
• 15kg x 2
• 10kg x 2
• 7.5kg x 2
• 5kg x 17
• 2.5kg x 14
• 1.25kg x 10
• 1kg x 3

 

During my search I also managed to locate:

2 x Straight Bars and 1 x EZ Bar

• 2 x Straight Bars
• 1 x EZ Cur Bar
• 4 x Pairs of Adjustable Dumbbells

With this setup I could effectively train every part of my body. After training consistently for about 12 months in The Pit I decided that I wanted to add a squat rack to the combination. My reasoning was I enjoy doing squats, I think they are close to the best exercise that you can perform when weight training. At the time I was performing squats by holding dumbbells. What I found was I needed to be squatting more weight than I could physically load onto the dumbbells, hence the need for a squat rack.

I had a look around and discovered that there were not too many people selling squat racks second hand, in fact I couldn’t find any local to my area. So I decided to buy one brand new. Surprisingly it only cost me $150 to buy and came with the function of being able to adjust the vertical arms both in width and height. Further it had dip handles attached to the vertical arms.

In hindsight I am glad that I bought the squat rack new, as I am now loading it with a fair bit of weight and Im happy knowing that it is structurally sound and has not been mistreated. The addition of the squat rack also allowed me to incorporate numerous other exercises into my program. Obviously squats, but I could now also load the bar on the rack and do standing calf raises, barbell lunges, military press, dips (using the dip handles) and probably the most surprising chin-ups.

To do chin-ups I set the vertical arms as high as they can go and place a bar on the rack. I then get underneath the bar, tuck my knees up to my chest and chin away.

Squat Rack

Now you are probably thinking I must has a massive garage or I must leave my car in the drive way to have a gym set up, but you would be mistaken. Whilst I do have a fairly large garage, I still park both my cars in it everyday. What I do is position my gym in the corner or the garage and when I want to train I back the car out and move my gym out. This process takes me about 3 minutes to do. It does mean that I can’t leave it set up, and after I finish it takes me about another 3 minutes to put the gear and the car away, but it’s not really a hassle.

The Pit has everything I need to perform my weight training, without the temptation of using machines. I am a massive advocate for using free weights to gain strength and build muscle, but even I have previously fallen into the trap of using too many machines at the gym, this set up doesn’t allow for it. It comes as no surprise that at the age of 34 I am the strongest I have ever been and the majority of my training is done in The Pit.

 

Don’t Waste Your Money on a Multi-Station Machine

 

A word of advice if you are thinking of setting up your own home gym. Don’t fall into the trap of buying an all in one multi station pin loaded training machines. They are too restrictive, vary rarely are the weights heavy enough and you can’t add to them. Your money would be better spent simply buying a bar, a set of adjustable dumbbells and some free weights. I guarantee that I can show you how to get better results with that basic set up, than you ever could with an all in one machine.

To give you an idea of what my set up cost brand new I went into my local gym equipment store and got some prices.

• Adjustable Bench with Pulldown attachment: $369.00
• Squat Rack: $159.00
• A Bar and Dumbbell Set with 40 kilograms of weight: $169.00
• Free Weight: $3 per kilogram.

Obviously you will need to buy a fair bit of weight, depending on your strength levels, however When you compare this cost with the cost of a commercial gym membership for a year, you will see that it is extremely good value for money.

Not everyone has the same training goals as me and as such they might have a different home gym set up.

If you have a gym set up at home, message me some photos, a brief run down on what equipment you have, how much it cost you to set up and a little story about it.

I will then post it for everyone to see. I reckon this would be a great way to show people how others have set up their home gym and maybe inspire them to do the same at their homes.

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46 Comments
  1. I have a barbell and dumbbell set that works well but one of my favorite things for an at-home gym is a dip/pullup station. As a big bodyweight fan, I find that goes a long way toward getting a great workout.

    • Dave,
      I agree a dip/pullup station would be a great addition to ‘The Pit’, unfortunately I simply don’t have enough room. Dips and Pullups are a massive part of my weight and crossfit training.
      Niko

  2. I’ve been very fortunate in my garage gym situation. I had a huge garage that I didn’t park in and was able to build quite a respectable amount of equipment.

    I recently moved and lost my space at home, but my new bosses are so amazing they let their employees use a space in the back of the attached warehouse that was pretty much fully stocked when I got there. I’ve even begun leading crossfit classes after work and it’s getting a huge response.

    I’m sending you some photos.

    • Trey,
      One door closes and another door opens. Great news that you are able to train at work. Obvioulsy your bosses see the value in having fit employees, less stress, more energy leads to more productivity in the workplace. It’s also great for team building, most of my training partners are also people that I work with, which leads to a great working relationship. I got the photos that you sent me, cheers mate.
      Niko

  3. You are so right when you say weight is weight. A while back I did a post about the same thing. I think I wrote my with a slightly different goal than in mind than what you have, so I have a few different recommendations. But all in all still pretty close.

    • Thanks Jason, too often people get caught up in the new trends or the latest equipment. At the end of the day you could actually build a great body only using your own body weight. The key is consistency and intensity.

  4. been looking for a post like this all night to finish my work, cheers!

  5. I have a pullup bar, a skipping rope, a kettlebell, an ab roller, a few resistance bands and a barbell. I’m slowly adding more pieces but I prefer small, portable components rather than large, chunky and expensive machines and benches. It comes down to preference I guess (and space).

    • Srdjan,
      I believe machines are a waste of time, money and space. I agree with your thoughts about setting up a home gym. The only extras I have on top of your equipment is an adjustable bench and a squat rack.
      Niko

  6. I have a tower power which is a chinup, dip, legraises and pushup stations all in one, I have also added gymnastic rings which I use regularly. I am possibly going to ab something for doing legraises it is a bit like a sling. I have about 122kg worth of plates which I am gradually adding to. I have an olympic barbell, oly ezbar and bomber bar. I don’t exactly have a weights station as such it converts into a squat rack, is plate loaded and can be used for cable rows, lat pulldowns, triceps pushdowns and has a few attachements like a rope, pulley and some other attachements I am adding to. I also have a bench which can be used for incline, flat and decline presses. There is also professional matting and about 5 kettlebells, as well as a few other small dumbells, ab rocker, ab wheel and I forgot to mention a set of olympic adjustable dumbles. I would love to add a concept rower, not sure if I have the room.

    • Ed,

      That sounds like one of the best home set ups I have ever heard of. I would love to see some photos of the set up. How often are you using your home gym?

      Niko

  7. I am due a post like this as I just upgraded my own gym. Bought a nice incline bench. BOught a squat rack which has dip bars and is really adjustable. Also bought an olympic set which goes up to 140kg so have a real incentive to outgrow that and buy more plates. Also bought a dipping belt so I can add weight to dips and chin ups. Very happy with set up and hope to achieve some strength goals I have set throughout the year. The pit sounds like a good place to train. I bet you push your car which also doubles up as training.

    • Michael,
      Sounds like and awesome set up mate, a lot like The Pit actually. Let me know how you go with your strength goals during the year.
      Niko

  8. Great post. I have made a garage gym and bought much of the same equipment. I did make a few changes though…
    - Bumper plates instead of metal plates, the will run you more but are much more versatile.
    - Installed a pull up bar. Use bands for people who can’t do a pull up yet. Way more options, and less room than a pull down machine.
    - set of rings
    - adjustable bench
    - squat rack. I would have liked to get a half rack but that was’t in the budet. The squat stands do the trick but not as safe or versatile.

    • Jason,

      A set of rings is next on my list. I would love to have the room and coin, to have a power rack.

      Niko

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