Updated: Nov 27, 2020
There's a recurring meme in the in-home fitness community that keeps coming up: "One does not simply complete a home gym".
What this seemingly playful statement suggests is that the process of building a home gym never really ends, as new needs and wants tend to pop up often.
Even though there may be no end in the journey of building a customized home fitness studio, there are a few pieces of equipment that every home gym needs to get started.
The Big Four
Serious lifters are going to need at least 4 categories of equipment covered to replicate the commercial gyms they are leaving behind.
Probably the single most inportant piece of equipment you will purchase is going to be your rack. If space and price are not an issue, you'll likely want to consider a full rack. You can expand most racks to include all the bells and whistles such as chin-up bar, dip and landmine attachments, pulley systems and the list goes on.
If space and money are tight, look into half rack or squat stand options. There are plenty of affordable lighter rack solutions that may not provide a full cage to protect you during squats and bench but with a sturdy pair of spotter arms, most of these smaller solutions will work fine.
Your barbell is the centrepiece of your home gym. Don't cheap out here. That said, you also don't need a cerakote coated multi-purpose bar designed and signed by your favourite pro Crossfitter either. Do your research and always consider what you are planning to use the bar for.
For example, do you really need those pricey needle bearings if you're just doing the three big lifts? And how important is knurl aggressiveness and positioning to you really? Are you going to be keeping your equipment in climate-controlled environments and if not, are you willing to maintain your bar a bit more often? There are just so many questions to consider before blowing a half a paycheque on a barbell.
We will write more on the subject of bar selection and make specific recommendations in a future posts, but for now try to research what you want based on your actual needs.
Let's face it, most people don't need to buy expensive bumper plates for their home gyms. Let alone multi-coloured urethane competition plates for $8 a pound.
Unless you are consistently dumping weight from above the head, save your money and get some cheaper rubber coated or iron plates.
As for weight increments, we aren't big fans of buying full runs for the sake of having every possible weight denomination available. Our recommendation is to get the following run of plate sizes to start:
2 x 2.5 lb
2 x 5lb
4 x 10lb
2 x 25lb
2+ x 45lb
With the above setup, you simply just need to add 45lb plates as needed. We'll probably get some slack for this, but 15lb and 35lb plates are pretty useless.
Shopping for a bench can be a daunting process. There are just so many options to consider.
If you are only buying one bench for your home gym, we recommend a FID (flat-incline-decline) bench that will serve all your major lifts.
Not all FID benches are made alike though. Lots of the cheaper benches available from big box retailers aren't suitable for resting in between sets on, let alone pressing hundreds of pounds off of.
Some of these cheaper benches feel as if they might break in after or tilt over on either side from the intense wobble.
We prefer buying a bench that is made for light commercial or full commercial use. These are a lot more heavy, stable and will last a lifetime. We suggest spending the extra money here and getting a bench you can safely and confidently train on for the long haul.
If you are building your home gym in a tight space or on a budget you could consider a folding bench. Most of these more compact benches can be stowed away under your bed or in a closet.
Being overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices available for home gym equipment is enough to make you want to just go back to Planet Fitness or whatever overly purple big box gym you were training at before.
Don't go back. Just put together a budget for the big 4 pieces of equipment and begin your hunt. You don't need to break the bank to find a decent rack, bar, bench and plates. Just start with a clear understanding of what you need and can afford based on budget and space, then start looking for the right deals.
Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more advice on how to pick the right big 4 pieces of equipment for your home training situation.