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Building a Garage Gym First Steps

Building a Garage Gym - First steps

So you’re ready to jump on the bandwagon and start building a garage gym? Maybe you are tired of paying good money at the global gym each and every month just to wait in line for one of the few pieces of useful equipment that they offer, or perhaps you’re sick of all the time wasted driving to and from the gym. There are many good reasons to want to work out at home, and regardless of what your particular reasons are I am more than certain that they’re justified, and I support you!

Having a quality gym at home is the best… and it’s possible. Thanks to so many innovative companies and some stiff competition in the fitness industry, outfitting a legit gym at home is more affordable than ever. Matter of fact, for not much more cash than you would spend on junk equipment at a chain sporting goods store, you can get your hands on commercial-grade equipment that will surely outlive us all.

Where to start? Let me give a few suggestions based on my own personal experience with my garage gym along with some great information that I’ve picked up from others who have done the same thing already.

Updated December 2017 – minor revisions and edits. 


Building a Garage Gym – Equipment Selection

Of course the ideal equipment to start a gym with will vary slightly from one person to the next, but I think that there are some essential pieces to consider right out of the gate when building a garage gym. This list is pretty solid for most varieties of weight training, but items can obviously be added for things like Olympic weightlifting, Strongman, and CrossFit.

Links in this section go to specific equipment guides that will help you select the best option for your situation and goals. 

  • 20 kg/45 lb or 15 kg/35 lb Olympic bar (power, multi-purpose, or WL bar).
  • Weight plates: bumper plates are great, but often times more expensive than standard steel plates. It also depends on what your lifting goals are. Buy bumper plate in sets to save some money. You’ll want at least one pair of each 45 lb, 25 lb, 10 lb; and some 5 lbs and 2½ lb change plates to start.
  • Power rack (or squat rack): This will set you back a little and it will likely be your biggest expense in creating a gym. A rack of some sort allows you to safely lift without having a spotter. Squats, bench press, shoulder press, you name it; it can be done in a rack.
    Your rack or squat stand should have a pull up bar. If you buy a rack from Rogue, there are accessories galore for it as well that you can add as needed.
  • Weight bench: This is something you’ll probably want early on as well. Just a flat weight bench for starters. You can spend a little more and get an adjustable incline bench, but it’s hardly a necessity.
  • Dumbbells or kettlebells (if they are part of your program, of course): Do what I do, buy these as you need them. Spreads out the spending a little bit.
  • Jump rope: Jumping rope is just amazing. I’ve bought and then turned around and sold a couple pieces of cardio equipment in the last couple years. Can’t beat a $5 jump rope for true cardio.
    However, if you’re really big into using commercial gym type cardio equipment, like the Life Fitness or Precor bikes, ellipticals and treadmills, it is worth mentioning that these companies have alternative models of their commercial stuff for a lot less money… but they are still way more reliable and sturdy machines than the box sporting good store stuff.
consider hi-temp bumpers when building a garage gym

Hi-Temp Bumpers from Rogue. A great bumper-plate to start with. More affordable than competition plates for Oly lifts.

rogue r4 rack perfect for a garage

R4 Power Rack. This is what I started with. I absolutely love it. Many accessories, great price, and as sturdy as any multi-thousand dollar commercial rack.

So if you have a barbell, some plates, and get a power rack and bench, I’d think you’d be in a great position to get some awesome workout sessions started. Here are some items you might want to eventually pick up. I have added a lot of this to my original set up as well.

  • Medicine Balls of varying weights.
  • Some form of plate and dumbbell storage if your rack doesn’t have it already.
  • Dip Station: Rogue racks have an add-on station called the Matador.
  • Plyo box(es) (also can be used for dips).
  • Resistance bands: Many racks have band pegs for these.
  • Adjustable bench if you only purchased a flat bench initially.
  • Large mirror (if you’re into that).
  • Punching bag
  • Fan! It gets hot everywhere at some point. Get a good fan. Spend $75 on a high speed metal fan.
  • Flooring: Dense, rubber flooring is great for your joints and your equipment.
  • Programmable wall clock.
  • Dry Erase board. I personally track all my workouts in a book, but having a dry erase is nice for tracking records and other random notes, reminders, perhaps even motivational affirmations or whatever =)

Building a Garage Gym – Organization

Since we’re talking about building a garage gym here, there is another thing to consider: space. You will likely have to get very organized to balance the things you need to store in the garage along with your gym equipment. I use about half the total space of my garage as my gym. In order to do that, I had to get better organized. Some shelves from Lowe’s, hooks for garden equipment, etc. I’ve also considered buying plastic storage tubs that can be hung from the ceiling. There are many resources online on how to construct such a system. Even I have a post on subject.

When it comes down to it, you’re going to spend some money to get your gym started. It’s worth every penny. Being able to work out when you want and without having to get in your car is just great. The investment in quality gym equipment is also a great motivator. I myself am very proud of my gym and proud of myself for using it regularly. You will be too. Not to mention, your friends who still go to Gold’s and deal with that mess will be jealous.

Here’s a short video with some good ideas for getting started.

 

A final thought regarding where to buy a lot of this stuff. There are a ton of vendors that sell fitness equipment (Rogue Fitness, VulcanAmazon, etc.), including numerous vendors that sell used (Craigslist, Play it Again Sports, etc). Used equipment is a great option a lot of the time as a lot of these items are pretty hard to destroy. However, price shop. Seriously, some of the used fitness stores are not much cheaper than buying brand new. Just be careful and inspect the stuff closely. Especially if you go the craigslist route.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Arturo December 30, 2015, 1:53 pm

    Could you expand in each article about the options for people from europe? Thanks
    Olympic or Power Barbell
    Olympic Plates
    Power Rack
    Weight Bench
    Dumbbells or Kettlebells
    Flooring

    • jburgeson December 30, 2015, 6:13 pm

      I’ve considered doing that. I only haven’t tackled that because of the complexity of shipping all around Europe, VATs, and my inability to come in contact with many of the European vendor’s equipment. It’s a whole other world of equipment across the pond, and aside from the premium brands like Eleiko or the limited Rogue EU line-up, you guys have a lot of garbage vendors. By garbage vendors, I mean companies that do nothing but import the cheap stuff from China and stamp their names on the equipment. I don’t recommend that stuff here, and I wouldn’t recommend it in Europe either.

      I get asked all the time to check stuff out for someone in the UK, or Germany, and I am quite disappointed in what I see. That said, it’s still something I want to be able to do and I’ll start seeing about putting something together. It could never be as in depth as the US market that I already know and understand, and am able to test, but I could possibly at least discover who is worth even considering for equipment purchases.

      • Arturo December 31, 2015, 10:23 am

        I would buy the Fringesport Gold Package if it was sold in europe but I’ll go with the Warrior Crossfit Package from Rogue and then the power rack and the bench. For the power rack I like this style http://www.corpomachine.com/PBSCProduct.asp?ItmID=10025461
        I’ll buy the AB-2 Adjustable Bench from Rogue or maybe one from corpomachine.
        Let me know your opinion on that power rack and the brands in that website http://www.corpomachine.com

        • jburgeson December 31, 2015, 11:34 am

          That rack reminds me of the Powertec. It looks acceptable. They don’t appear to disclose the steel gauge used, but the steel doesn’t look thin so that’s good. The drawback to not having gauge/hole size is that you don’t know what accessories you have access to. You may be able to use other companies accessories, or maybe just those from this vendor. If you don’t foresee needing accessories, that doesn’t matter.

          The selection overall is hit or miss but most good. They carry multiple lines and levels of quality, so some of it is nearly commercial looking, and some is very Amazon’ish. Weight capacities on most of the racks I looked at were more than sufficient. These guys seem better than most of the European vendors I’ve seen.

  • David H October 4, 2018, 4:10 am

    I’m setting up a gym in my basement. Ceiling height is good at 9 feet and my Rogue R-3 rack fits great. The room in the basement is 10 ft x 20ft. Which wall would you place the rack? On the shorter wall 10 ft or the longer wall 20 ft? By the way, your site is great! Thanks

    • jburgeson October 4, 2018, 7:47 am

      Thank you for that, David.

      I’d probably back it up to a 20ft wall myself. 10 ft seems narrow – kinda cramped since the bar is 7 ft long. Leaves only 1.5ft to move around and load/unload the bar

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