Home Gym Essentials

Building a Home Gym

How far do you live from your gym? Do you have to set your alarm at an ungodly hour and fight traffic to make it there with enough time for a workout before fighting traffic once again to make it your job on time? If you’re like me, it can’t be close enough. Have you not thought about building the essential home gym? Then you need home gym essentials.

When you’re on a tight training schedule having to wait for machines whilst someone else finishes can be frustrating and sometimes means that you have to skip that session for the day or you will be late for work – not acceptable. You know when you’re on a programme that you can’t skip a day.

Now think about this, wake up at a decent hour, you can even hit the snooze button once if you must. Roll out of bed, throw on your shorts and vest and stroll downstairs to your garage. No waiting for the weight sizes or machines – you have your own personal space just for you, designed for you and all for you with all the home gym essentials you need. And, when you finish, all your home comforts for having a shower before you step into your car and head to work feeling energized and pumped. No crumpled shirts and forgotten shoes.

Maybe best of all, no more listening to the gym bore strutting around and boasting about how much he can squat when you know it would snap him in two.

And if you get lonely, you can always invite your buddies over to train together – they will be just as excited as you.

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how much does building a home gym cost?

Add up your travel costs and your gym membership and how much change have you got left over from $100? Are you paying for kit you don’t need? Do you head to the same old pieces of kit time and again and not use any of the other facilities or classes and do you ever swim? Following the initial investment, a gym at home is going to pay you back in so many ways.

How to start a home gym

Having a dream home gym is much more achievable than you think. Even if you have limited space such as a spare room or loft space you can fill it with home gym equipment suitable for the space available and still get the workout you need.

You can even get a workout in before work and after to maximize your training. A dream come true.

The top nine home gym essentials for building a home gym…

Nine home gym essentials you need weight benches

#1 Weight bench

A solid weight bench is a must-have in your gym. It’s a staple and not something you can do without. Don’t even think about trying to use a chair.

Why do we recommend a weight bench?

A sturdy piece of kit that needs to support not only your weight but also your dumbbells. Do not cut corners on a weight bench, you need a good solid structure that is stable and safe. If you are pressing at home you need to be sure your bench won’t collapse with a heavy weight on top of you. It happens.

A weight bench can be adjusted from flat, to decline, to incline or 90 degrees angle, this will ensure correct positioning and support your posture.

The cushion and padding on a quality bench will make your sets more comfortable with more chance of extra effort.

Think safety and pressing with dumbbells on a bench is safer than being trapped underneath a loaded barbell on a flat bench press unit.

How it delivers results

A weight bench is a versatile piece of kit that you can use for:

  • Dumbbell presses
  • Seated curls
  • Rows
  • Flys
  • Bench press
  • Military press

You can also use the bench for exercises such as:

  • Incline inverted press up
  • Step-up
  • Dips
  • Piston squats

Why use a weight bench?

  • Train every major muscle group.
  • Adjustable for correct positioning.
  • Versatile.
  • Sturdy and safe.

#2 Home gym

If you have limited space or, think you will miss all the machines at the gym and want a piece of kit that can deliver a full body workout then a home gym is an essential choice. Like all things, there are pros and cons but a good home gym will deliver everything that you need and more and can be your best investment.

Why do we recommend a home gym?

  • You get the combination of several machines in one such as weight stack, cables, pull-down and chest press.
  • Some of the best home gyms have legs extensions, leg curls and the meaty ones have a built-in smith machine cage.
  • If you live in an apartment you can fit this piece of kit into the corner of your living space.
  • The best piece of kit for bodybuilders who will miss the machines in the gym.

How it delivers results

  • A home gym will allow you to train every muscle group and the best ones have 100+ exercises for your workout.

Why use a home gym?

  • Just like having a gym at home.
  • The first choice for bodybuilders.
  • Train every major muscle group.
  • Great for apartments and limited space.

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#3 Pull up bar

Pull-ups are a staple of training the upper body, chest and arms by using your bodyweight and a basic part of any primal training.

Only use a purpose-built pull-up bar for safety so that you can be sure it won’t rip off in your hands like a pipe can or bend like an inferior shower rail. Using a wooden rafter can leave you with splinters and doesn’t offer a sufficient grip.

Why do we recommend a pull-up bar?

  • A good pull-up bar will have angled bars to variate hand positioning and focus on different areas of the arm and lat muscle for a full arm workout.
  • A doorframe pull-up bar is easily fitted in minutes but can wreck your door frame – a free-standing unit or purpose fitted bar is better.
  • When you complete your first unassisted pull-up or a muscle-up you know that feeling of achievement is irreplaceable.
  • And, then you move on to single arm – now that is rewarding!
  • The upper body strength that you will find is unrivaled by this basic bodyweight exercise.

How it delivers results

  • Arms, shoulders and lats are the obvious targets.
  • You can also train your abs by introducing leg raises and side-to-side swings – powerful.
  • The full shoulder and arm can be targeted by alternating hand position or a muscle-up.
  • Underhand, overhand, muscle-up, pull-up, wide arm, single arm.

Why use a pull-up bar?

  • Safe and sturdy to give you confidence.
  • Unrivalled upper body workout.
  • Can also target abs.
  • One of the basic moves of all training styles and programmes.

#4 Squat rack

If you have space in a garage then a squat rack is going to be one of the best pieces of kit for a serious bodybuilder or crossfitter. Ideally you want a piece of kit that can be fixed into place for the ultimate stability – when you’re pushing the limits of what you can squat the last thing on your mind should be worrying about the rack falling over. Even more important when you train alone.

Why do we recommend a squat rack?

  • The safety aspect is always at the top of the list when training at home. It’s way too easy to slip, overestimate, push too hard or lose balance and with a heavy bar that will equal a serious accident.
  • Apart from legs your squat rack can be used for bench press targeting chest and upper body.
  • Some squat racks will also have a bar that you can use for pull-ups and muscle-ups.

How it delivers results

  • Squats are one of the basic functional moves, not just for leg strength but also benefit the whole body.
  • Deadlifts.
  • Shrugs for lats, back and traps.
  • Military press for shoulders.
  • Bicep bar curls.
  • Pull-ups/muscle-ups (if you have a bar).

Why use a squat rack?

  • A versatile piece of kit for serious strength training.
  • Sturdy and solid.
  • Essential if you’re serious about training legs.
  • Safety for training alone.

#5 Dip station

Ideally, you would want to have a squat rack that combines rack, pull-up bar and bars for dips. But, if you have the space we recommend a dip station in your home to get maximum results on your chest and triceps. Please don’t try using chairs for all the obvious reasons!

Why do we recommend a dip station?

  • A good dip station also has a pull-up bar so you get two pieces of kit in one. The best stations also have padded backrests for a combined knee raise and dip station.
  • You can’t do a proper dip on two chairs and for safety sake please don’t even try.
  • A dip station has padding and easy grip handles.
  • You can do dips on the edge of a weight bench but for any serious strength trainer they don’t involve the full body weight and you can’t chain extra weights.

How it delivers results

  • For big chest and triceps, dips are essential.
  • Trains lats, shoulders, chest and back.
  • Full work out for the upper body using bodyweight.
  • Target abs with leg raises (optional).

Why use a dip station?

  • Train the upper body.
  • The only effective way to do dips.
  • Perfect complement to a squat rack.
  • Any serious home gym should have one.

Nine home gym essentials you need bar and weight plates

#6 Barbells and weight plates

Your squat rack is basically an expensive cost hangar if you don’t have the essential bar and weights to use with it. You can find some sets to buy together but we recommend buying a rack and weights separately to get the best kit. Remember, it’s not always about economy when investing in gym equipment – buy cheap, buy twice.

A gym is not a gym unless you have barbells.

Why do we recommend a barbell and weight plate?

  • Any strength training needs weights so that you can progress and adjustable weights such as a bar and plates are your best option.
  • Dumbbells are excellent for functional movements but for serious lifters and crossfitters you can only get the level of weight needed with a barbell and plates.
  • A bar can be added to any movement pattern for extra training

How it delivers results

  • Serious weight squats are only achieved with a bar.
  • Deadlifts are also an essential compound exercise for your legs programme.
  • Squats, deadlifts, lunges, walking lunges and step-ups for lower body.
  • Bench press, curls, shrugs, military press for upper body.

Why use a barbell and weight plate?

  • Any strength trainer needs a bar and plates for serious training. It’s a given.
  • Bars can hold over 500 pounds giving you as much weight as you need.
  • Train any muscle group with progressive training.

Nine home gym essentials you need dumbells

#7 Dumbbells

Along with your bar and weight plates, a gym needs a set of dumbbells to complete a full training programme. And just like your squat rack needs a bar, your weight bench will be redundant without the weights to use with it.

A complete set from 5 to 100 pounds is the dream but you can start with a selection of most used weights and keep adding to them as you invest. Or, look for adjustable dumbbells, okay for part-time trainers but these are not ideal long-term for a serious home gym.

Why do we recommend dumbbells?

  • Where do we start? Dumbbells are the foundation for all strength and functional training. Especially for functional body movement work that everyone would benefit from adding to their bodybuilding routine to avoid injury.
  • How it delivers results

    • Functional pattern movement work.
    • Dumbbells are a great option (and safer) for bench press alone.
    • Flys, bent over rows, curls, military press – the list is endless.
    • Walking lunges, step-ups, squats – anything with legs you can add dumbbells to.

    Why use dumbbells?

    • Dumbbells can be added to any exercise for more intensity.
    • Can be a safer option to a bar and plates.
    • The foundation of all strength training.
    • Rehabilitation and focused muscle work.

    #8 Kettlebells

    Russian kettlebell training made a resurgence several years ago and for good reason. The combination of using weights with the core movements such as swings, snatches and presses deliver results of pure strength whilst combining cardio benefits.

    If you want pure bulk then use weights but if you want strength and condition then start using kettlebells.

    Why do we recommend kettlebells?

    • Kettlebells are efficient fat burning tools but this isn’t their primary focus as historically they were used for conditional training by special forces.
    • Kettlebell training will give you power endurance (fast muscular contraction) over strength endurance which boosts sports performance.
    • Kettlebell training will give you powerful grip which is a fundamental basis of our primal physique being lost in the modern world.
    • You can complete a routine quickly for big results if you are limited on time.

    How it delivers results

    Just a handful of core moves will give a full body workout and boost your cardiovascular endurance and is the perfect bridge between strength and cardio training.
    The basic moves are:

    • Swing
    • Snatch
    • Press
    • Clean
    • Get-up

    Kettlebells train every muscle group and can supplement moves such as lunges, squats or replace most dumbbell movements.

    Kettlebell movements are very precise and we recommend a few one-on-one sessions with a trainer to get the basics before you train alone.

    Why use kettlebells?

    • Get very, very fit.
    • Build pure strength and power endurance.
    • A short session will deliver a full workout.
    • A bridge between cardio and strength.
    • A different style of training to mix it up.

    Nine home gym essentials you need plyobox

    #9 Plyo Box

    With all the strength training pieces of kit included in our list throwing in some plyometric exercises will give you stamina and fitness to enhance your workouts. We recommend the addition of a Plyo Box to your home gym equipment.

    Why do we recommend a Plyo Box?

    • A Plyo Box is a much safer option than a chair, small table or step as it’s sturdy, wide enough and better to avoid injury as you enthusiastically jump off and on.
    • The Plyo Box will also have the right surface to avoid slipping – there is a lot of focus on the ankles and you want perfect foot/ankle position to avoid twists, sprains and falls.
    • The slight cushion from a purpose-built foam or wooden box will also protect joints, concrete steps might not slip but they are too hard.
    • The ability to gradually adjust the height of your Plyo Box is essential as you progress. Using foam boxes are more forgiving as it only takes one slip or grazed shin (I’ve done this too many times) to create a mental barrier to pushing yourself higher.

    How it delivers results:

    Plyomterics such as burpees, squat jumps and box jumps are an isometric exercise technique consisting of a series of short burst intensive moves that will get your heart pumping and get you seriously fit and fast. Box jumps work the lower body and it may look deceptively simple to jump on and off a box but once you have done 20 fast jumps in a row, you will see why they are recommended.

    Why use a Plyo Box:

    • Plyomterics complement your strength training.
    • Gets you fit, fast, and increases stamina.
    • Deceptively simple, desperately difficult.
    • Will strengthen legs in no time.

    Invest in quality kit

    Buying cheap and inferior home gym equipment is a false economy and you’re not going to get the best out of it or get any longevity out of it.

    I recommend starting with the most essential pieces of kit and then adding to over time. If you check our reviews you can find the best prices and the best pieces of kit.

    The finishing touches of what to have in your home gym

    What we have recommended above should be your first investment buys when planning your gym but there are other pieces of kit you may want such as, medicine balls, skipping ropes or TRX.

    Don’t forget that you will need a good floor to avoid slips and for getting down and doing floor based work and we recommend investing in some quality gym mat flooring.

    And, of course, mirrors! Not just to pose in front of (c’mon who doesn’t like to pull a move every now and then), large walled mirrors are essential to watch correct position and movements. Make sure they are securely fixed to the wall and don’t have ragged or sharp edges.

    So, you now have your very own gym and sanctuary. You, are welcome!