On average, in the United States, it will cost somewhere between $700 and $2,000, to set up a quality home gym.
This may sound expensive, but over time, you will save money and time vs. a standard gym membership.
Keep reading for why to set up a home gym and how to do it without blowing the budget.
Why you should build a home gym
Home gym cost vs gym membership
Gym memberships will be more expensive than a home gym over time.
You can buy home gym equipment of good quality that will last for decades, which is going to easily pay off against the cost of $50-100 per month over the same time period.
The average gym membership in the United States is around $70 per month, which means that a year is around $840, or $8,400 across a decade.
That’s a lot of money – far more than the average home gym costs, even before we get into the other benefits!
One more major factor is that you’ll only ever pay for what you want to use – rather than paying a higher membership for just a few pieces of specialist equipment.
This is a huge saving that very few serious gym enthusiasts take seriously until they start building a home gym!
Time & Comfort
A home gym is yours to access, it’s a place where you don’t have to waste time waiting for equipment, and it’s a time-saver in having access to the gym no matter the time of day.
Also, best of all, no commute.
You’ll also have the comfort to wear what you want, train how you want, and adjust the equipment and schedule however you want – unlike a gym.
These all make the total experience more comfortable, as well as the savings and practical benefits of a home gym.
You are more likely to actually workout
One of the main benefits is that you’re always going to be able to train which can make long nights at work or early mornings less of a problem.
If you’re dragging yourself out of bed to commute to the gym, it gets a lot harder – what if you could just put a coffee on and eat breakfast at your own pace, instead?
Home gyms make workouts easier, they let you justify smaller sessions easily, and they provide you with control over every variable. This is not only cheaper and more convenient but often more enjoyable as you get more autonomy and a better workout on your own terms.
What equipment do you need for a home gym?
A home gym doesn’t have any specific equipment – but the best builds revolve around “the essentials of weight training”.
That’s because weight training is the most versatile option that allows you to lose weight, gain weight, get stronger, train for sports performance, and just about anything else.
This is why the essentials here are going to revolve around these most-important items and a few super-high-value items that offer a ton of training options and versatility relative to their price.
This benefit-per-dollar value is always going to be the main focus and starts out very easily with some of these essentials.
Then, we look at the bonus items that can be used to really specialize a home gym and make it feel like a more commercial and comprehensive experience. These are going to be equally high value but with a narrower range of applications.
As we said in the intro, the average home gym in the United States will cost somewhere between $700 and $2,000, assuming that everything is being bought new or refurbished, with the essentials that we’re going to talk about in this article:
- Squat rack
- Weight plates
- Weight bench
- Skipping rope
- Gymnastic rings
- Resistance bands
The majority of that cost comes from the first 3 items, which can range from cheap to expensive to top-of-the-line.
We recommend staying somewhere in the middle, with a little more spend on a good barbell!
The home gym equipment essentials
These are the items that make a home gym work – with just a few pieces of high-value equipment, you can go from a blank canvas garage space to a functioning strength training routine at home.
Weight training involves a decent upfront investment but this pays off massively from the durability and lifespan of the kit – as well as the ridiculous full-body training options it opens up. Getting started means building a basic set around a barbell, squat rack or power cage, and weight plates.
Squat rack (with pull-up bar)
A squat rack or power cage with a pull-up bar is one of the best investments you can make.
The rack allows you to squat and bench press, as well as offering pull-up bars and often even weight storage options as standard.
You can get power cages and half squat racks with an enormous amount of other features to make training more varied and convenient. This is an important purchase and you want to make sure that you’re getting the best value and versatility here – to save yourself money and effort in the future!
A good barbell is key because it’s going to be the main item that you’re interacting with once you start up your gym.
Conventional wisdom is simple: spend on a bar, save on plates.
If you get a good bar, it will last you a lifetime – short of catastrophic damage or a major malfunction – both of which are more human error than engineering issues.
The value of a good bar is in the longevity and comfort of use. Multiply one by the other and you’ll realize that 10 years of a good bar and 10 years of a bad bar are wildly different experiences and justify the extra cost!
Weight plates let you do weight training and they’re important to have, especially in smaller sub-divisions, but have fewer quality demands.
As long as the plates are roughly accurate to their title weight and they are durable, they’ll do.
As above: spend on the bar, save on the plates.
Mainly, you want to get a plate that is secure to take small impacts – especially with rubberized designs or the inner rim where they contact the barbell.
The one exception is bumper plates for Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit – which also need to consider bounce, density, and width.
Weight bench/utility bench
A weight bench is the final item in the trio of set pieces along with the barbell and squat rack. It allows you to perform the bench press, as well as a multitude of other exercises like seated shoulder press, seated good mornings, and even step-ups (if sufficiently stable).
These can be useful options for improving your total versatility and opening up all those bench press gains that are so popular. This is far more effective if you buy an adjustable weight bench with the opportunity to be used for incline and/or decline bench press exercises that give you more upper body workout options.
You can also get foldable weight benches that offer a better storage option for very small spaces. However, they’re just great value and convenience overall!
A skipping rope is one of the best options for cardio in a home gym where you don’t want to spend money or space on something like a treadmill.
All you need is the overhead clearance to swing the rope and the floor space to bounce, so you’re able to get excellent fat-burning effects anywhere.
Skipping ropes are one of the simplest and cheapest options to get an utterly ridiculous amount of value from almost no investment.
Gymnastic rings could be the single best value purchase for upper body training. They offer you access to ring push-ups, ring dips, ring rows, and a wide variety of other gymnastic strength training options.
If you’ve got a squat rack, you can access all of these options by simply throwing the rings over the top of the structure or the pull-up bars (depending on the design).
They’re also super portable, easy to move, and fantastically versatile for any purpose.
Resistance bands are a great way to access elastic strength training, improving your ability to customize your exercises. It also opens up a lot of the ‘finer’ exercises used with cable machines and other options to train hard-to-get muscles.
These include things like face pulls, banded good mornings, banded Romanian deadlifts, banded bench press, and tons more. You also get tons of rehab and joint health options like terminal knee extensions, Spanish squats, or front-banded good mornings.
These cost very little but – once again – offer immense training benefits and thus value.
The home gym ‘nice to haves’
Kettlebells are an interesting option that allows you to perform some excellent conditioning options with more versatility – in some ways – than dumbbells.
One or two kettlebells are all you need to get the best benefits for goblet squats, kettlebell swings, and single-leg kettlebell deadlifts.
These are a great choice because you only need a few, and that saves you massive amounts of money compared to a full rack of dumbbells – for example – while opening up some excellent ‘smaller’ exercises compared to the barbell, rack, and plates.
Dumbbells are a perfect option if you can afford a full rack, or if you can get a high-quality set of adjustable dumbbells.
These open up stabilizer exercises, more single-leg and single-arm exercises, and excellent options for supplementing your barbell workouts.
Dumbbells can be expensive to buy in sets but they offer a long-term value that almost nothing can compete with. Adjustable dumbbells are better value but – just like the racks – a significant upfront investment that you need to weigh up.
A cable pulley system offers a higher quality alternative to many of the resistance band exercises mentioned above. You can get a range of value offerings from high to low cost, and from commercial to simple and economical.
Cheaper options will typically be plate loaded and offer a smaller total value, while the bigger products with commercial quality weight stacks are more expensive.
These are quite niche options but offer you a ton of exercises if you’re willing to learn and innovate to get the right angles on the cable pulley weight!
Battle ropes are a niche upper body conditioning exercise that offers a great new way to burn fat and pump your shoulders and lats. They’re a total fat-melter that offers an excellent way to condition yourself along with the skipping rope mentioned above.
These are typically quite cheap relative to use, but they do require a lot of space and will malt over time due to impact against the floor. These are great for sports with upper body conditioning needs, or just shredding down quickly while getting your shoulders stronger and keeping them working.
Exercise bike / rower / treadmill
Cardio equipment is a massive expensive but offers a long-term cardio option. Buying any of the items at high quality is likely to set you back $500+ – but offers value for years to come.
Exercise bikes are typically less expensive for a decent quality build, while rowers are the most expensive, and treadmills are somewhere between the two. The problem is that the difference between a good and bad treadmill or rowing machine is massive, compared to the difference between a good and bad dumbbell, for example.
These are very expensive but can be a crucially important investment if you’re looking to get into great shape for endurance, or if your main focus for the next few years is likely to be maximum fat loss.
Key home gym cost considerations
What is your goal?
Understanding your goals and how you want to train – and the most enduring items – are perfect for getting the best from your home gym.
These keep you close to the highest-value options and ensure you’re getting what you need most.
The way your equipment serves your goal is exactly what you should be using to judge any purchase for a home gym!
New vs used equipment
New equipment should be prioritized for items that have a lot of moving parts or are specifically important for your home gym. These benefit from the durability of a recent build and no wear and/or tear – and they’re typically more useful for big pieces with odd shipping.
Used equipment is perfect for a smaller piece and those which are less central to your gym build. This includes metal weight plates, in particular, which you can get great value on with second-hand price cuts.
How much space do you have?
The more space you have, the more options you have – especially for items like the battle ropes. Smaller home gyms need to focus on compact equipment like a power cage, gymnastic rings, and other super space-saving options.
Space is as closely-budgeted as cash for most purposes and being aware of your space demands really helps your home gym function at its best. Get some dimensions for your home gym and double-check any dimensions and movements you would perform with an exercise.
Is the space suitable?
Things like flooring and other basics are important for figuring out what you can and should buy. For example, poor flooring options may suit lower-density bumper plates to get the best results and reduce the risk of damaging concrete floors.
Take a moment to consider the experience of exercising in your home and the things that are going to be the most concerning for your workouts. Go to the space and move through the exercises you’re most interested in and get a feel for practical concerns.
What is your experience level?
The more experienced you are, the higher weight capacity you need for your workout equipment and the more specific your workouts will need to be, in order to improve your total results.
These are important concerns for buying different items and selecting the specifics of your home gym.
You also need to consider how much stronger you will get in the next 3-5 years, where the headroom capacity of plate sets, squat racks, and weight benches become more important – though this is far narrower for the more-experienced trainee who is closer to their maximum possible lifts.
Are you buying from a store or online
Look at shipping costs and convenience with your items to get the best from your workouts, from your money, and from your space. The items you buy need to get to your home and this should be considered when looking at getting them to your home – and then building them.
Some of the best options are expensive for shipping – especially super heavy items. Make sure you know the shipping policy of your major manufacturers and try to prioritize brands like Rogue that have good domestic shipping policies on big, heavy items that could easily add hundreds of unexpected dollars for shipping!
Building a home gym is expensive in the short term but gives you both the financial and practical convenience that makes it a perfect investment if you know you’re staying put for a while.
Savings are typically in the thousands of dollars compared to a decade of gym memberships.
Having a home gym is the dream, precisely because it lets you do whatever you want, whenever you want, and at a lower cost.
If you have the spare cash around, it costs you nothing compared to what you’re going to pay to someone else – especially with inflation over the years and decades!