A Beginner’s Guide to Building a Home Gym for Muscle Gain

Why a home gym may be the right choice for you

basement_home_gymEver feel intimidated by the bigger fitter guys at the gym? Hate having to wait around to use the squat rack? Always coming up with excuses not to get to the gym because it's too much hassle traveling? Are you always trying to beat your personal bests whilst the latest Justin Bieber song blares out on the speakers? If any of these sound familiar then bringing your gym closer to home could very well be the best thing you ever did for your fitness goals!

Working out in your own gym at home has many benefits, some of which include:

  • 24/7 access to your own gym is extremely convenient, especially for those with busy daily lives (work, picking up the kids, making dinner etc etc. can make it almost impossible to get the free time to workout).
  • You are your own personal DJ for your home gym, no need to grin and bare the sack of dog poo that is Justin Bieber anymore (sorry Bieber fans! :). You can stick on some rock to motivate you to take lift your heaviest weights.
  • You can act yourself when you're working out. No need to keep it in when you're busting your guts – spit, swear, scream, take your shirt off, who cares, nobody can see you.
  • Cost – Possibly the biggest benefit to working out at home is cost! Compared to an average yearly gym membership of 400-$600 (£250-£400), a functional home gym can be setup for as little as $500 (£300) a one-time payment! A good idea especially when our pockets are emptier than ever!

There are many other benefits to setting up a home gym but it's not suitable for everyone. I for one can testify just how effective working out at home is. I've not regretted my decision to start working out at home once.

What you'll need to build an effective home gym

OK, so you've decided to wave bye bye to your old gym membership and setup at home, you're now going to have to buy your own home gym equipment. There's a lot to consider, but for a good basic home gym you'll need:

  • An adjustable squat rack (you can opt for a power rack if your budget and home gym space allows it)
  • 6ft-7ft standard barbell
  • Cast iron weight plates
  • An adjustable weight bench
  • Chin up bar
  • Adjustable dumbbells

Once you've had the gym setup a while and have some spare money you might want to add some other things including additional weight plates, a stand for the weight plates, and a dip station. You don't have to spend a ton of money to buy the fanciest machines, as the simple things are often the best. If you want to add cardio to your workouts go for a run outside, or if you really want to have absolutely everything in your gym you can opt for a used treadmill, exercise bike, or elliptical for relatively cheap.

What to consider if you buy the above equipment

Space – This is an obvious point to consider when you buy your home gym equipment. You don't need a lot of space for the basics but if you decide you want to buy more than suggested you may run into issues with space. For the above equipment you'd need a minimum of a 7 x 10 ft space. 

Adjustable squat rack – An adjustable squat rack is essential for safe self spotting for heavy exercises such as the bench press and squat. You can opt for a power rack, but you'd have to incorporate the height of your ceiling into the equation. I for one don't have really high ceiling's so an adjustable squat rack is ideal. Adjustable squat racks cost a lot less than power racks too, so if you must choose between the two then adjustable would be your better choice. You can get hold of an adjustable squat rack for as less than $150 (£80).

Barbell, Dumbbells and cast iron weights – You only need a standard 6ft barbell to be able to squat and bench effectively with an adjustable squat rack. You can pick them up for around $50-$60 (£25) or you can often buy barbells in a set together with weight plates and dumbbells for cheaper than you would get each of them separate. If you're serious about building muscle you should be fine starting with weight plates with a combined weight of 220lbs. It may also be worth looking on Amazon or eBay for some second hand equipment, as more often than not failed 'New Year's resolution' trainers are selling their weights for next to nothing.

Weight bench – Going cheap on a weight bench is a no no, it's going to be flimsy and unstable, which isn't a great feeling when you're lifting 220lbs of cast iron above your head!! A sturdy quality made weight bench is a must. It need not be that expensive, but it does have to be very solid. You can often get some great deals on weight benches if you search through Amazon and eBay. If you can opt for an adjustable bench which can be both declined and inclined, as you'll then be able to target your chest more effective on decline and incline bench presses.

Dip station – Mentioned as an optional piece of equipment, the dip exercise can be done without having to pay out any more money.  Just grab 3 chairs, 2 placed shoulder width apart and one a leg width, if you want to weight assisted dips simply place a weight plate on your lap.

So how much is everything going to cost?

I've done a lot of research on this and the majority of equipment can be bought for less on Amazon brand new than anywhere else. They also have some great deals on used equipment too.

  • Adjustable squat rack – $150 (£80)
  • 6ft barbell – $50 (£30)
  • 210lb weight set with dumbbells and 6ft bar – $200 (£100)
  • Bench – $110 (£60)

So you can have your own functional home gym for as little as $510. Depending on what you were paying at your old gym you could have made your money back in less than a year, there's no other payments. Unless of course you out lift your current setup and you need to invest in more weight plates. If you really do some digging though I bet you could get all the equipment above for cheaper than what I've listed. It may seem a big outlay but in the long run you'll make a massive saving year on year not to mention the gains you'll see in both muscle and fitness.

Be sure to check out Amazon and eBay for all the latest deals on equipment.