Best Home Gyms: 2018 Buying Guide
Going to the gym is hard.
You have to free up your schedule, from driving to dealing with the wait on the equipment, you’re probably running out of patience.
On top of that, you’re paying a monthly fee, which ends up being even more expensive than having your own gym equipment in the long run.
Clearly, having your own private gym with your name all over it is almost always better than going to a public facility where the environment is mostly a chaos especially during the busy hours.
In this article, we will show once and for all that, not only is owning a home gym entirely possible, it is the most cost effective, productive thing you can do to get fitter, bigger and stronger.
Here's what we'll cover:
Home Gym Advantages
Exercising at home has some obvious, and some not so obvious, advantages over going to a commercial gym.
Let’s break them down . . .
With a gym at home, you have your workouts on tap.
You can train whenever you choose – and be into it in a matter of minutes.
That is going to allow you to get your workout in more regularly.
As you know consistency is one of the most important factors in achieving your workout goals.
When you have your gym a few feet away, you are going to miss far fewer workouts.
A gym at home is especially beneficial when you’ve got kids under five.
Now you can get in your training session while the baby is taking its afternoon nap (just make sure you have a baby monitor in the gym).
If you’ve got toddlers, you can set up a protected play pen area in the corner of the gym area so you can keep an eye on the kids while exercising.
Imagine if you had to work out at a commercial gym with toddlers.
You’d either have to find a babysitter or, if the gym has a creche, bring the kids with you, trusting that the gym will look after them (good luck with that).
A home gym allows you to get in a workout when you’ve only got a few minutes.
In less time than it would take to drive to a commercial gym you can get in a delt scorching shoulder session or a calorie burning HIIT blast.
When you have a home gym, you will become more resolved to work out more often.
For one thing, there is the practical fact that you have spent a lot of time and money on setting up the gym, so you feel an inner obligation to make the most out of it – in other words you feel guilty.
If you didn’t use it to the full, you would be selfishly wasting money that could otherwise be used for the benefit of your family.
There’s nothing wrong with that sort of guilt – if it gets you working out more regularly, then it’s got to be a good thing.
Apart from this feeling of exercise obligation, research shows that those who exercise at home are more likely to sustain an exercise program for longer.
It just makes sense practically.
After all, having the gym at home takes away the excuses.
If you are a working person with a day job, then you will probably find yourself going to gym before or after work – just like everybody else who works between 9 and 5.
That makes for a crowded gym.
And that makes for a frustrating and ineffective workout.
Regardless of whether you are intent on losing bodyfat or building muscle, the tempo of your workout is critical.
Your rest between sets needs to be carefully monitored and goes from no time at all if you are super setting to 3 minutes if you are doing heavy power training.
But when you are having to wait around for gear, all of that rest time monitoring goes out the window.
You’re likely to find yourself waiting around for others to finish with a machine, bench or dumbbell.
Then there are the clowns who sit around on gear playing with their phones (don’t get me started on that one!)
The bottom line is that the quality of your workout will be compromised.
Even worse than wrecking your between set rest, when you hit the gym at peak time it’s a good bet that you aren’t even going to be able to follow your prescribed exercise order.
You’ve simply got to make the best use of what is available.
If you take your training seriously, that is not the way you want to roll.
Now compare all of that to training at home.
You will NEVER have to wait for equipment.
That puts you in total control of your workout tempo and your exercise order.
That is a huge advantage which will translate into more effective workouts and better gains!
Health & Safety
Gyms are notoriously unhealthy environments.
It’s hardly surprising.
Hundreds of people march in and out of them every day.
While they’re there, they are going to sweat, grunt and sometimes, puke, their way through their workout before heading out the door.
That creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
On the gym floor benches are covered in sweat, along with bars and machine handles.
If you think you can go to the gym changing rooms to clean off all of that bacteria, then think again.
Research indicates that the change rooms are actually the dirtiest place of in the entire facility.
So, going to the gym can actually rob you of your health!
Working out at home puts you in total control.
The fact that far fewer people will be using it automatically makes it less prone to bacteria build up.
And, even if it does attract bugs, you have total control over keeping the place clean and hygienic.
When you have a gym in your home, you are making a statement.
You care a lot about your health and well being.
Your family, including your kids, will hear that message loud and clear.
And with children spending so much time online it’s an important way that you get can set the right example for them.
Who knows – you may even coax them into an exercise program of their own (or at least get them to spot you when you’re benching).
To appreciate the money saving potential of a home gym you need to get out of the immediate cost mentality and think about the long-term investment benefits.
You will be paying a substantial amount up front, but, over time you will end up being in credit.
You will pay between $1000 and $1500 for a basic home gym set-up.
Then, apart from any maintenance and wear or tear costs, you’re done.
Of course, you can and probably will, keep adding gear as the years progress, so let’s say that over the first five years of the life of the gym you add $1000 worth of extra equipment.
You’ve now spent a max of $2,500 on your home gym.
The average cost of a gym membership in the United States, when you account for join up fees and monthly costs, is just under $800.
That’s $4,000 over 5 years.
Some simple maths tells us that the home gym guy is up by $1,500 already.
If he sends another $2,000 on gear in the following five years, he’s going to be ahead by $3,500 at the end of 10 years.
But there’s more to the dollar savings picture than that.
At the end of 10 years the commercial gym goer has got nothing materially to show for his $8,000 investment.
But the home gymer has got a whole room filled with equipment that he can either hang onto or sell.
Throw in 10 years of fuel savings from not having to drive to the gym and it’s a no-brainer – home gym training makes the better financial sense.
When you go to a commercial gym you are at the mercy of the people in charge.
They dictate what type of music is playing, along with the general mood and atmosphere that prevails.
Sometimes, that atmosphere gels perfectly with your training mindset – and sometimes it doesn’t.
But when you train at home, there’s no taking chances.
That’s because YOU are in charge.
You get to choose the music, the volume and the training atmosphere.
That is a huge advantage that can often either make or break your workout.
Your Home Gym Costs
Having established that a home gym is definitely a smart investment from both a financial and a health perspective, it’s time to drill down on the actual costs that you are likely to face.
We’re talking here of a basic set up that will allow you to do everything that you’d be able to do at a commercial gym.
As time goes by, you can add extra gear, but the following will get you off to a fantastic start.
That’s a total investment of $1,534.00. Of course, it is based on buying your gear brand new.
If you go second hand, your investment will be less than half that amount.
Not sure about going brand new or second hand? We’ve got you covered . . .
Should You Buy New or Used Home Gym Equipment?
Setting up a home gym is a costly enterprise.
So, it’s only natural that one of your first considerations is going to be whether to buy brand new or used workout equipment.
While, buying second hand or refurbished gear has an immediate cost saving benefit, there are other considerations based upon the type of gym equipment in question.
When Second Hand Makes Sense
The obvious advantage of buying brand new equipment is that it looks brand new (at least for a few weeks).
You know that it hasn’t been abused for years and you’ve got the protection of a warranty.
When it comes to certain types of gym equipment, however, those points don’t really apply.
Takes weight plates for example.
While it may be nice to have a uniform set of rubber encased plates neatly racked against the wall, the functionality of the weight is not compromised by its age.
After all, a weight is a weight.
So long as its weight still holds true, it will still do the job.
Same thing with barbells, benches, power and squat racks and most other free weight equipment.
One area where you will want to go brand new, however, is with bar collars.
They can lose their gripping ability over time, and that is one area that you don’t want to compromise on.
When it comes to pulley machines, the frame is usually very sound even after many years of use.
The parts that tend to wear out are the pulleys and cables.
However, you will find it more cost effective to buy a second-hand pulley machine and replace the cables and pulleys than forking out for a brand new machine.
Brand New / Refurbish Preferences
The more intricate and technical a piece of workout equipment, the more sense it makes to buy brand new.
While the majority of your strength gear can be purchased second hand, when it comes to your cardio training machinery, you are probably better off going new or refurbished.
You do not want to buy a piece of cardio equipment, such as a treadmill, rower or exercise bike from a third party seller such as a person on Ebay.
If the machine breaks down you will have very little recourse. Buying through a company that refurbishes, however, will give you the confidence that the unit has been maintained, fixed up and cleaned.
The purchase will also come with a warranty period.
You will have the satisfaction of a company to stand behind the product – and you will probably get it for about half the price of new.
A quality brand new exercise bike can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.
This is a good home gym investment that should be backed by a multi-year warranty.
My experience is that exercise bikes are the one piece of equipment that tend to have the most problems, so going brand new is probably a smart move.
For the rest of your cardio gear, such as a treadmill, rowing machine and stepper, purchasing a refurbished model that comes with a minimum 6-month warranty is a safe and cost -effective alternative.
Before you start shopping for gear for your new home gym, there are 6 preparatory steps that you need to take . . .
(1) Make sure that you have a dedicated space of atleast 25 square feet available.
(2) If you are renting, check with your landlord before affixing anything to the walls, ceilings or floors.
(3) Clear out your dedicated space so that it is completely empty.
(4) Grab some chalk and plot out where you will position your equipment, thinking about the types of workout that you have been doing at the gym.
(5) Position your squat or power rack first, making sure that you allow for about a foot and a half clearance each side.
(6) Buy a couple of kitchen mirror sheets from a hardware retailer and place them where you can get a full body view of your exercise form.
The Best Gear For Your Home Gym
It’s possible to set up a brand new home gym for considerably less than $1500 by buying budget model gear.
For the average fitness trainer, this type of gear will be perfectly fine.
If you’re a dedicated hardcore trainer, however, you will want to get the best that is out there.
To cover both bases, we are going to provide you with the best budget and the best premium options on the market for each product type.
Some form of power or squat rack should form the central building block of your home gym.
A key consideration when training at home is safety and a rack will allow you to train more safely than any other single piece of equipment.
It will be especially beneficial when you are doing heavy power lifting on moves like squats and overhead presses.
Ideally, you should go for a full power rack.
This will provide you with a cage within which you can train with full safety catches in place.
A really good power rack will set you back around a thousand bucks, so you might want to pare it down to a half power rack or a squat rack to begin with.
These both have a smaller footprint because they do not provide you with a full walk-in cage area.
Best Budget Rack
CAP Barbell have established a well-deserved reputation as a quality low end home gym supplier.
The framing is made from 12-14 gauge steel, which is slightly lighter than you would get with a Rogue rack.
The actual framing width is 2 inches square, which is also less than Rogue supplies.
However, it is still plenty strong for the majority of home gym applications.
The CAP rack has a maximum weight of 300 pounds.
This will meet the needs of novices and intermediate trainers but will be too limiting for advanced trainers.
The CAP rack comes with safety catch bars to protect you when you’re training alone.
The ABS sleeves on the j-hooks make sure that your bar doesn’t get scratched up.
You also get a pull up bar along with anchors for doing band attachment work.
Best Premium Rack
The Rogue S-2 is one of the sturdiest, most rigid squatting platforms one the market.
The frame is constructed from 2 x 3 inch 11 gauge steel. Bolts and fasteners are made from 5/8 inch thick steel.
Even though it is classified as a squat rack, it will essentially serve as a half power rack for you.
You will be able to use it for bench pressing, deadlifting, overhead power press work and, of course, every variation of squats that you care to think of.
As with most racks from Rogue, this one provides you with Westside hole spacing on the frame uprights.
It is a system of hole spacing that allows you customise your bar placement more precisely.
Throughout the bench-pressing zone the spacing between the bar placement holes is one inch.
Above and below that zone it is two inches.
That allows for precise positioning when setting up for the bench press.
The base of the rack has been redesigned by Rogue to provide you with a very secure lifting platform thanks to triangle base plates.
The rack has a pull up bar up top.
At a height of 92 inches, it provides you with plenty of clearance space no matter how tall you are.
However, the height is not so great that it won’t be able to fit the rack into a normal sized room.
Rogue allow you to choose between a fat /skinny and a single skinny pull up bar.
The max weight allowance on this squat rack is an impressive 1,000 pounds.
Another great thing about the Rogue S-2 is that there are a number of accessories that you can buy to extend the potential of the equipment.
Extra pieces include landmines, dip bar attachments and safety spotter arms.
It would have been nice to see some -late storage pegs on the base of the Rogue S-2, but that omission is about the only negative that we can come up with.
For less than a hundred bucks, you can grab a high quality 7-foot olympic bar.
This bar is precision engineered for performance.
It is 86 inches in length and weighs on a 44 pounds.
A triple plated chrome finish gives very good protection against rust, chipping and peeling.
The diameter of the bar is 30 milimeters and it has a max weight allowance of 600 pounds.
The 29 mm Rogue Ohio Power bar is the ideal choice for those guys who are into heavy and hard lifting.
It features a 205,000 PSI steel shaft, single powerful knurl marks and in-center knurling.
You won’t experience much in the way of flex or whip, which is a good thing.
The bar weighs in at 45 pounds, including the bronze bushings, and snap ring design.
With 16.25 inches of load sleeve length, there is plenty of plate loading potential.
Rogue allow you to choose from a black zinc with bright zinc sleeves, stainless steel shaft with chrome sleeves or bare steel throughout.
Best Gym Plates
The XMark range of rubber coated tri-grip Olympic plate weights are a great fit for your Olympic bar, providing you with a quality starting weight plate set that won’t over stretch your budget.
They are made from one-piece cast iron surrounded by a tough, premium rubber casing constructed from recycled rubber.
Each plate features recessed tri-grip handles, making it easy to carry the plates in one hand.
They are also slotted for ease of loading and unloading.
Each plate has its weight molded onto it for easy identification.
These weights are finished in a stylish black rubber coating.
Plates are sold in pairs from 10 to 45 pounds.
Rogue Hi-Temp premium bumpers are the ultimate heavy duty training plate for in-home use.
These plates are made in America, which is a rarity in the industry.
These bumper plates are created from an amalgamation of recycled vulcanized rubber along with a unique two-inch stainless steel insert.
This is a crumb rubber plate, so you can expect some very minor aesthetic defects, but you won’t find more durable, harder wearing bumpers anywhere.
A unique feature of the Hi-Temp bumper is that the collar is inset from the plane of the plate.
This affords much better protection when you are stacking up the pates on the bar.
These plates each measure 17.5 inches in diameter and have an accuracy guarantee of within plus or minus .05 pounds of the claimed weight.
Rogue give you the option of purchasing your bumpers in pairs or in a bundled set, which will save you some serious dollars.
The weights available are . . .
A bundled set to a total weight of 230 pounds will cost you around $250, which includes the cost of shipping within the continental US.
Adjustable dumbbells consist of a pair of space age looking dumbbells that sit on a solid carbon plastic base.
On each end of the dumbbell you will find a dial which allows you to select a set resistance.
When you dial it up the handle will grab onto flat plates that sit on the base that correspond to that weight.
When you pick up the handle only that weight will come with you.
The Bowflex 552 is the most popular adjustable dumbbell on the market.
This is primarily due to the ease and reliability of use of the SelectTech dial adjustment system.
Other systems out there take longer and are less reliable.
The Bowflex 552 provides you with the equivalent of between 5 and 52.5 pounds per dumbbell.
Here are the key specs on the Bowflex 552 . . .
One of the benefits of the 552 over other adjustable dumbbells out there is that, for the first 25 pounds, you get increments of 2.5 pounds.
After that it goes up by 5 pounds.
This is important.
Our strength increases slowly.
Most times it doesn’t allow us to make 5 pound dumbbell jumps, but will allow for 2.5 pound increments.
The biggest limitation of the 552 is that it tops out at 52.5 pounds.
Because you cannot buy extra plates to extend the poundage, you will have to buy something else once you get beyond 52.5 pounds (the exercise that will most likely be affected here is the dumbbell bench press).
Fortunately, the 552 has got a big brother, the Bowflex 1090. The 1090 takes the maximum weight up to 90 pounds.
Here are the weight increments on the 1090:
10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85 and 90 lb
The Bowflex 552 comes with an impressive 2-year warranty, while the 1090 extends this out to three years.
However, Bowflex also provide a 6-week money back guarantee on both models.
This allows you to test the dumbbell out and decide whether you like it.
This is important as adjustable dumbbells have a different length and weighting than traditional dumbbells.
They do require working through a slight learning curve and my not be to everyone’s liking.
You can pick up the Bowflex 552 for around a quarter of the price you would pay for a full set of comparable dumbbells.
Adjustable Weight Benches
The CAP Barbell Deluxe Utility Bench is our top pick for an excellent starter bench.
It provides you with a flat and incline angle adjustment, but no decline.
You are also able to adjust the seat and back support separately, which is a rarity for a bench at this price point.
The seat has 3-way adjustment, while the back board provides you with 7 angle options.
This combination allows you to get the ideal body positioning and angling to isolate and work your muscles, especially those of the chest.
Another rare feature on a budget bench is the provision of anchor posts so that you can train with resistance bands as well as dumbbells.
The 500-pound maximum weight capacity on this bench will meet the needs of most beginner and intermediate weight trainers (keep in mind that the max weight is a combination of your body weight and the weight that you are lifting on the bar).
The CAP bench is solidly constructed with a solid frame that provides you with a rigid base to work from.
Two-inch thick seat padding provides you with a comfortable back support. The bench stands 16 inches tall when set in a flat position.
You get a 30-day warranty on the CAP utility bench.
The Rep Fitness adjustable bench is a very impressive 7 position bench that is extremely stable and durable.
It is rated to 1,000 pounds so you can have total confidence that it will easily handle whatever you throw at it.
This bench allows you to adjust the seat and the base separately so you can get customized positioning in every move.
The seat is adjustable to four positions, with the main base ranging from 85 degrees on the incline all the way through to a -20 degree decline.
This allows for flat, incline and decline bench positioning.
The Rep bench comes with vinyl covered rollers.
These allow you to lock your legs in position when you are doing decline chest work.
It has a vinyl covering which protects the bench.
This bench is very solid, being constructed from 11-gauge steel.
The width of the bench is 11.5 inches.
This provides you with plenty of support and padding for your back when working on the bench without restricting the range of movement of your lats on exercises like the bench press.
This Rep Fitness bench comes with a 10-year warranty on the frame with 30 days on the padding.
The Titan Fitness wooden gymnastic rings provide you with a very comfortable gripping heavy solid duty wooden ring, along with an extra-long 15-foot strap that features a buckle up system.
This allows for a quick adjustment, allowing you to set up your rings over your squat or power rack.
The maximum user weighting on this gym ring set is 600 pounds.
The ProSource Puzzle Exercise mat provides you with interlinkable puzzle pieces that provide you with a durable, hardy workout floor.
These non-skid textured tiles will protect the flooring beneath them while also providing you with a comfortable walking space.
Each tile measures 24 inches x 24 inches by a half inch.
Each pack provides you with 6 tiles along with 12 end borders to provide you with a coverage of 24 square feet.
The high-density EVA foam provides you with excellent conditioning without putting any toxic phthalates into the atmosphere.
These are probably the most cost-effective floor coverings that you will find for your home gym.
The Best Overall Home Fitness Brand
Over the last five years, Rogue have risen to dominate the fitness equipment industry.
They are the official suppliers of equipment for the CrossFit Games.
Rogue proudly manufacture everything out of their state of the art factory in Ohio, USA.
Rogue manufacture and distribute a full range of fitness, CrossFit and weightlifting equipment, including weightlifting bars, plates, racks and rigs.
They are suppliers to many CrossFit boxes, personal garage gyms, military gyms, colleges and professional sports team gyms around the world.
Rogue operate out of a 175,000 square-foot production plant in Columbus, Ohio.
As well as providing gear for the general fitness community they also manufacture for the Strongman, Powerlifting and Weightlifting athletes.
Rogue also sponsor a number of athletes including CrossFit Games legend Rich Froning.
Our breakdown of what you need to set up an awesome home gym should have convinced you that staying home to train is well within your reach.
For around $1,500 you can get going with a basement full of brand new, gleaming gear that will allow you to do everything that the commercial gym in town offers.
Once you’ve absorbed the pain of that initial investment, you will be on your way to a laundry list of long term benefits.
Within two and a half year you will recouped you costs in saved gym fees – and you’ll still own all of your equipment.
Your workouts will be more constant, more productive and more enjoyable.
And don’t forget the fine example you’ll be setting for your family members - and the gift of fitness that you will be opening up to them.