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Advice on Building a Home Gym

I am looking to build a home gym in the next year or so, and would appreciate any advice you guys have in that area. My lifting is primarily focused on compound barbell lifts, might get into crossfit or strongman down the road. Generally, I just focus on being strong and healthy.

Another fact to consider is that thanks to my job, I will be moving every 2-3 years, and can’t know for sure what size home I will have to work with, so I would like to build something that is not too too crazy to move, and that I could still fit into the house if for some reason I did not have a garage.

I am debating between getting squat stands or a power rack. Ideally, I would have a power rack. They seem more versatile to me, plus they would give me a place to do pullups. But, I don’t know how easy they would be to move, or if they would fit inside a house if push came to shove. Squat racks seems vastly more movable, but less versatile and no pullups.

Here’s two options I am looking at there.

https://www.titan.fitness/cages-and-racks/x-2-series/x-2-racks/x-2-series-short-power-rack.html

https://www.titan.fitness/x3-squat-stand-w-squatter-arms.html

Thinking about picking up a rogue power bar or rogue ohio bar for my lifts. I would like to do some olympic lifting, and my fiancee is a big time crossfitter, so perhaps the power bar isn’t my best bet there.

Any advice on dumbbells, bands, pulley systems, or just general tips or additions that you found made your home gym a better system would be greatly appreciated.

If strongman is a potential interest, get a yoke that you can load j hooks and spotter arms into to make a set of squat stands. Titan and Rogue both make models like that. Multiple movements with a small footprint.

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As someone who already had a pullup bar so I bought squat stands for my garage, I wish I had just bit the bullet and got a small rack at the time. Being able to attach a dip bar will also save you a ton of space as well.

I plan to craigslist out my current stuff and get a rack eventually. Regerts.

Definitely do this. Regret 2 is getting a titan barbell (they had a big sale, I’m a sucker). Titan barbells are just really bad. Knurling is garbage. Spin is even worse.

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Highly recommend PowerBlock dumbbell sets. I have the one with the add ons that go up to 90’s. Can’t say enough positive things about them.

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Def go for the power rack, and a decent one at that. My first one was one I built myself, out of scrap steel, it lasted a while but got a little wobbly once my squats had built up a bit.
Get a decent oly bar and lots of weight. All of my plates are second hand off Gumtree, always heaps of good bargains from the gym hopefulls that buy stuff and never use it.
If using it in your garage or house on a concrete slab, think about flooring, I got some old thick conveyor belt stuff from a scrap yard, works a treat and tough as nails.

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If you’re not in a rush, scour craigslist or facebook for-sale thingy for a while.

I got an adjustable bench (incline, decline, flat) with a squat stand, some WeiderPro model. Not super-nice but fine for what it is. Also a 300lb olympic barbell set. Plus a weight tree. Plus a few hundred pounds of spinlock weights, 2 spinlock dumbbells and a barbell too. Total price: $80. I was looking at craigslist every day for a month or so before I found that gem and pounced on it.

Relatives can be good too. I’ve got a set of powerblock dumbbells (which I also think are great, even though mine only go to 50) and a really, really nice adjustable bench on indefinite loan from my brother. Ask around, you might have family members with money to burn on workout equipment that they’d rather not look at anymore too!

Good luck!

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Mark Lauren has a book that has over 130 body weight exercises. If you use that book as your how-to-book, you can save a lot of money for a home gym.

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I’ll talk through my experience, which may offer insight to a couple of considerations for you:

  1. new vs used: as @twojarslave said, you can usually find used stuff cheap on craigslist or Facebook. There are at least two of three people selling a 300 pound weight set in my area at any given time.

With that said, if you have the means, there is something to be said for going new and having exactly what you want or stuff that feels like it’s truly “yours” too.

  1. type of plates: I wanted bumpers (I do a lot of deadlifts, and my house isn’t that big so the noise potentially reverberates through the entire house; my garage also is directly beneath my son’s nursery so if I am working out while he’s napping or down for the night I want the noise to stay down). I also needed plates where I could fit more than 405 on the bar - and the downside of crumb-rubber bumpers is that you run out of space with four 45’s per side - so to hit a compromise, I bought Rogue’s Hi Temp competition-style bumpers and have been very pleased. By topping it off with a spare pair of iron 45’s and change plates from my dad, I can fit >600 on the bar without a problem.

  2. type of barbell: I think one of the fairly unanimous pieces of advice I’ve seen for home gym folks is that you can cheap out on a lot of things, but a bar is one place where it’s worth spending a few extra bucks for a better product (not necessarily a specialty bar - unless you want one - but that in the long run you’ll be glad to have something like an Ohio Power Bar rather than a cheap Cap Barbell).

So even if you find somebody in your neighborhood selling a 300 pound weight set and a cheap bar, you may want to take advantage of the savings on your plates & get a better quality barbell.

EDIT: just re-read your post. If you want to do some Olympic lifting and your fiancé is a CrossFit type, I would advise the Rogue Ohio Bar (not the OPB) or the Rogue 28mm Training Bar rather than the Ohio Power Bar. JMO, but the heavier knurling might tear up her hands on high rep sets. I have the 28mm training bar and I really like it; would be well suited for your needs if you want to do some Oly lifting and have something that fits your fiancee’s desire to do CrossFit metcons at home. The only thing I don’t like is that it feels a little whippier and less stable on my back for squats than a power bar. For deadlifts it’s great, and it’s obviously meant to accommodate the olympic lifts.

3a) Some people will laugh but I totally see the attraction in having multiple bars and toys around for different lifts if you can afford it. If you want to have one toy on a budget, an axle is really cheap vs a higher end barbell and I have had a great deal of fun with my axle. So if you’re into strongman or just want a second “bar” an axle is a great choice and economical.

  1. surface: I read a lot about horse stall mats, and everyone says they’re great but the downside is that they’re super heavy (sounds weak, but if you’re going to move every 3 years, you’ll be setting up and tearing down). I went with half-inch 4x3 foot rubber mats instead of the 3/4-inch, 4x6 horse stall mats, and things seem to be going great so far (I don’t think the extra thickness of 3/4 inch vs half inch will matter unless you’re planning to drop weights from overhead or drop your deadlifts from waist height). They’re a little lighter and the smaller size is an advantage if you need to rearrange the puzzle pieces so to speak. Six of the 4x3 mats at Tractor Supply Company gives me a nice 9 foot wide, 8 foot deep spot that easily accommodates squat stands on the back half and deadlifting on the front half.

  2. squat stands versus a full power cage: I may be in the minority opinion here but I think squat stands will do just fine for most people, and again, if needing to tear down and rebuild your setup every 2-3 years is a reality this may be a consideration. I’ll also nod to @T3hPwnisher about the yoke - if you’re going to compete in strongman probably worth getting a combination yoke/squat stand.

  3. miscellaneous toys: besides your standard barbell and plates, if you’re looking for some bang for the buck in strongman or CrossFit: a heavy duty sandbag or two is a good idea and sand is super cheap. I like kettlebells to use for warmups and conditioning; they’re also portable if you’re the type that would take one in the car so you can get a workout anywhere. All of that should move easily, too, whereas fancier toys like a GHR or reverse hyper will be more of a pain to pack up every couple years.

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Having moved around quite a bit with a power rack, the idea of a yoke or a nice squat stand is how I’d lean if I were starting over. I haven’t had any issues with it fitting since it’s a fairly small rack, but it does introduce spacing and set up/tear down concerns.

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My advice think multi purpose when buying

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In fairness, a pretty axle is about the same cost as a mid grade barbell, haha.

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If space could ever be an issue then something like this would be a good idea for a rack. The downside is that you have to anchor to your wall but once it’s set, it won’t tip over. The Titan stuff you posted looks like it’d be wobbly if you don’t bolt it to the floor.

I have a Rogue Echo 2.0 bar. It was recommended by a friend of mine who trains at a CrossFit gym occasionally. Most of their bars were the Echo 2.0. It’s good for cleans and doesn’t seem to have too much whip (which I don’t want because I’m not used to it). It doesn’t have a center knurl though so there’s nothing to create “grip” when doing squats. I’ve considered wrapping tape around it like I used to do to my baseball bats.

Adjustable DB’s are a space saver. I got a set from Wal Mart that were $200 and go from 5-100 lbs each. I don’t like loading and unloading weights between sets but that’s what I gave up to have them in my basement. It would be much more expensive to have 20 sets of DB’s.

You could build a small platform and it wouldn’t be too hard to move.

The one thing I wish I had is cables but that’s not cheap and not exactly something I’d want to move every few years.

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Spud inc sells a economy pulley system for $100-$200 (depending on if you get a high pulley or a high and low pulley).

It is literally a couple of pulleys, a couple of steel cables plus the attachments.

This is something you can do very cheaply yourself.

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Just looked at that—it’s a pretty crude set up but I guess it works. I’m spoiled by the fancy stuff. One of the machines I use even allows me to be explosive and the stack doesn’t fly up and get slack in it. I think it has some high speed pulleys.

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Lots of great replies here.

I honestly had not even considered a yoke. Looking into the Titan short yoke, seems like it basically can do everything the squat stand can. Throw on some spotter bars, can attach a Dip bar, seems promising.

An axle seems like an awesome addition, and would definitely help out if I decided to dabble in strongman.

Titan makes an axle for under $50, which is very appealing to my budget haha. As our resident strongman, have you heard anything good or bad about titans axle?

Man, I have looked so hard at these, because they seem absolutely awesome in theory. my only concern is that it requires installation. I am going to be renting or in base housing for the foreseeable future, not to sure how they would feel about me drilling holes into the wall.

I am rather handy with tools, old man was a carpenter for his first career (later a dentist, he describes it as “small scale carpentry with teeth”), so It wouldn’t be too hard to build a platform, plus it seems like a fun project.

I always did love MacGyver…

I think I will end up going one of these routes. I would like to do olympic lifts from time to time, maybe even get into competing at crossfit, so a more well-rounded bar would probably do me good. I have always trained with pretty crappy equipment, so anything is going to be an upgrade from what I normally have.

Appreciate all the advice.

I can’t speak to Titan, but Rogue’s axle was only $125 and it’s been pretty solid this far.

Well yeah, but you bought the Cadillac of axles! And that’s after you spent so many years with your own ghetto homemade version.

As for a bar, @atlas13, any of the three Rogue choices (Echo 2.0, Ohio, 28mm Training Bar) should work. They’re all going to be passable for Oly lifts and general purpose powerlifting. They’ll have minor differences that you may want to consider - Rogue has a nice YouTube video that explains the differences between some of their bars for you to ponder.

One general point:

Titan has a reputation as being cheap knockoffs of Rogue stuff. I can’t speak to that personally as I’ve just made my first Titan purchase (a pair of wagon wheels) after buying exclusively Rogue for plates, barbell, stands, collars, and kettlebells. I do have IronMind sandbag & straps (now that I’ve used their 2” thick straps I can’t imagine going back to regular thickness).

Titan short yoke is the one I have. It’s been solid enough so far.

Regarding axles: no personal experience with it, but from what I’ve heard, it answers the mail. I have a Rogue axle, and it’s basically just a piece of pipe with welded on collars and powder coat. From all accounts, that’s what most powder coat axles are going to be. You could even DIY one by getting some plumbing pipe and duct tape, which I’ve done before. The Titan one runs about the same cost as DIY.

I got the Rogue axle craigslist bundle, and these days it’s sole purpose is to be a bar for me to load stones over in my power rack. Minus the powder coating chipping away pretty hardcore, it does fine at that, haha.

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I actually got a Rogue axle within my first year of training as part of a craigslist bundle. It never quite lit my fire, but it certainly got the job done.

EDIT: Speaking of pretty axles, Mike Bartos (of stone and steel fame) has produced a 75lb solid round 2" axle. Curious if it trumps the Ironmind.

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If I were getting a home gym, I’d buy this axle. Axles have no give, they don’t flex and return like a regular barbell. That makes them susceptible to permanent bending and I’ve seen solid axles with bends to them. So you just need to be careful and if you’re to be careful anyway, then you may as well get the cheaper one.

BTW, I think if you deadlift (or most other big lifts) then an axle is a very underrated variant.

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Anecdotal, but I’ve definitely felt that my deadlift started increasing again (without really trying!) when I started doing axle deadlifts. The combination of zero flex and weight being a little further in front of you has increased my pure brute-strength quotient, and when I go back to a regular bar it’s just less intimidating.

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