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Garage Gym Build on a Budget?

I’ve been doing bodyweight workouts for the past few months (the governor of my state is very ban happy). I’ve been wanting to get back into 5/3/1 and now that they are talking about another round of stimulus checks I’m trying to come up with a list of things I need to be able to conduct workouts in my one car garage. Space and budget is a premium; everything needs to fit on the sides of the garage with the car stored there when not training, and I would prefer not to blow the entire proposed 1200 if possible (I understand buy nice or buy twice but I may have to make compromises).
I have a Prowler, 4 45lb plates and 2 25lb plates. I understand I need more plates, a bar, a bench, and deadlift platform, and some kind of squat stand or rack. I know that Jim built a platform (if anyone has a material list that would be great), but other than that I’m wondering if anyone has some product recommendations for stuff that would fit in a one car garage, could be moved to the side to allow for a car to be parked after workouts, and would break the bank too much.
Thanks guys!

Some companies offer folding racks for tight spaces, but an olympic bar with your present weights equals a basic garage gym. Rack = workout buddy, so find a guy. Two, even better.

Check youtube “garage gym”. Think unconventional things like farmers walks bars, sandbags, bands, pullup bars, weighted vests, all of which are not expensive and presently attainable. You’ll spend more $ than you expect, so keep saving.

If you’re really trying to go barebones, all you really need, based on what you already have, is a squat stand that adjusts low enough to bench with, and then a bench (plus a handful of smaller plates and a bar). If you don’t deadlift like an asshole, you don’t need a platform.

Aside from that, maybe a couple bands for assistance work.


I’d definitely get 10’s, 5’s, and maybe get 2.5’s if you can. Not sure of your strength levels so you may have enough in the (4) 45’s and (2) 25’s.

For bench and rack, I would look at Titan. They’re lower-quality Rogue copies but they hold up well. Mostly, they just don’t look as pretty.

For a deadlift platform, you can build one. You’ll need (4) sheets of 1/2" MDF, 1 sheet of 3/4" finished plywood, and 2 pieces of horse stall mat. For the love of god, don’t make the mistake I did on the horse stall mat though. Get the flat one. I got the one with diamond plate and I have a hell of a time doing sets of deadlifts because it kicks the bar all over the place.

Google Art of Manliness deadlift platform for assembly instructions and a better bill of materials. It will cost you less than 1/4 to build vs buy.

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I’ll throw in that you could get a Yoke from Titan for under $400; I’m very happy with mine. They can be used as a squat/press stand, for different carries (yoke, zercher, overhead), and disassemble very easily (pop the crossmember off and slide the stands to the side).

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Squat stands - 2 4x4’s and 1 2x4 in concrete buckets - one 4x4 at Bench height, one 4x4 at squat height, strong ties as hooks, the 2x4 as a backer for the squat stands. Sawhorses as safeties. Bench was made also with some 4x4s, a piece of plywood and rubber mats. Lasted me all the way through BTM and Deep Water.


Wow! Lots of great ideas here everyone! Thank you!

A few ideas that I would think of, elite fts sells a 5/3/1 squat stand. Might fit the bill but if you want something on the wall and affordable I would look into a titan wall rack. There’s two types one that mounts the the wall with a selected depth and a folding on. There fairly cheap and decent racks. For a barbell you could get a rogue bone yard bar or what I have is a cap beast barbell. Specs are close to the rogue power bar and around $200. If you are looking for a good flat bench I bought a rep fitness flat bench for around $200 and it was awesome.

Hope that helps some

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If you want to be really frugal too, you can just skip the deadlift platform altogether. I’ve just been using the horse stall mat for deadlifts and haven’t noticed how building it into a platform would improve my lifting experience.

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I also just use the horse stall mats and as long as you don’t drop your deadlifts you are fine. In my opinion if you can’t lower under control then the weight is too heavy for training. Competition is another matter.

Quite the opposite: often, if you can’t lower the weight under control in a competition, you won’t be allowed the rep.


For the most part they (USAPL and USPA) haven’t cared as long as you don’t drop it from the top or add downward momentum to slam the bar. Is it different in strongman?

It always is, haha, but even in powerlifting it can depend. I competed in NASA, our meet was on the second floor of a YMCA, and the rules were strict on slamming the bar like you wrote. I guess I assumed “lower weight under control” meant not slamming or dropping it.

For strongman, you can legit cheat by slamming the bar because often you’re competing outdoors and can actually make the pulling surface LONGER for future competitors by creating divots under the plates.


This is dastardly and I love it. haha

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This is the most “strongman” thing I’ve read all day.

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One of the best things I did for my garage gym was buy extra long dumbbell handles that are plate-loadable. The standard pancake-type plates are readily available at yard sales for cheap. I built a wooden rack to hold the plates. I can load up to 205 per handle with just 10s, and this is much cheaper than buying individual dumbbells (and takes up less room).

That is what I made recently and I like it a lot.

It occurred to me that I never shared how everything went!
That is a Titan T3 “Space Saver” Short rack with 24" standoffs, a Rouge “E-coated” Ohio bar, and an Amazon Basics flat bench, built atop the Deadlift Platform that Art of Manliness provided the plans for. My Chevy Cruze fits, but overhangs the platform by about 2 feet (I duct taped a plastic tarp to the front of the platform to protect from snowmelt).
Since this photo was taken, I’ve added side pegs to the uprights for the 6 45s, 4 25s, 2 10s, and 2 5s and 2.5s (think that should keep me busy for some time), a vertical bar hanger so that the bar doesn’t get in my way during pullups, a pair of spotter bars, and some Rogue clips. I also have a pair of Mechanix fingerless gloves on the way; it’s cold where I am, and workouts have to be done early morning or I won’t do them.
All told, about 1000. Certainly more money than I was paying at the free gym the VA runs, but I haven’t been able to make it out that way since changing jobs anyway, and Cuomo can’t close down this gym! (though I’m sure he’ll try…)


Jim mentions setups in quite a few of his articles, this one: “Making the Hard (Exercise) Choices” has been an ‘azimuth’ I’ve thought about for years.