How much does it cost to build a personal gym in 2020? Inside we’ll cover a few different set-ups, ranging from a simple stow-away adjustable dumbbell set-up for apartments to a full-out barbell garage gym, and what they’d cost to build.
The reasons why people want a home gym is more complex than just the money factor
After coaching nearly 10,000 people through Bony to Beastly and Bony to Bombshell, we’ve seen countless clients instantly become consistent with their workouts once they built a home gym. It seems that home gyms seem to work really well for certain life situations and personalities.
For me, a home gym allowed me to work out a lot more often since it wasn’t a big effort to get to the gym. Being 30 seconds from the gym allowed me to easily spread out my weekly volume allowing me to get better results. Plus, my kids get to see a role model of what it looks like to make exercising a part of your life.
Our team coached a husband and wife who lifted weights together in the basement at 9 pm once their kids were asleep. This was the only time and set-up that worked for their life.
One vice-president of a small business we coached built a home gym his basement, so he could do his workouts at 5:30 am. He was never consistent enough due to his responsibilities until he made working out incredibly convenient and quick to get to. That 20 minutes normally spent driving to the gym, parking, and getting changed with your stuff stored in a locker could instead be your daily workout.
We’ve coached many women who said they felt more comfortable lifting weights at home. A home gym meant giving them the freedom to do exercises like the glute bridge and deep barbell front squats without worrying about random men staring at them.
Lastly, a home gym can be exactly what you want it to be. You can make it look the way you want it to, it can be as clean as you’d like, you can blast your favourite music, and you’ll never need to wait for another piece of equipment again.
But how much does it cost to build a home gym for someone in North America?
For the sake of clarity, all prices are in US dollars. Even though we’re Canadian, we’re used to the USD since we’re often ordering from American companies to ship up here.
Let’s take a look at five examples:
- The Barebones Home Gym (condos, apartments, etc.)
- The Well-Rounded Barbell Budget Gym
- The Well-Rounded High-End Made in USA Gym
- The Home Barbell Gym For Women
- The Home Gym for Cardio & Conditioning
The barebones home gym (perfect for condos, apartments, and small spaces)
When it comes to lifting weights, your body doesn’t care if you’re using dumbbells or barbells. All it cares about it that it’s heavy enough to challenge your body to adapt.
So for the barebones gym, all you need are two adjustable dumbbells and an adjustable bench—perfect for small places and even tiny apartments.
My business partner Shane had an inexpensive bench, and two adjustable dumbbells with spindle collars and a bunch of plates. At the time, it tucked away into a small nook in his single-bedroom apartment in downtown Toronto. (Shane now lives in a house, and he built a full out barbell gym from Rogue, you can check out his tips on building a barbell gym here.)
Adjustable dumbbells have pros and cons
Some of the upsides to adjustable dumbbells are:
- dumbbells allow a more natural motion, typically allowing for a greater range of motion, and therefore better muscle activation and a better, fuller, more 3D-look, to the muscles. In one study, doing the dumbbell shoulder press was better than the barbell overhead press for hitting the shoulders.
- they’re small and easy to tuck away in a closet.
- you won’t need a spotter or a rack/squat stand to be safe. For example, you can do a set of heavy dumbbell bench press right to failure and not worry about being pinned down. (There is a risk that dumping the weight could always hit your toes though.)
- you need a little less weight with them for a stimulating workout. This sometimes makes them cheaper than buying a barbell with lots of weight.
There are downsides to adjustable dumbbells, though.
- You can’t lift as heavy with them compared to a barbell. Barbells bring stabilization which allows a heavier weight to be used.
- You won’t get better with the traditional lifts like the barbell bench press and deadlift. A lot of people like knowing how they’re doing with those barbell lifts as an idea of how strong they are compared to others.
- Adjustable dumbbells take time to switch up the weights, which can be annoying.
- Not only that, but the cheaper spindle lock dumbbells can make it harder for the weights to rest on your knees before doing a dumbbell bench press. One blogger cleverly advocated wearing football thigh pads while doing heavy benching with the spindle dumbbells.
There are solutions to this problem, such as buying high-end adjustable dumbbells that have quick-lock features and flat bottoms. These adjustable dumbbells cost a bit more, but you’d still get the space-saving benefits.
- Ironmaster dumbbells
- Powerblock dumbbells
A few other things worse considering for a barebones gym would be an ab rollout which can be tucked away in a closet, and (safely installed) door-frame chin-up bar.
A cheap apartment set-up
|Yes4All 2 Adjustable Dumbbells, 100 pounds per hand, Spindle Collars w/ Cast Iron Plates||200|
|Run-of-the-mill cheap adjustable bench||120|
|Iron Age Pull Up Bar Doorway w/ Smart Hook||90|
Higher quality and convenience oriented set-up
|Powerblock Elite, 90 pounds per hand||557|
|Rep Fitness Adjustable Bench, AB-3100 V3||240|
|Iron Age Pull Up Bar Doorway w/ Smart Hook||90|
The well-rounded budget home gym
The budget gym is based around having the basics for lifting weights. One of the top-rated brands on Amazon is Rep Fitness, and so they’ve become a favourite for those building a gym on a budget. Not only are they reasonably priced, but instead of ripping off designs as many suspect Titan to be doing, they’ve created thoughtfully-designed solutions like their FB-5000 Comp Bench. This comp bench is not just reasonably priced but has the proper bench height, a three-foot bench design for more feet placement options, and a handle with wheels for easy moving.
|Rep PR-1000 Power Rack, chin-up bar, safety arms, j-cups||275|
|Rep Black Bumper Plates, 260 pounds||360|
|Rep Fractional Change Plates||20|
|Rep Zinc Coated Olympic Barbell||150|
|Rep AB-3100 Adjustable Bench||190|
The high-end made-in-USA well-rounded home gym
The high-end gym example is made in the USA from Rogue. Rogue makes some of the most coveted lifting equipment out there. Everything is overbuilt (never rickety), quality, and has a distinctive badass look.
Shane (an advisor on the Outlive team), and I each built our own home gyms using Rogue. The equipment we use at home is better quality than the equipment we used to pay good money to have access to at the local gym.
It’s also fun to use. I’m lifting with a barbell that’s pitch black with aggressive knurling, and it feels amazing. (If you want to go down the rabbit-hole on barbells, check out Shane’s barbell guide here.) I got brightly coloured bumper plates, and the bench I have (Thompson Fat Pad with the shorty frame) is the perfect height, grippy, and makes my benching feel much more stable compared to the lightweight bench I was using before.
One last reason I liked choosing Rogue over many of the other large brands, is because of the way it’s made. I believe that the people behind the production should matter just as much as what they’re making. As a Canadian, I love our brothers and sisters in the US. Whether the equipment is produced in Canada or the USA (or another free country), both countries have elections, support fair wages, freedom of movement and religion, and have more strict environmental laws compared to something built overseas.
|Rogue S-2 Squat Stand 2.0, pull-up bar, j-cups||425|
|Rogue Infinity Safety Spotter Arms||135|
|Rogue Ohio Olympic Barbell, Black Oxide, Free Collars + $15 upgrade to USA-made collars||310|
|Rogue Bolt Together Utility Bench||200|
|Rogue Bumper Plates by Hi-Temp, 230 pounds||465|
|Rogue Fractional Plates (NOT USA-made)||65|
It could worth taking a look around to see if there’s a company producing locally-made equipment in your own country. Not only would you be supporting local craftsmen, but you may even get better quality for the same price because you may save on shipping costs. I’ve bought a handful of made in Canada workout accessories, like my weighted dip belt.
The home barbell gym for women
Menno Henselmen, MSc, wrote an interesting article on the scientific differences in women and men when it comes to training. In general, women tolerate metabolic stress (the burn) better than men. They can also handle more reps and more volume than men. They don’t do as well with heavy-lifting and high power output that seriously tax their nervous system.
Through coaching we’ve found that most of the women we’ve coached had very different physique goals compared to men. While men are focusing on doing endless benching and barbell curls for a large chest and biceps, most women we coached wanted to focus on developing their hourglass curves by working on their glutes (butt), toning their core, and maybe a bit of shoulder work, depending on their starting structure, for a bit more upper body strength.
So, while there may be some similarities for a home gym set-up, women might want to take a look at these things.
Mini-loop bands are key for doing exercises like mini-loop band walks, band clamshells, and can even be used during glute bridges and other movements for a more intense workout.
Bar pad (Airex, Hampton)
Many women decide to get a barbell so that they can do heavy glute bridges and hips thrust on a bench. It is critical to get a bar pad to allow you to lift a heavy weight without hurting yourself. It changes the lift from an “ouch” pain to just “heavy,” so that you can focus on lifting. My wife uses the Hampton Pad, and it does the job. Although if we were to buy again, I think we’d try the Airex, since it may be a bit thicker, and allow us to use it for other things (to save our knees during dynamic stretches, ab rollouts, etc.)
A woman’s Olympic barbell
Women’s Olympic barbells are 15kg heavy. This makes them 5kgs lighter (about 11 pounds lighter) than the men’s Olympic barbell. They’re also 3mm less thick to grab, and about 7″ less long. They still fit the traditional weight plates, but they’re proportionally designed for women. Rogue makes amazing barbells, in general, and they’ve got a lot of great colours and options for women.
A light, medium, and heavy kettlebell
I’ve noticed that my wife usually picks up our kettlebells over the adjustable dumbbells. When I was training in a commercial gym, I’d often see women doing kettlebell or barbell work much more often than using dumbbells. While I think two adjustable dumbbells could be a key asset for women, there could be something to this idea.
As we mentioned earlier, based on Menno’s article, in general women, don’t tend to do as well with ultra-heavy lifting. So perhaps one way for great results isn’t by making your weight slightly heavier by going to 42.5 pounds instead of 40, but instead, picking up the familiar kettlebell and squeezing out another three reps. Or adding another set while you’re at it (more weekly volume.) The main thing, in terms of results, is that you are still doing the exercise to—or close to—failure.
So getting a few different kettlebells, some bands, and a barbell with plates could be more than enough.
Do you want a rack or squat stand?
Not all women want to do heavy barbell bench pressing and heavy barbell squats. If you do, perhaps you should consider getting a squat stand with safety arms or a full out rack.
But we’ve found that the women we’ve coached often want to keep it simple. For example, they could do push-ups for chest work, single-kettlebell overhead press for their shoulders, kettlebell goblet squats for their legs and butt, and kettlebell rows for their back. Then they’d have a barbell always loaded up with some plates for heavy glute bridges for a bit more isolation work. If they want to get a simple bench, then they could also do barbell hip thrusts.
|Rep Fitness Kettlebell, Light, 13 pounds||34|
|Rep Fitness Kettlbell, Medium, 26 pounds||55|
|Rep Fitness Kettlebell, Heavy, 53 pounds||100|
|General Mini-loop Resistance Bands||15|
|Hampton Extra-Thick Barbell Pad||50|
|Airex Balance Pad, Regular, For Barbell||65|
|Rep Fitness 15kg Women's Sabre Barbell||190|
|Rogue Bella 2.0 15kg Women's Barbell, Black Zinc / Bright Zinc||215|
|Rogue Bella 2.0 15kg Women's Barbell, Cerakote Pink||275|
We didn’t do a total since we included a couple options for some of the things. But if you went for the cheapest options ($444) and grabbed 260 pounds in bumper plates from Rep Fitness ($325), it’d cost around $770.
The home gym for cardio & conditioning
I’d like to make the case that you deeply consider doing your conditioning and cardio work outside.
Ultimately, the research shows that you’ll get leaner, have better cardio health, and feel a lot better by doing cardio outside.
How? One, by aligning your circadian rhythm to the sun. The bright light from the sun helps to dilate blood vessels, helping with cardio improvements (study). You’d get nitric oxide from the sun, and the ultraviolet rays (UV) will help you fight off dandruff (study) and nearsightedness (study). The chemical conversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol to vitamin-D (among the other processes still unknown about how they affect us) is necessary for your body. We’re finding out, that in terms of health, taking a vitamin D supplement has mixed results (review, review, article). It seems like an easier answer is to get reasonable sun exposure until researchers understand all of the mechanisms better.
Bright light also stimulates serotonin production, making you feel happier (or less depressed), which also is needed to produce melatonin. Melatonin is most well-known for helping you to fall asleep and stay asleep. But melatonin also has a complex relationship with the mitochondria in your body, helping you stay young, protecting you from disease, inflammation, and helping you to burn more fat instead of storing it. (study, article)
You’d also get more fresh air outside in the sun. As long as you live in an area with clean air, it’ll be a lot cleaner than the indoor air, important when you’re breathing more heavily (study). Research also shows that being outside naturally helps people to naturally move more (study), and also helps to relieve stress (study).
While it’s much harder to lift weights outside (such as the metal being at risk of rusting), doing cardio and conditioning outside is a lot more practical.
How to do cardio outside:
- Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS)—Walking steadily outside.
- Moderate Intensity Steady State—Brisk walking or light jogging outside.
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)—Sprints than walking, and repeat. Playing a sport like basketball or tennis. Biking outside and doing bike sprints occasionally.
Walking, instead of biking, may also help play a role in restoring and maintaining optimal posture and pelvic health.
So your main expenses may be buying a good pair of running shoes, socks, shorts, outerwear (jacket and pants.) You might also want to look into a step-counter (pedometer) or a heart-rate tracker if you’re into that kind of thing.
I don’t like exercising in public
Many people that we’ve coached that were hesitant to this idea didn’t like the idea of being out in public while doing cardio. For example, they may live in a city, where running might mean weaving through many people. They might worry more about their clothing (is it stylish, is it clean enough, does this cover my ______ enough?). Some thought it’d be annoying to have to say hello to people.
One option is to ease into it by doing your cardio early in the morning, you can get out there before everyone else. And since the only people you’ll see are other joggers, you can do a simple nod as a hello. If you’ve got a backyard, you can do something private that doesn’t require a lot of space like doing jump-rope in the sun.
But I live in the North where the winter is brutal
As a Canadian, I’ve learned that if you want to enjoy a season properly, you need to be properly dressed. The summer with its 35C weather can melt you if you’re wearing long pants and heavy socks. Similarly, winter is also challenging if the –20C wind is cutting through your pants, and you’re either freezing from not wearing enough clothing or sweating profusely from over bundling (and *then* getting cold once that sweats start to cool).
I’ve been looking into this more recently, and it seems like wool has natural properties excellent at dealing with moisture without feeling cold, and outer shells with moisture technology are what you need. For example, Goretex is a high-tech material that is created by stretching plastic quickly to make tiny air pockets. Those air pockets are large enough for water vapour to escape (so you don’t get hot) but small enough that liquid water cannot penetrate through. That helps to keep you the right temperature while outside running or briskly walking without getting hot and sweaty.
There are other options to investigate, but the point is that winter can be an enjoyable season if you are properly dressed for it. (Plus getting outside in the bright light may help alleviate symptoms of SAD, seasonal affect disorder, from the darker and shorter winter days.)
I still want to build an indoor conditioning gym
The airbikes are great options for full-body conditioning. It allows your arms and legs to get in on the action, and it matches the force you put into it.
As far as treadmills go, the price can vary a ton in terms of quality, and if you decide to go for some of the newer “manual” / non-motorized treadmills like the TrueForm Runner. There are great resources to walk you through treadmills, check out this ranking of treadmills from Wirecutter.
Anyways, here’s an idea of some common prices on conditioning and cardio equipment:
|ProForm 505 CST Folding Treadmill||600|
|NordicTrack C 990 Treadmill||1000|
|Trueform Trainer (Manual Treadmill)||5000|
|Assault AirBike Classic||700|
|Rogue Echo Air Bike||800|
|Schwinn AD7 Airdyne Bike||900|
|Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine||950|
|Rogue SR-1 Bearing Speed Rope||25|
|Rogue PRO Weighted Jump Rope (Made in USA)||130|