The Guide To Home Gym Equipment and Training
Welcome to Home Gym Addict where we truly are home gym addicts, your guide to strength training at home and choosing the best gym equipment based on YOUR needs.
What is the best home gym equipment for strength training?
Best can be a subjective term. For some, it might mean highest quality and for others, cheapest price. I wanted a mixture of both. High quality was truly important for me but I didn’t necessarily want to break the bank. When you are asking yourself how to determine the best equipment for your needs consider what you will be doing. Are you training for strength? Overall fitness? Bodybuilding? Is cardio important to you? These will all need to be answered before you begin your search as they will all lead you down different paths.
We started to research into home gyms for the same reason that many of you did, the convenience of being able to train in the comfort of your home. Being competitive powerlifters with a background in strength and conditioning I knew exactly what equipment I wanted, but I didn’t know anything about pricing, sizes etc. What I found was that there was plenty of information online but it was hard to sort through and find exactly what I wanted.
When I set out to create our dungeon I knew that I wanted a few key pieces of equipment
- Squat/Power rack
- Flat bench
- Quality Barbells
- Adjustable dumbbells
- Lots of weight
We are strength enthusiasts and powerlifters, some pieces of equipment just weren’t going to cut it. I also was not willing to sacrifice quality for price. When you search for terms like “home squat rack” you often find articles on how to build your own squat rack out of wood. This was definitely what I was not looking for. I am in no way willing to suffer an injury at home because I tried to save a few bucks and make my own equipment. If this advice is what you are after then I highly suggest you find other site because we cannot help you.
Our Home Gym Strength Training Checklist
Here is a run-down of some things to consider before jumping into reading equipment reviews and making your purchases
How do I want to train?
I previously stated that we are competitive powerlifters and enjoy training for strength, yes fat loss is somewhat important, but not nearly as important as strength. Being a competitive powerlifter means that we need to squat, bench and deadlift regularly to practice our competitive lifts. If you don’t powerlift but are interested in putting on some size then you will need to include these exercises in your programming anyway. This fact alone will help guide you in your equipment purchasing decisions.
Where will I be training?
Our space required us to be training in the basement. This is important for a few reasons. For starters, it was the only area that was feasible for dropping heavy deadlifts. It would be the least noisy place to train without bothering neighbors. Perhaps you have a free room that you want to utilize, will heavy weights shake fixtures and bother everyone? Is the floor slippery or uneven? If you travel frequently or have a small space maybe a folding weight bench is what you need.
Do you have exercise limitations?
This is a bit of a different category. First, do you have any medical conditions that prevent you from doing certain exercises? Cross those off and you might eliminate a lot of equipment that doesn’t make sense for you. For us, we needed specific equipment to train accessory work for our big lifts. Things like lat pulldowns or anything pulley based were the next limitation. Sure you could buy a lat pulldown machine but the ceiling height cancelled this out as well as our square footage. We found a solution for this. For other exercises we simply needed to broaden our horizons and choose new assistance work. We also have a home gym exercise conversion guide for your help.
What is your budget?
I am really proud of this part, I can honestly say that by comparing prices and even considering manufactures that I haven’t before we set up our gym for roughly 1500. One thing that I wanted to make sure was that I didn’t want to suffer from buyer’s remorse. Sinking even 500 into home gym equipment and then hating it or never using it would be silly. I truly do not feel the need to visit a commercial gym space anymore because we have quality equipment that allows us to do everything that we need to do. I don’t “wish” that we could do other exercises but can’t simply because of our equipment limitations.
Are free weights important?
If you train the big lifts then they should be. If you don’t and are simply looking to stay fit then perhaps an all in one home gym is for you. This obviously was not what we were looking for. Secondly, if free weights are important to you then consider what movements you do. Are you mainly interested in barbell movements, dumbbell movements or both?
What space do I have?
This brings in a whole list of factors that will be necessary to consider. You can read power rack reviews all day long but prior to this consider your space. I considered renting a storage unit as well as outfitting a friends garage before finally deciding on the basement. There was something primal about training in a dark dingy basement that I wanted to tap into. This may not be for you, but it works for us and so far I have no complaints.
What kind of flooring do you have?
We have concrete flooring in the basement, not exactly ideal for dropping weights. We don’t own our home either, this means we need to protect the floor as well. We needed to cover the floor with something that would provide traction and protection.
These were our unique limitations to starting our own home gym
- Ceiling height was always my big hurdle in the home gym decision. I thought that there was no way a power rack would fit in the basement with a height of 7ft. I was wrong though, and we can show you exactly what equipment you need if this is your case.
- Flooring- we have uneven concrete
- Square footage- we needed to optimize our small training space with the appropriate equipment
Our Equipment Criteria
Power rack/ squat rack with a WESTSIDE HOLE PATTERN
This was my number one necessity. I refused to buy a power rack without a westside hole pattern. This is crucial for bench training as it allows us to set the jcups at as close to the right height as possible. Many power racks do not have this feature and I have benched in power racks before like this. It just doesn’t work the same. If you are already spending the money on a power rack then I would just skip looking at anything that doesn’t have this feature. Because of our space limitations we needed to squat/ bench rack in the same space. There just simply wasn’t enough room for a bench and a rack. How did we solve this? Read our Rogue SML-1 Review
Safety was my second concern, I wanted highly adjustable spotter arms for situations that I would be training alone. It would be incredibly stupid to injure yourself because you didn’t have proper safety measures in place in the case of failed lifts.I refused to buy anything that was just “close” to what I wanted. If the budget dictated that I would have to skimp in other areas then so be it, we needed strong spotter arms.
Close to competition set up
Many benches that you find online will be too narrow. They also won’t have the weight requirements for big benching. Pay very close attention to pad width and bench height here as there doesn’t appear to be an industry standard. I needed the dimensions to be as close to a competition bench as possible.
We needed a quality bar
The only bar that I wanted to train with was a texas power bar. I knew that this would be one of the bigger investments that we purchased. Do not skimp on your barbell. One of my biggest gripes with our old gym was bent barbells. I made sure that if we were going to have our own gym then it would be an IMPROVEMENT or there was no reason to jump into this project. I also knew that we should have two barbells, one that can be beat up a bit and then the texas power bar.
We needed a deadlift platform
This was necessary due to the floor restrictions as well as saving your bar from abuse. This can and should be your one and only DIY project. I wanted this to be top notch as well to absorb shock and offer as much noise cancellation as possible. Check out our how to build a deadlift platform guide
What plates and how many of each?
This is something that can be overlooked. Generally consider how much you can lift and how much weight you need. We settled on 45lbs- 12 plates 35lbs- 2 (you can get away with not having these- we already had them) 25lbs -2 plates 10lbs- 6 plates 5lbs – 6 plates 2.5lbs- 4 plates I bought dumbbell handles that would allow me to do dumbbell movements with Olympic plates. If you can’t grab some adjustable dumbbells then this is your option. I would highly suggest that you grab more 10’s and 5’s then you need for this. If I had to do it again from the start I would also have 4 25’s so that each dumbbell can be loaded up to 50lbs without using weird plate combinations.
Must have Home Gym Accessories
These make up the rest of your purchases. For some assistance movements we have gotten pretty damn creative with our training. I would highly suggest a set of
- Really good collars – especially for the dumbbell handles, do not use the ones that come with them
I want to leave you with one last piece of advice, buy right the first time so that you don’t have to buy twice. This is probably the single most important thing to remember when setting up a home gym. DO NOT sacrifice safety for price. If you can’t afford something yet then wait until you can. You will be better off in the long run