How to Set Up Your Home Gym for Strength Training

Strength Training 11 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

If you’re serious about strength training setting up a home gym is the best thing you can do.

Assuming you have the space, the money, and the motivation to work out at home.

Those are three critical components.

You can use all the chalk you like, workout shirtless, barefoot, grunt, scream, yell, and play shitty music if that’s your thing.

In this post you will find setups for different budgets and all are centered around versatility.

Since we practice pure strength training at Seriously Strong Training the equipment I have selected below aligns with our style of training.

There are a million pieces of equipment, specialty pieces, machines, and combinations for different purposes, but the setups found below will cover 99% of your muscle & strength needs.

I am most familiar with Rogue’s equipment so most of my recommendations will be from their site. I don’t recommend things I haven’t done or used personally.

The Essentials (cake)

This section covers the bare minimum equipment necessary for a home strength training gym. Getting something from every section below will set you up to build massive amounts of muscle, strength, and anything else you want will be icing and sprinkles.

A Barbell

No home gym is complete without an olympic barbell. Don’t waist your time on a standard barbell (you know those ones that are the same diameter for the entire bar? they are garbage).

There are tons of barbells for different purposes (I covered this briefly in our post about the 6 Must-Haves for a Tallahassee Strength Gym), but for your home gym you need a good all-purpose bar.

– Powerlifting & Snatch marks
– Free spinning collars
– No center knurling

Best Price: Rogue Echo Bar $195 (be aware this only has snatch marks)
Best Value: Rogue Ohio Boneyard Bar $225 (they’ve knocked ~$60 off for cosmetic blemishes that do not affect a great bar)
Best Bar: Rogue Ohio Stainless Steel Bar $350 (great all purpose bar, the stainless steel will keep it looking brand new even in a garage)

Plates

If you’ve got a barbell the next logical step is getting plates. You can do some stuff with just your barbell, but without the added load of plates your strength gains will quickly stall.

Since you are setting up ahome gym for longevity and versatility go right for bumpers plus some metal change plates.

The amount of plates you need to get will be decided by your current strength levels, but I advise beginners start with:

– (2) 45lb Bumper Plates (most efficient usage of space)
– (0) 35lb Bumper Plates (skip these)
– (4) 25lb Bumper Plates (convenient half step between adding 45s)
– (4) 15lb Bumper Plates (even 1/3rd steps between 45s)
– (4) 10lb Bumper Plates (convenient smaller jumps)
– (2) 5lb Metal Plates (small incremental jumps)
– (2) 2.5lb Metal Plates (smaller incremental jumps)
– (2) 1.25lb Metal Plates (provides appropriate % based jumps at lower weights in tougher exercises like the overhead press)

Fully loaded your bar would weigh 352.5lbs. This is plenty of weight to get you started, and even when you can max out with that weight you can start to do more reps. The only thing to add after assembling this set would be more 45s.

Best Price: Echo Bumpers $245 for 160lb set (the first set I ever bought. the 10s were slightly larger than the rest of the plates which made changing them on deadlifts aggravating)
Best Value: HG 2.0 Bumpers$275 for 160lb set (this is what is currently stocked in the SST gym)
Best Plates: Training Bumpers$220 for (2) 45lb Plates (these allow for more weight on the bar due to a thinner design, so they are easier to handle. typical bumpers allow for a maximum bar load of 455lbs. these will get you closer to 600lbs, and they are pretty, but only come in 25lb,35lb,45lb, 55lb. Buy these when you are running out of room on your bar)

Change plates (2.5lb,5lb,10lb) can be bought from your local Craigslist for <$0.50/lb. People buy gym equipment and stop using it all the time–don’t be one of those guys, but do capitalize on their eagerness to unload neglected plates. You can buy larger plates at the same price if you’re really looking to save money, but I highly recommend saving up for bumpers to do it right.

Collar clips

This is a short section because there isn’t much to say about collars. The metal spring ones you’ve used at every gym ever are terrible.

Even if you weren’t setting up a home gym I would buy a pair of collars and bring them with you to the gym each time.

You don’t know how bad you’ve got it until you use a nice set.

Most of my experience has been with the LockJaw line of collars, and they have satisfied my needs completely.

Best Overall: HG 2.0 Collars $36.50/pair (rebranded LockJaw Pro collars. they don’t move during olympic weightlifting and because of the new spring design are easy to get on and off)

Rack

If you’re lifting home alone you absolutely need a rack with safeties. This is non-negotiable.

Even if you have a spotter available I recommend using safeties.

There are a few different options for racks but the following attribute are key:

-1″ spacing through bench heights
-safeties
-small footprint/mobile setup
-pull up bar

And at least with Rogue we want to opt for a 2″x3″ frame because this allows for a whole host of addons to your rack in the future.

Best Price: Echo Squat Stand $275 (this meets our requirements, but doesn’t allow for future upgrades because it is 2″x2″)
Best Value: S-2 Squat Stand $425 (this was SST’s first rack. add on the floor mounts and it will serve you well for a long time to come)
Best Rack: R-3 Power Rack $695 (this rack has all the bells & whistles in a small footprint. very secure safeties, pins for doing band resisted movements, floor mountable for stability, and allows for two bars to be racked at once using each side)

Benches

You bench should be firm, and wide because the big back you’re about to build won’t fit on a skinny bench.

You have two routes to go here: a cheap, flat bench, or a much more expensive adjustable bench.

I would put the expensive adjustable versions low on the priority list because they add little true versatility.

You can do seated overhead presses without back support. The only thing you’re really missing is the option for incline work, and that could still probably be done by elevating your flat bench, just be careful.

Best Price & Best Value: Flat Bench $180 (this bench is incredible. it is leagues above any bench you have used at a commercial gym. it feels special)
Best Bench: Ab-3 Adjustable Bench $935 (this bench is great, but you pay out the teeth for it. the foot catch allows for ab work, and it has a lot of incline adjustments)

Great Additions (icing)

These are cheaper items that add additional versatility to your gym. Your personal preference & training style will decide their true versatility.

I’m a lot less picky on these items so my recommendations will reflect that.

Dumbbells

This is a tough section. The best dumbbells are the ones at set weights, but having a full set gets expensive quick. If you go this route I’d recommend buying a few different weights based on the exercises you want to do with them instead of getting every 5lb increment. If you’re on a budget look on Craigslist for second (or third, fourth, fifth) hand dumbbells. There is alway a supply.

Another option are loadable handles, but these require a large collection of metal change plates because it gets awkward loading bumpers onto them.

Lastly, there are adjustable dumbbells. I’ve never liked using these–they just don’t feel right, but some people swear by them. They are the most space efficient, cost effective vs. buying a full set of dumbbells, and quickest to load/unload.

Resistance Bands

These are great for warming up and adding variations to your big lifts. Get a pair of #0, #1, and #2. These see the greatest use in my gym, and can be added together for higher resistances.

It is my belief they are all created equally, but use Rogue’s page as a guide for band size if you choose to buy elsewhere(Amazon is great).

Hip Circles

These are short, wide, fabric versions of looped resistance bands. They were popularized by Mark Bell, but there are plenty of versions available on Amazon.

These are great for getting the hips warm for squats and deadlifts, and no glute training regiment can go without a hip circle.

You can buy them for ~$15 each, or get a set of three different resistances for ~$35

Hi/Low Cable

This little piece of equipment is awesome. It is incredibly simple, and adds some much needed versatility to your setup.

If you can make it work in your home gym you can now do cable rows, face pulls, lat pulldowns, and tricep pushdowns for starters.

They offer a hi cable version for $99, and a low cable addition (you must have both for this to work) for another $99.

Dip Bar

Dips are push-ups big beefy cousin. When you’ve mastered the push-up and can do at least 30 great push-ups it is time to step your game up to dips.

You can buy a freestanding dip station, but if you’re limited on space (and you got the 2″x3″ rack) it makes a lot more sense to buy the Rogue Matador.

Honorable Mentions (sprinkles)

These items are more centered around conditioning and adding minor versatility to your home gym. These items can come much later, and should be viewed as a way to spice up your home training. Buy them one at a time, and figure out all the different ways to use them.

Landmine

This neat little attachment allows for standing t-bar rows, one-armed deadlifts, one-armed rows, standing oblique twists, front loaded squats, landmine presses, and more.

It’s just under $100 and doesn’t require any more equipment to add a ton of versatility.

(let’s write an article on all of the uses for a landmine attachment)

Kettlebells

Great for conditioning, substitute for dumbbellls, minimal space requirement.

Some people base all of their training around kettlebells but they are best suited for accessory work & conditioning.

Opt for 35lb, 53lb, and 70lb kettlebells in that order as you work your way up.

Atlas Stones

I’m going to cheat a little on this section and recommend Rogue’s Strongman Sandbags over true atlas stones.

These are much cheaper, more versatile, simpler, and more forgiving on your concrete floors and toes.

You can pick them up for front carries, shoulder carries, or toss it over your shoulder.

These will destroy and then rebuild you as a much stronger man.

Sleds

Sleds will humble you. It is an incredibly simple piece of equipment, but they come equipped with names like “the butcher”.

For pure versatility the Rogue Dog Sled wins out because of the massive amount of add-ons available.

You can push it, pull it, and even turn it into a wheelbarrow.

Budgets

These budgets assume you have no equipment, and want to buy new.

Craigslist is your friend when creating your home gym. I don’t know what your local second hand market looks like or your timeline for creating the gym.

Rogue always has the below items in stock, and this stuff will last a lifetime.

~$500 (the bare minimum)

If you have $500 grab the Echo Bar ($195), 160lb Echo Plate Set ($245), and HG Collars ($36.50)=$476.50+shipping

Grab some metal change plates from Craigslist on the cheap.

This will get your foot in the door of strength training. You will be able to do deadlifts, overhead press, and squats if you can bring the bar up to your shoulders from the ground.

You still need a rack & bench to really progress.

~$1,000 (acceptable starting point)

With $1000 grab the Boneyard Bar ($225), 160lb HG Bumper set ($245), Echo Squat Stand ($275), Flat Bench ($180) and HG Collars ($36.50)=$961.50+Shipping

Grab some metal change plates from Craigslist on the cheap.

This sets you up with everything you need to do real strength training programs.

$1,500 (good starting point)

This is where we start to really fill out your home gym. Grab everything from the $1,000 section:
-Upgrade to the S-2 Stand ($150)
-Upgrade to the HG 2.0 Bumper Set ($30)
-Extra pair of HG 2.0 45s ($126)
-Pairs of #0, #1, #2 bands ($50)
-Set of Hip Cirles ($40)
-Add the hi pulley system ($99)

=$1456.50+shipping

Conclusion

The Essentials section is the cake portion of the, well, cake. You can’t have a cake without it.

The Great Additions section is the icing. Without icing a cake still tastes good but it’s more of a muffin. These items add a ton of versatility to your home gym at minimal cost and space.

The Honorable Mentions then are the sprinkles. They aren’t necessary but they certainly make nice accents, and it’s okay to add them on later.

Now its time to Start Training

Check out The Seriously Strong Beginner Program for the best program to jumpstart your strength training journey.

Download The Seriously Strong Beginner Program

Useful Links

The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift
The Serious Guide to the Bench Press
The Serious Guide to Nutrition
The Serious Guide to Core Training
The Serious Guide to Glute Training
The Seriously Strong YouTube Channel
The Seriously Strong Beginner Program
The Seriously Strong Intermediate Program
The Seriously Strong Advanced Program

 

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.