How To Build A Home Gym For Less Than $200

By Staff

Last year I justified the expense of a year-long gym membership as an attempt to get into better shape. I did pay cash for the expense, and because I paid up front I received a few additional months as a bonus. Unfortunately, that membership is coming to an end in August, so I am beginning to think more about frugal ways to continue my exercise program at home. I’ve set a $200 budget for outfitting a home gym with a few key pieces of strength training equipment, and some additional workout gear. Here is a look at the things I’ll need to buy to build a home gym, and my budget for each item.

Shoes ($40). I’ve been cursed with bad feet (thanks Dad). A good pair of shoes is a necessity for me, but I refuse to pay $100+ for a pair of the latest Nike Air “Whatevers,” so I’ve been looking around at various online shoe stores and a few local sports shops. With a good pair of shoes I can find plenty of places to walk, and even run a few intervals for cardio training. I am not normally brand conscious when it comes to shopping, but shoes are the rare exception. I have a wide, flat foot and have found that New Balance (which typically comes in wide) is the most comfortable shoe for my feet. Because I usually destroy the inside of the shoes before the outside, I try to extend their life by picking up a sole insert or two before recycling them as my dedicated “lawn” shoes used for cutting grass, gardening, etc.

Stopwatch ($25). I don’t personally need one because my old Timex Ironman still serves me well. I’ve replaced the battery and the strap from the original, but it is still ticking. And to think some people pay thousands for a Rolex that doesn’t tell time any better than mine! Watches with a stopwatch feature, or a dedicated stopwatch, are a necessity when running intervals, measuring rest between weight lifting sets, etc.

Weight Bench ($85). A sturdy weight bench can be used to perform a variety of exercises, both with free weights and your own body weight. I like to use dumbbells for curls, flies, bench presses, dips, etc. Some benches also come with attachments for leg extensions and leg curls. Though it isn’t necessary, an overhead rack to perform bench presses using a full-sized barbell is a nice feature. However, this usually adds significantly to the price and the space required to store the bench. Since I’ll probably be using a small area of our back patio my options are fairly limited here.

Dumbbells ($50) . Used dumbbells are pretty easy to find on places like Craigslist, or at a used sporting goods store. The problem with dumbbells is that you need a variety of weights to do different types of exercises, but buying ten different sizes can get expensive. I’ll probably buy a heavy set for presses and a lighter set to use for curls, triceps work and flies. Besides, after tearing my rotator cuff a year or so ago and having surgery to repair, I avoid overly heavy weights as a rule.  Eventually, I hope to stumble upon a set of Powerblocks, or a similar set of dumbbells which features the ability to select your desired weight from a single rack and one pair of dumbbells.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of potential home gym equipment.  Cardio machines, punching bags, and exercise balls and mats are also popular additions, but the items listed above will at least get you started.  I’d be interested to hear from those of you who have setup a home gym.  What other pieces of equipment have you found to be the most useful when building a home gym?  Are there any other sources of purchasing cheap, reliable equipment?

photo by A_of_DooM