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Signing up for a new gym membership is exciting. You’re ready to start working out, feeling stronger, and seeing results.
But over time, you slip into a love-hate relationship with your gym.
There’s that one person who shouts during their sets. It’s really uncomfortable. Plus, there are never any open squat racks, and your attempts to “work in” have been met with side-eyes. Sometimes going to the gym doesn’t seem worth the emotional labor.
What are your choices? You could work out during a less crowded time of day or jump from gym to gym looking for the perfect fit.
Or, if you have the space and self-discipline, and can find a spotter from time to time, you could build your own gym right at home. Here’s what you’ll need.
A sturdy barbell is a crucial piece of a home gym. If you’re planning on lifting very heavy weights, you’ll want to be especially careful to find a barbell that won’t quit on you.
Be sure to check the bar’s tensile strength. This tells you how much weight the bar can hold before breaking. Stay away from bars that report lower than 150,000 pounds per square inch or less than 1,000 pounds.
Unless you’re a serious Olympic power lifter, inexpensive, secondhand iron plates are a good place to start. You’ll find these new for about $1 per pound, but when you buy them used, you can get them for much, much cheaper.
Rather than buying a whole set at once, start slowly, accumulating just the plates you need for the next couple of months.
To keep your weights secured on either end of the barbell, you’ll need a pair of collars. Lockjaw collars are hexagonal metal or plastic collars that clip on to the ends of your bar. Buy a pair to keep your plates from misbehaving.
The power rack is the heart of your home gym. It’s big, but the variety of powerful exercises you can squeeze out of one machine makes it 100% worth it.
Some basic things to think about include the size and strength of a power rack. The width and height you need will depend on the type of lifting you’re doing, but generally you’ll want it to be wide enough that you can spread out your legs for certain lifts and high enough that you can hoist a bar over your head without it clanging against the top of the cage.
Any power rack you purchase should be able to support more than 1,000 pounds with ease. If you don’t own your place, and even if you do, it’s worth checking whether the rack can stand safely on its own or whether you’ll need to bolt it to the ground.
The workout bench is significantly less imposing than the power rack but no less important. The best workout benches provide the right balance of strength and softness. They enable you to lift increasingly heavy loads safely, without distracting you from keeping your form by poking up uncomfortably in the back.
The cheapest type of dumbbells is plate-loadable, meaning you can open either end of the dumbbell to load it with plates, like a mini-barbell. While this type of dumbbell can get bulky, especially at heavier weights, it’s cheap and has the added benefit of going up in 2.5- and 5-pound increments.
You can also spring for a complete dumbbell set, but you may find it’s prohibitively expensive. If this is really the way you want to go, keep an eye out for deals on Craigslist or at gym sales. Who knows? You may score a full set of weights with a rack for way cheaper than the $1,000 these items go for on retailer websites.
A foam roller allows you to massage your sore muscles on the cheap. It hurts just as badly as a strong-armed masseuse does and feels just as good when you’re done.