Build a Home Gym on the Cheap

by Will TenBroeck
DIY Landscaping for Less photo

Whether you’re looking for a fitness alternative for your gym membership or just trying to save money, you can use these tips to build a home gym on the cheap.

What is the first thing that someone usually does when they decide they want to get into better shape? They join a gym. Why? Gyms have all the equipment you need to build your muscles and melt the fat away.

There was a time that it was impossible to get a gym membership under $50 a per month. However, over the last decade, more and more gym chains such as YouFit and Planet Fitness now offer memberships as little as $10 per month. If you live or work near an affordable gym that you can easily get to a few times a week, $10 a month is worth the cost. But if you don’t have a discounted gym in your area, or find that you just can’t make yourself go to the gym regularly, a home gym is a better choice.

Regardless of why you are considering a home gym, these tips can help you set one up for less than the price of most yearly gym memberships.

Why a Home Gym?

Fitness and health are long-term ideas. You cannot just exercise and eat well for a year and reap the rewards for the rest of your life. Even for a $10 per month membership, the $120 you spend on a yearly gym membership becomes $1,200 over the course of 10 years. If you are like me, you want to keep exercising until they put you in the ground. Depending on your age, you probably plan on exercising a lot more than 10 years.

Think about all the things you can purchase with all that money you are spending on a gym membership that you may or may not use. You could invest that money into your mortgage, savings, home improvement, transportation, travel, or entertainment.

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What Do I Need?

Okay, you are convinced of the cost savings. Now, what do you need for this home gym? This is going to be dependent on what your idea of fitness is. A bare bones basic home gym could include a yoga mat, some dumbbells or resistance bands, an exercise ball, and a jump rope. This could literally cost you less than $50, and you can use the stuff for years.

Alternatively, you could go the route I went and turn your shed, basement, or garage into your dream home gym. For example, I have a power rack, two benches, two barbells, 700 pounds of weights, a strongman log, a strongman axle, and more that I can’t remember. Guess what? I have all those fitness toys and I still spent less than what it costs the average gym member for two years of a gym membership. On top of that, I never have to wait for a piece of equipment or deal with someone else’s sweat. Plus, I can exercise whenever I want.

Ideas for Getting Home Gym Equipment on the Cheap

If you want to embark on this journey, you need to shop around. Search fitness outlets, internet sites, garage sales and craigslist. Also check the Goodwill and thrift stores in your area. See if you have a Play It Again Sports near you. Play It Again sells discounted new and used fitness equipment.

Another great idea is to find a gym that is going out of business and purchase equipment at a highly discounted rate from them. When a gym is closing, they fire sale all their equipment at deeply discounted rates. In fact, I obtained a free barbell from a closing gym.

If you’re handy, visit your local home improvement store. You can make a lot of gym equipment from plumbing materials, wood, and sand.

I made two sets of dumbbells and a strongman axle (fat barbell) from steel pipe. I had a store associate cut them to the proper size for me and I drilled holes in the dumbbell pipes at home to make them adjustable. I used nuts and bolts to hold the weights in place. I duct taped the dumbbell for grip. I have had as much as 200 pounds on one dumbbell. That’s not bad for $5 worth of dumbbell! I bought sand bags from the store and put the sand in contractor garbage bags. I then put the desired amount into my old Army duffel bag to do sandbag exercises. An Army duffel bag can be bought from an Army/Navy store. Sandbag exercises build ridiculous core strength that most gym machines could never build.


The world is full of muscular, conditioned, and fit people who never step foot into a gym. They train at home and outside. Often times, the buffet of equipment at a gym works against your goals. When you train at home, you have to simplify your plan. This leads to getting better at less things rather than becoming mediocre at many things.

Reviewed September 2023

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