Setting up a good home gym

Keep in mind that it's a good idea to start small and build from there.   You don't know exactly what your workout needs will be over time so it's better to start with a few less expensive but effective pieces and build from there instead of investing huge $$ into a what may end up becoming an overpriced, space-hogging clothes hanger.

I haven't included any cardio equipment for now because you can get an effective cardio workout by walking/running/biking or -my favorite - doing metabolic circuits.  Heck even a decent exercise video is effective and far less expensive.

If you must get a treadmill or elliptical trainer for home then don't cheap out and get it from Canadian Tire.  Go to a reputable fitness store, get some recommendations, try some out and then either fork over the big bucks OR stalk Kijiji or Craigslist because people are selling their overpriced clothes racks ALL the time.
OK, on to my recommendations:


Resistance bands or tubing
These are an acceptable replacement for dumbbells, barbells or a weight machine...especially if you're just starting to work out.  Tubing is preferable to bands just because it tends to come with handles and is a bit more durable.  But the bands are dirt cheap, so if you just want something to get started, they’re a good choice.

A set of bands in multiple strengths costs less than $20 on ebay.  A set of tubes will be around $35.  (including shipping)
Stability Ball
Not an absolute necessity, but great for exercises that work your core.  You can buy them pretty much anywhere.
109238190 They do come in different sizes, so if you can, sit on one to check the size.  If it’s properly inflated and your upper thighs are parallel to the floor so that your knees form 90 degree angles when you sit on it, then it’s the right size.

If you can’t try one out, here are some basic guidelines for choosing a ball size based on your height:
If you are under 4′10″ choose a ball that’s 16” or 42cm
If you are 4′11″ – 5′4″ choose a ball that’s 21″ or 55cm
If you are 5′5″ – 5′11′ choose a ball that’s 25″ or 65cm
If you are 6′ and taller choose a ball that’s 29″ or 75cm
Expect to pay around $30 in a department store.  A professional grade stability ball will be around $50 and is arguably worth the extra cost for the increase in durability.
Adjustable dumbells:
These offer the advantage of being able to go from 2.5 to 50 or more lbs each in a single set.  The two brands I recommend are durable and allow for easy weight changes.  Look for one that allows changes in 2.5 lb increments in the first 20lbs.
Bowflex Select-Tech dumbbells go from 2.5 to 52.5 lbs and will cost around $500.
Powerblock Sportblock 9.0 – goes from 2.5 to 50 lbs and costs around $500.  You can buy expansion sets to add more weight if needed.
Standard Hex Dumbbells:
234 These are your standard dumbbells you see at the gym.  You can minimize the financial pain by buying these as you need them.  The disadvantage is that they will ultimately cost more than an adjustable set and will take up a lot of space. 

A local fitness store here sells them for about 99 cents a pound.  I did some quick math on this and to get the hex dumbbells that will give you the same workout options as a pair of adjustable dumbbells would cost around $750.
An adjustable step or box:
You can either go with commercial or home-made.
‘The Step’
It’s not cheap but you can buy additional risers to make it tall enough for box jumps and bench step-ups.
media.nlThe base set which includes two sets of risers costs around $90 and every pair of risers after that costs $25.  Two additional sets of risers (4 on each side total) brings it up to almost knee height for my 5’8” self.  I wouldn’t want to add too many more because it gets less stable the taller it gets.  
Make your own
These are just as effective and arguably more stable than ‘The Step'.
You can get the ‘how to’ for building these by clicking the picture.  If you do build some, let me know how they work.
A Suspension Trainer:
We just got a TRX suspension trainer and LOVE it.  I did a lot of research on this one and it’s not just a fitness gimmick. 
You can set it up pretty much anywhere with the option accessories.  There’s even one you can use to connect it to a closed door.
The TRX is the one most people have heard about.
Another less expensive good quality version that has gotten good reviews is the Freestyle Trainer Pro.
A Gym Quality Weight Bench:
It’s so not worth it to cheap out on this.  Sure you can get one for under $100 at Canadian Tire, but the build quality will be flimsy and the weight limit is usually ludicrously low.  The ones I’ve seen have an upper weight limit of 200lbs.  Crazy considering even I can bench more than 50lbs so me + weights would be too much.  Nice.  Can’t even imagine a guy using it.

I won’t post a picture for this one.  It’s too hard to find a picture that doesn’t have a female model posed in a distinctly NON-exercising posture on it.  Bleh.

Again, I’d recommend going to a reputable fitness store and talking with a knowledgeable sales person.  I’d look for a bench that can hold at least 1000lbs and adjusts to be flat, inclined or declined.  Expect to pay at least $300 for it unless you’re buying second-hand.
A pull up bar  
We made one from copper pipe using the instructions found here:


They’re just another way to throw some weight around.  :P


  1. Excellent job on this! It's worked amazingly well for us, and it's nice that we don't have to get a log of large, expensive equipment.


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