How to set up a home gym that gets great results without breaking the bank…

At some point everyone who is serious about training will end up with some sort of home gym. While having access to a gym is nice, sometimes you just need to be able to crank out a workout without having to drive anywhere. Hell, I own a training facility that is only 15 minutes from my house and even I have trouble getting in there for a workout sometimes.

That is the other cool thing about a home gym set up – it is truly an investment since training equipment will last forever.

For some people the home gym is simply a collection of a few key pieces of equipment – like a kettlebell or two and a jump rope – that is meant to serve as an emergency back up for days they can’t get into the gym but for others it becomes a way of life. Let’s be honest – most riders feel like strangers in a strange place in most gyms. You either have the big box gym where most people are more worried about how they look in the mirror or you have a bootcamp type facility where everyone is trying to see how much punishment they can take before puking or getting hurt.

Given the choices it is no wonder that most riders I hear from are asking about what they need to do my workouts at home. For these riders the home gym has to expand a bit to include a few essentials that will make sure they are not cutting too many corners with their workouts. Here is a list of what I think are the “must have” pieces of equipment for a home gym:

A heavy, medium and light kettlebell. What this means exactly depends on a few things but here is the chart I use to help riders figure out what works for them…





< 3 years training

12 kg/ 25 lb.

16 kg/ 35 lb.

24 kg/ 55 lb.





> 3 years training

16 kg/ 35 lb.

24 kg/ 55 lb.

32 kg/ 70 lb.





< 3 years training

8 kg/ 15 lb.

12 kg/ 25 lb.

16 kg/ 35 lb.





> 3 years training

12 kg/ 25 lb.

16 kg/ 35 lb.

20 kg/ 45 lb.

– A pull up bar

– A foam roller and mat

– A jump rope

While that list will allow you to perform a lot of quality workouts, it is the “no frills” option and I personally like to add a few more things. I recently set up a home gym and here are some of the extras I’ve included:

– A TRX suspension trainer

– Extra kettlebells

– A couple of medicine balls

– A few steps/ risers

– A Valslide

Light, Medium and Heavy superbands

– A couple of sandbags

With that list of equipment I can add a lot of quality variety to my workouts. In fact, I can do 90% of what I would normally do at my more fully stocked training facility.

Here is a picture of my set up:

As you can see I have a rack that I use for my chin up bar and to suspend my TRX. I also have some rubber flooring (which isn’t cheap) and a TRX Rip Trainer (something I bought to play around with) so my set up is a bit more elaborate than what you need but I have also had a few years to acquire the extra stuff to make this set up work.

That is the other cool thing about a home gym set up – it is truly an investment since training equipment will last forever. You can start out with the bare bones basics and then slowly add to your equipment list each year, eventually ending up with a really nice set up.

So there you have it, my take on home gyms. How about you? Do you have a home gym set up or do you prefer to train at a facility? Anything I left off my list of “must have” equipment for a home gym set up? Anything you have in your home gym that I did not mention that you really like? Post a comment below, I would love to hear your opinion…

-James Wilson-

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  1. Ric says:

    Sliders for moving furniture at Lowe’s or Home Depot- 4 for 10.00.
    In plank position alternate 1 arm reaches with slider- smokes you!

    Reply • June 29 at 10:15 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Those are essentially the same thing as the Valslides, I just use them because I train clients with them and I need the insurance/ liability coverage I get with using a piece of equipment designed for exercise. The big furniture moving pads work fine if you don’t have that to worry about though.

      Reply • June 29 at 10:22 am
  2. Ron says:

    This is an interesting and useful list. I do have a few comments (and things to add).

    First, I find a bicycle trainer an incredibly useful piece of equipment to have in a home gym. I use a Kurt Kinetic road machine (though any number of trainers are on the market), and rather than constantly putting my bike on and off the machine, I keep an old, rusty, steel road bike on it. I have found the indoor trainer ideal for high intensity sprint sessions, as well as longer interval sessions, because of the consistency from workout to workout. You can easily track your watts, heart rate, and speed indoors on a bike trainer. Sprint-8 workouts, though intense and even brutal, are time savers (two, or three at most, 20-minute sessions per week) and can do wonders for you on the trail or on the road.

    Second, while I love kettlebells, preferring them to dumbbells, they are extremely expensive, so for some people, adjustable dumbbells might be a better option. You can do almost anything with a dumbbell that you can with a kettlebell (though the kettlebell is better at dynamic movement), and adjustable dumbbells not only give you a huge variation in the weight used but save space as well.

    Third, an Olympic barbell and weight set is well worth the price. Indeed, for pure strength, you can’t go wrong with nothing but a barbell set, performing the basic powerlift exercises (deadlift, back squat, bench press, press, and clean). Of course, for safety, a cage helps! Personally, the deadlift has eliminated much of the back pain that prevented me from riding comfortably, and the deadlift is best performed with a barbell because of the heavy weight involved.

    Finally, some optional items to include in a home gym are an Abmat, the TRX (which you mention), a stability ball, and if you have the room and the inclination, additional cardio equipment, such as an elliptical trainer, treadmill, or even the often overlooked NordicTrack (you can get them cheap at yard sales or through Craigslist). A Concept 2 rower is an especially nice machine to own if you have the space and money (though expensive, the Concept 2 will last a lifetime and you get wonderful support from the people at Concept 2).

    Hope this helps!

    Reply • June 29 at 10:36 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Like I said in the article, I can do about 90% of what I would usually do at my facility and some of the stuff you mentioned like the cardio equipment (I like the AirDyne bikes and Concept 2 Rower myself) and the Olympic Bar would cover that other 10%. Great additions to the list, thanks for sharing.

      Reply • June 30 at 9:04 pm
  3. Hammer Head says:

    How about a bench of some kind? I need something for Bulgarian Split Squats, 3-point rows, and Single Leg Box Squats (until I am able to manage a free standing pistol squat).

    Reply • June 29 at 10:44 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I don’t really do much bench press so I decided against getting a bench but the exercises you described are what I use the boxes/ risers for.

      Reply • June 30 at 8:54 pm
  4. Markus says:

    Hi James, for me the stability ball is the best value piece of fitness equipment ever. You can do a full body strength training session on it (I even do squats – weighted wall slides leaning against the ball), use it as a bench for flys and such, do balance exercises for core stability, use it for stretching and yes, you can even sit on it and watch TV….and it’s really cheap! I am surprised that you never use/mention it.

    Reply • June 30 at 2:42 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I used to be “Mr. Stability Ball” (we used to call them Swiss Balls back in the day) and to be honest I have found them to not be terribly valuable. I haven’t used one in years and I can’t say my fitness or strength has suffered at all.

      With that said they are a good tool and if you have room and want to use one I don’t discourage it, my experience with using them a lot and then not using them at all tells me that they are good but not great.

      Reply • June 30 at 9:01 pm
  5. ED BIRCH says:

    without doubt a stability ball…………..use it as a bench with light/medium dumbells, and concept2 rower. powerbar which clips onto doorframe for chins and free-wheel roller for core.personally never been to formal gym, and with your kettlebell suggestions nothing else required……………..txs

    Reply • July 2 at 4:52 am
  6. April Averitt says:

    Great article James! I have just about everything you mentioned in one form or another. The only thing I would add is a Bike trainer (which I see someone already mentioned). I have the Rock n Roll trainer (by Kinetic), which moves as you pedal…not anything like the real thing, but sure beats your regular stationary bike trainer. Comes in handy during the winter (and…eh hem…injuries ;P).

    Reply • July 2 at 11:37 am
  7. DanielSmith says:

    Home gym equipment is a great way of staying active so that you can stay healthy.

    Reply • July 5 at 1:23 am
  8. تمرينات رياضية says:

    Have you thought about sprucing up the style a tiny
    bit? Kind of feels a little bit dull, not really that it’s a bad thing. Merely a bit of advice.

    Reply • September 27 at 7:53 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Most people need to master the basics, not add more “fluff” to their routine and this set up is more than adequate for getting really good and strong on the basics.

      Reply • September 27 at 8:27 am
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    I’ll bookmark your weblog and check again here regularly. I’m relatively certain
    I will learn many new stuff right here! Best of luck for the following!

    Reply • November 20 at 5:23 pm
  10. Ben says:

    i’d also suggest that an olympic barbell and around 250 lbs of weights would be a good investment. you can always find cheap used stuff on craigslist. if you haven’t strength trained with a barbell, you would want to get some coaching on proper form on the basic lifts.

    Reply • January 12 at 12:36 am
  11. Kent says:

    James – What power rack is that and do you know where you can get one for a resonable price?

    Reply • June 5 at 1:06 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I have to be honest I don’t know the name of the rack, I got it on sale almost 5 years ago. Craigslist is a great place to find cheap exercise equipment, I’d check there if I were looking for a new rack.

      Reply • June 6 at 5:04 pm
  12. Russ says:


    Stall mats, at your local equine / Tractor Supply Company has 3′ x 6′ 3/4″ rubber mats with a 10 yr warranty for under $40 a piece. I saw he same mats at an on-line gym supply store for 10 times the price. I know about these as my wife is an equestrienne. She has several in her horse’s stall that are more than 10 yrs old and take a major beating every day. They are still in good shape, check them out here: http://www.tractorsupply.com and search for “Stall Mat” worth checking out.

    Reply • January 31 at 10:28 am
  13. Great list & prioritization James. I agree with these options and order to get a robust home setup. I would add a high quality, burst proof stability ball in the mix to go with the bands. We do a lot of cycling specific work on the balls. Dynamic planks, roll out variations, pedaling stability drills, cornering and handling skills kneeling or even standing on the balls. If you get one, don’t go cheap or used on this item. Buy high end burst proof that are stiff when fully inflated. Thanks for sharing

    Reply • May 29 at 12:50 pm

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