Cheap Ways to Create a Home Gym

Wouldn't it would be nice to have the money and space to create a well-equipped, spacious home gym?

Dream on, Crabby.
(Photo: The Killer Biscuit)

It would also be nice to have a personal chef, daily maid service, a buffed and charming personal trainer, and while we’re at it, a private island retreat with a pool, a 3-story water slide, and a cute little swim-up tiki bar.

Let's just say this is a fruit smoothie, shall we?
Photo: Randy Son Of Robert

However, if you haven't yet managed to purchase a winning Lotto ticket, here are a few ideas for economical ways to work out at home. And I’m hoping Smart Readers will chime in the comments with better suggestions!

General tips:

Look for used equipment at garage sales, second hand stores, or online. Duh, right? But when faced with something bright and new and shiny in a store or catalog, it’s easy to forget that you might be able to get the same thing used. Take advantage of the fact we’re a culture of optimists—really lazy optimists. Some sucker already bought exactly what you want, decided it was too much effort, and is now selling it cheap.

Figure Out What Exercises You Want to Do First. Unfortunately, you can’t just grab a pair of dumbbells or an elastic band and expect it to design an exercise program for you. It’s best to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish before you buy equipment.

If you already have a gym routine and are just trying to replicate it at home, you’ll have an easier time. But if you’re starting from scratch, you may want to read fitness books, do some web surfing, or find a personal trainer to help you design a program.

Ideally, you probably want to get some aerobic exercise, and eventually throw in some high-intensity intervals. You also should think about building some muscles, and working to increase your flexibility and balance. But there are a bazillion different ways to approach these goals, from Bollywood dance videos to gravity defying yoga poses to Olympic weight lifting routines. Some of these will seem almost fun and some will be absolute torture, it's all very personal!

A Few Cardio Options:

Really Cheap: Aerobic Exercise DVD’s (you can even get these off Netflix or free at many public libraries), step platforms, jump-ropes, mini-trampolines, calisthenics or other “functional fitness” routines, and adding circuit training to your weight routine.

But my basement ceiling isn't that high!

No, not “circus training!”

Circuit training just means doing your strength training fairly continuously without letting your heart rate drop too much between exercises.

Another useful home option, if the weather’s good: Your Front Door! (Just open it and go outside for a run, bike ride, walk, or whatever).

Somewhat Reasonable: Used or reconditioned exercise bikes, rowers, manual treadmills, step climbers, manual ellipticals, cross-country ski machines, and those doo-hickeys that convert your street bike into an exercise bike so you can ride around the house without crashing into walls or scaring the crap out of the cat.

Not Cheap but Possibly Affordable: (If you score a good used or reconditioned item): Motorized treadmills or ellipticals or anything else some impulsive dork bought and never used. High quality motorized equipment is most like what they have at commercial gyms, but it’s hard to find cheap.

Strength Training Options:

Really Cheap: Resistance bands, body-weight exercises or functional fitness routines (free, but you need to research these and may need some coaching), make-at-home weights (like soup cans, gallon milk containers), and strength training and yoga DVDS from the library or Netflix.

Fairly Cheap: Garage sale dumbbells, barbells, benches, racks, etc.; pull up bars (use a chair beneath for assistance if you can’t do ‘em on your own); suspension training systems (these are straps like these that come from the ceiling or a doorway that help you use your bodyweight for resistance); medicine balls, kettlebells, weighted vests.

Possibly Affordable if You Find it Used: A multi-station home gym, especially if you’re handy and can go to a seller’s house, disassemble it, schlep it home, and reassemble it yourself.


These are all pretty reasonably priced: yoga dvd’s, bosu balls, stability balls, balance boards, and eyelids.

(Instructions for eyelids: close them as you raise one foot off the ground and stand there until you start to teeter. Try to regain balance before performing inadvertent faceplant on the floor).

Do any of you use any of these? Maybe someone has some better suggestions?

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