Creating your home gym can be a practical, convenient and cost-effective way to exercise and get in shape. However, exercise equipment can be pricey, and if you want to save money you’ll need to be smart and frugal. Here are five methods you can use to build a home gym while sticking to a budget.
1. Focus on the basics
Most exercise equipment is unnecessary, overpriced or gimmicky. Manufacturers, retailers and salespeople will try to talk you into complex machinery or up-sell you on pointless features.
Before you walk into a store or go online, think about what you need. Do you need a premium celebrity-endorsed spin bike when a basic one will do? Do you need a professional power-lifting bench press that can support 900 lbs when you only lift 220 lbs? Do you need special push-up handles if you can just put your hands on the floor?
Prioritize what you absolutely need and start by looking for the most basic and inexpensive versions of those items. You can get most basic items like weights, benches, racks, simple cardio equipment and common accessories like resistance bands or stability balls fairly cheap if you shop around.
2. Find Inexpensive Alternatives
It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you need luxurious equipment or that it’s impossible to get an effective workout without the latest over-engineered contraption or heavily marketed doodad. The truth is, there are plenty of simple and cost-effective alternatives to even the most complex or popular equipment.
Instead of buying an expensive cable machine, use one or two well placed resistance bands to achieve the same effect. Leg curls can be done on inexpensive stability balls rather than machines. Look at what an item does (not how it’s advertised) and try to find a less expensive way of achieving the same effect. Researching specific body part workouts and exercises online can be a great way to find alternative approaches and good ideas.
3. Peruse Used Goods and Freebies
Many people naively purchase fitness equipment they don’t need or understand, and are later forced to sell or give it away. Use their error to your advantage.
Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, garage sales, used good stores and many local swap meets and exchange listings have an abundance of gently used workout equipment. Machines, weights, bars, benches, racks, kettlebells, medicine balls and most fitness items and accessories are built to last and you’ll find great deals on quality items. Commercial gyms, schools and recreation centers also frequently sell used equipment at fair prices.
If you’re lucky, patient and ambitious, you may even be able to score some freebies. Some people are sick of their unused fitness equipment and they’re willing to give it away for free if somebody can do them the courtesy of hauling it away. If you scour the free sections of Facebook, Craigslist, LetGo or other online listings you should find an ample amount of good items throughout a few weeks. You may have to drag something out of someone’s basement and clean it up, but there’ll be no cost other than your time and effort.
4. Be Resourceful
If you really want the best and most affordable home gym, all you need is your body, your imagination and whatever you have available.
Two chairs can easily serve as a dip station. A wheelbarrow full of dirt or water is a great substitute for heavy farmer’s carries. Five-gallon water jugs or 50 lbs of play sand make for some fun and effective weighted carries. An old tire or log can be a medicine ball. A wrench or a sledgehammer can be an effective clubbell or mace. Your car can be a push sled. Some old chains hanging from your shoulders or wrapped around your waist can make a good weighted vest.
If you’re a beginner, filling gallon milk jugs with rocks and water can provide up to 20 lbs of resistance. Stones, bricks, large tree branches and pillow bags full of textbooks can double as weights. Walking up and down the stairs can be a pretty cheap substitute for a cardio machine. If you’re really strapped for cash, you can even push and pull yourself against a door frame.
Be creative. If it strains your muscles and makes you breathe hard, it’s working.
5. Wait for sales, discounts and bargains
If you absolutely have to purchase something, wait for the right opportunity. Stores and retailers like to play games with pricing. If you’re smart, you can use that to your advantage.
You can find some good deals if you shop around on Black Friday, after New Year’s or during slow summer sales months in late July and August. Shop online, in-store and at discount retailers to get the best price. Search for coupons, ask for price-matches and see if you can purchase floor models for a discount. Clearance sales, outlet stores and items with cosmetic details can also provide excellent savings.
When building a home gym, skip the hype and stick to the basics. If you’re creative, smart with your money and willing to shop around, you can build an effective home gym even on the most modest of budgets.
Looking for some moves you can do with minimal workout equipment? Check out these 7 Effective Ab Workouts.
Melody Rose Rowan is the Director of Content & Strategy for Blender Networks, Inc. When she’s not managing blogs for FitMinutes, The-E-Tailer, Cartageous, InStyleRooms, NurturedPaws & Shoelistic, she’s rearranging her bookcase at home in Culver City, CA, getting her fix of breakfast tacos and Topo Chicos in her hometown of Austin, TX with her husband and rescue dog and attempting to keep up with her own blog, Mustache Melrose.