5 Simple Steps to Setting Up Your At-Home Gym Regardless of Your Budget

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With a few key pieces of equipment, you can build a home gym that's right for you and your budget.
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There are tons of excuses to skip your workout — your job, traffic, family obligations, fatigue or social distancing. But a strategically stocked home gym means you can squash some of those excuses, and staying active can help combat the stress the comes with some of those daily challenges.

Fortunately, a home doesn't have to require a lot of square footage or money. For less than the cost of a year-long gym membership, you can stock your space with all the equipment you need to get a great workout, shower and cook dinner in the same amount of time it takes just to travel to and from the gym. Here's how to do it.

1. Set Your Budget

The good news is, you can get an effective workout every day of the week absolutely free — all you need is your own body weight. You can do lunges, squats, push-ups and more in a circuit workout that burns just as many calories as your favorite fitness class.

So keep that in mind when you're choosing which equipment you want, because you don't need much. Beyond the basics, anything else is simply more variety or a luxury.

Start by thinking about how much you want to spend on your home gym before making your list of equipment or doing your shopping. This could be equivalent to what you'd pay for a three-, six- or 12-month gym membership. Then, organize your list in to three categories:

  1. Basic equipment
  2. Nice-to-have equipment
  3. Dream equipment

When you do your shopping, focus on the equipment in the first category, and if there's money left over, you can indulge in some items from the second two categories.

2. Maximize Your Budget

Your budget will determine where you shop as well. New fitness equipment, especially weights and cardio machines, is expensive. Buying used equipment is considerably cheaper. You may find dumbbells, barbells and cardio machines for more than half the price of new online, and they could be less than a few years old.

Even some of those newer "dream items" are up for grabs, as people often buy the equipment, don't end up using it and just want to unload it at a loss. (But you're not going to be one of those people!) Buying inexpensive workout equipment doesn't have to mean it's of poor quality.

Look at sites like Craigslist, Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace. "Check out the specs online to see if it suits your needs and space," says Atlanta-based personal trainer Erin Aynes. "Don't hesitate to look at the item in person before committing to purchase it."

You can also check out some online retailers of refurbished exercise equipment such as Fitnessfactory.com, Premier Fitness Source and Rebirth Fitness. Ebay and Amazon may also have used or open-box items for sale.

3. Start With the Basics

Up first: your budget-friendly workout equipment category. As mentioned, you already have everything you need to get a good workout — your body! But here are a few items that will add variety to your workout:

Yoga Mat: If you're working out on a hard floor, such as hardwood or cement, you'll want a yoga mat. You can use it to do ab exercises, as well as for stretching and foam rolling. Here are five of our favorite eco-friendly yoga mats.

Jump Rope: Jump ropes (like the ones from Crossrope) are an inexpensive, simple and space-saving way to get a cardio workout done at home. Every home gym should have one.

Dumbbells: Dumbbells are a classic addition to your home gym, but you don't need a whole set right off the bat if you're on a budget. Three to five pairs is a great place to start; as you add strength, you can add to your collection, and you can sell off what you no longer need. Men typically can purchase weights in 10-pound increments; women usually find 5-pound increments better for them. Or you can try a set of adjustable dumbbells.

Resistance Bands: "I like both small bands and larger ones with handles," says Aynes. "The small bands are great for activation exercises — I love monster walks paired with squat jumps, bridge variations, clam shells, kick backs and lateral leg raises. Larger bands with handles will allow you to work on your arms, shoulders, back, chest. I would recommend getting at least two to three bands — light, medium and heavy resistance."

Weight Bench: You can use a weight bench for variety of exercises, including bench pressing, step-ups, hip thrusts, flyes and rows.

Plyo Box or Exercise Step: These have a have a variety of uses, including performing step-ups and box jumps.

Sliders: "My favorite basics are a set of sliders and some bands," says Aynes. "You can come up with a ton of diverse movements with these simple items. Sliders are my most favorite thing for abs. You can do lunges in all directions, mountain climbers and one-arm push-ups with them, too." Well, you can work up to the one-arm push-ups.

Barbell and Plates: This is definitely not a must-have for everyone, but if you want to build a lot of strength/power or you want to do Olympic lifting, you should have a barbell and a variety of weight plates.

Power Rack: For heavy squats and bench pressing, you'll also need a power rack. A good, simple sturdy rack is not expensive, especially if you buy used cheap workout equipment.

Pull-Up Bar: Even if you can't do a single pull-up right now, invest in a pull up bar. You can use a closed-loop resistance band to do assisted pull-ups, and the bar can used for much more than just pull-ups, such as an anchor for resistance band rows and lat pull downs or a TRX suspension system.

Read more: 20 Health & Fitness Gadgets That Actually Work

4. Consider Nice-to-Have Equipment

This is your second-tier list, including items that are by no means necessary, except on an individual basis. If you have the means and the space, pick up a few of these items:

Cardio Machines: There's no reason you need a machine to do cardio. You can run, walk or bike outside, jump rope or do cardio drills like high knees and mountain climbers. But if you like running on a treadmill, or you're a cyclist who wants the option of doing your training rides indoors, purchase a machine if it's in your budget and you have the space.

Don't be tempted to buy the cheapest model; do your research and choose a high-quality machine (within your budget) that will last. There are many other specifications you'll need to consider depending on the type of machine you're buying.

For example, when purchasing a treadmill, you'll have to consider the size of the footprint, motor horsepower, belt size, speed, incline, cushioning and electronic features. Here are a few other less expensive, nice-to-have items in your home gym:

Read more: Love Peloton? Get an At-Home Cycling Workout Without the Cost

5. Plan for Your Dream Equipment

These are the bank-breaking pieces of equipment that all your friends are going to want to come over to use. So be prepared for that.

High-End Cardio Machines: If you have thousands of dollars in your budget, go big. The newest high-tech cardio equipment — like Peloton and Technogym — has huge Wi-Fi-enabled LCD displays with virtual classes for a monthly subscription fee.

All-in-One Gyms: Think: Bowflex and NordicTrack. These vary in cost, but some of them can be thousands of dollars. Deluxe versions come with all the bells and whistles — cables, barbells, weight stacks and plates, pull-up bars, leg press and extension, hamstring curl, Smith machine and on and on.

High-Tech Studio-Style Workouts: These streaming at-home workout options are relatively new on the fitness scene, but they promise to deliver all of your favorite fitness classes directly to your home gym. Love boxing? Try FightCamp. Swear by personal training sessions? Mirror might be just what you need.

Read more: 5 Fitness Trends You're Going to Love

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