4 Pieces of Equipment to Start Your Home Gym or Garage Gym
Starting a home gym or garage gym can be a bit confusing - especially starting out. What companies should I buy from? What equipment should I start with? What pieces are truly important? For instance, a rower or air bike might sound exciting, but you might want to cover the foundational stuff first. We’re here to help you figure out what those foundational pieces should be.
This list might change for different people and different variables, but to protect your home, your garage, your equipment, and yourself, this is where we’d start.
1. Floor Mats
If you’ve ever visited a gym with weightlifting or a high intensity training box, you know exactly what these floor mats look like. They are typically made of either foam or rubber, with each material offering pros and cons.
Foam mats are more affordable and lighter than rubber mats, but cannot withstand the consistently dropped weight loads that rubber mats can. However, rubber mats are hard to move and install, so get some help! Foam mats are better suited for bodyweight workouts, yoga, pilates, and other light conditioning exercises.
Rubber mats are heavy duty, so weightlifting, olympic lifting, strongman exercises, and other intense exercises won’t make a dent in your mats. Rubber mats are most likely the better long-term option, but if you’re just starting out, start with foam and grow from there!
Last tip: with both foam and rubber, the thicker the better! Ideally, 3/4” thickness will be safest, but smaller will be just fine, as well.
More and more fitness-minded folks are seeing the benefits that come with lifting weights. Squatting, when done with great form, has been shown to actually help joints and ligaments. Your heart also benefits from lifting weights, according to an Iowa State University study.
It comes as no surprise that some of our biggest sellers at Fray Fitness are our barbells. One of our customers wrote to us, “When I first started on my garage gym, I just needed mats, a barbell, and plates - it brings so many options to the table for me.”
Once you have a barbell and plates, your daily training can include the power clean, snatch, front squats, bent over rows, deadlifts, and other great strength movements. Top this off with a nice conditioning piece, and you have a strong daily routine with just 3 pieces of equipment.
With barbells for building your home gym or garage gym, you’ll want to start with a focus on yield strength. Yield strength lets you know the maximum amount of weight that bar can hold safely and without breaking. This Fray women’s bar is rated to hold 1,000 pounds, for example. Always check the yield strength before buying.
After you have experience with lifting weights, you will find your preferred style of bar. You will learn quickly about knurling, sleeve and spin, whip, and more.
While you can do many exercises with just a barbell, we assume you’ll want to, you know, add weight to your lifts some time in the future! When researching plates, there are so many options it’ll make your head spin! What type of material? What style? What amount of weight do I need?
For many people, they imagine the big box globo-gym setting with those massive, monster metal plates. These types of plates are still very useful for static lifts or lifts where you don’t drop the barbell. However, if you plan to do any type of Olympic lifting, metal plates are a big no-no.
The most popular option for most garage gyms and home gyms are bumper plates. Keep in mind, rubber plates and bumper plates are not the same thing. When referencing rubber plates, people usually mean steel plates coated with either rubber or urethane. These also cannot be dropped, so Olympic lifting is out.
Bumper plates are made of dense rubber and come with various levels of bounce. A quality bumper plate doesn’t bounce around like in a bounce house, but rather a little “hop” when landing. Many home gym and garage gym builders choose crumb rubber plates, as they offer a level of durability unmatched in the standard bumper plate game.
Oh, and for you with dreams of competition, there is a special style of competition bumpers that are popular with the serious lifters out there. They are color-coded and have a steel plate inserted to help with the health of your bar and the plate. You’ve seen this style of plate if you’ve ever watched the CrossFit Games®. These plates are more expensive, but do offer the absolute highest durability on the market.
4. Weight Rack
You have the barbell and the plates, so go ahead and get the perfect rack. This particular piece of equipment is the one we hear the most confusion about. Do you need a squat stand or a full rack? Floor-mounted, wall-mounted, or something else entirely?
Before getting caught up in that whirlwind, first figure out what you want your rack to do. If you want your rack to simply serve as a weightlifting rack, you will find you may not need the largest, most intricate rack. But if you want your rack to be able to include pull-up bars, dip stations, and more, you have more things to think about.
Next, measure how much space you have and how much of your space you’re willing to dedicate to a rack. If you have a small corner of your garage, you may need to find a space-saving style of rack. On the other hand, if you have an entire room or building dedicated to your gym, you might have room for a more involved rack.
Third, decide where you want the rack and how you want it installed. Many racks are intended to be installed INTO your flooring or a lifting station. If you plan on a garage gym, you need to decide if you want to screw your big rack into the cement. You could opt for a wall-mounted rack, which requires finding studs (besides yourself) and installing support boards. However, a new style of rack has come to the market called a flat-foot rack. This style of rack doesn’t require mounting, but may not be able hold as much weight or intensity as it’s rack brethren.
Lastly, always check the details when it comes to a rack. Ideally, you’d like to see the rack made of at least 11 gauge steel and 3”x3” steel posts. Make sure the rack can hold as much weight as you plan to put on it, as well. High quality steel is a must when it comes to racks, as poor craftsmanship and weak materials could lead to devastating injuries for the lifter. We advise not skimping on quality when it comes to racks - always keep safety as your #1 priority.
Other Pieces to Consider:
The amount of cardio training and strength training you can get done with the above 4 pieces is insane! If you have our 4 starting pieces and these above 4 options, your garage gym or home gym is almost done!
Researching equipment options for your home gym or garage gym is really a fun process. There are many options both online and brick-and-mortar. Remember to enjoy the hunt and enjoy the workouts!