Build a Low Cost Home Gym Based on Body Weight Exercises


One of the biggest advantages of calisthenics and body weight based exercise, is that it’s incredibly easy to build a home gym. It doesn’t matter if you only have a small amount of space or enough money for some rusty dumbbells at a garage sale. Now you can have a full size functional home gym with all the trimmings!

But I know what you’re thinking; why even bother? Many calisthenics experts will tell you that the benefits of body weight exercise is that you don’t need a gym or gym membership to get in a workout. So if you can do push-ups anytime and at any place why go through the trouble of building a home gym?

Contrary to what I used to think, a gym is not about equipment and gadgets. A gym is a place which is dedicated to your training. A gym is an environment, it’s not about equipment. Just putting equipment into a room does not make it a gym. Building a gym is about dedicating space towards your fitness training.

It’s common to recommend that people dedicate a time in their schedule for their training. A workout that can be done at any time seldom is done on a consistent basis. Having a dedicated place to exercise helps you keep that dedicated time for your training. When you enter into a gym you flip a mental switch and enter into workout mode. You know that you’re in a dedicated space and have a dedicated time towards your fitness plan. If you don’t have a dedicated space, it’s harder to flip that switch and really focus.

Most people would consider a home gym a luxury. I consider it essential, especially if the bulk of your training is going to happen on the home front. Here are my tips on how to set up a home gym where you can lose yourself and find yourself at the same time.

Space is The Most Important Equipment
build-low-cost-home-gym-equipmentWhen it comes to effective workouts, space is king. You can use space for anything and everything. Once you plop a big piece of equipment in the middle of a room you are committing that space to the types of exercise you can do in that place. Space is also important in keeping the energy flow in the gym. A cramped gym tends to create cramped movements and feelings.

Lighting and Fresh Air are Important
You may not have too much say in where you can set up your gym, but if you can, try to use a space that allows for fresh air and natural light. This is why I often don’t recommend setting up a gym in a damp and dark basement. If you can set up on a patio, lanai, garage or similar space then that would be ideal.

Use Equipment That’s Easy To Set Up
We humans can be lazy by nature. Every little step we need to take to start a workout is one more hurdle towards success. If at all possible, keep your equipment set up and ready to use at all times. If you have to store it, try not to tuck it away under anything or in a box. The last thing you want is a home gym that can become out of sight and out of mind.

Stick to Basic Equipment
Body weight training doesn’t need much equipment. Some open floor space, a sturdy wall and something to hang from is all you really need. Some of the best types of equipment can include gymnastics rings, suspension trainers, jump rope, parallets, a step or plyo box, and maybe a soft mat or two. I personally enjoy a hanging heavy bag too. It’s the best piece of cardio equipment bar none!

Easy on The Weighted Calisthenics
You can progress any body weight exercise to unbelievably advanced levels through technique alone. That said, sometimes you may just want to add some extra weight to yourself for some extra kick. I can add extra weight to any body weight exercise you can imagine, but when it comes to building the most raw power and strength, I focus on loading up only a handful of exercises such as:

  • Dips
  • Pull Ups
  • Lunges and single leg squats

I prefer to load up these moves for a few reasons. The first being efficiency. You don’t need any special expensive weight vests or a lot of weight loading you down. Just a few weight plates and a rope or chain for a dip belt will be plenty of extra weight, especially when you’re doing dips and pull ups on unstable handles like rings. Single leg squats are very difficult to master and most folks will never need more than a few 10 pound plates to sufficiently load themselves up. Lunges are a similar story with a couple of dumbbells and enough room. I dare anyone to lunge down the length of a basketball court with a couple of 30 pound hand weights and tell me it was easy!

Keep It Clean
No one likes to do push-ups on a dirty floor. A simple shop broom and a swiffer can do wonders for the garage and basement. If your home gym is indoors, be sure to whip out that vacuum cleaner weekly.

Protect Your Turf
Lastly, make sure your gym stays your gym. Don’t let the rest of the house creep into the space and make your gym multipurpose. Too many home gyms get taken over by the kids play area, the tool bench or just general storage. Once this happens, you no longer have a gym. You just have equipment. Sometimes you’ll have to share the space, like if you set up your gym in the garage and you need to park the car in there. If this is the case, draw the line in the sand on what you allow and don’t allow in the space. If something must be placed in the space then make sure you have a plan to get it out again.

I truly believe a small home gym is essential. It’s important to have exercise resources in the home, just as you also have food at home. Expecting yourself to only exercise in a commercial gym can be like expecting yourself to only eat out at restaurants. In the end, a home gym makes reaching your exercise goals much more efficient and effective.

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About Author

Matt Schifferle

My name is Matt Schifferle and I'm an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 coach, underground strength coach and I'm a 5th degree black belt in Taekwon-Do. I specialize in outdoor and playground based underground and CrossFit style bootcamps. See my profile page for more information!

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