Building a Garage Gym that Pays for Itself

Have you seen and envied those home or garage gyms on social media? The ones that look like someone ordered one of everything from Rogue’s website? Maybe you thought about building one yourself, but didn’t have a spare kidney to sell so you’ve given up on the idea and keep going to your local gym.  What if you could build one for essentially no cost because it paid for itself? I did.


Not for Everyone

I should mention that garage gyms aren’t for everyone. Garage gyms are great for those who know what they are doing, want to get in, focus on their workout, and get on with their day. If you like or need the social aspect or comradery of a commercial gym, a garage gym might be demotivating. Also, there isn’t an easy/cheap option for working directly with a personal trainer and, with no one else around, the equipment must compensate for the lack of potential spotters.

I liked my local gym well enough, but it was 20 minutes out of my way and I found it very frustrating either waiting for equipment to open up or having people hovering nearby waiting for me to finish. With a garage gym, I can work out whenever and never have to deal with that one guy that ties up 27 pieces of equipment for a circuit workout or the packs of frat boys spending several hours high fiving each other around the bench press (but I digress).


Getting Equipment

Twenty years ago I used to work out at home with an inexpensive weight and bench set I got from one of the retail superstores. It worked great for what it was and what I needed, but I had given it away to a friend years ago and it wouldn’t have met my current needs even if I still had it.

Building a serious garage gym meant getting a power rack (aka squat rack). I needed something to protect me when doing squats or bench pressing without a spotter. But, man, the sticker shock was severe. Still, I wanted one.

With some diligence, I found a used one on Craigslist a couple hours away. $450 for a rack, bar, bench, and nearly 400 pounds of weights. The weights alone were worth the price and the rack also included a pull up bar, dip bars, and a heavy bag. Sold. A nice afternoon’s drive through the Texas countryside and it was mine.

Downsides? Well, I didn’t like the bench and the bar was a cheap 35-pound bar with pretend knurling and flaking chrome so I had to wrap the grip points with friction tape meant for hockey sticks. That’s about it.


A No Cost Garage Gym

Here’s how my garage gym paid for itself.

I am committed to working out. Lifting weights is a given and I was paying $50 a month for gym membership.

The used power rack plus a stall mat from Tractor Supply and a few minor odds and ends cost me about $500, but I no longer pay for a membership. Simple math tells me the rack paid for itself in just ten months later and saves me $600 a year.

Over time, I’ve added a Rogue Ohio Power Bar (so nice, so worth it), bought an inexpensive storage rack for the weights, and upgraded the bench. Yes, this essentially doubled the cost of my garage gym, but was done over time as I could afford it (and benefited greatly from Christmas and birthday presents). I am still well past the break-even point.

In the future, I’d love to add a hex bar and upgrade to an even better rack, but there’s no rush on either. Right now, I have everything I need.


Building Your Own Garage Gym

Your garage gym needs might be different from mine, but the principles are the same:

  • Be realistic about what you need right now.
  • Buy used when you can.
  • Go inexpensive when it doesn’t matter.
  • Invest heavily in the things that really make a difference.
  • Upgrade and expand your equipment over time.
  • Enjoy your monthly savings and bragging rights.


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