Garage gyms can get pretty expensive pretty fast. The cost of gym equipment like barbells, racks and platforms can really add up in a hurry.
One way to offset those costs is to build some of that equipment yourself. I’ve built many of the pieces that I use in my garage gym and in this article, I want to share with you a couple of DIY Garage Gym ideas that you could start (and finish) today.
Before we go any further, I do want to make one thing very clear. If you are building a piece of equipment yourself, you have to be 100% sure that that piece of equipment is safe to use. Horton Barbell or myself are not responsible for any damage/injury to you or your property because of something you attempted to build yourself.
Bottom line – be smart when making your own lifting equipment.
The 5 projects that I’m going to share with you will give you everything you need (along with a barbell and plates) to get started working out in your garage.
These are a squat rack, platform, horizontal bumper plate storage rack, landmine attachment and a deadlift jack.
With these five pieces of gym equipment, you can perform an almost endless amount of lifts and workouts. Everything else you add to your garage gym is really gravy.
5 Garage Gym Ideas You Can Do Yourself
DIY Garage Gym Idea #1 – Squat Rack
Cost: $60 ($58.04 to be precise)
Time to Complete: 1 Afternoon
Potential Savings: Racks vary widely in price, but at least a couple of hundred dollars
Why DIY?: A quick search through the internet and you can find a bunch of different ways to build your own DIY Rack. So why did I choose to make mine the way I did?
I chose my design for two main reasons.
First, I don’t have ‘Bob Villa-esque’ tool resources at my disposal. So, I wanted a design that I could make with a simple set of tools. The ‘fanciest’ tool I used to build my rack was an electric drill. The only other tools I needed were a hand saw, measuring tape, a leveler and a stud finder.
The second reason was I wanted something that would be solid and sturdy for the lifts that I wanted to do.
Let me explain.
I wanted, essentially, a squat stand. I wasn’t concerned about using it to bench press. I needed a rack that allowed me to back squat. Any other use I got out of it was a bonus.
However, most squat stands, even commercial ones are not super sturdy. I addressed this issue by anchoring my rack to the wall. Now I don’t have to ever worry about my squat rack tipping over.
I’m telling you all this because this thought process is how you should determine what YOU want from YOUR squat rack.
Figure out what you need from a rack and go from there. Is bench pressing important to you? I wouldn’t go with my design. Do you need a low-cost, easy to build squat stand? My rack has worked out great for me.
How To: I’m going to give you a brief rundown on how I built my rack. If you’re interested in building your own, make sure to check out my complete step-by-step guide on how I built my squat rack.
The build is pretty simple really. Find the studs in your wall and drill two 2x8s into the wall. These will be used to anchor the rack itself. MAKE SURE YOU FIND AND DRILL INTO THE STUDS!!! Otherwise, your rack is going to rip out your entire wall.
Next, cut 4 of the 4x4s to the desired height of your squat rack. This will vary depending on your height and preferences. Using brackets, secure 2 of the 4x4s to the 2x8s on the wall. These will act as the back two vertical beams for your rack.
Now cut 2 of the 4x4s to the length you want your horizontal beams to be. I made mine 36″ which has worked out just fine, but if I had it to do over again I would make them about 6″ to 8″ shorter. I don’t need as much room “inside” the frame to rack and unrack weight as I thought I would need.
Attach the horizontal beams to the front two vertical beams with brackets and finally attach the front of the rack to the back of the rack.
I know I’m making it sound easier than it really is, but in a way, I’m actually not.
It really is that straightforward. Just make to double or even triple check your measurements, make straight cuts so everything lines up flush and test, test, test before you put any real amount of weight on it.
I can’t emphasize enough that you have to make 100% sure that your build is done correctly. Having your rack break or fall apart when racking a set of squats could lead to serious injury.
If you’re worried about using a wood rack instead of steel, I was too. Then someone pointed out to me, “What do you think holds up your house?” That changed my perspective a bit on how much weight wood can hold if built properly.
DIY Garage Gym Idea #2 – Lifting Platform
Cost: $198 (This is including $20 to rent a truck from Lowe’s to haul everything to the house)
Time to Complete: An afternoon
Potential Savings: Minimum $300+ dollars
Why DIY?: The reason to DIY your lifting platform is because it is way easier to build than you would ever think. It’s actually the easiest to build out of the three in my opinion.
More importantly, the reason to have a platform is to protect your gym equipment and probably more importantly (I say probably because I really care more about my Uesaka equipment than I do my floor, but the “adult” in me says otherwise) your garage floor.
Dropping weight, especially in the same spot over and over again, can potentially turn your garage floor into rubble.
Could you be okay with just some 3/4″ horse stall mats? Probably, but horse stall mats may not be enough. With a platform being so easy (and relatively cheap) to make, why take the risk? A platform can add another inch plus of protection. And they’re super badass to lift on.
How To: Again, I’m going to go through the quick and dirty how-to, but for a full detailed how-to guide check out How to Build a DIY Lifting Platform.
The key to the whole build is planning out the size of your boards and getting them cut to the right specifications, which you can get done right at Lowe’s.
I made my platform six feet by eight feet. Because of the squat rack I already had built, I had no intention of putting a squat rack on top of the platform so there was no need to make it any bigger than 6×8.
The two bottom layers are OSB Sheething Boards. The bottom-most layer should be a 4×8 and a 2×8. Then place two 6x4s directly on top perpendicular to the bottom boards.
Next, lay the 2×6 board down in the center of the rack that you’re going to use as the platform itself. I used Pine for my platform and it’s worked great.
Finally, and this is by far the biggest pain in the rear of the whole project. Cut a 4×8 horse stall mat down the center to make two 2x6s. These will act as your drop zones on each side.
Boom. Done. Other than cutting the horse stall mat, a platform is really easy to build. My only regret is not building mine sooner.
DIY Garage Gym Idea #3 – Horizontal Plate Storage
Time to Complete: A couple of hours
Potential Savings: Around $100 (per box – if you have two, double it)
Why DIY?: Sooner or later you’re going to get annoyed with plates laying on the ground or against the wall all the time and will want something to make your gym equipment more organized.
Steel plate storage racks are outrageously expensive and a DIY wood storage box is cheap and easy to make. It’s also customizable to be the size and the number of slots you want. Finally, and this is my opinion, I think they actually look better.
How To: Not to sound like a broken record here, but again, I’m going to give you the cliff note version here, but if you want the full guide check out How to DIY a Horizontal Plate Storage Rack.
This isn’t necessarily the hardest of the three to make, but it is probably the most tedious. Making this storage rack requires a bit more patience than the other two just because it’s a lot of measuring and drilling.
Before you begin, I recommend figuring out exactly what you plan on housing in your storage racks. I wanted each of my racks to be able to hold 4 20kg plates, 2 10kg plates and then a couple of slots for some smaller 2.5s, 5s and 10s.
Knowing what you want to go in your rack will help you determine the size of each slot.
Once you have planned out your rack, start off by making a frame. My frame consisted of two 31″ 2x4s for the sides and 2 17″ boards for the ends. You can actually go ahead and cut all of your “end” and “slot” boards because they’ll all be the same size. I ended up with 9 17″ boards total.
Once your frame is built start placing your slot boards and drilling them in one at a time.
I made my 20kg plate slots 2 1/2″ wide and my 10kg plate spots 2″ wide. I also made the slots for my “change” 2″ wide just to keep the front slots uniform.
Like I said before, it’s a bit tedious so take your time and take a break if you need to rather than getting impatient, rushing through and making a mistake you’ll kick yourself for later.
Once you’ve finished drilling in all your slot boards you can paint the box if you like or just keep it au naturale. Personally, I like the look of the wood itself and I don’t paint any of my DIY Equipment. But, if you want get a certain style or look going for your garage gym, go for it.
DIY Garage Gym Idea #4 – Landmine Attachment
Cost: $2 (or maybe free)
Time to Complete: Less than 5 minutes
Potential Savings: $100
Why DIY: Are you ready for the easiest DIY project yet? This idea will cost you, at most, about two bucks and it’s one you can “build” in less than five minutes.
A Landmine Attachment is a really cool piece of gym equipment that attaches to a power rack and allows you to perform a bunch of pretty unique movements. They’re good for rotational work, single arm jerks and a variety of rows.
The problem is, they’re expensive. Especially for something that you may not use all that often.
How To: Here’s how to make your own landmine attachment:
Grab a tennis ball. Cut half the circumference of the ball. This will create an opening just big enough to slide onto the end of a barbell. Find a corner of your gym, rack or just make a ‘corner’ by wedging together a couple of bumper plates.
Sit your barbell with the tennis ball stuck onto the end of it into the corner and you now have a DIY Landmine Attachment for basically free if you found a tennis ball lying around your house.
DIY Garage Gym Idea #5 – Deadlift Jack
Time to Complete: N/A
Potential Savings: $100 – $200
Why DIY: I think one thing that all lifters can agree on is that changing weights while you’re deadlifting is an absolute pain in the a**. So much so, that someone came along and invented the deadlift jack.
A deadlift jack is essentially a big metal crowbar that you can use to lift the bar off the floor, making changing weights much easier.
The problem is that in addition to deadlift jacks taking up a lot of storage space, they can also be expensive (seeing a theme here when it comes to almost all gym equipment?).
How To: Here are a couple of DIY alternatives to a deadlift jack that you probably already have in your home gym:
- Slide a 2.5-pound plate under the innermost plate on the bar and then roll the weight on top of it.
- Use an extra piece of gym flooring that had to be cut off to get your mat to fit around those stairs.
Both of these ideas use the same concept. By lifting the bumper plates up off the ground, even if it’s ever so slightly, it becomes much easier to slide new plates on or off the bar.
These 5 DIY Garage Gym Ideas will definitely get you started down the path to plenty of big lifts and big gains in your garage. A few final thoughts on these DIY ideas:
- Don’t be intimated by building stuff yourself. All 5 of these projects can be done by anyone that puts in the effort and has good attention to detail.
- DIYing some of your own garage gym equipment is an excellent way to save money (that can then be used to buy more gym equipment)
- My final point which I’ve already made a couple of times bears repeating: make sure you double and triple-check that what you have built is safe and secure. If you’re not 100% sure that it is safe, DO NOT use it. These checks should be done not just once, but periodically throughout the entire time you use the equipment.