Build a Garage Gym for Under $1000 (Buyer’s Guide)


Build a Garage Gym for Under 00

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When you’re planning out your garage gym, the reality of having a budget is going to become an issue sooner or later. Most of us would love to have a brand new full rack, an Eleiko or Uesaka bar and plates, top of the line flooring, dumbbells, etc. The list goes on and on.

The problem that most of us run into at some point, is the fact that workout equipment is crazy expensive. Even things that seem like basic items made of rubber or steel tend to be three times more than you would expect.

So, how do you decide what to spend your money on? That really is the ultimate question. I’ve spent twenty years working in weight rooms and over that time have got to try out every piece of equipment you could possibly think of. I’m going to walk you through exactly where I would spend my money if I was building a garage gym with a $1000 budget.

One quick note before we begin. I’m working off of the premise that we’re buying all of this equipment brand new. I’m going to give you recommendations, prices and resources with that in mind. With that being said, quality lifting equipment lasts a really long time.

If you keep your eye on used marketplaces like Facebook, craigslist, etc. – you can find some good deals and make your $1000 budget stretch even further.

Ok. Let’s get started.

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Garage Gym Equipment

Flooring

It may be tempting to skimp on flooring. After all, flooring can be expensive and you can’t do curls it with so is it really that important? The answer is yes. Gym flooring not only protects your garage floor, but it protects your equipment as well. However, we can get a little creative and save some cash.

Horse Stall Mat Gym Flooring
Horse Stall Mats are thick, durable, cheap and even look great. What’s not to love?

As far as what kind of flooring to get, this is an easy choice. Even if I had double the budget I’d still recommend getting Horse Stall Mats from Tractor Supply Company. I’m not going to go into too much detail why that is, but if you want more info on why I think Horse Stall Mats make for the best garage gym flooring I did an entire article on it.

Not only are Horse Stall Mats the most economical option, but here is where we can get a little strategic with our money. I would only buy two mats. Two mats are obviously not going to cover your whole floor, but it’s enough to create a ‘platform’ for you to do any lifts that will require dropping weights. This could be cleans, snatches, deadlifts, etc.

Ideally, would you cover your whole workout area? Yes. At some point would I want an actual platform, yes. But, we’re on a budget and we’re going to save that extra money to put into other things.

And, yes, be aware that Horse Stall Mats are going to smell awful when you first get them home, but there are some ways you can get the smell out rather quickly.

Horse Stall Mats will run you around $40 each, so for $80 we have flooring covered.

Total Cost for Flooring: $80
Overall Total: $80

Rack

Once you have your garage floor protected you should focus your attention on your rack. For the large majority of us, the rack will be the basis for most of your lifts. Squatting, benching and basically any exercise that involves rack and unracking weight will take place in your rack.

DIY Squat Stand
My first official DIY Garage Gym project. A super simple design made with simple tools, but it’s been a beast for me for over six months now.

For my garage gym, I built my own squat stand for under $60. It allows me to back squat, lunge, jerk and shoulder press without having to start the bar off the ground. Considering I focus on Olympic lifting that provides me with all the functionality I need.

Let’s assume though that you’re not interested in building your own or maybe you want more functionality. To stay on budget I recommend getting a basic squat stand like the T3 Squat Stand from Titan Fitness. It’s not the same as a heavy duty full rack, but it will give us the ability to do everything we want to do. At $249 it’s also going to help keep us under budget.

Cost for Rack: $249
Total Cost: $329

Barbell

I am an unapologetic snob when it comes to barbells. When you’ve been spoiled with Eleiko and Uesaka bars it’s really hard to want to lift with anything else. However, one of those bars brand new would almost eclipse our entire budget. So, what is the best bar we can get without breaking the bank?

You have two options at this point. If you NEVER plan on doing any lifts that involve dropping a barbell which is basically ANY Olympic Lift (Cleans, Snatches, Jerks) then you can consider the Cap Barbell. You can buy the Cap Barbell from Academy Fitness and some other big box stores.

Do I think it’s a great barbell? Honestly, no. But, if you’re not going to demand a lot from your barbell then it’s an economical option that may make sense for you. What do I mean by “not demanding a lot”? Doing controlled movements that don’t require aggressive rotation of the bar, needing to be dropped and usually don’t involve a lot of weight. This would include everything from Shoulder Presses to Barbell Curls.

On the other hand, if you plan on doing Olympic lifts (even occasionally) than I would recommend the Ohio Bar from Rogue. When you take into consideration price and quality, it’s the best bang you can get for your money. It has a good spin, bushing sleeves and will stand up to wear and tear over the course of years of training.

Option 1 – Cap Barbell and Weights
Barbell Cost w/255lb of plates: $229
Total Cost: $558

Option 2 – Ohio Bar
Barbell Cost: $285
Total Cost: $614

Plates

If you went with Option 1 (Buying a complete set of Cap Barbell with Weights) then congrats, you’re all set. Unless you need extra weight. If you do need extra weight then stick with the iron plates from Cap. When it comes to Iron Plates, Iron is pretty much Iron.

If you plan on doing Olympic lifts then you need bumpers. The best of the economy level bumpers are from Titan. Titan makes a quality bumper plate and you’ll save a ton on shipping alone, because Titan ships everything for free.

You can also check out Rogue and Rep Fitness. Both make good quality bumper plates that you can get for a reasonable price.

If you’re just going with the steel plates then you’re still sitting at $558, otherwise:

Bumper Plate Cost: $370
Total Cost: $984

Ready to Work

You’ve now got some flooring to protect your garage floor, a rack, a barbell and plates. That’s exactly where I would spend my money to start a garage gym if I had $1000 budget. There are no fancy bells and whistles, but with good solid basics you can still do an almost unlimited amount of workouts.

In fact, at this level, if my budget was a little bit bigger – I’d buy nicer basics. I’d start with upgrading my plates and then move on to upgrading the bar. You will NEVER regret having a really good bar and plates that will last you years.

Additional Equipment

If you went iron plates then you’ve got some cash leftover to either put back in your pocket or spend on… well, whatever you personally want. Grab some dumbbells, med balls, kettlebells – it’s totally up to you. If you’re making the transition from gym membership to garage gym, think about the piece of equipment at the gym that you’ll miss the most. Buy that.

On the other hand, if you get a great barbell and some bumper plates, you’re going to use all that $1000 to get up and started. But, take into consideration you’re now saving anywhere from $10 to $60 (or more) on a gym membership each month. Tuck a few dollars away and every few months go get that next piece of equipment that you really want.

Attach a piece of equipment to a new goal. For example, when you hit that new squat PR – go get a new set of plates.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to getting started with a garage gym, $1000 is a good budget to get you started. While you can always spend more (and let’s be honest, you probably will) just remember one thing: Spending more money won’t make you stronger. If you have a barbell, plates and a rack you can squat, bench and pull. You can get as strong as you want to be with just those movements.

Start with a foundation of good, solid basic equipment and then you can add to it as you go. Having to buy things twice because you went cheap the first time can leave you in a never ending cycle of frustration and wasted money. Now, what are you waiting for??? Get your equipment today and you can be lifting in your garage starting next week!

Stay Strong!

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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