How to Build a Simple Home Gym (Bloom to Fit Style)

Enter name and email for free blog updates

Ultimate Home GymThe new year is finally upon us.

And with every new year comes the same-old routine…

New resolutions, new goals, new dreams.

People are on a high right now. And it’s cool to see.

It’s nice to see people starting to take their health more seriously. Even if it may be short-lived (let’s be honest…90% of resolution-ers don’t stick with their resolutions), at least they’re trying to do something about it.

But with every new person looking to rock a six-pack by mid January there is a new membership in the books. A new body that takes up space. A new person to wait behind at the water fountain.

And although this might be great news for the gym’s bottom line, it sucks for the rest of the people who are used to having all that free space.

You’ll notice it from the very first moment you step foot in a gym in January.

The place is more crammed than a Japanese subway, probably surpassing capacity and breaking nearly every building code known to man.

And even though things usually go back to normal by early February (that’s kinda sad :(), the brutality of January had always pushed me into a different direction.

It forced me into building my very own home gym.

Over those years, I’ve learned a thing or two about efficiency. I’ve learned how to leverage certain fitness tools to get the most bang for my buck out of my training. I’ve figured out how to build a very simple, cheap and effective home gym.

The objective is to keep things simple.

The more you simplify your environment, the more likely it is that you’d want to immerse yourself in it.

So how do you build the right environment?

How do you build the ultimate – err simple – home gym?

What You’ll Need

A Bloom to Fit home gym might be a little different than your standard home gym. That’s because I, personally, like to focus on a lot of functional, whole-body movements when I exercise. I don’t like to use machines or anything that doesn’t work with the design of my body.

To become a part of the Bloom to Fit home gym, a piece of equipment has to meet (most of) the following requirements:

  • It has to allow for functional movements,
  • It has to have a long life span,
  • It should be relatively easy to transport,
  • It should be relatively inexpensive.

Note: points two and four sometimes contradict each other, so exceptions can be made. If a tool is of obvious value and has a long life span, I don’t mind spending the extra money on it.

Let’s dig in…

Primary tools:

Rubber Flooring

Before you can bring any equipment into your home, you need to set the floor right. This is important for keeping your joints safe, your house in one piece, and your equipment long-lasting.

The best and cheapest option is to purchase interlocking foam mats. These work great for home gyms because they’re cheap, easy to install and offer solid protection for your home.

rubber floor gym mats

Interlocking foam mats will cost you about $0.50 per square foot. You’ll probably need to cover about 40-50 square feet to be safe. That’ll cost you about $20-$25.

Here are some simple interlocking foam mats you can use to cover your floors.

Kettlebells

The first, and most important, part of my fitness arsenal is the kettlebell.

Kettlebells are my bread and butter. As I become more and more proficient with them, I’m finding that the other parts of my home gym are feeling a little jealous. Like older, forgotten siblings replaced by a pair of cute little babies.

kettlebells

All jokes aside, I have found the kettlebell to be the most effective fitness tool. It allows me to combine my strength and cardiovascular training all into one. Why more people aren’t taking the time to master them is besides me.

The kettlebell fits all the requirements: It’s very functional and it can (somewhat) easily be transported. In terms of cost, kettlebells usually go for anywhere between $1.50-$2.00 per pound. So a 16 kg (35lbs) kettlebell would come out to roughly $60, a 20kg (44lbs) would come out to roughly $77, and a 24kg (55lbs) would come out to $96. Keep in mind that these are lifelong prices. When you buy a solid kettlebell, it should last you forever.

If you’re interested, check out this short guide I put together to help you figure out exactly which kettlebell you need.

Jump ropes

If you know me, you know how much I love jumping rope. The rope is like my second baby. I love it to death because it constantly demolishes me during my workouts.

jump ropes

A basic rope is usually very cheap and easily portable (I carry mine everywhere). A simple speed rope will cost you anywhere from $5 to $15. Although not the greatest quality, they should last you quite some time if you take care of them properly.

Here is a very simple and cheap jump rope you can get started with.

Once you’re ready to move on to more advanced ropes, my favorite is the CrossRope because it’s interchangeable and it allows you to take advantage of heavy jump rope training (something I’ve gotten into recently). However, these ropes are a little more expensive. If you’re interested, check out my full review of the CrossRope.

No matter what rope you choose to work with, it’s definitely an essential component of a Bloom to Fit home gym.

Barbell with weight plates

The barbell, in my dazzling opinion, is a must-have tool for any home gym.

It’s a very simple and functional tool that’s been around for generations, helping people build rugged strength, power, size, and explosiveness. There are hundreds of things you can do with barbells, even without a bench or a squat rack.

barbell with weights

Certain barbells and plates can be quite expensive if you get them brand new (I’ve discovered this myself recently). But, nobody said you have to get them brand new.

A simple barbell (graded for about 300lbs) will cost you $20-$40.

But, it is often the weighted plates that rack up the costs. When it comes to the weighted plates, my advice is to check out classified ads. There are always people selling plates for cheap. It doesn’t really matter if you mix and match weights from different sellers either. As long as it fits properly onto your bar, you should be good.

Through classified ads, I managed to pick up a barbell and about 200lbs of weighted plates for $100. See, not bad!

Push-up bars

Push-up bars are very simple and effective tools that every home gym should have.

push up stands

They keep your wrists safe during a push-up by placing them in neutral position (not extension like regular push-ups demand). They also make the exercise more engaging because they allow for a deeper stretch of the muscles.

Push-up bars are easily portable and they’ll cost you around $10-$15.

If you’re interested, these are the push up bars I use.

Pull-up bar

The pull-up bar is an essential tool for any home-gym.

Without it you are limiting yourself to a world of poor posture and no pulling strength. This is because a pull-up bar is necessary for building a strong and stable back. It’s also a great stretching tool as it allows you to hang and decompress your spine.

pull up bar

You have a number of options when it comes to getting a pull-up bar, some more expensive than others. Here are two you can choose from:

You can build your own pull-up bar using plywood, pipes, tubes, and a boatload of screws and nails (at least that’s how I made mine). It’s a relatively inexpensive option, but you have to make sure it’s put together right so you don’t go flying in the middle of your set.

Probably the best option is to get a pull-up bar that you can attach to your door frame. These are very popular and will cost you about $30-$40. It’s a great option because these pull-up bars are built with a variety of grips (unlike your home-made pull-up bar, unless you’re a fancy welder).

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands definitely meet all the requirements for a Bloom to Fit style home gym: they’re light, easily portable, extremely functional, and rather inexpensive.

resistance bands

I use my resistance bands for two things primarily: 1) strengthening my connective tissues (see how I use it to strengthen my ankles); 2) making other exercises either easier (i.e. assisted pull-ups) or more engaging (for example, I place a band around my back and under my hands to make my push-ups tougher). Here are some simple resistance band exercises you can do.

Resistance bands are often colour-coded to indicate the strength of the resistance. I recommend getting a quality set because they’re more durable and won’t snap on you. This will cost you anywhere from $20 to $50.

Here’s a good set of resistance bands you can get started with.

Foam Roller

The foam roller is an exceptional self-myofascial release tool. It’s an essential tool for breaking through tight areas of the body and releasing the tension built up in the soft tissues. This is something I use every single day.

foam roller

A foam roller is also easily portable and you can pick up a high-density foam roller for about $30.

If you need help getting started with foam rolling, check out my ultimate foam rolling guide.

Note: The foam roller is one of several self-myofascial release tools in my home gym. Here’s a full list of my SMR tools.

.

.

These are my primary tools. The ones I use most often and the ones I would get first if I was to build another simple home gym from scratch.

The total cost for all the primary tools would range anywhere from $300 to $500 (depending primarily on your resourcefulness).

This is roughly the same cost for a one-year membership at a gym (if you’re lucky), but you now have these tools for the rest of your life.

Think about that.

Together, these tools will give you everything you need to build yourself a better body.

But if you’re looking for more, I got more…

Secondary tools:

If you happen to have some extra money laying around (maybe Santa was good to you this year) and want to expand your home gym, here are some secondary tools I would pick up…

TRX Suspension Trainer

TRX suspension trainer is an absolutely exceptional tool that can add extreme versatility to any home gym.

TRX Suspension Trainer

It’s very powerful and I know some people who work with nothing but the TRX system. It’s super light and easily portable. But it does have a nice price tag associated with it. A full TRX trainer will cost you about $200 (unless you can find a discounted option).

Although not essential, it’s definitely worth the investment if you have the money. Keep in mind that there is a bit of a learning curve to this tool.

Set of Dumbbells

In my opinion, a set of dumbbells isn’t necessarily essential, especially if you already have a good set of kettlebells in your arsenal. But a good set of dumbbells can definitely add some versatility to your home gym.

Dumbbells are very functional indeed. You can do a lot of unilateral exercises and functional movements. You can build strength and size.

But the problem I find with dumbbells is that you quickly outgrow them. Your body adapts and requires more stress. Unlike kettlebells (you can work with a 16kg KB for years before ever moving up in weight), dumbbells constantly demand more weight and this can cost some benjamins.

If you are on the lookout for a good set of dumbbells, I’d suggest checking out classified ads for some used equipment. My buddy Alykhan from Fitness Breakout highly recommends an adjustable set of dumbbells. I’ve never used them personally, but he claims them to be his go-to tool of choice.

adjustable dumbbells

You can find a good set here. Keep in mind, they do come with a hefty price.

Note: adjustable tools often have complex components inside them. If you drop the tool on the ground, it’s likely those components will break. This is why I would never get adjustable kettlebells. You never know when they’ll fall out of your hand.

Conclusion

So there you have it guys: how to build a simple home gym Bloom to Fit style.

You’ll note that my home gym isn’t crammed with your typical benches, treadmills and swiss balls. I’m not saying that these tools are ineffective, but I think you can get much more out of the tools I’ve listed above.

Remember that the goal is to keep things as simple as possible. You want a gym that lacks clutter. A gym that is built to work around the design of your body. A gym that you can literally pick up and take with you.

That’s why you’ll see my skipping in the park, doing kettlebell swings in my backyard, performing resistance band strengthening exercises in my living room, or push-ups in my office.

That’s the beauty of a Bloom to Fit home gym.

So if you’re tired of waiting 40 minutes to get your turn at the bench station in a gym crammed with non-believers, start planning your own home gym. The primary and secondary tools I’ve mentioned above should give you some good ideas of where to start.

Your task…

To get your mind brewing, here’s what I want you to do. Imagine you just found $200 on the ground and by some magical wizardry you can only spend it on fitness equipment (or it blows up). I want you to think about how you would spend those $200. What tools would you buy first? What’s most important to you?

Let me know how you would spend the money in the comments below!

And, if there are any interesting pieces of equipment that you think would be a valuable fit in a home gym, please let me know!

Like what you read? Share it!
Get Free Updates!

Comments

  1. Christopher says:

    Here’s an excellent video about what to look for when purchasing a used barbell.

    http://startingstrength.com/index.php/site/video/platform_is_your_bar_straight

  2. David Cano Riesgo says:

    Amazing, fantastic post!

    Have you tried “TRX Rip Trainer”?, I am starting to use it and feels great!

    Cheers

    • David, I haven’t tried the Rip Trainer yet, but I’ve seen it in action and I think it’s an awesome tool. Very functional indeed. Easily portable. It would definitely fit into the Bloom to Fit home gym.

      If you’re looking for workouts you can do with the Rip Trianer, check out Functional Patterns. The guy uses a Cable-bar system (same structure as the Rip Trainer) with a lot of his athletes. Here’s an example.

  3. Thanks Srdjan,

    My boys and I have discussed the idea of using our garage as a gym. This is so helpful and very practical. One of our mottos this year is less is more and clutter free. Don’t use lose it. My boys really want a pull up bar and a peg board.
    I am looking forward to putting this into action, this is being printed off and used as my guide.

  4. In the home gym you still need somebody to work out with to keep you motivated. Yes it is easier to starting working out in the home gym but home gyms does not have the ‘aura’ of a public gym when you can see other people exercising. I am a big believer in the contagion effect which makes me work harder if I see others work hard. Plus, you may gain unexpected inspiration from other people. For example, in the school gym I often observe a wrestler do jump ropes and how fluid he goes about it. I imitated his style. One day he came over and told me that he has been watching me and sees that I have improved a lot over the last couple of months. That made me feel great and doubled my efforts.

    So, sorry that I am singing the other tune, but I believe that home gyms are not for everyone.

    • Hey Kun, don’t be sorry brotha you bring up a lot of excellent points.

      Home gyms are most definitely not for everyone. You really have to understand yourself, your personal preferences, your comfort levels, your availability, etc. There are many different factors playing into this. The purpose of this post was to show people that the commercial gym is not the only option available. Too many people are pushed into signing expensive contracts that they will never take full advantage of. For some people, it would be wiser (and much more effective) to invest that money into something that is more convenient for them (like a home gym).

      Personally, I agree with you. I also like the aura of the gym (just not in January). I like watching other people train. I like training with other people at times because I push myself harder. The contagion effect is there. But there are times when I don’t have time for all of that. So, instead, I’ll take advantage of the simple set up I have at home to still challenge my body in unique ways.

      Thanks for your comment Kun. They’re always insightful.

  5. Good article, helpful information. :)

  6. Had I found 200 dollars, I would spend it on one or maybe two kettlebells. I would also have to invest in the rubber mats. The mats, cause I am an accident waiting to happen and the kettlebells cause you aren’t the first person to tell me they are essential. Thank you for another great article, Srdjan!

  7. Srdjan, good advice on what’s truly needed to start getting in shape at home. The pull up bar is by far my favorite piece of equipment. I even use it to do push ups…just flip it over and use the different grips to change up the muscle activation. It’s such a versatile tool.

    Mitch

  8. Hey Srdjan,
    I had started getting equipment for a home gym last year!
    First thing I done was made my own Pull up bar in my garden which I love. Second thing I got was 2x16kg kettlebells which I love. Next thing I want to get is a barbell and a sandbag!
    Kind regards
    Dave

    • Sounds like a killer set up Dave. Just wondering, how did you make your pull-up bar?

      • very simple actually, I just bought a couple fence posts at my local B&Q and some giant screws. Screwed it all together and put a large aluminum bar across the 2 vertical posts. I am hoping to build a full outdoor calisthenics gym in my back garden at some point. I will email you a picture of what it looks like. Was cheap to build.

        • Sounds cool Dave! I want to build a calisthenics gym in my backyard too one day. I’d love to see the pic, thanks!

          • That is awesome. The pull up bar I made is a very simple one, but hopefully when I go to make the rest of the bars I will change some materials and weld them together. Also, I will stick them in the ground with cement. But for now this cheap solution is all I can afford haha!
            The pics have been sent.

  9. My home gym space is any empty space that I can squeeze in the living room while not interrupting others who are watching TV. Once, I tried workout at a balcony but higher self-conscious with no hiding behind walls and felt like my neighbours could watch me which made me embarrased. My usual tools are a jump rope (jump on a bamboo mat), fitness mat (roll it down on a bamboo mat) and dumbbells, sometimes a chair and 3-steps stairs (it’s one storey house). I did try other tools but I always back to my usual stuffs!

  10. Srdjan,
    Good info. If I had $200, I’d get a big rope. I’ve seen and read about these and got mine yesterday. Using this rope is a good thing. A real good thing. Core, shoulders, legs, arms, cardio, etc. I noticed that, other than the jump ropes, you don’t appear to have much cardio equipment in the gym. You might give it a try, if you haven’t already. I’d like to hear what you think. Is it a gimick, or can it work. I guess anything works if you stick with it, and nothing works quite as well as gravity. Here’s a link to a good heavy rope supplier, if you’re interested. http://knotandrope.com/store/pc/Black-8-Strand-Polypropylene-Rope-75p993.htm
    By the way, how do you pronounce your first name?

    • Hey Paul, that’s actually a really interesting choice. Although they do require some space, ropes can be very handy. I’ve done my share of battle rope workouts and I’ll be the first to admit that they’re super intense. Climbing the rope is also a great functional exercise (if you have the space to set it up).

      It’s definitely no gimmick. Ropes work well my friend. You just need space for it. Backyards should work great!

      And as for your comment about cardio, you’d be surprised how effective a kettlebell can be for cardiovascular exercise.

      Cheers!

      Oh, my name is pronounced like the word surgeoun :)

  11. Srdjan,

    Thanks for the shout! I do love my adjustable dumbbells. They are expensive, though. If you had less than $100 to spend, I’d purchase a kettlebell, a pull up bar (probably my second favorite piece of home gym equipment) and pushup bars. I have a loft in my condo so I keep all my equipment up there and it’s like my own gym! If you have all these things you mentioned, you’ll be able to perform killer workouts at home without any issues!

    Alykhan

  12. I’ve always been a fan of a home gym. Going to the gym downtown has never been my thing.

  13. Neil Gribben says:

    My home gym contains the following
    skipping rope
    yoga mat
    20lbs kettlebell (forgive me, but I’m just getting staterd with kb’s)
    set of 5 PPE restistance bands
    heavy punch bag
    adjustable york cable bench
    foam roller
    Kick shield and focus mitts for when I’m lucky enough not to be training alone

    not a bad start but I’ll be looking to add
    chin up bar
    more kettlebells
    speed ball (preferably floor to ceiling on bungee cords)

    We also have a treadmill, that my wife uses occasionally, personally I prefer to run on the roads.

    • That’s an awesome home gym set up Neil. I think adding a pull up bar and maybe even a TRX system would make your home gym even more dynamic. Send a pic over if you have one. I always like seeing people’s set up :)

Speak Your Mind

*