Written by: Francheska Martinez & Eric Leija.
Francheska is a movement and functional training coach in Austin, Texas. She hosts bodyweight and kettlebell training workshops throughout the United States, focusing on fundamentals and technique. She also teaches online to connect with movers of all levels around the world. Find Francheska on Instagram: @francheskafit.
Eric, aka Primal Swoledier, is a health and fitness coach based in Austin, Texas. He is renowned for his unique approach to working out using kettlebells and other unconventional tools and methods. Eric promotes a balanced lifesty le and produces workout video content that is easily accessible to everyone, from beginners to advanced athletes alike. Find Eric on Instagram: @primal.swoledier
Let’s be honest: after realizing how convenient it is to workout from home, some of us are never going back to the gym.
Regardless of your reason to start training at home more frequently, here are some recommendations for the absolute essentials when choosing which equipment to purchase.
Rather than going for elaborate gym equipment that has a lot of straps, pulleys, or unusual gadgets, we are going to go back to the basics and focus on what is the most practical and minimal for a home gym.
As functional movement coaches, we love to focus on gaining strength, but you don’t necessarily have to have an assortment of weights to get in a great training session and continue making progress.
For this article, we are going to limit our equipment budget to $100.
If you want to splurge a bit more and go the extra mile, we have some recommendations for you too.
When setting up any workout space, we want to keep in mind a few key points:
Can this equipment be used in multiple ways?
What is my budget?
Is buying secondhand an option?
Garage Gym Equipment: Squat, Swing, Snatch, Clean
Our first must-have piece of equipment that we chose for a home gym is a kettlebell! The infamous weight with a handle has gained tremendous popularity over the years for its versatility and unconventional training benefits.
With roots in Russia and Europe, the kettlebell was initially used to weigh dry goods and then was utilized for competitive sport and recreation, eventually becoming popularized in the U.S. in the 1990s.
The kettlebell has notably gained popularity in the CrossFit world for how seamless it is to combine elements of strength, cardio, and coordination.
Whether you’re training for upper body strength or working on building more endurance in the legs, kettlebells can be used in almost any workout since it can be gripped and held in multiple positions.
For an at-home gym budget of $100, it would be wise to start with one kettlebell at a moderate weight, so about 8-12kg for women and 16-20kg for men.
Ideally, when starting out, if a budget were nonexistent, we would recommend starting both a moderate weight kettlebell as mentioned above and a heavier kettlebell to hit the legs a bit harder.
Kettlebells are a great way to start building your selection of equipment because no matter how much stronger you get and how much you progress, you can always use the same weights and add more to your collection to eventually have two kettlebells for each weight. Having a set of each weight will allow you to load up even more while improving your skill level by training with two kettlebells at once.
Now that we know which weights to choose, now we must figure out which kettlebell is best.
When choosing the right kettlebell, we recommend going for a round, compact cast iron kettlebell rather than a larger Olympic kettlebell. Olympic bells are okay but may limit you on how many grip positions you can comfortably hold. If you want to get a kettlebell that will last long without chipping, look for a powder-coated matte kettlebell.
Rogue has brand new kettlebells available: Get a 12kg for just $39.
Garage Gym Equipment: Resistance Bands
Whether it’s in a warm-up, workout, progression for an exercise, or extra resistance on a lift, resistance bands always have a time and place.
We love using long resistance bands of varying intensity in all types of workouts, primarily for getting in a wicked shoulder warm-up!
When choosing the right resistance bands, be sure to get multiple intensities so that you aren’t only using a light band (which will break when used with too much force).
Good quality, long-lasting bands will usually cost about $10-20 per band.
The best option to ensure that you have the right selection is to start out with a light, moderate, and heavy band. You can get a great quality set of resistance bands for $39 at Academy. Or a single resistance band starting at $10.
Garage Gym Equipment: Unconventional Tools
Just like kettlebells have left the underground fitness world and have become mainstream, other unconventional tools are also gaining popularity quickly in gyms and around the world.
Unconventional training encompasses any tool or training system that works on multiple fitness aspects at once; strength, functional fitness, cardio, flexibility, coordination, and power are a few examples.
Conventional training commonly utilizes exclusively barbells, dumbbells, and machines to achieve the desired training effect to gain strength, mass, and endurance.
Traditionally, unconventional training has many roots in ancient warrior training regimens to prepare warriors for battle. Specifically, tools like the mace and the club were used to build immense strength, control, flexibility, stability, and awareness in the shoulders and trunk.
Taking the time to learn a new skill is also a great way to create more positive adaptations and work on areas of our body that can be easily overlooked, like building stability in the shoulders.
What’s best about unconventional tools is that there are almost infinite ways to implement simple tools like the mace and club tools.
You can utilize it in between lifts or on your recovery days. Add it in a conditioning circuit, or do a full workout with just unconventional tools!
Get an ONNIT Steel Club starting at $27.95.
Garage Gym Equipment: Pull-Up Bar
Pull-up bars are essential to have in your gym so that you can readily train overhead pulling or vertical pulling.
Ensuring that we can train all functional ranges of motion in the shoulder is essential for long-term shoulder health.
Some of the lower-end pull-up bars will do just fine for when you’re starting to build your at-home gym.
We have a pull-up bar in our home that we love to hang from to for pull-ups, decompress the spine, and get some active hanging.
We purchased it for about $39.99, but you can find some less costly bars for $19.99 on sites like Amazon and Walmart.
Garage Gym Equipment: The Most Underrated Tool You Already Have
Whether you’ve done yoga, calisthenics, primal movement, or martial arts, bodyweight training can come in many different forms, styles, and methodologies.
It’s easy to overlook, but our own bodyweight can be utilized to make physical gains and adaptations like building strength, mobility, flexibility, stability, power, etc.
If you’re new to implementing bodyweight exercises into your routine, here are a few suggestions to start with:
An explosive training method that utilizes jumping exercises to improve power, usually done for short durations of time to produce maximum force.
This ground-based movement practice mixes elements of yoga, breakdancing, strength training, and flexibility, streaming several movements into a seamless sequence or flow.
Durability exercises are any exercise that improves your long-term joint and tissue health, hence the word durable.
Garage Gym Equipment: Investing More Than $100
If you’re willing to invest more into your gym equipment or split the costs with someone else, we suggest purchasing a squat rack and all of the essentials, like barbells, weight plates, hip bands, and a bench.
This way, you opt-out of the pull-up bar since most squat racks have a pull-up bar attached.
Adding the squat rack, barbell, and plates to your gym will allow you to add on more load to your lifts for additional strength, power, and size.
Garage Gym Equipment: Overview of $100 Home Gym
To start building the home gym, we chose one of the following pieces of equipment:
Kettlebell = $39 USD
- 1-2 Resistance Bands = $10 USD
- Clubbell = $27.95 USD
- Pull-Up Bar = $19.99 USD
If you want to get more bang for your buck, be sure to look into secondhand items on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and OfferUp. Also, keep an eye out for any local gyms or wholesale retailers selling equipment near you.