8 Things I Would Never Buy For My Garage Gym

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Telling people they should “never” do something is a guaranteed way to start an argument!

But after running GymCrafter for quite some time and helping thousands of people build home gyms they love and use every day, I’ve realized that there really are some things no one should ever buy for their home gym.

The crazy thing is that I’m not talking about shake weights and thigh masters. I’m talking about gear that major fitness manufacturers still make today!

If they continue to make them, that means people are still buying them. And they shouldn’t!

So here’s my list of stuff that I would never buy and that I don’t think anyone else should ever buy for their garage or basement gym. 

Lemme know what you think in the comments. What did I miss? What am I wrong about, and why?

EVA Flooring

I wrote an entire article about this stuffIt’s one of the biggest mistakes people make when building their first home gym.

EVA Foam Tiles

It’s never a problem on their second home gym, though. Because if you buy it once, you’ll know never to buy it again!

The problem is that EVA (a fancy term for “worthless foam flooring that won’t last more than a week”) is labeled everywhere as “gym flooring.”

Right on the front of the package is a picture of a gym with this brightly colored puzzle piece flooring installed.

To make things worse, EVA flooring is exponentially less expensive than more appropriate options (see my complete guide to home gym flooring here for a review of all home gym flooring options).

So, people buy it thinking they are saving money. A few days later, they need to spend more money on appropriate flooring when it is destroyed and falling apart.

A Standard Barbell

A standard barbell is what they sold at Sears in the 1960s. It’s a bar that’s 1′ in diameter end to end and only fits standard-size plates.

standard 1

It’s also the very first barbell I ever owned. I think I was 12.

They are still sold at big box stores like Walmart or chain sporting goods stores. No major fitness manufacturer other than York even makes one anymore (and I’m clueless as to why they would still do this).

In addition to missing several key features of Olympic barbells (see explanations of the differences here), standard barbells are almost always made of the lowest quality materials with the lowest quality finish.

It’s best to avoid this type of barbell. Even if you are looking at one due to a tight budget, I’d rather see you go without for a while than get this.

A Peloton Anything

Well, that should piss quite a few people off, but hear me out.

When I worked at Abt Electronics in Chicago, one of the largest single-store fitness dealers in the country, people regularly came in and asked for a Peloton.

Peloton bike in living room

Not only did they not know what a Peloton was (at that time, they only made one product, a bike), but they had no idea what was involved in the purchase.

In short, the Peloton hardware is okay at best. You can spend the same or less money and get a better spin bike. If it were a good bike, spin studios would use them. Instead, every spin instructor I know laughs at them.

One of my triathlete friends claims the Peloton bike has “the worst ergonomics of any spin bike I’ve ever tried.” 

In fairness, she’s probably only tried top-tier, costly spin bikes, but still.

In addition to the sheer mediocreness of their hardware, you are also on the hook for one of the most expensive subscription services in all of fitness! 

In fact, the entire business model of Peloton is to get you to subscribe. That monthly revenue is what drives their company.

So, if you want to add a spin bike to your home gym, do it! Just save your money and stay away from Peloton. If you want interactive programming available on more than just one bike brand, check out iFit-enabled machines.

Oh, and by the way, their treadmill and rower are equally mediocre. Plagued with recalls and issues, it’s best not to buy either one.

A Tonal Gym

There’s a reason that Tonal’s valuation has dropped from $1.4 billion to just $500 million (source) in a few short months. 

It turns out that marketing can only get you so far.

Tonal gym

If you aren’t familiar, Tonal is the latest in a very long string of products touting technology as a hack to standard training. All the same buzzwords, celebrity endorsements, and jargon apply.

  • The first of its kind
  • More effective than any other kind of training
  • More adherence than any other home gym equipment
  • Patented
  • Unique
  • LeBron uses it!!!

In practice, it’s unenjoyable to use. 

For anyone that squats or deadlifts at all, it’s pretty much useless. The entire time I used one, the only thought in my mind was that I couldn’t wait to get back under an actual barbell with real weights.

It’s also ridiculously expensive and requires yet another very expensive monthly subscription.

Tonal is $4800 upfront and $60 per month after that. 

You could join a gym and hire a personal trainer for a very long time for that much. And you’d get better results! A lot better results!

So, skip the Tonal unless you are looking for something futuristic to hang on your wall.

A Smith Machine

The fitness industry loves to crap all over the Smith machine.

Beginners (myself included back in the day) seem to gravitate towards them.

Smith machine

So, it’s no surprise that many first-time gym builders ask me which Smith machine to buy. 

They are usually surprised when I say, “None of them.”

Beginners are often attracted to a Smith machine’s appearance of safety. These folks have never been under a heavily loaded barbell and are literally afraid of lifting weights. 

A Smith machine gives many of those folks a sense of safety they don’t get otherwise.

The problem is that it’s impossible to maintain proper form for 85% of the exercises done on a Smith machine. The way it restricts the bar path actually pulls you out of your natural range of motion.

This, in turn, can cause injury and imbalance.

You can do much more, train more safely, and do it for less money with a traditional power rack and safeties.

Things You Hate Using But Want Because “They Are The Best”

I was going to list an Air Assault Bike as one of these items not to buy. But I realized that just because I hate that thing doesn’t mean others will, too. 

It’s still a great example of a type of product not to buy.

Assault bike I would never buy

When I bought one, I did so knowing that I absolutely hate using them. A very strong “I would rather be punched in the nethers repeatedly than use one” type of hate.

But so many people said it was the best conditioning tool you can use. It burns the most calories. It involves your entire body. Blah, blah, blah. So I bought one anyway.

Well, it turns out that not using an Assault bike burns zero calories! And after only three uses, I stopped using it completely.

The moral of that story is always to consider whether or not you will actually use something before buying it. If I had been honest with myself, I would have known it was a waste of money for me.

Is there anything you’ve been thinking about buying like this?

Exercise Programs By Fitness “Influencers”

I could, and probably will, write an entire article or three about the complete dumpster fire that is online fitness influencers.

liver king
One more in a long line of lying, steroid taking, bad advice giving influencers.

The industry is riddled with hidden steroid use, fake photos, fake testimonials, fake before and after pics, and an unhealthy focus on supplements.

Anyone who can’t deliver their message without taking off their shirt cannot be trusted.

Anyone who can’t deliver their message without filling their online presence with booty shots and softcore porn cannot be trusted.

Anyone telling you that you need their unique supplement stack to make progress cannot be trusted.

Anyone who has discovered “one weird trick” that only they know cannot be trusted.

Do I need to go on?

This is why I often recommend people like Dr. John Rusin, Dr. Peter Attia, Dr. Layne Norton, and Mind Pump. They have years of experience training real people in the real world.

This is also why I don’t recommend programs from Functional Patterns, Athlene-X, V-Shred, and many more.

Anything On Amazon Not Sold By The Manufacturer Directly

I love Amazon. I’ve been a Prime member for years. That said…

I never buy fitness gear from Amazon unless it’s being sold directly by the manufacturer. And then I buy it directly from the manufacturer, not from Amazon.

In addition to all the good, helpful, useful stuff that Amazon carries, they also have a metric ton of counterfeit products (source). All backed up by hundreds of fake reviews (source).

What’s the best way to know it’s counterfeit? You can’t until it’s too late.

So I strongly encourage you to always buy directly from the manufacturer’s sites. Not only will you ensure you are getting legit gear with a full warranty, but you’ll also be helping out those companies.

Amazon takes 8-15% of the product price itself (source). 

By buying direct, you are helping your favorite companies be more profitable, treat their employees better, and put more money into R&D for new products.

The Verdict

I’m a huge proponent of buying things based on our needs. And with that thinking, I can come up with a customer for almost every product out there. All of our needs are different, after all.

But after doing this home gym thing for quite some time, I’ve realized that’s not the case for everything.

So what do you think? Did I just crap on one of your favorites? Is there something I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

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AUTHOR

Tim Steward has been training at home since he got his first weight set from Sears in junior high. Over 30 years later, Tim has helped thousands of people build home and garage gyms that they love and use regularly. He also holds a CPT certification with the ISSA and is an NCCPT nationally accredited trainer. When Tim is not training or writing about home gyms, you can find him at the dog park with his two Australian cattle dogs, Anny and Beans.

11 thoughts on “8 Things I Would Never Buy For My Garage Gym”

  1. GHD. It’s a hunk of space eating 1 use device. Giant cable crossover machines are in the same category for me. Buy a lifetime supply of bands for 1/50th the price.

    Reply
  2. My wife loves her Peloton and uses it every single day. She laughed when I told her about this article and said you don’t know what you are talking about.

    Reply
    • I’m not surprised! People who like their Peloton really, really, really like it… Until they don’t. Peloton has hit a huge drop off in users, new sales, and long term program compliance. My follow up question is has your wife ever been to a live spin class? If so, how did the bike compare? I’ve heard that experience ruins Peloton for a lot of people.

      In the end, I’m 100% behind anything that people stick with and are consistent with. If they enjoy it, that much better! I would NEVER knock something like that as consistency is the key to everything!

      Reply
    • Wow, I can’t believe you know that! I appreciate how much you obviously read the site, thank you! That said, I know several people for whom a BowFlex is the absolute perfect option (my mid 70’s parents are two of them). But you are right, I won’t even buy one again, so maybe it should be on this list!

      Reply
      • I am one of them. Albeit not exactly bowflex, similar adjustable dumbbells. I have maxed out (90lbs) and wrapped ankle weights on my wrist to make the system heavier. I did not know the weights itself is also very pricey until I made my first purchase.

        Reply
  3. I’m surprised you didn’t put stall mats on this list. You have made it pretty clear that you hate that stuff in your articles and videos.

    Reply
    • First, thanks for being a regular reader, as that’s the only way you’d know that! And second, you are 100% correct. If I were to build another 50 home gyms in my lifetime, none of them would have stall mats on the floor. I think the only reason I didn’t include it is that I was focused on the gear itself, not the gym build-out. Thanks for pointing this out as you are right, I hate those things!

      Reply

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