Building a home gym is expensive!
I remember the first time I looked at dumbbell sets and the sticker shock I had at the $1000 plus price tags on full sets (You don’t have to spend that much! See my recommended dumbbell page here!). The more I looked, the more I found myself raising my expectations as to what it would cost to build a great home gym!
The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank to build a great garage or basement gym. It turns out that there is plenty of great gym equipment for under $50.
2 Quick Rules to Saving Money on Workout Equipment.
Rule one, keep it simple! It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you need lots of expensive stuff to build a great gym. You don’t! With just a few basic pieces of gym equipment, you can build a highly effective basement or garage gym that you’ll love and use for years!
Rule two, keep your goals in mind! While there is a lot of really fun gear out there that you can buy for your home gym, most of it isn’t needed for specific goals. Whether your goal is gaining strength, losing weight, or looking great in the mirror, different pieces of gear will help you get there. Always ask yourself before buying, “Does this help me achieve my goals?”
If the answer is “no”, then don’t buy it!
All that said, I still wanted a kick-ass gym at my house. I wanted something fun to use. I wanted a space that was inviting and motivating. I needed somewhere comfortable to train. And, honestly, I still wanted to buy some cool stuff too.
That’s why I created this list of awesome home gym equipment you can buy for under $50. It lets you have some fun, add some cool stuff to your inventory of workout equipment, and still not break the bank.
Every single item on this list is something I currently own and use or have used extensively in the past. I’ve divided these up into categories for general improvements, tech, apps, gear, and some miscellaneous stuff. Enjoy!
Gym Equipment Under $50
The first section of this list contains all of the actual pieces of gear I’ve bought for under $50 over the years that I still use on a daily or weekly basis. I love each and every one of these things and consistently find myself recommending them to others!
I can’t say enough about these. I’ve used them for years and at this point can’t even imagine bench pressing without them. They strengthen your grip while lifting. They protect your elbows when pressing. And if you have huge hands like me, they make holding the bar a million times more comfortable!
They are the first item on my list here for a reason. Definitely add these to your barbell training as soon as you can! Make sure to get the original Fat Gripz! There are a lot of people making imitations and they just aren’t the same.
If you’ve been weight training for any amount of time, you are familiar with the dreaded plateau. You get to a point where you don’t think you’ll ever be able to add more weight to the bar. One neat little trick I’ve found to help with this is the use of fractional plates. They are mini weight plates that come in tiny increments of 1/4 lb.
A full set works really well and allows you to progress each week in lifts where adding 5 lb plates is just too much of a jump. If you are training for progressive overload, you will want a set of these plates. There are a lot of sets that will run you more than $50, but I’ll keep the button below current with a great set for under $50!
These little 1.25 lb magnetic weights are to dumbbells what the above fractional plates are to barbells. Traditional dumbbells come in 5 lb increments. There are a lot of exercises where this is just too much.
If you own a set of dumbbells, standard or adjustable, you need to get a set of Plate Mates! I use these almost daily and can’t imagine having a home gym without them!
Odds are that if you are reading a list like this, you are on a budget. Me too. That’s why the very first version of my “home gym” was a single kettlebell. Just one. It’s stunning what you can get done with just that one implement. No matter how big my own assortment of equipment and weights becomes, I find myself with a kettlebell in my hand weekly.
I could easily get rid of everything else and go back to just this one thing. If you can only afford one piece of gear to train at home with, the humble kettlebell is what you want. The best place to buy quality kettlebells on a budget is Rep Fitness. Depending on the weight you select, you can certainly get one for under $50. Not sure what size to start with? Check out my full guide to kettlebells here.
Kettlebell Wrist Guards
These aren’t a need, per se, but it sure is nice to have them. Especially if you’ve never worked with kettlebells before. After buying my first kettlebell, I quickly ordered a set of these. They improved my workout and my ability to train for a longer period of time.
Until you develop the ability to rack a kettlebell without pain (this can take a bit of time), you’ll want a set of these wrist guards. It will be the best few bucks you spend on your kettlebell training.
Deadlifts and heavy-loaded carries are staples in my training regimen. I would not have been able to progress to the weights that I currently use without the aid of lifting straps. I’ve since added them to front squats (see here for an ingenious idea that makes front squats much more joint-friendly).
They are another one of those things that I resisted buying, but once I did was thrilled to have them. They are just one of those staple items that every gym should have. It’s a bonus that they are well under $50! I’ve tried them by several brands and I always come back to the sets made by Harbinger.
I hate running. I also hate the exercise bike. Stair climbers and ellipticals are right out. In fact, I pretty much despise conditioning of any kind. Yet it’s something I know I need to do 1-2 times a week to stay in the shape I want to be. Enter the jump rope.
After a few weeks of stumbling and not finding a rhythm, it clicked. I haven’t looked back. I jump rope a couple times a week and it’s an amazingly good conditioning workout. And it’s one I actually do because I enjoy it. You just can’t beat that!
I’d recommend starting with a nicer rope. They are remarkably inexpensive, so it makes sense to spend a couple of bucks more (still under $15!) for a well made rope. I really like ropes with comfortable grips and bearings.
If you are still using those annoying old school squeeze collars, stop reading this article and get yourself a better set immediately! You can thank me later. I believe in this accessory upgrade so much that I used to carry a set with me when I trained in a commercial gym.
The undisputed king of barbell collars is Lock Jaw. They’ve been doing it longer than almost anyone else and are still the best. Even though you could buy much more expensive options, the LockJaw pro models are still my top pick and what I use daily when training.
People argue back and forth whether or not knee and elbow sleeves are effective. Here’s what I know. When I squat without them, it hurts. When I squat with them, it doesn’t. That’s all I need to know.
Pro-tip. Over time, knee sleeves can start to smell. To prevent that, I like to wipe mine down with a fitness wipe (I’ve worked out a special deal with Wipex which will get you 10% off using code “gym-crafter-exclusive”) after each use. Even after years of use, mine don’t smell at all!
Ab Wheel / Roller
Looking for a new and different way to work on that six pack? For just a few dollars, you can add an ab wheel to your gym arsenal. They work great and have withstood the test of time. One caution is that if you have any back issues, this is probably not a great idea for you. If not, then roll away!
It used to be that all ab wheels were pretty much the same. Not so anymore. You’ll want to get one with a wide footprint and also one that comes with a knee pad (trust me on that one!).
I think I’ve owned more of these than I care to admit. The weird thing is I couldn’t tell you where they keep disappearing to! In any event, no gym is complete without a Swiss ball. They have a million uses. Yours doesn’t have to be fancy, just a basic one will work very nicely for you. Pretty much every big box store sells them, but I’ve linked a good one on Amazon for you here too.
I recently started using one of these for a finisher. They are a very safe form of ballistic high-intensity exercise. Not only that, but they are amazing for working out your aggression! I’ve used quite a few of these and there’s no reason to spend an arm and a leg. Titan Fitness makes them in varying weights. They are high quality and reasonably priced.
The Fat Gripz I mentioned above do a great job of training your grip. So do deadlifts and heavy loaded carries. If those aren’t your thing, then you can’t go wrong increasing your grip strength with what are hands down the best grip trainers ever made.
The Captains of Crush by Iron Mind come in a variety of strengths from beginner to superman and many steps in between
Want to raise your push up game to the next level? Want to take your bodyweight training to places you didn’t know it could go? Add these to your calisthenics training and challenge yourself like never before. You can end up spending well over $100 on a nice set, but the set I recommend is available on Amazon, comes in just under our budget, and has a ton of 5 star reviews on Amazon.
If you have a place to hang these, get them today!!! Rings will significantly increase the effectiveness of pull-ups, dips, and push-ups. They will allow you to work on all kinds of core exercises and are ultra-versatile. They are a favorite recommendation of Jocko Willink (if you don’t know Jocko, you need to!) and Tim Ferriss.
Get the wood variation. You don’t need anything fancy. And don’t bother with suspension trainers like TRX. They are a lot more expensive and not nearly as versatile. I wrote an entire article comparing the two that you can read here.
We don’t actually build muscle while we are lifting. We build muscle when we are recovering. Aside from lots of sleep, I’ve found no other recovery activity that helps me more than yoga. I like it so much, I’ve carved out a small yoga space in my home that I use almost daily. I learned quickly that a good mat is a necessity.
If you do a lot of yoga, I recommend spending more than the $50 limit I outlined for this article. If you don’t then I’ve found an ideal choice for you by a company called HemingWeigh. It’s a 1″ thick yoga mat that because of its thickness doubles as an exercise mat too. I love its versatility and recommend it quite often.
Cork Yoga Blocks
Aside from yoga, there are several strength and stretching exercises you can do with these. But you MUST get cork. Don’t go for the cheaper foam versions.
Foam blocks bend and sag under weight which makes them unstable. Cork is firm and has some heft to it. Cork yoga blocks will support your body weight safely and will last forever.
Cork is also the clear choice when it comes to using them for bodyweight and calisthenic movements. The same company that makes the mat I recommended above also makes a great set of cork blocks!
Another recovery technique I use almost every day is foam rolling. Over the years I’ve tried at least 10 different models. Then for Christmas last year my sister-in-law bought me one I hadn’t tried before. It’s now the only one I use. It’s the perfect blend of firm and padded and I love the shorter size. If you haven’t found the perfect foam roller yet, give this one a shot. I think you’ll like it!
Yoga Tune Up Balls
Another recovery tool I’ve bought a million of is therapy balls. I’ve bought, and still have, almost 20 different types that range from a golf ball to some crazy looking and expensive contraptions with names like “the Orb” or “the Supernova”.
In the end, get yourself a set of Yoga Tune Up balls by Jill Miller. These are amazing!!! The texture, give, and firmness are damn near perfect for their use. And once you have them, I highly recommend getting in the habit of rolling out your feet every night. Life-changing is an understatement!!!
I had no clue how many different ways a nice set of bands could be used until the trainer I started working with recommended them. I now use them every single day. From warm-up exercises to keep my shoulders healthy to high rep face pulls and rows as finishers, bands have upped my training game significantly.
You can even use them on many barbell exercises to add progressive resistance. This is an area where you don’t want to go cheap. Cheap bands are prone to snapping at the worst possible time. I can tell you from experience that this can be a painful event! I replaced my original cheap set with some by Rubber Banditz and have been thrilled.
I see a lot of people dismissing bodyweight training as ineffective at building muscle. Without taking the time to show that they are wrong, the easier proof is doing just one bodyweight workout using sliders (or simply in socks if working out on a hardwood floor!).
Your core will hate you and thank you all at once. The same for your shoulders and glutes. For just a few bucks, sliders bring a whole new dimension to bodyweight training. Unlike the bands referenced above, you can totally go cheap on these.
General Gym Improvements
Something I neglected to do for a long time was to improve my gym itself. It wasn’t until I started making some minor changes that I realized the environment in which we train makes a huge difference in both motivation and frequency of use.
Some of you will want a gritty, dark, blue-collar feel to your training area. Others may want a brighter, cleaner, more inviting place. Most will want somewhere in between. Here are some inexpensive things you can do to spruce up your gym. All for under $50!
I’m a fan of putting things on the wall in my gym that are motivating. Over time, I’ve had posters with Arnold, Jason Statham, the Rock, and several others up on my walls. Seeing examples of the results of a hardcore dedication to training has always inspired me to push through those tough sets and reps.
If you don’t want to put up posters of people, motivational messages are the next best option, in my opinion. You can print these out for free, or you can get something over on Amazon. Either way, it’s an under $10 addition that’s easy to do.
Adding a whiteboard to my space was a game-changer. It gave me a place to track my workouts, make notes to myself, post inspirational messages, and a host of other uses. I use this smaller version, but I’m planning on going a bit bigger in the near future.
I used to work out in very low light. My garage wasn’t the most well-lit space and I never thought to change that. I simply went in and trained in the shadows. All that changed when I addressed my garage lighting issue. See my full article on home gym lighting here!
Wow, what a difference!!! I don’t know if it’s just me, but lighting my weight training area well had an instant impact on my workouts. See the exact lights I use here on Amazon.
I wrote an entire article on warming up your home gym here. One of the tips I gave was to get yourself a space heater. The one I use and recommend is this one by Dr. Infrared. It can get down to zero and below outside here near Chicago and this type of heater is the only reason I can continue to use my garage space in the winter months!
This one is over our posted $50 budget, so if you want to stay under the $50 cap on this article, a small one like this could work. Just don’t expect too much from a little guy like that.
Even in the winter with my space heater running, I find myself running a fan. It goes on when I start my workout and off when I leave. Every time. I’ve used the same fan for years and when I need to replace it will buy another of the exact same type.
I have a whole guide to adding mirrors to your training space here. In the end, though, that can cost much more than $50. What doesn’t cost more than $50 is finding used mirrors on Craig’s List. My best tip is to find someone who is getting rid of one of those fully mirrored sliding closet doors.
In many cases, they won’t cost anything other than the labor to go get them. In others, they’ll still be well under $50. While not my first choice for mirrors, it is the best choice for mirrors when shopping on a budget.
Okay, I’ll admit it, my garage gym can occasionally start to smell a little funky, especially in the summertime. A while back I found something called “odor absorbing gel” by a company called FreshWave (they were advertised for smelly dorm rooms). They work incredibly well and I’ve had some in my gym ever since. You can get a two-pack right here on Amazon.
Better yet, take a look at one of my all time favorite Amazon purchases. Moso natural bamboo charcoal odor absorbers. These things are absolutely amazing!!!
A new coat of paint
I’ll be honest. This is not something I’ve done, but it is something I need to do. Every time I’m in my gym, I think about it. And someday I’ll get around to it. If you are more industrious than I, this is another low cost way to bring your training space to life.
I never realized how loud plates and barbells could be until I started using them in a small space in my home. I mentioned this to a friend and he had a couple of solutions.
The first was rubber flooring. Adding a nice floor to my space has been a game changer (I’ve written a complete guide to home gym flooring you can see here). One of the many benefits has been its sound deadening properties.
I also wrote a very helpful article outlining a ton of ways to quiet a noisy home gym that you can read here. If noise is an issue for you, this is a must read!!!
Tech Upgrades to Your Home Gym
Improvements in technology have made a positive change in most aspects of our lives. Why not our gyms too? Here’s a short list of tech based improvements you can make to your home workout area that won’t break the bank.
I’ve since graduated to a full sized stereo with four nice sized speakers, but I started with a small blue tooth speaker. There’s a huge assortment of these available now and many of them are under $50. I’m not sure how it’s even possible to work out without music, but if that’s what you find yourself doing, give yourself the gift that is musical motivation today!
My personal favorite in this price range is this one by Doss. For something with a little more volume, this one by W-King is usually a little over the posted budget here on the article, but worth the few extra bucks!
Not a radio person? Don’t want to disturb others in your home with loud music? In-ear headphones are the best way to address that.
If you want to skip the cords, then you’ll want something like these by Senso.
When it comes to getting in and out of the gym in a timely manner, I’ve found few other things that make as big a difference as sticking to prescribed rest periods between sets and exercises.
That’s why I’ve started using a timer to keep track of all my rest periods, amraps, and HIIT sessions.
It easily keeps me on track. I also love it for timed exercises like jumping rope, kettlebell swings, and planks.
Because I use it in every area of my gym, I didn’t want a big one that mounts on the wall. I wanted one that I could move around easily with me. I also wanted one that was easy to set, easy to read, and magnetic so it’s easy to mount. This one by Bosai ticks all of those boxes and is available for a great price over on Amazon!
Not a fan of a timer, but still want to keep your sets and exercises tight? Use a basic watch instead. I’ve used this basic Armitron watch for years.
Tripod/mount for your smartphone
While not technically tech but it holds your tech (that’s a mouthful!). I thought this was a silly idea until I got one. Now I use it constantly.
It holds my iPhone up where I can see it, so if I’m using a timer app or an exercise tracking app, it’s out and visible. That’s especially useful when using your phone as a timer. But what I use it for far more often is taking videos of myself for form checks.
There is nothing quite as valuable as having video of yourself that you can show to experts or trainers for feedback. I belong to a very helpful online group that has provided feedback and coaching for me on almost every big lift I perform. My squat and deadlift would not be where they are if it wasn’t for this.
For my money, the hands down best choice is the Gorilla Pod by Joby with this smartphone mount by Square Jellyfish. It can attach just about anywhere. You’ll find mine hanging out attached to the uprights of my power rack quite often.
Swivel Arm TV Mount
It would be hard to put a TV on a list of things under $50. But if you have, or are planning to add, a TV in your gym, put it on a swivel arm mount. Something like this model from EchoGear will work great and get your TV at a comfortable viewing angle no matter where you are in your gym.
The swivel is a can’t miss function as it allows you to point the TV anywhere in your gym for easy viewing!
Firestick or Roku
Have a TV in your gym? If it’s not a smart TV, you would benefit from adding some type of smart device. These will give you access to YouTube directly on your TV. From exercise programs to detailed coaching on specific movements, having YouTube accessible on a bigger screen in your gym is a big help.
Not looking for exercise help? Use these instead to stream entertainment that will get you through even the most boring of cardio sessions. Two great choices under $50 are Firestick and Roku. Either of them will get the job done. You don’t need to spend big bucks on a device like this for your gym. Just stick to one of these two basic options and enjoy!
Extra phone charger
One day I got sick of looking for a charger for my phone as well as carrying the one I had from room to room. I jumped on Amazon, ordered 2 USB chargers and 5 USB to lightning cables for my phone. For well under $50, I’ve never had to look for a charger since. It was worth every penny! Needless to say, one of those chargers is in my garage gym. I use it every day. ‘Nuf said.
Apps to Improve Your Workouts
When I worked out at a big box gym, I found an app for tracking my workouts that I absolutely loved. The Strong app is the best app of its kind and I’ve tried pretty much all of them!
It includes tracking for as many workouts as you want (premium version), graphs, charts, and a rest timer. When I was needing out on my workouts, it was something I looked at several times a day. If you are looking for a workout tracking app, give Strong a try.
I’m on a constant mission to simplify my life. As much as I liked Strong, it became too much. I needed something simpler. I also needed something that I could enter information into on a desktop or laptop (I really don’t like data entry on a phone). Enter Google Keep.
Technically not a workout app, but perfect for my needs anyway. It’s kind of like a free, easier to use EverNote. I enter each day’s training plan on its own note. I color code and categorize them. I can then access them and track my progress right on my phone when working out. More often than that, I just have my laptop open in the gym.
I mentioned a few ways to get YouTube into your gym above. Regardless of how you do it, get it. You can pay for a variety of apps that show you exercises, but none of them is as complete as the vast library of information you can find on YouTube. If I ever need to know how something is done, this is where I go 100% of the time.
As I look around my garage gym, I notice a bunch of things that seemed like small additions at the time, but in total have really made my gym into someplace I love spending time. These all might seem minor to you, but if you get even some of them squared away for yourself, you’ll really notice a difference! This part of my list is also a great shopping list of gifts for the fitness minded person in your life.
Like it says on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, always bring a towel. For me, I just can’t get down with those small microfibre things I see people carrying around. I sweat like a Republican at an Earth Day rally (or a Democrat at a gun show, take your pick!). That means I need an actual towel.
Not to mention, I like to put one down on my bench when working out. I realized one day that I’d been using the same ratty, threadbare towels for too many years. I jumped on Amazon and ordered myself a stack of them and I now have new, fluffy, comfy towels to use every day. The Hitchhiker’s Guide would be proud!
Stainless Steel Blender Bottle
Make sure to get the double-walled stainless steel version! Not only are they the best shaker bottles made, but this version will keep your drinks icy longer than any other option!
I wrote a huge article on keeping your home gym clean. There are a ton of tips and ideas there, but my favorite is gym wipes. I keep these on hand at all times and use them after every workout. Definitely worth a few bucks!
I like the Wipex brand wipes so much that I reached out to them and worked out a special discount for GymCrafter readers. Enter “gym-crafter-exclusive” and get 10% off of any order at checkout!
New Workout Clothes
Kind of like my towel situation described above, my workout clothing tended to be things I’d had forever and probably should have gone in the trash instead of on my body.
For me, a big part of successfully sticking with a training program is mindset. My gym does me no good if I’m not motivated to use it. As weird as it may sound to some of you, I found that getting a stack of new workout shorts and a bunch of cool teeshirts made a huge difference in my motivation.
You can do this relatively cheaply too! I do have one recommendation if you are having a hard time finding great teeshirts, though. Head over to Onnit and check out their apparel selection. Specifically check out their bamboo tees and tanks. It’s sooooo soft and they fit amazingly well. I like them so much that I don’t think there is a single pic of me here on GymCrafter where I’m not wearing one of those Onnit bamboo tees!
I’m bald. You can see right on the homepage here on GymCrafter that I have a rather large and shiny head. Most folks with hair don’t realize that their precious locks serve a very functional purpose. It catches sweat and keeps it off of your face and out of your eyes.
Us bald folk don’t have that luxury so we need something to do that for us. Enter a nice headband or bandana. I might end up looking like a 70’s basketball player, but I rarely workout without my Under Armor headband. It’s been huge for me! If you are a fellow baldy, do yourself a favor and get something up there on your dome!
I’m not sure where you are, but here in Illinois my garage gym can get really cold in the winter! One of the worst things about it is grabbing on to cold barbells and dumbbells. Lay a couple of hand warmers on your bars and presto, warm grips. You can buy a whole box of these for not that much dough. Want some more tips on how to keep a cold gym warm? Check out my full article on that topic here!
My garage gym is not climate-controlled. The handwarmer tip above works great in the winter, but what about in the heat of summer? I discovered the magic that is a cooling towel a few years ago and it’s been a staple summer tool for me ever since.
These things are amazing over the back of my neck during a grueling and hot summer training session. Another low cost item with huge benefits, you can find a great one here on Amazon.
For better or worse, I don’t wear lifting gloves. My calluses are almost a badge of honor for me. Years of deadlifts have made my hands pretty durable. Until the dry air of the winter hits, that is. Once it’s dry, if I’m not careful, my hands will dry out, crack, and peel. I try to stay on top of it with regular applications of lotion, but once a crack is there, that’s not enough.
That’s where this skin balm (made for the beat-up hands of rock climbers) comes in. It has me healed back up in no time and works really well. Not to mention, it doesn’t reduce my calluses, which is important if I want to continue to lift without gloves!
Another thing that allows me to lift without gloves is lifting chalk. It gives me a great grip on those heavier lifts and keeps things safe. I don’t use it often, but when I do, I’m happy I spent a couple of bucks to have some around.
The game-changer for me was discovering liquid chalk. With virtually no mess and nothing to clean off of your bar, it’s amazing stuff! You can read all about it here on Amazon!
I won’t go into a full explanation here, but I did write a complete article on BFR (blood flow restriction training) that you can check out here.
At this point in my training, I use them about once a week and it’s my favorite training day overall. If you are an Amazon customer, these will work really well for you. If you want the best band on the market (and not even close to the most expensive), the bands by Dr. John Rusin are amazing if you can find them in stock!
I am a voracious reader. I have a full library at my house and in that library are a ton of books on training and fitness. There are a few of those books that are well worn, dog-eared, highlighted, and lovingly used over the years. If you were to only add a couple of books to your training library, these would be my suggestion. I put a small bookshelf in my gym and I love having these easily accessible while I’m training.
The Roll Model by Jill Miller
After struggling through Becoming a Supple Leopard (considered by many to be the best book and self-maintenance), I was kind of soured on the whole subject. It was something I knew I needed to do, but just didn’t “get it”.
It’s virtually the only source I use for myofascial recovery and self-care. The book is great, the balls are great, and it’s the only fitness book or tool I’ve ever gifted to other people. If you suffer from ANY aches or pains, this is the book and set of tools to get!
KettleBells Simple and Sinister by Pavel Tsatsouline
I mention this book a lot in my full kettlebell article. It’s still my favorite. Especially if you are not experienced with kettlebells. It’s the perfect book to start with. Pavel is considered the father of the modern kettlebell and many credit him with bringing it to the United States in the first place. There simply is no better teacher. You can pick up this little gem of a book here!
The Book of Muscle by Ian King
I’ve had this book for years. It was the first book I ever read that gave me a good understanding of what happens when we work out. It’s fascinating and also has some great training plans in it. Ian King is a legend in the weight training world and this is surely a masterwork on the topic. It’s been around a while, but you can still find it for sale here.
Now Go Work Out!!!
The most important part of all of this is that it motivates you to use your home gym regularly! Don’t get caught in the trap of buying stuff and not using it! Hopefully, you’ve taken some good ideas from this article. In the end, though, the most important thing is to train regularly.
If you have any cool items that should be on this list, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love for this list to keep growing and be a valuable resource for others!