My mission with True Fitness is to make fitness more accessible for the average American. The fitness industry is currently in a state of information overload and companies are profiting off of the confusion. They are taking advantage of the average American's ignorance by constantly showing off flashy, overly complicated, niche products. They use attractive models and spokespeople (that probably don't even use the product) to promote their overpriced equipment and market it as "luxury" when it's really just novel. That's not a compliment.
I often hear of people spending thousands of dollars on a stationary bike or a cable machine with a mirror, and I can only sigh and say, "Well, at least they're doing SOMETHING. Too bad about all that wasted money though." The old ways of getting healthy still prevail because, even with all the advancements in fitness technology, no one has been able to invent anything better than a chunk of metal. On top of that, a quality home gym will last much longer, yield better results, and cost less than any "luxury" fitness equipment.
If there is one thing I've learned in my years studying health and fitness, it is that simple is ALWAYS better. Making an exercise more complicated for the sake of novelty is never an improvement. It is for this reason I have created a guide for anyone to follow to equip your own home gym with what you need to get the job done. Consider buying used equipment as much of this can be found at a hefty discount.
ONE: The Single Kettlebell $45-$70
The oldest tool of strength-building known to man. Humanity has been using kettlebells to build strength and athleticism for over 300 years. No stationary bike or rowing machine is taking the kettlebell out of the game anytime soon.
If you want your equipment collection to stay as minimal as possible, the single kettlebell home gym is for you. With a kettlebell weighing what you can press overhead for 5 repetitions, you can cover every base of a well-balanced fitness program.
If you are looking for such a program I just so happen to have such a full-body program available here: Single Kettlebell Program.
TWO: Triple Kettlebells $150-$215
If you want to stay minimal but want a little more variety, the triple kettlebell set-up might be for you. In this situation, I usually recommend acquiring two kettlebells, each weighing what you can overhead press for five repetitions, and a third kettlebell that is about 8 to 12kg heavier than one of the smaller. For example, if you can overhead press 12kg for five reps, you would purchase two 12kg bells, and a single 20kg bell. If you can press 20kg for five reps, you would purchase two 20kg bells, and a single 32kg bell. Simple.
It may seem like a waste to get two kettlebells of the same weight, but one of the great things about kettlebells is that they can be used with one or two hands. Therefore, you can essentially combine your pair of matching bells into one extra-heavy weight. So if you purchased two 12kg's and one 20kg, you actually have a 12kg, a 20kg, and a 24kg.
Once again, I have the programming covered for you. I wouldn't want you having all this great equipment without a plan to put it to use. You can find my triple kettlebell program here: Triple Kettlebell Program.
THREE: The Minimal Gym $1500-$2000
You're serious about getting healthy and strong. You have the space and budget for one of the aforementioned luxury fitness items. You decide to make a much smarter investment and commit to something much more versatile, durable, and effective. For less than $2000 you can own a home gym that is better equipped than many commercial gyms that charge over $50 a month for a membership.
Here's your shopping list:
Squat Rack - This will be the cornerstone of your home gym. This single piece of equipment will enable you to perform some of the most essential exercises in any balanced fitness program. Any sturdy squat rack will do, but I personally recommend the R-3 Power Rack from Rogue. It is reliable, compact, versatile, and includes safety pins for safely squatting or bench pressing from home.
Barbell - I normally wholeheartedly endorse scavenging the internet for deals on used fitness equipment but your barbell is the exception. Your barbell is not the place to cheap out on. A quality barbell will last longer than you will as long as it is well maintained. My recommendation for your first barbell is the Rogue B&R 2.0. This barbell is perfect for beginners as it is primarily designed for strength training but can also be used for Olympic Weightlifting.
Weights - This is the part that can make or break your budget. Spend some time searching through every secondhand website you can think of before buying new weight plates if you are on a tight budget as shipping on weights can add up quickly. However, if you prefer new plates you need to determine if you are going to need cheaper metal plates or bumper plates for delicate floors or Olympic lifts. I'd recommend getting one pair of 5lb's, 10lb's, 25's, and as many 45's as necessary based on your strength. If you don't know how many you need, I am willing to bet you only need one pair.
Bench (Optional) - A sturdy and stable bench you can put inside your squat rack for training your bench press or anything else that may require a bench. You can't go wrong with the standard flat weight bench from Rogue.
Flooring (Optional) - If you want to protect your floors from all those heavy lifts you're going to be doing you will want to look into gym flooring. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use the squishy puzzle-piece mats that are often marketed as gym flooring. Not only will they not protect your floors, but they will dampen your connection to the ground resulting in less stability. Less stability results in a less effective and more dangerous training session. Instead, look for some 3'x6' horse stall mats. They can also be purchased at a Tractor Supply Co or similar store. Having two to four of these will give you plenty of space to get your work done.
Recommended equipment is available at Rogue Fitness.
FOUR: The Luxury Gym >$9000
Ok, maybe it's not actually over 9000, but you know... internet memes. That being said, this is the set-up if money is not an issue. If you want a home gym that is the talk of the town, this is a great place to start:
Everything from the Minimal Gym set-up, including the optional items.
The three kettlebells from the Triple Kettlebell set-up PLUS a light (6kg-12kg) kettlebell for mobility and warm-ups.
Bands - Bands are great for mobility work or adding progressive resistance to your strength training. Keep in mind that this is usually an intermediate to advanced strategy and shouldn't be part of your strength training just because you have them.
Anything else you NEED - Take a look at your programming and base your equipment purchasing decisions on what your needs are. There are hundreds of cool and interesting fitness toys to play with but unless you need them to continue progressing toward your goals, they're just that; toys. If that wasn't the case then this would never have been written. It is very easy to spend thousands of dollars on slam balls, sandbags, suspension trainers, rowing machines, battle ropes, sleds and yokes, plyo boxes, hurdles, and the list goes on. But if you have everything already listed above, there is a very high likelihood that you will never NEED anything else. Almost any general fitness goal can be accomplished without ever purchasing anything else for the rest of your life.
However... In defense of the luxury equipment...
I often find myself shaking my head at the things I see people doing in the gym. Whether it be wasting their time or their energy or their money, I think to myself, "Such a shame. Imagine where they could be if they focused on training effectively." But I often forget that the vast majority of Americans are currently doing NOTHING to benefit their health and well-being. By that standard, I am glad that these people are doing SOMETHING and that they are putting forth an effort to better themselves. And that is the utility of the luxury fitness equipment.
It is getting more people active and normalizing a healthy lifestyle. That is a cause I am 100% behind. At no point within this article did I intend to make any of these $2000 fitness machines sound as if they were BAD for you. Spinning a stationary bike a few times a week is leaps and bounds better than neglecting your body completely. So if that is what it is going to take to reduce the rate of obesity in this country, then I completely support it.
My passion for efficiency and optimization compels me to encourage others to include a more effective form of training in their fitness routine. Picking up something heavy is a great place to start.