BUILDING A GARAGE GYM Part 2 -[LINK TO MY FREE EBOOK FOR NOVICE LIFTERS] Barbells, Squat Racks, and everything in-between for less than a grand.

If you're here just for the free Novice Strength Ebook, scroll to the bottom!

Last week we covered how to start training in the comfort of your own home, and how to do it cheaply and effectively. I made sure the price point was low, so that you really had no excuses... and then to further drive it home I gave you a free 4 walk plan to get you started.

But I'll be honest with you, this is a GREAT way to start lifting and catch the bug. But in order to continue making progress you might have to bring out a few of the heavy artillery.

"But Damien, I  have the fitness bug, but I still have no time to be "fighting crows of gym rats" as you so eloquently put it".

Well fear not, if you want to upgrade your home set up, I've got you covered. I'll still give you the most cost efficient way of putting the pieces together.


You think you need them but you don't - dumbbells.

When you picture a dude in the gym, you picture him curling, a dumbbell in each hand right?

I've got nothing against dumbbell training, intact I think its super effective for building mass, and I personally love it (not more than my barbell, but close). It has its place in the fitness world. But if you've ever tried to buy dumbbells, you quickly find out that not only do you need a hell of a lot of space to put them, they also cost a fortune to have a full set. Sure you might be able to find a cheap(ish) set second hand, but even then you would be better off spending that money on other things (that I'll go into in this post).

As of writing this post, Number One Fitness has 25% off everything, as well as the cheapest places I know of to buy equipment from in New Zealand. I went and priced a set of dumbbells off at this "great" price.

You read that right. $1,687.34. ON SALE. And that is a for just the important range of dumbbells for curling, squatting, and pressing. Ignoring the lighter range you may need for things like lateral raises and reverse flies...or the heavy ones for when you inevitably become a mass monster.

Read on and I'll show you how to build an entire gym for less than that.

Everything you can do with a dumbbell can be done better with a barbell, which brings us too the first must have...

A life long companion - the barbell

A good barbell will be your most loyal companion. It is the gym buddy you wish for. It'll make no excuses, and doesn't skip leg day. It is the swolemate you deserve.

They range in price, from $100 to $2000. I've been training for many years and have only had the chance to use cash-money bars a couple of times in my life. You can tell the difference, but you know what? Most commercial gyms do not have these expensive bars. In fact, they air on the cheap and nasty side of things when it comes to their barbells. After all, the average gym rat has no qualms in dropping empty pars and wrecking their ball bearings, or bending them doing ego lifts such as shrugging them before dropping them on the pins in the squat rack.

So all you need is a cheap bar right? Short answer yes. Long answer, sort of.

90% of your training revolves around a barbell so if there is one piece of equipment to sink a bit of cash into, this is it. You'll get a barbell sleeve thats ball bearings spin well around the barbell, meaning that while benching or deadlifting, if that plates start rotating the bar isn't going to get torqued out of your hands. You'll also get better knurling, the grippy parts of the barbell, for, well, gripping them. The bar will also be less likely to bend if you do have to ditch the bar if you fail a lift. Surviving a failed squat is exhilarating, but soul crushing if you then look down and find your poor barbell bent around the safety pins.

When it comes to the pricier end of the spectrum you'll come across bar traits such as whip (how much the bar is made to bend- useful for movements that require for you to be explosive). But most of these special traits are for more advanced lifters, as even a bar with plenty of whip will only begin showing this trait when doing 120kg lifts or more. Even then it will be minimal. Most lifters either don't need it, or by the time they do it'll be time to replace their original old faithful barbell any way.

TL;DR. If you want to save money, spend between $100-200. If you have some money to invest, spend $300-600 on a bar. Something that is a replica of the high end bars such as Solid Strengths Eliko replica.

Your guardian angel - a squat rack

This will be the centrepiece of your garage gym. It will stand proud in the middle, with stories to tell of PRs you've hit, and it'll be there to support you when you fail.

Similar to the barbell, these bad boys range in price. The expensive ones will have all sorts of attachments you can add. When fully built you'll end up with an adult play ground in the middle of your garage. There's no real reason to own such things if you are keeping conservative with your budget. Commercial gyms tend to have pricier squat racks (unlike barbells) but this is not because they care about equipment. They car about liability of injury and therefore take preventative measures to try and stop gym rats ego lifting and hurting themselves. You're not going to be ego lifting are you? You're going to exercise your IQ of over 100 and stay safe? Well then you don't need a fancy squat rack. You just need one that can handle over 300kg in weight (even the cheap ones tend to be made to handle about 500kg). I doubt you're going to be loading a barbell with anything near that.

Squat racks are great for picking up second hand, because people are quick to sell them because they take up so much space. No one has one in storage, it's either set up permanently or they don't own one. Even new you can pick them up for $200-400. 


If you have room for a full rack (right) go for this, seems as that you will be training at home, it should always be a priority to stay safe. The Half rack (left) will work too, but you run the risk of missing the safeties if you need to ditch the bar.

I recommend getting one with a chin up bar attached. I'm not even sure you can buy them without one at this point. And thats because chin ups are bad ass.

How much ya bench bro?

Next you're going to need a bench. Contrary to what you think, you don't need a bench press station as you would get at a commercial gym (unless its Chest Monday, then good luck getting a bench at the gym). Instead get a stable adjustable bunch.

Now you place the bench in the middle of the squat rack. Voila, you have a bench press. not only is it a massive space saver, you also can now use the squat racks safety pins as face savers. Now if you fail the bench you won't end up with a barbell on your throat surprised that this is how your life ends...with hopefully a minimum of 140kg on the bar.


I'm not sure why most bench presses don't have built in safeties,  not even at commercial gyms. From my experience, the bench press is the lift people are most likely to overshoot, yet it has the least amount of safety built in to it.

Get an adjustable bench so that you can do flat, incline, and seated press. You should be able to pick one u for about $150.

The heavy things - weight plates

Like with the squat rack, I'd recommend buying these second hand. Plates are one of those things that never go on sale. Do you know why? Because iron is a commodity that is sold at a certain price, like gold or silver. So there isn't much margin on them. It is about $1.50/kg. It isn't the retailer attempting to squeeze money out of you. 

There is margins in the barbells though, so see if you can negotiate a package of a barbell and weights. I did this and picked up a 20kg bar and 80kg of weights for $280.

For about $300 you should be able to pick up

  • 4x 20kg plates

  • 2x 10kg plates

  • 2x 5kg plates

  • 2x 2.5kg plates

  • 2x 1.25kg plates

Bringing up the total amount of weight you have to work with to 137.5kg (20kg for the bar). As you get stronger you can add plates as you need to, and if you are a complete beginner, 2x 20kg plates will do.

Hit the floor!

First off, I recommend lifting on concrete. Maybe not directly on it, but at least as a base. Garage's are great for this as they are required to hold up the weight of a car. Cracking the foundations of a wooden house is going to make your attempt of saving money be completely in vain.

So this protects the floor, but what about your shiny new weights? You don't want to destroy them do you?... and besides even concrete can chip if you drop a 200kg deadlift on it.

If you purchase rubber gym flooring, you're going to be charged a fortune ($50 a square meter). Going to a farrm/hardware store you can pick up rubber horse matts. This will do the exact same thing for a fraction of the price. Turns out people don't want to spend $50 a meter for a horse to crap on it. So take advantage of that.

Want to go even cheaper? An old carpet will suffice. It may not be the prettiest set up, but it'll protect your floor, weights, as well as provide enough traction for heavy lifting. If you look at some of the old school olympic weight lifting clubs this is exactly what they did. If its good enough for them, its good enough for you.

Bonus: build a deadlift platform to be even more bad ass and authentic

This is exactly what i did. This may be the best $100 investment I could have made for my garage gym.

Garage gym checklist!

And there you have it. All you need for a functioning, garage gym. 

  • Barbell

  • ~100kg of plates

  • Adjustable Bench

  • Squat Rack

  • Chin Up Bar

  • Flooring/deadlift plateform

And you should be able to do all of this for under $1000. And to think you were thinking about buying dumbbells for $1600 5mins ago.

But now that you have all this, what do you do with it? There's no single station machines to explain what I'm doing. I've always been told NOT to curl in the squat rack (which, by the way, its your gym, do what you want).

Well lucky for you, my Novice strength plan is available for you that will get you going on your journey to finding your alpha!

The Genesis: Novice Strength Plan.

Yes, its free. No scam, no spam, I promise! Just click on the image below!

Next week - BUILDING A GARAGE GYM Part 3- Nice things to have, and more things you think you need that you don't.