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March 3, 2021

Home Garage Gym Build Out [Products Linked]

Garage gym owners were the real MVP’s of 2020. We were attempting to put off building our home garage gym until we built our house (sometime in 2021), but after gyms in Washington closed again in Nov 2020, we couldn’t wait any longer.

Obviously it is a privilege to be in a financial spot to where we could buy ANY gym equipment, let alone equipment that we planned to put in our future home gym.

And that is exactly what we did. Our home gym takes up 1.5 car bays. Home or garage gyms are all about efficiency and functionality. Therefore we held on off several larger, single function items, which we will put in our future home gym.

Today’s post walks you through what I think makes the most bang for your buck garage gym + links the products or products I suggest.

Cliff Notes – Gym Includes:

  • Stall mats for flooring
  • Squat rack
  • Barbell
  • Bumper plates
  • Collars
  • Pull up bar
  • Bench or adjustable bench
  • TRX Straps
  • DB’s or Kb’s (full set or just for accessory)
  • Bands
  • A cardio machine
  • A 20 x 24 x 30 box (we don’t have this – we use our bench but will be get a box for sure.)

Flooring – we used $46.60 Horse Stall Mats from Tractor Supply Co. The 4×6 ones don’t show up online, so linked are the 4×3 mats. We went in and asked for 4×6 – they totally had them.

Our floor is 8, 4×6 mats gives us a 12×12 square. So 2×3 mats and then 2×1 along one side. That’s how we got the square.

Flooring was a GAME CHANGER even before we got our rack and barbells. Just having a designating space that wasn’t a cement garage floor made a much larger difference in my adherence and workout experience than expected.

Inside Annie Miller's Garage gym

Squat rack + safety bars

You have the most options for squat racks. But as mentioned, the goal for most garage gyms is efficient use of space + function.

The PRX – is the GOAT here. That’s what we have for when we build our home.

For a lesser but highly useful rack, we went with the Fringe Sport Squat Rack with Pull Up Bar – Garage Gym Series. For only $290 this was a steal of deal. The added pull up bar is MONEY – we will talk about this value shortly.

Without a squat rack, we are limited to lifting what we can power clean up to our chests. For pressing, no big deal. But when we want to back or front squat, this can be cumbersome. And in any sense, it’s a waste of energy.

Barbell

We bought the Fringe Sport 15kg Women’s Wonder Bar and the 20kg Cerakote Olympic Barbell. The Cerakote is a beautiful olive color.

The barbell is the holy grail. We cannot disrespect her and build a home gym in the absence of a barbell. But picking a barbell might be harder than you you think.

Things to consider:

  • Knerling – Know if you want center knerling or not. I prefer no center knerling. So the entire center of the bar is smooth. This can make most sense for Olympic lifting as well.
  • Weight of the bar (15kg or 20kg) + diameter of the shaft. A “female bar” is lighter and smaller in diameter ONLY on the shaft. The sleeves are standard, so most bumper plates fit on just fine.
  • The spin and whip of the bar. Traditionally, a power bar won’t have as much spin (if any) as an olympic weightlifting bar. For an all-around bar (used for bench, squats, deads, and some oly movements, you want some spin). The “whip” is like the slack, bounce or give of the bar. Some people like a lot of give, others prefer the bar more stiff. This is SUBJECTIVE.
  • Most bars will have a tensil strength of 160,000 PSI to 195,000 or even more.

Two go to’s for female lifters (I prefer a 15kg bar so that’s what I am suggesting), are the Rogue Bella Bar, or the Fringe Sport Wonder Bar for Females. Important to note that you are welcome to get a standard 45lb barbell with larger diameter. The Rogue Ohio bar line (many to choose from) and Fringe Sport Lone Star (power) or Cerakote (olympic) are winners here.

Bumper plates

We ordered from Fringe Sport: 2x10lbs, 1x25lb, 4x45lb.

Due to the pandemic, bumper plates were among the toughest item to find at a not completely inflated price point. But I LOATHE metal weights, so it was pretty important for me to find some bumpers.

When change plates come back in stock, we will order them asap. We have no 5’s, or 2.5’s and that’s certainly not ideal.

Collars – We got the Rogue Aluminum Collars. I much prefer clamp collars over anything else. I actually prefer a plastic outer, but these have worked great!

Pull up bar

We went with the Squat Rack with Pull Up Bar combo from Fringe Sport. At $290, this felt like a steal.

A pull up bar is HUGE for at home gains because vertical pulling strength is one of the common missing pieces in home gyms. You can make do with a few dumbbells or kettle bells, even a barbell. But none of those can give you a true vertical pull. Pull up bars also allow grip, core, and TRX work to be done.

With a pull up bar + bands or TRX, you now have your make-shift “pulley system.” You can mimic many lat pull down variations, high face pulls, and isolation work like tricep extensions.

Adjustable Bench

We got the Rogue AB3 – It’s expensive. Straight up, a flat bench or even a different adjustable bench is cheaper, for sure.

If you’re tight on budget, go with that. But if you can swing it, an adjustable bench can open doors for more variety in movement and exercise selection. ANY bench can be used for more than just bench press. Think Bulgarian split squats, hip thrusts, step ups, seated pressing, so on and so forth. With the adjustable piece, we can now add incline and decline, as well as core work. But you will pay a pretty penny for that upgrade.

TRX straps – Unless you have a cable system, you are pretty limited when it comes to accessory work. TRX takes almost NO SPACE, and opens opportunity for rows, single arm work, assisted lower body work and more. They are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment out there.

KB or DB set

We have yet to invest in this because we have 2 25lb kettle bells and 2 7.5lb dumbbells for accessory work. Those in combination with the barbells and plates make for a decent little set up.

If we get dumbbells, we will likely go through Fringe, Rev fitness, or Rogue.

Bands for pull up + accessory work

We got one Purple and one Orange from Fringe Sport based on the resistance or ASSISTANCE Nate and I needed. Bands are a great addition to a gym. Super versatile; can be added to bars or kbs or used with body weight for added resistance.

Cardio Machine – Not truly a necessity but can be very helpful for warming up, and of course, conditioning or doing circuits. We got the Rogue Echo Bike back in May 2020 and I have loved having it – much more than I thought I would. We also have the Bowflex 216 Elliptical. For me, after sitting most of the day, it’s nice to move in an upright position for cardio. Choose this based on your likes and training needs, or space availability.

Garage Gym Heater

If you’ve made it this far, you get to hear about arguably the best part of our garage gym…HARRIET THE HEATER.

If you live in a year round warm climate, good for you. While the PNW is pretty temperate, 30 degree garages are not the most motivating setting for a lift. Thus, we purchased Master 140,000 from Tractor Supply Co. And named her Harriet after a Harrier Jet. She spits fire, and means business and is my favorite. We crack a window to minimize fumes, as she runs on kerosine but only takes 2-5 minutes to warm up the garage.

Other accessories: hip thrusting pad, mini bands, yoga mat, whatever else you may need for your preferred style of training.

That wraps up our home garage gym build out!

I wish you happy lifting, whether you’re back in the gym, or assembling your home gym. Gains be with you.

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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