Sick of Your Gym? Part2 (How to Start a Private or Home Gym)

When you are setting up a place to train on a limited budget you have to prioritize your items based upon a budget. There are a few things that you must have and others that would be nice, but can wait until later. I have separated these by:

A List: Items you have to have to get started.
B List: Items you should have but not necessary to get started.
C List: Items that are nice to have but not 100% necessary.


Combo Power Rack: This has to be the one item all gyms have to be based around. We offer racks from $900.00 to $3000.00. You do not need a $3000.00 rack for a home gym. The combo power rack is your best bet. We have built this rack to be the best on the market for this purpose. It has pin hole setting at every inch from the bottom of the rack to the top. This is to serve several purposes. It will allow you to perform dead lifts off the pins from below your knees with the plates only a few inches off the floor. It also provides you with many options when performing pin presses for your bench press. Now you can work your EXACT sticking point in an isometric or static to dynamic position. It also allow for better spotting when training alone. You can set the pins up so if you miss the pins are positioned to take the bar. The safety pins we use are also a pipe and pin set up. This means the pipe will absorb the shock of the weight and not bend the pins or damage your bars. One other notable feature of the rack is its sumo base. This is built so you can squat with a wide stance without the rack being in the way. The combo rack also comes with a free standing bench (built to competitive standards) for all your bench press training. For any home or private gym start up this should be the first item you should consider. Click here for more Power Rack information.

Bars: The first bar you need is a good power bar. The Texas Power Bar is the best all purpose bar you can get. Do not skimp on the bar or you will be buying new ones all the time. I would also recommend the cheapest bar you can find for all the pin pulls and pin presses. There is not a bar on the market that can handle this abuse without bending over time so get something cheap and use it. It does not matter if you use a bent bar on these movements so save your good bar for the squats, benches and dead lifts. Click here for more Power Bar information.

Plates and Dumbbells: With these items be smart. Do not buy from a order or internet company unless you plan on a huge order. The shipping will kill you. First check your local paper and trading times. Many times you will find these items for free or very cheap. If this does not work then visit your local sporting goods or exercise equipment shop. Regardless of the price you will save if you pick the plates up instead of having them shipped. But purchase only what you need. Get as many 45 pound plates as you feel you will need then only (2) 25’s (4) 10’s (2) 5’s and (2) 2.5’s. This will give you everything you need to lift any increment of weight needed. For the dumbbells only buy the ones you will be using. Save the rest for later or when you get stronger. Hex dumbbells are the cheaper option but may break in time. Pro-style may be a better bet for long term usage. Do not go with dumbbells you put together. These tend to rattle which can place stress on the elbows and will always have a post sticking out of them making movements like the rolling dumbbell extension very uncomfortable. Click here for more Plate and Dumbbell information

Rubber Mats: First, make sure you really need them and if so find out the bare minimum you will need. If you buy these from an equipment manufacture you will get killed on price. Try to visit you local Horse Supply Shop or Tractor Supply Shop. The have very good quality 4×6 1 inch thick rubber mats for not much more that $45.00. This is about ½ the price you will pay from a equipment manufacture or supplier.

Box Squat Boxes: I feel the best squat boxes are those like what we use at Westside Barbell. The way they are made is very simple. We use a 2×4 frame with one support running down the center and a ¼ inch piece of plywood for the top. Each box is 4 inches in height with a 24×24 top surface. We use a series of these boxes and 1 inch rubber mats (cut 24×24) to get the desired height. The mats go between the boxes to avoid slipping. This makes it easy when two or three people are squatting to change the box height. You can also use the 4 inch boxes for dead lifts (you stand on them). We also use the boxes to jack up the back up the bench for incline or decline work. Click here for more Box Squat Box information.

Board Press Boards: These are also very easy to build. I suggest using 2×6 boards that are 14 inches in length. I suggest making a one board (one 2×6), two board (two 2×6’s screwed together), three board (three 2×6’s screwed together), and four board and a five board. These will be used for all your board pres work. Click here for more Board Press Board information.

Dragging Sled: Using a sled in your training can have great effects on your recovery and general conditioning. If you are not in shape you will not recover as fast as if your body was working more efficiently. We have several articles in our articles section detailing the use of this item so I will not expand on them here. Read more about the Sled here. Click here for more Dragging Sled information.

Chalk: Now that you have your own place you can use as much of the stuff as you like. Get a box and start making your OWN mess! Click here to shop for Chalk.


Reverse Hyper: I feel this should really be in A- list but based on budget it may not be possible to get this at the same time as the other items. I feel this is a must have for several reasons. First, lower back strength is one of the biggest problems for most lifters and can put an end to ones training experience. Having a strong healthy back is a very high priority in the training process. If your back is messed up then it does not matter what type of rack you have because you will not be able to squat and dead lift. The Reverse Hyper is the best machine for developing the muscles of the lower back. This is because the range of motion the machine offers tends to hit the muscles of the lower back in glutes in a way no other movement or machine can do. Many have tried to simulate this or tried another type of machine but when they finally get a real Reverse Hyper they can’t believe the difference. There are three models. For the private gym I would suggest the Pro or the Standard. The only difference is how much weight the machine can hold. The standard is best suited for those who squat 500 and below. The Pro is for everyone regardless of the weight they can lift. The standard will hold up to 350 pounds while the pro can hold up to 600 pounds. Click here for more Reverse Hyper information.

Glute Ham Raise: This is the absolute best way to hit the hamstrings because it works the muscle from both the knee and hip joint at the same time. This is how the body works when it runs, jumps, squats and dead lifts. We have spent much time on the design of our unit to make sure the body placement is perfect. I have not seen another GHR that was built correct. You have to have the pad just right and the toe plate has to be big enough to push your toe against. Most other machines fail of both of these specs. When you do the GHR you want to start with your body parallel to the floor. Then with your knees 2” behind the thigh pad you want to curl your body up into the horizontal position. Click here for more Glute Ham Raise information.

Safety Squat Bar: Besides a good power bar, the Safety Squat Bar is the most important bar you will buy. The reason for this is what happens to your body when you use the bar. Most lifters fall forward when they miss a squat or a dead lift. This is because they can’t keep the shoulders behind the bar. When you use the Safety Squat Bar for low box squats and good mornings the bar is constantly trying to throw you into this same forward position we miss in. To keep this from happening you have to use the muscles of your upper and lower back to keep the bar is a straight line. This bar will work the muscles of your lower traps (between the shoulder blades) like nothing else. Did you ever notice how thick Elite lifters are in this region? This bar can help you achieve that. At Westside Barbell we do all of out max effort low box squat with this or the cambered squat bar. We have not used a straight bar for Good Mornings or Low Box squats for over 6 years! This is how much we believe in these bars. Click here for more Safety Squat Bar information

Cambered Squat Bar: As described above, we use this or the Safety Squat Bar for all of our max effort good mornings and low box squat work. The Cambered Squat Bar works much different than the Safety Squat Bar. The camber of the bar is 14 inches lower than where the bar sits on your back. This places the hands in a lower position taking much stress of the shoulder as well as placing more stress on the muscles of the back, glutes and hamstrings. Heavy squatting with a straight bar on max effort day coupled with dynamic day squatting may be too much for some lifters’ shoulders and elbows. This bar gives these muscles a rest while still allowing you to work the posterior chain to its fullest. Click here for more Cambered Squat Bar information.

Cambered Bench Bar: This is a great bar to ad in for variety. JM Presses and low board presses are great with this bar. The low board presses with this bar are excellent for bringing up the bottom of the bench press. Click here for more Cambered Bench Bar information.

Bands: If you have not heard about training with bands then you are already behind the times. The bands have made an incredible difference in the strength of many Elite and Non Elite Power Lifters across the country. These can be applied in a variety of different ways to enhance your strength to levels you only dream about. For more information on band training click here, or watch the Westside Reactive Method Video. Click here to shop for Bands.

Chains: Training with chains is another one of the training principles that has changed strength training over the years. Chains work by adding more weight at the top of the lift, which is where you are at your strongest point. You want to make sure you are attaching them to the bar correctly and using the right amount of chain. For more information on this method click here. Click here to shop for Chains

Manta Ray: If you can’t afford the Cambered Squat or Safety Squat bar then look into the manta ray for a change to low box squatting for max effort work. This piece of equipment places the bar higher on your back by increasing the distance from the load of the bar to your hips. This will train your lower body and back harder than just using a straight bar. Click here for more Manta Ray information


Power Bench Rack: Tired of training on sub par benches where you have to press the bar out a mile before you even begin to press? Tired of trying to figure out how to attach bands? Tired of training with benches that are to low or to narrow? Then this is the bench for you. Hole spacing every inch for all you lockout training needs. Support beam off ground so you can run bands under, built to competitive width and height, dense hard pad, and adjustable J hooks. Training on this bench will take you bench training to the next level. Click here for more Power Bench Rack information.

Mono Squat Stand: This specially designed squat stand allows for optimal squat training. The hydraulic lift and lever support stands make for the best training environment for serious squat training. This is a must for heavy band usage. Click here for more Mono Squat Stand information.

Belt Squat Machine: This is the best way to train the hips, glutes, quads and hamstrings while keeping the bar off your back. Click here for more Belt Squat Machine information.

Pro Elite Pull Down: Super oversized lat pull down with low pulley unit: This machine is the “best of the best” lat machine. The machine is 96″ from floor to top pulley with removable seat and low pulley set up. Great for pull throughs and low and high lat work. Click here for more Pull Down information.

Weight Releasers: Weight releasing is one of the best ways to build explosive and starting strength. With the weight releasers you can add as much weight to the top and eccentric phase of the lift. At the reversal point the weight releasers kick off the bar to allow you to finish the concentric phase of the lift. Click here for more Weight Releaser information.

Weight Trees and Bar Holders: If your going to spend all the money on plates and bars you should at least keep them out of the way so you are not tripping all over them.  Click here for more Weight Tree and Bar Holder information.

There you have it. Everything you need to build your own gym. You can spend as much or as little as you like. Start with those items on the A-List then if needed progress to some of the other items on the B and C list. If you need any help with any of these items or setting up your gym feel free to contact us by clicking here or give us a call 888.854.8806.

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About the Author

Dave Tate is the founder and CEO of, staffed by experienced professionals dedicated to providing strength coaches, athletes and trainers with the highest-quality equipment, personalized service and extensive knowledge needed to advance their training programs. View Dave Tate's Training Log HERE