The Top 5 High-Value Garage Gym Essentials & Future Upgrades

For the last 5 years, I haven’t worked out at a commercial gym once.

This is due to multiple factors, the main one being I hate waiting for equipment. I’m sure I’m not the only one!

Plus, with the pandemic going around, we absolutely can’t afford to be at the mercy of public gyms being open.

So today, we’re going to go over my top 10 garage gym essentials you’ll need to survive 2021 and train for the apocalypse!

The main pieces you want to invest in first are: 

  • Power Rack
  • Barbells: (Olympic Bar, Trap Bar, Safety Squat Bar)
  • Olympic Plates
  • Adjustable Bench
  • Adjustable Dumbbells

The other pieces you can add when your budget and space allows it is:

  • Glute Ham Raise/Back Extension
  • Spud Inc. & Lat Pulley System
  • Garage Gym Flooring
  • Airdyne Bike
  • Ab Wheel

Everything on this list is the equipment I’ve used myself. I wouldn’t recommend any of it if I didn’t think it was absolutely necessary. 

Garage Gym Essentials

PR-4000 Power Rack

The Power Rack, this one piece of equipment, gives you the ability to do all the best exercises.

If you don’t have a Power Rack, you can’t Squat or Bench. They also give you the ability to do an overhead press without needing to clean the bar from the ground.

The power rack is the main piece of equipment you need. So make sure when buying one not to skimp on it, this needs to be reliable; one with built-in pull up bars and dip attachments would be preferable.

I’ve seen Power Racks that look like they are made out of Aluminum foil. Don’t buy these racks; instead, pick up a piece proven to stand the rigorous test of time that strength training places upon it.

The other important thing to check for is what gauge steel it is. A lot of bad power racks out there are only made out of 14-Gauge Steel. You don’t want to be buying anything weaker than 12-Gauge Steel.

Remember, just because a manufacturer claims it can hold 1000 lbs doesn’t mean it’s true. The gauge of steel is what matters the most, so if you don’t see the information offered, don’t buy it.

The best racks I recommend are going to be anything made by Rogue or Rep Fitness. Their prices are fair for high-end power racks, and you’ll never have to worry about the quality.

Buy nice, don’t buy twice.

If there’s anything you can’t skimp on at all, it should be your power rack. Out of all the garage gym essentials you need, if you want the best home gym possible, this is it.

If you’re not sure if you’ll need to go all on a Power Rack, check out my guide on Do You Need A Power Rack For Your Home Gym? I laid out all the important factors on why purchasing a solid Power Rack is so important.

Barbells (Olympic, Trap Bar, and Safety Squat Bar)

A power rack is only useful if you have a barbell to use with it. Just like with the power rack, you don’t want to buy a crappy bar.

This is what happens if you don’t buy solid barbells. 

It’s not something you’re going to want to worry about while squatting with a loaded barbell on your back.

The best barbells I think you should be getting are; a standard Olympic barbell, a trap bar, and a safety squat bar.

Here are the 3 that I have used and have had no issues with whatsoever.

The Rogue Ohio Bar

The Ohio Bar – Black Oxide

Each Rogue Ohio Bar is machined and assembled in Columbus, Ohio, and includes a lifetime guarantee against bending*.


I’ve been using the Rogue Ohio Bar for over 4 years now, and it has handled up to 500 lbs multiple times with no sign of bending, wear or tear. The knurling isn’t incredibly sharp, which is a great thing when breaking in a new barbell.

Even after all this time, the knurling is solid, and the grip is second to none. You really can’t go wrong with any of Rogues Bars, so definitely check them out here. The quality and aesthetic (they all look damn cool) of these barbells put them in a league of their own!

Once again, no matter what your training goal is, a strong and durable barbell is the most important after a power rack in our garage gym essentials.

If you want to check out my training program if you only have a barbell, check out my video, Home Barbell Workout – No Bench – No Squat Rack (2020).

Rogue TB-2 Trap Bar

This Trap Bar from Rogue Fitness is awesome.

It has a 16″ Loadable sleeve, which is important for adding weight to the barbell.

Most Trap Bars on the market are incredibly short and can’t handle much weight at all.

Plus, if you’re using bumper plates, which a lot of big box gyms have, you’ll be lucky if you can fit 405 on there.

With Rogue’s Trap Bar, you can be sure that whatever weight you throw at it, it’ll handle it.

On top of that, having a raised handle allows taller lifters such as myself to deadlift comfortably. Which is important if you want to focus on getting stronger.

Trap bars are awesome if you can afford them, but make sure you get an Olympic bar first before picking up one of them.

SB-1 – Rogue Safety Squat Bar

SB-1 – Rogue Safety Squat Bar

The weight distribution is unique to this bar. Training with the Rogue Safety Squat bar is known to tax your anterior chain; the weight distribution falls between the front squat and the high-bar back squat to vary your power output training. This bar is a safer option for intense squat progressions or maximum load lifts.This bar is known to increase your maximum working weight when compared to the traditional back squat.

Like with a regular barbell, I wanted my clients who had trouble with squats to have an alternative. Using the Safety Squat Bar allows you to get to depth easier!

This is awesome for new trainees that have common form issues. The other problem it helps correct is where you need to be placing the bar on your back.

With the Safety Squat Bar, you no longer have to mess with High Bar or Low Bar Squat, you just put it on your shoulders and squat. That is the most significant benefit and something I really love about this type of barbell.

Definitely try out the Safety Squat Bar in your home gym. It allows you to just shut up and squat without worrying too much about form.

This helps when the goal is to just get stronger. Definitely let me know what you think if you decide to pick one up. They have absolutely helped me in my pursuit of strength as well as my clients!

Olympic Plates

Without Olympic Plates to load your barbell up with, you aren’t going to be getting much stronger; that’s for sure. I recommend at least 300 lbs to get started with; as you get stronger, you can buy more plates.

Make sure your plates are the correct size for your barbell; otherwise, they won’t fit. You want Olympic plates and barbells, not standard.

If you’re having trouble hunting down weight plates, check out my guide on the Best Ways To Buy Weight Plates.

If you can find them in stock, the Rep Equalizer Iron Plates are one of the best buys on the market you can get for how cheap they are.

Most plates this year have been marked up to hell and back, unfortunately. Sometimes costing 2 to even 3 dollars per pound which is just insane.

These Equalizer Plates don’t just look cool, they’re priced at around $1 per lb, which is a steal these days.

Again, though, IF they’re in stock. And that’s a big IF!

I recommend buying plates locally if you can, however! If you’ve never checked out Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, get on it! I purchased over 300 lbs of plates plus a used Barbell for only $100 bucks.

Often, you’re going to have to look for good deals because nobody is selling any in your area.

Just keep checking online and you’ll find the deals. Sometimes you just have to be patient and pull the trigger when they’re available.

This is another one of the major garage gym essentials you need if you want a complete home gym, so try to save a good portion of your budget for them.

Adjustable Bench

Having an adjustable bench to do Bench Press, Incline Presses, and Seated Military Presses expands the type of training you can do in your garage gym.

For an adjustable bench, I recommend investing in one that can hold at least 1000 lbs. ‘It’s not just holding the weight of your pressing movements but also your body weight which you need to factor in as well.

If you’re doing a 400 lb press and weigh 200 lbs (which is a pretty good bench press, that’s for sure!), the bench needs to be able to hold at least 600 lbs.

Plus, stability with a lot of lower quality benches is something you need to keep in mind as well. A lot of them you screw in, and after it’s tightened down, you can wiggle back and forth, which is bad news when you’re trying to bench a couple of hundred lbs over your face!

So when in doubt, make sure it secures itself properly and has that 1,000 lb weight capacity. Do those two things and you should feel safe and stable at all times.

As much as I love Rogue for a lot of their equipment, unfortunately, the cheapest adjustable bench they have in stock is over $500 which is an insane price for just a bench. You can get a barbell and a couple of hundred lbs of plates for that, after all!

So for this, I’m going to recommend Rep Fitness and their AB-3100 Adjustable Bench V3. It’s around 400 lbs cheaper, is built with varying gauge steel, and has a ton of different options for incline and decline work.

If you wanted a step-up that’s going to be even stronger, you can get the AB-5100 Adjustable Bench which is completely constructed out of 11-gauge steel, has 7 back adjustments, and 4 seat adjustments and still costs $150 less than Rogues cheapest option.

Don’t skimp on your bench because if you do your life could potentially be on the line. It’s just something to think about if you want to lift safely and prevent injuries.

Adjustable Dumbbell Handles

If you have access to a commercial gym, you can only find dumbbells up to 100 lbs on average. This is definitely plenty for most people. When you have a garage gym, buying a full set of dumbbells isn’t really practical for most.

Think about it. Most dumbbells and weights, in general, are priced at 1 dollar a pound. This means a 50 lb dumbbell is around 50 dollars, and a set is 100 dollars. Plus, the price of shipping for each and every dumbbell! Let’s do the math for a complete set of dumbbells from 10 to 100 lbs on average. GET READY…

  • 10 lbs $20
  • 15 lbs $30
  • 20 lbs $40
  • 25 lbs $50
  • 30 lbs $60
  • I’m gonna stop right there…

Basically, for a complete set of dumbbells from 10-100 lbs, you’re looking at over $2,000 if you don’t get any bulk discounts. That is an insane amount of money to be spending on dumbbells!

You can get a great power rack, a nice barbell, and over $400 worth of plates for that amount! Not worth it in my eyes whatsoever. So what do we do? Buy adjustable Dumbbell Handles, of course!

If you want a budget pair, you can go with Titans loadable dumbbell handles.

At least that way you know for certain the quality matches the price.

If you want a different option that’s a little more expensive but comes with all of the weights, I would definitely recommend Power Blocks.

They’re a quick system similar to BowFlex but they’re much higher quality I’ve found.

Your final option is Ironmasters which look very similar to regular dumbbells, and they’re definitely worth the price if you want to go that route.

Our Pick
Ironmaster Adjustable Dumbbell System

The Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbell System is the latest generation of our adjustable dumbbells – now available in a smaller size set. You can quickly adjust each dumbbell from 5-45 lbs with our patented quick lock design in under 15 seconds!

Regardless of what you pick, there are certain movements that just require dumbbells to use.

And those movements are better for hypertrophy if you’re trying to train something like mid delts, or chest, etc.

It just depends on if you feel like you need them or not but for most people I would definitely add these in as part of the garage gym essentials.

Future Upgrades

Glute Ham Raise/Back Extension Bench

When it comes to training the lower back and hamstrings in a garage gym, you only have a couple options.

You can use Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts, Good Mornings, Stiff Leg Deadlifts, and even Hip Thrusts. Beyond that, it’s challenging to train those two major muscle groups.

ENTER the Glute Ham Raise!

Titan Glute & Hamstring Developer

The Glute and Hamstring Developer by Titan Fitness® is made from heavy-duty steel with a wide base so it won't topple over. It measures at 70-inches in length, 45.5-inches in width, and 41-inches in height. It weighs 190-pounds and has a weight capacity of 350 pounds.

This specific piece is the best one I’ve used so far. Compared to others in the past that flip over if you weigh more than 200 lbs.

It’s horrible, especially if you’re a guy and the pad isn’t “situated” right.

If you’re a guy, which is like 90% of the people reading this based on my analytics, you know what I’m talking about.

With Titans, the split pad prevents this from crushing the family jewels.

There is also increased stability due to the wide footprint in the front. I’ve used this before at over 250 lbs and never felt it even move.

Your best-case scenario is to get this and never worry about your junk being smashed every again.

Spud Inc. Lat and Tricep Pulley System UPDATE 2020

Our Pick
Spud Econo Lat Pulldown
$99.00
  • One Pulley with 1/4" Cable: 6'3" long
  • (1) short triceps/ab strap
  • (2) 3/8" spring clips
  • (1) 12" or 18" loading strap pin. 18" Holds about ten 45lb plates - 12" Holds about six 45lb plates
  • weight limit - 550 lbs - Approximate total length from the ring on the loading strap to the end of the tricep strap: 117-119"


08/12/2022 12:42 am GMT

Back when I first wrote this article, I definitely recommended Spud Inc‘s Lat & Tricep Pulley System. It’s well built and was only around $60. Now? I’ve seen it sold from between $115 to even $200!

I’m sure you all expect everything to be going up because of supply and demand but I can’t in good conscience recommend something that has doubled or even tripled in price when the product itself doesn’t warrant it.

If you can get it for around $100 or so, it’s an awesome system for those that don’t want to DIY their own Pulley system.

If you want to build your own, though, check out my DIY pulley system for home gyms guide here.

Hopefully this saves you a bunch of money!

Garage Gym Flooring

Garage gym flooring is one of the afterthoughts I think most people have had when it comes to building the home gym of their dreams.

Unfortunately, most people buy squishy mats that do nothing to absorb force from heavy barbell training.

Instead of being one of those people, I recommend getting hard rubber mats that allow you to train hard, keep your feet rooted into the ground and stay safe.

It reminds me of the kids in my neighbors backyard jumping on a trampoline. They’re bouncing all over the place and that’s not what you want to be doing when lifting heavy weights.

If you have a bigger garage to outfit, you might go with something like this 25 pack from Rogue. It seems more geared towards bigger gyms but might fit the bill depending on your situation.

For everyone else, pick up 4-6 of these horse stall mats from a place like Tractor Supply, and you’re set.

They’re only around 40 bucks per 4×6 mat and you don’t have to waste money on delivery if you have a big truck.

Just be warned that they are heavy and you will most likely need help!

Schwinn Airdyne Bike

If you’re like me, investing in a bunch of cardio machines isn’t a fair use of your hard-earned money. Just go run outside or do some jumping jacks, right?

However, this is the only piece of cardio equipment I’ve ever invested in, and I absolutely recommend it!

The Airdyne is not just for lower body cardio, it’s full body! It combines the best parts of bikes and an elliptical without costing thousands of dollars!

Schwinn Airdyne Bike AD 6

The Schwinn Airydne AD7 Bike combines the latest in air resistance technology with unmatched durability and performance, allowing you to reach your full potential in the comfort of your home.

The main cardio workouts I recommend are standard 15, 20, and 30-minute bike rides.

Or you can try out this great HIIT workout that only takes 10 minutes.

  • 3-minute coast
  • 20-second sprint
  • 1-minute coast
  • 20-second sprint
  • 2-minute coast
  • 20-second sprint
  • 3-minute coast
  • DONE

With only 10 minutes of work, you have a solid HIIT workout you can do right in your garage.

The main goal of this is to increase the distance you go every time.

This makes not only your sprints but your coasting count too. If you slack off, you won’t improve your performance.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

Ab Wheel

The final piece of equipment I recommend is also the cheapest, the Ab Wheel!

This tiny little wheel is the most demanding ab exercise I’ve found that anybody can do.

It’s a staple in my training and something I recommend to anybody interested in building their ab strength up.

I’ve used this same Ab Wheel for 4 years now, and it has no signs of wear at all. Even though it’s made out of plastic, it’s incredibly durable.

The only danger from using it is in doing the exercise too quickly.

If you lower yourself fast, you WILL face plant. I’ve seen it too many times for it to be a coincidence. Stay safe!

Conclusion

Regardless of your training style, I believe everybody needs at least the first 5 pieces above all else.

Between a power rack, a solid barbell, a couple of hundred pounds of weights, an adjustable bench, and adjustable dumbbells, you don’t need much else.

The other equipment is recommendations based on what I’ve used in my garage gym for the past 5 years.

What equipment would you recommend for a badass home gym? Let me know in the comments below!

I hope you guys enjoyed this article and have some excellent ideas for what to add to your home gyms!

Until next time,

-Dante Redgrave

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