Garage Gym Basics To Build The Best Home Gym

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There is a ton of awesome garage gym equipment out there that can make your home gym space incredible to work out in. So today, we’re going to go over my top garage gym essentials so you can decide on what the most important pieces of exercise equipment are for your own setup.

Let’s get started!

Garage Gym Essentials Checklist

The main pieces of garage gym equipment you want to invest in first are: 

  • Power Rack w/ Pull Up Bar
  • Barbells: (Olympic, Trap, Safety Squat)
  • Olympic Weight Plates
  • Adjustable Bench
  • Adjustable Dumbbells

The other pieces of equipment you can add to your own garage gym when your budget and space allow are:

  • Leg Extension/Leg Curl Machine
  • Functional Trainer/Pulley System
  • Garage Gym Flooring
  • Resistance Bands
  • Exercise Bike

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

Power Rack w/ Pull-Up Bar

A power rack with a pull-up bar is non-negotiable for me in a garage gym. It’s the backbone for key exercises—think squats, bench presses, and overhead presses. The beauty of it? You don’t need to clean the bar off the floor for those overhead presses.

I’m all for getting a solid power rack from the get-go. It must be durable and versatile. A built-in multi-grip pull-up bar is a huge plus. It saves space and offers a variety of pull-up options without needing extra equipment.

power rack with pull up bar and weights

The build quality is something you can’t overlook either. Steer clear of anything made from 14-Gauge Steel—it just doesn’t cut it. You’ll want at least 12-Gauge Steel for that blend of sturdiness and longevity. Trust me, investing in a good power rack means you’re setting up your home gym for success.

Now, if you’re asking me for recommendations, the Rep Fitness PR-4000 Power Rack is where it’s at. It’s sturdy, adaptable, and you can upgrade it as you go—perfect for any home gym. You can find out more about it here.

For those diving deeper into options, my power rack buying guide has you covered. And if you’re on the fence about needing a power rack at all, my insights on if you even need a power rack might help clear things up.

Picking the right power rack is a big step in kitting out your garage gym. It’s worth taking the time to choose one that fits your current needs and future goals.


A power rack is only useful if you have an Olympic barbell to use with it. The best barbells I think you should be getting are – a multipurpose bar, a trap/hex bar, and a safety squat bar. This combination will give you the best bang for your buck and handle all the best barbell variations in your training.

Multipurpose Bar

Best Multi-Purpose Barbell
The Ohio Bar – Stainless Steel

Made in the USA, The Ohio Bar is a top-of-the-line, multipurpose barbell. It's constructed of the highest quality materials with a 200,000 PSI shaft and chrome sleeves for a consistent spin. The Ohio Bar has a firm, non-abrasive grip and is perfect for both Powerlifting and Olympic lifts. With its unique balance of whip and rigidity, this bar is ideal for any serious lifter.

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The Rogue Ohio Bar is probably the most popular barbell on the market. Which, considering how oversaturated it is with bars, is a testament to just how great it is.

This is a multipurpose bar, making it great for all types of lifting. Combine that with the more moderate depth knurling and you have an awesome barbell that can handle a bunch of different lifts.

rogue ohio bar dual knurl marks

The Rogue Ohio Bar also has 190,000 tensile strength which gives it a high loading capacity as well. You really can’t go wrong with any of Rogues Bars though, 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!

man barbell squatting

Once again, no matter what your training goal is, a strong and durable barbell is the most important piece of equipment after a power rack.

Also, if you need help finding the most important features of a barbell, check out my barbell buying guide where I go over it in depth.

Trap Bar

Best Deadlift Hex Bar
Rep Fitness Open Trap Bar

The Rep Open Trap Bar is the best deadlift hex bar on the market if value and versatility are important to you. Not only does it have multiple handle options that are fully stainless steel, but it also has a built-in jack that keeps the bar balanced while performing trap bar deadlifts. The deadlift jack is also super handy for loading/unloading plates. You can also use Reps open hex bar just like a cambered squat or bench press bar, making it by far one of the best value trap bars by far!

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I recently made the switch from my Rogue trap bar to the REP Fitness Open Trap Bar, and honestly, it’s been a game-changer for my training. The built-in deadlift jack, chrome sleeves, and stainless steel knurled handles are just superior. I was getting tired of the black powder coat on the Rogue bar flaking off, and the knurling felt too passive, probably because the powder coat filled it in. Plus, REPs trap bar can swap out handles for different grip widths is fantastic, especially when you have lifters of various sizes using it.

woman squatting with open trap bar

The design of the REP bar aligns the weight with your center of gravity, making deadlifts feel more natural and less about technique juggling. It’s not just for deadlifts, though. The versatility to perform squats, lunges, and presses turns it into a multi-purpose workout tool.

What really sets it apart is the integrated deadlift jack. Loading and unloading weights is no longer a workout on its own. The bar stays balanced thanks to the counterweight effect of the jack, and the plastic liners on the feet are a nice touch to protect the floor.

rep open trap bar using deadlift jack

The bar itself feels great to use, whether you’re pressing or squatting, thanks to a 6-inch section of medium-light knurling for that extra grip. And the customization options are a big win for me. Being able to switch out the handles to fit whoever’s lifting is a feature I didn’t know I needed until I had it.

removable handles for the rep trap bar

The bar’s matte black powder coat adds a level of grip that’s just right, and the hard chrome plating on the sleeves means no fuss with sliding plates on and off. All in all, upgrading to the REP open trap bar has brought a new level of variety and versatility to my training.

chrome plating on the sleeves

If you’re interested in learning more about REP Fitness and their best equipment, you’ll want to check out this guide.

Safety Squat Bar

Best Value Safety Squat Bar
Titan Safety Squat Bar – V2

The Titan Safety Squat Bar – V2 is perfect for beginners! With its extra-thick shoulder pad, you can perform squats with ease and without worrying about injury. The shoulder pad also reduces pressure on your knees, making it a great choice for those just starting out. Additionally, the bar has a 1500 lb. weight capacity and comes with chrome sleeves and shaft coatings to help prevent rust.

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The Titan Fitness Safety Squat Bar, with its padded harness, is a game-changer, reducing shoulder strain and making it a top pick for enhancing squats. Its design evenly distributes weight, cutting down injury risks to wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck.

Its standout feature? The extra-thick shoulder and arm pads that stay put, ensuring stability and safety during lifts. This bar isn’t just versatile for squats but also for lunges and rehab exercises, highlighting its benefits across various workouts.

handles of the titan safety squat bar

With a design that improves balance and includes 6-inch hand grips for better control, this bar is a solid choice. For those exploring specialty barbells, the Titan Fitness Safety Squat Bar exemplifies how the best specialty barbells can revolutionize your training.

Weight Plates

Without weight plates to load your barbell and other pieces of equipment with, you aren’t going to be getting much stronger; that’s for sure. I recommend at least 300 lbs for your own garage gym to get started with; as you get stronger, you can buy more plates.

Make sure they’re the correct size for your Olympic barbell; otherwise, they won’t fit. You want Olympic weight plates and barbells, not standard. If you’re having trouble hunting down weight plates, this guide will help you out.

Steel Plates

Best Iron Plates
Strength Co. Olympic Iron Plates

The Strength Co. Olympic Iron Plates are some of the most well-designed plates on the market today. They have a deep lip on the edge for easy handling, and they're only between 0.3"-2.25" wide, while the inner diameter is 1.99". This makes them some of the thinnest and tightest plates on the market. Plus, the e-coating protects the paint from wear and tear, ensuring that your plates look good for years to come.

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Strength Co. plates are top-notch, made right here in the USA, and are definitely the real deal when it comes to durability and precision. What I love about them is how they’re designed—especially the 45s and 25s. They’re slim, have a deep lip for easy handling, and fit snugly on the bar, eliminating any annoying wobble.

man polishing iron plates

After they’re cast, each plate is machined to perfection, ensuring they’re spot on in size and weight, with an accuracy within 2%. This means every plate, from the hefty 45s down to the tiny 2.5s, is consistent. The 1.99-inch inner diameter is a perfect match for Olympic barbells, making them a seamless fit.

iron plates fitting snuggly on barbell

But what really sets these plates apart is the electro-coating. This isn’t just any paint job. It’s a process that uses electricity to bond paint to the iron, giving it a tough, chip-resistant finish that’s known for its durability in industries far rougher than lifting. This coating not only adds to the plate’s longevity but also protects against corrosion, keeping them in prime condition for years.

Bumper Plates

Best Bumper Plates
Rogue Color Echo Bumper Plates

Rogue's Echo Bumper Plates are made to the IWF standard diameter of 450mm and are within 1% of their target weight. The plates feature quality virgin rubber and stainless steel inserts, which give them a dead bounce and durability that is unmatched in the market. You can purchase full sets or individual pairs of Echo Bumper Plates from 10lb to 55lb weights.

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I’ve been eyeing Rogue Echo Bumpers for a while, and they’re honestly a solid pick for anyone after quality bumpers without breaking the bank. While the color-coded options are pretty nice, the black bumpers are actually a better buy. Honestly, unless you’ve got extra cash to spare, you really don’t need the color coding. The black bumpers do the job just as well and will save you a bit of money, which you can put towards other gym essentials.

rogue colors bumper plates on barbell with deadlift jack

These plates nail the IWF standard with a 450mm diameter, and their weight accuracy is spot on, within 1% of what’s advertised. They’re crafted from top-notch virgin rubber with stainless steel inserts, giving you that mix of toughness and a reliable dead bounce. Basically, when you load these on the bar, you know exactly what you’re lifting, no surprises.

They’re ideal for those intense workouts where you’re just trying to lift, not worry about the clatter of weights. Plus, Rogue offers them in weights ranging from 10 to 55 lbs, so you can grab a full set or just the pairs you need. And even though they come from China, Rogue’s strict quality control means they live up to what you’d expect from the brand.

Adjustable Weight Bench

Best Value Adjustable Bench

If you're looking to maximize your space without compromising your workout, this is the bench. The AB-4100 marries form and function with an expanded range of incline and seat positions, upgraded handle design, and black zinc hardware. 

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Adding an adjustable incline bench to your garage gym setup seriously broadens your training possibilities. Bench presses, incline presses, seated military presses—you name it, an adjustable bench has you covered. I always say, go for a bench that can handle at least 1000 lbs. It’s not just about the weight; your own body weight factors into this too.

One thing you need to realize is stability is key. Some of the cheaper benches might wobble after you’ve tightened everything, which is the last thing you want when you’re pressing heavy. Trust me, a stable bench is non-negotiable for safety and confidence in your lifts.

adjustable weight bench with leg rollers

So, don’t cut corners on your bench or any gear that needs to bear a lot of weight. It’s not worth the risk. Plus, an adjustable bench isn’t much pricier than a flat one but offers so much more in terms of exercise variety.

For a deeper dive into picking the right bench, check out my guide on the best weight benches. It’s all about making smart choices for a safe and versatile home gym.

Adjustable Dumbbell Handles

At your local gym, finding dumbbells over 100 lbs might be a stretch, but that’s usually sufficient for most. However, when you’re decking out a garage gym, forking over $2,000 for a complete set of fixed dumbbells just doesn’t make sense. That investment could be better allocated towards a sturdy power rack, a quality Olympic barbell, and a substantial set of plates, broadening your training possibilities.

a bunch of dumbbells in a rack

So, what’s the best approach? Adjustable dumbbell handles are a smart pick. They’re economical and offer great flexibility. For those looking to save, Titan’s loadable dumbbell handles are a solid option, ensuring you don’t compromise on quality.

Best Titan Adjustable Dumbbells
Titan Loadable 20-in Dumbbell Handles

The Titan Loadable 20-in Dumbbell Handles are designed with 6.5" loadable sleeves, inspired by Olympic barbells, which allows for custom weight adjustments. This makes them a space-efficient alternative to storing traditional dumbbells, as they can be used with Olympic-sized weight plates. The handles feature a medium diamond knurl texture for a secure grip with every lift and bronze bushings inside the sleeves for an extremely smooth and quiet spin. The design is balanced and long-lasting, ensuring that these handles will withstand heavy use over time.

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For a more upscale choice that allows for quick weight changes, I highly recommend Power Blocks. They’re a big step up in quality from budget dumbbell handles, making them an excellent addition to any home gym. 

And then there’s Ironmasters, which closely resemble traditional dumbbells and are definitely worth the investment if you’re after durability and a classic feel. Depending on your training needs, adding adjustable dumbbells to your garage gym is a strategy I’d strongly recommend.

Best Heavy-Duty Dumbbells
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!

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For an in-depth look at these versatile dumbbells, check out my guide on the best adjustable dumbbells.

Future Upgrades

While the basics are going to cover you for a long time, eventually you’re going to need a couple of other pieces to round out your ultimate home gym. These are the pieces I personally recommend that will basically cover everything you could possibly need for most training goals.

Leg Extension/Leg Curls Machine

Best Value Leg Extension/Leg Curl Machine
Titan Leg Extension And Curl Machine V2

The Leg Extension and Curl Machine is designed with 7 seat depth positions and 3 seat angle positions to suit different size athletes.

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Investing in the right equipment is crucial, and for leg training, nothing beats a solid leg extension and curl machine. I’ve experimented with various setups in my garage gym for leg curls and extensions. Honestly, while they did the job, they were a massive headache and not time-efficient.

man performing seated leg curls

The real game-changer for me has been the seated leg extension/leg curl machine from Titan Fitness. It’s been over a year since I started using it, and the difference is night and day. The machine is straightforward to use, provides the support I need to really push each set to failure, and surprisingly, it doesn’t hog space.

man adjusting loading arm on machine

For anyone serious about better overall leg development, this machine is a must-have. It allows for targeted training of the hamstrings through knee flexion and the quads, especially the rectus femoris, which you can’t effectively work with just hip extension movements.

Yes, it’s pricier than other equipment, but for the functionality and space efficiency it offers in a garage gym setting, it’s worth every penny.

Functional Trainer/Pulley System

Best Functional Trainer

Introducing the FT-5000 2.0 Functional Trainer: a commercial-grade cable strength training machine for your home gym. With 21 cable positions, dual weight stacks up to 224 lbs each (total of 448 lbs at a 2:1 ratio), and versatile handles, you can maximize your range of motion. The slimmer trolley is easy to adjust, and laser-etched cable column markings make handle alignment simple. Features include pull-up grips, magnetic-tipped weight pins, and aluminum pulleys.

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When I first wrote this article, Spud Inc‘s Lat & Tricep Pulley System was my go-to recommendation, priced around $60. Fast forward, and it’s now fetching anywhere from $100 to $200. Given this, I suggest looking into a pulley system for your squat rack, building your own, or opting for a standalone functional trainer, which, in my experience, offers incredible value for enhancing your training variety and muscle growth.

For a balance of quality and affordability, the REP FT-5000 V2 stands out. It’s well-received by home gym owners and has a solid reputation. For a deeper dive into why a functional trainer might be a smart addition to your setup, explore my thoughts on whether functional trainers are worth the investment.

And if you’re curious about what other models I recommend, my guide on the best functional trainers breaks down my top picks, ensuring you find something that fits your space, goals, and budget perfectly.

Garage Gym Flooring

Flooring often gets overlooked when setting up a dream garage gym. Many opt for squishy mats that barely handle the impact of heavy lifting. My advice? Go for hard rubber mats. They give you the stability to lift heavy, keep you grounded, and ensure safety.

For larger spaces, a 25-pack from Rogue might do the trick.

However, for most setups, 4-6 horse stall mats from Tractor Supply will more than suffice. At about $40 for a 4×6 mat, they’re a steal, especially if you can pick them up yourself to save on delivery costs. Just a heads up, these mats are heavy and hard to move alone, so bring a friend to help with the lifting.

Tractor Supply 3/4" Rubber Stall Mats

If you're looking for a heavy-duty rubber floor mat, look no further than the Tractor Supply 3/4" Rubber Stall Mats. These mats are made of 100% recycled rubber and are noise and vibration absorbent. They are also anti-skid, making them safe and comfortable to lift on. These mats can be cut or interlocked to fit any surface as well.

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Resistance Bands

Best Value Resistance Bands
SUNPOW Assistance Bands

Meet the SUNPOW Assistance Bands set, your comprehensive fitness solution. This set offers five color-coded bands each with different resistance levels: Green (5-30 lbs) for speed barbell training and shoulder mobility, Blue (15-60 lbs) as a perfect beginner band for resistance training, Orange (35-115 lbs) for medium tension training and pull-up assistance, Red (50-135 lbs) for advanced barbell training and pull-up assistance, and Purple (60-170 lbs) for those needing extra resistance and pull-up aid. Enhance your workouts and reach your fitness goals with ease using SUNPOW Assistance Bands.

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Resistance bands are a budget-friendly gem for any garage gym. They’re super versatile and barely take up any space – just hang them up and you’re good to go. They’re perfect for progressing towards bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and dips, or for a solid warm-up routine.

man doing pullups with bands, women doing yoga, stretching and sandbag training

What’s really cool about resistance bands is how they introduce accommodating resistance into your workouts. This means you can tweak the resistance curve of your exercises, making them tougher at the peak (lockout) or easing off where it’s usually toughest, at the bottom. It’s a simple yet effective way to spice up your strength training without complicating your setup.

Exercise Bike

Best Air Bike
Rogue Echo Bike

The Echo Bike by Rogue is a heavy-duty steel stationary bike that can be customized for the user's needs. With a weight limit of 350 lbs, this bike can accommodate almost anyone. The easy portability and 1" polyurethane front wheels also make it easy to move around when needed. The belt-driven steel fan blade ensures a smoother ride, while the high-contrast, battery-powered LCD console tracks intervals, distance, calories burned, heart rate, and more.

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Adding an air bike to your garage gym is a smart move. Sure, you could opt for a treadmill, elliptical, punching bag, jump rope, rowing machine, or any cardio gear that you’ll stick with. But I lean towards air bikes, especially those with handles, for a low-impact, full-body cardio session.

man patting other man on the back after a solid cardio session on a bike

Air bikes are my go-to for off days. They’re great for easing soreness, boosting recovery, and supporting heart health. My top pick? The Rogue Echo Bike. It’s up to the Rogue standard: top-notch quality, built to last, and comfortable to boot.

Remember, the key is choosing cardio equipment that suits you. But for solid, full-body cardio training that’s easy on the joints, air bikes are hard to beat. For more on why I trust Rogue equipment, check out my Rogue Fitness review.

What Else Should I Add To My Home Gym?

Here is a small list of other pieces of home gym equipment that you might consider investing in.

Gymnastic Rings

Gymnastic rings are a solid option for anyone looking to diversify their training setup. They are much more ergonomically friendly for exercises like pullups, dips, inverted rows, and more! Plus, they help improve balance, coordination, and overall fitness.

The beauty of gymnastic rings lies in their versatility, catering to all fitness levels with a variety of exercises. They’re also portable and adjustable, allowing you to tailor the intensity of your workouts and even take your training on the go.

Plyo Boxes

Plyo boxes are a versatile addition worth considering for any garage gym. They excel in boosting explosive power, speed, and athleticism through dynamic movements like jumps.

Soft plyo boxes, in particular, are great for exercises like hip thrusts and glute bridges, offering comfort and adjustability for various body types. With a range of sizes, heights, and materials available, it’s easy to find a plyo box that aligns with your goals.

Jump Ropes

Adding a jump rope to your garage gym is a smart, low-cost move for ramping up conditioning work. It’s a high-energy, gentle-on-the-joints way to torch calories, boost endurance, and sharpen coordination. Perfect for a quick warm-up or a full cardio session without the bulky machines.

Jump ropes are budget-friendly and compact, needing just a bit of space to get going. It’s a refreshing twist to the usual routine, with endless moves from basic jumps to double unders, keeping things fresh and challenging.

For more ideas on setting up your space, check out my guide on building a home gym, filled with all the essentials you’ll need.


home gym sign

No matter how you train, there are a few essentials everyone should have: a squat rack, a reliable Olympic barbell, a decent set of weights, an adjustable bench, and adjustable dumbbells. That’s your foundation right there.

Everything else I’ve recommended comes from a decade of personal experience with my own garage gym setup.

What equipment would you pick for the ultimate home gym? Drop your thoughts in the comments!

Until next time,


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