Build Your Own Iron Paradise With These Home Gym Essentials

Looking to build your dream training space? Check out our list of the home gym essentials worth considering.

Many lifters dream of having a dedicated training space to call their own, set up to their exact specifications, and brimming with only the finest pieces of equipment. Well, owning your own home gym doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. Sure, it’ll take some budgeting and planning, but like training itself, building a home gym is a lengthy endeavor that pays for itself over time.

Owning a home gym is convenient, cost-effective in the long run, and more private. Better yet, if you train for a specific sport, you can outfit your home with only the equipment you need. Of course, you need to know where to start, which is why we’ve curated a list of home gym essentials to get you started. 

Home Gym Essentials 

Weight Rack

If you’re a strength athlete, then a power rack is like the dining room table of your home gym. That is, it’s the centerpiece, where you and your fellow muscle mavens will gather to squat, press, and deadlift every weight plate you own. A weight rack is what supports your barbell so that you can hoist it for all sorts of lifts.

But a quality weight rack should do more than hold your barbell in place for sets of bench press and squats. If you want, you should have the option to add extras such as dipping bars, cable pulleys, and extra plate storage. The right weight rack can and should serve as the hub for your training session, 

Whether you’re a strongman, powerlifter, or CrossFitter, you undoubtedly squat and bench press — and you need a rack to do those movements. But you may as well get something you can customize for your training endeavors. 

Our Favorite Weight Racks

Because everyone has different space requirements and needs, you’ll need options. Below, we’ve compiled three choices — a traditional garage-friendly power rack, a foldable rack, and a squat stand. 

Rogue RML-390F Monster Lite Rack

This model from Rogue is equipped with J-Cups, Westside Barbell hole spacing, a pull-up bar and can be equipped with various add-ons — such as extra plate storage and a cable pulley system. It stands 92-inches tall, is 48-inches deep, and 49-inches wide. Rogue’s RML-390F Monster Lite Rack is also constructed from 3×3 11 gauge steel and described by reviewers as “bulletproof.” 

Rogue RML-390F Monster Lite Rack
Rogue RML-390F Monster Lite Rack
Rogue RML-390F Monster Lite Rack

The Rogue RML-390F Monster Lite Rack — equipped with a pull-up bar, Monster Lite J-Cups, and hole spacing for a variety of additional attachments — will make for a nice centerpiece to your home gym. 

Well built, relatively compact, and designed with powerlifters in mind, Rogue’s RML-390F Monster Lite Rack will make a nice hearth of your home gym. 

Rogue RML-3WC Wall Mount Rack

Say you want to own a power rack but also be able to park your car — well, that’s not a crazy ask; and there’s a rack for that. Rogue’s RML-3WC Wall Mount Rack bolts into your wall and folds inward and outward. It’s also available in three depths — nine inches, 21.5 inches, and 41.5 inches — and 11 colors. 

Rogue Monster Lite RML-3WC Power Rack
Rogue Monster Lite RML-3WC Power Rack
Rogue Monster Lite RML-3WC Power Rack

The Rogue RML-3WC Power Rack folds inward and outward so it's not in your way after you're doing training. It's also available in three depths — nine inches, 21.5 inches, and 41 inches — for added customization. 

Like the Monster Lite Rack, this model is made with 11-gauge steel and features Westside spacing and a pull-up bar. Before buying this model, though, make sure your wall can support the rack and the weight you plan to rest on it. Otherwise, you’re facing a much less pleasant home improvement project.

Rogue SML-2 Monster Lite Squat Stand

It’s a squat stand by name, but Rogue’s Lite Squat Stand can really support any compound movements like overhead pressing and bench pressing in addition to squats. This stand only weighs in at 166 pounds but can support 1,000 pounds of weight, which is pretty incredible. Because it’s so light, you can easily move it around your home gym. If you don’t want to buy a more cumbersome power rack and don’t want a wall-mounted rack, then the Lite Squat Stand is a solid compromise. You get the support and the mobility. 

Rogue SML-2 Monster Lite Squat Stand
Rogue SML-2 Monster Lite Squat Stand
Rogue SML-2 Monster Lite Squat Stand

Rogue's squat stand has a pull-up bar, comes with spotter arms, and is light enough (166 pounds) to move around at will.

At 92-inches tall and 49-inches wide, this mobile squat stand can support over a grand of weight, which is a lot. One note about this product: It’s not ideal if you bench press alone. You can bench press on this rack, but you’ll need to take the spotter arms off, and then you’re in trouble if you go heavy. 

Training Bench

A training bench is a support system. You can lay on it for lifts, prop your feet and hands on it to angle your body, and use it as a step for step-ups. Adding a training bench to your home gym expands your training possibilities. 

For one, you can’t train horizontal presses — i.e., the dumbbell bench press and dumbbell pullover — through a full range of motion on the floor. And if you’re a competitive powerlifter, you need a bench to train the bench press. You can also lay belly down to better isolate your lats with chest-supported rows. 

Your training sessions will benefit big time from owning a training bench, and so will your gains. Also, this isn’t the area you want to cheap out either, since you’ll be presumably hoisting hundreds of pounds while planted on the bench. 

Our Favorite Training Bench

Basic, durable, and effective — our training bench recommendation is what you’d find at a typical big box gym. It’s fairly priced and void of any unnecessary frills. The one downside is that this bench doesn’t adjust up and down, so if you want an incline or decline bench, you’ll need to look elsewhere. 

Finer Form Foldable Flat Bench

You don’t need to break the bank on a training bench, but you do want to ensure you’re buying a quality piece that can hold up to grueling bench-press sessions. Finer Form’s flat bench is built with a four-way frame that can support one thousand pounds. This means unless you’re bench press world record holder Julius Maddox, you’re in the clear. 

Finer Form Foldable Flat Bench
Finer Form Foldable Flat Bench
Finer Form Foldable Flat Bench

Durable, compact, and boasting comfortable padding, Finer Form's bench can be folded up after use.

It also boasts three inches worth of padding for comfort. The best part: you can fold it up and stand it in the corner of your gym when training is over. 

A Barbell

A quality barbell is a bridge between you and the weight that needs lifting. Without one, you can’t perform deadlifts, bench presses, and barbell rows. If a weight rack is your dining room table, the barbell is your chair. One is essentially useless without the other. 

When it comes to picking a barbell, you need to factor in quality, durability, and the type of barbell. Typically, weightlifters want a barbell equipped with bearings that allow for more spin of the sleeves. When performing a dynamic movement like the clean and jerk and snatch, you want the weight to spin separately from the bar so the hand positioning can be easily adjusted. On the other hand, powerlifters performing heavy deadlifts, squats, and bench presses don’t want the bar to spin as this can cause instability. 

Regardless of the barbell you choose, you want to know it’s durable — otherwise, you’ll be looking for a new bar in a couple of years. 

Our Favorite Barbell

This weightlifting bar is made from only the highest-quality materials and has a unique bearing system. Any lifter will appreciate it and find it both utilitarian and useful.

American Barbell Stainless Bearing Bar

American Barbell offers a stainless steel bar with centered knurling, a tensile strength of 190,000 pounds per square inch (the amount of pressure it takes to bend the bar), and is corrosion-resistant. However, what sets this barbell apart from others is the unique bearing system that ensures the sleeves spin as the weight gets heavier. 

American Barbell Stainless Bearing Bar
American Barbell Stainless Bearing Bar
American Barbell Stainless Bearing Bar

The American Barbell Stainless Bearing Bar is a durable bar that offers 190,000 tensile strength, a proprietary bearing system, and lifetime warranty from manufacturer's defects.

That spin is important for weightlifters who perform dynamic movements such as snatches and clean and jerks. Those bearings are also sealed to protect against dust and chalk. Another bonus is that this IWF-approved barbell comes with a  lifetime warranty, so you’ll only ever need to buy one. 

Weight Plates

Weight pates are what you load onto your barbell (and your loadable dumbbell and kettlebell handle if you have those) to increase the weight you’re lifting. When assessing weight plates, you want to make sure they’re accurate and durable if you drop them.

There are two main types of weight plates — bumper plates and traditional weight plates, typically made from iron or steel. The former is more expensive but coated with a rubber protective of both the plate and your floor. (That said, we don’t suggest dropping bumper plates on the ground for funsies). Iron plates are more affordable and differ in diameter, which means they’re less cumbersome to store.

Simply put: You can’t progress without a set of weight plates. You need to lift more weight over time to get bigger stronger, so these are a must-buy.

Our Favorite Weight Plates

They’re more expensive, but bumper plates are generally more durable, and these are color-coded to help you more easily identify weights at a glance. 

Force USA Pro Grade Colored Plates

There’s not a whole lot you can ask from your weight plates, except that they A) weigh what they claim to weigh, and B) are easy to organize. Force USA hits the marks. They’re a reliable brand that offers up IWF-sized plates — a bonus for competitive weightlifters — and they’re color-coated so you can easily identify what you’re lifting. 

Force USA Pro Grade Colored Plates
Force USA Pro Grade Colored Plates
Force USA Pro Grade Colored Plates

These bumper plates are colored for easy identification, rubberized to help protect your floors, and are sized to IWF-approved proportions. 

That feature is significant for bumper plates since, compared to iron weight plates, they’re all the same diameter and generally easier to confuse. An altogether great package, these plates are excellent value for money. Designed to IWF standards, they are going to be a great addition to your gym equipment.

Dumbbells

A barbell needs to be grasped with both hands, but dumbbells offer single-sided versatility. Even if you’re lifting two dumbbells at once, your muscles work independently to support these singular weights. Or, you can perform unilateral movements such as dumbbell rows to increase your overall capacity and target one side of your body at a time. 

When it comes to dumbbells, you can buy pairs of them at specific weights or go for an adjustable pair of dumbbells. Buying separate pairs of dumbbells is more expensive, but, like bumper plates, they’re more durable and available in heavier weights. Adjustable dumbbells offer up an average weight range from five to 55 pounds. So you save a lot of money compared to buying each set of dumbbells in five-pound increments. However, they’re typically made from less resilient plastic and top out in the high 50s to low 60s for weight. 

Our Favorite Dumbbells

On this list, we opt for non-adjustable dumbbells. If you won barbells and weight plates, then a wide range of weight isn’t as much of a concern, so you may as well opt for quality over quantity. 

Poly Hex Dumbbells

These dumbbells are classic. They boast a knurled handle for improved gripping and a coated rubber-vinyl mixture for a durable yet somewhat forgiving exterior. We’re not saying you’re free to drop these puppies onto the hardwood, but better these than a plastic adjustable dumbbell or iron plate. 

Poly Hex Dumbbells
Poly Hex Dumbbells
Poly Hex Dumbbells

These dumbbells are perfect for throwing around the gym with their rubber coating to protect your floor and hex design to keep them from rolling. They can go up to 125 pounds for really strong folks.

The hexagonal shape allows for stability to not risk face-planting during a set of weighted burpees for renegade rows. And if you’re worried about being too strong for a pair of these dumbbells, know that they’re available up to 125 pounds. 

Kettlebells

Kettlebells offer a unique array of benefits for home gym owners: they’re compact, versatile, and you only really need one to perform dynamic flows. Compared to barbells and dumbbells, they can be more easily swung and tossed around for ballistic, power-building movements. 

Even if you’re not a kettlebell sport athlete, you can benefit from the power-building prowess of these funky-shaped tools. Swing a heavy bell for more hip strength, or swing and clean a lighter bell as a quick cardio finisher. You can even string specific kettlebell movements together to create a full-body flow. 

Our Favorite Kettlebells

Like most of the equipment on this list, kettlebells don’t need to be fancy or frilly to be effective. When choosing a kettlebell, you need to ensure it’s balanced, easy to grip, and can handle a drop (because you will, at some point, drop your kettlebell mid-snatch). It’s best to stick with a trusted brand that prioritizes quality construction over aesthetics. 

Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat Kettlebells

There’s a lot to like about Kettlebell King’s kettlebells. For one, the powder coat takes chalk more effectively, so the risk of it flying across your garage goes way down. This kettlebell is also forged from a single piece of iron, so there’s little to no chance of the handle snapping off. It’s also gravity cast — a process that ensures the kettlebell is a precisely balanced product and is true to its weight (i.e., 24 kilograms is 24 kilograms). 

Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat Kettlebell
Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat Kettlebell
Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat Kettlebell

Thanks to a powder coat and gravity casting, these kettlebells take chalk well and are extremely well balanced. They also come with a lifetime warranty.

These powder coat bells are color-coded by the handle so you can easily figure out the weight you’re lifting. This is especially useful if you own more than one pair, as you don’t want to hold a 20-kilogram bell in one hand and 24 kilograms in the other hand. Also, Kettlebell Kings offers a lifetime warranty on their product, so you know you’re getting a good value over time. 

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands offer a more unique challenge than any other tool can provide. Because of their elastic makeup, a lifter’s muscle is challenged throughout an exercise’s full range of motion. Take barbell curls as an example. A barbell is heaviest at the furthest point away from the body — mid-way. The biceps muscle is relaxed at the bottom of the lift and the very top. Bands, however, are taught throughout, so the biceps are always active. 

Bands are either lifted or looped around an implement to provide what’s called accommodating resistance. Ideally, you want a band that can do both. That said, bands for lifting are also often equipped with wanted extras, and bands are cheap enough that you can own a pile of them without really breaking the bank. 

Our Favorite Resistance Band 

We like Hyfit’s bands because they offer the option to act solely as your gym — with innovative, techy features — or you can curl, row, and press them like you would any other pair of bands.

Hyfit

Hyfit’s bands are equipped with sensors to track every set, rep, and calorie that you burn. You can also take trainer-led classes through the Hyfit app. To use the bands, you attach them to an anchor point that is secured to something like a squat rack or stairwell railing. As you work out, Hyfit’s bands let you scale the resistance in real-time. 

Hyfit Gear 1
Hyfit Gear 1
Hyfit Gear 1

Hyfit's bands track your reps, calories burned, and offer a variety of trainer-led classes. Whether you want to work out with just bands or add them into your routine, this may be the pick for you. 

 What’s great about this product is it makes a great addition to your home gym, or it can be your entire gym. Hyfit can enhance your gym or be your gym. They’re techy, built to last, and come with an app that leads you through classes. If you want bands to loop around a barbell, these aren’t the set for you.

A Plyo Box

A plyo box is a bit more specific, but it’s a must-have for athletes and fitness athletes such as CrossFitters. Box jumps, for example, are a move often seen in CrossFit competitions. They’re also a popular exercise among athletes who want to up their hops. 

Beyond box jumps, you can also use a plyo box to sit onto for box squats, stepped on, jumped over, and used for a bunch of push-up variations. They’re also one of the most affordable essentials you can stock your gym with and are also lightweight and, for the most part, portable. While buying a weight rack is a serious financial investment, you can rest a bit easier knowing a plyo box will not leave your bank account full of dents. 

Our Favorite Plyo box

This plyo box has three different jump heights built into one unit to stretch your dollar even further. It’s also foam, for protection, and ultra-light so you can easily move it around. 

Echo Foam Box

This plyo box is made from soft foam so that you won’t bang up your shins. The Echo Foam Box can also adjust to three different jump heights — 20, 24, and 30 inches. For high-volume jumps, 30 inches is plenty high. That said, athletes looking to really test their hops will need a taller box for sure. 

Rogue Echo Foam Box
Rogue Echo Foam Box
Rogue Echo Foam Box

Rogue's foam box is soft to the touch, which is easy on the floor and your shins. Also, this plyo box offers three heights — 20, 24, and 30 inches. 

Compared to Rogue’s other models, the Echo box is pretty light at 41 pounds, so you won’t get too much of an extra workout moving it around and stowing it away.

Cardio Machines

Cardio is important for heart health, and as a way to burn more calories for speedier fat loss. Sure, you could jog outside, but for serious runners or CrossFit athletes, outdoor cardio doesn’t always cut it. And then what do you do if it’s raining outside?

Owning a solid piece of cardio equipment can also encourage you to train more. Stepping onto a treadmill with built-in classes is way more motivating than talking yourself into lacing up your running shoes and pounding the pavement. Also, other machines such as a rower are both a full-body workout and competition-specific for fitness athletes. 

Our Favorite Cardio Machines

We like exercise bikes and battle ropes, but a rower and treadmill are two of the most classic and popular options. Here are the top models to consider.

Concept2 Model D

The name “Concept2” has become synonymous with rowers. Their Model D is effective and basic. It is 96-inches long and 24-inches wide and weighs 57 pounds. Concept2 suggests having at least a nine by four-foot space to use the rower. It’s equipped with a PM5 performance monitor to track all relevant data — calories burned, wattage, meters rowed, and your splits. When you’re done torching calories, you can stand it up to save space.

Concept2 Model D
Concept2 Model D
Concept2 Model D

The Concept2 Rower is equipped with Bluetooth connectivity and a nifty monitor to track meters rowed and calories burned.

With an adjustable fan, comfortable, ergonomic handle, and PM5 monitor, the Concept2 Model D rower is a trusted piece of equipment that can level up your cardio sessions. 

NordicTrack Commerical 1750

On the technical side, NordicTrack’s Commerical 1750 boasts adjustable cushioning — to help minimize joint impact or mimic outdoor runs — and decline capabilities down to negative three percent. When you purchase this treadmill, you also get a free one-year iFit membership (valued at $458), so you can add classes to your running routine. 

NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill
NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill
NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill

The NordicTrack Commercial 1750 comes with a year of free streaming classes and boasts adjustable cushioning to help minimize joint impact and replicate outdoor terrain.

If you’re looking for a product that has it all, The NordicTrack Commercial 1750 is durable, packed with technology, and will keep your runs interesting for years to come.

Other Nice-to-Haves

Once you’ve built a solid foundation, you may want to add to your iron paradise. Here are a few other pieces you should consider buying for your home gym.

Man doing sit-ups at home
Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock

Slam Balls

You can squat these, load them onto platforms (like Atlas stones), and throw them for an explosive workout. Compared to medicine balls, slam balls don’t bounce back and can be as heavy as 100 pounds. 

Check out these quality slam balls.

Jump Rope

If cardio is a consideration and not a priority, then you’re probably not going to shell out for a rower or treadmill. A jump rope, on the other hand, is affordable and effective. Plus, you’ll build a stellar pair of calves in the process. 

Check out these jump ropes.

Grip Strengtheners

Hoisting a barbell or heavy kettlebell and dumbbell will improve your grip, but targeted grip work can really amplify your ability to clutch. If you’re a powerlifter or strongman, then you may want (or even need) grip strength beyond what simply lifting can provide. 

Check out these grip strengtheners.

Trap Bar

Compared to a traditional barbell, a trap bar has the lifter stand inside the cage, so they’re centered next to the weight. This allows for more efficient movement mechanics. The perpendicular handles mean the lifter maintains neutral wrists — which is a more natural and comfortable position. As a result, you’ll be able to lift more weight more effectively with a trap bar for various exercises

Check out these trap bars.

Weight Holders

Storage is a vital component of a home gym. That said, you can always store a barbell on your power rack (make sure it’s unloaded), rest your dumbbells in the corner, and most racks come with plate storage. Of course, if you buy more plates, barbells, and dumbbells, you’re going to need a dedicated place to store them. There are a variety of weight trees, dumbbell racks, and barbell holders you can buy. Not only are they handy, but they also look pretty cool. 

Check out these great weight racks.

What to Consider Before Building a Home Gym

Your home gym is only as great as the sum of its parts. There are, of course, singular home gym machines you can buy that promise to replace multiple pieces of equipment. That’s not a bad route to go down, but buying multiple pieces to stock your gym with offers more customization and specificity — which matters if you compete in a particular strength sport. Also, there’s some pride associated with taking time to curate pieces of equipment over time. You’ll end up with a gym that is uniquely yours — and that’s pretty cool. Here’s how evaluated the pieces of equipment above.

Value

You’ll notice we don’t say “price,” and that’s because many of the picks above aren’t cheap relative to other selects in the same category. That’s by design. See, we define value as to how far your dollar stretches. Sure, some of these picks are pricier than you may like, but many of them come with lifetime warranties, so you’re only going to have to spend on them once. Can you buy a more affordable barbell? Sure, but then what happens when lifting chalk mucks up the bearings beyond repair, and you find yourself shelling out for another bar two years later?

Of course, not everyone can spend a lot up front, and many of these products are priced within normal market value. That said, buying a rack or kettlebell or barbell that’s a bit more than you kind find elsewhere but is built to last forever may actually be a better value in the long run. 

Home gym set up
Artazum/Shutterstock

Functionality

Not one of these home gym essentials is all show and no go. We ensure that every product on this listed is built, with performance being the number one priority. You’ll recognize a lot of brand names on this list, and that’s because they’ve proven to build outstanding products. The kettlebells on this list are designed to take chalk better for a more optimal grip; all three squat racks are built from durable 11-gauge steel. The rower is the same model used in past CrossFit Games. 

If you buy a tool from this list, you can be sure that it will work well.

Utility

The products you need for a home gym are different than what a commercial gym needs. The chances are high that even if you have a dedicated training space, it also serves as an office, garage, or guest room. For that reason, it’s important that the equipment on this list either doesn’t take up a lot of room (i.e., dumbbells, kettlebells, and bands) or can be folded up and easily stored (i.e., the rower, power rack, and Finer Form bench).

Almost all of the picks on this list are space-friendly. 

Compatibility

If you’re building your home gym piece by piece, you need to ensure that everything works together. You can’t own a barbell without weights to load on it or a rack to support it. And what use is a bench without dumbbells to hoist? These aren’t the only tools you may want for a home, but they’re called essentials for a reason — any gym worth its weight has at least most of these items. 

FAQs

What should I consider before building out my home gym?

There are three main factors to consider before building a home gym: Space, functionality, and budget.

  • Space: You need to know how much space you have to train. If you’re confined to a guest room, then a power rack is off the table. But dumbbells and some bands are fine. If you have a two-car garage to work with, then you have many more options.
  • Functionality: What are you training for? If you’re a competitive CrossFitter, you’ll need a lot more equipment than a kettlebell sport athlete.
  • Budget: This is vital information to know ahead of time. Figure out how much you have to spend upfront, and then figure out which essential pieces are a priority. After that, figure out what pieces you want to add next and adjust your budget accordingly.

What's the best rack I can buy for my home gym?

That depends on what you’re using the rack for and the amount of space you have. If you’re working out in a spacious garage, the Rogue RML-390F Monster Lite Rack is a robust choice. If you need more space, then Rogue’s RML-3WC Wall Mount Rack folds inward and outward. Or, Rogue’s Lite Squat Stand is light enough to move around often but can also support 1,000 pounds as a free-standing rack.

Is there any reason I should choose standard plates over bumper plates?

Yes. Iron plates are cheaper per pound than bumper plates. Also, if you own a loadable kettlebell handle or dumbbell handles, iron plates are compatible with those tools.