For the past several years, I’ve fantasized about having a simple home gym setup where I can work out from my home. But there was a simple problem – I didn’t have a house. In fact, I spent 6 months hiking with only a tent. So, now with the recent purchase of a new home, here’s how I built a minimalist home gym that allows me to get a variety of full-body workouts in efficiently and effectively.
Please note that the following article does have some links to exercise equipment on Amazon, as well as other sites. As a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, I may earn a small affiliate fee if you purchase an item through any of the links included below.
My Home Gym Goals
The goals for my minimalist home gym were pretty simple.
Time is the most valuable asset we have. And driving around in a car to and from your local gym is a waste of time and a waste of gas. I wanted something in my home that would make it easy and convenient to exercise. I wanted to reduce the friction.
Now, I simply step outside of my living room into my garage gym. It easily saves me 30 minutes of time I would have otherwise spent getting to and from the gym. And in 30 minutes I can already get a pretty good workout in.
2) Cost Effective
I’m not made out of money. I’m a dietitian/exercise physiologist. So, I needed an affordable garage gym setup, that would be as effective as a paid gym but without the monthly membership.
Yup, time and money were at the top of my list.
3) Support a Variety of Exercises
For my garage gym to be adequate it had to allow for a variety of exercises, including strength and endurance.
Although I tend to prefer bodyweight training, I also wanted enough equipment to keep things interesting. Pushups are only fun for so long, so I wanted variety to keep me engaged.
4) Provide Versatility of Space
My workout space was going to be in my garage. And, my garage is host to a lot more than just workout equipment. Aside from just my garage gym setup, I also had to fit:
- One car
- A motorcycle
- Garbage bins
- Tons of hiking and outdoor equipment
- All of the other crap we didn’t have room in our house for
Simply put, I didn’t want my entire garage to be consumed by workout equipment. So, I had to be efficient. In summary, I needed a minimalist home gym setup, that was efficient with space, effective for workouts, and low cost.
How Much Does a Minimalist Home Gym Setup Cost?
The average cost of a gym membership in the U.S. is $58 per month or $696 annually. And although it’s pretty cheap to build a garage gym, there’s a good chance you’ll spend more than that yearly fee to get a good setup. But, the benefit is convenience and saved money in the long term.
This minimalist gym setup I outline below cost me about $500 for all of the equipment. But, that doesn’t count the garage organization and shelving I bought, which ran me about $750.
A lot of the gym equipment I already had gathered through the years, so it didn’t hit my wallet all at once. When I actually put this all together it was mainly the cost of garage organization.
Bodyweight Training Will Save You Money
The good thing is that you don’t need a lot of equipment to workout. You don’t need expensive weight racks or fancy treadmills. All you really need is resistance – and fortunately, your body and gravity provide that for free.
The basic exercises for strength training include:
So, if you find a way to vary these movements and get some basic workout equipment meant to give you more variety in these movement patterns, you can keep the cost pretty low.
So, if you focus most much of your exercise on bodyweight workouts as I have, it will save you a lot of money.
Organizing and Preparing for the Garage Gym
This was one of the trickiest parts. We had a two-car garage with one car, a motorcycle, four bicycles, and tons of gear.
Here’s what I used to get things organized. The key was utilizing the wall and ceiling space to get things off the floor.
Saris CycleGlide Bicycle Storage Rack
This was the best bicycle storage rack I could find. By allowing me to hang all four of our bicycles from the ceiling, I was able to save floor and wall space, giving me more room for my garage gym.
The basic setup allows you to store 4 bikes, but you can also expand it to store 2 more.
The basic setup cost me about $250.
Rubbermaid Fast Track Shelves and Hangers
Once I got our bikes out of the way, I had to get all of our backpacks, camping gear, skis, and random gear organized and out of the way. The easiest method I found for doing this was by using Rubbermaid’s FastTrack Wall Mounted garage storage system. You simply drill the rails into the studs and then choose the appropriate hangers.
I used about a total of 20 ft worth of storage rails and mounting hooks to hang a random supply of gear on the wall.
Then I used two FastTrack shelf kits, so I could store bins off the ground.
In total, I spent about $500 on shelves and wall rails.
My Minimalist Home Gym Equipment
For my garage gym design, I’ve kept it pretty simple. Most of my workouts are primarily oriented around bodyweight exercises, so I added pieces of equipment that would make those movements more difficult or interesting.
And, although I do have a few weights, I have no complete sets. So, here’s a rundown of all of my home gym equipment.
Rubber Flooring / Mats
First of all, you don’t want to be working out on cement floors, so you’re going to need some padding. I got a total of 12 of these rubber flooring squares, which I placed into a 4×3 pattern. This gives me a total of almost 8′ x 6 ‘ of workout space.
I probably spend about $100 on these.
What love most about these, are that the sides fit together like puzzle pieces so you can arrange them however you see best. I got mine at Costco, but these ones are pretty similar.
I don’t currently have a pull-up bar in my gym. Instead, I have these gym rings. Personally, I think they make pull-ups more difficult. But, I prefer gym rings because they are more versatile and don’t take up as much space. And, if I need them out of the way, I can simply undo the straps.
And, aside from using them for pull-ups, I also use them for:
- Vertical Rows
- Incline pushups (with rings at lowest setting)
- Leg or knee raises (for abs)
- Single leg squat assistance (holding the ring)
Gym Ring Mount
You’re also going to need somewhere to hang your rings. I chose this ceiling hanger that you bolt into the ceiling joists. It has multiple attachment spots too, which I’ve used to hang a carabiner from, which can then be used to hang resistance bands to perform assisted pull-ups.
This cost me about $65.
This is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in my gym that I use for both upper-body and lower-body exercises, such as the following.
- Inline push-ups
- Decline push-ups
- Pike push-ups
- Tricep dips
- Single-leg squat to box
- Bulgarian split squat
- Front box step-up
- Lateral box step-up
- Box jumps
I use my exercise ball for a variety of activities, mainly which involve the core. I have a number of exercises my physical therapist gave me on it, and you can also make just about any exercise more difficult by using it to develop better stability. Plus, these are pretty cheap, usually only running you around $20-$30.
Here’s one similar to what I have.
BOSU Balance Trainer
I don’t actually use this a whole lot, but it is a nice tool for training different balance moves. You can also flip it over to provide a variety of different exercises. This “elite trainer” version has some resistance which can add another variation to your push-ups.
This is a cool piece of gym equipment, but overall, it’s one of the pieces of equipment I use the least. It’s also fairly expensive, at about $200.
Resistance Bands and Wall Anchor
Although most of my exercises are bodyweight, it’s nice to have some extra forms of resistance. And, resistance bands are nice because they don’t take up much room. You can even travel with them. I use them for a variety of leg exercises as well as upper body exercises. Most sets come with a variety of bands for about $20-$30.
Kettlebells or Dumbbell Weights
Dumbbells and kettlebells tend to be pretty expensive, plus they take up a lot of room. When you have less than half of a garage for your workout space, that’s less than ideal. But, a few select weights can be handy.
I just have one 10 lb kettlebell, but a setup like this will give you the three weights that are most helpful.
Or, a set of adjustable dumbbells, like these from Bowflex will get you the most weight in the least space.
But adjustable dumbbells are pretty expensive, easily running $300-$400. And, personally, I feel like I can get the same amount of versatility from resistance bands, gymnastic rings, and bodyweight exercises as I can from adjustable dumbbells.
Cardio Equipment for your Minimalist Gym
If you’re a true minimalist you won’t even need cardio equipment. You’ll just run in place or do jumping jacks. But if you need some equipment to light your fire, here are some recommendations:
It doesn’t take long to get your heart rate up with a jump rope. Seriously, try 3-5 minutes of this and it’s a pretty effective warm-up. There are a lot of different jump ropes you can get, ranging from about $10-$30.
I have a speed rope like this one, pictured below.
For some extra variety, it can be nice to have a stationary cycle. The most popular of these is obviously Peloton. Fortunately, those have recently come down in price, and you can often find them used. But, they’re not the only option.
In 2020, I got a Pooboo Exercise Bike on Amazon for about $300 during the pandemic.
The bike itself works fine. And, it has a place where you can set a tablet to watch videos while you ride. If you want you could even take Peloton Cycling classes on this bike, and save some cash up front.
Ultimately, I don’t use this piece of equipment much these days. If I were to get a different piece of cardio equipment today, I would get this climbing machine, because of its size and functionality.
Massage And Self Care Equipment for Your Home Gym
In addition to strength training and cardio, it’s also helpful to have some self-care tools in your home gym to soothe knots and tight muscles. Below are the favorites I have in my home gym.
These work particularly well for rolling out tight hamstrings, calves, glutes, and other muscles from your neck all the way down to your feet. I prefer the firm black ones like this, but you can also get softer white foam rollers that are easier on your muscles if they are particularly tight.
The Tiger Tail works essentially like a rolling pin for your muscles. Since you grab each side, you can get some extra leverage to apply firm pressure to tight muscles. This works particularly well for rolling out tight calves, quads, and hamstrings.
Cork Massage Balls
This is my personal favorite piece of self-care equipment because it allows you to easily target knots in your back. Just lean up against a wall, and sandwich the ball in-between and you have yourself a cheap massage. Traditionally people have often used a lacrosse ball, but these cork massage balls are awesome because their super light, which make them easy to travel with. I even carried one 2,650 miles with me when I hiked the PCT in 2021.
This set comes with a set of three sizes and a handy carrying sack.
So, as you can see, you don’t need a lot of money to make a minimalist home gym that checks all the boxes and makes it easier to get your regular workouts in each week, without having to drive across town to the gym.
Plus when you skip the gym, you can work out in privacy. That means you can focus on getting the workout done without being self-conscious. Ogling eyes on your thighs, no more. Feel free to pull on that Lycra jumpsuit and perfect that squat technique.
Ultimately, home gyms come in many different shapes and sizes. I was able to assemble mine using a little extra garage space, some gym equipment I gathered over the years, and some small investments in additional equipment to round out my space.
Hopefully, this gives you some ideas for your own home gym, and inspires you to get started one piece at a time.