Is It Possible To Build A Good Home Gym For Under $500?

By Steve Hall

June 12, 2021

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If you’re wondering, can you build a home gym for under $500, then yes, you absolutely can! It might not look fancy, but it will get the job done. 

It is possible to create a good, fully functional home gym for under $500. You can setup a home gym with just 2-4 basic pieces of equipment. With a weight bench, some dumbbells and resistance bands you have everything you need for a budget home gym.

Header

Option 1

Minimalist

Option 2

Balanced

Option 3
Flexible

1

Weight Bench
$100

Weight Bench 
$100

Weight Bench 
$100

2

Adjustable Dial Dumbbells

$400

Rubber Dumbbell x 4 Pairs

$300

Dumbbell / Barbell Set

$170

3

Cell

Resistance Bands

$70

Resistance Bands

$70

4

Cell
Cell

Squat Rack
$100

Totals

$500

$470

$440

Let’s face it. With the whole pandemic thing going on, less and less people want to use shared gym equipment. Personally, I’ve cancelled my gym membership and have setup my own home gym.

Many people think you need big expensive equipment and a ton of space to build a home gym. But that's not true at all.

If you’re looking to build your own home gym but don’t want to spend thousands doing it, then read on to find out how to build the best home gym under $500 today. 

Should You Get a Multi-Gym or Free Weights?

free weights or machines

There are basically two ways to go about doing this. One is buying an ‘all in one’ multi-gym and the other is buying separate pieces of equipment and free weights.

If you want to build a home gym on a budget, my advice is to forget the multi-gym. Most multi-gyms at this price point are not going to be great quality.

The other problem is, even if you do find a decent one, they are also really hard to get hold of (try clicking on the Amazon links for any of the multi-gyms recommended in other articles and you’ll likely find they are all unavailable).

That being said, for those of you really stuck on the idea of a multi-gym, I will give you some ideas to look at which are actually in stock (at time of writing!) but keep in mind this isn’t what I would do or recommend.

The fact is you can actually build a much better home gym with just four pieces of equipment. And that's what today's article is all about.

So, let's take a deep dive into this and to find out what the best home gym is for you.

The 3 Options When Building a Home Gym On A Budget

When pondering the question “How can I make a home gym for $500?” you need to understand that this budget comes with trade-offs.

For example, if you want better quality equipment (meaning less quantity), you need to be ok that you might not be able to do all the exercises you that you can in a commercial gym.

If you want to get the most equipment possible for your money, you need to be aware that you might have to upgrade or replace it sooner (ie some of it may be lower quality).

Below I’ve mapped out the different options available in this budget range

Option 1 - Minimal Kit But High Quality

This will get you the best quality equipment for your money whilst still allowing you to do all of the strength training exercises you’ll need. This is a good option if you know you will need heavier weights right out of the gate. This is also a great time and space saving option as everything is quick and easy to adjust and it takes up minimal space.

Kit that you will need:

1. Bench - $100 (see below for a specific bench that I like)

2. Adjustable dial dumbbells - $300-400 for pair (see below for a couple of options)

Option 2 - Balanced Option - Everything You Need Using Good Quality Equipment

Gives you everything you need to get started. As you build strength you can add additional dumbbell sets. This is a good option for beginners.

Kit that you will need:

1. Bench $100 (see below for a specific bench that I like)

2. Traditional Dumbbell set - $300
I'd recommend the Papababe Hex Rubber dumbbells 4 pairs (10-25lbs) approx. 

3. Resistance bands - $70 - see below for 

Option 3 - Most Flexible Option - Includes Barbell

This will allow you to do more exercises (as it includes a barbell option). The downsides are that you may find that you need to upgrade your weight set once you get stronger. The conversion from the dumbbell to barbell also takes time out of your workout .

Kit that you will need:

1. Bench $100

2. Dumbbell & barbell set $250

3. Resistance bands $50

4. Squat rack $100

Below I go through what to look out for when purchasing the above bits of kit. You can get this type of equipment from various online or physical sporting goods stores or from Amazon. Amazon tends to be a little cheaper but they tend to run out of stock more often that the dedicated retailers.

A Weight Bench Is Essential

As mentioned above you can get a decent weight bench on Amazon for around $100. If you're short on space then there are several options like this one that also fold away.

Here's what to look for when shopping for a weight bench:

1. Quickly adjustable.

You don’t want to waste time during your training session fiddling with pins, levers and knobs so make sure you can adjust the position in seconds.

2. Easy to move around & store

Don’t buy a commercial gym bench. These are designed to be bolted in place and are big, bulky and difficult to move around. Look for something lighter that has wheels, preferably one that folds if you if you are short on space.

3. No built-in bench press stand

These are inflexible and having the stand attached to the bench means it’s difficult to store it away. Many of these stands are also too narrow. Use a squat stand (or a power rack if you can afford it and have the space) to help with bench presses.

4. Don’t go too cheap

There are cheap benches out there that cost as little as $50. But these will likely be less sturdily built. You are going to put a bench under a lot of weight and pressure so you need to know it can handle it.

I would look for benches from $100 upwards and check the reviews carefully to see what others say about build quality.

As mentioned above, for a good budget weight bench, I’d set aside at least $100 from your budget. At most of the big fitness store retailers, the cheapest adjustable benches are around $200, but you can get some really decent ones on Amazon these days. A popular, reasonably priced bench on Amazon is the Ativafit Adjustable Weight Bench

Get A Good Set Of Dumbbells

Next up it’s time to look at the weights themselves. 

If you’re going with the minimal equipment option, I highly recommend looking at getting a pair of adjustable dial dumbbells like the ones from ATIVAFIT or FLYBIRD.

These dumbbells are great because they effectively replace multiple dumbbell sets and save a ton of space.

There are many others available, for example Bowflex and Powerblock are popular systems. I personally own a pair of MX Select MX55 which I love! All of these however, cost around $700 plus and so fall outside the budget of this article (if you are interested in these I bought them from Costco UK, in the US I found them in stock at USFitnessSupply.com)

MX55 Adjustable Dial Dumbbells

If you want a more traditional set of dumbbells I personally prefer the rubber hex type as they are easy to use and extremely durable. To keep the cost down, consider starting with smaller weights and add to it as you get stronger.

If you are just starting out or getting back into training, it may take you a while to build up to using heavier weights and there's no point in buying extra stuff that you'll won’t use for a long time. 10-25lbs should suffice for now and you can always add more later.

You should be able to get 4 pairs of good quality rubber dumbbells (10,15,20,25lbs) for around $300-330. A popular and reasonably priced option on Amazon are the Papababe sets. 

If you want to include a barbell in your equipment to use for barbell squats, deadlifts etc then a good budget option is to get a combined barbell and dumbbell set. You can get these on Amazon for around $180. 

I checked through all the available options and for the price, I really like the ZicJet dumbbell sets. The great thing about this kind of set is that you can get 2 in 1. It can be used as a dumbbells and has a connector to convert them into a barbell.

The obvious downside to this is the time it takes to bolt the dumbbells together. But if you want the option of a barbell then this is a great choice for the money.

Resistance Bands

If you were going to a fully kitted out commercial gym, you’d likely want to do some sets on a cable machine. If you want to set up a home gym for under $500 however, a cable machine is out of the question. This is where resistance bands can fill the gap.

Resistance bands are great for replacing various cable machine type exercises such as lat pulldowns, face pulls, low pulley rows etc.

There are 2 main types of resistance band. One is the tubular type that comes with padded handles and the other are simple latex or fabric bands.

I’ve tried both but I prefer the simple latex bands. Whilst the tubular bands are perhaps more comfortable on your hands they just don’t feel as robust as the simple bands. Also I noticed a big increase in the amount of resistance with the simple latex bands compared to the tubular ones.

Just be aware that latex bands represent a risk for latex allergic patients. So if you have an allergy to latex you might want to look at buying fabric resistance bands instead. 

When buying bands, Iook for a set that offers multiple resistance levels from light to extra heavy. A popular choice on Amazon are the UnderSun resistance bands. They come with five separate resistance levels that start from X-light and go up to X-heavy. 

Squat Rack

A squat rack is only needed if you intend to train with a barbell. If you are sticking to dumbbells, you won’t need one of these. 

That being said, the squat rack allows you more flexibility in your workout and enables you to lift heavier weights in a safer manner. With a squat rack and some free weights, you can do the major compound movements, specifically the 'big 5’ - squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell row and overhead press.

Straight out of the gate, that allows you to start doing a beginner strength program such as stronglifts 5x5, which is a great way of learning the basics and quickly improving your overall strength.

When looking for a squat rack make sure it is made of thick high quality durable steel with strong welds. If you are buying online check the reviews to see what others say about the construction quality. Also, it’s essential that the rack has safety spotter arm attachments especially if you are training by yourself.

You can find many reasonably priced squat racks on the market nowadays for as low as 99 bucks. One great squat rack is the BangTang & Li Squat Rack. It's got a compact and multi-functional design that's perfect for home gyms and workouts. 

All In One Gym Multi-Gyms

The primary benefit with an all-in-one multi-gym is that it's multi-functional. It's great for if you are looking to get the most out of a compact space. According to the expert trainers at w10, they can be good for targeting weak areas as they isolate various muscle groups (as opposed to compound exercises like squats). They can also be useful in improving your overall muscle conditioning.

Even so, multi-gyms are inferior to free weights. Weight machines in general were invented in the 80s with the aim of getting more ‘regular’ people into the gym to lift weights. Most beginners worry that they don’t know the proper form to lift free weights. Machines were created to overcome that fear. With just a bit of online instruction, people are able to use the machines without worrying about technique.

They seem like a safer way to train, but machines force you into a fixed movement. They lack the natural and functional movement you get when using free weights and, counterintuitively this can actually cause more injuries longer term.

I'd personally recommend sticking to separate free weight equipment. It's a safer bet in the long run.  After all, the old-fashioned ways are almost always the best. 

That said, there are some advantages as mentioned above, so if you are set on getting an all-in-one multi-gym then this section is for you.

Here are a few of the popular ones on Amazon (that are actually in stock!). 

Bowflex PR1000 

The Bowflex PR1000 offers 25+ exercises at once. 

Considering its build quality and the amount of functionality you get, it has an astounding price to performance ratio. But, some customers have complained of the base diamond plate being a bit wobbly. 

Total Gym Workout

The Total Gym Workout all in one machine supports 70 exercises which makes it an extremely versatile device. But, it can be quite large which many users have pointed out. If you have some space to spare in your house, then this could be worth considering.

BrayFit Home Gym

The BrayFit Home Gym is a good option if have very limited space. I'm actually considering adding this to my home gym to allow me to do cable machine type exercises.

It has a ton of positive reviews and according to the description the bands can be combined together to create up to 80lbs of resistance. 

Conclusion

So, now you know how to build the best home gym under $500

You don’t need huge expensive high-tech machines to create your own home gym. It is possible to make a cheap home gym, all you really need are a few separate pieces of equipment.


References:
Are Machines in the Gym a Waste of Time?- https://w10.fit/are-machines-in-the-gym-a-waste-of-time/

Exercise with latex sport bands represents a risk for latex allergic patients -https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18035426/

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Steve Hall

Steve is a strength training fanatic who geeks out over the best, most efficient workouts, nutrition and gear to help get you stronger and healthier!

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