Being an enthusiast of all things muscle, one of the most frequent topics of conversation among my friends and coworkers is lifting. Those who know me best are aware of the gym that I built in my home’s two car garage several years ago. I am frequently asked if the monetary investment was worth it, if I work out as often as I had originally intended and if I am able to get as good a workout with my home gym equipment as I had in a commercial gym. Below I will discuss the pros and cons of having a home gym, the worth of the financial investment a definitive answer to the question “It is worth it.”
First, I’ll give you a little background. Like most of my readers, I have been lifting weights and exercising regularly in some form or fashion since I was a teenager. My first love was bodybuilding. Admittedly, my desire to increase my muscularity and definition was greatly influenced by my desire to attract those of the opposite gender, which in my case were females.
I learned very early on that incorporation of squats and deadlifts into my workout program was of utmost importance in my quest for thick, dense muscle mass. As my body grew, I became increasingly passionate about muscle building and decided to devote every free moment to bodybuilding research and planning. It wasn’t long before I became a certified personal trainer and later spent many years helping others achieve their fitness goals. Ultimately, I held a middle management position at a major commercial gym and had the authority to select and purchase exercise equipment and accessories.
Through the training and experience I gained from my years in the fitness industry and the half decade of competitive power lifting that followed, I learned a great deal about the quality and effectiveness of most of the workout and exercise equipment that is on the market. I used this expertise to build my dream gym in my home’s two car garage. The gym is complete with a power cage with dip and chin stations, lat pull-down tower with high and low cables, Texas Power Bar, Jump Stretch bands, chains, various cable attachments and nearly one thousand pounds worth of Olympic plates.
I put a lot of thought, time and research in developing my gym. First, I had to purchase my equipment from a manufacturer with sturdy, reliable equipment that backed their products with a warranty. The power cage had to accommodate and withstand 700+ lb. rack pulls (I don’t set the weight down gently and there’s no Lunk Alarm on my planet.) Also, the power cage had to have the ability to be secured to the floor and not rock when hundreds of pounds of iron are thrown on the rack after a set of squats. Additionally, the holes that accommodate the safety bars had to be in fairly small increments for optimal height selection for floor presses, lock outs and rack pulls.
Second, I had to consider cost consistent with quality. I knew from my years in gym management that gym equipment manufacturers often rely on their brand name to establish their prices. I needed a reputable company that produced quality equipment at an affordable price. I conducted a cost/benefit analysis and determined a price range that I was comfortable with. Below is an example of the formula that I used:
(G) Commercial Gym Membership = $35 per month
(F) Fuel and Vehicle Mileage Travelling to Commercial Gym = $48 per month
(T) Tolls on Route to Commercial Gym = $16 per month
G+F+T = $98 per month x 12 months = $1176
I was spending $1179 per year on average traveling to my commercial gym and maintaining my membership. I considered the fact that I generally only used their power cage, bench and dumbbells therefore the benefit of various types of equipment really didn’t weigh much into my decision making process.
I expected that I would still be a muscle devotee for at least five more years (likely many, many more) but for the purposes of my calculation I used five years in my calculation. The result looked something like this:
$1176 per year x 5 years = $5880
I was likely to spend nearly $6000 over the next five years maintaining my gym membership and travelling to work out four times per week. I felt that calculation alone justified investing in a home gym. I was confident that I could purchase high quality gym equipment for less than that.
Or could I?
Without a doubt, the most important component to my home gym was a quality, sturdy affordable power cage. If I could do no other exercise, I knew I needed to squat. Having my own heavy duty power cage would allow me to squat and perform other big movements like rack pulls and squat lock outs. So, my research began with and centered on a power cage.
I determined that the prices of power cages ranged in price from about $400 to over $1000. I was instantly able to spot those that were of inferior quality by the slender uprights and inadequate width and depth. Some of the higher quality power cages were built for heavy commercial gym use, something that I did not require as only a few people would regularly use my equipment.
After hours of internet research, phone calls to equipment dealers and price comparison analysis, I settled on a sturdy power cage built for light commercial gym use, meaning it was developed and manufactured with enough strength and durability to accommodate constant use at a commercial gym with limited traffic and use. Now, I’m a big dude who needs some room to maneuver. The power cage I settled on was made by Powertec, cost less than $700 and could be delivered with no charge for shipping. As an added benefit, the power cage came with a chin and dip station, which eliminated the necessity, and cost, of have to purchase them separately.
Of course, to get the most out of my power cage I would need to shop for a quality bench, preferably with the ability to adjust to different degrees of incline. My bench needed to be wide and sturdy and have enough stability to prevent me from falling over when performing heavy bench presses.
My search for a bench was almost as extensive as my power cage search. I again found a pretty wide price range for adjustable benches. They were generally between $100 and $400 and varied in quality. After extensive research, I came full circle and settled on a Powertec utility bench. Not only did it meet all of my preferences, the bench was designed for special Powertec attachments for a preacher curl bench, leg extension, leg curl and my favorite – a weighted dip attachment. In the end, I paid about three hundred bucks for my bench, not including any attachments.
Of course I needed a bar and plate weights. I’ve always loved the Texas Power Bar so that was a no-brainer. I did some shopping around and ended up buying two 300 lb. Olympic sets to start. That gave me a total of three bars and, after adding a couple hundred extra pounds worth of plate weights, nearly 1000 pounds of iron to throw around.
These are the basics. Over the years I’ve purchased attachments for my Powertec utility bench and other implements, but the above equipment was enough to keep me content and allowed me to confidently perform my favorite movements including:
- Heavy Squats
- Heavy Rack Pulls
- Heavy Bench Presses
- Heavy Overhead Presses
- Chin Ups
- Floor Presses
- Pin Presses
- Squat Lockout
- Heavy Shrugs
- Heavy Rows
My initial cost to build a gym in my home’s two car garage = $2150
Assembly– Although the assembly instructions included in the equipment packaging was simple and easy to understand, it took the better part of an afternoon putting together the power cage and utility bench. The reason I list this as a con is because I was eager to get started with my new equipment and by the time I put it together I did not have time to use it due to a scheduled obligation.
Space Requirements – I have a fairly large two car garage. While I am still able to park my two full-sized sedans inside, there is no extra room. The vehicles must be removed for me to use the equipment.
Cost – My initial cost for my gym was approximately the same as two years’ worth of my gym membership and travel expenses. I broke even on my investment three years sooner than I had originally anticipated.
Time – I have saved about three hours per week by working out in my home gym. I no longer have to pack my gym bag, drive to the gym and go through the check in process when I arrive.
Convenience – I can lift whenever I want, for as much time as I want. There have been many occasions when I’ve woken up in the middle of the night, walked into the garage and banged out a couple quick sets, as long as the cars weren’t parked in the way. I am also able to get some chores done between sets on days that don’t require my complete concentration in the gym.
Lack of Distractions – My biggest gripe with commercial gyms are all of the distractions. I do not like to talk to anyone except my partner while I am lifting. The music is usually terrible and there is invariably someone curling in the squat rack. In my home gym I don’t have to talk to anyone, I can select the music that I like and no one curls in the squat rack.
Is It Worth It?
Without a doubt. The benefit of cost, time savings, convenience and ability to manage time more efficiently are the primary reasons that I make this statement. I can also tell you that my equipment has not become “an expensive clothes hanger” and I still use it regularly. I am able to move big weight like I did in the commercial gym and perform as well, or better, in my home gym.
These pieces of equipment are available through Amazon.com, which provides fast, easy processing of orders. I have provided several links to these products throughout this article for convenient access to Amazon.com for secure ordering. In the interest of full disclosure, if you purchase these pieces of equipment or anything else using the links I’ve included on this page, I will receive a commission. Therefore, I would greatly appreciate it if and when you decide to make this investment that you use the links included on this page. Having used and been extremely satisfied with my Powertec power cage and Powertec utility bench, I felt compelled to write this article. I have been endorsing these two products for a long time to friends and family members. I have used dozens of power racks and weight benches over my lifting career and these two pieces rank among the best. They are the foundation of my home gym and I continue to add accessories and attachments which add to their benefit.