10 Home Gym Essentials on a Budget

10 Home Gym Essentials on a Budget

Much like eating clean and healthy can be pricey, outfitting a home gym can be cost prohibitive too.

You can piece together a reputable home gym that goal digs for you if you buy the essentials.

Don’t get suckered into the latest fitness fad. *Cough* P90X *cough* what?

Don’t get roped in by the latest pulley/cable contraption or magic ab carver and chiseler that promises magic bullet results.

There’s a reason the tried and true fitness staples stand the test of time. Don’t try to outsmart them.

Stick to the basics by implementing lifts and workouts that utilize free weights and a robust mix of movements.

By doing so, you’ll score a 2 for 1 by incorporating strength and conditioning training as you improve core stability and flexibility at the same time.

Here are 10 timeless pieces of equipment that will make your home a sanctuary of strength.

1. Dumbbells

Don’t hesitate. Get a quality set or a few pairs of dumbbells. You know how we still employ the wisdom of Socrates and Plato? Well, the ancient Greeks introduced the ancestor of the barbell. They knew the mind and the body.

Dumbbells weren't Greek to the ancient...wait a minute.

You can do a near limitless number of exercises with dumbbells which justify the buy before you scuff them the first time. Go with the hex-shaped dumbbells with black rubber coating. They provide good comfort while working out, and stand up the best to the bumps, bruises and drops.

Getting 3 to 5 pairs in 5-pound increments for women and 10-pound increments for men will cover a broad range of strength-boosting exercises.

2. Medicine Ball

When medicine balls come to mind, am I the only person that envisions a sepia-toned picture of a guy with a bushy mustache in a leopard print singlet at a circus? Maybe. We shouldn’t have an old-timey bias against the medicine ball.

Leopard = Gains 

Sure they’re low tech, if not “paleo tech.” But like the dumbbell, they’ve endured and not changed for good reason. They’re a nifty tool for plyometric exercises and core strength work. You can do ab exercises with it, carry or throw it. The med ball gives you more options than an automated operator.

Do look to buy a med ball on the softer side, so that it’s easier to take a hit to the gut when you don’t catch it. Not sure about what weight to get? Go on the lighter side as most medicine ball exercises focus on power and speed.

3. Plyometric Box

The plyometric box referred to as a “plyo box”, gives you a jumping platform. You ever see NFL players showing off and doing a standing jump onto a table? The plyo box will help you get there.

Plyo boxes help to make those gains in explosive power and quickness. Besides the box jumps, you can also use them for other things like box squats and kettlebell exercises.

4. Kettlebells

Kettlebells may also cause you to conjure up visions of bulky Eastern European guys in singlets at the circus circa 1890. You ever see one of those small cannonballs with a handle on it that looks like a great doorstop? Well, pick it up and work out with it.

In Russia, kettlebell is currency.


Kettlebell functionality and versatility rivals the dumbbell. Some fitness pros claim if they were stranded on an island with only one piece of strength equipment, it would be a kettlebell. Plus you could maybe draw a face on and talk to it. 

A lot of dumbbell exercises can be duplicated with a kettlebell, but others offer unique aspects, including bigger challenges. The one-armed get up, a.k.a. the Turkish get up, makes for a good example, or kettlebell halos. Look for a kettlebell with a big, smooth handle and a chip resistant coating.

5. Pull Up Bar

The number of pull-ups you can do makes for a perfect strength gauge. Pulling off 10-12 in a row puts you in a select club. They’re not just for pull-ups. You can also do kipping pull ups, chin ups, weighted pull ups/chin ups. If you can’t do a pull up yet, boost yourself up with a resistance band.

Please make sure to get a quality pull up bar. Don’t throw your money down the drain by getting one of those shoddy door jamb versions, or you might end up like this poor guy.

6. Pull Sled

The good old pull sled, with a stack of weights on it, works the entire body and is great for everyone from firefighters lugging hoses around to Santa dragging that fat gift sack in the snow. The pull sled not only provides a whole-body workout and enhances the physique but does wonders for increased work capacity.

7. Swiss Ball

The counterbalance to the Swedish meatball. The Swiss ball appears boring and mundane but masquerades as a nasty tool to ratchet up your workout intensity. The Swiss ball gives you near endless exercise variations to keep your workouts fresh. From seated shoulder presses (with either a dumbbell or kettlebell you purchased earlier) to Swiss ball push-ups and pull-ins, you’ll be taking the slack out of your muscle tone quick and make your core taut.

Not to be confused with Swiss balls. 

8. Bench

Whether stationary or adjustable, a bench opens up a treasure trove of lifts. Dumbbell exercises double with a bench and triple with an adjustable. You don’t even have to be laying on it or sitting on it. Think Bulgarian split squats or seated dips. If your home gym is your church, then the bench is your altar.

9. Barbell

If the bench is your altar, then the barbell is your bible. Like any free weight, barbells mock the inferiority of sleek gym machines due to added stability and coordination elements added to your workouts. You can do plenty of barbell lifts without a squat rack or power rack, especially if you’re doing Olympic style lifting. But do keep in mind, that if you’re going to be dropping weights, your budget will balloon as you’ll need a lifting platform and rubber floor mats.

10. Stereo

You can’t lift or workout without your jams. This seems obvious however, you almost never see it added to home gym essentials lists. If you want a less expensive, wireless Bluetooth model, look into the JBL Flip series. They’re a great option for a portable. If you have a healthier budget, buy a Sonos. If you don’t know what Sonos is, I’m sorry to say, you’re doing it wrong. I own both and speak from hours of listening pleasure.

 Workout jam powerup. 


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