If for personal reasons you prefer to create your own private home gym to do your weight training workouts for building muscle, you don’t really need a lot of expensive equipment to do that. In order to lift weights at home to build a decent amount of quality muscle, all you need is the essential equipment to do weight training that will be affordable for most people. You can then easily do all your workouts at home for building muscle mass or maintaining muscle when losing fat.
You will be able to build muscle at the maximum rate with this simple list of weight training equipment because it includes the most important tools to effectively build strength and muscle. Depending on your goals and training approach, you may not even need all of the equipment on this list to achieve your goals, but just some of them. Remember, the most important factors in any muscle building workout is lifting heavy with proper form, progressive overload and remaining dedicated to your workout routine.
Don’t be misled to think that success in building muscle depends on how fancy, advanced or expensive the equipment you are using are. Although commercial gyms allow more variety in exercises to perform due to the wide range of equipment they have, you do not need a complex gym to build a superb lean muscular body.
Many well-known fitness icons, who are too many to mention by name here, started their journey to physical greatness with minimum equipment in a suitable space at their home such as a garage, free room, porch or backyard.
If you have the self-motivation, a little money to invest and a small space at home or anywhere you have access to that’s suitable to lift weights properly and safely, you are set to start working on your muscle building goals without having to be a member of a commercial gym.
The idea is to start with these most essential tools, especially if you are on a budget, then add more elements to your personal gym as it’s necessary to you as time goes on.
Without further ado, here are the 5 top weight training equipment you need for a home gym setup to build muscle. You’ll be able to do a massive amount of exercises to work every muscle group in your body and make major gains with just these tools.
1. A Barbell Set (Bar And Weight Plates)
The main reason you need a barbell set in your home gym is because they are the ideal tool for performing some of the most important muscle building exercises. Most people will need to perform the various compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts to build muscle and a great physique. By using a barbell, you will be able to push more weight on these lifts, thus induce faster strength and muscle gains. Barbells are also very versatile, allowing you to train almost any muscle in your body for strength and mass gain.
A barbell set includes a steel bar measuring 4–7 feet in length and weights to place on the sides called weight plates. Both bars and weight plates are available in different types, sizes, brands and designs. You can buy a barbell set that includes the bar(s) and different sizes of weight plates of the same brand in one package, or you can buy the bar(s) and weight plates separately. Any weight plate can work on any bar as long as they are compatible by standard and type, no matter the brand name.
There are two main types of barbell: standard and olympic. An olympic bar is what you need to buy because they are much stronger than standard bars, and suitable for heavy lifting. Olympic bars are typically 7 feet long with a rotating, 2-inch-diameter sleeve. Bars are also made differently for men, women and youths.
As for weight plates, they must also be olympic with a 2″ hole in order to fit on a 2″ diameter olympic bar. Standard weight plates will not fit on an olympic barbell because they are (with 1” holes) not compatible for each other. So make sure to avoid buying a standard bar when your aim really is to use olympic weight plates.
The most important factor of course to focus on when it comes to obtaining weight plates is having enough weights available for progressive resistance based on your strength and muscle building goals. However, there are also different optional features that comes with weight plates to choose from that can provide additional benefits for your home gym.
A traditional weight plate will be made of cast iron overall, round in shape and has no cut-outs for hand gripping in it. These plates will usually be the cheapest that you can find on the market, and in respect to the resistance aspect, they work the same like any other plates. However, there are weight plates that are made with features that, though optional, can add more benefits to your weight training experience and personal gym.
Here are the most popular special features of weight plates and their benefits that you should consider if they fit your personal preference:
#1 Bumper plates: Bumper plates are made of rubber overall (core to finish). Because of the rubber, they do not bang and damage the floor when you drop them like regular iron plates would. These plates are most commonly used for olympic-style lifting and special, fast-pace training like crossfit where the weights are usually dropped and banged to the floor frequently. The same benefits could be useful for a home gym. But only if you have the cash because they are really not vital and usually quite expensive.
#2 Rubber-Coated: Rubber coated or rubber encased weight plates are just cast iron plates covered/protected with rubber. There aim is to reduce noise and protect the floor as well. But because they are not thick and fully rubberized like bumper plates, good care still must be used when dropping them. They are also cheaper than bumper plates. So they are a good alternative if you cannot afford the more expensive bumper plates, and want to reduce excessive noise and floor damage in your home gym.
#3 Grip Plates: Grip Plates are weight plates with cutouts or handles in the plate to make it easier to grasp the plate with your hand. This will make it much easier to pick the plate up and move them around (consider that some plates will be very heavy). You will also be able to use such weight plates by themselves (without a bar) to perform certain resistance exercises with more convenience than a plate with no handles. Grip plates can be either rubber-coated or cast iron overall.
You can purchase weight plates in singles (one size of weight) or in sets of a variety of weights at one time. Olympic weight plates are sold as light as 2.5 lbs up to as heavy as 400 lbs.
Recommended Buying Approach For Beginners
When buying barbell and weight plates, most people newly starting out find it best and most affordable to buy an olympic weight set comprising of a bar and weight variety plates of different sizes totalling 300 – 400 pounds. This will allow you to make good progress and build good muscle. And if you decide to get stronger than 300 – 400 pounds you can later buy additional olympic weight plates to go heavier in your training.
The weight plates can be a one-time buy whereby you simply purchase once and add more to your collection when you want to. On the other hand, many of the beginner weight sets come with a bar that is only able to take a minimum amount of weight. Therefore, depending on how strong you want to become you may need to buy a higher quality bar that is designed to hold a larger amount of weight. Such bars are usually very expensive, but as I said they are not necessary for beginners.
One of the most highly rated beginner olympic weight sets is the Troy VTX Olympic Weight Set. This set includes a good quality Olympic Bar and 14 weight plates of different sizes. The plates have cutouts/grips in them. And they have one version with rubber-coating and another version without rubber (only cast iron)
The Best Price At Amazon For Troy VTX Olympic Weight Set (rubberized and cast iron finish )
You can get the set that include grip plates with rubber at 300 lbs at Amazon with FREE Shipping.
Or, you can get the other version of the same set with NO rubber at Amazon with FREE Shipping.
Note: Although, this set is cheaper than the rubber-encased version, keep in mind that having rubber on your plates provides some good benefits like reduced noise, less floor damage and plates protection. So if you think that you’ll need those benefits,consider spending the few extra bucks for rubber plates.
2. Dumbbells With Enough Resistance
Dumbbells are the second type of free weight that should be included in your home gym. You can do hundreds of exercises with nothing more than dumbbells because they are very versatile. You can find an exercise for almost every muscle group you can do at home with nothing but dumbbells and a weight bench. Dumbbells and barbells are interchangeable for working most body parts. Therefore, if you don’t have a barbell for working out you can substitute with dumbbell exercises and vice versa.
But once you can afford it, it’s best to get both types of weight to include in your home gym because either will be most optimal for performing certain exercises and targeting specific muscle groups for muscle growth.
However, if your budget is tight so much that you cannot afford to buy both types of weight, then buy either a barbell or dumbbell set and learn how to creatively make it work alone to carrying out your workout program. I believe that dumbbells will be easier and safer to work with for complete beginners who’ve never trained before. But if you want the BEST TOOL to build strength and muscle at the fastest rate, a quality barbell set will be the top option.
Many good workout programs provides guidance to you for carrying out the specified training with limited equipment. So if you are using a barbell or dumbbell set as your only weight, then you might want to use such programs for your workout guide.
Dumbbells are available in a wide variety of options at different prices. If building significant muscle mass is your main goal, the most important thing that you have to focus on is having enough weights to progress the resistance as high as necessary. However, the different types of dumbbells affect price, durability, storage and convenience of use differently.
The main types of dumbbells are fixed-weight, plate-adjustable and selectorized. Fixed-weight dumbbells are fine to work with once you are lifting the right size of weight at the right time. However, because they are only available in one size per dumbbell you must get a lot of them in order to progress the resistance for building muscle. This can cause a big storage inconvenience depending on your available space.
Therefore, unless you are getting fixed-weight dumbbells for free or for a crazy deal and you have the space to store them, I recommend making things easier and more convenient for yourself by buying a set of adjustable dumbbells for your home gym.
An adjustable dumbbell set that has been getting lots of rave reviews since it’s release on the market is the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (Pair). It’s one of the most innovative dumbbells available that greatly simplifies the weight selection process. And it’s required storage space is that of just 1 or 2 fixed weight dumbbells..
3. Power Rack
A power rack is a necessity for a home gym because it facilitates the performance of most free weight exercises, plus it has other uses such as storage. And it’s also a crucial piece of equipment to keep you SAFE during weight training. Since you’ll most likely be working out alone without a spotter in your home gym, a power rack can play a great safety role.
For instance, trying to do certain lifts on your own such as the barbell squat or bench press without a power rack is hazardous and can cause you injury and pain. Imagine doing a set of bench pressing or squat and then failing on one of your reps, getting pinned by the weight. The pins on the rack will allow you to ease the weight off your body in case of such emergency to save yourself serious injury.
Many racks have attachments such as dip and pull-up bars, so you may want to invest in a rack that includes these features to maximize the functionality. There are different brands, designs and prices for power racks. But the most important factor to focus on is the rack has to be strong, stable and able to hold more than 1,000 pounds.
The PowerLine PPR200X Power Rack is one of the best selling power racks on Amazon and it’s getting many positive reviews for it’s great balance of price and value.
If you cannot afford a power rack, then a cheaper alternative is a squat rack. It is less functional than a power rack, but it will at least help you get some exercises done.
4. Weight Bench
Certain weight training exercises require you to lie down such as the bench press. A weight bench is necessary in your personal gym to facilitate such exercises and many others. Weight benches are available in many brands and designs. But fundamentally, the first features you should be focus on when buying a weight bench is great strength and balance. It should be able to withstand the heavy weight loads you’ll be training with without becoming unstable or breaking.
I also recommend getting a bench that’s fully adjustable (from flat to inclined to vertical), instead of just the simple flat bench. Though the flat bench is great for many exercises, an adjustable bench is a better investment in order to get a well rounded workout that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to attain with a regular flat bench. For example, you can use an adjustable bench adjusted to flat for back exercises such as bench pressing or adjusted to incline in order to perform exercises such as the bicep curls and the shoulder presses.
The Powerline PFID125X Flat Incline Decline Folding Bench is one of my recommended weight benches for it’s low cost and a design that’s focused on strength and stability.
This short list of weight training equipment consist of the most important tools you need to carry out most muscle building workout programs to build the lean muscular physique you want. These tools will also allow you to workout to maintain the muscle you have when fat loss is your primary goal. Of course, there are a lot more things that you can add to your home gym in order to increase the diversity and functionality.
For example, you can incorporate other useful equipment such as a weight machine or cardio machine. But these things are optional when it comes to building muscle. You can simply perform your cardio training outdoors with no equipment or even use weights to perform cardio. And all the muscle groups in your body can be targeted with dumbbell and/or barbell exercises.
Once your personal gym consists of a barbell, dumbbells, a lot of weight plates, a weight bench and a power rack you are able to work towards any goal that relates to strength and muscle in your own personal space.
Obviously there are other things that you can start your home gym with that will be useful according to your needs and preferences. You should invest wisely depending on your budget and goals. Some other cheap and easy-to-obtain items that will be very useful in your personal gym includes floor mats, resistance bands, chalk, jump rope, chains, large mirror, music set etc.
When buying equipment for your home gym, try to aim for the best quality that you can afford. I’m aware that some people can face a certain amount of contradiction between what they want and what they can afford. But regardless of what level of buying power you have, try to make wise purchasing decisions that will ensure that when you buy one time you do not have to buy the same thing again unless you want to upgrade.