Guest post by Andrew Lewis of blackmetalbarbellstrength.com
If you choose to forego the standard method of strength training in a commercial gym and decide to get a home gym, you’ll need equipment. Nothing optional will be listed here. A table listing the equipment and associated costs can be found at the bottom of the article.
The first pieces of equipment you’ll need are books. Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training by Mark Rippetoe is the most well fleshed out piece of literature on the subject, and you will read it. The minimum required reading to get in the gym are the “learning the lifts sections.” You should read the entirety of the following sections as soon as possible after doing your first workout:
-The Bench Press
In the next few months, you should finish the rest of the book and purchase and read the entirety of Practical Programming for Strength Training by Mark Rippetoe and Andy Baker. The theory may not seem important when you’re starting, but it will save you from a lot of pitfalls. This is why experienced coaches cost so much and are worth it if you don’t have the time and do have the money.
A reliable, straight barbell is required to being serious training. The B&R bar from Rogue Fitness is an extremely high quality bar that serves for both slow and quick barbell movements which you will do (unless you’re the 1% of the population that should not do the quick lifts). The Rogue Ohio bar is excellent too, but is harsh for the quick lifts.
A bar is not the place to save money. Everything else in this article can found for cheaper than brand new. Do not do that with the bar. The bar must be straight, and the bar must be high quality. To ignore this advice is to invite great danger into a process that should be fun and beneficial.
Squat stands/power rack
Squat stands are essential for the training process, and Rogue makes great ones. The cheapest, sufficient squat stands from Rogue will provide protection when you fail a lift, but are still solid. If you’re willing to spend a little more money, you can upgrade to a better one or a power rack. The power racks are worth it if you have the space.
If you’re tight on money, and you know how to use a circular saw and drill, you can make your own. If you’re an acquaintance of mine and you buy me a small tub of whey powder, I’ll help you make them in an hour or two. I made my own and squatted 385lb on it in the middle of snowfall. It’s a reliable design.
A flat bench will be needed to bench press, and there are many companies that make them. Again, Rogue does an excellent job, but you can make your own with 2x4s, a 2×8, and some fabric from Joann Fabrics.
Cast iron plates are needed to load the barbell, and many companies offer them. New plates are unnecessary, and you’d be much better off going to PlayItAgain Sports and paying less than half the price. If you buy used plates and they’re in poor condition, use that as a negotiating tool to lower the price. Either deal with the poor condition or fix them up with an angle grinder, a wire brush, and $10 of spray paint. If you buy used plates, weigh them, and mark the number on the plate. Everyone seems to be surprised that a 45lb marked plate doesn’t always weigh 45lb (it might weigh 41lb).
This is the place to save money. If you have expensive taste, feel free to buy some virgin rubber plates to enjoy dropping the plates after the clean.
Chalk and spring clips
Table 1: equipment and associated costs
You might be upset dropping $1500 on lifting equipment, but it’ll last you forever, and you’ll be more upset if you save $200 on a bar and end up in the hospital. A gym membership costs about $50/month which puts $1500 of equipment at a 2.5 year payback, and it will absolutely outlast you if you treat it right.