Author Archives: Nathan

Valor Athletics BD-7 Power Rack

Build a Cheap Home Gym

The key to saving money on gym equipment is to be patient while checking different marketplaces: Amazon, Craiglist, and deal sites like slickdeals.com. Also check with local gyms if you want sturdy equipment at a lower price. All prices I mention are with shipping included and most prices are from when I purchased them around March-April of 2013. Prices will change, but the tactics used to find the lowest prices won’t.

Complete transcript available below.

Cheap Gym Equipment

These are the bare necessities for a free weight home gym.

Valor Athletics BD-7 Power RackValor BD-7 Power Rack

I got this for $497, but it’s currently $595 on Amazon. Use a historic price checking tool like keepa.com to ensure you’re not paying a record high price for your equipment.

Ceiling height can be an issue for power racks. The BD-7, with the rubber end caps removed, is 6’10”. My ceiling is 7’1″ however there’s an additional 9.5 inches between the slats in my ceiling, which is why I removed the drywall for the pullup bar.

Putting together the power rack is a chore, but this is a given based on the number of parts. I had a warped plastic spacer for the cable slide, but Valor shipped a replacement immediately. Jim Vanderbleek, the owner, answered my email and was very helpful.

Ironmaster Super Bench ($318)

Over $300 for a bench seems like a lot, but I wanted a sturdy bench where I don’t have to worry about the weight breaking the bench because I went with a cheap Marcy or Innova.

This Ironmaster Super Bench is rated at 1000 pounds. Most older used benches from a gym should work as well, but I went this one since it’s versatile and I don’t have enough room for two benches.

You can use it as a decline and incline, and there’s an optional attachment to hold your legs for lots of exercises like decline crunches, decline bench or skull crushers. This attachment was $72.

Gym size and floor padding

I’m working with about 170 sqare feet (13×13). You can probably get away with 11×11 or even less if you find efficient dumbbell racks.

Harbor freight slickdeal gym floor matsSquare pads – I have the bare minimum so as to not chip the floor if I drop weights. These half inch thick pads are 4 for $10 at harbor freight. Each one is 4 sq feet, so I needed about 10 packs ($100) to cover this floor. These or folded cardboard make variable lifts for the bench if you need to adjust its height for the spotting bars.

I say these are the bare minimum because they start to show wear and dents immediately. Also, they’ll separate in high traffic areas, such as in front of the power rack where you’ll have your bench.

If you need something thicker that won’t separate, Tractor Supply Company has 3/4 inch thick 6’x4′ pads for $43 each. These are about triple the cost per square foot, but seem to be worth it based on the reviews. I might just buy one for this high traffic area and use the cheaper squares for the rest of the gym.

200 lbs adjustable dumbbell kit $260

A lot of the cost was from shipping. If you find something like this locally, you can pay closer to $0.50/lb. However, I was impatient and my gym membership was about to expire.

You’ll notice that the bars are really long, but you’ll need this length when you get above 95lbs per dumbbell. If you wanted, you could get a second pair of spin-lock dumbbell bars that are either shorter or take some length off with a heavy duty reciprocating saw. Just DO NOT get the spin-lock bars from Wal-Mart (the Gold’s Gym brand). In fact, don’t get any gym equipment from Wal-Mart. It’s overpriced and low-quality.

olympic weight set with bar255 lb Olympic Weight Set with Olympic bar

Purchased as a special at Dick’s sporting goods for under $300, spring click collars for $10 from Amazon

If you’re power lifting and 255 lbs + an Olympic bar isn’t enough weight, then get another 2x 45lb Olympic plates. I paid too much for mine at $106 for 90 lbs. Buy these locally if you can since shipping inflates the price.

Calf block ($53). You can make your own for a fraction of the price if you have the time. Video tutorial here.

Dumbbells (~$610 assuming $0.50/lb used)

If adjustable dumbbells are too much of a pain, then you should start building your dumbbell collection. As with any weights, don’t buy these new, and buy locally unless you find a good deal on slickdeals.com or another deal site. For example, I found some company online that was selling the last of their dumbbell stock at a loss for a few of these.

Just buy what you need. If the heaviest dumbbells you use are 75lbs then buy up to 65lbs and use the adjustable dumbbells for 75s. With heavier weight starting around 50 or 60lbs, you may only need dumbbell sets for every 10 lb increment instead of every 5 lbs.

You’ll find most of your dumbbell and dumbbell rack deals on craigslist. I purchased my racks for $90 total. The larger rack isn’t efficient space-wise; you won’t need as much room with a two or three tier rack.

Personally, I prefer heavier weights on the top rack, so the inefficiency doesn’t bother me. I used to hate picking up heavier dumbbells off the lowest rack at the local gym as it can lead to back injuries.

Total Cost

So your total cost of the bare minimum home gym is between $1240 and $1610 whether or not you purchase them locally, used, or online. The break even for a $30 month gym is between three and half and four and a half years.

Total cost of the complete home gym is anywhere between about $2300 to $2900 and your break even for this is between 6.3 and eight years. Now it seems like it’s a long time to get your return on your investment, but this doesn’t factor in hard-to-cost benefits like gas and your time saved from not driving to the gym daily. Depending on how you value your time and how far the gym is this is going to vary a lot person to person. That should be it and good luck with your deal hunting.

Video Transcript

Having a home gym has a lot of advantages such as not having to drive to the gym, not having to wait for equipment on a busy day, and being able to listen to your music without headphones. But many of you might find it either space or cost prohibitive to have your own home gym. For space you really don’t need that much. The minimum is around 100 square feet for the equipment I’m going to be going over. As for my gym at home, I have 13 by 13 foot size, and that’s more than enough.

Now as far as cost, depending on the equipment you need, it’s anywhere from around $1200 to $2500. $1200 is the bare minimum, and the biggest difference for the fluctuation in range is whether or not you want to have sets of dumbbells or if you’re just buying one set of adjustable dumbbells.

Now the key to saving on gym equipment is to be patient, or checking Amazon, Craigslist, and deal sites like slickdeals.com. You’re also going to want to check the local gyms around you just to see, they’re going to have a lot of used equipment that’s in pretty good shape, even though it’s old. It’s going to be a lot better to get that than to get some chintzy new equipment that isn’t going to last you as long.

When I purchased my gym equipment it was around March or April of 2013. Prices are always going to change but the tactics you use to find those prices will not.

Now for any home gym you’re going to need a power rack. This is the Valor Athletics BD Seven power rack. I got this for around $500 on Amazon. Right now it’s between $500 and $600 on Amazon. But you’re going to want to use a historic price checking site such as keepa.com to check price history on Amazon items. You don’t want to pay a record high price for your item. So if this is on a record high currently, just wait a few months or few weeks if you have the patience.

Ceiling height can be an issue for any power rack. The Valor BD Seven with the rubber end caps removed it’s about six feet 10 inches. My ceiling is just over seven feet one inch. Now I took away some drywall and there’s an additional nine and half inches in between the wooden slats. This is so you can do pull ups and chin ups. So definitely measure your ceiling height before purchasing this if you’re in a basement or if you’re putting this on the first floor.

Putting together this power rack is a chore. But given the parts and the complexity, especially the pulley system in the back, I don’t see how it could be any easier. Just make sure you have the right tools for it. I did have a warped piece of plastic in the back for the pulley system, but Jim Vanderbleek, the owner of the Valor Athletics, answered my email and shipped out a replacement part immediately, so customer service is great for this.

You’re also going to need an Olympic weight set. It’s pretty much a necessity, along with an Olympic bar. I purchased these at Dick’s Sporting Goods. They were on sale for under $300 for 255 pounds, and then you can just get some clips at Amazon for around $10. If you need more than 255 pounds just get two additional 45 pound weights locally, either on Craigslist or at a local gym. It really doesn’t matter if they’re rusty, they’re just weights.

Also you’re going to need a calf block. This is a necessity for all your calf exercises since you’re not going to have any dedicated calf machines. You can do a variety of different exercises, but each one uses this. It’s about $50 on Amazon.

Next you’re going to want a bench. I have the Ironmaster Super Bench. It was around $320 on Amazon. I know over $300 is a lot just for a bench but it’s really versatile and you can do incline, decline, of course flat, but you really want to make sure you get a sturdy bench because this is rated 1000 pounds. You don’t want to get a bench that’s rated much lower than that.

You don’t want to get a cheap Marcy or a Nova bench. You can also see if your local gym has a bench as well. You might not be able to get one that does incline and decline. But that’s what I like about this one because if you have two benches, especially in a space as small as 13 by 13 or any smaller, you’re going to start to get a little crowded.

With the seat attachment you can do an incline. Then you can also get an additional decline attachment. This is around $70. Again, it’s all together around $400 for a bench but it’s definitely worth it. You might be able to find it cheaper but just put this on the end and then that’s your decline as well.

Now you’re also going to want some dumbbells. If you’re going to go the cheaper route just get a pair of adjustable dumbbells. These were on Amazon for around 260. A lot of the cost was from shipping so if you can find some adjustable dumbbells on Craigslist it’ll save a lot of money that way. Now the ones I got on Amazon, I’ll provide the links.

They’re pretty wide. So if these are a little too wide for you, you could also get a saw and saw some of it off. You just have one lighter weight set and then a heavier weight set. Whatever you do just don’t get adjustable dumbbell sets at Wal-Mart because they’re cheap pieces of crap. A piece just broke off, I hope you can see, but I mean you get what you’re paying for at Wal-Mart. Just don’t get any gym equipment period at Wal-Mart. Word of advice. You’re going to pay a lot more for a lot lower quality.

Now you’re going to want some padding so you don’t chip your gym floor. What I have right now is the bare minimum to protect your floor. It’s just about a quarter inch to half inch of these anti-fatigue mats you can get at a lot of hardware places. I got mine at Harbor Freight. These are four square feet each and they come at four to a pack at $10 a pack. So it’s a cost effective way to cover your gym floor. I needed about $100 worth of pads to cover this floor. But they start to show wear right away.

As you can see there a bunch of divots which it’s not a problem. But what is a problem is when they start to separate in the high traffic areas, like right in front of the power rack. You’re going to get some separation, even though you can easily puzzle piece them back together they always become separate again because you get the shift in the padding overtime. To really get it back correctly you’d have to lift the power rack and all the weights just to get it back together and it’s really not worth it.

Instead of these I recommend Tractor Supply Co. They have these large one to two inch rubber mats they use for horses, but they’re about 20 square feet each. It’s going to be more expensive but it’s worth in the long run because they’re not going to shift around like these do.

Now as for protection for your floor, the bare minimum is going to prevent dents, but there, even 10 pounds at a couple of inches, I mean you can see a dent, but it’s good for a start. But after experiencing this I’d recommend just going with the rubber mats from Tractor Supply right away.

Now if you find adjustable dumbbells too much of a pain and you’re willing to spend the extra money you can get a whole dumbbell set for around $600 assuming they’re used and at around 50 cents a pound. You can get great deals if you just search locally for these dumbbells at local gyms and especially on Craigslist. If you build them up overtime instead of trying to buy a whole set at once, you’ll probably get a better deal. Once you find a set and you’re able to talk someone down, negotiate for the whole set. Just buy what you need.

If the heaviest dumbbells you use are 75 pounds then buy 65 pounds and then use the adjustable dumbbells for the 75 because you’re probably not going to use your heaviest set as much as you are the others. Also for the heavier weights, space them in 10 pound increments instead of five pound increments like you do with the lower weights. I started at 10 pounds then go in five pound increments up to 60. And then from 60 on I’d just go in 10 pound increments. Then I use my adjustable dumbbells for the heaviest set and I also use it to fill in between. I don’t have a 65 pound set so I just use those when I need them.

Also for the racks you’re also going to want to get these used. My spacing isn’t very efficient with these. I have just one rack at the top here. The bottom isn’t being used. I actually prefer having the weights at the top rack. That way you’re not bending over and having to pick up the heavy weight and possibly hurt your back. Now with the lower weights I use the four-tier set. If you had a two or three-tier set here I mean you can make do with half the space for the dumbbells.

Now these pieces of equipment aren’t exactly necessary but they do help flesh out the variety of lifts you can do. You can get a preacher bench. This is a pretty cheap one. It was about $100 new on Amazon. I mean it’s really light, which is actually an asset because then you can pick it up and move it around. You can use it for a variety of purposes once you attach a T-bar row attachment here. That really helps out, the amount of back exercises you can do. This is all you really need for your preacher bench.

This adjusts and then both of the racks here adjust. Then you’re also going to want to get an EZ curlbar. There’s a bunch of other small items you’ll get which will just make things easier. The Valor power rack comes with a cable system so you’re going to want a variety of attachments such as the rope attachment. This is the triangle attachment. It’s a variety of gears. Valor comes with a chain so you can adjust the length of the attachments. This is for squats. That’s about it.

You might want a plate tree. It’s really up to you. The Valor comes with four plate racks so you might not, but if you have the space definitely get a plate rack.

As I mentioned earlier you’ll want to use a site like keepa.com to track your historic Amazon pricing. You want to purchase something when it’s in one of its price valleys. You can do this by setting up alerts with your email address so then it will email you once the price dips below the norm. For your local purchases such as barbells and dumbbells use CraigsList. Then for your equipment purchases set up some deal alerts on slickdeals.com.

Now let’s go over the bare minimums equipment needed for your home gym. First you want a power rack. That’s between $500 and $600. Your super bench, $400 with the attachment. Your Olympic weight set between $200 and $300. Your calf block depending on if you make it yourself or you purchase a metal version between $20 and $70 and your barbell clips. Your adjustable dumbbells. Get these regardless if you purchase the non-adjustable dumbbells or not. You’ll need these to fill in the gaps. These are between $120 and $240 depending on if you buy them locally or online.

So your total cost of the bare minimum home gym is between $1240 and $1610 whether or not you purchase them locally, used, or online. The break even for a $30 month gym is between three and half and four and a half years.

If you want to protect your floor get some mats. I highly recommend the Tractor Supply Co mats, a lot more expensive. But if you’re fine with piecing together puzzle board and putting them back together every now and then the Harbor Freight version is so much cheaper.

Your non-adjustable dumbbells set is going to be around $600, this assuming 50 cents per pound, used, getting them locally. For this set this is between this is from 10 pounds up to 85 pounds in five pound increments, except between 65 and 85 pounds, those are in 10 pound increments. Then if you need something in between those, just use your adjustable dumbbell set. You can get used racks for around $100.

T-bar bracket $40 online. Handles and barbell pads between $50 and $100, depending if you get those locally or not. Preacher bench around $100. You can probably get a used preacher bench locally for around the same price, but I like the online version just because I think the light weight is an asset in the home gym because it’s easier to move around. Your EZ curl bar is between $30 and $80, and your Plate tree between $30 and $45.

Total cost of the complete home gym is anywhere between about $2300 to $2900 and your break even for this is between 6.3 and eight years. Now it seems like it’s a long time to get your return on your investment, but this doesn’t factor in hard-to-cost benefits like gas and your time saved from not driving to the gym daily. Depending on how you value your time and how far the gym is this is going to vary a lot person to person. That should be it and good luck with your deal hunting.