How to Build a Home Gym | H4 Training

Apr30How to Build a Home Gym

It’s already more than a month since people have been sheltering in place, and maybe you’ve been doing pretty good with your fitness goals, but you’re really dying to switch up the same exercises that you’ve been doing at home. Plus, that jug of milk you’ve been using isn’t heavy anymore. It’s also expired.

If you’re reading this in 2020 then you know that millions of Americans have been sheltering in place, forcing themselves to workout from home with limited equipment. Well, think of this post as a guide; one that will show you how to build and navigate a home gym.


First Rule: Use What You Have

If you’re just starting out with building a home gym – and assuming you’re not a lumberjack who can build his gym out of stone and lumber – you’ll lack supplies. Good news is, the first things you’ll need to start training from home are already available to you.

You will need A.) your bodyweight and B.) household objects. Sounds simple? Here is where you have to get creative.

It’s actually not that hard. There are plenty of ways to use progressive overload, which basically means that you’re progressively increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system to get stronger/bigger/faster/mobile.

For bodyweight movements, once regular reps become too easy, you have many options: you can change the variation of the movement, which usually changes the way gravity works against you (why a single leg squat is harder than a regular squat, or a one arm push-up is harder than a regular push-up). You can change the tempo of the movement, or the rep count, etc. In the video below, Coach Jordan Reyes talks more about different variables when it comes to training.

As for household items, these can temporarily take the place of gym equipment. Instead of dumbbell lunges, you have milk  or water jug lunges. Instead of deadlifts or squats with a barbell, you can fill a backpack or luggage bag with books and canned goods to use for deadlifts and squats.

Here’s the “official” H4 approved list of household gym equipment:

  • Milk/water jugs. To act as dumbbells, or at least extra resistance with handles. you can use them the same as you would dumbbells.
  • Backpack filled with books. To act as “sandbags”, or just to add more load when lifting jugs of milk get too easy.
  • Tables/sofas. You can do things like inverted rows on tables, and we wrote an article about 9 different exercises you can do with your sofa.
  • Get creative. Do pull-ups on doorway ledges (if they are sturdy), use stairs for high step ups, or run the stairs! You can also do fun active games with family, like playing the floor is lava with kids and creating an obstacle course.

Milk for the win.


So maybe you’ve used up all your creative juices (or you’re out of milk), and now you want some real gym equipment. Where should you start? Read on below for the answers.


Start Minimal: Kettlebells, Dumbbells, Bands, and Straps

First thing you want to buy is probably something small, lighter, and easy to put away. Things like kettlebells, dumbbells, bands, and TRX/gymnastic straps are easy to store, and easy to set up for a workout. I’d also say that if you get everything checked off here, this might be all you really need for a home gym. You can do pretty much everything with this stuff:

  • Kettlebells. From swings, to goblet squats, lunges, presses, carries, and much more, you can do a lot with a good pair of these cast iron beauties.
  • Dumbbells. Preferably an adjustable pair of dumbbells, that way you can adjust the weight. Dumbbells can used for nearly just the same uses as kettlebells, the plus being that they’re adjustable.
  • Bands. Very versatile, and if you buy a brand that come with door mounts and other goodies, you can attach them to any door in your house. Use them for presses, rows, squats, deadlifts, and a variety of other exercises.
  • TRX straps/gymnastic rings. Both of these tools are very versatile and can take your bodyweight training to the next level, and you only really need one. I prefer rings because they’re usually cheaper and you can do a larger variety of exercises with them, BUT you need to be able to hang them from somewhere. TRX straps often come with a door anchor.

Again, you might be satisfied with this minimal set up. Having a few different bands of different tension, a pair of adjustable dumbbells, rings (if applicable), and a few pairs of kettlebells can give great results.


Getting Fancy: Buying Extra Equipment

Now that you’ve gotten the basics covered, if you feel you need a bit more to round out your gym, we’ll cover that now.

Olympic Barbell

A barbell with a standard set of weights is a great addition to a home gym, as it can really add some more versatility into your toolbox.

With that said, you have to question why you need one, and IF you really need one. As the equipment gets larger, we have to think harder about why we need it, how often we’ll use it, and if we even have room for it.

You also have to think about your own personal goals and limitations as well: will this piece of equipment help you reach your goals faster? Also, certain staple moves (back squat, front squat, deadlift) can be tough on the lower back and other joints, because of the increased load. Do you see yourself using it that often, especially if you have a herniated disc? It may sound as if I’m trying to dissuade you from getting a barbell set, but I’m just pointing out questions you should ask yourself first. If you find it fits your goals – and you have the space –  it can be a great addition to a home gym.

Squat Rack or Cage

This would probably be the next logical piece of equipment. Getting a rack or cage also largely depends on your goals, and you should ask yourself the right questions.

  • Why do I want a squat rack?
  • Will I use it?
  • Do I really need it?
  • Do I even have room for it?

A squat rack is a great addition to a home gym, if you really need it. If you don’t plan on using barbell exercises, then it starts to become unnecessary.

Cable Tower

Cable towers are usually seen in commercial gyms, but I’ve seen a few in home gyms as well. Cables are versatile, and can be used much in the same way as bands are; the only drawback is that the tower itself is big and bulky, so this will only really work if you have the space for it.

Other Machines/Cardio Equipment

If you really have a lot of space and you want to empty your bank account, you can buy traditional resistance training machines, just like how you would see in the gym. It’s not uncommon for some home gyms to have leg presses, hack squats, and curl stations.

Cardio equipment like a treadmill and/or a Peloton bike (they’re all the rage right now) could be another option, but don’t forget about the trails outside and the bike collecting dust in your garage; those options are equally as good.

Again, the only thing really limiting you is space (and thousands of dollars), but if you have the money to spend and the space for it, you could get enough equipment to turn your home gym into an actual gym – and who knows, maybe you could start a side business where you charge the local neighborhood for monthly access to your basement gym. Just don’t be surprised if you wake up to sweaty people treating your bathroom as a locker room.


To Wrap it Up

That finishes off our little home gym guideline, we hope it helps our readers out there. Whatever items you choose to use for your gym, just remember that your fitness isn’t determined by how much stuff you have or what brand name equipment you buy; it’s determined by the work you put in. So go dominate!