In the words of Chandler Bing, “I want to quit the gym.” Unlike Chandler, it’s not the gym itself, or the fact I don’t use it — I go at least five times a week, it’s a slightly more depressing reason the cast of Friends wouldn’t have foreseen — like everything else in 2022, the cost of my membership has shot up.
Facing the prospect of paying $100 a month for a gym membership, I realized I was in the fortunate position of knowing exactly what I wanted to buy to build my own home gym, without compromising on my workout goals. As a fitness editor, I’ve tested, rated, and reviewed some of the best home gym equipment on the market, so I know what to shop for, especially when you’re on a budget. Read on to find out more.
Looking for more workout inspiration? Take a look at what happened when I tried adding 100 dead bugs to my daily routine, as well as the best ab exercises to try, according to Chris Hemsworth’s trainer.
How to build a home gym for under $500
It goes without saying that what works for me won’t work for everyone, especially if you have specific workout needs. For example, if you’re heavily into CrossFit, you might want to invest in different equipment than people who love Pilates. My shopping list below is based on my experience of running four times a week and cross training and strength training at least four times a week.
Sunny Health and Fitness Indoor Cycling Bike
$152.88 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)
When it comes to the whole treadmill vs exercise bike debate, I’m team bike. As a runner, there’s nothing I love more than getting outside for a run, so I’d grab my trainers and head out for an hour over slogging on the treadmill any day. Personal preferences aside, however, bikes are also a hell of a lot cheaper than treadmills, and they take up a lot less space in your home.
While this particular Sunny Health and Fitness bike isn’t on our best exercise bikes list, its big brother is. This is a basic, affordable spin bike like you’d find in the gym. There are not all too many bells and whistles, but it’s fully adjustable, has a max weight of 265 pounds, and has a small monitor so you can keep an eye on how far you’ve pedaled. There’s also a device holder, meaning you can sign up to the Peloton app free trial, and do classes on your bike from your phone or iPad without spending thousands of dollars.
FLYBIRD Adjustable Dumbbells
$89.79 @ Walmart (opens in new tab)
Every home gym needs a good set of weights, but if you don’t have the room or budget, adjustable dumbbells are a great alternative for a set of dumbbells. These dumbbells are our value pick on our best adjustable dumbbells list, they are affordable, and you can get a set of 25lb dumbbells from a reputable brand for $179.
Of course, you can buy one dumbbell and work one side at a time, or swap something else on this list to buy the set. The dumbbell can be adjusted in five-pound increments from five to 25 pounds. They're super easy to adjust — you just turn the dial, and the dumbbell comes with a tray. They are also easier to store than a barbell, and you’ll still be able to do most strength training exercises with them.
Theraband Latex bands
$11 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)
You can do a lot with a good set of resistance bands. While there are plenty of different options to choose from (take a look at our best resistance bands guide if you don’t believe us), these latex bands can easily be used as long bands and tied around the legs for exercises where you’d typically use a smaller loop.
The set of five-foot bands comes with three color-coded resistance levels — the yellow band has a resistance of 3-4.3 pounds, the red has a resistance of 3.7-5.5 pounds, and the green has a resistance of 4.6-6.7 pounds. These won’t be suitable for anyone with a latex allergy.
Trideer Pilates Ball
$9.99 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)
If you’re a fan of Pilates, adding a ball to your workouts can make all the difference. Placing a Pilates ball under your pelvis, for example, when doing exercises like toe taps and scissor kicks forces you to engage your inner core muscles to keep your body stable. This nine-inch ball won’t burst when you’re lying on it, and has a plug that allows you to easily inflate and deflate it for easy storage.
If you’re not doing regular Pilates practice, you might want to skip this one and save $10! If not, here are the best Pilates exercises to target your core for an inner burn.
Amazon Basics jump rope
$8.38 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)
A skipping rope is a brilliant tool to up your cardio without taking up a lot of space. This is the top jump rope in our best jump rope shopping guide — it’s got good-sized handles that are easy to grip as you skip, the plastic rope is light and revolves easily, so working on your coordination won’t be hampered by an unwieldy rope, and the ball bearings are smooth and quiet, which means the rope won’t get caught up mid jump.
The Amazon Basics jump rope is a well-built and versatile rope that provides both novice and experienced jumpers with essentials that you can build upon. During testing, we found jumping with this rope was easy and effortless, so it’s a must on my home gym shopping list.
PASYOU Adjustable Weight Bench
$109 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)
Again, this one isn’t essential, but during exercises like bench presses, single-arm rows, and Bulgarian split squats, a bench is a handy addition. This one might not be the most glamorous on the market, but it does the job. There are seven adjustable backrest positions, a footrest, and the bench can be folded away when you’re not using it.
Yoga or gym mat
Amazon Basics Yoga Mat
$17.88 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)
Again, if you’ve already purchased one of the best yoga mats, you won’t need this, but if not, a comfortable mat is a good idea. Not only can it put some cushioning under your feet when you’re doing high-impact exercises, but it can also protect your carpet from getting too sweaty (gross).
Again, this mat isn’t the most fancy, but it’s 0.5 inches thick, which is pretty plush, and it has a textured surface to provide grip and traction underfoot as you move. It can also be rolled away when you’re not using it for easy storage and comes with an elastic strap to keep it fastened.
Posturely Bodyweight Suspension Resistance Training Straps
$39.95 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)
Suspension training might sound scary, but it has a number of benefits — as the name suggests, you’re suspended and thereby forced to engage your stabilizer muscles, as you need to keep your core engaged to perform all of the exercises. The exercises you’d use the suspension straps for are low impact, but can easily build muscle, and increase mobility.
This set isn’t the most glamorous on the market but it has durable nylon straps, and two handles, and comes with a handy bag that you can store the traps in, and take them with you on your travels.
So there you have it — a home gym shopping list with money to spare. Obviously, you might already have some of the equipment on this list, or find some of the suggestions redundant — if you have never practiced Pilates, for example, you probably won’t want to spend $10 on a ball. Also, if you opt to buy a pair of dumbbells not one, the cost goes up to $529. The aim of this list is to highlight that building a home gym doesn’t have to cost the earth and expensive gym memberships aren’t the only way to reach your fitness goals.
Looking for more inspiration? Here are the best bicep exercises for building bigger arms, Chris Hemsworth’s killer 800 rep workout, how to do a box jump for strengthening leg muscles, how to do a reverse plank for killer abs, and the best workout apps to download for working out at home.