Home Gym Essentials You Need To Own Right Now

Home Gym Essentials
Photo Credit: Garage Gym Products

When it comes to home gym essentials, there is a ton of options to choose from. Some home gym equipment are absolute must-haves, while others may elevate your home-based workout experiences to the next level.

If you’ve been considering many types of different equipment, we’ll save you time by sharing the equipment our team has seen shared and used the most in garage gyms. We believe you need to own these pieces of equipment right now.

An Olympic Barbell Is A Must-Have Product

Rogue Fitness: The Ohio Bar in Red Cerakote Finish
Photo by: Rogue Fitness

If you’re performing any type of powerlifting, such as squats, bench presses, deadlifts, and curls, you’ll need a barbell. With so many options, the simple go-to option is an all-purpose Olympics Barbell.

Why an all-purpose barbell? When you’re starting out, there are so many choices to choose from, and it’s easy to go astray. For example, you don’t need the aggressive knurling found on a Power Bar if you don’t plan on performing heavy deadlifts. An all-purpose bar tends to provide a low-to-medium knurling, making it perfect for various low-to-mid weighted lifts.

We have a few important considerations when choosing an Olympic Barbell. Aim for a bar with an IPF standard 28.5MM shaft. Every all-purpose bar in the Garage Gym Products testing facility is 28.5MM. We’ve learned over the years that standardizing our equipment leads to far fewer injuries.

Second, the sleeves on the bar should be 50mm in width; this allows various weight plates to fit on the bar. We currently use the Rogue Echo Bumper Plates as a mainstay in our facility but any bumper or steel plate will fit the bill if built for Olympic barbells.

Next, don’t purchase a bar that supports less than 190,000 PSI. We’ve seen other reviews that suggest at least 150,000 PSI, but for the price, it’s smart to move up the tensile strength ladder as much as possible.

We also highly recommend a barbell with a snap ring end cap solution. Purchasing a $20 to $30 pair of snap ring pliers will make the removal of your barbell sleeve a breeze, allowing for a nice cleaning every one to three months. Cleaning is essential to maintain a strong spin which will help reduce the impact on your joints, which can help slow and even stop the future potential for injury.

As CrossFit enthusiasts, the bars we’ve listed below our some of our own favorites and some choices we think make sense for someone who is just getting started and who does not want to invest $500 or more in a barbell.

If you want a budget-friendly bar with big results, the Fringe Sport 20 kg Men’s Wonder Bar Olympic Barbell is an amazing choice and it’s only $262 with free shipping.

If the Fringe Sport bar is out of your price range, Rep Fitness offers the Rep Black Sabre Barbell with a 150,000 PSI tensile strength for just $209. The bushing system on this bar is suitable for beginners and the dual knurl markings for Olympic and Powerlifting can help you get situated from your first to your last variety of lifts.

If you don’t mind spending a little bit of extra money, the Rogue Ohio Bar 2.0 is an incredibly safe bet at $265 plus the cost of shipping to your area. We’ve raved about our Rogue Ohio Bar and the 2.0 Bar from Rogue is equally as praiseworthy, featuring a medium knurl and excellent spin for the money. The bar features a 190,000 PSI tensile strength.

From Rogue Fitness and Fringe Sport to Rep Fitness and Eleiko, the cost of a great Olympic Barbell will vary based on quality and even the exterior coating chosen.

Home Gym Essentials: Weight Plates

Rogue Bookshelf Divider 2.0
Photo Credit: Garage Gym Products

There are plenty of weight plate options to choose from, but since this is a home gym essentials post, I’m going to focus on one particular type, bumper plates. While you can fit more steel plates on a sleeve, due to a lessened diameter, they are also more likely to cause damage to your garage gym or home gym floors.

Bumper plates are covered in rubber which helps reduce floor impact. When combined with a deadlift platform and some gym flooring, such as stall mats, bumper plates can reduce the potential for cement or other floors from cracking when dropped from above the head or when heavy weights are used.

Bumper Plates often feature a durometer notice. A durometer rating of 100 means there is virtually no bounce when a weight plate is dropped. A durometer rating of 1 means your weight will bounce halfway across the country.

To give you a good idea of a decent bumper plate durometer, my Rogue Echo Bumper Plates have a durometer of 88. When I drop these particular weights, I still watch for some bounce back, but I’m not overly worried about accidental injury from the plates.

Old-school plates have a 1-inch diameter, while Olympic plates feature a 50 to 50.40MM opening or approximately 1.98 inches. If you purchase an Olympic barbell, which again, we highly suggest, you’ll need Olympic plates.

In terms of bumper plates, there are three main types we’ll focus on with a brief understanding of why you might want to choose each type.

First, there are mil-spec bumper plates. These plates are usually the cheapest of the bunch. These plates get their name because they meet military standards for weight lifting. However, they tend to be thicker than other bumper plates, leaving less room to load the plates on your barbell’s sleeves.

For example, the Rogue US-MIL spec bumper plates are 3.5625″ wide with 45 pounds plates. The Rogue Echo Bumper Plates are just 2.36″ inches at the same weight. Mil-spec plates are usually made from recycled Crumb Rubber and therefore tend to have a bigger bounce.

We really do like the Rogue US-MIL Spec Bumper plates for a new home gym, and they are relatively cheap, with 10-pound plates starting at just $35 each. Just keep in mind, these plates end at 45 pounds.

The next option is a standard bumper plate. We really love the REP Black Bumper Plates which start at $45 for 10-pound plates and then jump all the way up to $129 for 45-pound plates. The 45-pound option from Rep comes in at just 2.83″ thick. Rep Fitness also sells sets, for example, a 260-pound set ship with 2 each of the 10, 15, 25, 35, and 45-pound plates. You can check out the Rep Black Bumper Plates here.

A big step up from Mil-Spec and standard bumper plates are competition plates. These bumper plates feature large steel center plates less likely to separate from the rubber. The larger pieces of steel also allow many manufacturers to create a skinnier plate which means you can pack more weight onto your barbell.

Fringe Sport makes our favorite competition bumper plates. The weights available are 25, 35, 45, and 55 pounds. You’ll spend more money on these plates, but they tend to last longer, and the width ranges from 1.25″ for a 25-pound plate to just 2.55″ for a 55-pound option. These competition bumpers also feature a 90-durometer which is pretty much equal to a dead bounce. Fringe Sport also promises a +/- 1% guarantee on each plate’s weight and we’ve found that to be incredibly accurate. You can check the plates out here.

To be honest, we’re not snobby with our plates. If you choose a decent manufacturer, such as Rogue Fitness, Fringe Sport, or Rep Fitness, you’re going to end up with a decent product. In our opinion, your focus should be on lifting heavy things up and putting them back down again. If money is less of an object, a great competition bumper is tougher and will likely last longer, which always seems worth the extra cost in our opinion.

A Power Rack Is The Best Option, But A Squat Stand Is A Great Second Option

We want to be really clear; a power rack is our preferred choice for a home or garage gym. Power racks, when used properly, offer additional safety features and the ability to use add-ons with the rack. If space or cost is an issue, however, a squat rack may better serve your purposes.

Our top choice and our testing facility’s mainstay rack is the Rogue RM-4 Rack 2.0. This rack is available in three heights; 90, 100, and 108 inches. We use the 100-inch option, which requires us to stand on a plyo box to reach our pull-up bar but that’s a small price for a taller rack profile.

Photo Credit: Garage Gym Products

We love the RM-4 because it’s solidly built with 3×3, 11-gauge steel that attacks via 1″ hardware. Rogue’s signature powder coat is also included, although our next Rogue rack will be slightly higher-end with the stainless steel option.

What we really love about power racks, though, is the ability to add attachments. For example, our Rogue RM-4 features the Monolift, Landmine 2.0, 2″ J Cup, Safety Strap, and Cerakote pull-up bar additions. With only one person often lifting at a time in our space, the 10,000-pound safety straps we bought with our rack offer some piece of mind during solo lifts.

While we love the Rogue RM-4, we also can’t get over the price and quality offered by Rep racks. Rep Fitness has a lot of choices to choose from, which you can see here. If you want something close to the RM-4 from Rep Fitness, we highly recommend the Rep PR-5000 V2 Power Rack, which starts at under $800 and also features 3×3 11-gauge steel with 1″ hardware. As an added bonus, Rep Fitness offers almost all of the major attachments offered by Rogue but at cheaper prices.

If you have limited space or want to save money, a squat stand will allow you to spot your bench presses and squats while working out from outside of a cage. Our top choice right now is the Rep SR- 4000 Squat Rack. This rack features three height options; 83″, 96″, and 103″. The rack is solidly built with 3×3 11-gauge steel, the same steel as our favorite Rogue RM-4. The hardware, however, is 5/8 inches instead of 1 inch. This squat stand is also compatible with more than 20 attachments which you can see here.

If you have virtually no space in a garage gym and want to park your car when your gym isn’t in use, you can try a foldable or collapsible squat stand. The PRX Profile Squat Rack with Kipping Bar is our favorite for this purpose. The entire squat stand attaches to a wall and can be folded between uses, creating a profile that’s just four inches from the wall. It might sound like a cheaply made alternative, but the company uses 11-gauge 2×3 steel uprights that support up to 1,000 pounds.

prx profile racks profile squat rack with kipping bar
GIF Credit: PRX Performance

A Pull-Up Bar Is A Simple Choice And Highly Effective

Rogue-RM-4 Rack Pull-Up Bar
Photo Credit: Garage Gym Products

Our Rogue RM-4 features a smooth socket pull-up bar. We chose a smooth bar because it forces us to strengthen our grip strength during pull-ups. Pull-up bars may be smooth or feature knurling of various aggressiveness. If you purchase a power rack or a wall-mounted squat rack you typically have the option to add a pull-up bar, a move we highly recommend.

If you don’t own a Power Rack or pull-up bar-supported squat rack, you can purchase a stand-alone pull-up unit or a wall-attached option.

We’ve recently considered placing a Rogue Jammer Pull-up Bar above the door to our gym-connected office. These pull-up bars connect above a door and are available in smooth and knurled options. Rogue also offers a high-end Cerakote finish for an additional cost.

If you have a sturdy ceiling with open space you can also choose a ceiling-mounted pull-up bar if that’s a better solution for your needs.

Home Gym Essentials: A Weight Bench Is An Absolute Must

If you want to optimize the number of lifts you can perform a decent weight bench should be at the top of your list. From rows to bench presses and hip thrusts, the variety of uses for a great weight bench can’t be understated.

First, let’s start with the most basic of benches, the flat bench. These benches offer standard and fat pad options, providing softer, incredibly firm padding. If you just want a basic bench we’d go with the Rep Fitness FB-5000 with Wide Pad. The bench offers a ton of support for your back with an amazingly solid vinyl backrest at a low price. You can see our quick review above or jump right over to the Rep Fitness site to check it out by clicking here.

If money is no object, check out our review for the Prime Fitness USA Adjustable bench. We spent nearly $1,000 on this bench, including the leg attachment. We’re considering another $250 for the bicep curl attachment.

The Prime Fitness bench offers a decently firm backrest and seat while providing incredibly quick attachment removal and changes between incline and decline movements. It’s not cheap, but it’s made to last, and the craftsmanship is nearly second to none.

Here’s our Prime Fitness Adjustable bench “in the wild.”

Prime Fitness Adjustable Bench
Photo By: Garage Gym Products

If you don’t want to drop $1,000 on a bench, but you want both include and decline options, check out the Rep AB-5000 Zero Gap Adjustable Bench. You’ll pay about half the price of the Prime Fitness option and receive an amazing option that includes, as the name suggests, almost no gap between the backrest and seat.

At the end of the day, having something to get started with is important for your home gym essentials setup. If you aren’t sure if you want a standard pad or wide pad option, start with a cheaper flat bench, experiment with sizes, and then make a bigger purchase down the road.

Kettlebells Should Be High Up On Your Purchase List

Rep Fitness Kettlebell
Photo Credit: Garage Gym Products

I’m going out on a limb here and recommending that you start with kettlebell pairs and then move down to single bells when you move up in weight.

Our first kettlebells for our new garage gym testing facility included two 14KG (31-pound) options from Rep Fitness (pictured above). Check out our review here. These kettlebells do a great job of holding chalk, and they’ve held up pretty well to a beating, minus a few powder coat areas that could use a facelift. We love the embossed logo and find the color-coded weight markers a huge help when reaching quickly for a certain weight.

We also love the standard Rogue Kettlebells. One of our first new pairs for our new space was the 12KG (26-pound) option from Rogue. These kettlebells feel also the same as the Rep Fitness kettlebells but at a higher price point. Our main consideration for purchasing from Rogue was the simple fact that they’ve been in stock.

We’ve also purchased a single REP Kettlebell – 32 kg (70 lbs) bell for double hand swings and a larger 44KG (97-pound) option from Kettlebell Kings. I love all of my kettlebells and find them all to do the exact job I bought them for. I’m not married to any single brand, and I don’t mind jumping between options.

One important note is that kettlebells come in both KG and Pounds. Typically the options in pounds increase in 5-pound increments starting at 5 pounds while the KG options increase at the same weight intervals of 5 pounds but at a different starting weight (on average). I bought KG weights as a personal preference because I wanted to teach my children a math lesson and for no other reason.

If you want a stronger-built kettlebell, look into ductile iron options, which are stronger than kettlebells made from a standard cast iron mold.

We could get into competition kettlebells which offer better weight guarantees and stronger builds but take our advice and start with some basic options, especially if you’re new to kettlebell exercises.

Home Gym Essentials: Dumbbells

Rogue Dumbbells
Photo Credit: Garage Gym Products

We’re going to start by noting that you can buy plate-loaded dumbbells, power blocks, and other options that save on space. We have nothing against those products for their price and space-saving capabilities. However, we abuse our equipment and find that for its value and longevity, nothing beats a good standard dumbbell.

The Garage Gym Products team has a mainstay in the standard Rogue Dumbbell (pictured above in our facility). As you can see from our picture, they get plenty of use and are perhaps the dirtiest equipment in our gym.

Why the Rogue Dumbbell? We love the knurling, which is aggressive enough for heavier weights but subtle enough that it doesn’t feel like we’ve been gripping a power bar for long periods. The knurling runs along the ergonomic handle that feels great in our hands, better than most others we’ve tried, even at higher-end commercial gyms.

The Rogue Dumbbell doesn’t bounce out of control, although it could be improved. We also love the hex design on the head of each dumbbell which prevents rolling. If you work out in a garage, you likely have at least a slight slope towards the road, a standard code-compliance part of a garage build.

Our Rogue Kettlebells are a year old and they’ve held up like new despite being used seven days a week.

If you work out in a space that gets cold on a regular basis, we’d highly recommend picking up the Rep Rubber Grip Hex Dumbbell Pairs. You can check out Rep’s really cool option here. These dumbbells offer two advantages over standard options. First, the entire dumbbell is coated in rubber with a rubber-knurled handle that is very grippy. This is great if you work out in the cold and don’t want your hand pressed against the freezing metal. Second, the dumbells are a bit smaller in stature, allowing you to fit more of them in a smaller amount of space.

One negative to Rep’s dumbbells is a slightly smaller grip handle which might feel crowded if you have larger than normal hands.

If possible, we recommend spending the money on a high-quality dumbbell set built with a process such as friction welding that creates an extremely tough connection between the dumbbell’s handle and heads.

If budget is your biggest consideration, you may want to check out the Rep Adjustable Dumbbells, We paid over $600 for a set of 5 to 50-pound Rogue Dumbbells so around $150 for what you get is an amazing deal.

If you insist on high-quality loadable dumbbells and pricing is less of a concern, check out the options from Rogue.

Rubber Flooring Is Far Superior To Foam Tiles

Amorin Flooring
Photo Credit: Garage Gym Products

There are several ways to go with rubber flooring. If you can stand the smell, horse stall mats, such as those found at Tractor Supply Stores, are a budget-friendly option. They typically cost around $50 for a 4’x8′ section and they are excellent at absorbing shock with a profile of 3/4-inches thick.

The two big negatives of horse stall mats is that they typically smell really bad. You can mitigate the smell with some bio-green cleaner that can be lightly applied daily for a few weeks while leaving the mats in the sun. This will help the stall mats off gas and reduce smell. Off-gassing before installing the mats may save your body from toxic chemicals in your garage or home gym.

If you’re looking for a higher quality product, one of our favorites is Regupol Activ Flooring which offers a wear surface and excellent shock absorbency, even at just 1/2″ depth. It’s not cheap at $200 per 100 square feet, but it’s also a very high-quality product.

When building our facility, Regupol was 2 months out of stock so we chose a 1/2″ rubber flooring from Amorin. It’s expensive, but it’s an amazing product that arrives via pallet.

We rolled out 10-foot sections and cut them to fit which took very little time. We did have a problem with the second pallet shipment, which had some unsightly tears, if you purchase this product, don’t start cutting until you’ve examined the full product in case an exchange is required. Amorin took care of the issue, but we would have preferred less headache.

The photo above shows off our new Amorin gym flooring before we taped it down. As mentioned, it’s a great product if your budget allows it. Just beware, a 4’x30′ roll weighs in at over 300 pounds, and a freight truck with a lift gate will need room to deliver the product.

Pro-tip. If you must place several pieces together, some black gorilla tape between the seems is an absolute must. We place one piece down the middle and two pieces off-center on both sides. Even when our non-bolted down Rogue RM-4 Power Rack shifts a little bit our flooring stays perfectly in place.

Home Gym Essentials: A Conditioning Bike, Rower, Or Air Bike

Rogue Fitness Echo Bike
Photo Credit: Rogue Fitness

We’re going to fanboy out here for a moment. The Rogue Echo Bike is single-handedly the best conditioning equipment you can put in a home gym, garage gym, or commercial space. At less than $1000 it’s an absolute steal.

We’ve been using the Rogue Echo Bike for over two years now and it’s still in mint condition.

If biking with a hardcore upper and body workout isn’t your thing, I would take a look at the Concept2 Rower. At around $1000 the Concept 2 Rower Model 2 isn’t cheap but it glides like butter and can be easily tucked away or hung on a wall with an optional rower hanger.

There are many cheaper and more expensive options on the market but for the price and quality, this is the option we suggest to everyone who asks about rowers.

If you want a high-end bike, we still suggest a Peloton. Honestly, we’re not a big group of cyclists at Garage Gym Products, but our Peloton offers plenty of classes to choose from, and there’s just something about the way it motivates us that makes cycling fun.

There are other condition options such as the Concept2 SkiErg which you should also check out if you want to mix it up. In fact, if you have the space and the money, a few of these options can help keep your workouts interesting with some nice variety.

If you can’t afford to spend big money on conditioning equipment we would suggest a speed rope. Our personal favorite is the Rogue Fraser SR-2S Speed Rope 3.0 which happens to be hanging on the right side of our next picture.

Here’s our review of the SR-2S Speed Rope 3.0.

Don’t Forget Resistance Bands

Resistance Bands
Photo Credit: Garage Gym Products

Resistance bands are a home gym essentials product that is both incredibly functional and impressively cheap. We use resistance bands to stretch before workouts and to perform various exercises throughout our routines. They are great for both upper and lower body assistance and they can assist with building better pull-up form and strength.

We recently reviewed resistance bands from EliteFTS and pull-up bands from Rep Fitness, and they are both great. At the same time, we also purchased some cheap resistance bands on Amazon, and they also hit the mark for performance.

At the end of the day, purchase whatever bands have decent reviews and watch some YouTube videos to learn fun and unique ways to effectively utilize your bands.

If you buy a power rack, most offer band begs as an add-on. We use the band begs on our Rogue RM-4 Power Rack all the time, and we’d feel a little lost without them.

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Written by James Kosur

James is a 20-year veteran of the digital media industry, an avid gym builder, and a dad to four kids, three dogs, and two cats. He's a DIYer who loves building stuff with his hands and a gamer who enjoys all facets of gaming.