Garage Gym Equipment Tiers

article May 03, 2022
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So you heard about people working out from home and thought, “That sounds like a great idea!”

But you don't have any equipment and have no idea where to start. Everything online is either these massive garage gyms with 1000 square feet of equipment, or these other super high dollar, high tech, subscription REQUIRED pieces of equipment, *cough* peloton *cough*. 

Well guess what? Were going to break it down nice and easy of where you need to start for your needs here.

We know a thing or two because we’ve trained with all different levels of equipment. 

ALSO, if you prefer to watch or listen to this topic, we did a short episode on it which you can find on our podcast or our YouTube Channel HERE.


What is your intent? 

This is going to be important because you should have a goal or idea in mind of where you want this home gym journey to take you. 


Do you just need a day or two when you work from home or cant make it to the gym? Or are you like many of us that are tired of globo gyms and monthly equipment memberships and want the end goal to train full time at home?


Well we have you covered here with our tiered garage gym equipment list. 


ALSO if you prefer to listen verses read, OR do both, we did a podcast on this which I will link HERE.


Tier 1

These will be the almost necessary place to start and the most logical place to start. These pieces will be focal points to a lot of program and offer the most bang for their buck. 


Pull up bar- This one was easy for us. You can do a ton of bodyweight exercises without one, but you will be mostly just pushing. Being able to do a pull up, assisted or not, is just a great movement and important part of any training program. 

We have a bodyweight program and training track that, literally, all you need is a pull up bar. The No Gear Track, and the One Man Bodyweight System

 Oh, and DIY Pull up bar HERE

Kettlebell- If you had to start with one single weighted item, i think a single kettlebell is the obvious choice. It is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment. You can get stronger with it, train muscle endurance, explosive power, even do some conditioning. 

We ALSO have a program that is dedicated to just having a single kettlebell. And its called One Man One Kettlebell. Shocker. 

Weights are typically going to be expensive, running about $1-2 per lb. BUT kettlebells are always being sold second hand on marketplaces. Me personally own 7 kettlebells and have purchased 2 of those brand new. They are made of iron, not going to be much wear and tear with them. 


Barbell- This one I have to reiterate that it depends on what your end goal is for your home gym. You can get a TON out of just a pull up bar and a single kettlebell, maybe a few cheap tier 2 items. 

But if you are wanting to grow your gym and train more full time then a good barbell, weights and a rack will be pivotal. This is where you will really be able to train strength, add in in more compound movements and get creative with your training. 

We ALSO have a program that is just for the barbell. Can you guess its name?

One Man One Barbell.

Apart from that, it is a key component in most of our Garage Gym Athlete training tracks.

A barbell is a very hard item to replicate. It is also something that you really do want to save up and buy quality brand new. Having a second barbell second hand is great, but your first should be quality because they will last you many years. Spend now so you don't have to later. 

After that much like with the kettlebell, you can always find bumpers or iron weights second hand. Again, all of my weights are second hand. 

A rack for the barbell can vary in how serious you are or how much you will be lifting. Even individual squat stands from amazon will hold 400 lbs+.  We also have a DIY Power Rack HERE.

Adding a barbell and weight really is the commitment step but it makes it so worth the investment and you don't have to deal with golob gyms anymore if you don't want to. 


Tier 2

This is where you get into SHOULD haves, not must haves. And honestly, the majority of tier 2 are fairly inexpensive. You could add all but one thing in this tier for under $150. 


Bands- These have so many uses and are so affordable there's no reason not to have a set of bands. Mobility is one great reason to have a set of bands, and you don't need to spend up for a name brand. 

Bands are also great for strength and accessory work. If you have a place to anchor a band you can do all sorts of movements from pulls, pushes or hinging movements. Stand on them for squats, good mornings, presses, etc. 

Do you travel and want to workout? You can pack 1-2 bands in your bags and get in a decent workout while on the go. 

Have I mentioned they are very affordable? Easy addition to any gym no matter what your end goal is. 


Rings- A lot of the benefits and pros of bands apply to rings. They are very affordable and you can travel with them. 

The range of movements will decrease since resistance is just from gravity and your own bodyweight, but those movements are honestly staples in programming. Ring rows, ring dips and core work with rings can make any level of athlete feeling sore the next day. 

All you need is a horizontal sturdy thing to loop your rings across. Could be a pull up bar, cross beam, I've even used tree branches. We also have a DIY Rings HERE.


Jump Rope- Have you noticed a theme with tier two so far? These three items you can buy for cheap and can be used in a verity of ways. 

Jump rope is pretty straight forward and you're really only going to do one thing with them, jump. But if you dont have cardio equipment, or if you want to say do some intervals mixing your single kettlebell or rings and some double unders? Thats a great workout. 

Still super mobile to travel with your bands. Use it for a warm up. Its a no brainer piece of equipment to have. 


Multiple Kettlebells- Once again here is where we get into what your intent it. One single kettlebell I think anybody can benefit from. But if you want more variety having more than one kettlebell is a fantastic option. 

This will give you more variety in either strength or conditioning, plus they dont take up much space. We typically tell our athletes to start with a “10-not-11” weight to start off with. (thats a weight you can press 10 times, but not 11 times, with both arms)

After that its good to have a heavier one if you really want to work on power and strength.  Heavy kettlebell swings is a fantastic exercise, or farmers walks. And of course, these can be purchased second hand, see what pops up around you and go with it. 


Cardio Equipment- Much like with tier 1, this final piece of equipment will depend on your intent with your gym. 

Do you NEED a piece of cardio equipment? No. if you can run, your shoes are your cardio equipment, and you can mix in that jump rope. 

But what if you enjoy loner duration conditioning? What if you live somewhere with not great weather? Have to stay home because you are watching the kids? Lots of reasons to add this. 

Not only will it matter what your intent is, but what you enjoy. 

So which cardio equipment do you start with? A lot of people have gone the round of just buying a treadmill, its the classic piece of equipment but they can be expensive, take up lots of room and then turn into a clothes rack. Alot, let the sidewalk be your treadmill. 

A stationary bike is probably the best place to start for most athletes because you can find very affordable ones in all ranges of budgets from $100-$300 range, $350-$600, and then beyond that. They also don't take up a lot of space. 

You can do anywhere from 1 minute intervals on a bike, to going for a 60+ minute ride. There are apps and subscriptions you can sign up for spin classes if you really want, or just look up some free ones on YouTube. 

If a bike isn't doesn't interest you, the next best piece would be a rower, specifically a concept 2 rower, but a rower nonetheless.

This is where a lot of athletes start in the cardio department. When it comes to intermediate intervals, anything from 30 seconds to up to 10 minutes, the rower may be the top thing to use. They also stand up vertically so as long as you have the hight, it will take up about a 2x2 space on your floor when not in use. 

Biggest drawback with a rower is they will typically start at $700. So again, depends on your level. 


Either of those are the best place to start, to us, when it comes to cardio equipment. You need something with variety in your workouts, but most importantly, what will you use the most?


Tier 3

This is where we get into the unnecessary, but fun equipment. Here is where it will be completely subjective on what you enjoy, your goals, and your space/budget. We will try and weigh in on good options and why you may consider, but you can do any program of ours with none of these. 


Sandbag- These are fun in theory, you can do a lot of various things with them and even travel with them, but the movements are a bit different from something like a kettlebell or barbell. They are great for an odd object, stability or a weighted carry. Something fun to add in. DIY ball/bag HERE.


Adjustable dumbbells- This may be more important for some people depending on what you like to do and they are fantastic for variety and accessory work. However they can turn into one of the most expensive pieces of equipment in you gym and it wouldn't even be a focal point. I love mine, but I had everything in tiers 1 and 2, and then some, before even purchasing them. 


Reverse Hyper/GHD- A dream sheet type of equipment that is expensive, has a large floor plan and very limited in what you can do with it. Its true that what you do on them is very hard to replicate with anything else, but it is still hard to justify. So unless you have the space and a real desire, most won't have them. But those that do, the jealousy is real. If you're REALLY feeling crafty, we have plans for a DIY Reverse Hyper HERE.


AirDyne / Second Cardio Equipment- I may rank this one toward the top of tier 3 if you workout at home full time and want variety. Its nice to be able to change up what you do for conditioning because the stimulus and intensities can be different. 

Specifically speaking toward and airdyne, it's really hard to replicate that intensity. I’d argue that if you can and do run, then an air dyne i'd suggest making your first piece of cardio equipment. Those who have done sprints on these know the pain and the hurt it brings. 


Plyo Box- This may be surprising to some as a lot of people will have this as one of their first pieces of equipment. Not to mention you can DIY this fairly easily, we have our own DIY plans HERE

However, it's pretty easy to replicate what you do with a plyo box. 

Doing jumps? Just do some tuck jumps or broad jumps. 

Doing step ups? Stack some plates or step up on anything study. 


Sauna, Cold Plunge, Recovery toys- Very niche, but so amazing if you can convince yourself and your significant other to get any of these. Recovery is such an important part of fitness and health so the benefits will be on going with these. But money, space and a lot of other things. And once again, the jealousy is real if you can swing this.


Sled- If you REALLY want something that will kick your butt, and only do just that, get a sled. They are getting better and better models of these that don't just scrape on the ground. A lot that have wheels and apparently a non weighted resistance system built in as well. Its further down the list of things to get, but something that would be fun to torture yourself and your friends. 


Tier 4

You could consider this our “shit list” items that are more trouble, expensive, space wasters than they are actually worth. So unless you have a ton of space, money or very specific needs, don't even bother. 


Cable machines, leg press, stair-master, elliptical, hammer strength, mirror training systems, belt squat, isometric contraction machines, easy bar/multi grip barbells.

Like these ideas? You need GGA. 

Garage Gym Athlete is the "tip of the spear" for our training. We identify training weaknesses, solve them through our program design, and validate it with science. 

For ongoing daily training that exploits everything we have discusses here and more, check out Garage Gym Athlete.  

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