How We Build Our Home Gyms

This tutorial on how to build a home gym is simple, perfect for minimalists, cost-effective, and ideal for those who travel. Sounds like us, right?

We have used all of this equipment, and since we wouldn’t think twice about re-purchasing these items for our personal home gym, we’re confident in our recommendations. 

Now, let’s talk about how we build our home gyms, both permanent set-ups that remain home and on-the-go “home gyms.”

how to build a home gym

With what seems to be ever-increasing gym prices, and now the coronavirus pandemic, more and more people are opting to build a home gym and work out from home. The benefits of a home gym include freedom from class times, no commute, privacy, the ability to influence family, and cleanliness.

Not to mention the cost savings are mind-blowing. Did you know millennials spend more money on their health and fitness than on their college education, totaling $140,000 in a lifetime?

It seems crazy, so we ran our own home gym vs. gym membership cost analysis out of curiosity. In 2012, we canceled our budget $35/month gym membership and invested in our home gym. 

In the last 8 years, we have saved $7,050 making this switch. And our gym membership was cheap! We have tons of friends who spend $100-200/month on boutique and CrossFit gyms. So we ran the numbers for them too. 

If those friends canceled their $150/month gym membership, invested in this home gym equipment, worked out at home using Beachbody On Demand for 8 years, and invested their spare cash, they would save….. wait for it. 

Wait for it!

They would save $39,939.  That is outrageous!

But, you’re here because you already know setting up a home gym for you and your partner is the smart thing to do for your health, fitness, wallet, and relationship. We’re also going to show you how to take your home gym with you anywhere!

Why Build a Home Gym Like Ours?

We are traveling people. While we have a home base where we keep our heavy-duty home gym equipment, we often rely on our on-the-go, transportable “home gym.”

We’ll share what equipment we use for both gyms. Also, we work out as a couple every day. So, before we built our home gyms, we thought about what needs our gym would fulfill.

Will your gym be mainly for cardio? Bodybuilding with dumbbells? Strength training with resistance bands? Yoga? All of the above? 

For us, “all of the above” is what our gym needed to fulfill since we knew we’d incorporate a full array of home workout programs available on Beachbody On Demand.

Your home gym needs to cover several essentials, and let’s be honest – both you and your partner will need some different equipment. It’s also essential to have access to streamed workouts so you can bring your workout routine with you anywhere.

In this article, we’ll show you how to build a home gym, both a stay at home one and a traveling one. Hopefully, you’re planning on building this home gym as a couple. 

There are significant benefits of working out with your spouse, such as increased accountability, boosted attraction, more quality time together, and forced (but much needed) variety. Most guys need more yoga and most women need more weight lifting. 

We know, working out as a couple isn’t easy and it always requires some compromise. If you want to work out as a couple in your new home gym but haven’t had success in the past, read our complete guide on how to work out as a couple.

Next, our equipment recommendations. 

How To Build an On-The-Go Home Gym

We left our previous home gym in Texas in 2018 and have been using our on-the-go home gym ever since. Fortunately, when we are visiting family we get to use their home gym equipment, which is a combination of our old gear.

If you’re just starting out, maybe a traveling home gym is all you need. It’s all we’ve used for the last 3 years. Although sometimes we miss dumbbells, we’re still in peak condition and getting great results. 

So, here are our recommendations on how to build a home gym to take with you anywhere you go. Even if your hotel has a gym, you are going to have more success using these three things instead!

1. YOGO Travel Yoga Mat

It’s advertised as a travel yoga mat, but, we use it for all of our workouts, including yoga, HIIT, and strength training. We used them nearly every day for three years and they still looked brand new.  

I don’t know if we will ever use another mat. They are thin, so they don’t offer much padding but they are so durable that you can use them anywhere. We have used them on gravel, sand, pavement, grass, docks, and dirty airport carpet. 

They are compact for travel so have fun setting up your new gym anywhere. 

2. SPRI Resistance Bands 

Resistance bands are an incredible (and portable) form of resistance training. While resistance training is not optional, these resistance bands are, since there are a lot of workout programs that only require bodyweight.

But, variety is critical, and the more you confuse your body and your muscles the better your results. Bodyweight squats, lunges, push-ups, and burpees might cut it at first. However, eventually, you will want to add resistance bands to your traveling home gym arsenal. 

The SPRI resistance bands are the brand we use and trust. They are accepted as the industry leader by top gyms. That speaks volumes since they wouldn’t buy a brand that is known to snap in the customer’s face.

Also, when buying bands, you’re robbing yourself of results when you don’t buy a range of resistance. You NEED more than one or two resistance bands to achieve total body muscle fatigue. No cutting corners here. Buy 3 at a minimum, and ideally 4 bands. 

For someone like Alex, who is 5’4″ and weighs 110 pounds, we recommend Very LightLightMedium, and Heavy. For reference, she typically bicep curls, shoulder presses, squats, and bent-over-rows 10, 12, 25, and 20-pound dumbbells, respectively.

For someone like Ryan, who is 6’1″ and weighs 175 pounds, we recommend LightMediumHeavy, and Ultra Heavy. For reference, he typically bicep curls, shoulder pressed, squats, and bent-over-rows 20, 25, 50, and 40-pound dumbbells, respectively.

Now you are all set to stay on track with your strength building plan while you are on the road. Speaking of a strength-building plan.

3. A Plan and a Trainer

What happens when you don’t have a plan? The answer: you plan to fail. It’s definitely true when it comes to your fitness.

And what happens when you don’t have a trainer? The answer: your inherently lazy mind wants to slack off, taking too many breaks and getting distracted. 

We have used Beachbody programs since 2012 and these are the only workouts we’ll ever follow. Beachbody On Demand is the streaming network that provides over 900+ workout and fitness programs.

Similar to other online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, you buy a membership to Beachbody On Demand to access a whole library of fitness programs and workouts. These can then be streamed on your phone, computer, or tablet anywhere you have a wifi connection.

For us, that’s allowed us to stay on track with our fitness goals as we’ve traveled the world. A few of our favorite workout programs with Beachbody On Demand are P90X with Tony Horton, 21 Day Fix with Autumn Calabrese, LIIFT4 with Joel Freeman, and Focus T25 with Shaun T.

We share an in-depth and data-driven Beachbody On Demand review in our article titled, ‘Is Beachbody On Demand Worth It?‘ It’s the total fitness solution that we have used to learn how to lift weights, advance our yoga practice, and just be ready to show up for life by doing HIIT and active recovery workouts.

This is a picture of us enjoying our on-the-go home gym on our deck in Ecuador!

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How To Build a Home Gym

Home gyms are the best. We had a well-stocked gym in our apartment complex in Texas and we still decided to build a home gym. Who has time to wait for equipment? The waiting also gives your heart rate time to recover and therefore decreases workout effectiveness. 

Take a look at this gym fail. Two guys standing around and one guy reading a book??

First, designate an area in your house where you will set up your home gym and do your workouts. Ideally, this is an area where you’ll have enough space to work out together without interruptions.

You don’t need as much space as you think. We have worked out together many times in tiny hotel rooms around the world. If you can walk around in the space, you can probably work out in the space.

Next, you can simply start working out in that space with your minimalist, on-the-go home gym. Or, you can invest in equipment. Just remember, your body is the best piece of equipment in existence so keep it simple.

Below, I’ll talk about the equipment we have used, and currently use in our home gym and why. Then, you can decide what equipment suits your needs. For many, it’s best to build a home gym incrementally. 

Maybe you want to start by using just resistance bands instead of investing in a rack of dumbbells. That’s great. Then, once you’re in a routine and looking for more variety, buy those dumbbells and lift heavy!

By the way, yes, resistance bands are just as effective as weights. So, let’s start building a home gym from the ground up. 

1. Home Gym Flooring

Carpet, wood, or cement flooring can be fine to workout on occasionally, but over time it will cause wear and tear. Both on your body and your floor.

If you’re planning on lifting weights, we bought two of these jump mats for our home gym. They did a good job of protecting our cement floors from our dumbbells and provide a padded (but not too padded like some of the foamed EVA mats), non-slip surface for all types of workouts.

They are high quality and very durable. We used ours for six years, and they still look new. When we weren’t traveling, the mats doubled as our yoga and core mats as well. You can purchase those from Beachbody.

We don’t mind doing core exercises on a relatively hard surface, but, if that bothers you, we recommend buying this core comfort mat. The core comfort mat by Beachbody offers ample padding.

We have used them before and they are quite luxurious compared to our travel yoga mats and our jump mats. You can purchase the core mat from Beachbody or directly through Amazon

Our recommended Beachbody jump mats are like enlarged yoga mats. They are small enough to roll up and store in a closet, but too small for some agility workouts that have your running all over the place.

If you want a larger, and more permanent home gym floor, we recommend buying two of these rubber mats

2. Resistance Bands

Since we already covered this in-depth in the on-the-go home gym section, we’ll keep this high-level. Resistance bands are highly effective and a budget alternative to free weights. They take a little getting used to, but once you know how to use resistance bands properly you’ll be sore and get great results. 

The workouts on Beachbody On Demand can be done with resistance bands instead of weights. Our favorite resistance band workouts are LIIFT4 and P90X3.

Even if you do buy free weights, it’s good to have resistance bands for variety, or you want to take your home gym anywhere. If you don’t know how to use resistance bands, you can learn with our free, 8-week, total body Resistance Bands Workout Routine

3. Weights

As much as we have grown to love resistance bands, we still love lifting weights. Investing in dumbbells is always a good idea. Additionally, you might not need to buy an entire rack of weights at once, and you definitely don’t have to buy new.

We have a range of free weights from 5 lbs. to 50 lbs. For Alex, she lifts 5 lbs. to 20 lbs. for arm exercises and up to 40 lbs. for legs. Ryan’s weights are typically double that. When he gets to higher weights, he uses a weighted vest or does more reps with the 50 lb. weights.

Working out at home is environmentally friendly and so is buying used. A good place to buy free weights is on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, especially if you want to build a complete home gym for cheap. Around $0.50/pound is a fair offer price.

Instead of a whole rack of dumbbells, we had Bowflex adjustable dumbbells in our home gym while living in Shanghai. They are spendy, especially since you can’t really share them with your partner, but we loved them. 

4. Pull-up Bar

We recommend this pull-up bar because it can fit in nearly every door type and it’s great for tall people. The design is perfect for people who are 6 feet tall and up. That way, you don’t have to worry about your feet touching the ground.

If you don’t have a door frame that can support that style pull-up bar, you can try this doorway pull-up bar. I used that one for years and I never had any problems with it, however, over time it did start to scratch the door frame. 

5. Pull-up Assist Band

Along with the above pull-up bar, this assist band was crucial for Alex’s transformation. This adjustable band allows you to reduce the weight you’re lifting during a pull-up to get more out of your workouts.

If you’re wondering if you need to do pull-ups, our tutorial on the benefits of doing pull-ups at home will help. 

6. Adjustable Bench

This Powerblock Adjustable Workout Bench is the best bench we’ve had. It’s sturdy enough for both of us to be jumping on it at the same time. We placed this on our jump mats to complete our home gym.

While the workout bench isn’t necessary for all of our fitness programs, it was key for our weightlifting programs like Body Beast and Hammer and Chisel.

If you need a bench, buy this one. It is not the cheapest bench but it’s the best. I tried two lower-cost versions before settling on the PowerBlock bench. They were both far too wobbly to be safe in my experience, and they’re not as easy to adjust quickly. 

7. Weight Vest

This 20-pound Golds Gym weighted vest is a cheapie, but it has served its purpose – pull-ups, squats, lunges. If you want one that you can go hiking and running in, the more expensive ones are probably more comfortable.

8. Foam Roller

This roller (and only this roller) is going to save you money and give you the greatest massage possible. That’s right, it’s a PVC pipe. You want the below dimensions.

0.25″ wall thickness, 4″ diameter, and 2″ length

If you want a quieter and more grippy surface, wrap it in duct tape. 

9. Mirrors

We haven’t had mirrors in all of our home gyms since there isn’t always space. But, when we do work out with mirrors, we are reminded how useful they are for monitoring proper form and looking for strength or flexibility imbalances from side to side. 

10. Clorox Wipes

Obviously, it’s best to clean your home gym regularly. We always keep a container of Clorox Wipes in our home gym. Fortunately, it’s just you and a select few, you’re not sharing germs with hundreds of people.

Now that we have all become germ freaks during the coronavirus pandemic, there is more data on the cleanliness of gyms.

According to Mark Dalman, Ph.D., lead researcher in a Kent State study, where 16 different gyms were swabbed, nearly 40 percent of all surfaces harbored staph, a bacteria that can cause serious infections.

Good thing you don’t have to worry about that anymore, right??

11. Fitness Tracking Wearable

We also highly recommend using a FitBit or Apple Watch if you don’t already. Not only is this a useful workout tracking tool, but it’s a great way to stay accountable to a healthy life. We started with the Mi Band Fitness Tracker that we used it for years. It tracks steps, calories, and sleep very well and maintains an 8-day plus battery life.

In 2019, we upgraded to  Apple Watch Series 3 (38mm) for her and Apple Watch Series 3 (42mm) for him. We love the reminders to move and stand. The Activity Tracker motivates you to exercise, run, walk, or take the stairs more regularly.

It also tracks your Total Calories burned in a day, which is useful for understanding how many calories you should be eating. This is a requirement in our free 30-Day Weight Loss Challenge.

12. A Printed Progress Tracker

How will you know your workouts are working if you’re not tracking progress. The scale is not a useful tool. Instead, you need to fill out a Body Measurement Chart at least monthly.

We also recommend taking before and after photos and using this body fat caliper. You can learn how to properly track fitness progress in our article titled, ‘Fitness Tracking Body Measurement Chart.’

13. Beachbody On Demand

You’ll need Beachbody On Demand to work out smart in your home gym as well. To start streaming workouts in your new home gym, sign up for a free trial of Beachbody On Demand or our Couple’s Clean Week program below. 

Try our Couple's Yoga Poses or Couple's Workout Routine or Couple's Yoga Flow Routine for a fun way to get healthy and bond with your partner.

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When you successfully complete Couple's Clean Week, your enrollment is refunded. Make a bet with yourself to stick to healthy habits for 7-days.

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Resistance Bands Workout Routine

Download and instantly access the full workout calendar and resistance tracker sheet.

- Videos of 55 leg, core, back, arm, shoulder, and chest exercises with resistance bands.
- Professional instruction to ensure proper form.
- An 8-week calendar and weight tracking sheet with built-in variety and periodization.
- Access to all future revisions to the program.
- Support. We're always here to help.

Or, download for free.

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Hey we're Ryan and Alex

The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”

After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.

The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.

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