Build an Effective Home Gym for Under $500

The average gym membership costs over $500 a year.

If you live in a trendy neighborhood, you may pay twice that (if not more).

For that price, the average big box gym experience often includes stressful commutes, irritating members, strict rules, bad music, and big crowds. Such annoyances are exactly why 6.1 million Americans have gym memberships they never use, and millions more have memberships they use just once or twice per month.

These factors help make the idea of a home gym incredibly appealing. A home gym lets you train whenever you choose. There’s no commute, crowds, or small talk. You don't even need to look presentable. If you want to deadlift in your underwear at 10pm while listening to Metallica, you can make that happen (good luck trying that at Planet Fitness).

We previously outlined how to build an amazing home gym for under $1,000. But it's also totally possible to build a quality home gym for under $500.

The key is to prioritize versatile equipment that matches your goals and training level. You simply can't afford to buy anything that's just going to gather dust. 

We’ve put together some amazing budget home gym ideas to educate and inspire you. Feel free to utilize these builds exactly or  adjust them as needed to best suit your unique situation.

*All prices subject to change and do not include shipping & handling

Home Gym Under $500: Barbell, Squat Stand, Weight Plates

Equipment

Weight Total: 165 pounds (including the bar)

Total Price: $495.93

Do you love training with a barbell?

Do you particularly love squatting with a barbell?

Then this might be the home gym for you.

The 2” Olympic Barbell equips you with a high-performing bar that boasts a max weigh capacity of 700 pounds. The Squat Stand Lite will help you safely perform barbell-based squat variations, lunge variations, inverted rows, overhead presses, and floor presses. It also includes a built-in pull-up bar, which is an awesome addition.

RELATED: Is a Barbell Actually Worth it?

Then, of course, there are the many barbell moves you can perform without the stand — things like rows, cleans, snatches, jerks, deadlifts, push presses, and ab rollouts. 

The remainder of the budget is devoted to weight plates.

Bumper plates are generally safer, quieter and more durable than iron plates. They also tend to be a bit more expensive.

If you really want to get the most out of your money, you can buy your heavier plates as bumper plates, and your lighter plates as iron plates. Since the bumper plates have a wider diameter, you can use them in combination with the iron plates without having to worry about the iron banging against your floor.

You always have the option to purchase more weight plates as you get stronger, and you can also use the 5- and 10-pound plates in isolation for moves like lateral raises, reverse flies and weighted sit-ups.

Home Gym Under $500: Dumbbells & Adjustable Bench

Equipment

Weight Total: 150 pounds

Total Price: $489.96 

Dumbbells might be the most versatile piece of fitness equipment ever created. 

They're also durable, quiet, portable, and space efficient. This makes them an extraordinary choice for fitness enthusiasts on a tight budget. 

The ideal combination of dumbbell weights will depend on your individual strength and fitness level. A good strategy can be to start with a light, medium and heavy pair. This gives you a lot of potential flexibility and versatility in your routine.

In this build, our light pair is 10 pounds, our medium pair is 25 pounds, and our heavy pair is 40 pounds.

Most people assume you have to use even weight dumbbells when exercising. That's not necessarily true. Offset loading is a strategy where you weight the two sides of the body differently during an exercise. Imagine performing a Reverse Lunge with a 25-pound dumbbell in one hand and a 40-pound dumbbell in the other hand. This technique offers some really great benefits and helps increase the overall versatility of your dumbbell pairs. 

An adjustable utility weight bench is a great complement to a solid selection of dumbbells.

RELATED: Flat vs. Adjustable Weight Bench: Costs and Benefits

Examples of excellent exercises that make use of both dumbbells and a bench include rear-foot elevated split squats, incline presses, chest-supported rows, single-arm dumbbell rows, dumbbell skullcrushers, and dumbbell flies.

Home Gym Under $500: Curl Bar, Weight Plates, Dumbbells, Kettlebell 

Equipment

Weight Total: 255 pounds (including the bar)

Total Price: $495.89

Want to create a home gym that includes a variety of effective training tools but is still fairly cost and space-efficient?

This gym checks those boxes remarkably well.

For under $500, you'll get your hands on a quality curl bar, a medium-weight kettlebell, some reliable weight plates, and a nice assortment of dumbbells. 

The curl bar (also known as the "EZ bar") is one of the most underrated pieces of fitness equipment in existence.

Most people think its usefulness is limited to bicep curls and perhaps skull crushers, but it’s also an amazing tool for moves like bent-over rows, weighted thrusts/bridges, and squats or lunge variations with a front rack or zercher bar position.

The curl bar itself weighs 25 pounds and the included weight plates in this build are enough for a max load of 60 pounds. The weight plates themselves can also be utilized in isolation for different exercises.

Finally, a single medium-weight kettlebell rounds out this collection. If you go with a similar build for your home gym, we recommend choosing a weight you can use for moves like kettlebell swings and turkish get-ups. You can also pair the kettlebell with a dumbbell for unique loading strategies. 

Home Gym Under $500: Kettlebells 

Equipment

Weight Total: 270 pounds

Total Price: $452

Would you rather say screw the dumbbells and bars and just go all in on the kettlebells? 

If so, then take a look at this incredible arsenal of kettlebells you can compile for under $500. This build gives you five pairs up to 25 pounds, plus three single kettlebells at heavier weights. Heavier singles are ideal for swings and unilateral movements (meaning exercises performed with one limb at a time).  

Kettlebells are highly portable and space efficient. We've previously outlined how kettlebell training can change your body for the better.

If you're a big fan of these time-tested fitness tools, buying multiple kettlebells of various weights can be a stellar investment.

Home Gym Under $500: Trap Bar & Weight Plates

Equipment

Weight Total: 235 pounds (including the bar)

Total Price: $496.92

A quality trap bar (also known as a "hex bar") is one of the best values in fitness. It also may be the easiest way to benefit from heavy free weight resistance training.

The trap bar deadlift is a true full-body exercise that’s safe, intuitive, and highly effective. If you're not much of a gym rat but still want to tap into the proven physical and mental benefits of lifting heavy things, you could do a whole lot worse than trap bar deadlifting a couple times per week. 

Deadlifts are far from the trap bar’s only application.

Trap bar jumps are an accessible way to improve power. Farmer’s walk variations are often best performed with a trap bar. The trap bar can be flipped over to perform rows, and its neutral grip hand position can make for a comfortable alternative to traditional barbell-based bench and overhead presses.

If you’re a beginner or intermediate lifter, the total max load of 235 pounds should be more than enough for you to make substantial gains.

While the bumper plates will reduce the associated noise and risk of floor damage, buying a couple rubber mats to put underneath the plates isn’t a bad idea. Horse stall mats can actually make for a very cost-effective alternative to expensive gym flooring.

The Secret to Building a Great Home Gym Under $500

Still searching for your perfect home gym under $500?

Try these five simple steps:

  1. Write down the 5-10 exercises most important to your fitness success. Rank them in order of importance. 
  2. Write down the weight range (and type of weight in terms of barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, etc.) you need to achieve a great training effect on each movement. You may want to add an extra ~20% to the top end of the weight range to give yourself room to grow.
  3. Write down any equipment you need to support proper execution of those exercises with those loads.
  4. Identify the pieces of equipment that will empower several of these go-to exercises. It’s better to invest in a piece you can use for several of your favorite movements rather than just one or two.
  5. Prioritize these pieces during the buying process.

Don't get so caught up in the minor details that you never end up pulling the trigger. $500 is enough to build out a rock-solid home gym that can help you achieve real results.

There are a ton of different ways to get fit, so do your research, make an informed decision, and then get after it!