Gym Membership -vs- Home Gym

By: Matt Weik

If you were nearby, you’d hear me shouting “YES!” at the top of my lungs when it comes to building a home gym.  In all honesty, investing in your health is the best thing you could ever do.  Will the upfront cost be a little shocking at first?  Yes, but over time you’ll see the value of not having to go to a commercial gym or pay for a membership.

Have You Tried MuscleGelz?

Now, many of you might be thinking you don’t have a lot of room to dedicate to a home gym, and that is perfectly fine, however, there are some great pieces of equipment out there that don’t take up a ton of space that you can squeeze in a corner or even in your garage. Check it out.

Paying for a gym membership might not make the most sense

Gym membership fees vary from gym to gym. You have gyms that cost anywhere between $10 a month to over $100.  Over the years, this tends to add up.  There is one piece of the equation that most people don’t think about, and that is travel.  When you don’t have a gym at your house, you are paying gas to drive to and from the gym as well as the added wear and tear on your vehicle.  You’re also spending valuable time sitting in a car!  Time is money.  Factor all of these things in, and that gym membership is costing way more than you first imagined.

Let’s break down the costs of a gym membership:

$20/month for the membership (most major chains are around $20)

$1.75 per trip in gas (figure on a half-gallon of gas)

Let’s say you work out 5 days a week. That equates to $8.75 each week in gas money (figure 4 weeks each month).  Then you have your $20 monthly membership fee.  Add those numbers up for the month and you’re paying $55 (not to mention all of the unproductive time driving to and from the gym).  Look at the big picture of working out for the year and that dollar amount is now $660.

So, that $20 monthly fee you thought was inexpensive is actually pretty darn expensive when you factor everything in. Now some of you might be saying in the grand scheme of things $660 isn’t that much for a year’s worth of workouts.  And you might be right.  But, you aren’t just exercising for a year and then quitting.  This is a lifestyle and you’re going to be exercising for many more years.  Figure you have a good 20-60 years left in you (depending on your current age) which brings the lifetime cost of your gym membership, assuming there is no fluctuation in pricing between gas and the membership, to around $13,200-$39,600.  Well, that escalated quickly.  I know a lot of things I could do with that amount of money in my pocket.  You have the ability to do as you wish with that money if you decide to build a home gym.  Here’s how.

Build your home gym

The placement of your home gym is completely up to you. You can have it in your basement or even out in the garage.  Either way, you don’t need a lot of space.  They even have rack units that fold up against a wall that you can secure right to one of the walls in your garage.  A cool thing about a home gym in a garage is that when it’s nice outside, you can open the garage and get in a great workout while enjoying some fresh air.  Those types of units are around $1,000 but are built to last a lifetime.  You could also go with a traditional squat rack which ranges between $500 and $1,000.  Either variation will work, you simply need to decide if you want the convenience of being able to fold it up, or if you have enough room to have a free-standing rack.

The next thing you will need for your home gym would be a barbell and weight plates. You can generally find a 300-pound Olympic weight set (2 x 45’s, 2 x 35’s, 2 x 25’s, 2 x 10’s, 4 x 5’s, and 2 x 2.5’s) that includes the bar for around $399.99 on sites like Amazon and that also includes free shipping (which would be super expensive if you were paying by the weight).  If you can lift over 300 pounds, you’d need to invest in more plates, but at that point you can be selective and just buy 45-pound plates if you wished.

The last “necessity” is a bench. A good quality weight bench will cost you between $200 and $500.  Don’t skimp on a bench because the lower quality ones generally wobble and only allow for around 250 to 350 pounds of weight to be placed on them.  Take your body weight into account and you don’t have much wiggle room to play with.  For that reason, invest in a good quality bench that can hold a good amount of weight and be done with it.

As with everything mentioned above, I like to go by the saying, “buy once, cry once.” Don’t go on the cheap if you’re looking for good quality equipment that will last a lifetime.  When you look at all the things mentioned above, you are only looking at an investment of around $1,100-$1,900 to be able to hit every single muscle group and get in a great workout.  Sure, the initial sticker value might be a shocker, but look at the lifetime value of your investment.  You’ll get heirloom quality equipment, in the convenience of your own home.  No more wasting time driving to the gym and then needing to wait for equipment to become available since you share the gym with other people.  You don’t have to exercise next to the stinky old guy who you can’t seem to get away from.  You don’t need to look presentable since you’re in the privacy of your own home.  You have no excuse that the weather is bad so you can’t make it to the gym.  I could keep going on about all of the positives that go with having a home gym.  There are, however, some “accessory” pieces of equipment that you could always add to your gym if you wanted.

But what about…?

I can see people already yelling at me saying I’m missing things that the gym has. Well, no kidding.  You don’t have $100,000+ to have an entire gym at your house and every piece of equipment at your disposal, so you need to make do with what you have.  There are a few extra things you can pick up if you had some extra cash to invest in building upon your home gym.

The first thing you could do is buy dumbbells. If you are limited on space, a rack of dumbbells might not cut it.  If you have the room, perfect.  But, for those looking to keep your home gym confined to a small area in the house or garage, you might want to consider some adjustable dumbbells.  There are several brands and styles out there to choose from.  Look at what you would need them for, their overall comfort, ease of use, how heavy they go up to, and the price you feel comfortable paying for them.

The last thing that I could honestly see you needing to finish off your home gym build would be a piece of cardio equipment—two at most. Let’s face it, generally you aren’t using every single piece of cardio equipment in the gym, right?  So, you’re not going to need a treadmill, elliptical, bicycle, stair mill, rowing machine, etc.  Pick one or two that you know you would use often and buy it.  If you have the money, invest in a good quality commercial grade piece of cardio equipment.  You can even get a nice used model from equipment companies if you do some Google searching.  They may still run you a pretty penny, but they are the best that’s out there when comparing to the cheap and wobbly residential pieces found in department stores.  You might even consider a piece other than a treadmill for the mere reason that you could always walk, jog, or run outside if you wished—including in cold weather if you dress appropriately.  You could walk the steps in your house for cardio, you could do burpees, you could jump rope, among other things.  You just need to use some creativity on how you plan on raising your heart rate to get in a good cardiovascular workout.

I have personally purchased a lot of my equipment from a business called RVA Fitness. They sell everything from new to remanufactured equipment at great prices.  I have gotten a treadmill from them, elliptical, and some other goodies and it’s been years since purchasing them and they are still running as good as the day I bought them.

I know this first hand

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because I have first-hand experience with home gyms. I have built a little over half of my basement into a home gym.  It’s around 1,200 sq. ft.  I have a squat rack, smith machine, hack squat, leg press, seated calf, standing calf, cable crossover, preacher benches, lat pulldown, leg extension, leg curl, dumbbells up to 110 pounds, an ab room with different abdominal equipment, as well as Life Fitness commercial cardio pieces (treadmill, elliptical, recumbent bike, upright bike).  It cost more than what most people would be willing to spend, but to me, I’m investing in my health and in the convenience that I don’t have to leave my house – so in the end, it’s worth it.  You don’t need to go to the extreme like I have, but I can promise you, when you build your home gym, you will love it…with zero regrets!