Building Your DIY Home Gym for Under $100

Aktive Learning

By Dave Tai (guest contributor)

There are many reasons why people like the idea of having a home gym. For busy people, what better way to maintain an exercise routine when your gym is in the next room. For lazy people, having a gym ten steps away rather than ten minutes away leaves you with no excuses not to work out. Lastly for the fitness enthusiast, the gym might have a limited selection of equipment and you may not always have access to the equipment you want to use.

The home gym is accessible, convenient and fully customized based on your needs. Despite the winning combination of benefits, many people do not consider having a home gym as one of their options. First is the fear of a lack of space, with our homes crowded as it is already, one will need at least an empty room if you were to include the machines, benches and weights. Also, the cost of commercial equipment can be an issue as well with machines costing thousands and weights coming in at hundreds of dollars.

In this article I will share with you the poor man’s alternative to a home gym. Using substitutes for the usual gym equipment you can design your very own gym limited only by your creativity and needs.

Doorway Pull Up Bar

Metrò Parisienne
Creative Commons License

photo credit: ЕленАндреа

The doorway pull up bar is the cheapest in a whole range of pull up bars available on the market and occupies the least amount of space as well. You should be able to find one for $30 or less. The doorway pull up bar occupies the frame of your door and usually has an option to be screwed on for additional security. It is an essential part of your gym as the pull up is one of the most effective whole body and back exercise you can have in your repertoire. Also being positioned at the doorway you can come up with simple regimes like performing five pull ups every time you walk under the bar. This is a good way to perform a high number of pull ups within a day without fatigue. Another effective exercise you can do with the doorway pull up bar is a hanging leg raise, a great core exercise.


it was a long, hard day

(photo: brian r abbott)

For free weight training equipment to substitute for dumbbells and kettlebells which can easily cost you hundreds of dollars, the old school sandbag will do the trick. The cheapest alternative is to construct one from scratch. Your weight can be anything from water to sand. For my ‘weight’ I bought soil from a gardening shop at two dollars for four kilogram packets. A total of twenty kilograms only cost me ten dollars. With these packs, further secure them within layers of Ziploc bags and black tape the perimeter to be safe.

How you want to distribute the weight is up to you. You can put them in packs of 2 kilograms, 5 kilograms or even 10 kilograms. The next step is to standby a larger duffel bag as well as a smaller backpack. These bags will become your ‘sandbag’. Based on the weight you need you can vary the amount of soil packs you put in the bag. You can use the large duffel back for heavier weights and larger movements such as deadlifts and shoulder presses. The smaller bag pack can be used for smaller movements like your shoulder raise and bicep curl. You can even hold onto the top handle of the bag and use it as a kettle bell.

Also the smaller sandbag can be carried to provide more resistance for bodyweight movements like the push up or lunges. Because of the uneven distribution and the constant shifting of the weight, the movements will be more difficult to perform and forces you to recruit your stabilizers and work your core in order to maintain the movements.

Other Considerations

Having a pull up bar and sandbags should cover the bulk of the movements you will need to perform at the gym. For fans of barbells, you might want to use a laundry drying pole or for something sturdier, a wooden staff can be bought at martial arts and sports shops for about $20. With the pole, hang two of your bag pack sand bags at each end and maintain their position with a clip. For people who want cardio as a part of their home workout, a skipping rope is a cheap and effective replacement for the treadmill.

These substitutes barely take up space and can be just as effective as the equipment marketed commercially. This basic set up will give you a good full body workout. The sandbag’s flexibility will let you perform your lifting actions as well as your pushing actions while the pull up bar will cover your pulling movements. I write this to ask you to reconsider if you really need thousands of dollars of gym equipment to have a good workout. Take a look at what you really need. Sometimes with a little creativity you can achieve a lot!

By guest contributor and fitness instructor Dave Tai. Via, a Singapore Health and Fitness blog that aims to help you lose weight, keep fit, and live healthy. Click here to get our free guide “Eat Your Way to Health – Secrets of a Healthy Diet”.

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