Gluck - August 2021
Building a Home Gym for Under $5000
If you're anything like me you put a lot of time and research into your purchases. Sometimes I'm too much of a perfectionist and spend too much effort on planning things but hopefully that benefits you in your home gym planning. So here's my latest take on building a home gym for $5,000.
We're limited to $5,000, which is a lot of money gives us a lot of options and I guess we're using the word budget a bit loosely but once you've built your home gym, you'll know exactly what I mean.
I can't cover all the options at 5 grand because there's just too many but for each of the 5 categories I'll break my picks into my budget pick, my top pick, and an alternative. but you guys know me, I'll end up talking about more than just those because there's so much good stuff out there!
1. The Mighty Power Rack ($1000-$2000)
For this section we're going to completely ignore the 3 picks per category system that I literally just established (I'll give 5 total) and that's because the top options (in my opinion) for this budget range all need to be talked about.
My Budget Pick
Honestly I don't have a true budget pick for this category and that's because if I'm spending this kind of money I'm not going to pick a Titan Fitness rack. That's not to say they don't have some good options like the Titan X-3 (3"x3" rack with 5/8" hardware) and Titan Series racks but I think those are racks I'd explore in a lower budget range (or if I over spent in other places).
So let's skip budget and check out the Rogue Infinity Series of racks. These are Rogue's 2"x3" racks (with 5/8" hardware) and I've owned my R-6 for years and it's an amazing piece of equipment. When I lived in my old house the basement had a wood floor which would mold and rot. It was a terrible thing the owner before me installed but my Rogue Fitness rack sat on that floor unassembled for a year and has since been in my garage for much longer and it still looks amazing. Rogue is known for it's quality racks and for good reason and this rack isn't cheap but the price isn't hard to justify.
Here's a look at all the R-Series configurations Rogue offers
The rack has Westside hole spacing which means the holes in the frame to attach things to are 1" apart in the bench press region and 2" apart elsewhere. I should note that's on the front and back of the frame, the sides (since it's rectangular) have 6" hole spacing. Why is that important? Well a 2x3 rack is probably the best size for a home gym but that rectangular shape makes it hard to attach things to it and build off the rack, it has to be oriented the right way.
To give you an idea of cost I built an R-4 (4' deep rack, 4 posts) on Rogue's site and had it quoted to be shipped to my door and it cost $1,340. You can get a glimpse of it in the picture below, this is my exact rack without the additional 2 posts and weight horns on the back which you could always add on later if you wanted.
3x3 Racks and Their Differences
If you want a 3"x3" rack there's a few key considerations to keep in mind when building one. Since it's a square tube they're infinitely expandable in any direction which is nice if you've ever had to orient your dip bar or another attachment on a 2x3 rack in a position you'd rather have spun 90 degrees.
3x3 racks come with 5/8" or 1" hardware (though American Barbell and some other's use 3/4") and it should be noted that Rep, Griffin and Titan use metric measurements (75mm x 75mm) so they're 2.95" squared but for the sake of this article we'll lump them together and in general their accessories will work with each other (but do your research first).
3x3 racks with 5/8" hardware (like the Rep Pr-4000 or Rogue Monster Lite) will still use Westside spacing and just like with the Rogue Infinity series the spacing on the sides of the rack is different from the front but it's still possible to build off in any direction.
Check out this shot of a Rep PR-4000 to see what I mean.
On a 3x3 rack with 1" holes and hardware (like the Rogue Monster series and Rep PR-5000 series) the spacing will always be the same, 2" apart and that's on the side or front of the rack. This is the most versatile of choices when adding on but you lose the convenience of that 1" spacing on your bench set up that some people prefer.
Last but possibly as important depending on your preferences is that the switch from 2x3 to 3x3 adds to inches of thickness to the rack's frame. That can be a big deal because with a Rep rack that 2" is in the inside of the rack so it's still 47" wide like the Rogue Infinity but the inside is now 2" narrower. If you have a wide grip on certain exercises you might have to be a little more careful so you don't smash your pinkies.
Rogue puts the extra 2" on the outside of the rack which can make racking and unracking more difficult. It might not sound like much but it's the biggest reason I haven't switched to a 3x3 rack yet, Wynie and the other people I work out with would have a difficult time with the extra 2" (and yes, I meant that innuendo).
My Alternative Picks (3x3 with 5/8" hardware)
First we'll look at 3x3 racks with 5/8" hardware and when spending this kind of money for a rack the two companies that I'd look to first are Rep Fitness and Rogue and it's not hard to see why. They both offer some of the best racks out there so let's start with the Rep PR-4000.
To keep these builds priced evenly I'll build these both at 90" in height as a 4' deep 4 post rack and add in strap safeties (since Rogue doesn't currently offer drop in safeties for the Monster Lite line) and sandwich J-cups. Just keep in mind these companies have a ton more options for configurations and add-ons, this is just to show the price differences.
This build from Rep would cost about $1,050 shipped to your door and it's an outstanding rack. We did a full build and review on our channel months ago and I might be more impressed now by it than before. Rep won't have as many accessories available for their rack but they still have a lot of options and a ton of Rogue stuff (and other companies) can and do fit on it as well. They also don't quite have Rogue's build quality but this thing is a beast and VERY well made.
Here's the video of the build I did for my friend if you're interested, it's a pretty big setup.
From there we can look at the Rogue Monster Lite series. Rogue didn't become the biggest company in home gyms for no reason and their racks are, for most of us, the best we could ever want. They offer a ton of configurations and an insane amount of add-ons and pair that with the fact their build quality is first rate and it's not hard to see why. Though they're pricier they're made in the US and have a higher resale value as well.
Again I built and priced this RML-490 at 90" tall, with safety straps, sandwich j-cups, and 4' deep with a 4 post design (the same as the PR-4000 build above). The total costs with shipping, handling, and tax comes to almost $1,600 to my house which is over $500 more than the Rep rack. Some of that cost is because Rogue's accessories cost more but they're, most times, worth the increase as the quality phenomenal and overbuilt.
My Top Picks (3x3 with 1" hardware)
I suppose these aren't truly top picks because I'm personally not sure if I prefer the 5/8" or 1" hardware but THESE racks are the biggest and best that Rep and Rogue offer. You really can't go wrong with any of them as they're things you can hand down to your kids they're so well made.
Are they overkill for most home gyms, of course but that doesn't stop us all from fantasizing. Laser cut numbers with big holes and hardware ;-) these 3x3 racks with 1" hardware are the American dream. More than we need but all that we want.
First we'll look at the less expensive of the two, the Rep Pr-5000 which again has a lot of build options (and you can add on later) but for the sake of keeping the pricing the same we'll price this one as a 90" tall 4 post with flip down safeties and sandwich j-cups.
This build comes in at about $1,250 shipped to your door which is an amazing price for something this quality. If you're looking to save some money and get a killer rack, this is your best option though Rogue's equivalent will have a better build quality and more accessories available for it, it'll also cost more.
If you're wondering about the accessories Rep has available they currently offer about half the amount that Rogue does (41 vs 80) and although they're not same quality they're pretty damn good (and cheaper). Here's a glimpse at the versatility of some of the things Rep offers.
More of a Rogue fan? Can't say I blame you they're the king of the home gym game for a lot of reasons. Their Monster Line is their biggest and best rack and it's called a monster rack for a reason. This thing is very well polished and built with a ton of options to build it out (or add onto it). Take a look at all these configurations and this isn't all of them, I only have so much space here and Rogue is always adding!
All right, for the build just like the PR-5000 we're doing a 90" tall 4 post configuration with flip down safeties and sandwich j-cups. If you're building a rack it's best (and this is true of most equipment) to buy as much as you can at once to save on shipping. Rogue and other companies also give you deals when you buy things together (especially their racks). So If you've got big plans try to lump it all together if you can. Here's a RM-4 set up as above for $1,750 to our door.
Now for the accessories and I will say have swapped a lot of stuff from Rogue to Rep racks (and Titan at times) and vice versa but you should do your homework first and check before you buy things. In general things that take a single hole work really well but things that take up multiple holes can be a bit trickier because companies can have slightly different spacing. When it comes to add-ons and accessories Rogue wins the quality and quantity game but as I said before you sometimes pay a premium for that quality and U.S. manufacturing. Often times they're overbuilt for a home gym but they're almost always much better overall.
As for which accessories I'd buy first? A dip attachment, landmine, either strap safeties or drop in safeties, and spotter arms are what I personally use the most. It depends on your training style but luckily these companies won't leave you wanting for more.
2. Barbells ($265-$550)
For this build we'll pretend you're only buying one barbell but most of us will end up with a lot more down the road. A good barbell will last you a long time and I have plans to pass some of mine down to my kids. You use this thing constantly so it's a good idea to buy the best thing you can logically afford so that you're happy with it years from now.
My Budget Pick
The Wonder Bar from Fringe Sport is one of the best barbells under $300. I base that on the all the factors that matter in a barbell, build and steel quality, knurling, stiffness, finish, warranty, and history of the company. This bar is well known and well reviewed for the fact it does well in all those qualities. Are there better bars out there? Of course, but for the price this thing is nearly untouchable and I should also mention they have a female version and bearings versions as well, though I wonder about the quality of the bearings at this price point. Rather than spend a ton of time covering this bar I'll link our video review below.
Now I will say the other bars in this category are all from Rogue (my top and alternative picks) because they make some of the best barbells out there. I point that out because when I put the Wonder bar next to my Ohio bar of which they share more than a few similarities, it stands up very well. In fact even though they both have bushings in the sleeves the Wonder Bar's spin is much better. Besides that I'd think if you gave someone hasn't been training for years each of the bars, I doubt they'd notice much difference or care which one they used.
The only complaint I've had about the bar is the finish. Black zinc wears away fairly quickly vs other hardier (and more expensive) finishes. My Ohio bar has black zinc sleeves and you can see where I grip and where my traps rub it when I squat. If you want a better finish option I'd go check out the stainless steel version of the Wonder Bar.
My Top Pick
There's no need to waste time here, the Ohio Power Bar is an awesome bar and known for it. Are there other great power bars out there? Of course but this is a bar that matches Rogue's name and I would, and do happily recommend to everyone looking for a power bar. It's American made which always factors in for me (but not everyone) and has the quality to back it. Very well made consistent volcanic knurling and enough finish options to keep us all happy. With a 29mm diameter, bronze bushings, and 200k+ tensile strength (stainless is 200k, others are 205k) it's a stiff bar that essentially sets the standards all others compete with.
Mine is stainless steel with Cerakote sleeves and it's held up very well. The only thing I would change if I got another one would be to go fully stainless because the Cerakote does wear off on those ribbed sleeves (what doesn't?). It's a gorgeous bar that they used to offer but now you have to use the Zeus system to customize it to get it like that. It's not a cheap bar, it'll run you about $280 to close to $500 (fully stainless) before shipping and while that can be a tough pill to swallow, I've had zero regrets after having mine for a long time. In fact, I love mine so much I really hope I get to pass it down someday.
Rogue isn't lacking for options on this bar either. For finishes they offer E-coat (the same are the Rogue Deep Dish plates I own), black zinc which is what my Ohio bar is coated in but it wears away fairly easily, bare steel which is the same finish on my deadlift bar and though it's got the best feel it takes more maintenance especially without a climate controlled gym, and Cerakote (seen below) which is a very durable finish but not quite as much as stainless steel. If you're doing a lot of powerlifting movements (deadlift, squat, bench) and not into Olympic lifts then this deserves serious consideration. It's not to say you can't do everything with it but that center knurl and somewhat aggressive knurling pattern (it's actually sticky without being too sharp) will beat on your chest and hands doing high rep counts and Oly lifts. It also doesn't have exceptional spin so I'd look elsewhere if that's more your style.
We're going to cover both adjustable and flat benches here which means you have a lot of options. You CAN get both in this price range though another great option is just getting one really high quality adjustable which is also what I would do if I only had space for one.
There's a TON of options for benches for this kind of money but I'll be honest, there's also a lot of companies copying each other so our 1,000 choices in reality is much less. I also put a lot of effort into making sure all the benches weren't Rep but love them or hate them, there's a reason they dominate the bench game.
I'm going to behave myself and stick to my 3 recommendations per category with flat benches but in adjustable I just can't! I love having a dedicated flat bench because it's always going to feel better and work better than having a one fits all option (though the high end adjustables do a pretty great job). There's no big surprises here, if you've been watching my channel for awhile these are all benches I've talked about again and again.
My Budget Flat Bench Pick
Ignoring a lot of benches that are very close in price to my top pick (which is just over $200) forces me to choose a bench that will actually save you some money. There's no point in my budget pick being $10 less, at that point why sacrifice any quality for the money. So I'm sticking with the Titan Flat Bench. With a 1,000 lb capacity and meeting IPF bench standards I'm not sure you can ask for much more for $150 shipped. Oh wait, you could wait for one of their numerous sales and get another $15 off I suppose. For the price you're getting a good bench just don't be the person comparing it to Rogue and saying it can't keep up, the prices aren't close and it's the budget pick for a reason.
My Top Flat Bench Pick
I've had my Rep FB-5000 for a long time and after a lot of sessions with it, I've never been disappointed or heard a complaint. At just over $200 shipped it's honestly feels like a bit of a bargain. I know that's no small chunk of money but the quality really seems above that (but don't tell Rep). Rather than spend a ton of time on it (I'll link our video review instead) just know it's on the top of the majority of people's flat bench list for a reason. 1,000lb capacity, fits within IPF standards, great feeling foam, and the list goes on but most importantly, high quality for the price.
My Alternative Flat Bench Pick
Some people just love Rogue Fitness and I can't blame them. For the most part they deliver quality American made products consistently. Are they perfect, no, they've definitely missed on a few items, their shipping can be hit or miss at times, and some of their items are a bit pricey but overall they're #1 in the home gym game for a reason. They have built a reputation over time with great service and products that tend to justify the price. It would also be foolish not to include the Rogue Monster Utility Bench 2.0 at this price range. At around $360 shipped (depending where you live) it's a good amount more than my top pick (and the price is the reason it's not #1) but it is a solid, very well made, Rogue quality bench. Honestly if you own Rogue products this is exactly what you'd expect from them.
If just saying Rogue Fitness is great isn't enough (it's not) it's probably better to point out some of the options this bench beyond it's beefy quality build. You can get it in different height options as well as pad options. Technically the FB-5000 can use some of these pads as well but you can't change the frame on it. So whether you want the shorty or standard height or the standard, Rogue Competition pad, or Thompson Fat pad, well... configure it how you want right out of the gate, on their site. If you have the money, you won't be let down.
If you're only getting one bench then getting a solid high quality adjustable bench is the way to go and with this much money to work with you've got a lot of options. Rather than spending pages attempting to talk you through the dozen or so ones worth your time I've again narrowed it down to my 3 choices which are honestly all very close to each other and will come down to personal preference. I own, or owned all of these since I sold one so that I could purchase and review the other so I've got a lot of experience with these.
Top FID Adjustable Bench
The Rep Fitness AB-5000 Zero Gap is a bench I've had for a long time now and it's never let me down. At $600 shipped (as of the time of writing this) the build quality is very high and I think it competes with many other benches that cost as much if not much more money. It's a FID bench (flat, incline, & decline) though you have to buy the decline attachment separately (which I also own) and it's built like a tank and very heavy at 125lbs which is Wynie's only complaint about it, it's bulky to move around. It also has a great feeling vinyl that has enough grip to keep you in place which isn't something I'll say on one of my other recommendations below. We did a few video review of this thing awhile back covering all the specs, pros, and cons of the bench which I'll link below. I think the only thing that's changed since that video is the Rogue Adjustable Bench 3.0 came out but this is still one of my most used benches. I can't recommend it enough but if you need more convincing check the video.
Top Adjustable Bench
I loved my Rep AB-5200 which is a ladder style adjustable bench that ships to you for about $500. The quality for the price is unrivaled but before I was lucky enough to gain traction on social media and before I had affiliate links I couldn't afford to keep it so I had to sell equipment to get new equipment to review. Of all the things I ever sold, this is the one I regret the most and I will 100% be buying another one. It's quick to adjust, great build quality, and set the standard for this style of bench which to this day I'm not sure has been beat. I won't say it's perfect but for the price, what you're getting is hard to compete with.
There's a 1.8" gap when it's lying flat which I didn't notice much because you could line yourself up so you didn't feel it when bench pressing or the back pad was so long (42") that many people can use just that part and never touch the gap. Either way after using it for a long time I thought it felt better than most commercial adjustable benches and never found the gap to be an issue.
It is pretty long at 55.2" but stores upright so that it doesn't take up much space. With 7 back positions and 3 seat positions it's got a lot of versatility and best of all, it's the only adjustable bench in this article, you can swap out the back pad for a wide pad if you want or even get a replacement for the regular one if you damage it.
With a single front post design, lasered numbers for the back post (not the seat but there's only 3 anyway), and at 18" in height and 12" wide it's easy to bench and do other things on. It also it just a very well designed and well built bench and definitely worth a look in this price range.
Adjustable Bench Alternative Pick
The Rogue Adjustable Bench 3.0 is the new comer to the game and if you're looking at it thinking where have I seen this before well... Rogue was lucky enough that Rep came out with theirs first so they were able to make some adjustments and create their own version to compete. This is Rogue most affordable adjustable bench at $585 + a flat shipping fee of $45 (plus tax if that applies to you) which is not to be confused with the AB-2 or AB-3 which just like the Ohio bars is becoming a confusing naming convention.
It shares more than a few similarities with Rep's AB-5200 and that's because it was designed to compete directly with it. Rep dominates the bench game for the most part, they have amazing benches at all price ranges so Rogue is naturally trying to pry some of that away. Single post design, ladder adjustment system, upright storage pad, and the list goes on..
They're not identical though, Rogue had put it's own touches on the design with 10 back positions (up from 7 from Rep), a smaller gap at 1" though I will say sometimes when you adjust the back and seat it'll squish the foam together. I've heard some say it's not a big deal but it's also why Rep's gap is slightly larger, to avoid that issue. Rogue's is also 3"x3" 11 gauge steel vs Reps 2x3 11 and 7 gauge steel but they're both tanks at 125lbs and rock solid. Some would also argue Rogue's bench features a better build quality but honestly I'm not that convinced, there are some nice touches like the adjustment arm being 1 bent piece on Rogue's vs welded with Rep's or some of the logo branding is nicely cut into the Adjustable Bench 3.0 vs some branded plates on the AB-5200 but that's more preference thing and the stainless handle and wheel guards are nicer touches on the 5200 so to say the quality is $150 or more off is a stretch in my opinion.
The real difference and most important difference to me is the vinyl padding. I'll be honest, I don't really like Rogue's vinyl on this bench. I'd qualify it as a bit slippery and I'd prefer it a little more grippy. That's not to say it's bad, but coming from Rep (and countless other benches I've tried) I just don't enjoy the feel of this vinyl. If you've got some leg drive when benching, especially when warming up and before you get a few plates on there, it's takes a conscious effort to set yourself up and not slide some. I've been at commercial gyms or friends houses working out and it really detracts from the experience, I don't want to have to think about the vinyl and working around it, it should just be there doing what it's intended to do. Whether you prefer your padding to be stiffer like Rogue's or thicker and with a little more give like Rep's is another story, but the grip, personally, I'm not a huge fan. If you want an in-depth look at this bench check out the video below.
Weight Plates ($700-1000)
Purchasing Olympic weight plates is on the used market is probably where you can save the most money in this build. Scouring places like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or whatever other resources you have available to you could net you a substantial savings though I realize not everyone wants to go that route. Since at this price range we're able to cover bumpers and iron plates I'll give you three options for each.
Iron Weight Plates
To keep pricing even I'll base everything off of the following weight set though your needs and wants may vary; 3 pairs of 45s, 1 pair of 25s, 2 pairs of 10s, 1 pair of 5s, and one pair of 2.5s which comes out to 375lbs + the bar. You may tweak that to your hearts content and it's solely to give us a basis to work off of.
This article (and it's corresponding video) took a ton of time to create and unfortunately that means I haven't finished the article yet. I apologize but I am working on it and adding to it every day!