Building Our Minimalist Home Gym

October 4th, 2013 (5 minute read)

I’ve been lifting weights for about 1.5 years now and my wife has recently shown an interest in starting a similar strength program (no ladies, lifting weights will not make you bulky).  Because she is a pediatrician and doesn’t really have time to go to the gym, she hasn’t been able to follow a program regularly.  We talked about it and decided to cash in some credit card points to build a home gym in our upstairs spare bedroom.

I wanted to keep it as minimalist as possible because the room is only 12’x11′.  Sure, it’s nice to have fancy cable machines, elliptical, etc, but all you REALLY need is a barbell, a bench, and a power rack.  This allows you to do the exercises that really matter safely – squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, pull-ups, etc.  Of course it’s also really useful to have some ancillary equipment like dumbbells, bands, etc.

Here is what we ended up with:

Power Rack


This is the Powerline PPR200X power rack that we got on Amazon for $383.  It allows you to perform barbell exercises like squats very safely because it has safety bars to catch the barbell if you get stuck in the hole and can’t stand back up.  Like in this video.


Because it is so important, I decided to spend a little extra money on getting a really high quality barbell.  After doing some research, I ended up ordering the Rogue Burgener & Rippetoe Bar for $295 which is awesome.



I wanted to get bumper plates but the cost is astronomical, so I went with standard iron plates instead. These run about $0.90 per pound. I got:

  • (6) 45 pound plates
  • (2) 25 pound plates
  • (4) 10 pound plates
  • (2) 5 pound plates
  • (2) 2.5 pound plates
  • (2) 1.25 pound plates (actually already owned these)

To keep things nice and tidy, I got this weight tree from Amazon for $42.



In order to do bench presses, dumbbell presses, and various other exercises, you need a bench.  I already had a Bowflex bench but it is only rated for 300lbs.  If you consider your body weight plus the weight you are bench pressing, that’s not enough.  I have a terribly weak bench press, and I’m still over the capacity.  This bench is perfect for dumbbells, but it’s not good enough for barbell training.  So, I ordered this XMark Fitness Bench which has a capacity of 1500lbs.

edit: turns out the Bowflex bench is rated for 480lbs, so I didn’t need to order a new bench.  Damnit.

Deadlift Platform


Because our gym is upstairs in a room with hardwood floors, I was worried about the effects of deadlifting.  I had our contractor and carpenter look at the floor joists to make sure the structure was strong enough, and they said the structure was fine, but the vibrations might cause drywall issues downstairs.

I did some research and came up with this plan for the platform

  • base of 3 layers 1/2″ OSB plywood (4′ x 8′ each)
  • middle section of 2 layers of 3/4″ hardwood (4′ x 4′ each)
  • side sections of 2 layers of 3/4″ rubber horse stall mats from Tractor Supply (2′ x 4′ each)

I glued and screwed the wood together with wood glue and wood screws.  I also stained and added polyurethane to the middle piece to make it look nicer.  I glued and screwed the rubber mats with liquid nails and wood screws.  Here’s a video of me deadlifting on it for the first time (325lbs):



I already owned these Bowflex adjustable dumbbells.  The only go up to 52.5lbs each so I am somewhat limited in what I can do in certain exercises like rows.  This is an area where I will upgrade later.  It turns out Bowflex makes another set of adjustable dumbbells that go up to 90lbs each which would be nice to have.

Other Stuff


Aside from the deadlift platform, I wanted to also protect the floor in the room from dumbbells, dropping stuff accidentally, rolling the bench, etc.  I used 4 horse stall mats from Tractor Supply.  This is the best deal on floor covers – they are only $40 for a 4×8 piece.  Bring a friend because they are HEAVY and AWKWARD.

T-Bar Row Swivel Attachment

One of the few machine exercises I like is the cable row.  In order to get a similar exercise at home, I got this landmine/t-bar row attachment.  It allows you to do T-Bar rows, landmine presses, etc.


We got a 25lb and a 35lb kettlebell for conditioning workouts.



We already owned the Horizon 101 treadmill.  It doesn’t get used much (so boring!) but it’s nice to have for some long, slow incline walks.  The nice thing about this is that it “folds up” to save space when you aren’t using it.