How to Build a Garage Gym, Phase Two

Bottom Line Up Front: I have had a garage gym for more than ten years. I have spent nearly $10,000 on equipment. This is the second post in a series that explains how I would create an ideal garage (home) gym taking into consideration all my lessons learned over the years.

Garage Gym 2022

Review of Phase One

If you haven’t read the first article, please do so as it will give context to the rest of this article and will set the stage so I don’t have to repeat myself. I’ll wait…

OK. We’re back. Now, none of the baseline assumptions have changed from phase one’s article. And also I assume you actually have all the items from phase one now to build on. So far, you have three kettlebells of different weight, a pull-up bar, and mats spending around $500 (with inflation since I wrote the first post, more actually, but who cares? It’s for a good cause.).

THE NEXT THREE PURCHASES: The Rest of the Basics

* I make zero money from any purchases of these items. I recommend them because they are good. My motivation is to make you mission capable.
** All prices are without shipping or tax as of date of publication

The sixth purchase is a set of resistance bands from Rubberbanditz ($74.95)

Bands are probably the single best thing I have used in the past few years to make a noticeable difference in my training. I really thought hard about making this the first purchase and editing my first post. I decided to leave it as it is though because ultimately a good set of kettlebells, a pull-up bar, and mats are just too foundational to put second to bands. However, I will make a HUGE caveat here now which is to say that if you were to buy only ONE thing total for at-home training to augment a gym membership, it would probably be a set of bands. Also, if you were less advanced, older, etc. I would start you with bands. I have purchased this set for older family members to keep active in their 70s. Bands are unbelievably safe, inexpensive, take up zero space, and can deliver asymmetric results. They also are used by the most elite strength athletes in the world. That tells you something.

This kit from Rubberbanditz has everything you need to get started such as handles, a manual, and varying resistances. They have a few kits. I would get the deluxe one. It has one band at a few resistance levels. Ultimately, when we start to get more advanced and incorporate bands on barbells in a rack, we will need to have two bands per resistance, but that’s for another time as it is far more advanced.

The seventh purchase is a plyo box from Rogue ($125)

You can do a ton of things with this and it’s indestructible. You can get any box really, but I like this one because it offers three different heights and comes in a flat box. I have had mine for a decade, moved it around the country and beat it to death. It’s still good to go. There are a lot of DIY tutorials and videos on building one yourself too. I really think 20, 24 and 30 inches are perfect. If I had to get one size only, it would be 24 inches.

The eight purchase is a 40-lb sandbag from GoRuck ($130)

Again, very very versatile and bombproof piece of gear. I have three GoRuck sandbags, which I got around 2013. One has a slight wear in it from throwing it over and over on concrete, which I patched up with Gorilla Tape. Fixed. I am looking for an excuse to buy new ones but can’t justify it yet. These new ones are even better-constructed than mine. You can get sandbags like this from a few places. Just make sure they have the handles. The new GoRuck ones come with filler bags, but if they don’t, I wouldn’t buy any. I use contractor garbage bags like these. Way cheaper. I put the sand inside one then put that inside another then tape it up with that same Gorilla tape to keep it closed. Do this all while the garbage bags are inside the sandbag so you are filling from the inside. I have never had to replace a leaking contractor garbage bag.

Note: I would recommend a set of these ultimately. I have 40, 60 and 80 pounders. But if you are getting one, get a 40 pound for an average size man.

Note 2: You can of course under fill them, so if you get a 40, you can fill it with less sand and work up. Too big of a bag though and it will be unnecessarily awkward. An 80-pound bag with 20 pounds of sand won’t be good.

Note 3: You can also OVER fill them! All the bags I have seen that are for 40 pounds can be filled tightly and get to 50 or close to 60. My 60lb bag weighs nearly 80 completely full. So actually weigh it – don’t just fill it and assume it’s the rated weight of the bag.

Note 4: Sand is really really cheap (go to Lowes or Home Depot and you will see). But you can use other material to get a different weight. For example, if you were to fill a bag with shredded rubber tires, it would weigh a lot less than if you filled it with lead shot. I think regular sand is the way to go myself.

Summarize where we are and the next steps

This ends phase two. I am not going to recommend any new equipment at this point. We have a strong set of kettlebells, a pull-up bar, sandbag, box, and resistance bands all on a solid foundation of mats. With this gear, you can achieve a very high level of physical fitness. The only thing you can’t really do is get maximally strong. That is going to take much heavier weights, a barbell, rack, bench, etc. Then we are talking much more space, cost, and risk.

If you were to stop here, you would obviously be able to do every bodyweight exercise. Also you could do hundreds of variations of kettlebells and sandbag moves to improve strength, hypertrophy, stamina, endurance, balance, and coordination. You can use the resistance bands to augment these movements and add in lot of advanced techniques if you are so inclined. You can get your cardio with some gym-based routines using burpees and kettlebells and/or by going outdoors and running, rucking, or cycling. And all this stuff would fit into a very small space. My first garage gym was able to be collapsed into a corner of the garage so I could still park my car inside. Eventually I got too much stuff and had to sacrifice half the garage for just the gym, but initially I kept my garage gym footprint small so I would be able to utilize it for my car still. That is what this set-up offers you at a cost of not even $1000. This is also a great baseline of gear at home for someone who does have access to a full gym where they have racks, barbells, heavy dumbbells, treadmills, stationary cycles, etc. This lets you train at home often or even most of the time then hit a gym for some workouts you can’t replicate at home.

For phase three, I am going to get into the major pieces of equipment that will let you exclusively train at home and accomplish even your most ambitious goals. It will be more complicated and more expensive. Stand by.

Any thoughts on the next three purchases for a garage/home gym set-up? Do you have any other recommendations? Post feedback to comments.


  1. Good piece, ZAP. I built my own box (16 x 20 x 24) and covered it in stickers like a Yeti cooler. It’s now tattered & beat up and just about perfect. Resistance bands are really under valued, IMHO. Great for flexibility gains, stability exercises and finishing reps. I need to expand out my kettle bells a bit, and more variety in my medicine ball collection.
    There were some solid opportunities as we came out of our COVID morass, when people who made big equipment purchases during lockdowns (see: full Rogue Racks) decided exercising was hard and Netflix is easy, so I was able to pick up some significant additions at fire sale prices.

    Horse mats (see: Tractor Supply) are an easy solution and must have. Recommend leaving them outside for a few weeks to allow them to off gas, but they are perfect for compound and Oly lifts.

    Some type of pulley system has also been great for us.

    • Paul, I am sure there were great opportunities for picking up equipment. Good stuff. Thanks for the comment!

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