How to create a home gym for under $500 according to an expert

Anke Neustadt

Now that working from home isn’t reserved for digital nomads, freelancers and independent contractors, home gym equipment has become increasingly popular in the past few years. Recent surveys indicate the pandemic-driven demand for home fitness equipment is here to stay. Plus, the pandemic has driven people to take charge of their health at an unprecedentedly high rate, which means that there has never been a better time to build out a home gym and start your fitness journey. However, fitness products can be expensive and confusing, which can make finding the right machines, weights and equipment a challenge, especially if you’re shopping for a family.

To find the best home gym products for your space, I researched highly rated products across a variety of brands and spoke with Sarah Briskin, who’s a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise class instructor with years of professional health and fitness experience who holds a Masters of Science in Nutrition/Master of Public Health dual degree from Tufts University School of Medicine (she also happens to be my sister). The list includes a diverse range of fitness equipment in terms of purpose, design and price.

Best value home gym equipment 

If you pick one piece of equipment from each category below, you can build a full gym for less than $500. Sarah laid out three main categories of exercise to consider when developing a gym that encourages variation:

  • weightlifting
  • cardio
  • bodyweight exercises

Sarah said that although each person’s fitness needs are unique, regular exercise in each of these categories helps develop a well rounded fitness foundation.

Best value weightlifting equipment 

Whether you want to be a bodybuilder or just to maintain your strength, weightlifting is a core component of most fitness programs. Sarah uses weights with all of her clients to one extent or another, and especially to target specific muscle groups that need more work than others.

RBX Weight Training Slam Ball

RBX Weight Training Slam Ball for Crossfit, Strength & Conditioning Exercises, 10lb, Black


Quick Take: For $30, this medicine ball is a no-brainer for anyone who wants to add some uncommon exercises to their workouts. It’s reinforced with a threaded rubber exterior that makes it ideal for outdoor and overhead use, you’ll never have to worry about breaking it. 

Expert Perspective: Medicine balls, especially those that are durable enough to be dropped and thrown, are an overlooked piece of equipment that can be used to enhance weight lifting and bodyweight workouts. Plus, slam balls are one of the few pieces of space-conscious equipment that allows you to target specific muscle groups, such as the abdominals with exercises such as the Russian twist, as well as your whole body with dynamic exercises such as the lunge and twist.

Nymph Code Portable Home Gym

Portable Home Gym with 18 Exercise Accessories


Quick Take: Although this home gym set relies on bands to provide resistance, the fact that it can deliver up to 180 lbs without purchasing any additional bands makes it an incredibly compact alternative to a barbell set. I got this $90 kit for my apartment in New York and although I’m tight on space, to say the least, I’ve been able to use the Nymph Code portable gym to great effect on numerous occasions. I finish my workouts with the Nymph Code just as sore as I do when I’m at the gym. 

Expert Perspective: With 18 different exercises included in the set, you can use it for everything from squats and bicep curls to pushups and upright rows. One of the best aspects of this piece of equipment is the fact that it maximizes your repetitions by forcing you to exert yourself on both ends of any exercise because it delivers constant tension.

Bowflex SelectTech 840 Kettlebell

Bowflex SelectTech 840 Kettlebell


Quick Take: With a price tag of $150, the Selecttech 840 is one of the most affordable pieces of Bowflex equipment. In addition to the fact that this adjustable kettlebell includes the functionality of six different kettlebells in one system, the Selecttech 840 also includes a free subscription to JRNY, Bowflex’s companion app, for one year. 

Expert Perspective: Sarah argues that kettlebells are the most versatile piece of at-home fitness equipment, and highly recommends the Selectech 840 to anyone that’s tight on space but doesn’t want to compromise their workouts. Sarah has relied on the Selectech 840 for at-home workouts for over two years, and prefers to use them for dynamic exercises such as Turkish Get Ups.   

Best value cardio equipment 

Cardio, also known as aerobic exercise, increases your endurance and exercises your most important muscle of all: your heart. Furthermore, cardio provides a different type of beneficial stress than weight lifting does, which makes it a great complement to weight training for those looking to lose weight and gain definition at the same time. 

AmazonBasics Standard Jump Rope

Amazon Basics Standard Jump Rope, Black


Quick Take: When it comes to cardio, nothing provides a better money to heart rate ratio than a solid jump rope; if you’ve ever tried to jump rope for 30 minutes straight you know what I’m talking about. This jump rope has comfortable foam handles and a durable PVC rope despite the fact that it costs $10. 

Expert Perspective: Jumping rope is a cheap and effective way to get a full body workout that targets fat burn. Plus, jumping rope has a number of ancillary fitness benefits such as improved agility, coordination and balance.   

Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 Hydraulic Rowing Machine – Compact, Portable, Folding Rower w/Smart Workout App, No Subscription Required


Quick Take: This $169 hydraulic rowing machine mimics the feel of on-water rowing more realistically than traditional ergometers. Plus, the BodyTrac glider is compact, easy to store and includes a companion workout app.   

Expert Perspective: Rowing is one of the most effective cardio exercises because it activates a series of muscle groups from your legs to your chest through dynamic motion. In fact, a recent study revealed that rowing is one of the best ways to simultaneously build muscle and lose fat.  

Women’s & Men’s Health Exercise Bike

Women’s Health Men’s Health Indoor Cycling Exercise Bike

Women’s Health Men’s Health


Quick Take: This bike is belt driven and has 14 levels of magnetic resistance allowing users of all fitness levels to work up a good sweat. Also, it has an adjustable arm at the top for a phone or tablet; if you’re lucky you might be able to get away with taking a zoom meeting or two while pedaling. 

Expert Perspective: Sarah, in addition to being a personal trainer, is a cycling enthusiast — in 2012 she rode her bike across the country. Cycling, both indoor and outdoor, is one of her favorite forms of exercise because it’s a low-impact way to improve leg strength and overall endurance.

Best value bodyweight equipment

Bodyweight exercises are right between weightlifting and cardio in terms of increasing strength while also elevating your heart rate to aerobic levels. Bodyweight exercises are great for increasing your strength to weight ratio, which tends to lead to increased lean muscle mass and definition.

TRX GO Suspension Trainer Bundle

TRX GO Bundle – for the Travel Focused Professional or any Fitness Journey


Quick Take: Most people aren’t used to suspension training, which makes it ideal for people that are looking to shock their muscles with new movements and positive stresses. Another standout feature of the TRX GO, which costs $150, is that it neatly packs into a truly travel-friendly pouch and can be used by latching it to an anchor with a carabiner. 

Expert Perspective: What makes suspension training unique is that you can adjust the level of difficulty, in a sense, by shifting your center of gravity during an exercise, which will either increase or decrease the level of engagement with muscle groups outside of those being used for stability.

Leasbar Power Tower

Leasbar Power Tower Dip Bar Station Pull Up Bar Stand for Home Gym Adjustable Strength Training Fitness Equipment 330 LBS with Backrest


Quick Take: This $162 power tower is highly functional. Complete with a pull up bar, dip/ab swing station, push up platform and a number of anchor points for resistance bands, this power tower offers a great bang for your buck. 

Expert Perspective: Sarah incorporates pull ups and chin ups into many of her clients workouts because they improve core and back strength, which leads to increased levels of comfort during day to day tasks, such as carrying groceries or even sitting at your desk.

Best value accessories and add-ons 

Sarah recommends considering these accessories if you want to take your workouts to the next level with your existing equipment.  

RUNmax Pro Weighted Vest

RUNFast 12lbs-140lbs Weighted Vest (with Shoulder Pads, 100lbs)

Quick Take: This weighted vest is a great addition to most bodyweight, cardio or weight training workouts and helps fitness enthusiasts maximize their normal routine. Available in a number of weights, ranging from 12-50 lbs, with or without shoulder pads, this weighted vest is versatile.

Expert Perspective: Weighted vests are great for high and low intensity training because they simply enhance your base level of exertion.

Kettle Gryp

The Original KETTLE GRYP Turn Your Dumbbells Into Kettlebells Adjustable Portable Weight Grips


Quick Take: If you already have a few dumbbells, this $35 accessory allows you to transform them into kettlebells with ease.

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