5 Essential Home Gym Equipment To Lift Free Weights

Want to get a full free weights setup in your home gym but don’t know where to start and what you need to get a complete setup without buying too much? Here’s what you need.

There are five essential pieces of equipment that create a complete free weightlifting home gym with free weights;

  • Power rack
  • Barbell
  • Weight plates
  • Bench
  • Dumbbells

This is a setup that allows you to do all free weights exercises and build a great, strong physique.

For more information about the equipment you need and why, keep reading below

What Free Weight Equipment Do You Need At Home

In a commercial gym, you’ll see tons of dumbbells, barbells, racks, machines, etc. But if you just want to lift free weights, what do you actually need at home to get a complete workout?

There are just five essentials you absolutely need.

  1. Power rack
  2. Barbell
  3. Weight plates
  4. Bench
  5. Dumbbells

With these five things, you can do a very complete free weights workout. There are some accessories and extras I’ll mention below that extend the functionality of your home gym but those accessories might add one exercise that you might like but most of those exercises target muscles that can also be targeted with just the equipment listed above.

Let’s look at the different pieces of equipment and what why it’s essential.

1.    Barbell + Weight plates

Barbells are a very popular way to lift weights. It’s a long metal bar you can put metal discs on. You grab it with both hands and can move it up and down. How you position your body while moving the bar up and down decides which muscles you work out. The other equipment in this list helps you with positioning your body and bar in different positions.

Recommended Home Gym Barbell And Weight Plates

Barbells are great for weightlifting because they allow you to do natural movements with heavy weights. Exercises like squats, bench pressing, deadlifts, overhead pressing, etc. all require a barbell. You can do those things with dumbbells but it won’t be exactly the same and you’ll lift lighter weights.

Barbells allow you to lift heavier than dumbbells and are cheaper to use for heavy lifting. Heavier lifting means you’ll get bigger and stronger. Cheaper is always good.

Because you load a barbell with weight plates, you reuse the same bar and plates for all weights you want to lift. Dumbbells are just a fixed weight (most dumbbells) and if you want to lift a heavier or lighter weight you need a different set. That requires more material and therefore costs more. Dumbbells have their place but for heavy weights, a barbell is much better.

Of course if you get a barbell, you need some weight plates. Without weight plates a barbell isn’t very useful. An empty bar gets too light pretty quickly. That’s why you need a complete set of weight plates. Get a set of plates that has different sized plates so you can gradually increase the weight on the barbell every workout. Doing the same exercise every workout/week but a little bit heavier is how you get bigger and stronger.

Find out here how many weight plates of each size you need to get a complete set.

2.    Power Rack/Squat stands

The next free weight essential is a power rack or squat stands. A power rack is bigger, safer and has more options for attaching things and usually has a built in pull up bar which makes them the better choice for a home gym. Only if you are really on a tight budget and there is no other way to save money would I go for squat stands.

Suggested: Power Rack vs. Squat Stands

A power rack allows you to rest the bar at a pre-set height. This is necessary for squatting and overhead pressing. Good luck getting 300 lbs. on your back if you have to lift it from the floor first. A power rack also has safety pins that prevent the bar from dropping all the way to the floor. Combined with the four upright posts you lift in between, this makes lifting at home much safer. Since in a home gym you’re usually lifting alone without a spotter, extra safety is not a luxury.

One other benefit of power racks is that there is usually a pull up bar built in. Pull ups are always a great exercise. Certain power racks also have the option to attach other things like a lat-pulldown or landmine press attachment. That can increase the amount of exercises you can do.

Recommended Home Gym Power Rack

A power rack also works well in combination with a bench.

3.    Bench

Without a bench, you’re limiting yourself to exercises that are performed standing up or maybe bent over. With a bench, you can do some more, very popular, pushing and pulling exercises. Since gravity pulls on a barbell towards the floor, you can’t target all your muscles by just standing up.

The always popular bench press needs to be done laying down on a bench for example. Other exercises like incline bench pressing, seated overhead pressing, one armed rows, etc. also need a bench to be possilble.

An adjustable bench where it’s possible to change the angle of the backrest is especially useful.

Recommended Home Gym Bench

4.    Dumbbells

Dumbbells are somewhat optional but in my opinion they do have a place in the essential weightlifting equipment list. Unlike a barbell, dumbbells are separate from each other. That means you can move them in different planes of motion than barbells.

Find the best home gym dumbbell sets here

I use a combination of a barbell and dumbbells in pretty much every workout. Usually the barbell for heavy lifts and dumbbells for lighter lifts. Dumbbells activate the muscles in a slightly different way which is good for extra muscle growth. You can also use dumbbells for some exercises that are difficult with a barbell like front delt raises, one arm rows, lateral lifts, etc. While you can target the same muscles with a barbell, with dumbbells you can do it in different ways.

Dumbbells are also good for preventing muscle imbalances and use more stabilizing muscles than barbells which means you’ll be more injury proof.

Most people should start with a 5-50 lbs. dumbbell set. For most people that’s heavy enough for a while and for the heavier work you can use the barbell. It’s always possible to buy single sets of dumbbells later on if necessary.

Fixed dumbbells are the ones you see in commercial gyms. They have a fixed weight. These are the sturdiest and most versatile but they are pricey.

For a home gym, a set of adjustable dumbbells is quite a bit cheaper and saves space. You have to be a bit more careful with them though. Find the 4 best adjustable dumbbells here.

Extras and Accessories

Above you can see the essentials for a full free weights workout. That setup is enough for your workout but doesn’t necessarily make a complete home gym.

For any home gym it’s a good idea to have the following things to make it good and comfortable:

So while you don’t strictly need those things to lift free weights, having them sorted out makes your home gym much more usable, comfortable and durable.

Related questions

Do the big five lifts build a good body? The big five are chosen because they build a strong body when done right. A person that can lift a lot of weight will have big muscles. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will look like a bodybuilder. The big five are more focused towards powerlifting then bodybuilding but it will create a great foundation to build from.

Is a bar pad necessary to do squats?  A bar pad is not necessary to use for most people. The barbell during the squat should rest on the back of the shoulders. The rear delt muscle should make a little shelf the bar sits on. A bar pad might make things more comfortable but puts the weight in the wrong place and change your movement pattern.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to HomeGymResource.com. I've been going to the gym for about 15 years and am now looking to build my own. In the process I've learned many things I'd like to share with you.

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