5 Home Gym Weight Room Necessities. Free Weights Basics


You want to build a weightlifting room at home. Your own personal home gym is a great thing. But what are the basics you need to get a complete workout?

A home gym weight room only needs a few key pieces of equipment to be able to do a complete full body workout;

  • Power rack/squat stand
  • Barbell
  • Weight plates
  • Bench
  • Dumbbells

That is enough to lift free weights at home. Gym flooring and mirrors are great additions but not strictly necessary.

Why you need these pieces of equipment and what should you look for? Keep reading to find out.

To find the exact equipment I recommend for weightlifting at home, click here.


Necessities for a home gym with free weights

There are a few things you absolutely need to be able to set up a proper free weight home gym. These are the basics you need to get started. They’re also the biggest and most expensive pieces. When you’ve got this equipment in your home gym, there isn’t much more you need for any free weight exercise. There might be a few small bits and pieces you could add but they won’t add anything you can’t go without.

The basics you need;

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

All of these pieces can last a very long time if you get decent quality items. You buy this once and you’ll be good for the next decade and probably two decades. Except for the bench, this equipment doesn’t need a whole lot of maintenance except keeping it clean.

Below is a deeper explanation why you need those parts.


Make sure to check out my eBook! It shows you exactly what you need to build a great home gym and how to do it.


Let’s take a more detailed look at these pieces of equipment.

Barbell

The most important part of any free weights gym is the barbell. It’s what allows you to hold a ton of weight in your hands and lift it. This is the single piece of equipment you’ll be touching all the time. For most of the lifts in a free weights program you’ll be using the barbell.

There are just so many lifts and exercises that require you to have a barbell, you can’t do without.

Since this is the most important part of your setup, it’s worth it to get something good. Click here to find the barbell I recommend.

If you can fit it in your gym, get a full sized barbell that measures 7’2 with 2” sleeves on the end. There is a whole lot to know about barbells. I’ve written a huge post with everything you want to know about barbells. Click here to find it.


Weight plates

While the barbell is the most important part of a home gym, the weights that go on the bar are what puts the “weight” in free weights. Sure a barbell weighs something (click here to find out how much exactly), but without weight plates added to the bar, it doesn’t really provide enough resistance.

Weight plates allow you to exactly adjust the resistance the barbell provides. Of course that has to be different for every different lift you want to do. To do this properly you need a variety of different weight plates. Having a good variety of weights makes it possible to tailor the weight exactly. This allows you to progress over time. Keep adding 5 lbs. to the bar every week and you’ll be surprised how much weight you’re lifting at the end of the year.

The best weight plates for home use are rubberized and have a 2” inner hole that matches your barbell. Check out this page for more information and to find which one I recommend.


Bench

Up next is the weightlifting bench. A bench is necessary for that most bro-tastic lift, the bench press. Brag worthy a big bench press may be, it’s a great exercise for building upper body strength.

Together with the barbell, weights and power rack, the bench is the final part of the puzzle to be able to bench press in your home gym. That’s not the only exercise you unlock by getting a bench. You can also do incline bench, pullover, DB fly, Dumbbell press, Seated shoulder press and much more.

For a home gym, look for a bench that’s adjustable and sturdy. Adjustability especially just opens up the opportunity for a ton of different exercises.

I’ve recommended a bench here that can handle everything you could possibly throw at it for a reasonable price.


Dumbbells

Dumbbells are another form of free weights. They complement barbell exercises pretty well. Where barbells make you use both arms at the same time, dumbbells move the weight separate from each other.

Barbells allow you to lift more weight in total but they can create some muscle imbalances from side to side. When one arm is stronger, that side will lift a bigger percentage of the weight and as a result that arm will get even stronger. You possibly won’t even notice this if you only use barbells.

Dumbbells move separately so it’ll be very clear if one side is weaker than the other. While noticing it doesn’t necessarily make it better, if you know that one side is weaker, you can do something about it. You can then use dumbbells to correct the difference. Just train that side more/heavier than the other side and dumbbells are the perfect tool for that.

While you can only use barbells and have a great workout and create a great body, dumbbells are definitely a great addition to your gym that is very useful.

Click here to find the 9 things you have to look for when buying dumbbells.


Power rack

Next up is the power rack. It’s often the biggest piece of equipment in a home gym. While maybe not as essential as a barbell and weights, it’s almost on the same level. A big part of a free weight workout program will require a power rack.

Any decent free weight program will at least include squats, overhead pressing, pull ups and bench pressing. All those exercises are very hard to do without a power rack. Those four exercises are part of the foundation of many workout programs so making it possible to perform them is essential.

Of course there are things you can do without a power rack and there are other lifts you can perform in a rack. However, without a power rack I’d say you can’t have a complete full body workout.

Look for a power rack that can support the amount of weight you want to lift and is sturdy. Check out this page to find my recommended power racks for home gyms. That one is sturdy, well built and you can have it for a very affordable price.

If you want something a little less bulky, a squat stand is a decent alternative. Find out more here.


What you can do with this setup?

So just to make clear that you can get a complete workout with this setup, let’s take a look at a selection of your exercise options. This is by no means an exhaustive list but just an indication that this setup is very flexible.

ExerciseEquipment
Arms
Barbell (BB) Bicep curlsBarbell, Weight plates
Dumbbell (DB) Bicep curlsDumbbells
DB tricep extensionsDumbbells
Skull crushersBarbell, Weight plates
DB hammer curlDumbbells
Shoulders
Overhead should pressBarbell, Weight plates, Rack
Arnold PressBench, Dumbbells
Lateral raiseDumbbells
Front delt raiseDumbbells
Push pressDumbbells
Rear dealt flyBench, Dumbbells
Chest
Bench pressBench, Barbell, Weight plates, Rack
Incline bench pressBench, Barbell, Weight plates, Rack
Incline DB pressBench, Dumbbells
Dumbbell pressBench, Dumbbells
Dumbbell flyBench, Dumbbells
PulloverBench, Dumbbells
Floor pressDumbbells
Legs
Barbell back squatRack, Barbell, Weight plates
Barbell front squatRack, Barbell, Weight plates
LungesDumbbells
Glute bridgeBarbell, Weight plates
Goblet squatDumbbells
Sumo squatDumbbells
Back
DeadliftBarbell, Weight plates
One arm DB rowBench, Dumbbells
Barbell rowsBarbell, Weight plates
Pull-upsRack
Good morningsBarbell, Weight plates
T-bar rowBarbell, Weight plates

And that’s not even half of all the possibilities.


Good extras

Besides the necessary equipment, there are some good extras you can add to make your workouts a bit more comfortable and effective.

Mirrors

Mirrors aren’t things you ever touch in a gym. However, you don’t need to touch something for it to be useful. While you can use your gym without the mirrors, in my opinion there are a few good reason to really add them anyways.

The most important one is to see your exercise form. Seeing your form is super important, especially when you’re just starting. Free weight exercises are a bit more technical and there is more you can do wrong than with (cable)machines. Doing an exercise the wrong way might not be damaging immediately but over time it could cause problems.

If you’ve got a mirror, you get visual feedback about your form immediately so you can correct it before things go wrong.

In this post I outline which mirrors are best for your home gym and what you should look for.

If you’ve already got mirrors, you can read here about how and where you should mount them.

Flooring

Flooring is one of those things that’s a bit of an afterthought for most home gym builders. The problem with that is that it’s quite difficult to put in after setting everything else up. So making the flooring a bit more of a priority in the home gym planning process will make your life easier further down the line.

Flooring isn’t completely necessary but very useful to have. It has a few big benefits for your weight room;

  • Protects your floor: Gym flooring is cheaper and easier than fixing a broken floor.
  • Protects your equipment: A softer layer between the equipment and floor is good for both. especially dumbbells and weight plates.
  • Quieter workouts: Rubber or foam gym flooring dampens a lot of noise especially from weights dropped on the floor.
  • Looks good: High quality gym flooring makes your gym look much better than a bare concrete slab.
  • Hygienic: Gym flooring is easy to clean.

As you can see, not essential but certainly very useful. Learn more about gym flooring here.

Resistance bands

Resistance bands can be used together with dumbbells and barbells or alone. There are many uses for them. They don’t take up much space and are relatively cheap. Adding them to your gym opens up a lot of new exercise variations.

However, there is no need to do this from the beginning. It’s easy to get a set later when you need/want to.

If you’re interested, learn more here.

Fan

Depending on the climate you live in, you might want to stay a bit cooler during a workout. You’ll have better workouts if you’re not overheating. A fan is a simple, cheap and easy way to do that in a home gym.

Find the best quiet fans here.


Related questions

What are free weights? Examples of free weights are barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells. These weights are not attached to anything or forced into a set movement pattern. They can go anywhere without being restrained. This is what makes them free. Free weights, when used right, tend to develop a more complete musculature.

Matt

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.

Recent Posts