New exercise equipment is very expensive, but don't worry, in this blog I am going to explain how you can kit out a home gym for nothing. In fact, you could end up making money in the process.
I should clarify; in this blog I'll be talking about weight training equipment and not other forms of equipment that people commonly have at home (like the huge and very expensive cross-trainer that gets used as a clothes airer). I also wish to point out that I am writing about something I have done myself recently. I have over 200kgs of weight training equipment, in great condition, with all the bars and barbells I need. It all cost me nothing.
Rule number 1: buy second hand
During the 2020/21 pandemic, it was impossible to buy new weight training equipment. This forced me to look elsewhere. I began watching Facebook marketplace and I was amazed at what I found in Cambridge, Saffron Walden, Newmarket and the surrounding villages.
You don't have to use Facebook market place, TradeMe in New Zealand is amazing and I've heard that Craigslist is popular in the US. You could also be very old fashioned and look in your local newspapers. Wherever you look, you'll need to check regularly if you do want the best bargains, and don't hesitate to buy if you spot a bargain.
People are always buying top-quality equipment brand-new. Many of these people use the equipment a few times, struggle with motivation and direction, and the equipment ends up sitting in the corner of a garage getting covered in dust and cobwebs. After a year or so, the equipment that was once pristine is now dirty and rusty. The owner assumes that the value of the equipment has dropped hugely and flogs the whole lot cheaply.
Rule number 2: buy in bulk
People are frequently selling bulk loads of weight training gear. From my experience, this often consists of 70-100kgs of weight plates, a bench and a few different bars and barbells. In the UK, people will often sell this much equipment for £70-£100 (I've seen twice as much kit sell for half the amount; you could be lucky and find one of these listings).
£70-£100 is ridiculously cheap. Individually, weight plates (iron ones, I'll come on to this shortly) can comfortably be sold for £1.50-2 per kg. A good bench can be quickly moved on for between £30-£60 and the bars alone are worth £10-20 each. To get an idea of the value of an item, simply look at how much it would cost new and assume that you could sell it for half that price.
The image below is an example of one of the bulk loads that I picked up.
Rule number 3: don't worry about rust and dirt
It's really not very hard to clean up dirty and rusty weight plates, barbells and dumbbells. I'll write a blog about the best way to do this soon. In a nutshell, with a bit of elbow grease, most barbells, dumbbells and weight plates will come up looking better than new. I say better because they've got an nice patina from where they've been used. Benches are slightly different - you don't want a bench that has been left outside to rust through for the better part of a decade.
Rule number 4: only keep what you want
When you find a well-valued bulk load of weight training equipment, buy it, collect it and sort through it. Then re-list the bits you don't need. Let me give you some advice for what to keep:
A good quality foldable bench. A lot of commercial benches are totally over-engineered for normal people training in their garage. Many of them look like they have been built to withstand the Incredible Hulk. Find one that is solid, a sensible size and possibly foldable so that you can tuck it away.
If you have a good amount of space, there's no reason why you can't pick up a power-cage or a squat rack. A power cage/squat rack is the sensible upgrade once you have a bench, a selection of bars and a good amount of weight.
Straight bar. This doesn't have to be an Olympic bar, in fact, for most people a standard bar is perfectly good. Most people with Olympic bars and plates really don't need them.
Barbells. Spinlock are best if you want an efficient set-up. You can then have a couple of sets that are adjustable.
Additional bars. You might want a tricep bar, a shorter straight bar, or a curl bar. In my opinion, a curl bar is the most useful of these. You will usually pick up these bars with bulk purchases.
Iron weight plates. Don't bother with plastic plates because iron ones are much better and they are easy to get a hold of.
The images below show another bulk load I bought. I immediately sold the bench but kept most of the plates. They looked great once they'd been cleaned.
IMPORTANT: The most efficient weight plates system
If you want an efficient weight training set up, don't just collect a random selection of weights plates. The following setup works well and the weight plates sizes are very common:
Light dumbbells: 4 x 0.5kg, 4 x 1kg, 4 x 2kg. This will give you a range from 1kg to 7kg per dumbbell (not accounting for bar or barbell weight) rising in increments of 1kg.
Heavy dumbbells: 4 x 1.25kg, 4 x 2.5kg, 4 x 5kg. This will give you a range from 2.5kg to 17.5kg per dumbbell (not accounting for bar or barbell weight) rising in increments of 2.5kg. You could also use these plates on your curl and tricep bars.
Barbell: either use the weights you already have for your dumbbells, or get another set of 2 x 1.25kg, 2 x 2.5kg, 2 x 5kg. Then add as many 10kg and 20kg plates as you need.
Avoid weight plates that are silly weights (like 7.5kg, or 1.5kg, or imperial measurements). As shown above, you want weight plates that double in size.
Collect the minimum number of small weight plates. If you need more weight, collect more 10kg and 20kg plates rather than benching a barbell with 80kgs made up of 32 x 2.5kg plates. That's a lot of faff to load and unload.
Rule number 5: Sell what you don't want individually
Once you are happy with your set up, start selling all the additional bits that you don't want. Do not list items as bulk loads. Take a photo of the weight plates and sell for £1.5 to £2 per kg. There are loads of people out there who are willing to pay this to get a few extra plates to make up their set. As I mentioned earlier, benches will sell for around £30-£60 and bars for around £10-£20. Remember, you've already cleaned these items, so they already look much more appealing to potential buyers than that dusty, dirty kit you bought a week before.
When I did this, I sold most of my extra gear in a few weeks and it covered the cost of the buying all the kit in the first place. This is how I managed to set myself up with over 200kgs of weight training kit for absolutely nothing.
Here's a video showing what I ended up with. My apologies for two things; firstly filming in profile, and secondly, wearing socks and sandals. That ain't cool bro.