I recently shared the best cheap purchases for your gym bag. Now it’s time to cover the best home workout gear that costs under $100. These are things you can use to fill out your garage gym or start a workout corner in your apartment bedroom. (Speaking of which: Lifehacker also has a whole guide to building a minimal home gym here).
Buy good resistance bands instead of cheap ones
You can find resistance bands at any big-box store, but they’re often thin and wear out quickly. I’d skip those and recommend you treat yourself to thicker, more durable bands like this style from EliteFTS. These are shaped in long loops and can be wrapped around a barbell to add resistance to lifts. They’re also great for banded pullups or for exercises like band pull-aparts.
If you need a cheap barbell, try a shorty axle bar
Most good barbells cost more than $100, but I have a soft spot for the Titan shorty axle, currently going for $75 on Amazon. It can take regular Olympic-sized plates and is great for a variety of movements, including strongman-style Continentals and presses.
There are reasons why you might not want this to be the only bar you ever own; it’s not long enough to load tons of plates, and it also won’t fit on a standard-sized squat rack. But if you already own a regular barbell, this is a great next purchase—and if you don’t, it’s a fun one to have as your first loadable bar.
Use horse stall mats for your home gym floor
Those foam puzzle piece mats are cute, I guess, but if you want something for a garage gym or an outdoor platform, it’s hard to beat a horse stall mat. These guys are thick and durable enough to protect your floors and absorb a bit of the force from dropped barbells. For about $50 you can pick one up from your local Tractor Supply. Just be warned, these suckers are heavy and unwieldy. Bring a friend to help you move them. (I also just noticed there are stall mat moving grips, which seem pretty handy.)
It’s hard to beat a sandbag for weight per dollar. You can make your own, or you can buy sandbags in various styles that are made for strength training. (Need some ideas for what to do with them? Try these sandbag exercises.)
Basic types are great for carrying and for loading onto platforms or over a bar, strongman-style. Heavier bags aren’t much more expensive than lighter ones; for example, the 50-pound bag in that line of Shogun Sports sandbags is $59.99, while the 200-pound bag is $99.99. You need to provide your own sand, but sand costs about $3 for 50 pounds at the garden store, bringing your total cost to just $63 for the 50-pounder or $112 for the 200.
Or, if you prefer the sandbags that are shaped more like a duffel bag with handles, try these Yes4All sandbags, which are even cheaper at $36 to around $65. The larger sizes have several smaller inner bags, which are slightly more annoying to fill but give you more options at workout time.
Buy a good doorway pullup bar
Pullups are a great bang-for-your-buck exercise (and if you can’t do pullups yet, you can pair a bar with one of those heavy-duty resistance bands we mentioned above). There are pullup bars you can wedge into a doorway ($19), and they’ll hold your weight securely. But if you’re able to drill a few holes, don’t pass up wall mount bars ($40), which might give you more options for where to place the bar.
Buy rings or a suspension trainer
If you have somewhere to hang gymnastics rings, like a pullup bar (hey, you know where to get one of those) or an outdoor place like a sturdy tree or a backyard play set, you can get in so much more of a workout. A nice set of wooden gymnastics rings with adjustable straps will run you about $40. If you don’t have a good spot to hang them, you might want to consider a suspension trainer kit (TRX-style) that comes with a door anchor—this one is $70.
Get a simple box fan for your home gym
Once you’ve got all that equipment to do your workout with, how about something to keep you comfortable while you do it? This goes double if you have a cardio machine, like a bike or a treadmill. Get a nice big box fan ($33) to stay cool while you do your workout.