How to build a home gym on the cheap

Author: Kate Cross

Let’s face it, gym memberships can be pricey and a regrettable expense when they go underused.  Even if you are a dedicated gym-goer, sometimes making it to your regular sweat-session can be a challenge.


Enter the DIY, budget-friendly home gym that you can create with minimal fuss but plenty of rewards.


Here are what the experts suggest to build yours …


1. Be resourceful


You don’t have to splurge on fancy equipment to get a good workout. According to High Performance Specialist and Fitness Director Jane Kilkenny “there are so many options around the house that can be used for fitness training”. She suggests using steps for cardio and strength workouts and filling empty containers with water or sand to use as weights. “A two-litre milk or juice bottle weighs about two kilos when full [and] big four-litre bottles of laundry liquid are great as they … weigh approximately 4.5 kilos when full,” she says.

Group Fitness and Yoga Teacher Mark Moon adds that cans of food and strong, full shopping bags can also make handy weights. Alternatively, fill cloth bags with rice, fold them up like a parcel so they don’t leak and use them like sandbags, he suggests.


2. Consider low-cost investments


If you can splash a little cash, Mr Moon suggests investing in anything you know you’ll use regularly. “I always recommend a good non-slip exercise mat and a set of dumbbells,” he says. 


Ms Kilkenny recommends adding resistance bands to the mix which, on top of the mat and dumbbells, “will definitely give you plenty of options”, she says.


3. Use your bodyweight


Bodyweight training is a versatile, fuss-free way to move, and it doesn’t cost a cent. Ms Kilkenny says that once you’ve mastered the basics, including correct technique, “you can get a great workout wherever you are”. “You can combine squats, lunges, push-ups, bridges and planks for a total body workout,” she says.


“Just be careful not to fall into the trap of doing the exact same exercises every time,” warns Mr Moon, who recommends moving the body “in as many different directions as possible”.


4. Try online classes


These “can be excellent when they are structured and taught well and offer variety”, says Mr Moon, who runs live, interactive classes via Zoom. Not only are they convenient, Mr Moon says online classes can add variety and balance to your routine.


Whether you’re purchasing classes or watching free ones, just make sure you ‘shop around’.


“The biggest problem with online workouts, particularly on social media, is the quality of the exercise choices and the knowledge of the presenter,” says Ms Kilkenny. “There are some great options available, but always check the credentials of the source,” she adds.  


5. Prioritise safety


This is a must! Says Ms Kilkenny: “The biggest risk for home-based exercise is that poor technique can result in injuries.” That’s why she says it’s “imperative” you turn to reputable sources for guidance. You could, for example, consult a professional trainer once a month for “new exercises, technique fine tuning and quality advice”, she suggests.


Adds Mr Moon: Ensure your workout space is clear, flooring is non-slip and any homemade equipment is in good order.


3, 2, 1 … go!




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