If you want to build muscle mass and get strong, a free weight home gym is the best choice for you. There is a wide range of home gym equipment from inexpensive bands to expensive machines, but lifting weight is far the best way to build a great physique.
Compared to machines, using dumbbells or a barbell activates the muscles better since the motion is not driven and controlled by the device. Most of them are compound exercises which work your body as a whole. This way you will have better overall strength, and you gain faster.
What would be a better proof, than the classic bodybuilders 50-70 years ago who did nothing just lifting weights? They were huge and strong, looking like Hercules.
To sum up, using only free weight equipment to build muscles was, is and will be the best technique ever!
Now, let’s speak about what do you need for such a weight lifting home gym set.
Well, it is easy to overcomplicate a gym since there is a lot of strength equipment out there. But I think there is no need to buy everything but the kitchen sink since the most beneficial exercises like bench press, squat, presses, deadlift, etc. require almost the same exercise equipment.
Let me show you a picture.
See what is inside the gym?
Just a power rack, an Olympic barbell with bumper plates, an adjustable bench, and free weights set (that can be substitute with adjustable dumbbells to save space and money). And, yes a mirror to check yourself.
And, that gym stuff is far enough.
Before going into the details about the mentioned workout equipment above, let me give you some general advice before purchasing anything.
What to consider before buying anything
Will you have enough space?
Even if we are talking about tools, if you buy everything, they will take up quite a lot of space. Plus, to work out safely and comfortably, you will need an additional area.
So, check the dimensions of each equipment and add a few feet around it.
If you have only a little space, instead of buying individual dumbbells that require a rack as well, get adjustable ones.
What are your level and primary goal?
A critical factor of the equipment is the maximum weight capacity they have. Overloading a machine may lead to breakage and with that serious injury, or at least malfunction.
So, if you are a big lifter who can bench press or squat with hundreds of pounds, never buy a power cage or weight bench, with low capacity. Buy sturdy stuff which cost more but serves you in the long run.
On the other hand, if you are a beginner who does not want to be a “powerlifter” you do need to spend on expensive products unless you can afford.
What is your budget?
If you have checked the prices of different home weight lifting equipment, I’m sure you saw the significant differences between the costs. You can get a weight bench for 50 bucks, but for 500 dollars as well.
That difference comes from the quality, extras, robust structure and with that high weight capacity (long years of warranty).
As I said before, heavy weight lifting requires, heavy-duty equipment, so stick to it. If not, not so professional products will do for you.
Best Free Weight Home Gym Equipment
Below you can learn more about why you need the mentioned gym stuff, and I give good price/value product advice for both the average level and professional user.
1. Adjustable Workout Bench
For performing various bench presses, exercises in a sitting position, you need a stable bench.
You can get a flat bench or an adjustable one which lets you alter the angle of the board. I prefer the adjustable bench since you can set it to incline, decline and flat positions. This way you can perform far more types of exercises. For example, incline or decline bench press, not just flat, to target the various parts of your pecs.
They are also compatible with the power rack so you can train safely.
The 3 most important factors to check before buying one are the following:
For the average user, I suggest these benches that you can buy at a reasonable price at Amazon.
For professionals, Rogue adjustable workout benches are the best buy. But if you cannot afford them, you can check the following products which cost less but still firm.
2. Power Rack
Working out at home safely without a spotter is impossible without the help of a power cage. Thanks to the safety bars you do not have to be afraid of being killed by bar landing on your neck while bench pressing. And, the barbell drops help to mount and unmount the bar safely.
On top of that, almost all the racks come with a chin up/ pull up bars and dip bars which are necessary for bodyweight training. Plus, some models are expandable with a pulley system (and other accessories) so you can perform cable exercises. Finally, they are compatible with benches and Olympic bars.
To sum up it a very versatile weight training equipment that is a must for lifting weights.
We have a detailed guide to power racks here with the reviews of the best products. But, here are the three most important factors to check.
For an advanced level user who can move hundreds of pounds, Rague power racks are the best buy without a doubt. They are pricey but worth every penny.
For the ordinary user, I recommend the following products.
- 2" Sq. 11 Gauge Steel Tube Construction HD. J Hooks & 1" Solid Steel Safety Bars included.
- 48.5" x 48" x 82.5" H - 150 lbs
- 🏋️ 2"x 2" sturdy steel gauge and 4 solid steel chrome adjustable weight bar supports
- 🏋️ Built-in pull up bar, safety spotter, lat pull down, and a low row attachment for various workout options, including Bench Press, Barbell Press, Lat Pulldown, Chin-up, Shoulder Press, Squat Rack, etc. All-in-one Merax Body Power Rack
3. Olympic Barbell Set with Bumper Plates
To perform such powerful compound exercises like bench press, squat, and deadlift, you need an Olympic bar with weight plates.
Why Olympic? Because these barbells have the international standard dimensions so that they are compatible with all other gym equipment. Plus, they are heavy duty and provide excellent home workout experience. You can read about the standards here.
The same is true for the Olympic weight plates. Although, you can choose from various types such as bumper, with grip or pure iron. I prefer rubber coated bumper plates since they are rust free and easy to handle.
You can have non-standard equipment, but in most of the cases they are poor quality, and obviously, you cannot perform Olympic lifts.
We have a detailed post about Olympic weight sets here with a buying guide and the comparison of the best products.
I do not want to repeat myself, but for heavy lifters, Rogue bars and bumper sets are the winners. They are not cheap, but lasts forever and provide excellent training experience. Though, here a few more affordable alternatives.
For the regular man, here are my Olympic barbell weight set suggestions.
4. Dumbbell set
I’m a big fan of training with dumbbells since the motions require more control as if we were doing barbell exercises.
You can choose from a wide range and types of dumbbells for your free weight gym.
Someone likes the dumbbell weight set with rack since we do not have to spend time with changing plates. But, that type needs space. We have a guide about the best rubber dumbbell sets with rack here.
I prefer adjustable ones since they do not require space. And new home gym weights like Bowflex Selecttech or PowerBlock dumbbells let us change the load just by turning a dial or placing a pin. So, they substitute many pieces of equipment. You can learn more about these adjustable type dumbbells here.
That is your choice which you prefer. Any version is good, I think.
What to consider when buying? Evidently, the amount of weight you would like to use.
Here are my picks.
- Each dumbbell adjusts from 5 to 52.5 pounds; adjusts in 2.5-pound increments up to the first 25 pounds
- Lets you rapidly switch from one exercise to the next
5. Gym flooring & mirror
Well, a rubber gym mat is good to have, not just for protecting the floor. It provides a non-slip surface. Plus, by placing the rack and bench on it, they become much more stable.
The gym mirror is not just for looking yourself while pumping your biceps, but a great help to check if you perform the exercises correctly. You can buy easy to install mirrors which are specially made for a gym.
And, finally, if you need some motivation, you can get a few great gym posters here.
Are there free weight home gym packages?
Sure! And, you may save money as well. Rogue has such an option to pick the most suitable gear for you. See here their various packages. Anyway, I believe Rogue sells the best home gym equipment.
I don’t know what’s better for me, compact home gyms or free weights.
That depends on your aims. If you want to be really strong with big muscles, you should use free weights. If you wish to improve your physique a little bit, and not so serious about lifting weights, a machine will do. You can check out the best home gym machines with weight stacks here if you are interested in.
How much will this cost for me?
Well, it is hard to tell since it depends on the stuff you choose. You can spend thousands if you can afford and have home strength training equipment like at the commercial gyms. But, from a little bit more than 1000 you can build a gym that is suitable for most of the people.
To sum up
I hope you found this guide useful and now you have a better idea what to get. Building a free weight home gym is quite an investment, but you get back your money in months considering the high membership prices these days. Plus, you can have a full body workout whenever you want. If you need advice feel free to ask below.
Last update on 2018-11-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API