Before we started living it up in our garage, we were draining our pay checks on gym memberships that we rarely used. Even when we did go, we rarely used our memberships effectively. The globo-gym industry is programmatically designed to keep people fat, lazy and nearly dead. It is inconvenient to go; it is crowded when you get there; there are too many machines to know what to do with. Ultimately a gym membership is ineffective. If you’re here, it’s because you escaped and want to know what essential garage gym equipment you need to create your personal RefuGym.
You’ve realized that you can reach peak fitness and functionality without paying for a membership somewhere. Outfitting your personal RefuGym with some basic essential garage gym equipment is a cost-effective way to achieve your potential without any of the red tape that comes with a gym membership.
Essential Garage Gym Equipment
Too often beginners get stuck, not knowing what kind of equipment to get, or what kinds of workouts to program, and they end up right back where they started — on the treadmill, staring at a tv.
This basic guide consists of our personal recommendations on where to begin your journey to fitness independence. Where applicable, we will include links to some of the essential garage gym equipment and products we recommend.
You can lose weight, get healthy, and be more functionally fit without spending an arm and a leg on equipment. BUT, we will be the first to admit that to get truly amazing results, there are a certain few key pieces of essential garage gym equipment you should outfit your RefuGym with. Without equipment it’s just an empty room. You can still get a workout though.
Here are our recommendations for your starter essential garage gym equipment. You can achieve world class fitness at home hopefully for under $1,000. This equipment will pay for itself in a year if your gym membership is $85. Don’t let the overall cost scare you. Some of this can be bought as you go. But all of it is essential garage gym equipment!
There are almost no upper body functional movements as effective as a full range of motion (kipping OR dead hang) pull-up. Partial repetitions with limited range of motion may get you toned muscles that look pretty, but they won’t get you a workout. Why kipping pull-ups?
A kipping pull-up is not designed to strictly build upper body strength. It’s designed to build overall strength, coordination, flexibility and fitness. With a kipping pull-up, you will naturally move the same weight (your body) the same distance (above the bar and back down) in less time. It won’t be an arm workout strictly, but if you convert the exercise to work, you can’t ignore the simple fact that this creates more energy expenditure!
This is why we strongly recommend a mounted pull-up bar. Something that can withstand some serious swinging, kipping, momentum and weight. Isolation exercises have no place in the RefuGym, so your pull-up needs to be bombproof.
The most dynamic, versatile and effective pull-up bar that we have found for the right price is the StudBar Pull-Up Bar. It mounts easily to ceiling joists or wall studs for rock-solid performance. It is adjustable to different heights as well. Once it’s up, it’s not moving. Period.
We have loaded our StudBar with over 250 pounds and it has not budged. We feel the roof will come down before the bar does! You could skimp and get a simple door-mounted bar, but good luck adding any appreciable weight or kipping on it. The StudBar allows you to mount other items to it, like gymnastic rings, TRX systems, and so on. If you can only buy one thing for your personal RefuGym, this should be it.
We didn’t want you to skimp on the pull-up bar, because refugees should value efficacy and functionality over price. Your next purchase should be a quality barbell and weights, and should follow the same methodology. The types of lifts and exercises refugees do involves a lot of reps. You want your barbell and plates to be up to it.
There are tons (pun intended) of manufacturers for these products and most are absolute garbage. If you can afford a nice Pendlay or Eleiko bar, by all means go for it. But as a refugee, our guess is you want the best bang for your buck. You want to be functional, fast and fit… not broke.
For this reason we like Wright Equipment. They were a pioneer in the rubber plate industry as functional fitness began to grip America. Their products are manufactured in America, and they have an iron clad warranty on their products (not that you’d ever need it).
Although we want you to be budget conscious, we still want you to have quality equipment in your RefuGym. Wright Rubber and Wright Equipment fit the bill perfectly. It might sound expensive now, and that’s ok… buy it as you are able to.
The Wright Equipment olympic bar we like is able to take a serious pounding. The collars are smooth, and it has strategically placed knurling on the bar to aid with grip for various lifts. If you’re just getting started with olympic lifts and weightlifting in general, this is a great starter bar. If you’re a seasoned pro, this will still fit the bill!
The barbell is a critical part of the RefuGym and you’ll be glad you got it!
What good is a barbell without weights? That’s actually not a great question, because the Wright Equipment barbell we mentioned above is actually 20kg (about 45 pounds) by itself, and is useful “unloaded” for a ton of different exercises!
But when you’r ready to start adding weight, you will definitely want rubber plates. No, it’s not to be obnoxious and throw the bar around the room while grunting like an ape. It’s because rubber plates offer you the peace of mind that if you need to bail out on a lift, you can… safely!
Be advised, just because bumper plates are rubber doesn’t mean they’re soft. Don’t lift these on tile, fancy flooring, or anywhere where things you love might break! If you’re a refugee in a RefuGym, we doubt you’re lifting on anything that nice anyway!
The best way to get into olympic and powerlifting is to start with rubber plates. This kit includes two 10 pounds plates that distance the bar perfectly from the ground so that you can practice all of the motions without having to load a ton of weight to start.
The price is scary up front, but just like the barbell, these are mission-critical, and we wouldn’t recommend them otherwise! They have a spot in every RefuGym, along with your barbell. Many of the rubber plate manufacturers use the same suppliers and materials, so don’t be concerned that you’re getting less quality here. Wright Equipment makes some of the best gear we’ve ever used.
Take a Breath
If you’ve made it this far you’ve already got one hell of a RefuGym going. You’ve got equipment to do some of the most essential functional movements:
- Pull-ups (Kipping, Dead Hang, Wide Grip, Narrow Grip, Reverse Grip)
- Cleans (Power Cleans, Squat Cleans, Hanging Cleans)
- Snatches (Power Snatches, Squat Snatches, Hanging Snatches)
- Jerks (Push Jerks)
- Deadlifts (Standard, Romanian)
- Squats (High Bar Back Squats, Low Bar Back Squats, Front Squats, Overhead Squats)
Read up on our demo articles on how to perform each of these exercises and find out why they all have a place in the RefuGym.
Everything from here on out is a bonus. The remaining gear will move you into a whole new realm of fitness and open a ton of doors. We strongly recommend you add it to your arsenal as you are able to financially, but make no mistake, THIS STUFF WORKS!!
Stay tuned for Part II of How to Outfit Your RefuGym!