You can put together a cheap home gym that gets the job done if you buy the essentials. As long as you stick with the proven equipment list -and stay away from the latest ab-flexor- you can't go wrong.
The following are my 8 home gym must-haves:
Dumbbells are essential for the home fitness gym, necessary for presses, arm exercises and even a few core exercises. There are many kinds of dumbbells out there, from the cheap to the boutique. All of which fall into one of two types: fixed weight or handles only.
Handles are plate loaded. This requires you to slide the weight plate on yourself and then fasten the weight with collars. Most handles are either standard or Olympic. Standard are smaller in diameter than the Olympic version. You'll want to coordinate any plate loaded barbells you purchase with your dumbbells. That way the plates are compatible. Standard handles start at around $8. Olympic handles are pricier and longer. This added length actually takes getting used to on a few exercises.
You need a good barbell, and, like dumbbells, they come in standard and Olympic. Again, definitely be sure that they're compatible with your dumbbells. Although, an Olympic bar won't fit on a standard bench, a 7-foot standard bar will work on an Olympic bench.
A standard barbell set includes a 20 pound bar, 2 dumbbell handles (with collars) and 85 pounds of plates. A unit like this will run about $100. This isn't a lot of weight, so you'll probably want to buy more before too long.
In a truly cheap home gym, you can use any old bench for presses and one-arm rows. Make sure that it's 2 to 3 feet wide and solid. A piano bench could work if it's heavy enough. Otherwise, a picnic bench also works well. Get creative: you can put something under the front or rear to have an incline or a decline bench.
4) Chin Up Bar
A chin up bar can be constructed out of any material that will support your weight. You can find a chin up bar for $10 to $40.
5) Swiss Ball
Although I think that these are somewhat overused, they can add a little variety to your home fitness gym workouts. In addition to making you look more sophisticated by simply having it around the house, they also increase balance and tend to strengthen the core muscles. You can find one for $20.
6) Jump Rope
Jump rope for cardio: $5. Simple.
If you have a few stairs in your house, you can add a couple outstanding exercises. These include the lunge and the step-up. Since they elevate heart rate, both are good if you're performing circuit training. And, if you live in an apartment building with several flights of stairs, your cheap home gym includes a free stairclimber.
If you have a backyard, you can always do basketball style conditioning drills, such as sprints and short intervals. Make sure to build up your joints and tendons first with slower, more deliberate strength training to avoid injury. And if you have solid walls, you could bounce a medicine ball. This move is good for ab development and keeping a high heart rate.
Now that you've built it, don't forget to use it.