How To Build A Space-Saving 'Home Gym' For $100

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Attending the gym on a regular basis can be tough -- especially when you have a toddler like me. Then there are the ongoing membership fees and perfectly chiselled fitness fanatics to worry about. If you want to get in shape but are too broke, busy or intimidated to join your local gym, it's possible to get the results you need from the comfort of your own home. All you need is perseverance and around $100 worth of equipment. Here's how it's done.

You know that picture you occasionally see on Facebook of the most dangerous road in the world? The one cut into the side of a high mountain with no guard rail, a gravel surface and lorries being driven at breakneck speed? Somewhere in South America, I think. Well, that road is easier to navigate than a trip to the gym for a new parent.

The reasons why are simple: firstly, you will feel bad about leaving your better half at home with a crying baby. Even if the baby is asleep and you get a pass to hit the gym from your partner, you will probably be so tired from the sleepless night before that you sack it off in favour of some Netfix and three-quarters of a bottle of red.

The answer to this eternal quandary? If Mohammed can’t get to the mountain (or the gym), bring the mountain to Mohammed.

That’s right. Build the gym at home. Because space is at a premium, by ‘gym’ we really mean a handful of workouts using bare-bones equipment you can keep in a large drawer. [Note: if you have a garage to spare, by all means go for it. Build a real gym.]

The beauty of the set up I’m advocating below is that it requires virtually zero space. Provided you have a few sections of floor that aren't covered in crap and detritus, you can build this $100 ‘gym’ and perform the workouts prescribed below. And loads more.

Crucially, you will be able to hit every major muscle group and perform the most important movements with this selection of kit.

And don’t just take my word for it. Other people who recommend this kind of set-up include human lab-rat Tim Ferriss (in his book The 4 Hour Body) and Dan John (author of some of the most readable and intuitive books on strength training. If you want to strip out almost all the noise around strength training and come away with actionable insights Dan’s books are the place to start.)

It’s also the kind of protocol advocated by strength and fitness legends like Steve Maxwell, Mike Mahler and Pavel Tsatsouline. These guys know that the practicalities of life sometime require smart action and smart work. And if skipping gym sessions to be a better spouse and parent are required, then that’s what you’ve got to do.

But it doesn’t mean we have to miss the workout altogether. Here’s what we need to get the home-gym party started and build an armour-clad body.

The Equipment

#1 Kettlebell

Key exercises and muscle groups targeted:

Swing – hamstring, back, shoulders, glutes, forearms.

Goblet squat – quads, glutes.

Where to buy: Look on Gumtree for cheap 'bells. I found a 12kg bell for $30 and then 16 and 20kg bells for $50 for the pair. I also came away from that trip with a 30kg weighted vest that I could barely get into the car. He threw that in for another $20.

Or search online for the best deal -- this one seemed pretty cheap.

#2 Doorway Pull-up Bar

Key exercises and muscle groups targeted:

Pull-ups – back, biceps, general minerals.

You can get bars that hang over the back of doors or regular ones like this for $16.95.

If you can’t do chin-ups (palms facing you with greater emphasis on the biceps) or classic pull-ups (knuckles facing you, more emphasis on the lats (back), don’t worry.

Nobody can to start with. When I moved to Australia in 2010 I could only do 2/3 at a time. And they were ugly.

Start small – maybe 3 per day for a week. And gradually build up. There’s no hurry with this.

Then start to Grease The Groove, an approach popularised by the legendary Pavel Tsatsouline that is so simple and effective it it truly genius.

#3 Foam Roller

Key exercises and muscle groups targeted:

Mobility and myofascial release – quads, calves, ITB (side of your thigh), back.

You can buy fancy, studded rollers like this one. You don’t need to buy a studded one though. Kmart (like the one pictured below) and Target do pretty cheap foam rollers for something like $15.

Again hustle around on Gumtree. I got one roller from a friend for free because he didn’t use it. Another I found in the street on Council pick-up day. I gave it a scrub and it was good as new.

#4 Skipping Rope

Key exercises and muscle groups targeted:

Skipping – shoulders, legs, ticker.

Whilst you can pay big ($50-60) for a pro-grade rope and they definitely make a difference, it isn’t necessary. Mine was $10 from either Aldi or K-Mart.

#5 Power Band

Key exercises and muscle groups targeted:

Bicep curls – guns

Pull-aparts – shoulders

The Workout

Now that we’ve got the gear, it’s time to “don’t lose it, just use it” to quote Rocky from Paw Patrol (parents with toddlers will appreciate this). These workouts will hit just about everything, get the heart going through your chest and start to rebuild muscles you’d forgotten existed.

The look simple enough but they’ll get you.


Warm up with:

  1. 5 mins skipping variations
  2. 5 mins foam roller
  3. 5 mins kettlebell ‘play’ – pass-arounds, halos, deadlifts – these are primer exercises used to fire up your central nervous system and let it know it’s going to be doing a little work.

Then into 5 rounds of:

  1. 25 swings (if you’re new to swings, a great correctional video from kettlebell Godfather Steve Maxwell is right here)
  2. 15 goblet squats
  3. 5 pull-ups (or to failure if you can’t do 5)
  4. Rest 1 minute between rounds
  5. Finish with 5 mins on the foam roller to cool down


  1. 5 mins skipping
  2. 3 mins kettlebell play
  3. 100 swings
  4. 100 banded pull-aparts – see this video for technique and variations
  5. Break these up however you want. Every time you break – do 5 pull-ups. Finish with 5 mins easy skipping.

    Summary: It’s that simple

    Spend somewhere in the region of $100 and perform each of these workouts once per week to start with. This alone will start to get you into shape; it will get you fitter, you will develop better muscle tone, you’ll torch some fat, you’ll look healthier and sexier without clothes…the list is endless.

    But you must do the work. The beauty of it, though, is this: once you start and develop the habit, it actually starts to become enjoyable. And the feeling afterwards as the endorphins surge around your body making you almost high is something truly magnificent.

    Ben Ford is the author of SuperFitDad, a lifestyle blog that focuses on health tips for busy dads.


    If you can’t do chin-ups (palms facing you with greater emphasis on the biceps) or classic pull-ups (knuckles facing you, more emphasis on the lats (back), don’t worry.


    Start small – maybe 3 per day for a week.

    These sentences don't follow. What if you can't do any at all?

      Then you should work on trying to hang there without pulling up. Try to hang for 1 minute, 3 times per day and your grip will become stronger along with your core. Eventually pull-ups will be possible.

        Good advice. You can put a chair or stool underneath and assist your pull up with your legs. Start slowly, it takes time. When I first started I could only do 1 maybe 2. Now I can do about 60 weighted pull ups. (Not all in one go of course!!!)

        Last edited 19/07/16 4:01 pm

    I've set up a home gym 3 years ago and it has paid off dividends. The cheapest local gym is $35 a month, which is about $400 a year. For about $350 I have everything I need from Gumtree/Ebay/sales. Bench press / dip bars / squat rack all in one, wide grip pullup bar (which is actually just a lat pulldown bar tied up to the awning, and loads of weights. With this I can pretty much do all the movements that you could do that the gym.

    Motivation (or lack of) is the one thing most people tell me about not being able to do it at home, and to this I say I am more motivated because I dont have any excuses like "can't be bothered to drive to the gym" bla bla. I just go out there and get it done. Also because I don't have to pay a cent more I can stop for periods (such as Christmas and holidays) and not have to pay a cent for when I am not at the gym.

    I am so into home gym, because I do think as long as one has self-control or self-discipline, he can totally shape a chiseled body at home without paying the membership. I do my workout at home for two years and got all the basic home gym equipment from crazysales. Recently I decided to get a exercise bike, for I hate running. I can do both aerobic and anaerobic exercise at home in few days!

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