Setting Up a Quarantine Home Gym on a Budget

by fitness journalist

We used to run, dance, swim, and kick-box next to fellow athletes at the gym and Pilates studio and think nothing of all the sweat and labored breathing. These days, it’s safer to assemble a home gym—a sanctuary to get your heart rate up a few times a week.

Space is one issue the home gym builder must tackle. Where are you going to set up for your sit-ups? Athletic Trainer and Strength Coach Robb Lamb’s home gym in Seattle is the size of “a very small bedroom,” but this doesn’t hold him back.

“For limited space, I like things that I can get a lot of variety out of,” say Lamb, who stocks his workout space with a weighted vest, five kettlebells/dumbbells, towels to loop around his weights, sandbags, and some cinder blocks. He also laid out cheap but durable foam flooring which comes in at about $30 for 20 square feet.

“Most importantly,” adds Lamb “make it an environment you enjoy being in for 30 minutes at a time.”

My Own Home Gym


My own home gym took shape when I decided to buy an exercise bike. I did some research on NordicTrack options, and then remembered that I have a bicycle. It sat in the shed untouched and forgotten because I live in a hilly city, and cycling without an assist can be a challenge. Instead of buying a stationary bike such as a Peloton, I purchased a trainer for the bike I already had. This pleased me because I felt I was saving money and not being wasteful by accumulating more stuff.

Trainers are used mostly by serious cyclists to continue to ride when the weather is too nasty for road excursions. They come in all price-ranges. REI carries models that range from $300 to $1,400. Because I am not a pro-cyclist and my bike is a modest mountain bike, I went with a more economical trainer for less than $200.

I was also unsure if I would like riding with the trainer. Do I love it? No more than I loved the stationary exercise bike at my now-shuttered gym, which was fine, but not my favorite (I was all about Zumba and the elliptical). I have found that when I ride for one episode of House Hunters International my heart rate will be up and I start to sweat. Mission accomplished.


After my ride, I step down from the bike and hit the weights. I have quite a collection of weights which also happen to be my earthquake emergency supplies for The Big One. If you don’t have weights or an emergency preparedness kit yet, this is your two-birds-one-stone moment. As you lift gallons of water and one-pound cans of soup, you will be pleased with yourself. I’m getting stronger and I am prepared for the worst. I am amazing.

Robb Lamb recommends a trip to the hardware store for economically priced gear. “Your home gym doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive,” he reminds us. “A few examples—using cinder blocks for step-ups, pressing overhead, and squatting. Or even using objects you already have, like a backpack or bucket filled with an appropriate amount of weight. Load is load, and sometimes it’s fun to get outside of a strict personal training setting and get creative.”

I don’t have cinder blocks in my home gym yet, but I did acquire a set of five-pound weights off OfferUp. My husband then printed off a list of weight lifting exercises on an 8×10 piece of paper and stuck it in the wall with a thumbtack. I can stare at that while I define my biceps, or I can use the NTC Nike Training app for additional inspiration.


When I have time, I finish up my workout with some stretching, and maybe another episode of House Hunters. I roll out my Manduka yoga mat and stream Seattle Yoga Arts. I do not have blocks or bolsters, but I do have blankets, bed pillows, and a couple of rolled-up towels. I use a bathrobe belt as a strap.

Just Get Started

My total cost for setting up my home-gym was $250. I could have spent more, but I resisted doing so because I believe we will be back to in-person classes in mid to late 2021. Plus, when the weather is nice I exercise outdoors. If I add anything else to my home workout space, it will be a jumprope and a Classpass subscription.

You can spend hours researching the perfect gear for your quarantine gym, but really, you don’t need much. In fact, you could get a good workout with a mat, an app, and your own body weight. “You can always make an exercise harder by either slowing it down, speeding it up, and adding in novel tasks,” says Lamb. Don’t let supplies, or lack thereof, hold you back. Like anything, routine and showing up is the most important part. Just start and then keep going. Good luck.

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