Sometimes, the gym just isn't the best option for certain people. You may have a very busy schedule and just can't afford to take an hour to travel to and from a commercial gym.
Maybe you have children and can't get away. Maybe there isn't a gym around for miles, or maybe you just can't stand being at the gym because you hate the environment.
Whatever your reasons, you can certainly get the same results with a simple home gym of your own.
I remember when I first started training, I lived in a small town with only the high school gym for a weight room and every summer that would close down. Imagine not being able to train in the summer because of logistics? That was absolutely out of the question and simply not acceptable.
The only thing left for me and my lifting buddies to do was come up with our own little weight room and start training there. So, we talked to one of our buddies into using his dusty, oily, and dark garage. Boy, did we put that old garage to use! We got ourselves a bench (complete with squat racks, which I was using at my place), some cast iron plates (my buddies brother had a 200 pound set), some dumbbells, (I bought those in a pack with plastic weights), and a lot of Arnold posters. Those were some good times.
Anyways, I had some of the best workouts of my life in that little garage and made more gains using those free weights in one summer than I did all year using that rusty universal machine in the high school gym.
What did the whole set up cost? Well, at that time when I didn't have a nickel to my name, about a hundred bucks - Which my parents donated around $90.
Let's see, what was the breakdown in terms of cost?
Simple bench press from york with squat stands...40$
65 pound plastic adjustable dumbbell set from Sears...35$
Cast iron plates...Donation
Aerobic equipment...Our bicycles.
When I look back on those days, I didn't need a fancy gym or fancy weight machines to get the benefit out of my workouts. We didn't have a pec deck or a cable cross over machine. We used basic core exercises such as the bench press, dead lift, squat, and shoulder presses. We didn't use an elliptical trainer for aerobic exercise because we used our bicycles to go everywhere. Our workouts were intense and we got big and strong.
By the time our gym opened up, the owners were actually very surprised to see how strong we were, especially for 17 year olds.
Anyways, the point I'm trying to make is that you don't need a fancy gym or machines to get strong and build muscle. You simply need some basic necessities and the will power to go forward. That's it.
What do I suggest for an effective, simple home gym? Here's what you need for some basic weight lifting equipment.
1) Adjustable bench press.
If you plan on using a very simple set up, you can get a simple weight bench combo from Sears, or Walmart. For example, Walmart has some half decent combos for some pretty cheap prices. One bench combo that caught my eye was the Gold's Gym XRS 20 Bench (see image below).
For about $130 dollars you get everything you need. The most important features are the adjustable bench which can change from the incline, flat, or decline positions. Squat station that allows you to squat which is vital to leg development. Safety spotters are also attached in case you train alone.
It doesnt matter if you are using standard or Olympic sized bars, this bench can handle them all. This bench seems like a good fit for any home gym trainer.
2) Weight sets and plates
Id advice you to stay away from plastic weights. They never last and the cement always leaks out of them after a couple months of use. The only problem with cast iron plates is that they are a little more expensive. Heres a half decent, cast iron set for about $160.
If you cant afford the cast iron set, take a look at this set, also by Sears. This set offers a 5' bar as well as adjustable dumbbells which goes for about $60.
Just remember to get enough weight to handle steady increments. You can generally find half decent sets at your local sports stores, Walmart, Sears, or other retail outlet store that sells sporting goods. I strongly suggest you get both, barbells and dumbbells, and collars.
You dont really need a whole lot more than a multi purpose bench, a barbell, dumbbells and weight plates to get started with a weight training routine. You can do most compound exercises with this kind of set up and the only thing you need to do is buy more weight as you get stronger.
You really dont need that much room to weight train. As long as you have enough room to exercise, your going to be fine.
There you have it. For under $300 dollars, you can have everything you need in order to get strong and build some serious muscle. For a more detailed look at this topic, see building muscle 101's weight lifting equipment page here.