Building a Home Gym from 2 Dumbbells

Sports Performance
Kelli Fox

Kelli Fox

Kelli Fox is the Senior UX/UI Designer for TrainHeroic. Her love of design has always stemmed from a curiosity to learn how people think, what’s important to them, and how to make it easier for them to accomplish what they’re trying to do. A lifelong marathoner and endurance athlete, she also just generally enjoys training for life and outdoor adventures of all kinds. Strength training has been an amazing foundation behind her endurance endeavors, and increasingly critical for performance.

Building a home gym

A Quick Background

Hey, I’m Kelli, the Senior UX/UI Designer at TrainHeroic. I’ve been a long distance runner most of my life, running competitively in high school, post college getting into training for longer distance races eventually qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon.

Overtraining injuries led me to more intentionally pursue strength training and injury prevention mobility, as well as other cross training activities like cycling, climbing, and spending more time on dirt trails.

Now, strength is a fundamental part of my training, necessary as a solid foundation, and I am continually trying to improve my barbell lift PRs. I’ve always loved the simplicity yet deep grit required on intense endurance training, and I think something similar drew me to heavy lifting.

I never enjoyed lifting very much until I deadlifted my first time. After that I was a total convert, training in lifting like I trained for other events. It’s a rush picking up a heavy barbell like nothing else. And all tracked in the TrainHeroic app of course!

The Initial Home Gym Setup

My initial home gym was a couple free weights, resistance bands, foam roller, and lacrosse ball. I used this when I didn’t have time to get to the gym and wanted to do some kind of strength work.

Before home gym

Before COVID hit, my plan was to start building up my gym slowly with finding equipment from facebook marketplace and Craigslist. Mr. Money Mustache has a great article on building a home gym. Well, then COVID happened and you know the rest.

The timing was expedited to get a minimal setup. We started with getting a standard and women’s Olympic barbell from Rep Fitness (my partner and I share the gym and use different barbells).

This is the piece of equipment that is worth investing in a good one. I saw many used barbells and weights that were smaller than the standard Olympic plate 2” diameter.

Getting My Home Gym Equipment

Home gym setup

Next was getting plates and a basic squat rack and weights. Due to COVID, it was hard to find options in stock, so we went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to find a rack meeting my criteria. It must:

a. Support enough weight that I or my partner would be lifting
b. Allow safety bars to be added
c. Have an option to do pull ups from
d. Bonus: The one I chose also had weight holders, which has been super convenient

For the weights, we chose a variety that could be combined to our needs, and also have some room to grow. We also got a combo of rubber plates and metal plates. The metal was cheaper, so we just had enough rubber ones as the base, and then the metal ones could be added on. My checklist of plates:

  • Two 2.5 lb plates
  • Two 5 lb plates
  • Two rubber 10 lb plates
  • Six metal 10 lb plates
  • Two 25 lb plates
  • Two rubber 45 lb plates
  • Two metal 45 lb plates
  • 2 Olympic barbell clamps (secure the weights on the ends)

Then there’s the squat rack platform. You may decide you don’t need any kind of flooring under your squat rack, but it’s pretty nice. I was working with a space 8’x7’ foot. It would have been much easier to build it 8’x8’ because that’s working with the standard size of wood pieces, but some simple trimming fixed that. We built it based off of this DIY platform with supplies from Home Depot.

That was my setup for about 6 months until getting a bench. It’s a pretty simple bench that goes flat and incline.

The last things have been all accessories as it’s felt like they’d get used regularly.

  1. Heavy duty resistance bands to do things like assisted pull ups and banded good mornings.
  2. Fractional plates. These have been super helpful for me to increase my weight in smaller increments for arm exercises like Overhead Press and Bench Press.
  3. Wrist straps for more support doing certain olympic lifts and front squats.
  4. Chalk for more grip on heavier lifts.
  5. Wall hook for hanging equipment. Having organization for equipment and a “place” for everything to be put back keeps your space neat! It is so nice to walk into your own nicely organized gym, where someone didn’t leave the weights on the barbell or put them in strange places.
  6. Google home speaker for playing music.

The last thing I’d like to get at this point is a couple of other free weights or kettlebells. Other than that, my squat rack setup I use for most of my lifting has proved totally sufficient.

Plates for home gym


The convenience and time savings of a home gym is amazing. I don’t have to worry that all the racks will be taken at the gym, or being on display in the gym. I can play my own music and easily film my lifts. As a female lifter I don’t have to deal with all the gym bros and their egos either. I can also leave setting heights where I like them, and mark reference spots with tape to get my ideal setup quickly as I’m moving through different exercises and settings.

The downside? There’s something about the energy and environment of the gym that I miss that helped motivate me to stay focused and lift heavier. And there was more of a mental separation and feeling of fewer life distractions in the gym.

They also have a lot of space and accessory equipment you may not want to invest in. It’s a big upfront cost building a home gym, but if it will save you years of gym fees is totally worth it, plus, you can always sell the equipment down the road if you decide it’s not for you.

Overall, there are certain things I might go back to the gym for that are hard to mimic at home (ie. Spin classes, weightlifting instruction, climbing gym, swimming, etc…), but overall I am definitely a home gym convert. The convenience it affords me is great, and gives me fewer excuses not to get my lifting in.

Weights for home gym



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