How to Build a Home Powerlifting Gym on a Budget

This is the main plan on how to build a home powerlifting gym on a limited budget.

I moved across the country and sold all of my equipment (from my training videos). The moving costs for that weight was more than it would cost to buy everything new again. All the equipment I parted with went back to other powerlifters so they'll continue to be put to good use. I'll be starting up a new home (or hopefully garage gym) in the future.

The Shopping List

1. Power Rack or Cage
Adjustable hook and safety bar placements.  No more than 2 inches between the holes. Base of the cage needs to be wide enough to deadlift in if the gym space only allows that setup. J-hooks that aren't too deep. Makes it easier to unrack the bar. Avoid those calf cramps walking out a squat.

Power rack with 1.5" spacing between holes.

J-hooks that could stand to lose about half its height.

2. Olympic Bar
In powerlifting, a separate bar for deadlift, squat, and bench is ideal. But on a budget, one all-purpose Olympic bar will do. The bar needs to have good knurling for those heavy lifts, especially deadlifts.

Knurling on the middle of the bar too for squats.

3. Olympic Sized Plates
Olympic sized plates to fit that Olympic bar.
How many plates should I get?
The following combination of plates will allow any weight to be loaded onto the bar.
  • 45 lbs. - 2-4 more than you'll need at your current strength level. So if your strongest lift is squat and you squat 405lbs., grab 6-8 45lbs plates.
  • 35 lbs. - 0. Forget these. Takes up space and you can load it with a 10 and 25 lbs. plate.
  • 25 lbs. - 2
  • 10 lbs. - 2
  • 5 lbs. - 2
  • 2.5 lbs. - 2
And a pair of collars to keep all them plates from sliding off the bar.

4. Bench
Flat or adjustable bench? If I have to choose, flat bench. In a meet you only have flat benches. Adjustable benches usually have an awkward gap. But they are handy for more exercise variations.
Either one you get, the padding should be thick and sturdy with little give so it can absorb the weight and forces that pass through it. The harder the better... That's what she said.
The soft and narrow benches are harder to keep good form on. Here's a video of one of the greatest powerlifters of all time, Donnie Thompson, explaining the problem with crappy bench padding.

5. Extras
  • Rubber mats: To protect the equipment from the floors or to be a good neighbour and dampen the sound of weights dropping.
  • Weight tree: Organize your plates. Makes it easier to load and unload weights.

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