If the first two years of the Boring Twenties have taught us anything, it’s that governments the world over are willing to press pause on your life due to the merest suggestion of illness.

Make no mistake about it – they have come for your gym membership once and will not hesitate to do so again.

To this end, the wise man taking the path of strength must come up with a contingency in case his ability to lift is once more compromised by the state with yet another lockdown.

Home gym has been a growth industry the past two years, as best demonstrated by the ‘Great Lockdown Dumbbell Shortage’ of Spring 2020 when even the puniest implements were selling for three or four times their regular value.

Spending money on a home gym set up can be as costly as you are willing for it to be, but this article will talk you through the absolute ‘must have’ items that should be non-negotiable to see you through any future shutdowns.

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Lockdown essential: barbell


Some people would claim it is possible to have a home gym without a barbell, but those people are liars or fools.

Whatever the Insta fitness mafia would have you believe, a variety of fluorescent rubber bands are no substitute for 45lbs of stainless steel.

Your first port of call when curating your home gym is a barbell. It doesn’t even need to be that good – you absolutely do not need to buy top of the range, but you need something that will last a year without bending, breaking or snapping when you need it most.

There are good deals to be had at the usual auction sites but keep an eye out for gym stockists’ Black Friday or New Year sales when it is easier to get a meaty discount. This is one item you must obtain if you are serious about having a home gym set-up.

Lockdown essential: weight plates


Before February 2020 eBay was a hotbed of cut-price deals on “pre-loved” plates, both rubber bumpers and the more traditional iron type. The pandemic changed all that so the bargains are no longer as easy to obtain, but a good deal can still be had for the shrewd meathead.

Firstly, when buying plates online, don’t fall for the 1” hole trick, unless you also have a similarly puny bar to put in them. The standard Olympic barbell is 2” at the end (the sleeves) and so what might seem a great deal at first glance may only be because the plates you’re looking at are not able to fit on a regular bar. Buyer beware!

So how much weight do you actually need? A question as open as this can only be answered on an individual basis but some things to consider: “How much money do I have?”, “How much space do I have?”, “How much weight can I lift?”

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If money is no issue, you should aim to buy at least as many plates as constitute your current deadlift 1RM. This is likely to be your biggest lift, and it should usually take several months to turn your 1RM into a 5RM, at which point hopefully the lockdown will be over or you will have saved up enough money to buy some more plates.

If money is an issue, I would suggest that four 45lbs / 20kg plates (or equivalent in smaller plates) is a good ‘upper threshold’ as lots of very good thing can happen for your physique with 225lbs worth of iron.

If you are genuinely cash-strapped then I would suggest at minimum two 45lbs / 20kg plates as a good starting point. You can always add more as you go. Just be prepared to do lots of high reps and supersets in the meantime.

Lockdown essential: bench

The Best Weight Benches Of 2021 For Your Home Gym | Coach

Do you need a bench?

In short, “no”.

Bench press is an absolutely blessed exercise and one we all love, but if you are building your home gym from the bottom up and space or money is at a premium a bench can be a luxury.

Floor press is a perfectly legitimate substitute for bench press and is arguably safer if you will be training alone in your garage. Chances are you are already neglecting your clean and press and so if the gyms are shut for the winter then it is no hardship to focus on this very cool lift for a while instead.

If you can afford a bench, then buy one. They are useful for several exercises other than bench press and, let’s face it, being able to bench press at home is just awesome.

Lockdown essential: a stand or rack


One of the most expensive items you can have in your home gym is the squat or power rack but there are hardy, simple homemade versions that you can rig up easily and cheaply.

Is this a necessity? No. Is it incredibly cool and useful to have some form of rack at home? Undeniably yes.

A rack means that you can start squats from shoulder height rather than having to clean your weight from the floor. It also means you can bench alone without a hand off. However, neither of these is absolutely vital to your health or fitness and a very powerful home workout can be had with a barbell, some plates and an appetite for chaos.


Unless you are lucky enough to live in DeSantis’ Florida, the likelihood is that COVID shutdowns will return to your town, and your gym, soon.

The earlier you start preparing for this eventuality and rigging out your own home gym, the sooner you will be ready to fight Leviathan toe to toe.

Lots of fancy equipment is nice, but for most a streamlined and highly functional home gym can be purchased for only a few hundred dollars of initial outlay.

Think of it as an investment, and your strength and wellbeing the ultimate return.

Stay tuned for part two on Monday!

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