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How To Build a CrossFit Home Gym

Updated on March 2, 2015

World-Class Fitness at Home

What do you need - and how much will it cost - to start doing CrossFit at home? This article will help you sort through the myriad home fitness products out there, and prioritize which is most important.

Image used under Creative Commons from Amber Karnes

Absolute Essentials

Building Your Own Minimalist Gym

So you've looked at the CrossFit program, and how it can benefit you, and decided to get started. You might want to join a local CrossFit gym - at least for a few months - so that the coaches can make sure your technique is good. You'll be a lot safer if you know what you're doing. Once you're ready to go on your own, what do you need?

Here is the bare minimum you need for your CrossFit program:

1. A good Olympic barbell and bumper plates. Powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and other weightlifting movements are a key component of CrossFit. (I'll get into specifics below.)

2. Something to do pullups on. I recommend a good set of rings, but you can use a bar, tree branch, or even the edge of a porch. Just make sure whatever it is is sturdy.

That will get you through about half of the CrossFit workouts as prescribed, and you can use this equipment to substitute for most of the rest.

Image used under Creative Commons from drewgstephens.

On Barbells and Bumper Plates

What's the difference between barbell types, and what type should you get? If you're only getting one bar, make sure it is an Olympic bar of good quality. Olympic bars' sleeves rotate, which means that the weight plates will stay in the same position when you rotate the bar during cleans, snatches, and some overhead movements. They also flex, which helps you build momentum to complete the movement. Powerlifting bars are a little thicker, and are designed for the slower movements like deadlifts and squats. Standard bars are the least expensive, but they're really not built for heavy lifting, and believe me, your deadlift will be heavy soon enough. I wouldn't waste time with a standard bar.

Bars also feature different patterns of grips (knurling) and finishes. For most beginners, the knurling won't make a big difference - just find something you're comfortable with. As for the finish, just keep in mind that bare steel will need to be treated with oil every so often, especially if you store the bar outside.

Be sure to get bumper plates that are all rubber, with a steel insert. If you ever need to drop a weight while working out, you don't want your equipment to break on impact. Brass inserts are usually cheaper, but can bend when dropped.

Image used under Creative Commons from Athletic Trainer Academy.

Warrior 160 lb Weight Set Olympic Rubber Bumper Plates for Crossfit Powerlifting
Warrior 160 lb Weight Set Olympic Rubber Bumper Plates for Crossfit Powerlifting

These plates can take a beating and keep working. NOTE: the picture shows 15- and 35-pound plates, which DO NOT come with this set. Those weights are available separately, though.


Next Steps

As mentioned above, your barbell and rings will get you through most workouts on their own. Below is a quick list of some other stuff to outfit your home gym. The order is how I would prioritize, based on a not-at-all scientific combination of how often they're used, price, and how much space they take up.

1. Medicine Balls

You'll be throwing and catching these things, so go with a soft surface. In standard CrossFit workouts, men generally use 20 pounds, women use 14. Alternatively, cut two sides of a small triangle into a basketball, creating a "valve." Using a funnel, fill the ball with sand. This is kind of a tricky process, so be patient with it. Finally, cover the valve with tape, then cover the entire outside of the ball with grippy tape.

Soft Mega Medicine Ball 20 Lbs
Soft Mega Medicine Ball 20 Lbs

The soft leather shell is ideal if you plan to throw and catch the ball.


2. Kettle Bells

Try to find kettlebells that have no moving parts or seams in the handle (which can cause blisters). In CrossFit workouts, kettlebell weights are often prescribed in terms of a "pood." To save you a headache, a pood is equal to 36 pounds. The most common weights in CrossFit are 36, 54, and 72 pounds. If you are a beginner, you might want to start lighter, then add to your collection as you advance.

Recommended Items

20 lb. Kettlebell
20 lb. Kettlebell

Kettlebells are versatile and effective for all types of conditioning and mobility work.


3. Flooring

Depending on where you are dropping your weights, some 3/4-inch rubber mats or horse stall mats can save your floors. These are surprisingly expensive, though. If you'd rather not cover the entire floor with mats, here is a guide for a do-it-yourself weightlifting platform that measures 8-feet x 8-feet square.

4. Plyo Boxes

Just like flooring, plyo boxes can be a little pricey. But they're handy for scaling different workouts, like pushups or dips. Plus, you can make your own with some 2x4 boards and a sheet of plywood. Common height for men is 24 inches, and 20 for women. Again, if you're just starting out, there's no shame in working on 12 or 16 inches for a while.

5. Dumbbells

Just like the bumper plates, you're better off going with the rubber "hex" dumbbells. Iron is the next best choice. Use removable dumbbell plates as a last resort, since the collars are notoriously prone to sliding off.

6. Squat Stand or Cage

Cages are nice, since they also give you a pull-up bar, and maybe even some plate storage. But they're expensive and take up a lot of space. Plus, they're often too small to do Olympic lifts inside - especially anything overhead. I would go with some simple stands to hold my bar.

York Barbell FTS Press and Squat Stand
York Barbell FTS Press and Squat Stand

Not essential, but a squat stand can certainly be convenient.


One last thing...

Make sure someone is there to get your score in case you pass out.

Okay, readers, let me know if you prioritize differently, or have had success with different equipment.


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    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 15 months ago from Nottingham UK

      The beauty of crossfit is that pretty much any workout can be scaled and you don't need to have everything at home. My local park has a set of monkey bars that I can use for pull ups and can do an AMRAP round the block to the park whenever I choose

    • profile image

      Niktravelfit 3 years ago

      Nice lens. I work out at home and absolutely love it.

    • brianvallois lm profile image

      brianvallois lm 3 years ago

      Great article but i feel you have missed one very important tool

    • lewisgirl profile image

      lewisgirl 3 years ago

      I enjoyed this lens, very helpful!

    • profile image

      adrenalinaweb 4 years ago

      Awesome idea and article!

    • profile image

      Greatmatsjim 4 years ago

      Excellent post. Lots of quality info here. Thank you.

    • profile image

      fentonyong 4 years ago

      This is a great idea. I think it's time to clear some space in my house to build a crossfit gym.

    • pbrandon65 profile image

      pbrandon65 4 years ago

      Some great information for a home gym. So glad you included kettlebells. I use kettlebells more than any other piece of equipment these days, and for price and simplicity, nothing comes close.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great write up! I bought the 3/4" gym mat (horse stall mat) at a local farm store. I found a great deal on bumpers for really cheap with free shipping from Lynx Barbell. I've used them for 8 months and counting with no problems.

    • Ardyn25 profile image

      Ardyn25 5 years ago

      I haven't started yet but have been looking into different equipment, thanks for this lens, great info.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens! I started off with light weight & your right before you know it you'll need to invest in some real equipment.

    • TrashBoat profile image

      TrashBoat 5 years ago

      Thanks! And no time like the present to start working out.

    • shreeve21 profile image

      shreeve21 5 years ago

      very cool lens! i want to start crossfit so bad!