Get Rich With: Olympic Barbells

Just over ten years ago, I was happily living in my first house. This house was within easy biking distance of work (9 miles) and the grocery store (2 miles), and walking distance of the city’s Recreation Center (1 mile) which I enjoyed visiting for workouts about three times per week.

I was especially pleased with this rec center because the membership dues were only about $25 per month, much less than the private health clubs I had been visiting for the ten years prior to that.

A triangle of the Big Three: all the main places a person has to visit on a regular basis, available without having to drive. What could be more frugal or efficient than this?

But then one day I was doing my monthly stock-up of bulk groceries at Costco, and there was a special item on sale: A full 300 pound set of Olympic plates and bars, including collars, clips, a long bar and a curling bar, for only 99 bucks.  Next to this in the display area was a complete bench and squat rack set – a nice bench with adjustable angle, curling platform at the end, and a superb squat rack. Also 99 bucks.

I was only a Junior Mustache at the time, but I could already tell this was a great opportunity. I loaded up the whole system onto a flatbed cart, bought it, and stuffed it  all into the 1993 Civic Hatchback to rush home and assemble it.

Because of this $198 investment, I am almost $9,000 richer today. And probably a lot less flabby.

You see, having this simple but complete weight set has allowed me, my wife, and even occasional visiting friends to get amazing muscle-blasting workouts at all hours of the day, on weekends, holidays, during snowstorms, whatever. At a savings of $25.00 per month each! And that is assuming that we would never have driven to the gym for exercise, something that would have changed once we moved to our current town.

It’s incredibly motivating to have your gym at home too – there are no excuses about not wanting to go out or not having time. You just pick up the barbell and start moving. This feels good, so you put on some music and take up the intensity. Before you know it, you have done a complete workout and improved almost every aspect of your body and overall well being. The convenience is astounding.

I just walked over and did a set of clean and presses in my own gym between typing the last sentence and typing this one, just to prove my point!

If a few pounds of steel is all you need to stay fit, why do our indebted countrymen spend $20 billion annually to accomplish the same thing in more complicated ways like <insert adjective>Yoga, bouncy aerobics and indoor bicycling classes? Why do they burn money in their cars doing unnecessary driving to go to gyms? This has always been a mystery to me.

When I ask around, I get misguided answers like ladies saying “I don’t want to bulk up and be one of those frightening women in Flex magazine”. Or men saying, “I don’t really know how to use free weights, I just want a circuit of machines I can work my way through”.

It’s wrong, all of it.

If you do the research and read a gigantic pile of fitness books and magazines*, you will come to the conclusion that Free Weights –  barbells and dumbells and that’s it – are by far the best way to get in shape, lose all your fat, build healthy amounts of muscle, and amazingly enough fix almost every other possible ailment.

Barbell exercise will drastically reduce your later-life incidence of arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, bone loss, many forms of cancer, and all the common old-age injuries. Weight training will make you live longer and healthier. Every person on the entire planet who still has control over their arms and/or legs should be lifting weights regularly – no question about it.

On top of that, ladies do not “bulk up” from lifting weights at a regular-person level. They lose fat, gain nicer curves, and accomplish everything that YogaLatesAerobics stuff does, in much greater quantities and less time.

Ironically, this best form of exercise is also the cheapest.

Big gyms spend over a million dollars per location on stupid treadmills with LED television screens and fans built in, powder-coated and padded electronic pistony gizmos that let you wiggle your arms and legs around in strange patterns. And meanwhile, the worthwhile amenity – the barbells, benches, and racks – barely show up on the budget (and they get surprisingly light use too, unless the gym is near an army base).

If your monthly budget has any sort of health club spending on it right now, you should slash it, and take this opportunity to add yet another 10-20 thousand employees every 10 years to your ‘Stash.

All you need is a 10 x 10 area of a basement, spare bedroom, garage, or covered porch out back to have a wonderful home gym. Find a big old mirror and set up a radio.  Check the book “Arnold’s Bodybuilding for men”, “Sculpting her Body Perfect” or another suitable title out of your library and take some notes. Shop on your local Craigslist for an olympic-style bar with some metal plates, a combination bench/squat rack, and some dumbells of varying weights if you can find them. These things never wear out, so there is no reason to buy them new. If you have a nearby friend who already works out at home, make a recurring workout schedule and you will both become more motivated.

If you are ready to get in shape but don’t spend money on health clubs right now, the decision is more tricky, because I don’t want you to increase your spending just yet. You can start with free exercises like taking every staircase you can find, push-ups, and solo skipping in your driveway.

And of course, biking – you are doing a lot of that now, since I published the article – aren’t you? Biking is perhaps the cornerstone of this whole operation. And my whole plan to save the Human Race.

If you can start using a bike regularly, all other life accomplishments will flow naturally from that skill and you will join Me and all the Mightiest Mustachian Eagles as we soar daily through the skies above the Grand Canyon.

Are you ready to make another ten grand, feel and look better, and extend your youth by 20 years or so? Good – keep me posted on your lifting!

*From 1991-1993, I worked as a convenience store clerk in high school. During the slow evening hours at the store, I got to read every issue of Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Flex magazine, and any other nutrition and bodybuilding book showed up on the store shelves.  That has turned out to be pretty useful knowledge over the years.

  • Mark Gershfeld May 17, 2011, 11:18 am

    This is a really interesting post to me because I have gone back and forth on the subject of value of gym memberships in a place like Boulder CO. My favorite form of exercise aside from biking is rock climbing, specifically bouldering. It’s difficult (but not impossible) to recreate this at home. There is also the sociala and learning elements of climbing among other people. And it’s hard to fit in the same amount of bouldering for free outdoors as it is by riding to the gym. But I guess each person has to figure out if the present and future cost is worth it to them. In our case we have chosen very mustachian level of living expenses in Boulder. The restricts the space we have to set up our gym of choice at home, but frees us up to pay for training. It’s all about the trade offs.

  • Steve May 17, 2011, 11:19 am

    I’m in full agreement that some of the cheapest equipment is the best bang for the buck. Weights, walking, running, tennis can be done for next to nothing.

    Gyms? Gyms are good for meeting members of the opposite sex. Golf? Expensive, but you could make an argument that the networking can pay off. Though probably less so than in the past.

    • MMM May 17, 2011, 12:03 pm

      True, true. I should have mentioned more of the free exercise that is all around us. And Mark G is also right – if you are already living in a small space, it is not cost-effective to expand to have room for workout equipment (Although I do wonder if there is space in the “Gershfeld Garage mentioned in your URL ;-)). However, many detached home owners can find a free area that can become a gym.

      If a gym offers more than just exercise (socialization, networking), then of course the budgetary considerations change. It’s funny that meeting the opposite sex is considered a benefit of gyms. In my ten years of health-club weightlifting, I didn’t have so much as a single conversation with a female. Partly because it was 99.9% dudes in the dumbell lounge where I spent my time. And perhaps the ladies sensed my love for the iron plates and knew they could never compete ;-)

  • Alicia May 18, 2011, 7:02 am

    So true! For years I paid for gym memberships that I barely used, because I couldn’t stand spending 45 minutes just to get to and from. (I live in Chicago in a non-trendy neighborhood.)

    A couple months ago, I spent $200 on free weights, a bar, a kettlebell, and a nice gym mat for my concrete floor. Later this year, I might build a squat rack. I LOVE being able to work out at home.

    BTW, love the blog! I found it through ERE’s Facebook feed.

    • MMM May 18, 2011, 9:11 am

      Thanks for joining, Alicia! That is a good story – if I had to actually travel 45 minutes to do something, I’d very rarely do it.. such a trip requires months of planning and combining with other errands to avoid wasting precious time and gas! :-)

      The squat rack would be a fun thing to build. 2x4s and some basic house framing hardware from Home Depot could probably get one built for about $25. If you come up with a plan, share it with us! (Or maybe there is already one out there online somewhere. Or maybe not – mail-order market opportunity?)

      • Leda May 19, 2017, 3:06 pm

        I have never been a fan of gyms, to be honest the germs and other peoples sweat gross me out.
        I do enjoy some over priced hot yoga in the winter once and awhile.
        It’s crazy how many specialized classes are popping up in my city (Vancouver BC) the range of classes is 20-30$ each! I prefer walking everywhere and uTube with my Yoga mat at home. I also make full use of my extended health plan.

  • Alicia May 18, 2011, 1:38 pm

    Yeah, I’m hoping to make it super-cheap. I found some plans for a DIY rack here:
    They say this once costs around $120-140, but there are probably ways to lower that.

    I think it’d be great to integrate a deadlift platform. Then, just take off the spotter bars to have room for the deadlifts.

    • MMM May 18, 2011, 6:16 pm

      I just checked out the plans on that website. I approve! The second one down looks like a better implementation. That would be fun to build and very useful, if you have the space and don’t move often.

      Mine is a simpler one like this: http://www.fitnessmegastore.co.uk/strength-equipment-15/power-cages-racks-43/marcy-sr50-squat-rack-12451-4014_zoom.jpg

      The simpler option would be even less costly to build, but it of course depends if you need the safety/spotting aspect of the full power rack.

      • Alicia May 18, 2011, 10:20 pm

        I like that one–nice and simple.

        • John January 27, 2016, 9:00 am

          Hi Alicia and MMM.

          By now I assume you know about http://www.pinterest.com where people share all kinds of DIY ideas. It’ll not only help you make something you need without reinventing the wheel but will likely inspire you to think of and share other projects.

          So, how did your squat rack turn out?

  • G May 19, 2011, 11:40 pm

    A great exercise routine with partner would also include pylometrics – jumping up and down, basically all the nasty conditioning you might imagine wrestlers & the military does. It’s free, elevates heart rate, and helps develop explosive power, perfect for sports, aerobic activity, …

    That being said, flexibility and balance training that yoga / chi gung, … provides is excellent for improving quality of life, especially as you age.

    Also, caution for super extreme bike riding (Ride across america extreme) – men have impotence, and bone loss to look forward to. Jumping, walking, and other weight bearing exercises will help compensate for bicycle riding bone loss.

  • random dude May 28, 2011, 6:41 pm

    I have to recommend Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe for beginners to weightlifting.

    • Derek March 22, 2012, 9:31 pm

      +1 for “Starting Strength”

    • Matt September 12, 2016, 12:53 am


      Also Everett – Olympic Weightlifting for Sports can be nice

      But with Starting Strength, I personally recommend high bar instead low bar squats and cable pullovers instead of bench press. It won’t give as much raw muscle mass, but has much better carry over to sports, at least for people big into alpine and nordic skiing like myself.

  • bigato May 29, 2011, 11:49 am

    I trained brazilian jiu jitsu and paid for it for some years. I think it was a very good way to spend money. Now I live in a smaller city where there is no gym teaching brazilian jiu jitsu, then I train for free. We put a tarp in the grass in a public space on open air and train there. Also bike everyday to and from work everyday. In the past I used to run, do push-ups and sit-ups. Now I’m a little “lazier” and prefer to fight for 2 hours than to strength exercises.

    For people that can get at least a training partner, I would suggest wrestling as a very good and complete exercise. The rules are simple and with some three or six months training with a teacher, you will know enough so you can practice alone with a friend (without having to pay a gym membership anymore).

    • metastache January 20, 2015, 8:45 am

      Have to agree with BJJ. I always thought martial arts discipline and perseverance sounded cheesy. That is, until I trained BJJ and had to abandon strength in favor of technique as a way of doing well. That shift in perspective, in the way I approach solving problems, was worth much more than the $100 per month I spend on it.

  • Thomas May 31, 2011, 3:11 pm

    • Mrs. Money Mustache May 31, 2011, 3:37 pm

      Ah, a fellow crossfitter! Hello there, Thomas. Thanks for the link.

      MMM does not approve of me paying to crossfit at our local affiliate here, but I have decided that it is more than worthwhile for me. It is one of our bigger expenses though, at $135 per month. I have been going for a year now.

      However, it would be easy to set up your own crossfit gym in your garage and many crossfit gyms have free Saturday workouts. It’s certainly a great way to stay in shape, but it’s the community and camaraderie that keep me going. But, if we were ever to have a shortage of money, it would be the first thing to cut for sure.

      • Thomas May 31, 2011, 5:55 pm


        My brother introduced me to Crossfit several years ago when I was in high school. I have done it on my own off and on over the years to my overall benefit, though I tend to burn out without anyone to pace me and keep me encouraged.

        I recently moved to CO for a job and have used the opportunity to scale down my living expenses. I’m a big fan of Jacob@ERE, and I’ve used what I’ve learned from him to great success in the past (though I know I can do better).

        I tend to stay motivated when I’m reading about a subject like money or exercise, and Jacob has, understandably, scaled back in the past several months. I’d like to thank both of you for providing a different perspective that I can use to motivate myself. In a similar way, I’ve been thinking about subscribing to the Crossfit Journal to educate and motivate myself.

        Have a wonderful evening,

      • Ethan March 19, 2015, 9:14 am

        Ah Mrs. MM! I’m reading this years later and recently quit crossfit because it’s not Mustachian. Good to hear you keep it up. I do own my own barbell and weights at home, and don’t feel bad dropping in on my buddy’s gym on Sundays (since it’s my buddy’s gym and I’ve been doing it long enough where he doesn’t need to pay so much attention to coach me). Losing the community has hurt a little though. My wife and I are are considering splitting the difference and joining a Starting Strength gym near us (no classes, most of the same equipment) for half the price.

  • Bryan September 4, 2011, 9:36 am

    I read this article a while back and theought, “hmmm…that’s a good idea” but I already belonged to a small 24/7 gym that was about a tenth of a mile from my front door. The owner was super nice and it was so convenient that I couldn’t bring myself to cancel my membership. Well, the gym just went out of business so I no longer have any loyality to my gym and can no work out anywhere I choose to do so. I was considering joining Golds Gym since they have two locations, both around 2 miles from my house. Then I remembered the MMM article about working out at home so I reread it.

    I’ve decided to take the MMM approach and have a home gym. I looked online at Sports Authority and Craigslist. I’m going to keep looking and find exactly what I need. I think I can make do with a good quality mat and a small assortment of dumbbells to do everything I need to do.I’m a cyclist so that’s the bulk of my exercise but realize that I should lift weights 2~3x’s/week as well.

    Thanks for this article. Without having read it a while back I likely would have walked into a gym and forked over an initiation fee and agreed to their monthly charges.

    • John January 27, 2016, 9:11 am

      Hi Bryan,

      I wanted to say (four years later) that I’ve lived in other countries and always found that while I missed my home gym, getting a simple pair of dumbbells and any kind of bench made it possible to work out very well! I’m a cyclist too, but still find it useful to do some lunges and squats, even if all I had was a pair of dumbbells to hold at my shoulders.

      So…how is your home gym these days?

  • David Robson September 19, 2011, 11:37 am

    Another option for Junior Mustachians which I would suggest is the Iron Gym for pull-ups. I got mine for $30, but I know they can be found for cheaper now. To me, the Iron Gym has several benefits.

    1) Cheap. I don’t think any amount of regular use could break this thing and about the only cheaper options are free ones like those that MMM listed.

    2) All you need is a doorway to hang it up in. (Beware of low ceilings that meet the top of the door on one or both sides or you’ll be using it backwards for two years like I did)

    3) Leave it up in a doorway that doesn’t need to be closed and you’ll think about doing pull-ups every time you pass through. (Plus it’s a great conversation starter when people visit)

    4) Pull-ups are a great exercise and it’s fun to move your body during the exercise rather than moving the weight.

    To me exercise is one of the most enjoyable, most beneficial, and most Mustachian (when done right) forms of entertainment out there. Add friends/loved ones for a bonus!

    • MMM September 19, 2011, 10:47 pm

      This Iron Gym thing sounds neat. I’m all for the low-cost, high-motivation portable exercise systems.

      One thing I have added to the house that is not mentioned in this article is a set of Gymnastics Rings hanging from straps from the high ceiling in an area between kitchen and living room. We all use them for chin-ups, dips, knee-ups, random stunts, tarzan swinging, hooking up kids in climbing harnesses, etc. Only cost a few tens of dollars, but I have done hundreds of sets of exercises on them over the past year. Because hey, they are hanging right there and I see them every day!

    • Avicenna May 8, 2017, 9:40 am

      +1 on iron gym. I got mine 6 yrs ago at cvs for $25 and it is still perfect. Complementing with free full body exercises: I like movnat (check YouTube) but there are various alternatives too as others pointed out.

  • Xabriel October 16, 2011, 11:55 am

    Hi, I’ve been reading your blog post by post for the last few days. Great stuff, thank you for it.

    But I wanted to point out that you wouldn’t normally loose fat with weights. Weights are considered an anaerobic exercise, the type that would make you build muscles and strength. But to loose fat, you need to do aerobic exercise, the type that consumes a lot of oxygen, like walking or bicycling.

    A point could be made that by building muscle up, the muscle itself would consume the fat, but that is much more slower than just going with aerobics. My point is that there are different types of exercises for different types of goals and fat burning is not a good goal for free weights. But then, I guess the best exercise is a mix of both aerobics and anaerobics.

    • MMM October 16, 2011, 9:36 pm

      Thanks Xabriel! … but I think you might want to do some more reading on weight training and weight loss. The single fastest way for ANYONE to lose fat is: Squats. And the best way to lose fat overall is weight training in general. It’s because any heavy resistance exercise gives you multiple phases of benefits. First there’s the exertion of actually doing the exercise – you use energy, your heart rate goes up, you burn calories. Then your body has to re-build the muscles you just tore down, which takes HUGE amounts of calories! It takes thousands of calories to build just one extra pound of muscle, and when lifting weights you can build over a pound of muscle per month. Then once you have this extra muscle mass, it sits there sucking away calories constantly even while you sleep. Your basal metabolic rate is higher.

      To lose fat, skip the silly dancing aerobics room and the yoga and the spinning and hit the squat rack. The cardiovascular portion is important too, but you can get that by biking or running to the gym :-)

      • Vanshaj Bindlish August 8, 2021, 12:38 am

        Actually both the points are right, you ca loose fat by simply doing aerobic exercises or by lifting weights. Aerobic exercises are directly related to fat loss. But the key point in losing fat by lifting weights is DIET. It’s well said that your body will be what you feed to it.

        So, when you hit the gym it’s 70% of diet and 30% of your workout. To loose fat, you simply need to be in caloric deficit. Means, consuming less calories than burning at the gym. Majorly it should be high protein diet. So, happy lifting!

  • Jon Bendtsen December 28, 2011, 1:23 pm

    I think it makes sense to keep the gym membership if your home is so small that you cant set up a 10 x 10 area of a basement, spare bedroom, garage, or covered porch. Like mine, a 1 room apartment to save up money. I just did a quick calculation of gym membership vs. getting a 2 room apartment, and the gym membership is still cheaper.

    Besides that, my gym has both sauna and steam, something I do not have at home. It also has a rowing machine which I fancy for doing something different than my usual bicycle commuting.

  • JaneMD January 13, 2012, 11:02 am

    I agree with Jon above about the space issue. To live is cheaply as possible, don’t have that space to spare. Besides, we pay 88 a month at our gym which provides up to 2 hours of babysitting for any number of children at a time for free. Our work-out together is something we consider a childfree date. The gym also gives us access to all the classes we want and an indoor swimming pool.

    And, yes, we do use the free weights at the gym all the time.

  • Bill Tremendous January 31, 2012, 11:35 am

    Hello Mr Mustache, good day to you, I am greatly enjoying reading your output and putting it (Hopefully) to good use.
    Equipment does indeed seem to save a lot of money over the gym – but is the equipment itself really necessary? A few years ago I found a load of fitness books in my local 2nd hand bookshop, and quite a few of them advocated using none at all – the most extreme being “Solitary fitness”, by a rather… interesting fellow currently residing at Her Majesty’s Pleasure by the name of Charles Bronson, who had devised a fitness regime in a small prison cell which used little or no “equipment” and that equipment being a bed and a chair for the most part. Although the book is most certainly not to everyone’s taste, (There is a bit in it about knocking out a cow with a single punch, for example, and the man is a ruffian of the highest order) I feel the idea is sound and have used many exercises from it myself – along with my 10 year old bike, this £1 second hand book has presumably saved me a whopping pile of cash and kept me away from one of the mega gyms locally, which look to be quite frankly horrendous places. One could surely go even further and use the youtube, on which there are many videos showing no equipment exercises and regimes, all for nothing..
    Many thanks for the website, it is a great inspiration

    • John January 27, 2016, 9:18 am

      Hello Bill Tremendous

      And great for travelling too. At some point you may find yourself in your hotel room, which may in fact have a lot in common with Charlie’s prison cell, and want to do a good workout to shake out the travel blahhhs.

  • hands2work September 4, 2012, 2:47 pm

    My favorite exercise is lap swimming which I can’t do at home, but I don’t have a gym membership either, I have a punch card at our county’s rec center. This way, I only pay when I actually swim, no monthly fees or initiation charges. $3.50 per visit.

  • Erica / Northwest Edible Life September 23, 2012, 3:51 pm

    I’ve gone a bit of a different route. I work 4 hours per week at the childcare center of my local high-end tennis center and gym. This gets me discounted child care at the gym ($2.25 an hour for what is, essentially, short term drop-in pre-school), a free membership for my entire family, discounted swim lessons for the kiddos (which I take advantage of) and discounted spa services and workout gear for me (which I don’t take advantage of). Being at a gym proper gets me time with some cool other employees and members, the friendly competition that comes from seeing (fitter) people at the gym and giving “it” a little harder, and the ability to ask great trainers when I have questions. I also of course get paid for this time, to the tune of about $144 a month, which isn’t a whole lot, but since I used to PAY about $150 a month for a family membership to this same gym I feel pretty good about our current gym membership set-up.

  • Frederick Ross October 10, 2012, 8:37 am

    You don’t even need the weights, really. There are ways to make body weight exercise really high intensity. For example, see http://www.jqhome.net/taiso/index.html (this is a friend of mine, who’s also one of the most disturbingly healthy and fit people I know…and a mathematician, oddly). Another friend was a serious gymnast when he was younger, and remembers his coaches telling them to stay out of the weightroom. Mind you, this is a guy who will randomly lever himself up like a flag on any sturdy pole he comes across.

  • Joe C December 27, 2012, 8:30 pm

    I also have solved this problem by getting a part-time job at my local YMCA. Additional income + free gym membership (would cost me $57/month) is great! Plus I get the added benefits of socializing with other people and the ability to do things like swim and play organized competitive basketball. Now those are things most people can’t do in the basement!

  • Joshua Olson February 22, 2013, 1:19 pm

    I’ve actually looked at this and it only saves you money if you have a lot of room already.

    I’m just getting serious about being frugal and it would save me far more money to get a smaller apartment (1 br/1 bath instead of our current 2 br/ 2 bath) and have a gym membership than having a second bedroom and building/buying my own squat rack and weights.

  • expat March 3, 2013, 11:13 am


    I wrote this post because since I pick up and move to other countries often I have to really minimize my workout equipment.

    That said, I agree with MMM that gyms are just not necessary.

  • Dave Grant May 25, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Sorry Mr Mustache, but I have to disagree about Yoga. As long as one is practicing with a serious badass yoga instructor, as my wife and I did, you build solid muscle without needing the investment in weights: even cheaper. Admittedly, there was gym membership and purchase of a mat..but then my lovely wife trained and BECAME a serious badass yoga instructor so now she gets PAID to get solid muscle and I get lessons for free. Quite hirsute of her, I think.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 25, 2013, 6:03 pm

      Nice story, Dave! In your case, I will grant an exception ;-)

      My occasional mockery of Yoga is more because of the many people I encounter who have borrowed cars and houses, and yet pay $100+ per month to do yoga classes, while complaining that money is tight and it’s hard to lose weight. For these people, I prescribe squats and pullups rather than yoga.

      The actual discipline of Yoga itself is awesome, though, for people who approach it the right way.

      • Jessica September 23, 2013, 6:45 pm

        This is why I was so happy to find totally free online yoga videos (doyogawithme.com is the site I use).

        I couldn’t ever justify the expense of classes, and now I don’t have to!

    • Brian Smith August 20, 2013, 8:10 am

      What if I wanted to swim? I think swimming is the best exercise for your entire body, but you can’t do it without a swimming pool. What’s your advice on that, MMM?

      • Jon Bendtsen August 21, 2013, 1:35 am

        Live a place where you can swim in lakes, rivers or the ocean?

      • Tom October 17, 2013, 2:11 pm

        You could always keep an eye out for a used lap pool. Well, I’m not sure exactly what they call it, but you get the idea. It’s like a jacuzzi, but longer, and you can swim laps in it indefinitely since it has a current. They tend to be quite expensive though, so you’re probably better off with a pool membership, but you never know!

  • Robert November 2, 2013, 8:51 pm

    I went through the same logic process a couple years ago and dumped the gym membership. Was going to get barbells and free weights but then wondered where I’d store it all. Did some more research and ended up with elastic bands from Bodylastics. Comes with great set of workout instructions. Take very little storage space but gives me all the workout options I could possibly need.

  • Spencer M. February 4, 2014, 10:33 am

    I’ve found that there are a plethora of CrossFit workouts available online that use nothing more than your own bodyweight. I’ve never done crossfit with weights, but I’ve done plenty of free weights exercises as well as cardio and anaerobic exercises. The bodyweight CrossFit workouts are hands down the most effecient (in terms of time and fitness) and intense workouts I’ve ever had, and the only thing I’ve paid for is a pull up bar that fits on a door frame.
    Honestly, the only thing that any person needs to get a good workout in is a body that can move.

  • Zilla February 12, 2014, 7:56 am

    It’s tough to find a pickup basketball game within my home gym, so I keep a membership at the local health club.

    Un-Mustachian, I know, but if you’re going to have a gym membership, at least buy it right. A 2-year prepaid 24 Hour membership can be had at Costco for $370 (tax-inclusive), much less than the $30+/month plus initiation fee that most members pay.

    My wife canceled her membership and now works out at home, so I’m hoping we’ve earned a half-mustache on this topic.

  • Fish February 21, 2014, 3:26 pm

    MMM – I thoroughly enjoy your blog! I recently started weight training regularly myself, and my friend got me excited about a program called Crossfit Football. They have daily workouts posted online that you can follow, while in the comfort of your own home (or gym). The program has more complex lifts like power cleans, snatches, etc, so it would be best for many of your readers to learn these movements with a professional before trying to heave weight around. But CFB has just as much fervor for the Squat as you do, so I thought you’d like to hear about it!

  • Daniel McElroy June 5, 2014, 11:30 pm

    I know the gym pass is low hanging fruit to get rid of. One extra expense that can be hacked off as easy as undesirable fingernail length. I do have a but situation on my hands. My membership, 24 hour fitness sports centers costs 75 per year. I know its unmustashian to hang on to the unnecessary but the deal it too good for me to pass up.

    I am a soccer player too and i am looking down the barrel of knee surgery number 2. The pool is an excellent resource to do zero impact rehab on it.

    MMM? How will my mustache look if I continue town this path?

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 7, 2014, 7:37 pm

      Hey Daniel, the gym sounds like a bargain to me if you actually use it and can’t do the same stuff at home. This post was intended more for people who pay to go use treadmills at gyms, when they could reverse the equation and do much more useful exercise with barbells, right in the comfort of their own basement or garage.

  • Jeremy E. August 19, 2014, 9:55 am

    I think the best book for any gender to buy if they are going to start this, is Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.

  • Chris September 23, 2014, 4:24 am

    Also no need to buy brand new expensive equipment at a retail store. Go to a thrift store or goodwill. You can always find workout equipment for under $50 bucks there. Give it a good scrub down with bleach then you are all set. Also if you are thinking about getting into golfing go there as well. My local thrift store has golf bags and golf clubs for 50 cents each most are barely used.

  • vijay November 18, 2014, 9:42 am

    great point, but what about kids, if we want to enroll them in classes/ swimming etc. Most health clubs now a days come with all facilities for a complete family. So all can go and invest in health? but yes they cost $100+ per month. the one I go have (Racquetball,squash,swimming,basketball, and many other) and cost $120 pm.

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 18, 2014, 11:34 am

      You might check out your town’s recreation services department if you’re into that type of thing. Mine offers a membership for an entire family for under $100/month, and you can use any of the gyms, courts, pools, sauna, hot-tub, etc. in the whole city for that price. If everybody likes indoor exercise, it can work well because you get fitness, entertainment, and sports all in one.

      We still don’t get this membership ourselves though, because there is plenty to do in the great outdoors while everyone else is crowded into the health clubs and rec centers :-)

  • Missy November 25, 2014, 10:49 am

    I just found your blog today via The Broke and Beautiful Life blog and Facebook page. I have used workout videotapes (now DVDs) at home for over 20 years after being driven indoors during a three-week subzero winter in 1994. Usually if there is some trendy routine I want to try, I can either rent it from Family Video or buy it online from Amazon or collagevideo.com. If I bought it and get tired or it, I can sell or donate it through several different channels such as Amazon, Craigslist, or Good Will. My husband gave me a Reebok step for my 40th birthday (I am nearly 58 now) and I use it at least twice a week with different DVDs. I also have many of the FIRM workouts and invested in both free weights and one of their 2-in-1 step boxes several years ago. I have figured that between a new pair of workout shoes and maybe three or four new DVDs a year, the cost is less than $100 per year to keep this habit going. I can see myself doing this the rest of my life.

  • lana March 3, 2015, 9:46 pm

    I too have figured this out. Because my baby is in Boulder getting his PhD, I subscribed to Amazon Prime to ship him stuff (primarily to keep him warm) and have utilized the video section’s workout videos. They’re plentiful and varied.

  • RebeccaLynn April 25, 2015, 2:32 pm

    I have found this site a few years too late! We are moving in the next week back to our home and will be downsizing significantly. My husband and I have been discussing our future and (we recently had our 3rd baby) will be making some serious change. 3 kids in daycare is basically my paychecks gone! With that said I have been reading from the start on your blog and I have been secretly creating plans. I went to bring up these plans to my husband (I was dreading this; he doesn’t talk about money AT ALL) and he tells me in 10 years he doesn’t want to be working with his current employer. I started laughing and told him my plans and we are basically on the same page.

    He is an avid crossfitter (I was until I got pregnant and was forced to stop); this is something that he was unwilling to give up until I started discussing strong man with him. When we move crossfit will be over an hour away (not a good use of money) so I asked if we could invest in equipment and go it at home (he is a certified level 1 crossfit coach but does not actively use it for business). He agreed! I am thrilled; gas money and gym membership saved! Now I have read the Mrs MM article about giving up lady temptations such as makeup and yours about his haircuts… This I don’t think I can compromise on; this will be one area that we have a 100% average cost associated with it.

    Other plans include cashing in on a deferred comp that would pay off a car loan and a new bike for me. (I do have a separate retirement plan that would stay put.)

  • Slee July 9, 2015, 8:20 am

    My workouts have to be fun or I won’t do them. Running is mental torture for me (I swear I feel my brain bounce!) although at the same time, I can enjoy a soccer or ult. frisbee type game while running the whole time. Lifting weights is similar to running… pure misery. I regularly do two activities: Mtn Biking (which I know I’ll get thumbs up on, since its relatively cheap) and Racquetball.
    The only reason I have a gym membership is to play R-ball. Building a personal r-ball court is big bucks (30k or more!!) and takes up a wee bit ‘o space. Its also not a good way to easily play new opponents on a regular basis. Outdoor R-ball courts do exist in some parts of the country (and are generally free) but there are none around here (and wouldn’t be too fun on 95 degree days anyway.).
    I could play Tennis instead, but I enjoy R-ball so much more that I gave up Tennis entirely. (Tennis and R-ball have different swing / wrist-use mechanics. Enough that playing both regularly made me a worse player for both over time!).
    Axing the gym just isn’t an option for me unless I end up souring on Racquetball. However, I am exploring ways to save on my fees and transpo costs to the gym in order to play R-ball. Its the best I can do. I count these costs as legitimate ‘happiness investment’ ones which I think is the goal here anyway. Spend money on what truly makes you happy right?

  • Jack July 30, 2015, 10:25 pm

    I use HIIT workouts on free sites, such as:

    You can find a few Youtube channels, like:

    Most of the time… you just need an empty living room and maybe a mat on the floor.

  • Beth September 11, 2015, 3:01 pm

    Fitness Blender changed my life… I will never spend $60 a month for a YMCA membership and a location that I have to DRIVE to ever again!
    I really encourage anyone to check out Fitness Blender’s website for a ton of free videos and workout plans. They’re a young married couple of entrepeneurs with the idea that fitness should never cost anyone anything. Give ’em a try!
    Thank you so much for your hilarious, insightful and informative blog, MMM!! As a newbie Stachian, I must say that I highly enjoy every article and am posting them on my social media pretty often. You rule!!!

  • Ryan B. September 22, 2015, 3:07 pm

    I’ve been working through from the beginning, but this is the first of your posts that I couldn’t resist replying to (though I’ve been sorely tempted many times already–it really would be neat to grab a cup of coffee with you) and offer my two cents. I cancelled my $35/month gym membership and started putting that same money into home gym equipment. In six months I’ve pulled together a jump rope, a punching bag, and a free weight set, although I don’t have a squat rack or long bar yet. The rope and punching bag were new, the weights cost-shared with my roommate. Grand total of about $200 (it’s a really nice bag and I’m a fighting addict) which is just under the 6 months of $35.

    In that same six months I’ve lost 15 lbs because I’m exercising much more often now that my gym is 50 feet from my bedroom door. I’m putting 15 fewer miles on my car each week, and I’ve redirected the $35/month to pay off student loans. All in all, this is a great post and I hope a little activity in the comment section keeps generating more hits here. Everyone reading this post should take this advice to heart.

    • Vinny Natale September 30, 2015, 8:10 pm

      At the age of 60, I started doing free weights 4 1/2 years ago in May 2011. I was spurred to do so after reading this article:

      Everything You Know About Fitness Is a Lie


      The article recommended: Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training (as a few here have also recommended).

      I also bought the accompanying CD. After reading the book twice and watching the DVD several times, I started.

      My initial motivation was to be able to hit the softball farther (Yes! I am STILL playing softball).

      I was totally shocked, though, by all the quality of life enhancements that free weights bring!

      After just my FIRST session, after 60 years of it being more comfortable slouching while standing, it was now more comfortable to stand up straight!

      And, just all kinds of common life things become either easier to do or less painful or both.

      Now doing my three times a week sessions are a priority and I will let ALMOST nothing get in their way. I tell people that I am doing PREVENTATIVE physical therapy! Even last night I’m on the basketball court playing with guys in their 20s and 30s, not having run since we last played in May and it was NO big deal! I’m sure it is because of the free weights. I can remember in my early 30s, when I was not exercising, and it WAS a big deal to play basketball. After doing so I could barely get in through my door to collapse on my couch.

      I lucked into a really good deal for my home setup. I found it on Craigslist and paid $250 for something which was about $800 new—375 pounds of Olympic weights and bar, really nice bench, and a half rack. And, the person delivered to my house and set it up in my living room!

      I guess you can tell that I have turned into a free weight evangelist!!??

  • Mukene October 11, 2015, 9:40 pm


    I live in a one bedroom apartment. I got my weights from craigslist, got a foam roller from craigslist and had a mat given to me by a moving friend. When I want to swim, the rec center is across the street from my apartment. I walk PLENTY!

  • John Michael October 27, 2015, 5:37 am

    When you would ride your bike to work would you wear different clothes for the ride and change at work or were you riding down the road in slacks and a button down?

    The reason I ask is because I work about 3 miles from home and I would like to start biking there and I was curious, as well.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 29, 2015, 5:14 pm

      Hi John – keep reading and you’ll learn plenty about biking. But as a quick answer: yeah, for short rides under 10 miles, I just wear street clothes plus any warm layers needed for the season. Remember a good bike with a capable rider eats up a mile every three minutes, so you’ll be at work in less than the time it would take to change!

      • intirb October 30, 2015, 11:52 am

        Woah, 20 mph on a bicycle? I must be a very incapable rider then, because I generally go about half that speed.

  • RetiredAt37 November 24, 2015, 5:34 pm

    Check out the book Convict Conditioning and have your gym anywhere you live, without even the cost or space use of the weight set.

    Nice article MMM.

  • Carl March 5, 2016, 1:28 pm

    My wife and I have been doing CrossFit for 5 years now. We used our 2 car garage for the 3 years we had it. We have moved to a smaller house across the country and now go to a CrossFit gym. The membership dues are worth it for us as garages are rare for rental houses here and we like the social aspect of the gym.

    Here is a great article on how to outfit your home gym. http://journal.crossfit.com/2002/09/the-garage-gym-sept-02-cfj.tpl

  • Cheryl March 21, 2016, 8:07 am

    I have just discovered MMM after the NYer profile and I am loving it!! I am working my way through every post. Like the others, this is brilliant. I would just add that you needn’t knock yoga. I’m sure nothing in the ancient texts says you need to pay for the privilege of driving to a studio filled with fancy yoga clothes on non-MMM bodies. I’ll go do my sun salutations now while my kids are still in bed! Thanks again for all your posts!

  • Tristan June 14, 2016, 4:27 am

    Great post, but I’ll tell you what: You don’t even need to invest in weights! There are a thousand of extremely effective bodyweight exercises you can do without any equipment at all, and that’s all you really need to get in fantastic shape. Or just invest in a very cheap pull-up bar. It works like a dream and perfectly completes the rest of your bodyweight workout. I’m ripped and get many compliments about my body at 40+, and it’s 100% from bodyweight workouts.

  • Winslow July 18, 2016, 5:02 am

    I’m gonna work on taking every staircase I can find and upping my pushups, dips, pull-ups and situps along with running every other day – on the path.

  • Josh July 23, 2016, 9:00 pm

    I know this an old post but I’m curious to know how your bar is holding up. I gave up the gym membership a little over a year ago and have put together some good routines at home using mostly body weight (and a 35lb kettle Bell) but I really miss squats and deadlifts. I found a couple sets similar to yours on Amazon for $200, but a few of the reviews complain about the bar quality. If I have to pay a little more for something that will last a lifetime I will, but I don’t want to spend more than I need to.

  • Carrie October 18, 2016, 5:50 am

    I concur about the lady part. A few years ago when I only had four kids (I now have 7, and I weigh 123 pounds at 5’4″), I decided I needed to firm things up a bit, so I bartered web design services with a guy who owned a gym. I told him that I had little time and wanted to get fit as quickly as possible, only coming in 3 times a week.

    I swear his eyes lit up. He rubbed his hands together and designed a military-style workout for me using heavy weight. Literally in 20 minutes, 3 times a week I got more accomplished than all those ladies who did hour-long aerobics classes. I was in no way bulky, but my jeans never fit better and I had crazy energy. It was hard work though, I often left the gym shaking and could barely pick up my toddler afterwards to put her in her car seat.

  • rollie fingers October 21, 2016, 9:42 am

    Love this post. First thing I did when I bought a house was cancel the gym membership and get my own weights. Great point about being to lift whenever- football game is on? Might as well lift some weights. Drinking a beer? Stagger the 12 oz curl with a 30 lb curl.

    Best line by far though:
    “the barbells, benches, and racks – barely show up on the budget (and they get surprisingly light use too, unless the gym is near an army base).”

    When I was in the Army, we just laughed at people on machines. You have to worship at the chapel of steel!!

  • Ilmari Kumpula November 23, 2016, 2:09 am

    This is probably the only time, but on this one, i disagree with MMM. When i go out to do a workout, it’s much easier for me, because i don’t have my usual “make-me-feel-comfortable”-gadgets and bed laying around to get me distracted. It’s much easier to concentrate on training while i’m in a new space, this is also a reason why people find it easier to study/work in a remote place, rather than at home.

    If this solution works for you, great! But at least for me i just can’t sustain the routine when everything is at home. I also want the social aspect to it (which is really important for a single guy).

  • Robert December 14, 2016, 3:14 am

    Reasonable article overall and I am very happy to read the passage about biking – exactly my philosophy, both with regards to personal fun & health and saving the planet. Ok, the latter won’t happen since the majority of people is hopelessly lazy and negligent, but nonetheless biking is great.

    With regards to saving money by buying barbells MMM made a mistake though. While I also loved weight living, I stopped it because I simply didn’t have the place. In the cities where I lived, even decades of gym membership would have been cheaper than renting/buying the necessary place at home. 10×10 feet equates to around 50.000 dollars of real estate in most economically viable cities! No need to patronize the gym though: bodyweight training is even better then weight lifting since it can be done literally anywhere, anytime.

  • YanniMustachian January 2, 2017, 9:58 am

    Very late to the post, but avid MMM reader. For anyone working out at home I would strongly recommend a full squat rack (i.e. cage style) vs. a half rack or bench press. One of the key principles of effective weight lifting is overloading the muscles and lifting relatively heavily (i.e. somewhere between 3-15 reps at most), and the safety a full cage offers when pushing yourself on lifts is well worth the additional cost (especially since they can be had super cheap on CL).

    Last thing you want is to miss a lift and fall backwards with a couple hundred pounds on your back while you’re alone and no one can help you (youtube ‘gym fails’ if you want some examples :)

    Excellent post and happy lifting in the New Year!

  • Laura January 6, 2017, 12:24 pm

    Starting teaser: Following this and other MMM articles, I lost 20 pounds (135 lbs to 115 lbs; 5’6″ tall) in a little over seven months and to quote my husband “gained a six pack.” At last general checkup, my doctor said that I was boring because I was so healthy. I have kept the weight off even now 1.5 years later.

    Backing up, I started following MMM back in April 2014 based on a very wise friend’s recommendation. MMM and his family (thank you Mrs. MMM for setting up the site!) have completely changed our lives for the better in all areas.

    This is my first post ever–even after all the amazing changes that have happened in all parts of our lives. I figured that it probably it is not going to be read being at the end of comments (fine by me), but I wanted to do an electronic way of getting down on my hands and knees and bowing to MMM and his wisdom.

    With regards to barbells, I actually could not focus on this method due to back and rotator cuff injuries (prior snowboarding- I am embarrassed to say, a lot of costly snowboarding). My doctor said that I was overweight (I was like damn! Seriously?! ) and the excess weight probably was contributing to my back problems. I knew that I had to do something.

    I took MMM’s advice to heart and adapted it to what would work. The Brad Schoenfeld book MMM mentioned was not available at the local library, but his “Women’s Home Workout Bible” book was. Life changing for me.

    In it Schoenfeld has $100, $500, and $1,000 personal gym options for three different types of workouts. I elected to do the $100 option involving resistance bands and a stability ball for a core stability routine to help my back and shoulders. No, I did not spend $100. The work out ended up not only truly helping my back and shoulders but also in providing a powerful overall sculpting solution as well. The whole book is filled with good advice.

    I would note that in order to see sculpting results, many people (myself included) had to drop body weight/fat. Dropping body weight and gaining muscle can be combined with biking and eating healthy at home as MMM mandates. On this front, I would add that one other book that helped me drop weight quite a bit: Michael Matthews’ Thinner Leaner Stronger.

    Following one of Matthews’ many pieces of advice, I ended up getting the Calorie King app (you do not have to sign in) where I log calories for every meal. I still do it today because it helps me figure out what I need to boost up (often protein; vegetarian) and what I have eaten too much of (often sugar; we all have our issues). I deferred to a Harvard Public Health web article on the problems of taking in too much protein and did not follow Matthew’s advice on that.

    I would throw out that we do a lot more hiking, swimming and outdoor activities because of MMM which also contributes to this. I think that goes back to the essence of what MMM is telling us. Every piece of everything that you do clicks together to create an overall picture of health and happiness. Everything IS connected. Not going out to eat at restaurants forces you to think about choices at home (hopefully healthier), saves you money, gives you more financial freedom and that makes you feel better so that you have the energy to do things. Being out in the world and nature biking or hiking leads you to connect with an essence more powerful than a television screen (no, we do not have cable).

    We still have a looooooooooonnng way to go on our Mustache journey. But truly it is a fun journey of happiness. Isn’t that what life is really about?


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