First Published in 2010


The Plan

John Cleary flew home from Iraq on vacation and emptied out his garage. Not a very exciting vacation, if you ask me.

But, apparently that’s what men do after they read Jim’s How to Kick Ass in a One Car Garage.

“Up until the point of finding this article, I was online in Iraq researching and trying to find a hardcore warehouse-style gym in the greater Charleston area that I could be a member of when I got home,” John said. “Then, I’d never have to train at 24 Hour Fitness again.”

He never really considered working out at home because he couldn’t fit the equipment in his house. However, after he had to wait 30 minutes just to use a piece of equipment at a commercial gym – the idea was very appealing. In addition, he’d have bumper plates, be able to drop weights and even have a deadlift platform!

“I only had a little one car garage that was filled up with lawn equipment and crap,” John said. “And then I read this article and it got me thinking about how all I really needed was a power rack, an adjustable bench, a platform, bars, plates and dumbbells. And that could all fit in a one car garage because Jim Wendler said so!”

John built a shed in his backyard. He trudged back and forth between the garage and shed, carrying his lawn equipment piece by piece until his garage was a hollow void.

The void was then overflowing with EFS equipment.

-         Collegiate Rack

-         Collegiate Bench

-         GHR

-         Farmer’s Walk Handles

-         Deadlift Platform


Going All Out

“The Collegiate Rack is by far my favorite,” John said. “Every piece of equipment is absolutely worth it. I always tend to half-ass things and don't think I need the best, and I always regret it and get what I want anyway. This time I decided to go all out.”

Although it was a huge purchase, it was specifically budgeted during John’s deployment and took him two and a half years. It is, however, an incredible investment. John didn’t want to go back to a commercial gym, plus the amount of money he’d spend on his own gym would only be half of what he’d spend THAT YEAR at a gym. John doesn’t know this, but I did some research myself as to how much it really costs to go to a commercial gym vs. owning a garage gym. Here’s how it breaks down:


Breaking It Down

Gym Dues

The joining fee for a commercial gym is usually $100. Then, the dues are $35 a month. So, already he was paying $520 a year. But, he also has a wife and daughter. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll only use two people. So, we are up to $1,040 – and I’m not even close to done.

Travel Expense

Let’s say they both travel in the same car and go to the gym four times a week. It takes them 25 miles in each direction and the cost is 12 cents a mile. That’s $1248 in transportation costs if they carpool every time.

What are we up to now, $2288?

Incidental Costs

Oh, shit! They get to the gym and both realize they forgot their water bottles! They buy two waters at $2 a piece and let’s say this happens once a week. Then they need gloves because, as we know from your Facebook comments, most gyms don’t allow chalk. Each pair is $20 each. We just added $248 to the total.

Time - Opportunity Cost

Time. There’s a value to it, or else no one would have a job. How valuable is your time? They are already spending four hours a week driving to and from the gym. Not to mention the time it takes to get dressed, socialize as a good commercial gym member and wait for Mr. Half-Squat to get out of the rack. And hopefully they won’t have a whole workout wasted by getting kicked out by a lunk alarm for grunting.

Lunk Alarm


Anyway, back to time. Average income is $13 an hour (min wage $7.25). I’m going to attach this $13 to their drive time. That’s $2,704, then, we need to multiply it by two for both people - $5,408. Out of the hour and a half most spend in the gym, I’m going to assume about a half hour of that is spent bullshitting, changing, waiting, etc. So, they both waste two hours a week. This wouldn’t be wasted if they worked out in a garage gym. The BS time ends up costing $2,704.

Our total is now $10,648 in ONE year!

One Year Commercial Gym Cost


The Home Gym

Back to the garage gym. First of all, there are no commuting fees, they can use all the chalk they want, no one will interrupt their lifting sessions and their equipment will last a lifetime! For $4,273 they can get all the necessities. This includes a Texas Power Bar, Econo Prowler, EFS Econo Dip Attachment, EFS Econo Full Power Rack, EFS Pro Band Pack, EFS Econo GHR, EFS Econo Incline Bench and a 500 pound Olympic Weight Set.

Lifetime Garage - Home Gym


If you took this out over five years, and figured out how much you’d pay per day in the span of a year, a garage gym will cost you a Monster Energy drink a day and the commercial gym membership would be a new IPF Metal Bench Shirt every day.

Daily Cost

If you aren’t good at The Price is Right, I’ll put it into a dollar amount for you -- $2.34 compared to $145 over one year. I know I’m comparing apples-to-oranges and playing with numbers here. Each case is different and in some cases the commercial gym will be a better fit.  Some people place a very high value on their time while others enjoy the commute to the gym.  There are also some commercial (hardcore) gyms that offer great coaching and are staffed by experts that offsets the price because these places will save you years of mistakes. What we are presenting are some of the factors that should go into this decision. Run the numbers yourself based on your own gym dues, travel time, incidental expenses, opportunity cost and, most of all, the progress you're making. A home gym might be the right answer for you.

It is hard to compare a lifetime investment to a commercial gym. But what else would you like me to do, take it out over the course of 10 years to make a garage gym look (even more) insanely cheap? I have a better idea. If you bought a home gym and put it on a credit card with 19% interest and only paid the monthly minimum - guess what? Over the course of five years – you’d still be paying less! You could also collect money from your friends who workout in your gym to pay off your debt quicker.

Heck, with the almost 50 grand you’d be saving, you might as well go get a business degree and run your own gym!

“It’s a one-time fee and I won’t need to replace it,” John said. “After dreaming about this gym for two and a half years in Iraq, it's finally a reality...and it all started with reading this article.”

Other Articles of Interest

Sick of Your Gym

How to Kick Ass in a One-Car Garage

Products of Interest

Texas Power Bar

Econo Prowler

EFS Econo Dip Attachment

EFS Econo Full Power Rack

EFS Pro Band Pack


EFS Econo Incline Bench

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