In CrossFit, Equipment

September 09, 2009

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Matthew Hall analyzes 18 months of main-site WODs and comes to some surprising conclusions about what equipment you should buy and when.

If you’re outfitting your home gym, invest in a bar, squat stand and bumper plates right away. Buy those rings. Get a pull-up bar and an AbMat. Put dumbbells, kettlebells, a Concept2 rower and a GHD machine at the bottom of your priority list.

Surprised? So was I.

To determine the most important pieces of equipment, I went through all the main-site WODs from January 2008 to mid-June 2009. I tallied how many times each particular exercise was performed and then broke each exercise down by the required pieces of equipment. I also looked online at three common CrossFit equipment suppliers and averaged the prices for each product. The suppliers I used were Again Faster, The Garage Gym Store and Rogue Fitness.

I was able to compile a list of the equipment and sort it by how many times each item was used. I then figured how much it would cost per use based on the average price over those 18 months. I also wanted to see how much of the CrossFit program could be accomplished with different purchases, so I made a third table showing how many more exercises could be done with each additional piece of equipment purchased, and how that would affect the total cost of the gym.

The results? For less than $1,500 in equipment purchases, you can perform 80 percent of the WODs on in your home gym.

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40 Comments on “Smart Shopping for Your Home Gym”


wrote …

Matt - You are right on with your article. The first items I got were oly bar, bumpers, power rack, abmat and stud bar - which I use all the time. I got lucky and picked up a C2 on ebay for $300. I later added a Dynamax ball, quality jump rope, KB, climbing rope and thai bag, along with a few DIY projects. My only recommendation would be to buy a whole set of bumpers at the start, instead of adding them incrementally like I did. Thanks for writing this up, Dave


wrote …

So far, since I'm a newbie at doing a Crossfit at home, I've been using dumbbells instead of barbells. I just don't have the room in my apartment for barbell setup. I haven't decided on a better solution to this or whether I'll stick to the dumbbells. At the moment, there is no Crossfit gym in my area.


wrote …

This is excellent. I am currently planning a garage gym and will be following this guide when purchasing equipment.


wrote …

Right on Matt! I own all of the top 6 items listed and are a MUST have when outfitting your garage gym! I would also recommend pulling the trigger on a Oly Bar, bumper set and KB to save on shipping.

This should be put on the main site under "start here"


wrote …

This was an excellent article with thorough analysis to back sound decisions. I'll hopefully be referring to this in the future.


Robert Guere wrote …

Thanks for taking the time to compile this data for all of us, Matt. Great job. Very useful.


wrote …

Great article, and your top 8 purchases to get you to 80% are right on the money.

A few things to note...a stack of bumpers makes a great plyo box, and for the most part, but not always, when box jumps are part of the WOD, bumpers are not, so their use shouldn't come into conflict too much. Three examples off the top of my head are the weighted walking lunges, 24" box jump, weighted pull up WOD, Fight Gone Bad, and Filthy Fifty.

4x45 and 2x25 of the Rogue bumpers are extremely close to a 20" box, and 4x45, 2x25 and 2x10 of those bumpers are very close to a 24 inch box.

And about dumbbells, since we already need smaller change plates, you can get a few more of the smaller metal plates...say 6x10, 4x5 and 4x2.5 and get a pair of cheap adjustable olympic dumbbell handles. Something like this.

They are cheap and practically take up no space, so they are a great choice to a home gym.

Again, great article, and that 1500 can stretch quite a bit further to open up doing many more WODs Rx'd.


Joshua Hunnicutt wrote …

Great article, really puts the priority of equipment in perspective. I picked up a great lead on med balls from Motor City Crossfit; Title boxing has 20lb and 15lb, pretty soft med balls for 30 and 40 bucks. The diameter of the 2 is very close, if not the same as the dynamax balls; they also deliver in 2-3 days. Their site is

New Species CrossFit


wrote …

Thank you for this acticle. This will help me set up my own home gym


wrote …

Perfect. Thanks for taking the time to put this together and thanks, CrossFit for posting it. I'm starting with a small group out of my garage tonight and have been stewing about what gear to add next; I already have several pieces but didn't know how I might go about prioritizing the new stuff. This pretty much seals the deal for me.

Thanks, again!


wrote …

Just wanted to pipe in with my two cents for those folks who are in the military and have access to a "free gym":

last xmas, i treated my family to a garage gym. by no means am I more than a casual crossfitter, but here's some unsolicited input - my days that I "go heavy" but not overhead are best spent in the MWR gyms. At home, a pullup bar, a 8x8 two ply plywood platform, a bar,~200 lbs of bumpers (if you're a beast go for more, i guess), rings, a mirror, a rollup pad for situps. three barbells for kettlebell swings, a medicine ball for warmup, voila. most other things i can get done at a MWR gym without getting kicked out. dumping a snatch in a MWR gym can be bad (lucky you if it isn't). Not everyone is me, I get that - but keep in mind that if you're in the military you will probably have access to facilities for heavy days or complex movements. Even small MWR gyms here in the Norfolk area have concept 2's, although I want one at my house because I get such a kick out of them.

I squandered money on far too much rubber matting, a squat rack and a cheap roman chair that stunk. If I could do it over again I would have used the flooring and squat rack for a quality back extention or ghd.

Again, not everyone's me but I seriously went about 500-600 bucks over what I needed to by swearing off MWR gyms and that was dumb, trying to prevent the same mistake for others.


wrote …

Do not underestimate the versatility of a giant scrap tire. Our 'Mr. B.' (for Mr. Bridgestone) is used for flips, box (styled) jumps, GHD sit ups, and back extensions. We put our feet up on the tire for push ups or 'walk-arounds.'

There must be a thread on the message board that would have more ideas - but you can't beat the price, and they're indestructible, ready for any exercise in any weather.

If you only have a little apartment, Mr. B. would make a wonderful coffee table otherwise. Get a glass top, and look people straight in the eye when you say, "Everyone's doing this. How serious are YOU about recycling?"


wrote …

While I found this article extremely helpful, there is one part of the calculation I think you left out.

I, as a newbie, follow the prescribed Crossfit warm-up- which involves pull-ups, dips, GHSUs, and back-extensions, all which require special equipment. All of these things are readily available at a nearby fitness center... but none except the pull-up bar are at my house.

If this is the warm-up proscribed by the Journal, then that greatly increases the occurrence of those four exercises (as in every single workout), and thus the need for those pieces of equipment also increases, unless one were to follow another warm-up.

They'd also be cheaper per use.



wrote …

Great article! I can definitely attest to the importance of a back extension machine and I had a lot of success doing a homemade upgrade on the pad for a standard Roman Chair from Play it Again Sports. Total cost ran around $100 and I get a lot of great use out of it.

I also recommend the squat stands since I found that I was missing a large part of the programming until I bought those for the house.

Thanks Matt!


wrote …

Nice work Matt! Thanks for taking the time to do this, and thanks for sharing it with us!


wrote …

Great article, and it also sheds more light on the relative value of training at an affiliate. When people question how others afford being members at an affiliate, this is an easy way to discuss value.

Lets say FGB popped up, for an example. By the above math, using a Bar, Plates, Box, Medball and Rower would come to $59.95 to execute that WOD at home. "Helen" has $10.56 worth of equipment. Even "Fran" and "Elizabeth" have about $5 worth of associated equipment costs ($4.42 and $4.64 respectively).

Besides offering equipment that may be prohibitively expensive for a garage gym, affiliates offer coaching to execute the movements safely and effectively. Consider a $150/month membership at an affiliate, and let's say you plan to attend 3-4 times a week. Your average daily rate would be between $8.50 - $11.50 a session. If you humped it out 5x a week, your daily rate would come to less than $7.

If you purchased your $1,500 worth of equipment, and worked out religiously 3 On, 1 Off (~272 days a year), and were willing to substitute 20% of the mainsite WODs, your average daily equipment cost would be less than $4.

What that means is that for an extra $3 a session, you could have a certified CrossFit trainer, in a dedicated CrossFit facility, coach you through each daily WOD.

I know that times and convenience factors can be prohibitive, but when it comes to return on your fitness affiliate is tough to beat.


wrote …

There's a fairly large do-it-yourself-er group that has found ways to cut these costs down further.(Check the message boards).

I made my own pullup bar with pipe from Home Depot for about $40.
Made my own squat stands with 5gallon buckets, 2x4's, and concrete for maybe $20.
Braided some 3/4inch rope so it was large enough to grip and made a climbing rope.
Bar, 300lbs of weights, and a bench for $100 on Craigslist.
Abmat? Try a foam kickboard from a pool supply shop. (Ok, this one is pretty lame)

To me, the home gym is about finding ways to get it done unconventionally.


wrote …

Great article! As I've built my home gym up, I've pretty much followed this order myself just by guessing. Right now I'm at the GHD or Concept2 stage in outfitting. I can already do just about all of the exercises, but am debating on whether to pull the trigger on those two larger purchases. I'm sure I will at some point, just not yet.

I second the comment by Gilmore Greco about including the CFWU use into this calculation to make a large difference. Getting a GHD seems like it would be much higher on the list if you warm up with it before EVERY workout! Currently I just warmup with 3x15 on my Abmat. I am curious to see what others think about how important it is to do the full GHD situps for your warmup.

I built dip bars myself for less than $40 and use them in the warm up.


replied to comment from Justin Bergh

The ROI would improve in years 2+. You could than apply saved funds to certs.

Other pluses for the affiliate are positive peer pressure, competition and camaraderie (which probably would translate in to performance gains).


wrote …

Where were you a few months ago when I did similar work to start building my home gym! Thanks, great article.

Sure, you could use this article to show why people would benefit from joining an affiliate, and it would be a compelling reason... if there was one any where near by! For now the home gym is all I got. I would love nothing more than to get together with a bunch of fellow crossfitters. Is there a network of home gyms sorted by area? (near Keene NH)


replied to comment from Kaleb Mullin

Kaleb...good point on using saved funds for periodic seminars to learn/refine new skills. Totally agree that for many, having a garage gym is ideal. For others that want to learn technique at the beginning of their journey, affiliates are the way to go. Many structure an On-Ramp or Fundamentals program that introduces the basics.

I would highly recommend those to the average garage guy as he is starting out. Just budget that into your first year. It's time and money well spent, and it will set you up for a much quicker and safer improvement in your work capacity.


wrote …

Great article Matt. One thing that jumped out at me was the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) vs. the purchase price. This article focuses on simply the purchase price. Only using the purchase price for each item assumes you 'use it up' and there is no resale value of the equipment. Exercise equipment tends to hold its value well over long periods of time. Check out Craigslist for evidence of this.

Example: A model D C2 rower new for $895. After a year and a half of use it will barely be broken in, and will sell for $750+. 10+ year old model C rowers routinely sell for $400-600. After 1.5 years of use, $145 in depreciation drops the price/use to a more reasonable $7.63.

Calculating TCO or depreciation vs equipment use would be a more useful metric I think.


wrote …

Great article Matt, thanks, and congrats on your climb!


wrote …

Nice work Matt. There is one item that is used every WOD that you have forgotten about though... your favourite Crossfit T-shirt!


wrote …

This is a great article but don't underestimate the forum and the wealth of knowledge for homemade equipment as well as buying things used.

For example, the homemade med ball can be made for about $10 bucks

Just made some squat stands yesterday from buckets and cement - $44 bucks

Had a pullup bar welded at a steel shop (almost identical to the studbar) - materials - less than $40 bucks

Bought a used concept 2 model e for $1000 - yeah I know I coulda got a brand new D for the same price. But the lady had only used it a few times.

Found 8 hi-temp 45lb bumpers used.

Every day I search craigslist for olympic weights, bars and squat stands... Even if I don't need the stuff.

Great article. I still need a bunch of stuff.


wrote …

one more thing....

How does a back extension bench differ from a GHD?


wrote …

great article! one thing that jumped out at me, though, was the classification of dumbbells of different weights as separate pieces of equipment. especially if you're talking about a garage gym, adjustable weights are the way to go. the rate of use would be much higher, and the cost per use much lower, when calculated that way. they become extremely versatile and extremely valuable pieces of equipment.


wrote …


Great article. Two cents:

1. PVC pipe is the first piece of equipment anyone should buy, as it is used in seven of the nine foundational movements.

2. I think a look at the equipment used in the warm-up would be prudent. It would move the use of the pull-up bar (and probably assist bands), rings, abmat, BE bench, and the PVC pipe to the top. Gotta start with the warm-up.

Great read and great discussion!



wrote …

Matt -
Thanks for the article. Good stuff.

I agree with the do-it-yourselfers. I have made the same (pull up bar, squat rack, medicine ball, rings).

I do have a question. I have never seen the ab-mat specified in the WOD. So I take it that all sit ups are GHD situps and I just sub something else. So if you factor in the ab-mat & back extension to the GHD how does that change the ROI of the GHD?



replied to comment from Jeff Roddy

I think with regular situps wods you should try the abmat. It extends the range of motion of the situp to be more natural it also saves your back from doing multiple situps on a hard floor.

The abmats are under $20 bucks I think. So for example, today's wod of

50,40,30,20,10 Double Under's & Sit-Ups - this is the perfect day for the abmat.


wrote …

Just thought Id throw my two cents in also (a little late but what the heck)

If you use the GHD Machine for all situps back extensions and GHD situps its price per use dropped to $4.85, -$1 from the B/E and you would be getting multiple exercises out of it.

Buying a kids four square ball from Walmart, filling it with sand and sealing it with shoe goo cost me $5, which is $100 cheaper than a dynamax ball and weighs approximately 21# (pretty close but for $100?). plus I have hit a 20 ft target and let it drop to concrete several times and it hasnt even shown wear. Ive been using it for a year now.

Rings can be made at home too, saving almost as much as the medicine ball, do a google search for homemade gymnastics rings and a Crossfit message board entry should pop up (or just search the CF message board. I made a set for myself and my older brother, and they work just as good as a set you can use at my old universities gymnastics room.

Also go down to a residential job site and pay a carpenter $20 and he can use scrap lumber and ply wood to make a plyo box that is $90 cheaper than the average quoted.

Great article though, the stats were an excellent economic measure. thanks!


wrote …

Matt, this is great. Obvious to see you spent some time on this (and in med school no less!), but the benefit for those of us building our own gym is huge. I've asked myself many times what I should be buying next, and I'm never sure. I'll definitely be using this guide, thanks for writing it!


wrote …

Great, article. Thank you for a much needed priority list.


wrote …

Great article! One very small addition I would suggest: a second pair of 5 lb or 10 lb plates. (These can be found cheap at Play It Again Sports, etc.) With the bumpers & plates recommended in the article (2.5, 5, 10, 25, 4 x 45), you end up with a 15-lb jump at 5 places in the 45 lb to 490 lb range. Adding just one more set of 5's or 10's takes care of this, giving you 5-lb increments all the way up the range, which can be important if that 15-lb jump becomes a sticking point in your progress on a lift. And if you can find a pair of 1-lb or 0.5-kg plates, they are great to have when that 5-lb increment is too much.


wrote …

I'm a newbie and just wondering if exercises and equipment within Crossfit may be changing with time. That would affect the type of equipment that one may need moving forward vs. the retrospective analysis on 18 months done on the article. I wouldn’t think so but perhaps some have noticed shifts in exercises and equipment with time


wrote …

Great article, I'm using this guide to start purchasing for my own garage gym! Thanks.


wrote …

Any suggestions on where to get cheap rubber matting? For out garage gym, its beginning to take a toll on the cheap floor we have without it... good investment? thoughts?
Thanks guys.


wrote …

I use a "Freespotter" for a bar stand and a squat cage. its cheaper (under $200.00) and very safe. Best thing I ever bought for my home gym!


wrote …

Great article! I am also wondering about how much things might have changed since this article was written. I'm currently trying to outfit my garage. I've used the local Y for the past 1-1/2 years, and while it worked okay and helped me give exposure to Crossfit to others, it still lacked full cooperation on their part. So, to have things the way I want them, I've decided to invest in my own equipment. And, this will give me a chance to expose my kids to crossfit, which is awesome!


wrote …

Lately it seems the main site WODs have gotten more aimed at competition type of athletes (More handstand walks, handstand push ups, ring arm extensions). While obviously the first two examples don't need equipment, I'm wondering if this article's information still holds true to the more modern programming on the main site.
Anyone care to revise this? I hate math.

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