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Hi, I’m Steve,

Investing in gym equipment for your new gym can lead you down a rabbit warren of never-ending expenses. Without a guide, you’re likely to end up with expensive, fancy-looking gear that never gets used.

We have spoken to Steve Theunissen who has a 40-year career as a gym owner and personal trainer. He’s developed a keen understanding of what gear works best and also got a handle on what equipment members will expect and demand.

That experience informs this list of the 10 pieces of essential equipment needed to start a gym.


Your New Gym Resistance Equipment Needs


About two-thirds of your workout floor space should be allocated to resistance training gear. This will include barbells, dumbbells, power racks, benches, and a functional training area.


1. Free Weights


Free weights should form the foundation of your equipment stock. There is plenty of research confirming that free weights produce better results than machines in terms of muscle isolation, range of motion, and biomechanics.

Your members will expect to see a decent range of fixed and Olympic barbells and dumbbells.


Dumbbells for Unilateral Upper Body Training


The range of resistances of your dumbbells will depend on the market you are targeting. If yours is a general fitness gym, you can get away with dumbbells that max out at 150 pounds. However, if you’re planning to attract hardcore bodybuilders and powerlifters, you will need to continue that range up to 200 pounds.

You should have two sets of dumbbells from 1.25 up to 100 pounds. After that, one set should be sufficient.

Dumbbells should go up in increments of one pound up to ten pounds and then in jumps of 2 pounds to 30 pounds. Between 30 and 100-pounds the weight increments should be 5 pounds. After that, you can get away with 10 or 20-pound jumps.


Barbells for Bilateral Upper Body Training


You should have at least one standing A-frame rack of fixed barbells. Members will mainly use these to do barbell curls. I recommend having the following fixed weight barbells on the rack:


  • 10 pounds
  • 15 pounds
  • 17.5 pounds
  • 20 pounds
  • 22.5 pounds
  • 25 pounds
  • 27.5 pounds
  • 30 pounds
  • 32.5 pounds
  • 35 pounds
  • 37.5 pounds
  • 40 pounds

You will also need a good supply of Olympic barbells and plates. A medium-sized gym (1000 members) should have at least ten Olympic Barbells. There should be enough Olympic plate resistance for each bar to be loaded to 300 pounds.


2. Weight Benches for Upper Body Pressing


The most popular exercise in most gyms is the barbell bench press. To cater to that need, you should have at least 3 flat bench press bench stations and two incline press stations.

In addition to the bench stations, there should be at least half a dozen flat/incline/decline (FID) adjustable benches for dumbbell work.


Real Experience. Honest Writing.