Gym Equipment - A Helpful Purchasing Guide For Rubber Gym Flooring, Strength Equipment, Free Weights and More!
Is now the right time to buy gym equipment? You’ve been sitting around during the pandemic squirreling away that extra unemployment compensation, knowing full well it won’t last forever and that you may not have a job to return to when it runs out. You’ve also been desperately missing going to the gym to train with your buddies—so much so, in fact, that you’re considering investing this unexpected windfall in your own commercial gym when the whole debacle ends.
Smart move, maybe. In every historical economic downturn, opportunities exist for savvy investors. Certainly, prime location store fronts may be sitting empty when this is all said and done, just waiting for a new business to come in and revive them. Why not you?
You’ll have to make a sizable capital investment in gym equipment, but it might not be as bad as you think, especially if you start under 3,000 square feet and grow as your membership grows. Let’s take a look then at a few of the essential pieces you’ll want to consider before that big grand opening.
One of the most versatile pieces of gym equipment the small gym owner will ever invest in is a power rack (also called a squat rack). A well-designed power rack offers unmatched versatility to safely perform numerous compound lifts like squat variations, flat/incline bench presses, multi-grip chin-ups, and seated/standing presses. Attachments are also available for dips and landmine rows.
Power racks are ideal for adding accommodating resistance like rubber resistance bands and weightlifting chains, while partial range of motion lifts can help bring up weak points and are accomplished by changing the position of the safety spotter arms. As you can see, gym goers could literally spend their entire training session inside the confines of the power rack and get a complete workout for every major muscle group.
The Proformance Plus PPF-800 Deluxe Power Rack by TuffStuff is a top of the line rack worthy of becoming your cornerstone piece of gym equipment. Key features include safeties that quickly adjust vertically with dual pull-pins and are covered in impact resistant hard rubber to protect the rack frame and bar finish from abrasions, a multi-grip chin-up bar, accessory hooks on the rear frame for conveniently storing bands and chains, top and bottom band pegs, a vertical bar holder, and ten Olympic plate storage horns. You can even configure this rack with an optional rubber weightlifting platform with inset to make it a stand-alone workstation for both powerlifting and Olympic lifting.
Flanking your power rack with a half rack on either side offers a smart way to take full advantage of its plate storage capability while also gaining two additional work stations at a substantial cost savings compared to buying additional full racks. The Body-Solid SPR500 Commercial Half Rack comes standard with an integrated chin-up bar and safety spotter arms.
It almost goes without saying that any gym equipment arsenal must include a robust selection of weightlifting bars and weight plates. You’ll also want to strategically position several weight trees throughout the gym to offer members easy access to plates without lugging them across the gym.
The IRON COMPANY 5150 20kg Olympic Bar is a heavy duty, multi-purpose bar at an affordable price. Key features include the triple snap ring design, hard chrome finish, and 195,000 PSI tensile strength steel.
Easily forgettable but critically important are barbell collars. Be sure to pick up a set for every bar. While you can opt for the cheaper spring collars, members will undoubtedly appreciate the convenience and safety of locking collars like the Lock-Jaw Barbell Collars by Avus Design.
IRON COMPANY Urethane Olympic Plates are constructed from high-grade cast iron cores covered with impact resistant polyurethane. They also include a user-friendly, three-hole grip pattern that allows for easy loading and unloading. Because of their ability to outlast painted cast iron and rubber coated plates, urethane weight plates are the number one free weight choice of commercial gyms. Urethane can also be laser cut for custom logos and branding opportunities.
Weight trees are one of those pieces of gym equipment every gym needs but on which no owner really relishes spending a lot of money. Unfortunately, a quick perusal of available offerings makes the hard truth apparent that storage options don’t come cheap. The Legend Combo Plate Tree and Olympic Bar Organizer offers good value and allows you to organize plates and two bars on one convenient rack.
Weight benches must be both sturdy and mobile, two considerations that would seem to be in conflict. Fortunately, the Legend Fitness 3100 Flat Utility Bench fulfills both criteria at a reasonable price point. The fully welded frame is constructed with 3" x 3" 11-gauge steel and topped with 2” thick rebound foam to ensure that heavy lifts are both stable and comfortable. At a weight of only 56 pounds, it can be repositioned inside a power rack or next to a dumbbell rack with relative ease. The transport option (handle and wheels) is a modestly priced upgrade that even further enhances mobility. USA made and with many frame and pad colors from which to choose, the 3100 is an attractive and functional piece of gym equipment you’ll be proud to offer your members.
Rubber gym flooring, like weight trees, is another “not glamorous but must have anyway” investment. While you may not need to cover your entire footprint, you’ll certainly want to cover high probability drop zones in order to protect both valuable gym equipment and the underlying floors themselves from impact. We’ve all heard the saying “happy wife, happy life” and “happy landlord, happy gym owner” is an equally true derivative. The most economical option for keeping your landlord happy are 4' x 6' x 3/4" Black USA Made Rubber Gym Flooring Mats, which can be laid side-by-side and end-to-end to cover large or small areas. Non-porous and slip resistant, they can be cleaned with a vacuum, broom or mop. At 96 pounds each, they’ll also stay in place without adhesive.
Let’s pause and reflect for a moment. The equipment I’ve recommended so far and listed below represents what I consider the essentials you’ll need to open a traditional black iron gym. Depending on the size of your facility and the number of each piece of gym equipment you need to reasonably fill the space, you’ll have spent several thousand dollars at this point. The good news, however, is that you’ll have everything you need to open your doors and begin building a membership base.
Essential Commercial Gym Equipment
- Proformance Plus PPF-800 Deluxe Power Rack
- Body-Solid SPR500 Commercial Half Rack
- IRON COMPANY 5150 20kg Olympic Bar
- Lock-Jaw Barbell Collars
- IRON COMPANY Urethane Olympic Plates
- Legend Combo Plate Tree and Olympic Bar Organizer
- Legend Fitness 3100 Flat Utility Bench
- 4' x 6' x 3/4" Black USA Made Rubber Gym Flooring Mats
As your membership begins to grow and your monthly revenue stream becomes reasonably predictable, you’ll want to consider adding additional gym equipment. Your goal with every new purchase should be to offer a greater variety of productive training tools in order to attract new members and retain existing. A gym owner who reinvests a portion of his profits in the business, rather than lining his own pockets with every penny earned, will foster a camaraderie and atmosphere customers are eager to support.
Keeping the goal of offering versatility in mind, one of the top wish list items to consider purchasing is a CrossCore® Rotational Bodyweight Training System, which will unlock an entire world of bodyweight training options. For those not familiar with the CrossCore, one of its key features is a Pin Engagement System that can be locked to stop the rotation of the pulley wheel when stable movements are desired or unlocked to allow the pulley wheel to rotate freely. Resistance for most exercises can be increased or decreased in "micro increments" simply by moving your feet forward or backward to change your body angle. The CrossCore is commonly attached to a chinning bar or other support beam on a power rack or rig, but The Optional Ceiling/Wall Anchor allows you to create an anchor point when a rack or rig is not available.
Another early wish list item you should consider purchasing as soon as you can scrape together the cash to do so is an adjustable bench. I came close to listing an adjustable bench on my list of essential gym equipment but left it off because you can get by without it for a few months by writing programs that include a heavy dose of flat bench pressing and overhead pressing.
There’s no way of sugar coating the fact that, due to the number of moving parts and the tight tolerances to which they must fit, a quality adjustable bench is going to set you back more than you might expect. The Legend Fitness 3103 0-90 Degree Three Way Utility Bench offers the features you’ll want—3" x 3" 11-gauge steel construction, 3” thick foam padding, pop-pin control for a range of bench and seat adjustments, transport system for mobility throughout the gym—at a price point under $600.
If you can only afford one machine in your gym equipment budget, you’ll have to make a call between a leg press and a lat pulldown. On cost alone, I’d edge toward a far more budget-friendly lat pulldown and just keep pushing my members to do squat and deadlift variations until I could save for a leg press. The Legend Fitness Lat Pull/Low Row Station is a reasonably priced, plate-loaded, two-in-one machine that your members will really enjoy using to take their back workouts to the next level. In addition to pulldowns and seated cable rows, you can also get creative with attachments in order to use the high pulley for triceps pressdowns and the low pulley for cable curls, giving you great functionality in one piece of equipment.
Just like you’ll set goals for membership growth, you’ll also set them for equipment purchases. If you manage to add the three pieces discussed above and listed below in your first year, you’ll be well on your way to building a high quality gym that can attract members with diverse training interests.
Early Commercial Gym Equipment Wish List
- CrossCore® Rotational Bodyweight Training System
- Legend Fitness 3103 0-90 Degree Three Way Utility Bench
- Legend Fitness Lat Pull/Low Row Station
As your gym expands, perhaps even into a bigger facility, there are some big ticket items you’ll want to acquire and may even want to consider obtaining business financing to purchase. By this point, you’ll have a core membership base and predictable income stream you can present to a bank. All of the gym equipment below falls into the big ticket category, but much of it will be prerequisite to your long term success and growth. When your gym is well-equipped with everything listed, it might be time to start thinking about a second location and your own article (or seminar) outlining your successes for others to follow!
Longer Term Big Ticket Commercial Gym Equipment
- IRON COMPANY® Urethane Solid Steel Dumbbells (full set)
- IRON COMPANY® Premium Powder Coated Kettlebells (full set)
- Legend Fitness 3122 Plate Loaded 45 Degree Leg Press
- Legend Fitness Cable Crossover with Adjustable Pulley Machine
- Specialty Bars
- Cardio / Conditioning Equipment
About the Author
Visit Chuck Miller's website for more of his writing on a variety of topics, including his strength training book, Inside the Mind of an Iron Icon (foreword by IRON COMPANY featured writer, Marty Gallagher).