This article will outline the equipment required in a gym and why you should own them.

To help you get started, I’ll discuss some basic tips you must take cognizance of regardless of the type of gym you operate.

  • Things to note before you buy gym equipment
  • The essential equipment needed
  • +much more!

Let’s delve right in, shall we?

Personal training gym equipment

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Introduction to personal training gym equipment

Are you opening a small gym or personal training studio?

Don’t waste money on buying the wrong things.

This article will list all the essential gym equipment you’ll need for your new business. 

But, before you go off and spend all your (or your investors) money, there are a few things you need to consider before you start making purchases. 

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  1. The size of your facility – the bigger it is, the more equipment you’ll need and be able to accommodate
  2. Gym or studio – you’ll need more equipment for a traditional gym than a 1-to-1 personal training studio. 
  3. Type of training you want to offer – bodybuilding and powerlifting gyms need a lot of specialist equipment.

    Functional training studios usually need much less. 
  4. Target audience – what type of user do you want to attract to your new facility?

    If it’s a hardcore gym, you’ll need power racks, lifting platforms, heavy-duty benches, and lots of free weights.

    But, if your facility is more of a general health and fitness gym, you’ll need more cardio and general training equipment.
  5. Your budget – don’t spend more than you want or need to.

    This may mean making do with less equipment initially and buying more later. 
  6. Specialist equipment – if you intend to offer things like Pilates, yoga, or group exercise classes such as spinning or step, you’ll need additional training gear.

    If you want to attract CrossFitters, and even open a CrossFit Box, you’ll need a different range of specialist equipment. 

Buying basic gym equipment can be daunting, and you may be second-guessing your choices.

To help make the process as simple as possible, we’ve broken our recommendations down according to the type of facility you will open.

Before you buy

In this section, I’ll be sharing some ideas and tips you must take cognizance of before shopping for gym equipment.

Don’t rush out or go online and start buying gym equipment.

Instead, measure your facility and work out how much useable floor area you have.

Then, once you have decided on the equipment you’d like to buy, calculate how much space each item will take. 

Next, draw up a rough floor plan and determine where each item will go.

This will probably take some trial and error to determine the best place for each item. 

Consider access to each piece of equipment and whether users will encroach on anyone exercising nearby. 

Finally, which is especially important, ensure you can get your chosen items into your facility.

If you’ve got a third-floor gym with only a narrow stairway for access, ask yourself how you will get those full-sized treadmills up from the delivery point to your gym. 

Before you buy

Most personal training studios are designed to cater to just a couple of users at a time, who will invariably work 1-to-1 with a trainer.

Because of this, while you need a range of equipment, you don’t need to buy more than one of each item. 

After all, even if you share your studio with another trainer, you should be able to design your programs and coordinate your sessions so that you don’t need the same equipment simultaneously. 

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The good news is that you don’t need a long list of gym equipment to provide your clients with a never-ending supply of great workouts.

You can deliver great workouts with little workout gear and even bodyweight exercises. 

That said, doing nothing but bodyweight training will soon get old.

You and your clients will probably enjoy the programming variety that a carefully chosen range of training gear will allow. 

So, with that in mind, here is a comprehensive list of personal training studio equipment. 

Please don’t think you need to buy all of these items – you don’t.

Instead, it’s just a list of our suggestions.

You should choose what you need based on the size of your studio and the type of training you will offer. 

  • Adjustable strength training bench – if you offer free-weight training, you need an adjustable bench.

    Why adjustable?

    Because it will save you from buying a separate flat, incline, and decline benches. 
  • Dumbbell rack and dumbbells – dumbbells can be used for upper and lower body training.

    They’re an all-but-essential purchase for your personal trainer equipment starter kit. 
  • Barbells and weight plates – like dumbbells, barbells are another item of essential equipment in a gym.

    You’ll need at least one barbell if you want your clients to squat, deadlift, and bench press.

    Ensure you have plenty of weight plates in various sizes and safety collars. 
  • Weight stands – keep your free-weight plates and collars neat and all in one place. 
  • Squat stands or power rack – use with your bench for bench presses or squats, overhead presses, and other barbell exercises.

    Combine with a shock-absorbing floor covering or lifting platform to protect your floor from dropped weights. 
  • Power tower – if you buy a power rack, you probably don’t need one of these.

    But, if you want your clients to do pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, hanging knee and leg raises, etc., you’ll need a fixed pull-up bar or, more portable, a power tower.
  • Kettlebells – while you can use dumbbells for many kettlebell exercises, moves like swings, snatches, and halos are more comfortable with kettlebells.

    However, kettlebells can be expensive, and you’ll need to buy several to accommodate all your clients, from light to very heavy. 
  • Suspension trainer – you can use a TRX or similar to train virtually every muscle in your body.

    If you don’t have the money to buy stacks of free weights, a suspension trainer is a handy piece of personal training equipment. 
  • Resistance bands – are used for prehab, rehab, or general strength training.

    You can also use bands in conjunction with barbells for accommodating resistance training. 
  • Jump rope – the most cost-effective cardio exercise you can buy!

    Perfect for warm-ups, cool-downs, and interval training.  
  • Medicine balls – used for core training, upper and lower body plyometrics, and circuit training. 
  • Stability balls – can be used in place of a bench for some exercises and to add an extra dimension to core training.

    You’ll also need a storage area for your stability balls to stop them from rolling around your gym. 
  • Exercise mats – are essential for core, stretching, and floor-based strength training exercises. 
  • Punchbag and gloves – a cost-effective cardio workout that many exercisers love or love to hate!

    You could also use focus mitts instead of a punchbag for a more hands-on workout. 
  • Battle ropes – a low-tech but high-effect cardio workout perfect for HIIT, fat-burning, and circuit training. 
  • Plyo boxes – are useful for step-ups, box jumps, and other athletic exercises.

    Plyo boxes also mean users won’t do step-ups on your expensive adjustable benches. 
  • Spinning bike – good for warm-ups, cool-downs, general cardio, and interval training.

    Spinning bikes are generally cheaper and more hardwearing than regular exercise bikes.

    If you prefer a full-body but still bike-based workout, consider something like an Airdyne or Assault bike with built-in upper-body action. 
  • Rowing machine arguably even better than a spinning bike because rowing is a full-body exercise.

    Both rowers and spinning bikes are cheaper and take up less space than treadmills.

    They also tend to be more reliable and not as noisy. 
  • Treadmill – probably best thought of as a luxury item for most personal training studios.

    Treadmills are big, noisy, and expensive, so think hard before buying. 
  • Elliptical – good ellipticals are large and expensive but much quieter to use than treadmills.

    Most also have an added arm action, making them full-body workouts useful for warm-ups. 
  • Adjustable cable machine – you can use an adjustable cable machine for pulldowns, rows, triceps pushdowns, biceps curls, cable flies, core training, hip extensions and abductions, and a host of other exercises.

    You probably won’t have space for a full range of resistance machines, and you can use this single item to replace many individual stations. 

Before you buy

Short on space or cash?

You can provide your clients with great workouts using the following items of personal training gear: 

  1. Suspension trainer 
  2. Jump rope 
  3. Exercise mats 
  4. Resistance bands 
  5. Power tower 

Anything above and beyond this list will add variety to your workouts and make designing programs easier, but it could be considered luxuries rather than essential. 

Small traditional gym

If you intend to open your facility to users who train themselves in addition to personal training, you’ll need more than just your bare-bones personal trainer gear. 

People who join gyms expect a certain training kit, so you must include the most popular gym equipment on your shopping list. 

If you have a large space that can accommodate a lot of users at a time, you’ll need more than one of many of these items. For example, you’ll probably need several treadmills and multiple adjustable benches for your dumbbell training area. 

Note: These items include the personal training studio/fitness center equipment listed above. 

  • A range of cardio equipment – most workouts start and end with cardio, and most general exercises do cardio as part of their training.

    Cardio training is also very popular. 

    To accommodate these users, you’ll need a range of cardio equipment, probably more than one of each type, including treadmills, bikes, recumbents, rowers, steppers, and ellipticals. 
  • Resistance training machines – many exercises like using resistance training machines, so you’ll need at least one machine per major muscle group.

    Resistance machines are big, expensive, and can only accommodate one user at a time. 

    You’ll also need to choose between plate-loaded or selectorized machines. 

    At the very least, you’ll need most of these items of standard gym equipment: 
    • Leg press
    • Hack squat
    • Leg extension
    • Leg curl 
    • Lat pulldown
    • Seated row 
    • Shoulder press
    • Cable crossover 
    • Chest press
    • Assisted pull-up/dip
  • Dedicated free-weight benches – most gyms have flat, incline, and decline barbell bench press stations, plus benches for shoulder presses, preacher curls, back extensions, etc.

    You don’t need all these benches, but you’ll need more than an adjustable bench. 
  • Protective matting – with many people using free weights simultaneously and without 1-to-1 supervision, you can bet that some will drop your expensive dumbbells and barbells.

    Protect your floor and equipment with shock-absorbing matting throughout your free-weights training area. 
  • Specialist bars – EZ bars, football bars, safety squat bars, yoke bars, thick bars; if your clients are serious about barbell training, they’ll appreciate and may even expect a selection of specialty bars. 
  • Smith machine – while many trainers are very anti-Smith machines, many exercisers like using one for squats, bench presses, and overhead presses. 

    Smith machines are arguably one of the most versatile strength training machines in the gym because this one item of equipment can be used for lots of different exercises.

    Love or hate them, most gyms have Smith machines for a reason – clients like them. 

Treatment room

If you also want to offer prehab, rehab, or massage or have a space you’d like to rent out to a therapist, you may also need the following items in addition to your selection of standard gym equipment. 

  • Massage couch – as well as being essential for most types of massage, a couch is useful for hands-on stretching and strengthening, especially for injured clients. 
  • Myofascial release equipment – from percussive hand-held massagers to foam rollers- is useful for treating and preventing various conditions and injuries.  
  • Stretching straps and blocks – commonly used in yoga and Pilates- are useful for remedial stretching and strengthening exercises. 
  • Ankle weights and resistance bands – for remedial strengthening exercises. 
  • Heat/cold pads – for pain relief and speeding up healing. 
  • Privacy screens – so the client can get dressed/undressed out of sight of the therapist/trainer. 
  • Skeleton/joint models/anatomy charts – so the therapist/trainer can show the client the nature of their injury. 

If you are subletting or renting out space by the hour for therapy, you may not need to provide this equipment.

But you’ll be able to charge more if you provide it and the room is fully equipped. 

Treatment room

I’m sure you’ve gotten value in the equipment you need to set up a gym without breaking the bank.

Buying the wrong equipment could be an expensive mistake that your business never recovers. 

Remember, you don’t HAVE to start your business by buying everything on your perfect gym equipment checklist.

It’s better to start with the minimum you need and then buy more equipment as you need and can afford it. 

Whether you buy new, used, or lease, your gym equipment will probably be your biggest set-up expense.

Smart decisions now could save you a lot of money in the future. 


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Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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