Forging The Home Gym - Zen and the Art of Craigslist

Look at all that high-end equipment out there. Rogue. EliteFTS. Pendlay. Sorinex. Powerlift. Legacy. That high-grade steel, the precision barbells, the custom powder coat. They line massive gyms and college facilities, and anyone of these companies outfit the best of the best. It’s too bad you have to stop feeding your family to afford any of it.

Fine, I’m being a tad dramatic, and any big name manufacturer has “affordable” tiers of equipment. But how often do you find yourself stalling out instead of working out due to a less than-ideal set-up?

Have you seen what some of the greats had access to?

We’re picking things up and putting them down, remember?

So we still need to find equipment: a barbell, plates, a rack, maybe a GHD. Any one of these items can eat up a meager budget, especially brand new. We don’t need new.

What? You already knew that? But you didn’t really, because you didn’t do it and this approach is long term and saves the most money over time. It does not suit the seekers of a quick-fix.

New Age Cavemen and Cavewomen

We’re digital hunters and gathers, combing the terrain with every mouse click. We need to cover a lot of ground in the least amount of time, and when opportunity presents itself, jump at it.

Craigslist First

Online Classifieds keep popping up: Oodle, Ebay Classifieds (which is kind of Kajiji), Pawngo, and a handful of other sites whose names try way too hard.

Craigslist (CL) is boring and basic, but with over 30 million users in a given month, Craigslist boasts sheer volume of ads posted, no contest.

There are exceptions. More metropolitan areas often have greater user base for other online classifieds. Play with what’s available relative to your area. For example, in most of Utah, KSL Classifieds has the lion’s share of posted ads, but this is an anomaly compared to most of the country.

Get to Craigslist. 


You’re looking for some iron plates, but typing “iron plates” into the search bar results in ads by an angry Norwegian selling a dinnerware set made in his welding class.

Similar keywords yield varying results. Gym. Fitness. Bumper Plates. Squat. Rack. People often lump items together into one post, or even mis-categorize their listing.

Use the main search bar, vary the keywords, don’t contact the angry Norwegian.

Keep an Open Tab

When you are actively looking for your next item(s), keep an open tab and refresh often.

You can also create an RSS feed to send notifications, or make use of a Chrome app that sends alerts for targeted keywords of your choosing, or even make use of the several craigslist search engines that aggregate all posts within a selected mileage radius. The problem with every one of these solutions is the delay of information scraped from CL. This can be minutes, this can be hours.

When you are actively looking your next piece, minutes make all the difference. Stick to the source, refresh often.

Look at the Pictures. No. LOOK.

Most pictures posted to online classifieds are haphazard and taken by a potato, but we’re looking for everything else in the picture. The ad is claiming to sell a weight bench, but in the background sits several pairs of old dumbbells.

You’d be surprised what people will sell if you just ask.

Do the Muscle Shuffle

There are too many crap listings. There is a lot of overpriced junk—cement weights, just say NO. But there’s also items you already have, or only need pieces from. So why not leverage those items for potential funding?

I see this one quite often: the starter set-up. Includes a half-rack of sorts, an adjustable bench, barbell, and weight plates. $150. Keep the plates and sell the rest, or any combination that you need, with a goal of total transactions being $0, and you with the item(s) you need.

This approach only works when you become familiar with your area and the typical market values. Watch the ads to find the averages. And the more familiar you are with brands and value, the faster you can jump on a possible purchase or resell as needed.

TO BE CLEAR: This is a really inefficient method to actually making money. This is intended to build the home gym over time with the least possible cost.

Know Your Details

Similar to above, find those little details that your typical ad poster may not be aware of. I’m always surprised how often people just want to get rid of stuff or don’t know what they have.

Your seller may not know or care about the range of barbell brands and specifications, but you should. We don’t need the best, but we don’t want junk. 

Take the Time

My first purchase was a rusty Ivanko barbell, rusted Ivanko plates, and a heavy duty weight tree. I wanted an option for when I couldn’t make it to the gym.

That was almost ten years ago, and I still own it all. I cleaned up the bar, cleaned the plates, and continued to add more equipment that I love and use.

Your big box gym is overrated. Build your own. Don’t contact the angry Norwegian.

(All images are the copyright of their owners. Source:

About James Shores
James is a professional writer, creator of the television series Granite Flats and a fitness junky! He also enjoys flipping tires and spending time with his family.