Cheap Alternatives to Gym Memberships (That Actually Get Results)

If you’re looking for ways to get in shape, but you don’t want to splurge on a gym membership–here are a few alternatives that can still get your butt in shape!

It’s no secret that gym membership prices are slowly creeping upwards. If you want to workout at the nicest gym in your city, you may be looking at a membership fee of $200 per month or more.

I’ve been going to the gym regularly for a decade, and always struggled to make myself workout at home. Then Covid forced all of the gyms in my city to shut down, so I had to get creative.

I tried a few things, but here are what I would recommend if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to a gym membership that will still get you in better shape.

Bodyweight Training Program

There’s a common misconception that to build muscle you have to lift weights. It’s funny, I actually got in some of the best shape of my life during the pandemic because I was doing a ton of bodyweight training.

Bodyweight training provides a unique stimulus because it requires you to stabilize and brace your entire body in ways that lifting weights doesn’t. I often think about rock climbers who build crazy strength by pulling themselves up a rock face.

INSANITY Total Body Conditioning Program

INSANITY with Shaun T

I did INSANITY with Shaun T almost every day for a couple months in mid-2020. And I was surprised at the results I got. I had done these workouts in gym class in high school, but never did multiple workouts consecutively. The entire set of DVDs costs under $150, which may seem like a lot – but compared to months of gym costs, it’s affordable. And once you buy it, you can use it for life.

Movie Star Body Elite Bodyweight Training

A lot of fitness trainers had to pivot their businesses during Covid to accommodate people who no longer had access to gyms. I tried out this bodyweight training plan from Kinobody and was super excited about my results.

Many bodyweight plans are more focused on building cardiovascular fitness and less on building strength. The MSB Bodyweight Training program focuses on some key movements (handstand pushups, decline pushups, and weighted pull ups) that can drastically increase your strength and improve your physique.

Home Gym Equipment

If you’re concerned with the ongoing cost of a gym membership, you can gradually buy home gym equipment to use at your house. You can start with just a few pieces and add to your collection as you have more money to spend, or as you identify needs for new items.

Adjustable Dumbbells

One of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can get for your home gym is adjustable dumbbells.

Here are a couple options I recommend:

You can use these for basic lifting movements like presses and curls, as well as more dynamic movements like dumbbell thrusters or snatches.


Kettlebells are another valuable piece of training equipment for your home gym. They provide a unique training stimulus and can be used for endless movements.

I think I was able to maintain my strength during Covid very well because I had a heavy kettlebell that I could use to do kettlebell swings. I was under the impression that because I didn’t have a barbell with plates to do squats and deadlifts I was bound to lose my high end strength. Kettlebell swings with a 60 pound kettlebell was enough to keep me going. I have this kettlebell, but it looks like Amazon only carries up to 55 pounds now.

Barbell and Squat Rack

Ok, so this one is more of an investment than the other items on this list, but I had to include it for one reason–a barbell and squat rack is probably the most versatile piece of gym equipment there is. You can use the rack for squats, bench press, standing press, and rows. If your squat rack has a pull up bar, you can do pull ups, muscle ups, hanging leg raises and other exercises.


Bulgarian split squats are the hardest exercise known to man…CHANGE MY MIND! #fitness #gymtok #garagegym #splitsquats

♬ The Champ Is Here – O Fresh
Me working out in my garage gym with a barbell and squat rack.

If your goal is to build crazy strength with compound lifts, having access to a squat rack is a near essential.

This rack on Amazon is a great value at $299. The build quality is solid so you can go for PRs on squats or your other lifts without having to worry about the thing bending in half. The pull up bar is also a great addition that includes multiple grip options to promote maximum muscle activation.

Before you decide to purchase a particular squat rack, I recommend you make sure that the one you choose will fit in your space. You’ll want one that isn’t too tall for your ceiling, but tall enough for you to comfortably do pull-ups (if possible).

Pull Up Bar

A pull up bar is also a pretty versatile piece of fitness equipment that can be easily overlooked. When you have a pull up bar in your house, you can knock out a few reps whenever you walk past it. This can help you build up to being able to string an impressive amount of pull-ups together in a relatively short amount of time.

I have a pull up bar that hangs on the door frame in my house. These are great because you can leave them up for convenient use but easily remove them whenever you want.

If I had to recommend one relatively affordable addition to your home gym, it would be this pull up bar. You can get great workouts in at home with movements like push-ups, sit-ups and air squats. However, it can be hard to get pulling movements in with bodyweight alone. A pull up bar allows you to do that, and allows you to work on your grip strength.

Find a Fitness Park

If you’re into fitness, like I am, you’ve probably seen those calisthenics videos of guys doing crazy bodyweight movements with a pull up bar or other gymnastics equipment like rings or parallettes. Many cities have “fitness parks” that have pull up bars, parallel bars, and other implements where you can work on your strength and coordination.

These parks are great because they give you access to a lot of equipment you may find at a gym, without having to pay for a membership.

Published by stewofkc

I write stuff in Kansas City.

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