No one actually needs a home gym. All you really need is a good set of weights, squat racks, a bench and maybe one or two other pieces, I guess you could call that a home gym. Training at home has many advantages over training at a commercial gym.
I've received a couple of e-mails from guys who think that they won't achieve the development they want because they don't have access to a commercial gym. In fact, many of the world's strongest men have trained at home. The great Paul Anderson trained in his kitchen. All problems with weight training come from a poor program, a poor diet, inadequate rest or the wrong mind-set. None of those are caused by where you work out.
In fairness, there are a couple of things about commercial gyms that you might find advantageous.
If you really feel that you need a training partner (and some of us wouldn't have one under any circumstance) you'll probably find it easier to train at a commercial gym. There's plenty of space for two or three people to work out together comfortably, and because there are a lot of people at the gym, it's not hard to locate someone to train with.
I mention this only because other people bring it up. I've run gyms and continued to train at home, so obviously I don't think there's anything particularly inspiring about a gym's atmosphere. If you find a gym gives you a substantial psychological boost you can't get at home, you probably need to train at a professional facility. Frankly, I think that only people who are adequately self-motivated can succeed in training, and self-motivation has nothing to do with where you happen to be.
With all due respect to those who run fine gyms, I feel that the case for training in commercial facilities stops after those two considerations. Here's why.
All you need to build a Herculean physique is an adjustable heavy barbell. That's it. Nevertheless, I suggest you include a few more pieces of equipment: dumbbells, squat racks and a bench. Those pieces aren't too space consuming, but they will enable you to do the most important exercises in the safest and best fashion. Unlike commercial gyms, which inevitably have equipment you'll never use, your home gym is stocked only with what you need and want.
A good gym is justified in charging what it charges, but for the cost of two years' membership you can own (for the rest of your life) every piece of equipment you'll ever need. I still use much of the same equipment I started out with at the age of 16. The only equipment I've ever had wear out was the web straps on my iron boots, a web head strap and the rope that came with a wrist roller, all easily replaced at negligible cost.
In some parts of the country traffic is so bad that gym members spend more time getting to and from the facility than they do working out. It can be a real hassle, and it can interfere with your ability to train regularly. Obviously, when you work out at home, you have no trouble getting there. When you finish training, you can take a shower and relax.
It may seem odd to find this a plus for home training. The fact is, I think there's very little competent instruction at commercial gyms. Of course, some have great instructors, but they're the exception. By availing yourself of good books on the subject, you can educate yourself thoroughly. Be your own instructor. Read the works of the real masters (Rader, Hoffman, Paschall) and then put their knowledge to work for you. Weight training is simple. There aren't many instructors in the field who are honest enough to let you in on that. The good ones have written books you can use.
I regard my training time, both with the weights and in martial arts, as not to be encroached upon. I resent even having anyone near me when I work out. Although I'm not yet totally antisocial, I am 100 percent asocial Weight training is highly individual. Most of those who do it are hardly social butterflies. They like their privacy. They enjoy self-discipline. They are quite happy doing something for themselves by themselves. That makes home training ideal.
Conflicts and antagonisms do develop in gyms, and few things can make a training environment more sour than being at odds with someone there. Who needs it?
Most of those who train in gyms find themselves waiting for equipment at least occasionally. This is, face it annoying. It wastes time. You never have to wait to use your own equipment at home. Training at home is great. Buy good, heavy-duty basic equipment. Stay away from those "wonderful new" items you see on those ridiculous infomercials.
You'll want a heavy, adjustable barbell and squat racks to start. If money's tight, just get the barbell. Add the racks, dumbbells, a flat bench, perhaps an abdominal board, iron boots and plenty of plates as you can afford them. You get muscles from lifting a lot of weight. It doesn't help to waste money on elaborate, gimmicky stuff.
Don't feel discouraged or deprived if you train at home. Many of us feel that training at home is an advantage.