Setting Up a Home Gym

March 26, 2011 · 7 comments

This is a guest post by Michael Burns.

Setting up a gym in your home can be as simple as purchasing a stationary bike and a few dumbbells. For others, it may mean buying a treadmill, a stair climber, and a universal weight machine. Either way, a home gym can be an excellent means for staying in shape. When your gym is conveniently located at home, there’s no driving to the gym and no standing in line to wait for equipment. Plus, a home gym can actually save you money over time when compared to the cost of a gym membership. The average gym membership costs around $40 every month. That’s $480 per year. For five years, the total cost would be $2,400 – and that’s assuming that the annual fees are never increased.

Acquiring equipment to outfit your home gym may cost more money up-front, but the wonderful thing about it is that the costs only decrease after that. You may have shell out money occasionally to maintain and repair your workout equipment, but with proper care your equipment can easily last for many years if you invest in products of reasonably good quality. You can also conserve on your up-front costs by buying used equipment from sellers in classified advertisements. For instance, if you want to include an elliptical machine in your home gym, you might first read elliptical machine reviews to decide which company makes a dependable, reliable machine that will deliver years of effective use. Then take a look through local classified advertisements to attempt to find an elliptical machine that gets solid reviews and is being sold at an affordable price. Chances are you’ll find that someone once invested a great deal of money to buy that equipment new, but then never really got much use out of it. That can be your first bargain find to put in your home gym.

Now that you’ve determined that a home gym is worth the initial expense, it’s time to choose the ideal location in your home. People who have a finished basement or garage should consider using these areas. They are removed from the home’s living areas, so noise associated with the gym should not disturb the home’s other inhabitants. They are also a solid choice because good quality exercise equipment tends to be heavy and garage and basement floors typically are structured so as to withstand a great deal of weight.

A spare bedroom, den, or home office also make good choices for a home gym. Whether you are able to use an entire room, or just half of one, it’s important to clear out a space of at least 8X8 feet, with an area of 12X12 feet generally being considered ideal. If your space is small, you might want to consider foldable exercise equipment which can be conveniently stored away when not in use.

Once you’ve chosen a space, it’s time to consider flooring. If the space is carpeted, this may work just fine for placement of a treadmill, a rack of dumbbells, and any other necessary equipment. Spaces with concrete or wooden flooring may require an additional covering. Consider purchasing carpet remnants to place under your equipment to minimize slippage and cushion your feet. Alternatively, consider buying heavy-duty stall mats from a farm store. These durable, no-slip pads offer ideal cushioning and can be purchased in square or rectangular shapes to accommodate the size of your exercise area.

Cardiovascular development is important and therefore the first equipment in any home gym should be a machine like a treadmill or elliptical trainer. High quality cardio machines can easily cost $3,000-$4,000. These machines come with all the bells and whistles: heart rate monitors, computerized control consoles, and state-of-the-art components. It’s not absolutely necessary to break the bank on a cardio machine, however. Consider what is truly necessary to you when you’re doing a cardio workout. If your main consideration is distance, maybe having a heart rate monitor is unnecessary. Also keep an eye out for good quality used equipment that can be added to your gym inexpensively.

Training with weights should also not be overlooked for a solid, all-around fitness routine. Purchasing weights can be as simple as selecting a variety of dumbbells. They are relatively easy to transport and store and they can provide a decent workout of dumbbell exercises. Anyone looking to seriously bulk up should invest in plates and bars. Many home gym users purchase an all-in-one weight training machine that allows them to get a full body workout with just one piece of equipment. These are usually a solid and economical choice as they deliver the most bang for the buck. New machines can cost as little as $500 and range up to multiple thousands of dollars. Again, these machines can be acquired used, which can translate to significant savings.

It’s important to have equipment that can help you achieve all of your fitness goals. Some people prefer weight training over cardio or vice versa. Others hate taking the time to develop upper body strength. When outfitting a home gym, it’s important to consider your workout aversions and to supply yourself with equipment that will make you focus on your least favorite activities. The reason? These least favorite activities reveal your personal fitness weak spots. Buy some equipment that will let you focus on this area in a positive way and it could soon become one of the favorite parts of your routine.

Safety is of paramount importance in the home gym, so keeping all of your equipment in excellent condition should be a constant concern. Never use equipment that you suspect is not working properly. If you have new equipment that is under warranty, take full advantage of it by calling in a professional for maintenance and repair. Equipment not under warranty may do well with a do-it-yourself repair or may require replacement. Finally, be familiar with your owner’s manuals and abide by all maintenance guidelines.

Even the most enthusiastic exerciser sometimes gets burned out. When this happens, it’s time to change up the routine. Invite over a friend and work out together or try simply changing the sequence of exercises. Sometimes it helps to have a specific goal in mind. Choose an upcoming half marathon or triathlon to sign up for and begin directing all of your workouts toward that goal. Sometimes even some new music can provide the motivation to keep going. The wonderful part about having a home gym is that it is entirely yours – structure it so that you get the most out of every workout to keep your motivation high.

What equipment do you have in your home gym? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Steven B. March 26, 2011 at 4:37 pm

This is an very good and thorough post on setting up a home gym.

I would add one thing and that is the option to do workouts without any equipment at all such as yoga, bodukon, Pilates (may need some equipment), and the like.

I’m not saying these are better workouts, but they offer people the option to workout at home in a dedicated space without purchasing anything except perhaps a book or DVD.

Of course the question arises: is working out at home without equipment a home gym? In my respectful view it is. The point of a home gym is to stay healthy and engage in physical fitness at home. Whether equipment is used or not used is not important.

That said, I like using equipment myself, but also do yoga at home.

Michael Burns March 28, 2011 at 7:43 am

I am not sure I agree with your view on what a home gym is. I did a fair share of no-equipment workouts in my life and I’m certainly not saying you definitely need equipment to stay fit in your home. Still, in my opinion, there’s a difference between a “place where I do push-ups and stretch” and a “home gym” - this difference is equipment, even very basic.

Everything boils down to needs, goals and expectations you have. Every fitness journey is personal - and there’s as many tastes and ways to go about it as there are people. Investing in a home gym is just one way to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.

Steven B. March 28, 2011 at 11:10 am

Michael, I see your point and it’s a good one. I suppose it’s a personal call. In fact, the dictionary kind of goes both ways on the subject. Merriam Webster defines a “gym” as both “gymnasium” and “a usuallly metal frame supporting an assortment of outdoor play equipment.”

A gymnasium is defined as “a large room used for various indoor sports and usually equipped with gymnastic apparatus.”

I believe when the word “gym” is used most people conjure up the idea of equipment involved such as cardio and/or resistance training equipment. My point is when discussing a home gym, it could be a space for non-equipment workouts. However, I suppose if someone said “I have a home gym” when it’s only an empty room for yoga etc. that such a statement would come across as an exaggeration.

Thanks a lot for responding. I appreciate your point of view.

TroyP March 29, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Steve and Mike,

Great discussion. I see Steve’s point, but for me it boils down to motivation. I think there are too many people that if all they have is a space to do body weight workouts of some form, it is just too easy to avoid. Investing in some equipment is a motivator to use it.

I created a poll to capture “fitness killers”

Personally, motivation varies over time. We just “downsized” our home gym. I sold off our bench press and several weight sets. The result is a home gym that I enjoy and use more often.

My home gym has these major pieces:
-Pullup bar
-Plyobox for jumping

The best part of my equipment is that they take up very little space. I use my garage, so pull out the car, lower the rings, and I’m all set.

The key is to find out what motivates you to workout. Make your home gym fit you and your needs. Make it a place you like to be; then you’ll use it.

Steven Bancroft March 31, 2011 at 6:53 pm


Thanks for weighing in. You bring a slightly different dynamic to the discussion. Michael discussed traditional equipment such as resistance training equipment and cardio equipment. I countered with an empty workout space for body-weight exercises (and relented somewhat on whether that’s a “home gym”), but your point is an interesting one in whether, for instance, a pull up bar installed constitutes a home gym. I say yes. When you refer to your garage with the equipment you set out as a home gym, it rings true to me.

Michael Burns April 2, 2011 at 1:48 am

Troy made a good point. If you have a home gym, use it - that’s what important. Of course it will change shape over time, gaining and losing equipment, because people and their needs change.

Motivation is one of the most important factors in fitness training. While some people do just fine having some space set aside for body weight training, others need that little extra push of seeing a bench press or a treadmill sitting there, waiting for its master.

TroyP April 2, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I couldn’t agree more. Keep changing your “fitness options” whether they are at home, or not, to keep you MOTIVATED.

That could also include setting a goal to compete in a race, or play a team sport. Find what motivates you to move.

As a Cube Dweller I keep telling myself “There’s Life Outside the Box”.

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