Updated: May 18
Building an at home gym can be expensive if you don’t have a game plan going into it. That being said I made a lot of home workout mistakes when I built my garage gym. I want to help you avoid wasting your hard earned money and maximize the extra space you have available. So whether you are converting a spare room into an at home gym or have plans to turn your garage into a muscle building dungeon of torture I will show you how.
Understanding how much extra space and the location of the space you have at your disposal is going to be the first step in making decisions on your home gym. I highly suggest you measure the walls. Knowing the square footage of the room is nice, but that will not help you as much as you think. Measuring the length of the walls will. Be mindful of doors and windows will let you know what equipment your space can handle. You may not want to block windows with certain pieces of equipment. If the room features a door that swings into the space, remember to leave adequate clearance for that entrance / exit.
Now that you have an understanding of the space you have to work with, you will need to decide what type of home workout can be accomplished in that space. Aerobic exercises require the least amount of workout equipment space. Strength and conditioning training at home is very popular and require a good amount of space. I would suggest a minimum usable (no door or window obstruction) wall length of 11 feet to accommodate a 7 foot Olympic bar. Some equipment will also require measuring the height of the space. Take note of whether you are on the ground level or have an occupied space below you. Dropping weights or jumping with an apartment or living room below can be a problem. Also take not of the type of floor in the space. Powerlifting requires a stable hard floor. Carpet is not suitable for that type of workout and will need additional floor covering. Horse stall mats are a great option to make a floor sturdy. It is a more premium heavy duty option vs the puzzle piece gym mats you’ll find at Walmart or on Amazon shopping
Putting together your equipment list.
You now have an understanding of what type of exercise you will be engaged in. Now you can focus on the most essential movements and the equipment needed for those movements. Notice I said focus on the movements and not the muscle groups. There are many ways to target a muscle group. You want to be certain you have the pieces of equipment that you will enjoy using for that muscle group if possible. A squat rack is a diverse piece of gym equipment that will allow you to perform a wide range of movements for strength training. The full Power Rack or Cage offers a higher level of stability when performing squats, bench press, or even pull-ups. The power rack ( Cage ) and Squat Rack ( half rack ) have so many accessories and attachments that it is usually the cornerstone of the fitness space. Height and design may vary. The the important aspect to focus on will be the dimensions of the posts and the hole size. 3x3 with a hole size of 1” or 25.4mm and 2x2 with a 3/8” or 9. 5mm hole hole size are the most common. These designs will have the most options available when shopping for attachments. Dumbbells and an adjustable bench can be very diverse workout equipment with the proper guidance. Adjustable dumbbells are far more affordable than buying a a full rack of set weight intervals. However, having dumbbells in 5 pound graduating intervals may be the time saver you need. You may be surprised what can be accomplished with determination and a set of 15lbs dumbbells. Resistance bands can also be useful depending on the type of workout and goal. They are also great for saving space. The following are some of the key items we have in the Campbell Fitness social media ready training facility.
7 foot Olympic bar
Iron Plates and Bumper Plates
Olympic dumbbell handles
Leg Press / Hack squat Machine
Cobra Reflex Bag
2 Adjustable benches
Sissy Squat Machine
Olympic vs Standard and Iron Plates vs Bumper Plates
It will be very tempting to grab standard weight plates (weight plates with a 1 inch hole) because of price. If you are going to be lifting more than 200 lbs with any exercise, standard weights are not for you. It is also important to take into account the amount of equipment and attachments available for the Olympic plates (weight plates with 2” hole) vs the standard plates. Olympic sized plates have a wider range of options to grow and expand. The only real benefit standard weights have is that they are cost effective. Another huge question you will need to ask yourself is “Iron Plates vs Bumper Plates”. Bumper Plates have the advantage over traditional Iron when it comes to being safely dropped. If you are using your garage space you for your home gym, you most likely have a concrete or cement floor. Dropping iron weight plates on the ground from over head or even waist level can damage the floor. Unless you have invested in horse stall mats, you run the risk of cracking the foundation of the property by dropping iron plates. Bumper plates can be costly and are only essential if you’ll be performing dead lifts, clean and jerk press, or other power lifting and cross-fit exercises.
Check the used market before you buy new equipment. You can save big by checking garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist. Buying from strangers online may not be the safest way to get your dream gym going. That’s why I love stores like Play it again Sports. The sell used equipment of all kinds. You’ll find everything from baseball bats and golf clubs to treadmills and Pilates machines. Some manufactures like Titan Fitness and Rough Fitness and Powertec sell returns at a discount. It also doesn’t hurt to speak to local gym owners. They may have equipment or weight plates that do not meet their commercial gym operation standards.