Most people who want to build a home gym don't have the luxury of unlimited space.
We typically have to make do with a spare bedroom or corner of the garage for our fitness area, if we’re lucky. Even those of us with a basement to spread out in a bit don’t have much space compared to what’s available in a commercial gym.
That’s why it’s so important to be thoughtful about the type of equipment you will choose for your home gym.
Thankfully, many fitness equipment manufacturers have taken space concerns into account. This includes products featuring a “minimum footprint, maximum versatility” design so you don’t have to sacrifice quality in the name of space.
Below, we explore some of the best space-saving equipment options to consider for your home gym.
1. Functional trainers
Functional trainers are extremely versatile and low-footprint machines that use a cable and pulley system for resistance.
Each of the two handles attach to two separate stacks of weights. Because users can adjust the pulleys to any height they want, the machines can adapt to users of any size and can accommodate the widest variety of exercises. And unlike a traditional fitness machine, you’re free to move your body more naturally as you push or pull the weight.
In fact, because functional trainers include so many adjustable mechanisms and handholds to vary your workouts and improve specific muscle groups, it’s one of the most versatile pieces of equipment ever conceived.
Finally, because functional trainers employ two separate stacks of weights instead of a single bar, you can make sure that your exercises are devoting equal attention to each side of your body — in fact, due to the dual-weight stacks, two people may even be able to use the machine at once.
If you’re interested in learning more about the fitness benefits of functional trainers, check out our post: The Top 5 Reasons You Need a Functional Trainer Right Now.
2. Dual or multi-function (“multi-stack”) machines
If you prefer traditional strength training to “functional training,” you may be able to save some space in your home gym by investing in a “multi-stack’ machine.
Multi-stack machines incorporate several exercises into just one piece of equipment. Some machines allow a single user to modify the machine to do various exercises, and other machines use the same infrastructure to house several “stations” that can be used by multiple people at once. Although multi-stack machines aren’t quite as versatile as functional trainers, you can still get a complete workout in a fraction of the space that multiple machines would take up in a gym.
For example, the Body-Solid Multi-Stack Home Gym pictured below incorporates three stations: a multi-function “press arm” station for bench press, incline press, shoulder press, and chest supported mid row exercises; a “perfect pec” station that also has options for ab crunches and seated row, and a “leg press calf press” station for leg development. That’s a lot of options for just one machine with a relatively small footprint.
For more examples of multi-stack gyms, check out our selection here.
3. Folding squat racks
You might think you don’t have enough room for a squat rack or full cage in your home gym, but that might change once you consider that you have the option to mount a squat rack to the wall and fold it flat against the wall when it’s not in use.
At Strength Warehouse USA, we offer a wall-mounted folding half-rack and a wall-mounted folding full rack (also known as a “power rack”). Both fold up to free up enough square footage for things like floor work in the same space.
For more on the benefits of squats as an exercise and how to choose a squat rack for your home gym, check out this post: The Ultimate Guide to Squat Racks.
Although a set of kettlebells on its own might not be enough to satisfy hardcore strength training buffs, kettlebells have serious fitness advantages, and they don’t take up much space in your home gym compared to a full weight training machine.
For one, kettlebells tend to be much less intimidating for fitness beginners than large machines or heavy weights. They’re simple to use and basically maintenance-free. (You’ll never have to check for loose bolts, or have to oil any belts or gears.)
Kettlebells are also great for stabilizing your core because you have to constantly adjust your center of gravity when you work with them. In addition to strength workouts, it’s also easy to get a really good cardio workout with kettlebells, because a lot of the exercises require your whole body as you lift or hold the weights above your head.
There are plenty of whole-body workouts you can do that use kettlebells exclusively — a simple web search will turn up plenty of them — and you can come up with infinite varieties of workouts to keep things interesting.
It’s worth noting that many fitness advocates think working out with free weights does a better job of mimicking the real-life way your body moves and preparing it for those functional movements than strength machines can.
5. Resistance bands
Resistance bands are another versatile fitness tool that take up almost no space at all.
They’re similar to kettlebells in that they won’t be enough on their own to satisfy fitness buffs who are trying to get super strong, but they’re a great way to maintain a workout routine on the go, or to get reps in at home in between gym visits.
Plus, at different thicknesses, you can also use resistance bands for assisting pull-ups, enhancing stretches, or adding weight to power lifts.
These sites lists some of the specific weight training exercises that you can accomplish with resistance bands alone: deadlift, overhead shoulder press, squats, face pulls, overhead squats, tricep extensions, anterior raises with band pull apart, resistance band exercises on the mat, seated back row, chest press, and hamstring curls.
You can even up the resistance on these skills by using thicker bands as your skills progress.
Here’s one example of a set of resistance bands that might fit your fitness needs.
6. Adjustable dumbbell/barbell sets
A fixed set of dumbbells may not take up as much space as a large weight training machine in your home gym, but they still take up several square feet. If space is tight, you could invest in a set of adjustable dumbbells instead.
Today’s models use sophisticated selectorized locks, which are a big improvement over the spin locks you’ll find in cheaper sets. These new models make it much easier to add and remove weights.
Choosing a set of adjustable dumbbells like these can give you access to a wide selection of dumbbell weights while taking up just a fraction of the space that a traditional dumbbell set would.
Plan Carefully Before You Buy
You may have heard the phrase “measure twice, cut once” when it comes to woodworking but you can channel the same energy into your search for home gym equipment.
A home gym should be as inviting as possible, or you simply won’t use it as much — and you won’t get as good of a return on your investment in the space.
You want to have enough equipment to complete a well-rounded workout, but not so much that the space starts to feel cramped or uncomfortable.
Make sure you understand how much space you need around each piece of potential equipment so you can load and unload it with ease, and perform all your floor and body weight exercises with room to spare.
Want to learn more about how to design a home gym? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Building a Home Gym.