Building the Ultimate Home Gym: A Comprehensive Guide
Gymnasiums are one of the best places to build your dream body, and they have been for quite some time. But there are multiple downsides to going to the gym -- you have to deal with other people, the machine or weights you need are taken, it costs money monthly, etc.
For the last few years, creating your own at-home gym has become a more and more popular route. With your personal gym open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and catered to your specific needs, there’s nothing stopping you from achieving your ideal physique and superior athletic prowess.
In this complete overview, we’ll go over the benefits of building a home gym, what to consider when building your own, how to best construct your gym and where, as well as what workouts work best in the comforts of your own home.
If you’re looking to build the ultimate home gym, you’ve come to the right place.
The Benefits of Having Your Own At-Home Gym
Creating your at-home gym is loaded with terrific advantages, including:
- Saves time and reduces excuses: The commute to the gym gets drastically slashed. Now it’s from your couch to the garage or spare bedroom. The increased availability of your at-home workout zone strips away all of your pathetic reasons why you can’t make it to the gym. And once you’re “in the gym,” you can easily slip into a solid workout.
- Helps you avoid distractions: Let’s be honest -- commercial gyms can be distracting. Whether it be good-looking people or watching new people try to figure out what machines do what, you’re probably doing more people-watching sets than actual lifts. An at-home gym has you get in, get out, and get fitter without all of the distractions.
- Specialized for YOU: The best benefit of owning a home gym is that you get to customize your space and experience. Whatever your preferences are in terms of working out, you can cater to those wants by purchasing the exact equipment for those exercises.
- Privacy: No more prying eyes. No more insecure feelings. With your personal gym, you don’t need to work out with the entire world watching. Privacy is nice sometimes, especially when you’re grunting out the last final reps.
- Clean equipment: You don’t have to worry about other people’s sweat and smell digging into your exercise equipment. It’s just you. And there will only be a couple of pieces, so you can keep your workout area sanitized and clean. This will keep you healthy and away from anyone else’s gross bodily fluids.
- No rules/clothes requirements: “No running around the equipment.” “No loud clanging of the weights.” “You must wear close-toed shoes.” These rules and requirements are a thing of the past with your own private gymnasium. You make your own rules. (And your first rule is that there are no rules!)
- Gets you your ideal physique faster: You can work out more often with a personal at-home gym. It’s open all the time, no matter when the desire to lift hits you. This gets you your athletic physique in half the time.
While many of the benefits are social-based, some are also fitness-based. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to build your own at-home gym.
Cost of a Regular Gym vs. an At-Home Gym
How much does it cost to build a home gym? In the long run, it’ll be cheaper than shelling out money to a commercial gym. Here’s how…
Well, let’s start with how much a commercial gym costs. Over the span of ten years, the average cost of a gym membership is about $7,000-$9,000. Not only that, but the commute (which means there and back) also totals 20-30 minutes.
Now, a home gym -- which includes equipment, accessories, and anything else you need for your workouts -- averages about $1500 in cost. Plus, you cut down your commute to exactly zero minutes.
You get more exercise opportunities, you cut your time down to almost half, and it costs about a quarter of the price of a commercial gym membership. And the quality? It’s exactly the same. In fact, it might even be better, considering you don’t have to wait for others to finish using machines and getting their sweat all over the equipment.
Home Gym Budget
Your budget should reflect A) how much you actually have to spend on a home gym, and B) include the equipment you want in your personal gym. If you were to go with, say, only a functional trainer, it could cost anywhere between $600 and $3000. If you were to mix and match benches, squat racks, bars, and bumper plates, it will also leap into the thousands.
If you’re looking to build a gym that looks similar to a commercial gym, then you’ll be grabbing a squat rack with a pull-up bar up top, a barbell, bumper plates, maybe some gymnastic rings, a kettlebell or two, a jump rope, and some mats to put underneath your rack. That will come to around $1500 for a quality home gym.
You can always add stuff or remove some things from this list to get it to the way you want, at the price you want. Remember, it’s your gym, so you can spend as much or as little as you deem “fit.”
How to Build a Home Gym
The best way to build a home gym is -- carefully.
You want to think long and hard before deciding which equipment is right for you. Once that’s figured out, you still should conduct thorough research on what the top brands are for that equipment. Look at customer reviews, figure out what materials they use to determine durability, double-check your budget to see whether you can get a quality version of that piece.
Home Gym Considerations
What equipment should you get?
That’s the first question, and the most crucial. There are so many machines, accessories, and pieces you can go for. Here are the most effective pieces of equipment you should be looking for, and what we at Strength Warehouse consider to be must haves!
- Squat rack / Power rack - with a pull up bar!
- Barbell and plates
- Adjustable bench
- Interchangeable or Adjustable Dumbbells
- A moderate weight kettlebell
This is what we would call the starter kit. With these, you’ll be able to build muscle, lose body fat, and create a well-developed physique over time. (Side note: Your squat rack should definitely include a pull-up bar at the top.)
For more cardiovascular equipment and conditioning gear, we suggest having these on your radar:
- Resistance bands
- Jump rope
- Stationary bike
You don’t need all of these, just one or two will give you enough opportunities to work cardio into your weight routine or do full cardio workouts!
Here are some other accessories to keep in mind:
- Weight belt: This is to add even more weight onto your body when performing exercises like pull-ups and dips.
- Gymnastic rings: You can do a ton of advanced calisthenics with these. If you can get really good on gymnastic rings, you’re going to be looking and feeling like a fitness freak.
- Pegboard: A piece of wood securely attached to your wall with holes going up and down the board. Using wooden pegs that you put in your hands, you’re supposed to climb up the board. This device is a tough workout and doesn’t require a bunch of space.
- Slam balls/medicine balls: Ideal for throwing to the ground or up at the wall. They can also be used as an unstable surface for exercises like planks and push-ups.
There are so many things you can add to your home gym. Start with the starter kit, then find out what else you need for your workouts.
Are All-In-One Functional Trainers Worth It?
These are essentially cable crossover machines you see in many commercial gyms. We say, if you have space for one, it’s worth the investment. Functional trainers are a lot of these pieces jam-packed into one machine. They’re a suitable replacement for barbells and dumbbells, which means you don’t need bumper plates or squat racks. You’d still want an adjustable bench and some conditioning equipment, though.
It all depends on your training goals. Do you want to gain absurd amounts of muscle? Then stick with the traditional squat rack, barbell, and dumbbells. Want to have an all-around athletic physique? You can get away with a functional trainer, a jump rope, a bench, and a kettlebell.
Figure out what your goals are and you’ll come up with the answer. To read more on the topic, check out our Ultimate Guide to Functional Trainers!
The versatility of functional trainers is a serious thing to consider for your space.
Free Weights vs. Machines
There are benefits to both using free weights and machines. As we said before, using only free weights will give you a slow and steady path to tons of muscle. However, this involves moving an object through a plane, not your body, which are two completely different types of fitness.
Machines like all-in-one systems (single stack gyms, multi-stack gyms, etc.) provide a slew of exercises in a single piece of equipment. This is most likely the more cost-friendly option and is safer as well. You’ll be moving objects through a plane, but you can also perform calisthenics that moves your body as well.
Machines, with the exception of cable columns and gym systems, lack versatility and take up a ton of space. They usually only allow for 1 or 2 specific movements. So if space is a main concern of yours, you will need to be ultra-selective on what machines come into your gym!
What about a combination of the two? This would cover all bases, but it might be a bit overkill. If your budget allows for it, hey, go crazy. It’ll give you the most options when it comes to exercise choice. But if you need to choose one, we’d go with all-in-one systems based on cost, variety, and safety.
The Key: Versatile Items
You want to get devices and equipment that can do more than a single exercise. This is why functional trainers are great for home gyms. Other versatile items include kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, and resistance bands.
Items that are not versatile -- air bikes, rowing machines, pegboards, jump ropes -- are great at developing overall fitness but are a little more one-trick-pony than other options. Begin with the versatile stuff, then move on to unique, specialized equipment.
If you’re working out in your garage or basement, you want to keep your floors safe from heavy weights falling. Make sure to grab some thick matting that can be interlocked to form a pad for your squat rack, bench, barbell, and dumbbells.
Rubber matting or foam matting will be your best bet.
What about putting all of this away when you’re not working out? You can get a weight storage rack or bar storage pegs to attach to one of your walls. That way it stays off the ground and out of the way, which increases the lifetime of the barbell and plates.
The same goes for your dumbbells. Find storage bins or display racks to keep them ready and neat for the next workout.
Where To Place Your Home GymThe key to building a home gym is to not go stir-crazy and crafting an entire ropes course throughout your house. There needs to be a designated space that says, “Hello. I am the home gym. Nothing else happens here except workouts. Maybe stretching…”
With that in mind, there are only a couple of areas in your home that functions as a fantastic home gym space:
- Office room/spare bedroom: This might be your best option. Who uses their home office for that exact purpose anyways? Odds are, this is the place where you put overflowing storage stuff. The only downside might be that it’s carpeted; this isn’t a bad thing, per se, but some people don’t like feeling carpet when they’re doing bicycle crunches.
- Garage: This is where you can clang your weights and lift heavy and grunt without catching flak for it or messing up your floors. So long as you put thick matting on top of the concrete, you can load up your garage with racks and barbells and dumbbells galore (instead of unpacked boxes and old furniture).
- Backyard/covered patio: Your backyard is an option, so long as you find weather-resistant equipment. Sure, a covered patio will go a long way to preserving the metal pieces, but you still want durable, sustainable equipment that can last forever. An additional benefit to working out on your patio is all of that fresh air. Plus, you can go shoeless and incorporate some grounding in your natural lawn.
- Basement: This might be the safest spot in your house (unless the ceiling is super low). You can bang weights all day long, you can get in the zone without anybody bothering you. It’s like your little workout sanctuary.
Home Gym Workouts
The sky’s the limit when it comes to at-home workouts. You provide even more variety with every piece of equipment you get your hands on.
We’ll give you two sample home gym workouts: One is a no-equipment calisthenics full-body workout; the second workout involves at-home gym equipment that mimics what your gym might look like.
Perform as a circuit, three to four times. Rest for one minute in-between circuits.
- Push-ups -- 30 seconds
- Pull-ups -- 30 seconds
- Air squats -- 30 seconds
- Pike push-ups -- 30 seconds
- Tricep dips -- 30 seconds
- Jumping lunges -- 30 seconds
- High knees -- 30 seconds
- Butt kickers -- 30 seconds
- Run in place -- 30 seconds
- Plank -- 30 seconds
This is a classic 5x5 workout with all of the fan-favorite exercises. This requires a squat rack, a barbell, bumper plates, and an adjustable bench… that’s it.
- Sumo deadlift -- 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Back squats -- 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Incline bench press -- 4 sets x 6-10 reps
- Bent-over rows -- 4 sets x 6-10 reps
- Chin-ups -- 3 sets x 8-15 reps
- Close-grip bench press -- 3 sets x 8-15 reps
- Standing military press -- 3 sets x 6-12 reps
- Barbell crunches -- 2 sets x failure (hold the barbell over your head throughout the movement)
- Burpees -- 1 set x failure
Having a home gym is a really great way to develop your overall fitness and physique. It’s cost-effective, allows you to work out whenever, and gets the same job done as a commercial gym (without those prying eyes).
Find out what equipment you’d want for your home gym, set up a budget based on those pieces and current prices for quality equipment, and start constructing it one piece at a time.
While you’re in the process of building your home gym, perform the Workout #1 three or four times a week. Once you have most of the pieces, do Workout #2 and incorporate other exercises with whatever specialized equipment you purchase.
Trust us, you’ll love having your own gym that you can go barefoot in (if you want). Enjoy!
Looking for more?
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Here are some of our favorite videos about why you need a home gym of your own!