You can build an excellent home gym area inside your living space – whether it’s within a corner in your studio apartment, an entire guest room in your house, or even a garage or backyard patio.
What follows are several ideas for configuring your home gym so that it matches your unique needs, workout style, and budget.
I’ve also included a video with exercises that are perfect for a home gym – a firming, full-body workout. Then, toward the end of the video, I provide a quick tour of my home gym and an explanation (turn the video player’s sound ON) of what tools you can put in your own home fitness area (when you designate a specific area within your home for fitness, your health can improve and life becomes more enjoyable), so be sure to watch the video all the way through.
Benefits of a Home Gym
Often I have a better workout in my home gym than I do at the commercial gym.
Even though a commercial gym has machines I don’t have at home, the equipment I do have at home is highly effective. Plus, I don’t have to wait for any equipment to become available.
Your home gym will likely be cleaner and more organized than any commercial gym, and once you get started in your home workout it’s easier to stay focused and avoid distraction.
Since time is truly your most valuable resource, you’ll likely enjoy not having to commute to and from a commercial gym. A home gym will use your limited time much more effectively, and you’ll even save on fuel costs.
Different Types of Home Gyms
In an earlier article, I outlined how you could easily create a mobile circuit-training gym, by keeping specific types of fitness equipment inside a canvas crate within the trunk of your car. I do this myself, and I enjoy working out in my neighborhood parks – usually between three to eight times a month.
But I also enjoy exercising at home. In my particular case, I turned my entire living room into a gym. Additionally, I put a fitness-friendly astroturf in my backyard so I could exercise there. Of course, many people would find this arrangement a bit extreme, so I’m providing you with several other home gym scenarios that might work better for you.
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Downsides to Exercising at Home
The hardest part of working out in your home gym is simply getting started (when you arrive at a commercial gym, sometimes the environment will provide you with a bit of external motivation that makes beginning exercises a tad easier). However, once you actually begin the workout, I believe it’s easier to keep going in a home gym because there are fewer weird distractions.
Allow me to give you this vital tip: once you set up your home gym area, keep it pristine. Do not fill the area with clutter. Do not set boxes on your treadmill, or drape laundry over your bike. The more seriously you take your home gym, the more hours of joy and meaning it will provide you.
Equipment for Your Home Gym
The least expensive equipment you can put inside your home gym area is a selection of resistance bands! Bands are comparatively cheap and outrageously effective. I’m a big fan of resistance bands; they have helped strengthen and define my physique in a way that other fitness equipment can’t quite achieve.
For the most simple and affordable home gym set-up, you will need:
- a selection of resistance bands
- a textured rubber mat (unless your gym area is carpeted or matted already)
- a non-slip, microfiber towel that matches the size of your mat
- a kettlebell (get one that is a bit heavier than you’d like)
- stationary recumbent bike
With your mat, towel, resistance bands, and kettlebell, you can have a fantastic workout. Use any of my workout videos as a jumping-off point (or peruse the limitless selection on YouTube).
If you can swing it, you might want to also find a stationary recumbent bike for your home gym area. Though on fair-weather days you can always walk or run outdoors, on days when the weather is less than perfect you’ll find a recumbent bike comes in very handy. You can perhaps find a used one at a discounted price on a local list site such as Craigslist.
The rest of the suggested equipment is optional.
You really don’t need anything else beyond the five items I’ve already listed. However, if you have more to spend in your budget, the next level up would be to get:
- a pair of adjustable dumbbells
- an adjustable bench
- suspension straps
- stability ball
For my adjustable dumbbells, I use Bowflex (see video). They are excellent, in my opinion.
For your adjustable bench, find one that has a decline setting, a flat setting, and (preferably) five incline settings. Do your research before purchasing your bench. The more settings it has, probably the better the bench will serve you. On the other hand, you want it to be portable.
You might also want to consider getting some suspension straps, such as TRX, for your home gym.
One big benefit to straps is that it makes it easier to train the torso’s posterior chain of muscles – rear delts, lats, and rhomboids. Most straps come with an attachment that you slip over a door before closing it. This is helpful because not everyone has a pull-up bar (assuming one is even strong enough to do pull-ups).
Organizing the Equipment in Your Home Gym Area
As time passes, you’ll likely begin to acquire a collection of various workout toys. You’re going to need a designated place to keep that stuff. Consider placing cubbyhole shelving units in the room corner (see video). This way, each cubby represents a fitness tool category. I have mine divided up into:
- fitness books
- mobility tools (lacrosse balls, rollers, etc.)
- glute tools
- weight training (push-up platforms, weighted balls, weighted fitness vest, grip strengtheners, etc.),
- fitness DVDs
- massage guns
- neck tools
- resistance bands
Finally, if you’re an enthusiast like me (I’m a complete fitness nerd), you’ll want space to place your not-necessary-but-fun-to-have pieces. In my case, that includes a vibe plate, and my Pilates equipment:
- trapeze table
- Wunda chair
But please don’t be put off by my elaborate set-up. Again, all you really need are 4 or 5 basics, and that requires little space and the least amount of money.
Garage Home Gym Tips
Garage gyms are increasingly popular, which I think is great.
However, my viewpoint is that a garage is, firstly, for the car.
I have often seen houses with messy garages that are strewn with $4,000 worth of junk and clutter; meanwhile, the $80,000 car sits on the driveway or in the street getting baked in the sun or rusted in the snow.
That makes no sense to me.
Automobiles are often the biggest family investment (or next biggest, if they also have a house mortgage), so it makes sense to protect that investment and use the garage as it was designed – for the car. Fortunately, they now make power weight-training racks that are collapsable. Usually, they are squat racks with pull-up bars and accessories (such as a bench or dipping handles) that are foldable and only take up four inches of space when not in use. That means you can back your car out of the garage, then workout, and return the car when you’re finished. Another option, if you have a level driveway and the weather is pleasant, is to workout in the driveway. I’ve noticed more and more people are doing that lately.
Example of a Home Gym Workout
Try this workout at home (refer to video). Modify the exercises to match your circumstances. Beginners can use lighter weight and do 2 sets of each exercise (12 reps each set). Intermediate-level athletes can do 3 sets. Advanced exercisers can go significantly heavier on their final, third set:
- Reverse Dumbell Lunges for Thighs and Glutes
- Single-Leg Heel Raises for Calves
- Single Leg Pull for Abs
- Double Leg Pull for Abs
- Alternating Straight-Leg Double Pulse for Abs
- Subtle Pelvic Scoops for Abs
- Slow Bicycle for Core
- Single-Leg Box Step Up with Kettlebell for Lower Body and Core
- Cable Fly from Underneath (with cables, springs, or bands) for Pecs
- Single-Arm Dumbbell Row for Lats and Rhomboids
- Tricep Dips (using handles or benches)
- Kettlebell Pull-Over for Torso
- Reverse Fly with Band for Posterior Deltoids
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press
TIP: when doing Kettlebell Pull-Overs, the hips should be slightly lower than your hips. Rest your neck on a bench. Keep your navel pulled in tightly and your glutes should remain activated to help protect your lower back.
TIP: for Dumbbell Shoulder Press make sure your first set is very light to help warm up the shoulder joints.
As always, proceed cautiously and obtain your doctor’s approval before making any significant changes to your movement regimen.
Almost certainly there is someone you know who would find this article interesting or beneficial. I encourage you to message or email it to them.