Time, travel, crowds, weather, family, work . . . these are just a handful of the excuses people have when it comes to not being able to make it to the gym on a regular basis. While many hardcore fitness enthusiasts will just tell you to lose the excuses, there are many people who legitimately cannot make it to the gym as often as they’d like. As much as the prospect of getting (and staying!) in shape appeals to people, many are overwhelmed with other priorities in their life and making it to a local gym often times seems impossible.
If that sounds like you then perhaps it’s time you consider building your own home gym!
While that in itself may sound a bit overwhelming, not to mention expensive, it can actually be a pretty simple process and very friendly on the fitness budget. In fact, you will actually save money in the long run by not having to pay for a membership and the costs associated with driving to and from the gym. And, of course, the time you will save can be invaluable!
Before I jump into how you can build your own home gym, let me first admit that home gyms are not for everyone. Before you make the financial commitment of buying equipment, you have to determine if you and your family will actually use the in-home equipment. The biggest mistake people often make is thinking that they’ll get in shape simply by spending money on a bunch of great equipment. Often times that equipment never ends up getting used because some people simply need to get out of the house in order to exercise or have a hard time motivating themselves enough to want to exercise.
For that reason, I usually suggest that people start off a home gym project on a smaller scale and then build upon it if you are actually making use of it and enjoying it.
Here are some key considerations when planning your family-friendly home gym:
Find The Right Space
The first thing to decide is where you want to set up your home gym. Basements, spare bedrooms, offices, and garages can all make for an excellent workout space.
Try to utilize a space that offers little in the way of disturbance and distraction. Remember, you want to focus on being able to work out and not on other gizmos, gadgets, papers, etc. that will call your attention away from the task at hand.
Find a space that accommodates those that will be using it. Is it just for you or will other family members be using it? Will you be using it together? If so, make sure there’s enough room for however many could be in there at the same time.
Finally, consider what types of things you’ll want to do as far as working out in that space. If you’ll be using weights, do you have the right type of floors? Are the ceilings high enough for what you want to do? Is there an electric outlet if you want to add anything that requires power? Will you be disturbing anyone else in the house while working out? If you live in a condo, apartment, etc. will this space and the exercises you’ll be doing bother any neighbors?
Add the Right Equipment
While there are a few pieces of equipment that can be essential to most home gyms, how you equip your space really depends on how you, and any others in the family, will be utilizing it. The key is to only add equipment that will help get the most out of a variety of exercise routines. While some may go all out and add a huge array of equipment, chances are most of that will take up valuable space and go to waste.
Who will be using it? Each person in the family may have different likes/dislikes and goals when it comes to fitness and working out, so plan accordingly around who will be utilizing the workout room. Will kids be using it? Make sure you have equipment that is appropriate for what they’ll be doing. Varying fitness levels? You may be very advanced when it comes to working out, but your spouse may be new to working out or at a very low fitness level. Make sure the equipment you choose fits a variety of needs and levels.
Here are a few suggested items to help get any home gym going……
- Rubber flooring, mats or carpeting. If you’ll be doing any type of floor based exercises, consider the type of flooring you have and make sure it’s friendly on the body. Also, if you’ll be using dumbbells, kettlebells, or other free weights you may want to consider having some type of rubber flooring that can hold up to a bit of a beating.
- Resistance Bands. These are a great tool for any home gym and can be utilized for a huge variety of exercises. You can strap them to a door, wrap them around equipment, or utilize your own body to stabilize them for a wide-variety of pushes, pulls, etc. Plus they take up very minimal space when not being used . . . that’s a huge bonus when it comes to your home gym!
- Again, you can do a wide variety of exercises with a few pairs of dumbbells….they’re relatively compact and very functional for working the entire body. There are also adjustable dumbbells on the market that allow you to add plates with a click of a switch and get the benefits of having several size dumbbells in one set.
- Utility Bench and/or Stability Ball. A simple flat bench can be utilized for many upper and lower body exercises and is a great compliment to any free weights you might have. A stability ball is another great option as it can be used very similar to a bench when using dumbbells, or as a great functional training tool for hamstring curls, glute bridges, squats, core exercises, etc.
- Your favorite cardio piece. If one of the priorities is weight loss or improved cardiovascular health, than you may want to consider adding an elliptical, a treadmill, a bike, or a rower. Just be sure that whatever you choose is a good fit for your space. Many home cardio pieces (like the Horizon Fitness Evolve Elliptical) are ideal for smaller areas with its small footprint and the ability to be folded/stored when not in use. On top of that, it’s very quiet!
- Suspension Trainers. Systems like TRX involve straps that you can attach to ceilings, doors or support beams and your body weight becomes your resistance. They are relatively inexpensive when you consider the wide variety and overall number of exercises you can do with them. And, much like resistance bands, they take up little to no space.
- While mirrors aren’t actually fitness equipment, they can serve a couple of valuable purposes when it comes to having them in your home gym. First, they are helpful in troubleshooting any problems you might have with proper form. Things like squats, lunges, etc. in front of a mirror can provide valuable feedback. Secondly, they can make a space feel bigger and brighter – and that’s always an added bonus with a home gym!
- Music/TV. Working out to your favorite music can give your workouts a boost, or use your workout time to catch up on the latest news or sporting events. Just be sure you stay on track with your workout and are not too distracted by what might be on.
Having a home gym can be a perfect solution to making fitness a priority for you and your family. But remember, even the best equipped home gym will do absolutely nothing for your health and fitness unless you use it! Schedule your workouts, find things you like to do, workout with your spouse or kids . . . whatever it takes, just use it!
About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin.