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How To Plan A Home Gym

Updated on February 18, 2018
Marla Watson profile image

Marla is a self-employed entrepreneur, a tinkerer, and classic over-thinker.


If you are lucky enough to find a great gym that you enjoy going to, you’re one of the lucky ones! In my experience, having a gym membership adds unnecessary stress to an already difficult journey. I started planning a home gym when I finally became fed up with the long term financial commitments, crowded machines, and gym hours that did not compliment my work schedule.

Slowly, over the course of 2 years, I acquired gym equipment whenever I could afford it. As new equipment came in, I experimented with different floor plans and locations for my gym. I finalized everything about 6 months ago and I couldn’t be happier with the end result! Planning a home gym was not difficult, but there were unexpected complications along the way. Below are my best tips for home gym planning so that you may not experience some of the set backs and disappointments I did.

Find Available Space

The first step to planning a home gym is to determine what available space you have to work with. Available space should be considered a permanent and dedicated space set aside strictly for your gym area. Ease of use is a critical component in gym planning because you are not going to want to dig free weights out of the closet or move the couch every time you want to work out. Garages, basements, and spare bedrooms are excellent areas to scope out for a home gym!

After deciding on a place, multiply the length of the area by the width of the area to get an accurate square footage estimate. In basements or rooms with low ceilings, you will also need to measure the height of the room from the floor to the ceiling. Height is an important measurement to take if you plan on getting an elliptical, a stair climber, or any other machine that has vertical action.

Other important space considerations when planning a home gym include:

Privacy: Will you require privacy from the rest of the household to get a good workout? (I do! So that eliminated the kitchen and living room right away for me.)

Noise: How much noise will you be making when you work out? What time of day do you think you will want to work out? This is important if you live in an apartment, have roommates, or have other people at home to consider. A stationary bike is not going to be as much as a problem as, say, wearing out a punching bag at 11 PM on a Tuesday night.

Protecting Your Property: Don’t forget to consider yoga mats or modular rubber flooring to protect your floors. Working out in one spot can wear out a place in the carpet and you definitely don’t want to throw weights down on linoleum or hardwood. Some equipment might need to be mounted to studs in the wall, so make sure to go about this safely.

Logistics: I used to have this freestanding punching bag filled with sand. It was awesome, but it was such a pain to move and I moved a lot at the time. There’s something about maneuvering an awkward 300 lb pound object up a spiral staircase in an old house that makes you question your choices. Think long and hard before buying a huge piece of equipment, especially if you plan to move anytime soon. Will you be able to get the equipment through a door once it is fully assembled? Even if you aren’t planning on moving, what will you do if you want to upgrade the machine down the road? Can it be taken apart and put back together easily?


Determine Home Gym Essentials

After a space has been selected, it’s time to start thinking about what equipment to buy! The great news is that you really don’t need much to get a good workout. I mean, you could realistically get in shape using calisthenics alone, but having some equipment is a great option if you hate burpees as much as I do. When planning what kind of gym equipment to buy, it is important to only get what you need and what will fit in the space available.

A good gym or workout routine consists of 3 parts: Cardio, Resistance and Rest. You will need something to get your heart rate up, something to build muscle, and a place to stretch or rest between sets. A great brainstorming exercise to use is to make a list of equipment you like to use at commercial gyms.

Cardio: Choosing an elliptical for my main piece of cardio equipment was a no brainer. Treadmills hurt my knees and if the running platform isn’t long enough, I have to shorten my stride which is uncomfortable and painful. Other good cardio options include punching bags, stationary bikes, and stair climbers. Cardio equipment is often the bulkiest (and most expensive) to buy, so if space is at a premium consider routines on DVD, streaming services, walking, running, or biking. And there’s always calisthenics.

Resistance: Popular resistance equipment includes barbells, free weights, kettle bells, and resistance bands. Unless you are actively trying to bulk up, buying a full set of weights or a weight bench is probably unnecessary. Just get the weights that you need to start with and add more later if the need arises. I’m not a yoga expert, but I believe that there several forms of yoga that could also fulfill the resistance requirement.

Rest: I highly recommend a yoga mat for sitting, laying, or stretching. You aren’t going to want to roll around in the floor when you are covered with sweat, especially if you have pets! It's like being tarred and feathered.

Prepare A Budget

Unfortunately, gym equipment is not cheap. Chances are you won’t be able to acquire everything you need all at once. Having a budget in mind is important to keep from getting distracted or going overboard. Shopping around and taking your time could save you hundreds (if not thousands!) of dollars.

Tips for Saving A Little Money:

  • Check for used gym equipment on Craigslist. Craigslist can be a fantastic place to find some good equipment at a good price. Craigslist is a wasteland of abandoned New Year's resolutions. You might even get lucky and find a commercial gym selling off old equipment! I think Facebook has a local marketplace app as well that functions similar to Craigslist.
  • Ask for gift cards or money for birthdays or Christmas gifts. I know that sounds tacky, but most people are usually thrilled to give you something you actually want instead of guessing. Friends and family would be more than happy to support you on your journey to live a healthier life. This works–I finally got the heavy bag I always wanted just because I asked for one for my birthday!
  • Is it possible to split some of the expenses with someone else? You might have a roommate or family member that would like access to the equipment and might be more than happy to split expenses with you.
  • Use credit sparingly. I hope you aren’t using credit cards to purchase a bunch of gym equipment, but if you are, please do so responsibly. Financial stress really has a way of derailing health goals.


Shopping For Equipment

Purchasing equipment is the hardest part because this is where we actually have to spend some money. All manufacturers are not created equal so if you don’t do your homework, it’s possible to end up with a 300 lb paper weight. Thorough research is mandatory for any large or expensive piece of equipment you want to buy when planning a home gym.

Researching Home Gym Equipment

  • Reviews. Look up the make and model of the equipment across several retailers and read as many reviews as you can, especially the reviews with the lowest ratings. A potential lemon can be spotted easily in the lower reviews because patterns emerge. Ex: Broke at base during first use, etc.
  • Dimensions. Find the dimensions of the machine to see if it fits well into your available space.
  • Specifications. Will the machine fit your body type? Comfort and ergonomics is really important because you don’t want to risk injury by using a machine that’s uncomfortable. This is especially important if you are shorter than 5’5 or over 6′ tall. For example, I am 5’6 and my elliptical fits me perfectly but my husband is 6’1 and he can’t use it because it hurts his knees.
  • Delivery. Some of the heavier equipment is shipped via freight and can’t be delivered to some residential addresses. Also, freight drivers usually do not help unload trailers for liability reasons. If the driver will deliver, you will likely need someone there to help you unload it. If you know that the equipment is coming via freight, try to find out if the truck will have a lift gate to make unloading easier.
  • Assembly. Most equipment purchased has to be assembled at home. Some retailers may offer assembly services, but for the most part, you are probably on your own. If you aren’t comfortable putting the machine together, you might want to ask around prior to making the purchase to see if you can hire someone to help you assemble it. Tip: Torque and vibrations in the machine can cause screws to come loose over time, which can damage your machine. Consider using something like Loctite Threadlocker to help secure important components.
  • Warranty. Make sure to see what kind of warranty the manufacturer has on the machine, if any. When you read through the reviews, see if anyone has had to repair the machine and if the process was painless. Are replacement parts affordable and easy to find? Hopefully nothing will go wrong, but if it does, it will need to be repaired.

Have Fun!

Take your time and don’t be afraid to be creative when designing your own home gym! I hope this information has been helpful to you in some way. If you have a good tip for planning a home gym that I missed, feel free to share it in the comments!

© 2017 Marla


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    • Marla Watson profile image

      Marla 3 months ago

      I'm glad you enjoyed, Tomaz--thanks for reading! :)

    • Tomaz Jelenko profile image

      Tomaz Jelenko 3 months ago from Slovenia

      Awesome tips, thank you for sharing!