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The Ultimate guide to building a home gym

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Dec 16, 2019 3:18:54 AM

The Ultimate guid to building a home gym

The Ultimate Guide to building a home gym

This is an overview of example designs and ideas for building your own home gym. Each one is unique and special. Take the measurements and be clear in the intent of the room you are creating. I hope this provides answers for the first view basic questions for you to then dive deeper. You can always contact me for questions at pascal@marathon-crossfit.com.

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Example designs

Attached you will find two example designs which you can use as a blueprint. I have also done many variations on those. Start with the floor space you have available and design your gym into it, as the available space most likely will not change. The few exceptions are new builds in the garden. Here I would also start with the available shed / room options and work from there. 
 

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Why have a home gym

 
A home gym is an aspiration and a great goal to aspire to. For most people it means financial planning, upgrading their house and improving on their lifestyle. Here are some reasons why you should move forward with your ambitions. 
 

Commute

 
One reason to have a home gym is the commute. If you live rurally and not in an urban environment the next available gym can be up to an hour's drive away. As soon as you have to make an hour round trip (half an hour each way) it might make sense to invest in a home gym
 
This is especially true if you have a basement, shed or attic which is already unused. This saves the structural costs and with a $1000 dollar one-time investment you save yourself the time and hassle of the commute. The only commodity you can not buy back in life is time. Saving some by investing a little cash is wise. 
 

Equipment 

 
Your local gym might not have the equipment which you need to be successful or get the most out of your training. The kind of equipment which is often not available: 
 
 
In your home gym, you can arrange the equipment of your choice however you like. 
 

Privacy 

 
In your home gym, you will be on your own. If you want to swing from bar to bar while doing a Bruce Lee kick you can without getting any dirty looks. You might be conscious of yourself and feel better at home. If you have a certain status in your town also might not want to be seen when doing your exercises to do them in peace. 
 

Achievement 

 
An uncompromising home gym can be a considerable investment. You will also have to negotiate with your family, cohabitants, landlord and find the time to get everything together. 
 
You will research different vendors and options and find the best time in the year to get your home gym done. It is a project and once it is done you will feel a great sense of achievement. This is why I recommend to wait and make your home gym anything you ever dreamed of, instead of compromising for something which does not inspire you. 
 

Timelines 

 
Even though you are in an urban environment your work times might not match up with the opening times of your gym or the classes you want to attend. If that is the case a gym at home can be used after hours or very early in the day to get the results you want. 
 

Sanctum 

 
With your gym, you can build a sanctum for yourself away from everything where you can pursue your goals and dreams. If you live in a rural house with children the person who stays at home the most often takes over. 
 
How to design your home gym

How to design your home gym

 
Designing a home gym can be tough and confusing. 
 
  • What material should you get? 
  • Where to place things? 
  • What will the landlord say?
  • Can I DIY this? 
 

Survey the area 

 
The first thing to do would be to survey your house or apartment for possible places to put the gym in. The usual suspects are the attic, the basement, the garden or the leftover room which currently functions as an office, skip and does not need to be used as a room for your kids anymore. 
 
Also, try to obtain any plans of the building you can get your hands on. Study your lease contract and make a list of the people who will possibly be impacted by your gym. If a new structure is part of your plan also make sure whether you need planning permission from the landlord or local authorities. This in itself will already take some time. 
 

Placement 

 
Once you have whittled it down to some possible options in your living quarters weigh up the pros and cons of each. The more limited space the more obvious the choice usually is. A former office might be a bit small compared to the attic but has the advantage of being on the ground floor. The basement might have no light or heating but has the bonus that it saves the cost of the structure compared to a garden gym
 
In addition, you should also consider how hard it will be to negotiate the space with the interested parties involved. Your partner might be more willing to give up the garage space versus a part of the precious garden. Your mates in the dorm might be more into a pool table than into a rack. You will know the best for your personal situation. The trick is to map out potential people and objections before investing money or half way through the project. Of course, the other tactic is to tell none and pull it off on a weekend when no one is around and take the flack afterward. 
 

Views 

 
Especially For a garden project, keep the views in mind. Make note of the following angles: 
 
  • From the house to the gym shed 
  • From the house to the rest of the garden
  • From the gym shed to the house 
  • From the gym shed to the rest of the garden 
  • From your neighbors to the gym shed 
  • From the gym shed to the neighbors 
 
Ideally, you want nice views for everybody in every direction. Avoid putting the shed right in the beautiful view for which you moved into the house in the first place
 

Footprint 

 
Try out some different designs at different sizes to determine the footprint of your gym. In our modern world, there are plenty of free programs to choose from to do your designs. I personally like the Zeus engine which Rogue Fitness provides to do my designs and experiment. All of the examples I have linked earlier in this post were made with that program. 
 
Most common footprints are: 
 
  • 3mx3m 
  • 4mx4m
  • 5mx5m 
  • 6mx4m 
And variations of the themes. This is where the plans of your house or apartment will come in handy. For existing rooms, it is also wise to double-check the measurements yourself. 
 

Windows and Doors 

 
If you will place your equipment into an existing room check the existing doors and windows. 
 
Which way do they open? 
Are there any pipes, other constructions protruding from the walls or ceiling? 
How often do these need to be accessed? 
 
For a new structure, you want to think about where it is placed and how the sun travels during the day. Be smart about how to place the windows and doors depending on this. 
 

Heat, air, electricity, and water 

 
Depending on your location you want to get cooling and heating to your new gym. You might need to think about 
 
  • Heat 
  • Cooling 
  • Electricity
  • Water
 
to make the picture complete an avoid ramshackle solutions during the build. 
 
Basement, garage and attic gyms are usually ok for electricity. Water might not be an option if the structure is already in place. Heat and cooling is usually a challenge in the garage and basement as the rooms have mainly been build for storage, not to keep humans cozy for a prolonged period of time. 
 
A garden gym can be equipped with everything as you will most likely build it new. Electricity will be the easiest to get supplied. Has and water might be a little more tricky. So think hard before you make a decision on a sauna and shower n your newly build gym
 

Flooring 

 
You can spend a lot of unnecessary money on intricate gym flooring. It might not even do the job as intended, especially when you are mainly interested in heavy lifting. 
 
For gymnastics and yoga, you want something softer with a bit of bounce. This will cost a little more money. For lifting, horse mats are a perfect and cheap solution. 
 

Walls 

 
Make a plan about what you want to put on the walls. 
 
  • Which color should they have? 
  • What do you want to put on them? 
  • Will you hang equipment on the walls? 
  • How do the walls interplay with the floor? 
Also, check whether the walls are straight or have a slant. Check the material so that you know how you could drill into the wall. It is hard to drive a nail into the concrete wall of a basement. 
 

Exercise selection 

 
Make a list of the exercises you want to do in your gym and which equipment you need to do them. Don’t go too fancy. Chances are that you will keep doing whatever you already like doing in your local gym
 

Equipment 

 
When you buy heavy equipment go for the quality. Buy once, cry once. It is also of advantage to buying in bulk to save on shipping costs. When you are looking for equipment it is easy to get carried away. Check your cart before you confirm the purchase. Some of the items you might not really need. 
 
I personally would recommend getting a good rack, bench, dumbbell, and barbell. This will keep you fit and save. Most of the home gyms on television are of poor quality and won’t last long. If you want to do cardio either buy a very good pair of runners to run go outside or invest in a treadmill. An Airbike also can do wonders for losing weight. 
 

Spacing 

 
Leave space between the different equipment when planning your gym. Don’t forget that a barbell is wider than the rack itself and that you also might want to be a bale to hand from it or run around it. Avoid putting a rack very close to a wall or to each other. Leave some breathing space around your heavy equipment. 
 
How to set up home gym

How to set up home gym

 
There are many ways to get to your own gym and here are some of them: 
 

Self-build 

 
This is all for you. Not really an option for me as I am not a handy man. If you work in construction or like little projects around the house this might be ideal for you. 
 

Professional build 

 
This is the option for getting the professionals in. They can do everything from the foundation to completed extra building.  Make very sure that it is clear what their services contain and what they do not cover in the build to avoid surprises. 
 

Delivery 

 
If you build a garden gym you will have two main deliveries. One for the material to build the structure and one for the gym equipment. If you have the structure or room already, you will get a big shipment. Leave some day’s off with your employer so that you can expect the shipment as otherwise there might be hefty delays. 
 

Assembly 

 
For the assembly of your home gym, you ideally have one other person helping you to put it together. You can also do it by yourself but then the chance of mishaps increases. 
 

Childproof 

 
The last thing to do is to childproof the gym if you have any. Put a lock on the door. Get clips to secure all the plates when stored. Avoid keeping heavy equipment very high up without securing it. Leave little to no climbing opportunities. If there are any make sure that the floor beneath is padded in case there is a fall. 
 
How to create your home gym

How to create your home gym

 
There are several places where you can get inspiration for building to it down the gym. Here are some addresses which helped me. 
 

Pinterest 

 
Pinterest is great to get some design ideas for color pallets and walls. It is a good way to see how you can use materials and different ways or come up with a clever storage solution. This way you will learn from others about how to make the most use of your own space and make it your own. 
 

YouTube 

 
There are several channels out there that do reviews of equipment for gyms. The ones which I personally like are: 
 
 
These channels will provide a ton of information on what and why to get in your home gym
 

Local gyms 

 
The gyms in your area will also give you some inspirations. Which equipment did they place where? Why did they arrange it that way? What do you think does not work? Go around and ask some people what they think. You might even learn something new. 
 

Vendor websites 

 
Most vendors have showrooms and encourage people to take pictures of their home gyms. You can use those to get ideas while looking up how others designed their home gyms. Here are some examples to check out:
 
Gym horse stall mats

What flooring for home gym

 
Flooring can get very expensive if you do it wrong. If you want to do gymnastics with a bouncy floor you will need a special manufacturer to size it for you which won’t come cheap. For sprints and sled work you also might want to have the right surface. However, most home gyms will be focused on weights and cardio machines. For these scenarios, you can have the following flooring. 
 

Horse mats 

 
Horse mats are relatively cheap, compact and protect the floor. If your main interest is lifting and you won’t be crawling around on the floor a lot this is a great option to save money and still have enough grip and density on your floor. 
 

Gym flooring 

 
If you get it custom made or martial arts mats you are sorted. Recently there has been a rise in gym flooring which can be stacked together like a puzzle. Stay away from that stuff as it is expensive and low quality. It might look good at the beginning but it rips and cracks easily and is hard to clean. 
 

Concrete 

 
Concrete is robust and relatively easy to keep clean. It is not great if you fall on it so if you intend to drop a lot or have people who are likely to face plants, get some horse mats. With concrete, you should also take care to get bumper plates. Steel plates won’t last long when they are dropped on concrete. 
 

Wood 

 
Wood is relatively cheap and easy to form. It also has a natural bounce to it and is a bit more forgiving when you fall on it than concrete. Make sure that it is sanded properly if you do a lot of ground so that you don’t have splinters in your knees. Constant beating from weights is likely to deform wood and keep it in that shape when it is on the floor. Again, horse mats will do the trick. 
 

Platform 

 
If you only need a space to lift and do not want to redo the entire flooring, getting a platform can be a great option. Once assembled you have a great spot to work out while having a relatively small footprint. 
 
Can you put a home gym upstairs
 

Can you put a home gym upstairs

 
A home gym can be put upstairs if you do the necessary checks with your architect or landlord. Ideally, you want to be near the carrying parts of the structure of the house. Especially attic gyms should be double and triple checked for the stability of the floors before you put a gym in.
 

Structure 

 
If you put a gym upstairs check where the main beams of the house structure are. Better to be safe than breaking through the ceiling one day. Also, double-check the overall weight of your equipment. Include the weight of the rack with all equipment on it. Apart from the structure also take into consideration that a gym upstairs will likely be closer to bedrooms and kid's rooms. Keep safety and noise in mind. 
 

Noise 

 
If you put a gym upstairs the noise is a lot more likely to travel through the entire house. The same goes for apartment blocks and other arrangements. To keep the noise pollution to a minimum consider the following. 
 
  • Not attaching anything to the wall
  • Not attaching anything to the floor 
  • Exercise mats to dampen deadlift noise 
  • Carpets 
 
The solution is probably a flat foot rack. Anything you attach to the wall or floor and then lift on will send the noise through the structure. Keep in mind that not anchoring your rack makes it less safe and more likely to tip over. 
 

Weight 

 
If you have big plans to build a gym with multiple racks, special flooring and machines add up all the components at high time and make a note. Again, you want to double and triple check this. If you are on the ground floor, in the garage or basement you will have less trouble. 
 

Bottlenecks 

 
If you are getting a gym upstairs check all of the bottlenecks where the equipment has to go through. Check the stairs, doors, flaps, and anything where you need to grow. This is especially the case if you buy equipment which is welded in one piece rather than components. Think hard with these ones whether you can get them up there. 
 
Can you put a home gym on carpet
 

Can you put a home gym on carpet

 
Depending on what you are getting you can put it on the carpet. It is important that you prevent the home gym from sliding on the carpet. Therefore rubber feet will do a lot better than metal sheets. Most racks and equipment which need to be bolted to the ground have slippery flaps with a hole in them. This is not the best choice for carpet. 
 
Flat foot racks provide rubber feet to put some on floors without having to bolt them down. Make sure the feet are snug and custom-built. Sometimes they are just poorly slapped onto a rack meant to be bolted down. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish as you won’t appreciate a sliding machine for heavy lifting. 
 

Platform 

 
A platform can help to have a gym on a carpet. Place the platform on the carpet and then drill the equipment into the platform. This way it is stable and not going anywhere without ruining the carpet. 
 

Can you have a home gym in an apartment 

 
This is a tricky one of you are renting. Most contracts will not cover whether a home gym is allowed or not. Technically, you can, therefore, have one. What is regulated in most contracts is noise and that you can not make any structural changes to the building. If you are the owner of an apartment the noise rules might be less of a problem is you can only get sued, but not kicked out. 
 
Have an estimated guess who is also living in the apartment block and might complain about the noise. You might even enlist people to get a home gym together based on the levels of trust. Architecturally many apartments should be able to take a gym as long as they have been build according to standards. 
Can I finance a home gym

Can I finance a home gym

 
So far I have not seen many vendors which also offer a loan program or payments in installments as most furniture companies do. You can still go online and get a small loan which you normally would get for a car from your bank. 
 
If you are getting a loan, be careful with the interest rates. Especially small loans up to 10000 tend to have unfavorable conditions. Your home gym will probably lie between 1000 to 5000 without the structure. You can get there by saving for a year and not doing that trip to Europe or the US.
 

How much does home gym cost

 
A home gym has many components and only the sky is the limit. The starting point can be as little as 500. If you are really lucky you might even get your home gym for free from someone you know who just wants to get rid of it. 
 
The equipment will put you back somewhere between 1000 to 5000 depending on how much and which quality you buy. A good barbell will put you back somewhere between 200 to 500. A rack will cost you somewhere between 500 to 3000. Some might even go up to 7000. The plates for training will also be around 500 to 1000 depending on how many you get and in which quality. 
 
Treadmills are a different matter. Having run three marathons I would recommend saving 1000 to 3000 you spend on these machines and get yourself a pair of runners unless you live in an urban area. 
 
If you are building the structure only the sky is the limit. Garden sheds usually start around 1000 and go up to 5000 for the nicer ones. If you get a professional custom job they usually start around 10000 and go from there as you also pay for the labor. Of course, there are always exceptions, sales, etc, but this is what my research came to so far. 
 
The last point might be insurance. If you are not insured against theft yet you might want to consider one when you place that much equipment into your home. 
What equipment is needed for home gym

What equipment is needed for home gym

 
 
This depends highly on the exercise selection for your personal needs. If you do not want to lift heavy weights, there is no need for plates and a barbell. If you want to run indoors, you might want to invest in a treadmill. All of these in combination will lead to a list of equipment you might want in your gym. Here is some inspiration for what to get and what to consider.
 

Dumbbell

 
Dumbbells are great for accessory work on a powerlifting program or main work for bodybuilding and conditioning. You can move them in many directions and also decide to do only one leg, one arm or combinations of these. In this sense, they are less restricted than a barbell and also do not need a rack. If you want a lot of different weight increments dumbbells can turn into a storage problem as most of them have a fixed weight. You can remedy this by getting a loadable dumbbell
 

Barbell 

 
A barbell is a great tool to move big weights relatively safe. You will also need a rack if you want to get the full benefit of a barbell and stay safe. Barbells are great for lifting heavy as they make use of your entire frame and give the weight you are moving stability. If you want a lot of different weight options it is easier and space-saving with a barbell as they are modular. Barbells come in various different shapes and sizes. The most obvious difference is between ordinary and Olympic barbells. Olympic barbells are usually made of more expensive steel with more whip and have bearing attaching the sleeves to the shaft. This makes it easier to use the momentum of the bar in Olympic lifts and deal with the change of direction during the Olympic lift from where the force is applied.
 

Rack 

 
A rack is highly recommended if you want to barbell squat and bench press by yourself at home safely. A rack will provide safety functions so that you will not be buried under the weight. In addition, the rack can be used as the central storage space for all of your weights and equipment. A pull-up bar will do the trick for a nice home gym ready to go for all needs.
 

Bench 

 
A bench is a good addition to a home gym to do various exercises and stretches. The lower range models will be flat and relatively light. The higher-priced models will be heavier and can be tilted. You can spend anywhere between 100 to 700 on a proper bench for your home gym. Together with a rack and a barbell, this is probably one of the items to look at for your initial setup.
 

Weights 

 
Weight plates are another factor to consider. Plates come as bumpers, steel and Olympic discs that can be fitted on a barbell. Bumper plates are usually the cheapest which can also withstand weather and hard floors the best. The downsides of bumper plates are that they are the most likely plates to be inaccurate and fit the least amount of weight on a barbell due to their bigger thickness to achieve the same weight. 
 
Steel plates are usually the cheapest and get you the most weight for your buck. With steel, you can fit the most weight on a given barbell as they are thinner and therefore take up less space on a sleeve. While steel plates are cheaper they have a higher injury risk and can not be dropped from overhead. If you are planning on Olympic lifts, steel plates are not the right option. The accuracy is usually better than with bumper plates as the material is more costly to the producer and gets therefore monitored more closely.
 
Olympic plates are the most sophisticated and expensive. They are usually a combination of rubber and aluminum and/or steel. This makes production more complicated and therefore costly. The core of competition plates is usually metal or aluminum. This helps to center the weight and give it a better spin and dynamic during the lift. The outside of the competition plates is rubber so that it can be repeatedly dropped from overhead. Olympic competition plates also come in various colors to make it easier to determine which weight is on the bar. It also looks better than black rubber or steel in my opinion.
 

Jump rope 

 
Jump ropes are for cardio training what the barbell row is for powerlifting and bodybuilding. Underrated and underused even though they are effective. Jump ropes range from 10 to 100. All of them will do the job while the higher priced ones will spin faster, have better handles and are heavier.
 

What equipment for Crossfit home gym

What equipment for CrossFit home gym

 
As Crossfit has many different workouts for the day you will need more equipment than for a powerlifting or bodybuilding home gym. A good overview is the Crossfit packages from Rogue which they have customized for these needs.
 

Medicine ball 

 
Medicine balls are usually used for wall throws and slams in Crossfit. Their price ranges from 20 to 100 apiece depending on the weight that you are getting. Most medicine balls are made in China while some of them are made in the USA for a higher price. Pay special attention to the seams when you are buying to be sure you will get the most possible mileage out of them. If you are getting a lot of them, make sure that to also think about storage options.
 

Slamball 

 
I personally would opt for medicine balls over slam balls any day as they have more applications at roughly the same cost. If you are mostly slamming the balls into the ground and do not use them for anything else besides this get slam balls. This has the advantage that you and your clients are less likely to hit yourself in the face with a slam ball compared to a medicine ball and that they will last longer.
 

Rower 

 
Many of the cardio components in CrossFit ask for a rowing element. The industry standard is the Concept 2 Model D. Make sure you have enough space for it in your home gym. There are options to hang them on the walls or to get them in a 10 pack depending on your needs.
 

Barbell 

 
Crossfit has powerlifting and weightlifting elements so you need a good all-around barbell that can be used for Olympic lifts and powerlifting. Solid options are the Titan Fitness Atlas bar and the Rogue Ohio bar. If you go with a standard design you will spend around 200. If you are interested in a bit more color and pep you will be in the 300 - 500 range.
 

Dumbbell 

 
If you get a dumbbell for Crossfit heavier ones for snatches and carries. Bicep Curls, Lateral raises and other bodybuilding style exercises that can be done with dumbbells are not part of the CrossFit repertoire.
 

Kettlebell 

 
Crossfit has workouts that use the kettlebell swing and Turkish get up. Some utilize the kettlebells for carries. Get a good, middle-sized kettlebell to cover most of these scenarios for your training at home.
 

Rope 

 
Ropes are used for climbing and pulling exercises in Crossfit. For the pulling exercises, you might want to look at a rope in combination with a sled. For climbing, you will need some kind of anchor, and a high ceiling to set up the circuit.
 

Plates 

 
I personally think that bumper plates are the best choice for Crossfit exercises. If you want to get fancy you can opt for competition plates, but only if you have a thick wallet or only go for the best options available.
 

Parallelites

 
Paralellites are a good investment for L sits and handstand push-ups. You will find the handstand push-ups in more workouts of the day than the L Sits.
 

Pull up bar 

 
No Crossfit gym is complete without a lot of pull up bars. You will do a lot of pull-ups if you want to become great at Crossfit.
 

Rack 

 
At the beginning of Crossfit, they were not as many exercises that warrant a rack unless they were combined with a pull-up bar. This has changed in recent years as Front squat and overhead press tests become more frequent in the workouts. You can also use the rack for bringing your toes to your fingers while hanging from the pull-up bar.
 
Which barbell for home gym
 

Which barbell for home gym

 
This is a shortlist of bars based on my research. If you look long enough you might find other vendors at a lower price or with a knack to the bar that fits your needs better. I chose mainly Rogue bars as they have consistent quality, fast shipping, and a broad customer base which makes their business stable. If you want to save some money you might want to consider TITAN Fitness.
 

Ohio bar 

 
The Ohio bar is the workhorse out of the Rogue portfolio. If you only want a barbell that does the job or you want to buy multiple for your home gym, this is the option to go for. It works for all lifts, has a good warranty and a good price.
 

Thor bar 

 
The Thor bar is my personal favorite as I mainly do the three big powerlifting lifts and like the mountain. The design is cool and inspirational and you will get a good bar. Especially if you are only getting one bar you might as well treat yourself to something nice for 100 extra.
 

Chan bar 

 
If I was mainly into Crossfit and would only buy one bar for myself this would be the chan bar. It is the perfect Crossover between Olympic lifting and powerlifting while having some practical additions and a nice design.
 

Pyrros bar 

 
The Pyrros bar is the right choice for anyone who is mainly interested in Olympic weightlifting. The bar has recently gotten the stamp of approval from the international weightlifting federation to be used at their competitions. Pyrros Dimas helped in the design of this bar as one of the most decorated Olympic weightlifters of all time.
 
Which plates for a home gym

Which plates for a home gym

 
There are several options out there for home gyms to get some weight on the bar. The most pragmatic choice would be bumper plates.
 

Steel plates 

 
Steel plates are easier to store and get more weight on the barbell as they are thinner. In turn, they are more likely to hurt you when they drop and can not be dropped from overhead.
 

Bumper plates 

 
Bumper plates are a solid choice for a home gym as they work with any flooring and can be dropped without breaking themselves or the floor. They can also be used outside and are less likely to corrode. The downside is that you can not get as much weight on the bar and they don't make that satisfying clanging and banging sound.
 

Competition plates 

 
Competition plates are the best quality and look the best and therefore cost the most. For most home gyms these plates would be overkill unless you have a big budget.
 
 

Topics: Rogue, Powerlifting, Crossfit, Barbell, Plates, Bench, Dumbbell, Rack