Home gyms are an ultra-convenient option to stay on track with your workouts, and can keep you fit if you don’t have a health club membership or when can’t find the time to get there. Of course, tossing an old stationary bike in the corner of your basement doesn’t necessarily create an inviting and motivating home gym. You don’t have to break the bank, but investing in some quality equipment can mean the difference between getting results and abandoning good intentions.
Home gyms run the gamut between a single bench and some dumbbells in the family room to a multi-machine cardio and strength set-up in a dedicated workout room. You can make yours as simple or elaborate as you prefer, according to your available space and budget. The most important thing is that you use it, so create a well-equipped, welcoming space, and commit to a schedule of exercise. One of the beauties of home gyms is you can easily squeeze in some quick workouts, or enjoy long, uninterrupted sessions whenever you want.
Here are some important considerations for building your perfect home gym. We’ll go into more detail on each below.
Keys to Building A Home Gym
- Space – determine the available square footage for your home gym
- Budget – fitness equipment varies widely by price, so consider what you can afford
- Cardio – research the type of cardio equipment that best fits your needs and fitness goals – and pick one you’ll actually use!
- Strength – it’s not just about cardio – be sure to incorporate some strength training options
- Yoga/Stretching/Pilates – include items to help increase flexibility and prevent injury
- Extras – add fun extras, like a TV or stereo, to help make the most out of your home gym
Space – Know the square footage available before you check out equipment, and think about layout. Consider that the active area of some machines, like ellipticals that have moving handlebars and pedals, will exceed the stationary footprint, so account tor extra room.
Also measure the ceiling height to ensure that you will have adequate clearance for items like stairclimbers, treadmills and home gym units. Think about flooring as well – tile and wood floors are easy to clean but can be slippery if you’re doing aerobic moves while following an online workout or DVD. Carpet can absorb noise and vibrations but should be protected with a rubber mat under cardio or strength machines. Concrete, such as in unfinished basements or garages, tends to be cold and damp, so consider adding some interlocking rubber tiles for impact absorption.
Finally, ventilation makes a big difference, so add a ceiling or floor fan for circulation, or take advantage of open windows for fresh air, natural light and a view outside.
Budget – With fitness equipment, you definitely get what you pay for, so consider what you can afford. If you’re serious about using a home gym, this is an important investment in your health that potentially can save you money down the road by preventing health problems and accompanying doctor visits and prescriptions. It’s always better if you can afford a higher quality machine that will perform better and last longer without malfunctions.
Cheap machines tend to have jerky or unnatural, noisy movement; limited range of motion; faulty electronics; and parts that wear out quickly with use. Higher end equipment delivers quality workouts on par with premium units in health clubs. If your machine doesn’t feel good, is too loud or stops working, you won’t/can’t use it, and there goes your investment.
Cardio – Cardio is essential for fitness, and there are lots of options today, including treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, climbers, cross-trainers or rowers. If you are space-constrained, look for machines that are compact and have a low step-up height, like many from Octane Fitness®.
Ellipticals and rowers work the entire body, as do air bikes like the Schwinn® Airdyne® Pro, which delivers more effective workouts because you involve more muscles. Lateral ellipticals, like Octane’s LateralX®, provide a novel way to work the hips, glutes and thighs while moving front-to-back and side-to-side, and the Bowflex Max Trainer® delivers total-body, high-intensity workouts in just 14 minutes. While treadmills are popular, the new Zero Runner® lets you run naturally and comfortably by eliminating all the stressful pounding and repetitive impact.
For seated exercise, the xRide® recumbent elliptical is a total-body option that provides cardio and resistance training, and is more effective than a recumbent bike. If you just can’t purchase a cardio piece now, create a comprehensive workout DVD library or join an online fitness service so you have multiple choices and variety.
Strength – Don’t just do cardio in your home gym, as resistance training is also important to tone muscles, maintain strength and boost metabolism. In its simplest form, get a lighter and heavier set of dumbbells and a weighted barbell, along with a bench or stability ball. For more convenience, Bowflex’s SelectTech® dumbbells adjust to multiple different weights within one handset, saving you space and money.
You also can use rubber and elastic resistance bands, which are inexpensive and come in different levels. Or get a few sets of dumbbells and kettlebells. Some Octane Fitness machines come with CROSS CiRCUIT®, which are combined cardio and strength routines that use Octane’s Powerbands and body weight exercises. The CROSS CiRCUIT Pro Kit includes adjustable PowerBlock® dumbbells to accommodate multiple exercises and users of varying strength.
For strength sessions, work all the major muscle groups, and use a variety of exercises for best results. Replicate your health club regimen in your home gym, or modify as necessary based on your equipment. You also can check online for exercise recommendations, hire a trainer to set up a custom program or get some DVDs for various strength training routines.
Yoga/Stretching/Pilates – Flexibility and core work are integral components of a well-balanced exercise program, and can make you feel better, improve your overall fitness and help prevent injuries. Buy a good-sized, cushioned exercise mat so you have space to perform strength exercises, work the core, stretch or do yoga or Pilates. If you’re a big Pilates and yoga fan, get a separate mat specifically for yoga, as the traditional exercise mats are too thick and can be hard to balance on.
Another inexpensive option for your home gym is a foam roller, which enables you to use your own body weight to massage your muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Releasing tension in these soft tissues helps to decrease tightness or pain, restore function and promote range of motion.
Extras – You don’t have to have a top-of-the-line AV system, but workouts definitely go by faster with a TV or stereo nearby where you can catch up on your latest DVR stash or rock out to your favorite music. If you’re following workouts online of via DVD, a large screen obviously is a bonus.
To eliminate running around, keep an extra set of ear buds in your home gym. Having a few towels handy, some motivational wall hangings, and a full-length mirror to check form are all valuable amenities as well.
Whatever your home gym is equipped with, and however it looks, the most important thing is that you use it regularly. Good luck!