Picture the scene. It’s blowing a gale outside and you have just finished a ten-hour day in the office, where everything that could go wrong did. The subway is packed and you have nothing in the fridge for dinner. All you want to do is to get home, but you suddenly remember you haven’t been to the gym yet. Wouldn’t you love to just be able to go straight home and workout in peace as opposed to going to the gym during the after-work rush hour? Of course you would, and this is exactly why more and more people are setting up home gyms—even when they don’t have a whole load of space.
A home gym sounds exciting and once you have experienced the convenience of being able to work out in the comfort of your own home without worrying about all of the good machines being occupied, you will wonder how you lived without one. That said, creating a functional space that is going to afford you the possibility to do a proper workout needs careful planning. You need to make sure that you spend your budget on the right equipment and that you choose multi-functional machines to make the most of the space you have decided to dedicate to setting up a home gym.
Pros and Cons of a Home Gym
Like many things in life, there are pros and cons to installing a gym in your home. Before taking the plunge, read through the below list and see whether you relate to the pros or the cons more.
How Expensive Will It Be to Set Up a Home Gym?
Creating the perfect space for your home-based workouts doesn’t have to be expensive if you take the time to do some research and plan ahead. And, unless you have a ton of unused rooms in your house, it is likely that you will have a limited space and budget to work with—so it’s really important to consider what the essential pieces of bulky equipment to buy are and how much of your workout can be supplemented using body-weight exercises and small accessories like resistance bands and a jump-rope.
But, before you jump onto Pinterest and create a board dedicated to your new home gym, let me just offer you a word of warning on the subject of equipment. Plenty of people have unfortunately succumbed to the seduction of expensive and, quite frankly, faddish gym equipment to fill up their home gym. If you don’t spend your money wisely, you too could end up with a heap of gym relics and useless machines taking up precious space and never being used.
How to Decide Which Equipment to Buy
The very first thing you need to do when planning your small home gym is to consider what type of workouts you enjoy. If you are a fan of quicker, higher intensity workouts like HIIT or Tabata, then there are tons of excellent workouts that you can do that are based on body weight and smaller accessories like kettlebells and a TRX. If you just want to have a more leisurely cardio session or you love to take part in spin classes at the gym, then you should plan your equipment purchases accordingly. Another thing to consider is the fact that working out without a mirror can be difficult, especially when you are lifting free weights or performing exercises that require you to maintain the correct posture to avoid injury. Before making a decision to invest in any piece of equipment for your small home gym, make sure you have a realistic budget in mind. Buying the cheapest treadmill, exercise bike, and elliptical machine is not going to be as effective as buying one really good quality multi-functional machine like a Bowflex, for example, as many of the cheap exercise bikes and treadmills will not have the features and options that the ones in your local gym have and they also aren’t built to last.
A Word on Budgeting
While setting up a home gym doesn’t have to be expensive, it is important to be realistic with money. Good quality, state-of-the-art gym equipment is not going to be cheap—especially if you want to purchase a piece of kit that is durable and robust. Think about what you want to achieve first before you sit down to plan your budget. If your primary ambition is to lose weight, then you need to spend the majority of your money on a decent cardio machine and toning accessories. If you are training for a triathlon, then you would want to factor in enough money to buy yourself a professional type of stationary bike that comes with adjustable resistance and fitness tests so you can monitor your progress. Of course, you also need to set a little money aside to spruce up the space and make it look pretty, as no one wants to work out in a dark, tired-looking space.
Once you have figured out what your primary fitness goals are and you have found an appropriate space in your house to create your home gym, it’s time to start putting the pieces together and turning your dream into reality, step by step.
So, to stop you from feeling overwhelmed and making lavish purchases on useless equipment, here are 10 useful tips for setting up a small home gym.
Choose One or Two Primary Pieces of Equipment
Cardio workouts go a long way with regards to building up your fitness levels and losing weight. Therefore, unless you enjoy running outside or cycling long distances come rain or shine, you are going to need at least one good quality machine. Think about the type of cardio you most enjoy and select a product accordingly. There are plenty of reviews of particular products online that can guide you as to which type of equipment to buy, but if you are looking for a low-impact cardio machine you could go for an upright or recumbent stationary bike. Many of the better-quality models now come with Bluetooth connectivity so you can export your workout results as well as pre-programmed workouts to keep things exciting. A recumbent bike is going to be the best option if you are recovering from an injury or you struggle to sit without your back being supported and it also offers the added bonus of being a hands-free piece of equipment meaning you can read a book or scroll your social media feed at the same time. If building muscle and toning up is more your thing, then you could consider investing in a Bowflex machine, which will eliminate the need to clutter your space with free weights and unsightly bars. The pieces of equipment you decide to purchase should be the crux of your planning when creating your home gym, as they will remain in one place and will likely take up the most space out of everything.
Invest in a Good Sound System, Lighting and a Mirror
Working out alone can be tough. As you have no one around to motivate you or even watch you, it is all too easy just to sit back and get distracted by your phone. A good sound system will ensure that you can listen to your favorite gym playlists, without having to deal with the hassle of headphones getting tangled up in your hair or earphones falling out during vigorous bouts of exercise. You could also consider having a mirrored wall installed, so you can see what you are doing while you are working out. The right lighting is key, as you want the room bright enough to be able to read the displays on your machines and you also don’t want to have too much of a mellow vibe in your gym, or you might find yourself nodding off after a long day at the office. At the same time, you also don’t want to give yourself a headache by installing harsh bright lights. The ability to motivate yourself in your home gym is your key to success, so make sure you take the time and money to set up the right environment right from the very beginning.
Choose Appropriate Flooring
It goes without saying that working out on a carpeted or marble floor is a very, very bad idea and can result in serious injury if you aren’t careful. A great option for flooring in a home gym is to install a commercial grade of foam flooring that is not going to break the bank and is easy to put together. Not only will this help protect your equipment, but it will also help to provide some sound insulation and protect the rest of the household from your workout-related moans and groans. Some people choose to simply have a concrete floor or even a laminate floor, but this isn’t an ideal choice as it is difficult to clean and also won’t protect your weights and kettlebells from becoming damaged and chipped.
Invest in Some Kettlebells
Kettlebells are versatile pieces of gym equipment that you can own, as they can be used for weight training and building muscle, as well as cardio workouts. Bear in mind that as your fitness level increases, so will your strength, which is why it would be a smart choice to get a few kettlebells of different weights and probably don’t bother getting anything less than 10 kgs. You can buy traditional lead kettlebells or rubber ones—both are equally good choices. Kettlebells are also perfect for smaller spaces, as they don’t require any kind of special storage space—you can literally dump them in a box in the corner of the room and take them out when you need to.
Hang a TRX from the Ceiling
Suspension training is one of the most effective ways of strengthening your core muscles and it is great for physical rehabilitation as well as getting ripped abs and toned limbs. A TRX is also not going to take up any room at all and while you would be wise to place a mat underneath you as you use it, neither accessories need to be a permanent fixture in one spot. If you can’t attach it to the ceiling, then consider investing in a good quality rack that will allow you to safely partake in suspension training.
Consider Getting a Punch Bag
Boxing is an absolutely great workout for both cardio and toning purposes and a punch bag means you don’t have to rely on a sparring partner to help you out. Just like many other gym accessories, a punch bag can be stowed away when not in use and all you need is a hook to hang it from and sufficient space to dance around it in your imaginary boxing ring. However, there is not much point installing a punch bag unless you have tried boxing before or you particularly enjoy it, as throwing a punch at the wrong angle can result in serious injury, even with gloves on.
Matts, Resistance Bands, and Balls
Many people tend to underestimate and overlook the importance of small gym accessories and just how much they can contribute to an effective workout. A skipping rope, for example, allows you to burn almost as many calories as jogging for 30 minutes and all you need is enough space to throw the rope around. Resistance bands take away the need to purchase leg-toning machines and Pilates balls are great for stretching and core muscle work. All of these items can be picked up for next to nothing online and because they are so affordable, you don’t have to limit yourself with regard to how many items you can have. Ultimately, as they aren’t considered essential pieces of gym equipment, you can build up your collection of accessories little by little.
Plan the Layout So It Makes Sense
Most people naturally follow the circuit of machines when they go to a commercial gym, as it just seems to make sense. If you are used to working out in a specific way (e.g. cardio followed by bodyweight exercises then free weights) then try to set your home gym equipment up in order. By creating a mini circuit of equipment for yourself, you will think less about what the next steps are and save yourself time rooting around for different pieces of equipment or zigzagging across the room. This is especially wise if you plan on working out with your partner or a friend, as otherwise, you would be treading on each other’s toes all the time. Ideally, your gym circuit should start and end by the door, so you are less tempted to cop-out and leave before you have completed all of the exercises that form your fitness routine.
Keep Cleaning Products in Your Home Gym
This might sound stupid, and like we’re stating the obvious, but you would be surprised how infrequently most people actually clean their home gyms. When you are working out at your local gym surrounded by other sweaty bodies, it makes perfect sense to wipe down the machines before and after you use them and the majority of people wouldn’t dream of laying down on a shared gym mat without a towel going down first. When you are working out at home, it’s all too easy to forget to do these things. After all, only you and your loved ones are going to be using it. This is not ideal, as regardless of where you are doing your workouts, if you do them right, you are going to sweat—and sweat big time! Leaving your equipment covered in stale sweat isn’t only incredibly unhygienic, it could also cause some of your equipment to wear quicker than it should. Keeping a bottle of spray and a cloth in sight will remind you to give your home gym a quick clean each time you finish using it.
Invest in a Heart Rate Band
A heart rate band is going to be a key piece of kit if you want to lose weight and improve your overall fitness as obtaining accurate readings and monitoring your BPM is crucial to know when you are burning fat and exactly how many calories you burn during each workout. It will also help you to stay motivated, as many wireless chest straps can be hooked up to an app like Myfitnesspal, so you can visibly see how much progress you are making and how far you are from reaching your goal. A good heart rate monitor doesn’t have to cost the earth, but just make sure that you can pair it with any machinery you order and also your smartphone.
A home gym can be either an enemy or an asset, depending on your circumstances. If you are the type of person who struggles to work out alone or the type of exercise you partake in requires someone to spot you, then you need to consider whether or not the convenience of having a workout space at home outweighs the need for another person to get the most benefit out of your exercise sessions. On the other hand, many people loathe working out in front of others as they either feel too self-conscious to push themselves to the max or they don’t like the sensation of being watched by others. Once you have invested the initial money into setting up and kitting out your home gym, then you can enjoy saving money on a gym membership every month until the end of your workout days and when you total up the yearly cost of paying to attend the gym each month, it adds up pretty quickly. Many people who have set up home gyms find that they don’t need to ask twice for friends to come over and make use of the fancy new equipment on offer for free. So, if you absolutely can’t bear to do a solo workout, reach out to a friend or neighbor to join you. Any piece of equipment that you purchase and wish to upgrade at a later date is going to hold its value relatively well, as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Therefore, you should easily be able to sell your unwanted gym equipment onto someone else to make room for bigger and better machines if necessary.
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