Create your perfect home gym

Working out at home comes with all kinds of benefits. You don’t have to wait in line to use equipment. You’ll have that good workout angel on your shoulder, err, pectoral muscle, encouraging you to exercise because you don’t even need to leave the house. And, you aren’t tied to your gym’s schedule — so you can do a 4 a.m. yoga sesh or go for a run at 11 p.m. because your home gym will be open 24/7.

But how do you design a kick-butt workout studio at home? We asked the fitness pros for their best tips. Here’s what they had to say.
home workout crunches
1. First, dedicate a space

Whether it’s a portion of your attic, your entire basement or a room that’s ready to be re-converted, clear out your space to make it your workout studio.

My best tip for setting up a home gym would be to keep it simple,” says Julia Buckley, a fitness trainer and author of bestseller, “The Fat Burn Revolution.”

“Having a good clear space is actually more important than equipment since virtually any fitness goal can be reached without equipment and too much gear is often just a distraction,” Buckley says.

Fitness is fundamentally about moving your body, so if your space is crammed with gizmos and gadgets, then you can’t even get down to basic moves like burpees, Buckley says.

You don’t want to be tripping over your other belongings while you’re skipping rope or doing box jumps. Speaking of boxes, Closetbox will come pick up your boxes and belongings and keep them stashed in our state-of-the-art facility until you’re ready for them again.
home workout room lighting
2. Get your lighting right

Trainer Chris Clough, an NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, has helped several clients set up home gyms. He suggests looking for enough ceiling clearance, usually a minimum of 9 feet overhead.

“Also, invest in good light and good ventilation,” he says. “Really look at how the space is lit and what you can do to improve ventilation, and it may be as simple as a fan.”

Because most home gym or workout spaces at home are in basement or storage areas that are dark, it doesn’t inspire much motivation, Clough notes. 

“If you are able, try for a natural light source through a window that will enhance the atmosphere,” Clough says. A recreation room that’s sectioned off with a window or sliding glass door is a good option, he says. Depending on where you live, an outdoor patio or deck might even be a good choice for a workout space, he says.
workout music
3. Make sure you have music

“Music will motivate you and picking your playlist will make you perform better and can help with workout timing,” Clough says. He suggests getting a playlist ready, and your bluetooth speakers or headphones ready before a workout.

In fact, a 2008
study from Brunels University found that music can improve endurance by 15 percent and help exercisers feel more positive when they are working out at a high intensity and close to physical exhaustion.

3. Get your flooring right 

Carpet or soft gym flooring works best for a home gym, advises Franklin Antoian, one of Shape magazine’s Top 50 Trainers in America and the founder of iBodyFit.com.

“If you’re jumping or doing exercises on your knees, you’ll want soft flooring,” Antoian explains.

When it comes to soft gym flooring, Clough says you can purchase rubber mats, including interlocking ones, at most major warehouse hardware stores. “They will protect your floors and carpets, and more importantly, protect your knees and other joints from impact,” he says.

home gym floor
4. Invest in basic equipment for under $1,000

When it comes to stocking your gym, you can do it for under $1,000, re-assures Clough. Start with some good towels and sanitizing wipes or spray to keep your home gym sanitary. He suggests both hand towels and larger body towels, which can be used for exercises on the floor.

Keep it simple at first with your equipment. Here’s a good list to get you started and suggested by Clough: 3 band tubes with handles and that are light, medium and heavy; dumbbells, 3 to 4 sets that are considered light, medium and heavy for you (i.e. 3 lbs, 7 lbs and 10 lbs); a stability ball, also known as a Swiss ball; a Step, like a Reebok Step with two to three risers or solid hardwood box; a Medicine Ball, which is usually rubber, that’s 4 to 6 pounds; and a jump rope.

You can also get a notebook, exercise wall charts, a white board for exercise tracking and making exercise calendars, Clough suggests.


5. Determine your personal fitness goals

Be realistic here. If you despise running, don’t rush out and buy a treadmill just because most gyms have them, Antoian says. 

Also, When it comes to equipment “try it out first,” suggests Sheri Traxler, M.Ed. 

“Get free week passes to area gyms to try various equipment,” Traxler says. “Try everything — you may not know what you like until you experiment. To what do you find yourself consistently drawn?  Are there brands that fit your body or stride length better?” 

Whether losing weight or gaining muscle is the goal, you will need resistance equipment (a.k.a. dumbbells and resistance bands), Traxler says. “To lose weight, you want to increase your muscle at lease somewhat, which increases your metabolism,” she says. If your goal is to gain a lot of muscle mass, your will need space for either a bar and plate-weights or much heavier dumbbells as your strength increases, she says.

exercise bike for home


6. Consider investing in an exercise bike

If you have room in your budget or your space for one piece of exercise equipment, get a stationary bike, says Barbara Bergin, a MD Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon in Austin, Texas.

“There are many situations which might keep you from using a treadmill or elliptical trainer: lower extremity arthritis or injuries, stress fractures, knee cap problems, back problems and injuries,” she says.

Bergin says she sees more repetitive strain conditions which can be linked to use of treadmills and elliptical trainers. Stationary bikes are also an important part of a rehab program following injuries, illness and surgeries, she says.

7. Put some final touches on the wall

Having some mirrors will help you perfect your form and poses. But Trinity Perkins, an AFAA Certified Personal Trainer and AFPA Certified Nutrition Consultant, suggests also adding some motivational pictures and quotes.

“Also, shades of green, blue and purple are known to be motivational and soothing,” Perkins dishes.

8. Save money at the thrift store

Instead of installing a new flat-screen TV in your workout space, purchase a used TV and DVD player from a thrift store, suggests Traxler.

“Used exercise videos from garage sales and thrift stores are good options versus an online exercise video subscription,” she says. Dumbbells can also be found used.  “I would not consider purchasing used cardio equipment from garage sales, as the electronic parts may break quickly, though,” she says. Also, watch for gym closings or re-modelings to purchase used equipment.  

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