Have you recently started exercising at home? Many people are opting for at-home workouts to stay safe during the pandemic or simply to enjoy some of the benefits that home exercise provides.
For instance, many new parents choose home workouts to avoid the hassle of childcare or simply to spend more time with the kids. Home workouts are more private and convenient than gym or studio workouts and working out at home is almost always cheaper than a health club membership or boutique studio classes.
To make the most of your workout time at home, it’s smart to set up a dedicated space for exercise—your own personalized at-home gym. You don’t need a lot of space or expensive equipment. Depending on your budget, your goals, and your living space, there are smart options for anyone.
How Much Space Do You Need?
The amount of space that you need will greatly depend on what type of workout you plan to do. For example, those who are building a yoga practice will only need a small space in which to lay a mat. But those who are planning to purchase cardio machines or want to do heavy lifting will need substantially more space.
For optimal safety and comfort, try to find an area that provides at least 6 feet by 6 feet of open space. This will allow you to extend your arms fully and move side to side. If you don’t have that much space to start with, you can still perform some exercises. Just be sure that there aren’t any objects in your way that could potentially harm you as you are moving.
The American Council on Exercise provides guidance regarding space needs for different types of equipment.
- Elliptical trainer: 30 square feet
- Free weights: 20 to 50 square feet
- Multi-station gym: 50 to 200 square feet
- Rowing machine: 20 square feet
- Single-station gym: 35 square feet
- Stair climber: 10 to 20 square feet
- Traditional stationary bike: 10 square feet
- Treadmill: 30 square feet
If you are considering a stationary bike like Peloton or SoulCycle, you will probably need 7 to 10 square feet. The bikes measure about 4 feet in length and are about 2 feet wide. Those who use The Mirror to work out at home will only need a wall space of 53 inches (height) by about 21 inches (width).
While The Mirror takes up far less space than traditional workout equipment (and doubles as a wall mirror when not in use) you will still need a space of about 6 feet by 6 feet to do the actual workouts.
Optimizing Your Space
Few people have extra square footage in their home just waiting to be filled with exercise equipment. So if you don’t have an empty room, consider these tips to optimize the space that is already in use.
Inside the House
Think about spaces in your home that are used less often and may have built-in useable features. For example, the area at the base of a staircase can be big enough to do simple calisthenics and the stairs can be used for cardio, or for exercises like an incline or a decline push up or a Bulgarian split squat.
Many people use a bedroom or living room as their workout space, simply because it is the only area available. These areas are also more likely to have a TV or display that you can use to stream a class or a yoga session.
If you have furniture that moves easily, clearing the area is simple. There are many coffee tables and chairs that are on wheels or can be fitted with sliding coasters that make moving them easier.
Outside the House
A small deck or balcony can provide a great outdoor exercise space when the weather cooperates. Store equipment in a weather-proof bin to protect it from rain when not in use.
No space inside your home? See if you can clear out an area of your garage as a dedicated gym. If your car (or cars) take up most of the space, see if you can come up with a small space to store equipment and then when it is time to workout, simply pull one car out onto the driveway to open up an area for exercise.
More Space Considerations
When you start setting up your new home workout space there are a few other things to consider in addition to square footage. Take these factors into consideration when choosing the best place in your home for a gym.
A low ceiling can be problematic for tall exercisers and even for those who are average-height depending on the equipment you plan to use.
For example, if you do any exercises that require jumping or lifting weights over your head, a low ceiling can limit your movements. Also, if you use a treadmill, make sure that you can walk on the treadmill at the highest incline without hitting the ceiling. Some other types of cardio of equipment (like ellipticals or stair climbers) also need a higher overhead clearance.
Ventilation should also be considered when choosing the best spot for your home gym. Try to choose a space that has some air flow, such as a window. At a minimum you can place a fan in a small enclosed space, but if you get sweaty during your workout and there is no circulating air, your space may start to smell musty or grungy (especially if it is carpeted). Using air-fresheners regularly may help.
If you have children in the home, you should ensure that you can store your equipment in a place where the kids can’t get at it. There are numerous published reports about the potential dangers to children when they have unsupervised access to mechanical exercise equipment (treadmills, exercise bikes), weight training equipment (dumbbells, weight plates), and even simple equipment like jump ropes.
Parents who are setting up a home gym may want to choose a room that can be locked or select equipment that won’t pose a danger to children.
You can also choose to store your equipment in a locked closet or locked storage bin.
If your home-gym area is a multi-use space in your home (such as a living room or a bedroom) then you may not want the equipment on display all the time. Take some time to evaluate potential storage spaces, such as behind a couch, or under the bed.
The way you store the equipment may help you determine which equipment to buy. For instance, if you want to build strength by doing workouts in your small bedroom, using resistance bands or body bars may be smarter than purchasing bulkier kettlebells or dumbbells because bands and bars can be rolled under your bed.
What You Need to Get Started
Once you’ve designated a space for your home gym, now you’ll want to select the best equipment for your home workout and design your space so that it inspires you to stay motivated and keep your program consistent.
Consider your budget and your lifestyle to make the best decision for you. While some might opt for a complete home gym, others might find that smaller, more basic items such as ankle weights and resistance bands. In addition, if you plan on getting outside, you can try something fun such as rollerblading to mix up your workout routine.
Basic Set Up
Set up your workout space so that it looks inviting and is always ready to use. Try to keep it tidy and clear of clutter. If your workout space is part of a room, (as opposed to an entire room) you might also want to decorate it so that it seems as “removed” as possible from the rest of the room.
For instance, you might keep your yoga mat down to designate the space as your “workout zone”. You might also want to post a workout schedule or inspiring messages on nearby walls.
What You Need for Different Types of Workouts
The type of equipment you need may depend on the type of training that you participate in and your budget. You can also build a budget-friendly all-purpose home gym with just a few basic tools.
If you plan to do different types of workouts (yoga, cardio classes, strength training) you can set up a basic home gym with a mat, two sets of dumbbells, and a smartphone, tablet, or smart TV to stream online workouts.
Some exercisers may want to add equipment to facilitate specific types of training. Listed below are ideas for different types of equipment based on the type of workout.
Choose one type of equipment from the list below or mix and match different types of resistance.
- Medicine balls
- Resistance bands
Those who have more space may want to add a weight bench, a pull-up bar, and a barbell (with weight plates and collars).
Cardiovascular training can include dance-based classes, HIIT workouts, or sport-specific endurance training. Based on your space availability and budget, consider any of these types of equipment.
- Battle ropes
- Bike trainer
- Folding treadmill
- Full-sized Treadmill
- Indoor cycling bike
- Indoor rower
- Jump rope
- Recumbent bike
Indoor bikes that also stream classes (including workouts off the bike such as strength or yoga workouts) have gained popularity. If your budget allows for the initial investment of the bike and an ongoing membership, you might want to consider Peloton or SoulCycle. The Mirror is another option that is handy for those with limited space.
Yoga, Pilates, Mind Body, Flexibility Training
You don’t need a lot of equipment to practice yoga or participate in other types of mind body experiences. But you may want to designate a quiet area in your home to facilitate quiet introspection. In addition to a yoga mat, consider adding any of these elements to your home practice area.
- Yoga blocks
- Yoga towel
- Yoga straps
Keep in mind that you can stream online yoga classes using an app on your smartphone or tablet. You can also buy a yoga book to guide your practice.
Using Equipment at Home
Once you’ve got your home gym set up, it’s time to put your fitness plan in place. You may find it helpful to schedule your workouts just like you would schedule workout classes or visits to your health club. You might even want to enlist the support of a workout buddy to hold yourself accountable.
Also, keep in mind that using equipment at home is different than using equipment in a full-service health club. There is no staff that will come along and clean your equipment and keep it in good working order. If you invested in mechanical pieces such as a treadmill or stationary bike, follow manufacturer instructions to keep it clean and in good working order. Other workout tools, like a mat, can be cleaned with a disinfectant wipe.
And remember that you don’t need equipment to get a good workout in. So if you’ve chosen not to invest in workout tools when you first begin training at home, you can still get in shape effectively. There are plenty of bodyweight exercises that will build strength and raise your heart rate for cardiovascular fitness.
Tips for Getting Motivated at Home
Staying motivated for home workouts can be tricky. While they are convenient, it is also easy to get distracted with other tasks in your home and postpone the workout indefinitely.
It can also be tricky to get into “gym mode” in a space that is used for a different purpose (for example, right next to your bed, next to a couch, or in the kids’ play room). But you can shift your mindset by playing a workout playlist, Facetiming with a workout buddy, or using incense to prepare your yoga space.
Then use these other tips to keep your plan on track.
- Set short-term and long-term goals. You can use the SMART system to set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Post the goals in a place where you see them every day.
- Set an alarm. Use your smartphone, smartwatch, smart speaker or even an old-school alarm clock to remind you when it is time to exercise. Promise yourself not to use the snooze button
- Dress for success. Wear your workout clothes so that you are ready to exercise when it’s time. Place your outfit out the night before so it is easy to grab in the morning.
- Enlist the help of online challenges for inspiration. Brands like F45 do regular fitness challenges that you can participate in from home. Or set up a workout challenge with friends or coworkers.
Lastly, you might find it helpful to keep a workout journal or log. Not only will it document your success, but it can also help you to address challenges and make changes as needed.
A Word From Verywell
Anyone can set up an effective home gym. You don’t need a lot of space and expensive equipment is not required. With a dose of creativity and clever organization, you can do yoga, cardio, strength training, or other workouts at your convenience. If you’re new to home workouts, start small with basic essentials or bodyweight exercises. Then invest more and add to your gym as you see fit.