No Time for the Gym? No Problem!
Set Up a Home Gym and Get Moving
Most of us know we need to be more physically active and start exercising to improve our health, but the thought of getting a gym membership, battling traffic, and dealing with crowds can be a bit much. And who has the time for the whole gym process every day? The good news is, it may be easier than you think to create a comfortable workout space right in the comfort of your home.
An easy and cost-effective solution is to set up your own home gym. Fortunately with all the options available today, setting up a reliable and safe gym at home doesn’t have to break the bank. Let’s review some of the best ways to set up a home gym and exercise without leaving the house.
Calculate Your Budget
Let’s get the least fun part out of the way first — determining how much you can realistically afford to spend on a home gym.
Keep in mind that buying an entire home gym is less expensive comparatively than it may seem, given that the average cost of a gym membership industry-wide is around $700. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the average person pays $58 a month for a gym membership after taxes and fees are calculated. That doesn’t include, gas, parking, and the value of your time going to and fro.
So spending $700 or more all at once on a complete home gym isn’t that bad, especially considering most people don’t even use their gym memberships. Review how much money you have available that you can safely put towards either a one-time purchase or several smaller purchases. You don’t need to build a gym in one day. You can invest in the basics and add to your workout space over time.
Establish a Space
Budget in hand, take a tour of your house and garage and determine how much space you can dedicate to gym equipment without upsetting your roommates or significant other. Lucky for you, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) has created some general guidelines for how much space you’ll need depending on what type of equipment you’re considering.
- Treadmill: 30 square feet
- Elliptical Trainer: 30 square feet
- Stationary Bike: 10 square feet
- Rowing Machine: 20 square feet
- Stair Climber: 10 to 20 square feet
- Ski Machines: 25 square feet
Resistance Training Equipment
- Free Weights (e.g., dumbbells): 20 to 50 square feet
- Single-Station Gym (e.g., lat pulldown machine): 35 square feet
- Multi-Station Gym: 50 to 200 square feet
Buy the Essentials
Before you buy any type of machine or equipment, there’s one thing you must get first: floor mats. Whether you’ll be exercising on wood, tile, or cement, floor mats protect both the equipment you buy and the floors at home. Trust us when we say that floor mats pay you back many times over.
What you buy next will depend on your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight and get toned, you may consider more cardiovascular-focused equipment. If you want to build muscle mass, then resistance training equipment is what you need.
It’s a good idea to invest in resistance training equipment first, because you can get a cardio workout by running or biking around your neighborhood. Supersetting techniques in weightlifting are also a great form of cardio. If you find that you have a well-stocked resistance training room and there’s room to spare on cardio equipment, then get something like a VersaClimber or multi-purpose cardio machine like an Elliptical Trainer — options that give you something you can’t get outdoors.
Here’s a list of the most basic strength training essentials to consider purchasing for your home gym:
- Bench (opt for the three-direction type: flat, incline, and decline)
- Weight plates (for the barbell)
- Dumbbells (need to save space? Consider the all-in-one dumbbells that go from 10 to 120 pounds in one station)
- Pull-up bar (fits in a door frame)
All of the equipment above will give you access to hundreds of exercises, and it’ll cover all of your basic needs. That simple list is a great place to start. Down the road, you could think about investing in a squat rack, deadlift floor pads, and a cable station for more exercise options.
Buy Used, One Piece at a Time
It’s important to point out that it’s okay to buy used off of Facebook Marketplace, local garage sale groups, or Craigslist. You can find fantastic deals on these sites, and it gives you a chance to customize your gym at your own pace. Don’t be afraid to slowly add to your gym, so long as you’re actually using everything you buy. If you buy something and later find that you don’t use it much, pass it on to someone else working on their own home gym.
Find or Create a Workout
With your spare room, basement, or patio fully stocked with gym equipment, it’s time to get moving. You’ll need a workout plan to begin your fitness journey, and the best place to start — just like with gym equipment — is with the basics.
Compound movements are the foundation of fitness. These are exercises that utilize the greatest number of muscle groups in one sitting. Squats and deadlifts are great examples of this. When you perform a squat, you’re activating your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, hip flexors, lower back, and, to an extent, abdominals. Check out Dr. Nancy Lin’s home workout series, which includes: a beginners’ lower body workout, advanced lower body workout, core exercises, a beginners’ upper body workout, an advanced upper body workout, a cardio plan, yoga basics, and some resistance training exercises.
Here are two beginner-friendly at-home workout programs to get you started:
- Dumbbell or Barbell Back Squat: 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions
- Dumbbell Fly: 3 x 8 – 12
- Romanian Deadlifts: 3 x 10 – 15
- Dumbbell Rows: 3 x 8 – 12
- Weighted Crunches: 4 x 15
- Barbell Deadlifts: 3 x 10 – 12
- Barbell Bench Press: 3 x 8 – 12
- Sumo Squats: 3 x 15
- Barbell Rows: 3 x 8 – 12
- Weighted Russian Twists: 4 x 15
Perform these workouts three times per week, alternating every other day, giving yourself a rest day in between. For example:
- Monday: Workout A
- Tuesday: Rest
- Wednesday: Workout B
- Thursday: Rest
- Friday: Workout A
- Saturday and Sunday: Rest
Home Gyms: Budget-Friendly, Long-Term Investments
A home gym is one of the best long-term health investments you can make, as long as you actually use it. Commercial gyms cost more in the long run, but for some, they offer a higher level of accountability. Be honest with yourself and make your decision based on what will keep you loyal to working out: fitness classes or the community at a gym, or being in your own home gym and playing the theme from Rocky!
If neither of these options work for you — say, the gym isn’t feasible but you don’t have any extra space for equipment in your home — there are still plenty of ways to get a good workout. To do yoga and bodyweight training in your house, all you need is a yoga mat! You can use things around the house for weights too… don’t have a 5 lb weight? Use a bag of potatoes. Whatever you do, make it a priority to get your body moving, consistently, every week.