Let’s face it — the gym isn't for everyone, and if you’re not a fan of crowds, packed parking lots or equipment christened by other people’s sweat, training at home could be your dream come true. The good news is that building a decent home gym is easier than ever, and the key to creating the perfect training space is selecting the equipment that best suits your goals, your space and your budget.
Check out these four spatial scenarios and their associated equipment suggestions. Then mix and match the gear from any of them to create a gym perfectly tailored for you. Hello instant workouts, goodbye excuses!
The Tiny House
Whether you literally live in a dollhouse on wheels or a studio apartment, you need to equip your space carefully to ensure that your gear doesn’t double as furniture. Portable, multifunctional equipment is best here so you can set up anywhere and get your sweat on.
A suspension trainer leverages your own bodyweight for resistance, and simply changing your angle or body position can modify any exercise to make it harder or easier. And because the trainer is just a simple set of straps and handles, it hardly takes up any square footage in a drawer or cabinet.
No room for a rack of dumbbells? Then invest in a set of resistance bands. They are cheap and versatile and can be used in place of dumbbells or barbells for just about every move you can think of. Purchase a few different “weights” to give yourself options during training.
Not everyone has the space (or the money) for a treadmill or elliptical trainer, but truth be told, you don’t need a machine to get your sweat on. Jumping rope is one of the most time- and space-efficient ways to burn a ton of calories while building endurance and cardiovascular fortitude.
Sample Tiny House Setup*
TRX Suspension Trainer
$200 (includes 1-year premium membership)
$90, 16 kg (35lb)
Crossrope Speed LE Set
Total Investment: $400-500
* All prices are estimates; cost will vary by brand.
Either perform this workout using straight sets to build strength or create a heart-pumping circuit by doing the moves back-to-back with no rest in between for two to three rounds.
Banded Bird Dog
10-15 (each side)
Kettlebell Lateral Lunge to Press
10-15 (each side)
Kettlebell Reverse Lunge to Windmill Press
10 (each side)
TRX Atomic Push-Up
The Suburbanite Setup
Out in the ’burbs, you have a little more room to kick around, and here a guest room or den can easily double as your workout space. In addition to being able to house all the suggested Tiny House gear, you are more at liberty to expand your equipment horizons. However, your space still needs to be multifunctional and neat with equipment that can be collapsed or hidden away when company calls.
Unless you’re planning on using your flat bench for extra seating at the dinner table, you’ll want to be able to stash it when your in-laws are in town. Most foldable benches collapse completely flat and can be rolled underneath a bed or hidden in the back of a closet.
Parallel Training Bars
Though they look simple, a set of parallel bars can be used for hundreds of strength moves, and they are appropriate for exercisers of all levels. Perform moves such as dips, push-ups, L-sits and leg raises, as well as stretches and mobility training.
If you don’t have the wall space to house a bulky rack of weights, then an adjustable dumbbell set is a must-have. This system allows you to change your weight up or down in increments, and when not in use, it can be stashed in the corner without
Sample Suburbanite Setup
Pro Series Expandable (5-50 lb)
Deck Folding Bench
Parallel Training Bars
Spinner L5 Spin Bike
Total Investment: $1,375
Perform as many reps as you can of each move in 30 seconds and rest minimally between exercises. Cycle (or do another form of cardio) for five minutes at a moderately intense pace, then rest one minute. Complete two to three rounds.
Lateral Dumbbell Step-Up to Overhead Press
Flat-Bench Dumbbell Press
Dumbbell Rear-Leg Elevated Split Squat
Bent-Over Two-Arm Dumbbell Row
Stability-Ball Hamstring Curl
Let’s face it — no one uses their garage for cars anymore, and besides, who doesn’t want the kind of fitness space that spills out into the driveway and makes the neighbors jealous? With this setup, you bring some of the niceties of a commercial facility into your own domain and will never have to share a chalk-crusted power rack again.
Great Garage Gear
CrossFit Home Gym Package
Even if you’re not into CrossFit WODs, a setup such as this delivers all the equipment bells and whistles in a single package, and usually at a lower price point than if you were to purchase all the items separately. Depending on the company, a package might include barbells, a rack, bumper plates, a rowing machine, a climbing rope, rings, medicine ball(s) and more.
Whether you used to have cars in there or not, most garage floors are less than pristine, with oil stains, outdoor grime and (yipe!) spiders. A puzzle-piece rubberized floor is easy to install, allowing you to rise above the grit while also giving you the option of easy removal if you decide your car indeed needs shelter.
A solid plyo box is an incredible in-home tool and can be used to train your whole body with or without weight. Step-ups, dips, box jumps and endless plyometric drills are at your fingertips.
When choosing a large piece of equipment such as a stationary bike, treadmill or rowing machine, consider the footprint (how much space it will take up), whether it can be easily accessed for maintenance or adjustments, and what is in your line of sight when you use it. Because it won't matter how many bells and whistles it has if all you have to look at is a blank wall.
Sample Garage Girl Setup
Foldable Wall-Mount Rack
CrossFit Home Gym Package
Superbands (Pull-Up Package)
Rogue Echo Bike
$1,000 - $1,500
Total Investment: $5,230 - $5,730
After a thorough warm-up, complete as many rounds and reps as possible (AMRAP) of the following workout in 25 minutes. Record your score and try to beat it next time.
Overhead Barbell Squat
The She Shed
If you’re lucky enough to have a no-limit budget, get your gym out of the house and into its own space. This custom setup includes state-of-the-art equipment that collects all your metrics, integrating on-demand boutique studio classes (such as those offered by Peloton and Technogym) and your own biostats to help you maintain motivation and track your progress.
The Bells and Whistles
Enjoy the intensity and camaraderie of a group fitness class — without leaving your home. Peloton offers more than 90 live weekly classes that range from five to 90 minutes and that are led by some of the most popular instructors around. See your realtime metrics, such as heart rate, cadence and output, and then compare them with others who are virtually working out with you.
There are a bevy of options (and price points) for this kind of equipment, so look for a product that allows you to perform a multitude of your favorite exercises. If you can see the machine in person, test it out and make sure everything locks securely and that all moving parts glide smoothly.
This incredible piece of equipment gives you a treadmill, a sled and a parachute trainer all in one. It provides guided workouts and a large touch screen, and an easy-to-reach toggle makes increasing and decreasing speed and intensity a snap.
Sample She Shed Setup
Peloton Works Package
$2,500 (membership not included)
Dumbbell Set and Rack
Multifunction Smith/Cable Machine
Rubberized Plate Set
Medicine-Ball Set and Rack
$640 (8 balls, 6-20 lb)
BOSU Elite Balance Trainer
Yoga Mat, Blocks, Foam Rollers, Resistance Bands
$150 - $200
$1,000 - $2,000
Total Cost: $22,395 - $23,515
Choose a light to moderate weight for the strength moves, and work at 70 to 75 percent max effort during the cardio intervals. Rest 30 to 60 seconds between strength moves, and complete the workout two times through.
Cable Single-Legged Deadlift to Row
15 (each side)
Cable Squat to Woodchop
15 (each side)
Smith-Machine Hip Thrust
Dumbbell Flat Bench Press
BOSU Side Shuffle
Want to outfit your home gym like a pro? Come to the IDEA World Convention July 8-12, 2020, in Anaheim, California, to test-drive the latest and greatest in fitness equipment on the expo floor! ideafit.com
Making the Grade
Fitness equipment comes in different “grades” based on how much it is going to be used, and most large companies make multiple versions of the same piece: home, light commercial and full commercial. Home-grade equipment is typically the cheapest and will withstand consistent use by one or two people, at most. The light commercial version is more reliable and will have the sturdier feel of a piece you’d find at your local gym or box. A full commercial piece is an absolute necessity for anyone planning on having multiple people use it throughout the day — for example, if you’re setting up a small studio to train clients or have a number of friends chipping in on it.
Also, beware of the crappy stuff. “The biggest mistake people make when buying equipment online is not knowing the quality of the source,” says Ron Martin, sales manager at FitOne Fitness. Purchase from companies with a reputable name in the commercial and studio gym settings, even if you’re buying the home version of their gear. If you already train at a gym, you will recognize the more reputable names such as Precor, Life Fitness, Freemotion, Hammer Strength, York, Rogue, Perform Better and TRX. If it’s been a while since you had a membership and you’re unsure what is best at present, consult a specialized fitness equipment store and sales staff (steer clear of big chains) to steer you in the right direction, or attend a fitness conference expo and try