By Thomas King, MSc, CK, CSCS
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the craze of working out from the comfort of your own home has taken the fitness industry by storm. Lately, it seems like everyone is trying to set-up their own home gym.
While setting up a quality home gym may seem like a fairly straight forward task, in many cases, people will find that they end up purchasing items they do not need and missing items that they do need. Presented below are the steps I would follow for setting up a great home gym as well as some tips and tricks that I have learned over the past couple years.
Assess Your Needs
This one seems simple enough but not a lot of people sit down and do it and as a result, they end up spending money on items they will rarely/never use. For example: if your goal is working on the powerlifts (squat, bench press, and deadlift) a squat rack with safeties (you’ll be training alone!!) and a barbell + plates are a necessity. For this set-up, you may be tempted to add some dumbbells but many great powerlifting programs do not require any dumbbells.
How about if your goal is to strength train for running? A runner does not need a squat rack, barbell, or plates and can likely get away with some adjustable dumbbells, resistance bands, and an exercise ball. Most running focused exercises use these pieces of equipment.
The bottom line: Dedicate time to sit down and assess your fitness goals. The pieces of equipment you will need will be dictated by these goals.
Assess Your Space
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a large space available for their home gym. This will have a serious impact on what you can purchase and comfortably fit in the space. For example: a treadmill has a foot print of about 4 feet x 10 feet. If your home gym space is a spare bedroom, this will likely be close to 1/3 of the entire room. In this case I would instead consider a more space efficient spin bike. The foot print here is generally only 2 feet by 4 feet.
Consider as well, the height of the room you will be using for your gym. You may want to overhead press, does the room have roof clearance for you to do a standing overhead press or will you need to be seated for it? Consider this as well if you plan to purchase a squat rack. Many squat racks come in heights 8 feet tall and above. This is likely too high for most houses. Consider looking for a rack that the company advertises as for “home gym” use. These are often shorter, generally about 6 feet high.
Where to Purchase Gym Equipment
This one comes back to your needs analysis. The equipment you need will dictate where it is purchased from. Stores like: Wal-Mart, Winner’s and Sportchek will likely have all the resistance bands and exercise balls that you will need. Chances are, you can find a good quality treadmill/spin bike for home use at Canadian Tire (make sure you wait until it goes on sale!). If you are looking for plates, barbells, or squat racks, you will likely be ordering from somewhere online. Consider when you are ordering that buying from a company in Canada will be much cheaper than an American one. Some places where I have ordered equipment are: Bells of Steel, Fitness Avenue, and Treadmill Factory.
When accumulating equipment, make sure you regularly check places like Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace. People are always selling fitness equipment that they thought they needed because they didn’t assess their needs first! Finally, when it comes time to buy equipment, I wouldn’t advise buying all of it straight away. Instead, start with what you would consider your most “crucial” items and let the gym build from there. Some items that you may consider buying when setting up a basic home gym are:
- Adjustable Dumbbells: Brands such as PowerBlock or Bowflex make popular adjustable dumbbells
- Resistance Bands: These can be long bands or short bands. The long bands are useful for exercises such as: lat pulldowns, rows, triceps pressdowns and many more. The short bands are useful for many different glute and core exercises
- Swiss Ball: A good swiss ball is useful for many different core exercises, plus, if a bench isn’t in your budget, you can use it for dumbbell bench presses and other lying exercises
- Exercise Mat: These are pretty cheap and you won’t have to lie directly on the floor if you would rather avoid that
Setting up your home gym is supposed to be a fun process. After all, if you don’t enjoy setting it up, chances are, you won’t enjoy using it either. While the task may seem daunting at first, if you follow steps I have listed and pay attention to the tips, you should have no trouble settling up a quality gym for a reasonable price that will meet your training needs for years to come.