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

The Wrap-Up

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.

~Thomas 🏋️‍♀️

WANT TO ENSURE YOU’RE BEING EFFECTIVE IN THE GYM AND GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR WORKOUTS? WE CAN HELP YOU WITH YOUR FORM AND PROGRAM DESIGN SO YOU CAN MAXIMIZE YOUR RESULTS.

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I originally joined JKC because I was anxious about passing out and embarrassing myself since I hadn’t weight trained in a while and I’d hoped to find somewhere sympathetic. My husband @terry_hussey had been training at JKC and his success there made me miss the achievement you feel from a good workout. I went to meet Jon and immediately knew it was going to be a safe space for me. I was never judged for the fears I had and where I was starting from. Jon and Thomas made sure to check on me often, and found a way to challenge me but make me feel secure at the same time, and Terry and I were able to book sessions together, so working out became a shared win for us!

JKC is different from other gyms because of the personal growth you have outside JKC (the sessions inside JKC creates a great positive feedback loop!). You gain self confidence, learn how to show up for yourself, meet a community of newfound friends, and get the support of your trainers who are behind you 100%. I’ve left a scattered workout so proud of myself I’ve honestly shed a tear in the car on the drive home. JKC is the mental health relief valve I need to stay positive, and keep my anxiety and health related fears at bay.

I had virtually no real experience using weights and felt intimidated going gyms. I avoided gym-goers using free weights, especially when hearing that loud crash, as they would drop weights to the floor. I thought this was to show everyone around them that they owned that area and that I shouldn’t go anywhere near! So I guess I just wanted to learn how to lift weights safely in a gym environment.

I spent over 18 years in the British Military, so I got to use some nice gyms. 99% of my time and experiences in those gyms was spent doing cardiovascular workouts, because I could just jump on a treadmill, plug in my head phones and do my own thing! JKC is different, because they have given me the confidence to use free weights and equipment that I had feared for years. Their demonstrations and knowledge is impeccable and I thank them for their continuous belief and support they show me at every session.

cas dyke

I started training at JKC in 2016 because I had built up a number of muscle imbalances from old injuries and activities like rock climbing which had led to some really bad posture and mobility issues. On top of that some friends had convinced me to sign up for a half-ironman. Working with Jon and Thomas was a way to pull my body back into alignment and make sure it wouldn’t fall apart during my race. The staff at JKC pride themselves on continuously advancing their knowledge, which leads to new and inventive way to address problems, old and new. I got my Dad to start training here and recommended JKC to all looking to improve their strength and fitness.

I chose JKC originally to help prevent rowing injuries. I’m a rower and we won the St. John’s Regatta in 2019 but I rowed through a rib stress fracture and missed significant time in the boat during the racing season. Training at JKC consistently since the pandemic helped me stay injury free this year and made me the strongest I’ve ever felt, which helped me help my team win the 2021 St. John’s Regatta! Jon adds variety and mixes the exercises up well so that the workout goes by quickly and strength is gained. The gym is very personable and I like the eclectic mix of people that are there. JKC is much more intimate and personal than other gyms.

JKC is different from other gyms/fitness regimes I have tried in the past because of my level of comfort with the facility and other JKC clients and the amount of knowledge both Jon and Thomas demonstrate through personal attention to form, core development and overall strength is outstanding. JKC is by far the best training hands on attention that I’ve experienced period and I have experienced many over a lifetime of activity and playing various sports. The facility has everything you require plus, as you will learn there are many ways to use every piece of equipment and Jon and Thomas are very creative! There are many age groups and professions who attend this gym from elite athlete’s to the rest of us and the casual but focused atmosphere in the gym makes each visit interesting, friendly and challenging at all levels.

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