Exercising on a regular basis is an essential part of staying fit and healthy, but sometimes finding the motivation to go to the gym can be tricky. Creating a space in your home that can be used as a home gym will make working out more convenient. Whether your workout involves yoga, lifting weights, Pilates, cardio, bodyweight exercises, or another type of fitness, it’s entirely possible to create a budget-friendly and beautiful home gym in a compact space.
We asked fitness bloggers, personal trainers, and studio managers for their best home gym ideas, including how to design a home gym, what types of equipment to include, and how to invest in your fitness without spending a fortune.
Home Gym Decor and Design Ideas
Before you start buying equipment, it's important to determine where your gym will be located. A basement or garage is a natural choice because these areas tend to stay cooler and cement flooring drowns out noise, but a spare room or even a corner can also make a great workout zone.
“If you love to have super intense and empowering strength-based workouts, set up a squat rack in your garage, buy chalk for your hands, and get rubber plates you can drop," says Body Acceptance and Confidence Coach Jessi Kneeland. “If you love to have relaxing and flow/yoga-based workouts, set aside a part of your home to be your yoga sanctuary and fill it with things that make you happy like incense or candles, beautiful decor, and yoga blocks and straps. Set up whatever will make you most excited to go into that space and move your body.”
Measure the dimensions of the space to ensure you have enough room to move around and access your equipment. Generally speaking, you'll need a minimum of 20 square feet to use free weights, 30 square feet for treadmills, and 50+ square feet for more than one machine. “Measure ceiling height to ensure that any weight training equipment or cardio equipment can fit into your fitness room,” says personal trainer Kathy Ekdahl.
Your home gym can be as elaborate or plain as you like. The goal is to create a zone that will motivate you to achieve your fitness goals. Consider adding:
A 1/2" thick mat
Fresh paint, posters, or artwork
Wireless speakers or sound system
A/C unit or fan
A full-length mirror
The most important thing is to let your space reflect what you want and need from a workout, so customize it based on the fitness goals you hope to achieve. "I personally love mirrors, both because it provides accurate feedback about what your body is doing in space and because the aesthetic makes me think fondly of dance classes," says Kneeland, "but I know plenty of people who feel self-conscious in front of them. I think the key is to discover what works for you, what makes you happy and feel excited to go into that space and move."
Choose a paint color that evokes the mood you hope to set in your home gym. A bold color like orange or red can encourage a high-energy workout. If your practice is all about stretching and grounding, consider an off-white or a pastel to evoke feelings of calm. Weight-lifters might choose a shade of blue, as blue is associated with productivity. “You'll need to stay inspired, because let's face it: we don't always feel like working out. So, add a motivating poster or quote to your wall that will help get you started or keep you going," says IanFitness Owner Ian Weinberg. "One of my favorites is: ‘Don't stop when you're tired. Stop when you're done.'”
“I decorated the Pilates studio in Exclusive Plum from Sherwin Williams. It's possibly my favorite color of all time," says Absolute Pilates Owner Allison Zang. "I think you need to pick something that balances the need for energy and zen. You want the space to move you.”
Home Gym Ideas for a Small Space
Whether you’re working with an apartment, condo, or otherwise limited space, you can make it an enjoyable place to exercise by customizing it based on what you hope to achieve.
“Don't overcrowd the space you have allotted for your gym," says Dark Iron Fitness Operations Manager Alex. "Place your equipment in a thoughtful layout to maximize space and utility. If your gym is too cluttered, you’ll neglect equipment; therefore resulting in the negligence of your workouts.”
Storage is your best friend for a compact home gym. Fitness racks can be used to store dumbbells, resistance bands, and any other gear you possess. Used towels can be thrown in a hamper. Cube storage and foldable bins can help you get organized and cut down on clutter.
“Always have open areas available for bodyweight and free weight exercises, stretching, or yoga," says Ekdahl. And not only are mirrors helpful for keeping an eye on form, technique, and mechanics, they can also make a small space appear larger. It is very important to make sure you have enough room for exercise and other movements in your home gym.
Home Gym Equipment on any Budget
What equipment should every home gym have? That depends on your workout of choice and your budget. High-end fitness equipment can be a great investment, but there are also plenty of exercises you can do at home without equipment using bodyweight or inexpensive gear. Our fitness experts recommend a combination of both.
"Bodyweight movements and variations thereof are always one of the best starting points for in-home workouts," says Dr. Joel Seedman of Advanced Human Performance. "Not only are they practical and easy to perform anywhere, but they offer incredible variety, progressions, and regressions. For instance, begin with bodyweight squats, progress to squat jumps, single leg squats, single leg squat jumps, and eventually weighted versions of all of these with light dumbbells or kettlebells. Other moves that can be performed in a similar fashion include pushups (single leg, hand clap, feet elevated), lunges, lateral lunges, glute bridges (double or single leg), planks (single leg, single arm, feet up, arms on ball, or a combo of all these), and side planks."
"Resistance bands are versatile, inexpensive, and work well for single-joint movements," says Strength Coach Tony Bonvechio. "Foam rollers are also cheap and can help ease sore muscles while improving mobility."
"The best cardio is done outside," says Bonvechio. "We could all use more fresh air, so walking, running, or biking outside should be your first option."
“High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been clinically proven to be a big bang for your buck for those in a hurry who want to get a good workout in," says Zang.
“By simply performing your strength training movements in a high-intensity fashion, using strict form and short rest periods, this will provide a significant cardiovascular and conditioning stimulus,” says Dr. Seedman. "Movements such as jump rope, mountain climbers, high knees in place, kettlebell swings, burpees, squat jumps, marching planks, and bear crawls will create an enormous metabolic spike and cardio effect.”
Weights & Equipment
“Your home gym basics for under $100: Kettlebell, jump rope, yoga mat, foam roller, and stopwatch," says Weinberg. "Get your hands on these and you can really make a massive impact on your health and fitness without taking up too much space or real estate from your bank account."
"Start with simple free weights like dumbbells and kettlebells so you can load the basic full body movements," says Bonvechio. "Once you've outgrown these items, invest in a barbell and some plates so you can keep adding weight and getting stronger."
"The best tips for safe weightlifting are as follows: start at your own pace, do not ego-lift, use a spotter, control the weight both with each rep and each set, and finally, if you see it suitable, purchase some weightlifting accessories that can provide the support you need," says Alex.
"Video yourself periodically, then compare it to the proper technique shown from a trusted expert you have contacted or can follow online," says Dr. Seedman.
"My go-to equipment recommendations for in-home workouts include exercise bands (several band tensions for variety), moderate weight dumbbells, one medium-weight kettlebell, and a stability ball (optional)," says Dr. Seedman. "With such equipment, the trainee can literally perform hundreds of exercises and movements to target the entire body from head to toe while simultaneously increasing caloric expenditure to a significant degree. Moves such as bent-over rows, squats, overhead presses, weighted lunges, tricep extensions, bicep curls (stand on a single leg for the enhanced difficulty and increased motor unit recruitment/stabilization components), lateral raises, chest presses, and more can be done."
“The most important piece of home gym equipment is the piece you will actually use," says Weinberg. Filling your home gym with the equipment you are comfortable using will be beneficial to you, and help you reach your fitness goals.”
“Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are your best friend," says Bonvechio. "There are always people selling used fitness equipment for an affordable price.”
“It is often better to invest in higher-quality equipment and accessories so you don’t run into quality issues down the road," says Alex. "Look for brands that offer strong warranties and amazing customer service. Remember, this is an investment in your health, future, and safety.”
“Subscribe to a website, app, or coaching service with a variety of workouts and classes and you have an option with minimal requirements for equipment," says Zang. "I love the Peloton treadmill app and Pilates Anytime.”
“Do spend the money to get trained on how to use this equipment properly," says Ekdahl. "Engaging with a personal trainer may be your best investment, rather than the equipment you don't know how to use."
Whether you'll be doing cardio, weights, or another form of exercise, a home gym can be an inexpensive and accessible way to get a proper workout. You don't need a massive space to design a home gym, and no matter the size, you can create an organized and well-decorated area that will encourage you to return again and again. Looking online is a great way to get inspired about working out, so make sure to follow your favorite trainers, bloggers, coaches, and experts for tips and motivation. You'll reach your fitness goals in no time!
Author bio: Jennifer Karami is a writer at Redfin, a technology-enabled real estate brokerage. Redfin’s mission is to redefine real estate in the customer’s favor.