You should work out. You know it, I know it, they know it. Going to the gym isn’t always practical for time or distance reasons, and while walking and/or jogging is basically free, it’s not always the most pleasant activity if it’s bucketing down rain outside. That’s where a home gym comes into its own.
We’ve previously looked at how you can turn limited spaces into home gyms or alternatively how to transform your garage into a home workout zone, but once you’ve got your spacing decided, you then need to consider the equipment you’re going to install.
Clearly, it’s going to differ a little depending on your fitness goals and workout types, as well as whether you’re going to be exercising exclusively in your home gym. If you only want an area to hit in-between your regular gym sessions, you’ll need less equipment, but remember you can also always start small and scale up. With a little work and moderate investment, it’s possible to wave goodbye to gym fees forever if you find a workout solution that gets you up and active at home.
What to consider when setting up a home gym
Budget: Sure, it sounds obvious, but the reality is you can spend just a little on making a home gym space, or a whole lot. It’s not an absolute correlation that you’ll get better results simply by spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on gym gear, but it’s equally not wise to skimp and buy items that will easily break, which can be either frustrating or in some cases dangerous. Working out how much you want to spend, and how much you can afford to spend is key. Remember that a home gym can expand over time so you don’t have to buy everything all at once. If you are dropping your gym membership in favour of home fitness, the easiest budget measure possible is to simply work out your yearly membership dues, and allocate that as your budget, because it’s money you were already going to spend on your fitness anyway.
Space: You’re constrained by your living arrangements, but it’s best to try to make your home gym area as distraction-free as possible. It’s why the garage or spare room is ideal, because the easiest thing in the world is to ignore the gym gear in the corner – or just use it as an impromptu clothes rack – and watch some more Netflix, but that’s not going to get you fit, just fat. So what do you do if the only space open to you is a shared one? Get creative with how you create your isolation. A simple portable curtain frame (or a projection screen, or any large object) can block out an area so you’re not tempted to do anything but get physical.
Sound: One of the big benefits of a home gym is that you are 100 per cent in control of your choice of exercise music, whether you prefer rapid-fire electronic beats, heavy guitar or the sheer annoyance factor of not being allowed to stop listening to Baby Shark until you’ve done 100 reps. Okay, maybe that last one is a tad excessive, but it’s worth considering your options when it comes to what you want to listen to while you sweat.
If you’re after immersion, consider investing in a good pair of noise cancelling smaller Bluetooth headphones. I’d favour the Beats Powerbeats Pro (you can grab them on Amazon here) but there’s plenty of choice in this category, including many built specifically with workouts in mind. Your other option here is to buy a good quality speaker or speaker setup; something like the Sonos One (which you can grab on Amazon here) can put out a solid sound that will keep you moving, and with the right playlist ready to roll you’ll get better results from simple motivation.
The very basics
Gym mats: You’ve got plenty of choice here, whether you want a simple yoga cool-down mat, a modular system that you clip together and pack away to save space or something in-between. It’s useful to have a defined safe area, and it can also help not only with your own workout, but with simple practical matters like reducing the sound your workout makes if you live in a shared household.
Gym weights and bars: Again, you’ve got plenty of choice here, and much of it depends where you are in your fitness journey and what your goals are. Starting out small with a set of hand weights is fine if you’re chasing more of an aerobic goal, whereas folks who want a more bodybuilder-style approach will need to invest a little more in set weights and bars. Here’s our guide to gym bars if you’re confused about the choice there.
Racks: You can spend a lot on a fancy high-end gym rack, but if you’re just starting out then a simpler and cheaper rack can be fine. Remember that the gym rack can be your gateway to a lot of alternative exercises, and it’s also a way that you can manage solo bench presses in a safer way too. Along with benches, good racks are usually items that people upgrade from, so it’s also worth considering the second-hand market if you want to save a few bucks.
Bench: The bench is the other essential part of your fixed equipment, although “fixed” here is a bit of a misnomer. Better gym benches will allow for quick and easy adjustment, because the last thing you want in the middle of a workout is to want to switch bench positions and have to fiddle with adjustment bolts when you should just be getting down to work. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with starting out with a simple flat bench, and that’s typically the cheapest way to begin your home gym journey.
Jump Rope: One of the simplest (and most affordable) parts of a home gym is the jump rope. Even if you’re concentrating on muscle growth, you shouldn’t ignore the wide range of exercise options that a jump rope workout can offer you.
What about dedicated workout machines?
There’s nothing ostensibly wrong with including items like a treadmill or exercise bike into your home gym. However, these are higher cost items, and they’re generally best if that’s what you were already hitting the gym for in the first place.
If hitting the treadmill while you catch up with podcasts or doing a few kilometres on an exercise bike while Netflix binging on your mobile was already in your exercise queue, then go for it! However, this is a category where equipment does wear out and it can be harder to sell it later if you outgrow its capabilities as a result.
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