How to design the home gym of your dreams
By Jeff Howard
During this challenging time, many of us are missing our normal fitness routine and visits to the gym. Since we must stay indoors, now is a perfect time to begin finding space for your very own home gym, whether it’s a whole room or just a nook.
The biggest mistake people make is thinking that they’ll get in shape simply by spending money on a bunch of great equipment. For that reason, I usually suggest that people start off a home gym project on a smaller scale, and then build upon it if and when you are actually making use of it and enjoying it.
Here are my suggestions for planning out and buying essentials for your own family-friendly home gym:
Where to Put your Gym
The first thing to decide is where you want to set up your home gym. Basements, spare bedrooms, offices and garages can all make for an excellent workout space. I want you to consider what types of things you’ll want to do as far as working out in that space. If you’ll be using weights, do you have the right type of floors? Are the ceilings high enough for what you want to do? Is there an electric outlet in case you want to add anything that requires power?
Equipment You’ll Need
There are a few pieces of equipment that can be essential to most home gyms. The key is to only add pieces that will help you get the most out of a variety of exercise routines. While some may go all out and add several types of machines, chances are that most of these will take up valuable space and go to waste. Make sure the equipment you choose fits a variety of needs.
Here are my suggested items to help get any home gym going:
Mats, rubber flooring or carpeting: Since a lot of your workout will be floor-based exercises, consider the type of flooring you have and make sure it’s comfortable on the body. You’ll be using free weights, dumbbells, kettlebells or maybe a yoga mat so your floor is important.
Tubing or resistance bands: These are a great tool and can be utilized for several different exercises. You can strap them to a door or wrap them around a machine. They take up little space, come in different tensions and are not too costly.
Dumbbells: The exercises you can do with dumbbells are endless, so they are worth investing in. Purchase three to five sets in a range of weights to accommodate for different exercises and for the strength you will be gaining.
Barbell and weight plates: Your home gym, of course, would not be complete without a barbell. Like other free weights, barbells are much better than the machines at the gym because of the stabilization and coordination aspects they bring to your workouts. Now, you need some weight to put on that bar! Buy a variety of sizes: 2.5 lb., 5 lb., 10 lb., 25 lb. and, if you are fairly strong, 45 lb. plates.
Utility bench and/or stability ball: A simple padded bench can be utilized for many upper-body and lower-body exercises and is a great complement to any free weights you might have. A Swiss Ball or stability ball is another great option as it can be used very similarly. Utilize your bench as a functional training tool for hamstring curls, glute bridges, squats, core exercises and more.
Your favorite cardio piece: If one of your priorities is weight loss or improved cardiovascular health, then you may want to consider adding an elliptical, treadmill, stationary bike or rower. Just be sure that whatever you choose is a good fit for your space. To save money, call your local gyms to find out if they have a used one they are replacing. On a tight budget, a jump rope will do the job.
Suspension trainers (TRX): Systems that involve straps that you can attach to ceilings, doors or support beams allow your body weight to become your resistance. They are relatively inexpensive when you consider the variety and overall number of exercises you can do with them. And much like resistance bands, they take up little to no space.
Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors: They serve a couple of valuable purposes when it comes to having them in your home gym. Mirrors are helpful in watching for any problems you might have with proper form. Doing squats, lunges, etc. in front of a mirror can help with correction and alignment. Also, they can make a space feel bigger and brighter.
Music/TV: Working out to your favorite music is key to getting you motivated! Having a TV is great for following a workout from a fitness channel or video. It can also be the perfect opportunity to catch up on the news or your favorite “Real Housewives” show.
Equipment for a Tight Budget
Having a gym in your house can be a perfect solution to making fitness a priority for you and your family. In the midst of this pandemic, take care of your physical and mental health. Schedule times to work out at home and stay healthy and well. V
Jeff Howard is a world-renowned fitness presenter who resides in Louisville. He also serves as promotional director of fitness for Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center.
Where to Buy
Sporting goods stores that are delivering equipment or offering curbside pickup
Play It Again Sports – Louisville East
291 Hubbards Lane, #105
Deliveries and curbside pickup available. Call the store between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
282 N. Hubbards Lane
Free delivery and installation on select items.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, Oxmoor
7900 Shelbyville Road
Curbside contactless pickup for online orders available Saturdays and Sundays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Academy Sports + Outdoors, Middletown
13401 Shelbyville Road, #140
Curbside pickup available.