How to build the best home gym
Tired of paying top dollar for a gym membership? Through with spending ages in rush hour traffic only to wait in endless lines for an exercise machine? If the idea of saving money and time sounds appealing, maybe it’s time to set up a gym in the comfort of your own home. And the great news is, you can get the same quality workout without spending wads of cash or even needing a lot of space.

We want to make sure you have everything you need for a home gym, so you’ll never have an excuse to skip a workout. Here’s what to consider if you’ve decided to set up a home gym of your very own.

How much does it cost to build a home gym?

Right now, you’re probably picturing a fully stocked room lined with dumbbells, a treadmill and expensive equipment. While you can absolutely spend big on machines if you have the money and the space, the truth is, you really don’t need all that much to build a home gym.

Having clear fitness goals will help you plan how much you’re willing and able to spend. If you’ve always been a gym rat and love spending hours on the weight bench, you might have to save up for the right equipment. If you prefer gentler exercises like Pilates, you won’t need to spend as much.

With an established fitness plan, you can determine what you’ll actually need vs. what you simply want. Sometimes the hardest part is deciding what not to buy! Carve out money from your regular budget to see what you can afford. You can always save up for extras later, so your best bet is to start small with necessities and add or upgrade as you go.

How do I build a home gym using the space I have?

The easiest way to set up a gym at home is to work with what you’ve got. If you have a small office or a spare room that you can put to better use, by all means transform it into a dedicated exercise area! Or, if you live in a smaller home like an apartment, it’s as easy as adjusting an area (like your living room) to double as a workout space. Before you start setting up, however, there are a few things to think about:

  1. Training type. A yoga enthusiast has different needs than someone who’s into getting their gains from strength training, since a rolled-up yoga mat takes up less space than a training bench and full set of weights. Customize your space and equipment to suit your favourite way of getting fit.
  2. Safety. Keep your workout area clear of distractions and clutter to prevent accidents. Make sure weight-bearing items like step risers and weight racks are solid and secure. Have kids? Even a cheap set of light dumbbells can cause serious injury to a child, so store your equipment safely away at all times.
  3. Atmosphere. If you love your workout space, you’ll be more motivated to get off the couch and break a sweat. Prefer a zen vibe? Go for a light and airy space with serene lighting and calming plants. Into a style that’s a little more “man cave?” Throw up some posters
  4. Storage. If you’re short on space, spend a little cash on furniture with hidden storage – like an ottoman with a removable “lid,” or drawers you can slide into a shelving unit. This will give you somewhere dedicated to store your weights, resistance bands and other smaller equipment.
  5. Flooring. Most people wouldn’t consider specialized flooring a must-have in a home gym. But, it does add an extra measure of security if you’ve got slippery floors, and comfort if you do a lot of floor work. It also prevents damage to your floors and equipment, plus it keeps carpets clean. Interlocking foam or rubber tiles are a great option, since they can be taken apart and set aside if you need the floorspace for something else. And for condo- and apartment-dwellers, this stackable, storable flooring absorbs shock and sound if you’re concerned about disturbing your neighbours.
Tip: Hanging a mirror in your workout space allows you to watch your movements to make sure you’re practising correct form. Doing an exercise the right way is important when it comes to both working your muscles properly and preventing injury.

What equipment do I need for a home gym?

The equipment you buy will really depend on your fitness goals. If you have a bit more to spend and are looking for an all-in-one piece of equipment, give these popular items a test drive at your local fitness equipment store:

  1. Smart bike (like a Peloton). A revamped version of the classic cardio cycling bike, this unit has a built-in screen with live classes, thousands of on-demand rides and elite instructors.
  2. Elliptical. Work your total body with this all-in-one unit.
  3. Regular cycling bike. More affordable than a smart bike, a cycling bike gets your heart rate up in no time
  4. Treadmill. This old standard can be bulky, but you can get your daily jog in even in the worst weather.
  5. Adjustable weight training bench. Use it to get in a great upper body workout. You can also purchase models that allow you to work your lower body.

A good move – especially if you’re on a budget – is to start with quality, cost-effective basics. Only buy what you know you’ll use often, and upgrade later if you want to. Here are five pieces of home gym equipment basics that you can get for under $100 each:

  1. Dumbbells. These are a must for any home gym. The heaviness of the weights you buy will depend on your fitness level.
  2. Exercise mat. You’ll need one of these to do any type of floor exercise comfortably. Look for a thicker mat if you do a lot of yoga or Pilates.
  3. Resistance bands. Inexpensive, lightweight and easy to store, these stretchy bands can help you tone and tighten without fancy equipment.
  4. Kettlebells. Kettlebells are extremely versatile. Exercises like swings and Turkish get-ups get your cardio in, and the bells can be used for traditional strength training as well.
  5. Jump rope. This schoolyard throwback is a fun, equipment-free way to get your heart rate up fast.

Don’t discount the effectiveness of bodyweight exercises if you want to get your cardio in without going outside or buying a pricey piece of equipment. High intensity interval training (or HIIT), for example, uses your bodyweight to get your heart pumping by alternating short, intense bursts of activity with even shorter rest periods. And, most HIIT workouts typically take less than 30 minutes. HIIT is a serious time saver, requires little space and you don’t need any equipment – it’s a win-win-win!

When you’ve saved up some cash or you’re ready to go bigger, think about adding the following items to your collection:

  1. Barbells. Perfect for cross training, the removeable plates can also be used in place of kettlebells and medicine balls.
  2. Adjustable dumbbells. These are all-in-one dumbbells that take up less space than regular weights and can be adjusted with a removeable pin.
  3. Equipment rack. Use one to store your dumbbells, kettlebells and other accessories all in one place.
  4. Step platform. This handy piece of equipment can work as both a bench press for traditional exercises, or as a platform for step-up and jumping moves.
  5. Stability ball. Hop on this inflatable ball to work your abs, arms and even your glutes.
Tip: Stay away from gimmicky, as-seen-on-tv-style equipment. These products make lofty claims to attract those looking for quick results, but they don’t really work.

How do I build a home gym workout routine – and stick to it?

We totally understand that switching to a home gym is a big transition. Some enjoy the structure of group classes at the gym and love the socializing that comes with it. And, it’s all too easy to get distracted at home by your computer, phone, or rambunctious kids. Planning workouts from scratch can also be daunting – how do you know where to start? We want to address a couple of the most common concerns people have when switching to home workouts.

How do I create a structured workout at home that targets my goals?

These days, you can find apps and online programs designed for all types of at-home exercise – cardio, Pilates, postpartum, stretching, you name it. They typically don’t cost much (some are even free), and most allow you to purchase pre-planned programs that have unlimited use. You can also save up and splurge on a few sessions with a personal trainer. They can teach you proper form and help you design your workouts to get you started on your own.

Important note: Always consult a healthcare professional before starting an exercise routine to ensure it’s safe for you.

How do I stay motivated to work out at home?

Create a routine by scheduling exercise into your weekly calendar, even if you have to start small with, for example, a 10-minute workout a few times a week. Fun and variety are also key – if you’re bored, you’re more likely to quit or not even start at all. Reward yourself after a week of success with a night out at the movies, or a new book. If you find it tough to get motivated on your own, invite a friend over a few times a week. Having another person there keeps you accountable.

If you have trouble keeping track of your activity, a wearable fitness device is a great way to measure your progress. Basic models monitor your vitals and the quality of your sleep, and count your steps and periods of general activity. Fancier trackers have additional features for cyclists and runners and can be used on indoor machines as well. Most fans of these “smart watches” will tell you that wearing a tracker motivates them to be more active. Seeing your progress in black and white will give you an ego boost and push you to work even harder!

Did you know? If a fitness tracker is a bit beyond your budget right now, there are apps available that can do many of the same things a tracker can do.

Is my home gym covered by my insurance?

Even if you’ve splurged on costly equipment, if your home gym is strictly for personal use it should be covered by your standard home insurance policy under your personal belongings limit, up to a certain amount (unless your policy has specific exclusions for this type of equipment). Remember, if you hurt yourself working out at home your personal injuries aren’t covered under your property policy.

If you’re a personal trainer or offering any type of fitness service out of your home, it’s a different story. You’ll need a collection of coverages to protect yourself and your clients, including general liability and possibly business property insurance. This type of business use likely won’t be covered by your home insurance policy so you may need to buy separate coverage.

In any situation, it’s best to reach out to your insurance provider before making any changes to your home and the way you use it to make sure you’re protected.

An at-home workout can be as tough as you want it to be, and just as effective as any class at a commercial gym. The right equipment, a well-designed program, a space that makes you happy and proper motivation will help get you where you want to be, gym free.

Protect your home and the things you love most.