One of the biggest benefits of working out at home is it allows you to ditch your membership and, with it, its monthly fees, gross showers, and the time it takes to travel there. That said, shoving your coffee table off to the side and dealing with your teenager because your plyometric workout caused her to miss her favorite TV show can get a little old quickly. By creating a personal workout space in your house, you not only sidestep these issues, but you’ll be more motivated to do your daily workout. And that consistency—in both your diet and your fitness—will get you the results that you desire.
This guide will walk you through how to build a home gym to fit your needs. Of course, you don’t need all this gear for every workout you do, but with a fully stocked gym, you’ll be ready to push play with any workout that catches your fancy.
Step 1: Pick a room.
Ideally, you should set up your workout space in an area of your home that isn’t high-traffic. This eliminates excuses. For instance, if you set up your home gym in the den, your workout time may conflict with when others want to watch TV—a battle you’re likely to lose. While you can try to encourage them to join you, make it easier on everyone by finding a space where you can do your workout when it’s most convenient for you. That said, we understand that’s not always possible, so you may need to schedule your workouts when you’re least likely to be interrupted.
Here’s what to look for when selecting your workout room:
- Do you have enough space to move around? If you’re doing video workout programs, you won’t be using a treadmill or stationary bike. You’ll be moving around. Ideally, your workout area should be 15′ by 15′ so you can leap, jump, and lunge without running into the furniture. Most workout videos usually follow a “two steps in either direction” rule.. However, since those “steps” are often more like “leaps,” more room to move will likely net greater results and less bruises.
- How high are the ceilings? Are they high enough so you can jump without hitting your head? When doing jumping jacks or plyometric workouts, you want to get results, not a hole in your ceiling and/or a trip to the emergency room.
- How sturdy are the objects in the room? When you jump, are you likely to knock anything over? This includes lamps, fragile knickknacks, vases…let’s not go on. Planning ahead will not only save your stuff but help your workout because you won’t be worried about what you might hit.
- Where can you put your equipment? Ideally, you want to pick somewhere where you can leave your equipment—weights, yoga mat, agility ladder, push-up bars, foam rollers, etc.—out so it’s easy to access. Alternatively, pick a room where you can store your equipment easily either against the wall or in a large trunk or chest.
- What’s underneath the room? If you live alone in a freestanding dwelling or you want to work out in the basement, don’t worry about this. Otherwise, be mindful of your downstairs neighbors or the others who live in your home and pick a room that isn’t located above their bedroom. Here’s a tip: if you let your downstairs neighbors know your intentions and work with them to set an ideal workout time, you’ll save yourself an angry call from your landlord.
- Is it well-ventilated? When you’re working out, you want to be able to stay hydrated. You can accomplish this partially by drinking water during your workout, but also by making sure your workout space is well-ventilated. Open the windows and get a big box fan to keep you cool while you’re sweating up a storm.
Step 2: Get good flooring.
Having the proper flooring in your workout space can make the difference between sore knees and a happy, healthy you. If you’re going to be jumping or doing exercises that may cause you to slip, put down a few locking mats with rug runners beneath them so that they don’t slide. The padding will make the surface softer to land on and you shouldn’t go flying. If you are looking for a little extra padding for a jumping-intensive program, consider a plyometric mat. It’s thicker and denser than a yoga mat and will help save your joints. If you plan to mostly be stretching and doing less-intense activities, you should be OK with just using a yoga mat for padding.
If you can, stay away from working out on top of plush carpet. Even if you lay a mat on top of it, the surface isn’t stable and you can sink…which might lead to a sprained ankle or tweaked wrist.
Step 3: Invest in the right equipment.
The equipment you need is entirely dependent on what kind of workout you’re doing. While it might be tempting to go absolutely gear crazy, you don’t need to break the bank to start a solid home gym. Begin with a few, necessary basics and build your collection as you go. In addition to the aforementioned flooring, here are a few vital pieces of equipment.
• Inspiring tunes and images. To stay pumped through your entire workout, set up an iPod player in your workout space so you can listen to your favorite tunes. And, if you can transform one space in your home into a permanent home gym, consider hanging some inspiring photos—perhaps of the body you’re trying to achieve, places you want to travel to when you’re fit, or quotes that motivate you—on the walls.
• Free weights or bands. When you’re working out, you’ll find that eating right and doing cardio workouts will help burn off the extra fat you’re carrying. But to create the muscle definition you desire, you’ll need strength training. Some strength training exercises—including push-ups, pull-ups, and crunches—use just your body weight, and those will help tone your muscles. But to see serious results, you’ll need to use weights or bands for resistance. Especially if space is an issue, I recommend investing in a set of stackable resistance bands or a set of adjustable weights such as Bowflex SelectTech. Both are compact options and will allow you to increase the resistance as you get stronger. And if you’re traveling, bands are easy to throw in your bag so you can keep working out while on the road.
• Pull-up/chin-up solutions. Want sexy biceps, shoulders, and back? Pull-ups and chin-ups will definitely help you get there. You can install a pull-up bar in any wall with the help of a stud finder, but if you’re looking for a less permanent solution, try a bar that can be easily mounted onto a door frame and removed when you’re not working out. The Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar designed in such a way so you can do pull-ups, chin-ups, wide pull-ups, corn cobs, and can support up to 300 pounds.
Of course, you don’t need to limit your collection to just this gear. Here’s just a small sampling of other fitness accessories for you to grow into:
• Push-Up Stands can take the pressure off your wrists, prevent you from sliding during your push-ups, and will help improve your form so you can get better results without hurting your joints.
• Barbells are an alternative to dumbbells that work well for heavy weights and compound lifts.
• Medicine Balls and Stability Balls. For strength and stability training, as well as aerobic work, there’s nothing like a good set of balls.
• A workout bench. This one takes a lot of space, but it’s a great tool for getting the most out of a weight lifting program.
By investing in the right equipment, selecting the best room, and paying attention to the surface you’re working out on, you can create the ultimate workout space that makes working out a pleasure, not a chore!
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