How to Set Up an At Home Gym

Do you want to exercise and find yourself saying something like,

“I don’t have the money for a gym membership.”

“I don’t have time to get to the gym.”

“I don’t have the space for equipment.”

“Who’s going to watch my kids?”

“I am not ready to exercise in front of people!”

Well if you are looking for the empathy bus, you won’t find it here.

All of these are excuses that just aren’t acceptable when it comes to exercising.

The fact of the matter on anything, is putting your mind to it, where there is a will there is a way – I’ll save this topic/soapbox for a separate blog post.

In short, exercising can be done without a formal gym or even any gym equipment at home. If you have canned food, you have weights. If you have outdoors, you have endless exercise options. I know that’s easy for me to say, because I know how to put modifications together, but you can too!

Check out the September workout where I used a cooler and the stairs for a lower body workout.

Putting together an at home gym can be fairly cost effective and doesn’t necessarily have to require a lot of space.

I’m going to take you through a few options around space, weight equipment and cardio equipment. Hopefully giving you some ideas to get you started, or add or make changes to what you currently have, to work better for you, so that you can make exercising at home a great experience.

The fitness industry provides a vast array of options from super expensive to inexpensive, and all sorts of types of equipment. I don’t see a need to over complicate things. I’m hoping to provide you with a few basic ideas that can accommodate most everyone’s budget and fitness goals. I’ll also share what I use, along with a few of my wants.

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This is kind of like the “chicken or the egg”, do we start with space or equipment first? Depending on the amount of space you have, may be the determining factor of what type of equipment you can get. So I’m going to start with space.

Space

First question, do you have space to set up exercise equipment and leave it out and how much space is it?

This could be an office area that could double as an exercise area. We had a house in Georgia that I set up equipment in one of the guest bedrooms. Maybe you have a garage or outbuilding that you could put the equipment in and leave it out.

The past three homes we have lived in, thankfully have had basements that are perfect for setting up a permanent gym space.

As you think about where you could set up your fitness area, remember, that unless you just HAVE TO HAVE that treadmill or piece of cardio equipment, the space doesn’t have to be large. Shoot I do yoga in my office sometimes – talk about a small space!

Just don’t have the space?

That’s ok too! Do you have somewhere that you could store a small or medium size storage tub and a yoga mat? If so, then you still can do an “at home gym” by purchasing some smaller sized equipment (dumbells, jump rope, etc.) and then take it outside or to a place that you do have the room to exercise. When you are done with the equipment, put it in the storage container out of the way in a closet or off to the side in a room.

Space and equipment should not limit your goals.

There’s a misconception that you have to have specific equipment to reach your goals. That’s so far from the truth. If you are struggling to find ways to exercise because of either of these things, PLEASE send me an email and I will help you!

Cardio

Setting up an at home gym can seem like a daunting task if you don’t know much about equipment, and having the space for it may be your first challenge, especially with cardio equipment.

Many of the larger cardio equipment pieces have been designed to fold up and be easily stored in a closet or even under a bed or couch. So if you don’t have the space to leave it out, but do have the space to store it, then larger equipment may still be an option for you.

I want to be clear though, again, you do not need a bunch of fancy equipment to get a great cardio workout and the results!

If you can purchase a jump rope, you can get an amazing cardio workout!

Side note, while jump roping can provide amazing benefits, if you have any preconditions of knee or ankle injury, then jump roping may not be the best option for you.

Getting a jump rope is on my wants list – I had one and the handle broke on it. I just forget to pick one up when I am at the store.

Compared to jogging for 30 minutes, jump roping can actually burn more calories and it’s an amazing workout for your core, plus many other benefits!

One other cost effective and no need for space option is going running or walking outside. If you have access to a sidewalk or park, you have cardio!

My personal favorite for cardio equipment is the treadmill. I like it because it is versatile to my needs. Having the incline for walking or running, and I even use it for some ab exercises or to put a resistant band around for strength exercises. I like to do side steps and walk/run backwards on the treadmill as well. I like the overall workout that walking or running on the treadmill provides, verses some other cardio options that don’t engage the upper body quite as much.

Another common cardio equipment option is a stationary bike. Many people favor bikes due to more compact storing, as well as them being more conducive to knee and hip stress.

And lastly, there are several versions of elliptical that may fit your personal enjoyment as well.

My tip about the “dreaded” cardio equipment, is about finding what you most enjoy. I like running or walking and find biking to be less comfortable, so I’m more likely to stick with my cardio exercises if I have a treadmill verses a bike. Outside space and budget, your enjoyment should be considered and is just as important.

Finding exercise you enjoy is what will help you create a behavior change and lifestyle change.

Weights

This seems pretty simple – dumbbells, right? Well yes, you could say that, but there have become so many more weight options to choose from over the years.

First let’s start with the space you have for the weights. If your space is limited, I’d suggest one of two options, getting a couple sets of dumbbells or exercise bands.

Exercise bands are so compact and versatile! You can even travel with these. A highly recommended product in my opinion if you are constantly traveling or needing something compact due to storage space.

Dumbbells are versatile and you can get by with a small range of weight. If I was going to get dumbbells today, I’d do a 5 pound and 10 pound and maybe a 15 pound. You are reading that right, I don’t own any dumbbells. I actually have weight plates that go on bars. Funny thing is, I never use the bars!

So that brings me to our next option, you could totally do weight plates and bars. Short bars or if you have the room longer ones. A big want on my list is this weight plate and bar from BodyRock, perfect for an at home gym and very reasonable.

Another option is to use kettle bells. There are a lot of workouts out there specifically for kettle bells. I have a 5, 10, and 15 pound one and I rotate them in for some exercises, but to be honest, most of the time a dumbbell will work just fine where you could use a kettlebell.

And the most cost effective – your own body weight!

Yep, there are plenty of exercises you can do that don’t require weights. I recommend when you first start exercising, before adding weight, to practice the exercise without weight to just learn the movement. I also recommend in my post-partum workouts when getting back to exercise that you only using body weight – trust me, especially after a c-section, body weight is plenty!

Accessories

I’ve only scratched the surface on cardio and weight equipment, and I’m only going to scratch the surface on the additional exercise accessories and equipment.

As I mentioned, fitness equipment is just as complex as developing a personal exercise program personalized for you, but it doesn’t have to be over complicated and you don’t have to fall for the gimmicks. I’m here to help you!

So here are a few basic additional options you can consider based on the space you have and the budget.

A BOSU ball and/or exercise ball are beneficial to have. These pieces of equipment both give you the option to better engage your core when using them. I love having the BOSU ball to do not only core exercises, but also to do plyometric with.

I don’t have an exercise step, and have found ways around not having one by using a cooler or chair to serve the purpose I need, but this would be a nice to have. Steps can be great to not only use for stepping up on or jumping over, but also can be used to do triceps extensions or elevated push ups, along with many other exercises.

A yoga mat can be used for more than just yoga too! If you have a small space and are exercising on a hard floor, having a yoga mat to roll out and use for floor exercises such as crunches, can make your workout more comfortable!

These are just a few additional items that may be nice to consider and serve a wide range of exercises.

Creating the Space

If you do have the space available, you can even create an area that motivates you and supports your specific fitness goals and types of exercise you enjoy.

In one of our houses in Georgia, I had painted signs with fitness quotes and inspiration as part of the décor and to make the space feel more like I was at the gym and to motivate me.

A must have in my opinion is a large mirror. Being able to watch form in the mirror can help you perfect the exercise movement so you get great results, and also help prevent injuries.

You can get simple flooring that locks together relatively inexpensively for a reasonable amount of space to do exercise. This has been a must for us as the floor in the last 3 houses where I’ve had our exercise space in the basement has been concrete. When doing plyometric exercises, the right flooring helps save my joints.

And the last thing to thing about putting in the space is some way to store your equipment where it is easily accessible and to see. We took a shelf from Ikea and turned it on its side. This makes a perfect place for me to put away the equipment. You may have seen it in some of my videos in the background.

Having a gym or exercise equipment on hand gives you the opportunity to exercise whenever you want!

Making it more likely for you to actually stick with!

You can grow your equipment stockpile over time too. I’ve received exercise equipment as Christmas and birthday gifts and am so happy to get something new to try or that I want but wouldn’t typically buy myself.

I can’t imagine having to take the time to go into the gym, find child care, or the list of excuses that could come if I didn’t have these things at home. And how much money I save!

Shoot, if I wasn’t a personal trainer, I could take that monthly gym membership money and purchase workouts and a personal coach to support me at home! 

I hope you feel like you have a little more information about setting up your gym or a way to make exercise work at home even if you don’t have a ton of space for equipment.

Do you have a piece of exercise equipment that you just love that I didn’t mention? What gets you motivated to go workout? Tell us about it in the comments below!!

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