Ultimate Guide to Planning & Creating the Best Home or Garage Gym in 2018

Ultimate Guide to Planning & Creating the Best Home or Garage Gym in 2018
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Ask 100 people what the perfect home gym looks like.

You know what you will get?

That’s right! 100 different answers.

A home gym is something personal, It makes a statement about who you are and what you believe. It shows your passion and dedication to fitness.

If you are in search of the setup of the best home gym equipment 2018 you have come to the right place.

private home gym

One of the best things about having a gym at home is that you make it your own.

As you build your own home gym, use this guide as a planning tool and checklist. It contains advice, home gym equipment reviews, best home gym setup, workout advice and more.

Bookmark the page so you can get back to it later.

Ready to create the best home gym in 2018?

Let’s get started!

I. Why Have a Home Gym?

Woman athlete exercising on rowing machine at home gym

Each of us plans a home gym because we have specific goals, a vision of what we want. The best home gym equipment for us depends on our specifics needs, not necessarily someone else’s idea of what the best home gym equipment is.

I am not going to get into a debate about what is better, commercial vs home gym.

I will simply assume if you are here reading this you have already decided what you want and you know your reasons for creating a home gym.

Before we start planning, let’s cover some basics. There are two factors that greatly affect the home gym you will have.

Those factors are:

A. Who YOU are, athletically speaking.

And

B. What space you have available to set the gym up.

These two factors make up the essence of Sections II and III. Once you know those you can move on to section IV, then on to planning and section V, gym equipment essentials.

II. Defining Who You are as an Athlete

Young athlete couple is ready for training.

This section is divided into two parts!!!

Part 1 is for people who want something simple, maybe even just one piece of equipment. Those who have very limited space or budget, or those with mobility issues.

If your goal is to lose weight and get fit, but not necessarily train like Arnold Schwarzenegger, then part 1 is for you.

Section two addresses weightlifters, bodybuilders, power lifters, Cross Fitters, and all types of functional fitness athletes.

If you fall into this category and are looking to create a robust home gym for yourself, part 2 will get you going in the right direction.

Part 1

girl in the gym

1. Home gym Ideas for weight loss

Looking to lose a few pounds or get in shape for the beach this summer?

Maybe a physician or family member has been encouraging (or nagging) you to lose weight or you decided it was time to invest in yourself and commit to your own weight loss goals.

That’s great!

There are home gym solutions perfect for losing weight and exercising at home may just be your key to success.

Little Helpers

Ankle Weights and Resistance Bands are a simple, inexpensive way to add a little oomph to your routine.

You can use the ankle weights while walking, using cardio machines or even while doing everyday tasks like running errands or talking on the phone.

They don’t necessarily have to go around your ankles either. Use them as small free weights or wear them on your wrist to add diversity to your existing routine.

Weight Loss While You Work

Many of us, myself included, sit at a desk all day while we work. Wouldn’t it be great if we could add a little exercise to our day?

Whistling er…walking while you work

A treadmill desk is a great way for us desk dwellers to get up and moving. Some other options for getting fit despite work limitations are walking during lunch hour, using the stairs instead of the elevator when we can, or getting up to chat with a co-worker instead of sending another email.

IMO a treadmill desk is one of the smartest and best home gym equipment for weight loss.

Balance Ball, anyone?

I have even considered sitting on a balance ball. What do you think? Over the top or a great idea? Let me know in the comments below.

The Truth Hurts

Did you know according to some US research statistics as many as 66 percent of adults are overweight??

According to US research statistics as many as 66 percent of adults are overweight! Click To Tweet

Up until a few years ago, I was included in that 66 percent. I have since changed my ways, including diet and exercise, and I share some of the hard truths learned and science I found in this article.

Weight loss Workout Resources you can use at home

Here are a few workouts and diet tips you can put into practice at home.

If your goal is to lose weight, and you have any interest at all in lifting weight, I HIGHLY encourage it!

Lifting weight to burn fat is an excellent tool in your weight loss arsenal.

If you are interested in building a home gym designed with weightlifting in mind, check out section V.

young couple train together-with-resistance bands a leg exercise

2. Home Gym Ideas for those with a bad back, knees, or joints

Physical Limitations exist that can hinder our fitness goals, or cause additional health problems.

  • Joint Problems.
  • Knee Problems.
  • Back Pain.
  • Even our age and weight can keep us from getting the exercise we need.

But it does not have to be that way!

Despite hardships, there are things we can do to get a workout from the comfort of home, even if we are on a budget.

Some easy, back and joint saving ideas include:

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands used to belong to the realm of physical therapy and rehabilitation, but these days, this popular and inexpensive equipment has made a new name for itself.

These resistance bands offer low impact strength training you can do just about anywhere. They are simple to use and light enough to carry in your bag, backpack or purse.

Vibration Plates or Platforms

young woman training with whole body vibration machine in the gym

It just does not get any easier than this!

To get a calorie burning workout on a vibration plate all you need to do is just stand there. The vibration and movement causes you to make small adjustments to stay balanced using your bodies energy stores in the process.

It almost seems too good to be true, but they work!

These machines tone muscle, increase bone density and burn calories.

Recumbent Bikes

If you enjoy cycling, and want an at home option that is easy on your body a recumbent bike may be your solution.

Recumbent bikes work the same muscles as standard upright bikes, but because of the reclined position and the fact that they have a seat back, these bikes are much easier on the back and knees.

A relaxing workout-is it possible?

If you like to unwind after a long day by watching your favorite TV series these bikes offer an appealing compromise.

You can get a decent workout and catch up on your favorite shows at the same time.

Recumbent bikes are quiet and sit lower to the ground than standard models, so you won’t be craning your neck or upping the volume.

Attention Back Pain Sufferers!

If back pain is an issue, take a look at these therapeutic machines that may help you enough to get back into the game.

Inversion Tables are some of the best exercise equipment for home if you have a bad back.

The can be used for a few minutes before bed, or for longer stretches of time. They help stretch the spine and alleviate back pain allowing you to work out, or even get a good nights rest.

Back Stretching Machines stretch the back, similar to inversion tables. Some like these machines because they can be placed on the floor making them easy to get on to if your mobility is severely limited.

fitness exercising active woman with headband

I bet you have never heard of a BodyBlade! – Rehab for your Shoulders

This unbelievably simple piece of equipment takes up hardly any space, can be stored anywhere, even under the couch, can be used for an entire body workout, and if you want, you can pull it out and sneak in an exercise or two during TV commercials.

It is literally that easy to use and stow. It is praised by physical therapists and used for rehabilitation because it is a gentle yet effective way to tone and strengthen shoulders without causing further injury.

The body blade is the best home fitness equipment for shoulder rehab.

3. Simple, all in one gyms

bodybuilder workout with cable crossover machine

All in one gyms are for those who want a complete workout but do not want to go out and stock their gym with various pieces of equipment.

Joe Weider all in one gyms are the best overall exercise equipment for home. They offer an all over complete workout that works all major muscle groups, all done on one piece of equipment.

There are other companies besides Joe Weider who offer all in one gym equipment, and some of the machines are quite involved, even allowing two people to work out on the machine at the same time!

Purchasing the best home gym system is an easy and fast way to get your home gym set up stat!

Check out our all in one home gym reviews to find the right all in one equipment for you.

woman flexing arm muscles on cable machine in home gym

4. Home Gym ideas for people on a Tight Budget

If your budget is the limiting factor, getting between you and your dream gym, or fitness goals, consider some of these less expensive options. Honestly, the best gym equipment for home is the equipment you can afford and will use consistently.

Just because they don’t cost an arm and a leg, does not mean they are not effective.

Treadmills Under 1000 dollars

Close up shot of woman leg running on a treadmill

A treadmill is an excellent choice for a cardio workout or those who need to be able to walk and jog indoors.

Maybe you live in an area where weather is bad, or the conditions outside are not suitable for exercising outside.

Or you like to get your exercise done while watching your favorite programs. In this case a good treadmill can be had for under 1000 dollars. In my opinion, a treadmill is one of the best home gym equipment machines you can have.

Really inexpensive manual treadmills

Maybe you have never even heard of a manual treadmill, or never considered one for your at home workout. Manual treadmills are far less expensive than electric ones.

Some can be had for less than 200 dollars. 

They can be used in front of the TV as most are pretty quiet, and you can use theme everyday, or just occasionally and a supplement to your workout routine.

TRX and other suspension training systems

Woman doing upper body exercise using trx suspension

Suspension training and TRX trainers have been rising in popularity to become one of the best at home exercise equipment available.

Its no wonder, this relatively inexpensive piece of equipment will kick your behind and give you one of the best workouts you ever had.

They are a type of bodyweight exercise that use suspension straps so you hang by your feet or hands.

They work major muscle groups, and since they force you to constantly work to maintain balance, they work stabilizing muscles too.

Dollar for dollar, it is my opinion that TRX systems are the best bang for the buck, potentially the most challenging workout for the price.

Part 2

crossfit strenght workout training

1. Bodybuilders, Powerlifters and Weightlifters

Bodybuilders, powerlifters and weightlifters have specific needs and specs when creating a home gym.

Section 4 and 5 of this guide cover those needs and go step by step, piece by piece discussing what they need in a home gym.

See Section 5 on building gym for Bodybuilders, powerlifters and Weightlifter

2. CrossFit Functional Fitness Bootcamp Garage Gyms

CrossFit and other Functional fitness athletes have needs similar to weightlifters when building the perfect home gym. For that I refer you to section 5 in this guide.

In addition to that:

CrossFit and Functional fitness athletes have some specialized equipment you might not see in a bodybuilders gym.

Kettlebells Kettlebells kettlebells!

athlete woman is having training with kettlebell in garage gym

I did not even know what a kettlebell was before I started CrossFit and now I can not imagine my workout without one.

This versatile weight can be used with one hand or two, you can swing it above your head, between your legs, heave it over your chest as you do sit ups, or carry it along with you as you do box step ups or even box jumps.

Weighted Vests

man wearing in weighted vest in gym

Weighted Vests are not limited to CrossFit.

They are used by a huge variety of athletes looking for an edge, from basketball players to soccer stars, super speed sprinters to MMA fighters.

The weighted vest adds a significant amount to your existing body weight and trains you for higher speed and more explosive power.

Battle Ropes

muscular man is doing battle rope exercise

Battle Ropes A staple of any CrossFit gym are the menacing and intimidating battle ropes.

Even the name sounds threatening. Not to worry, they look tough, and they are, but you got this!

Battle ropes build your arms, legs, and make you look and feel like a badass. So there! You totally need a pair for your home gym!

Weighted Dip belts

Because your own body weight just isn’t challenging you any more.

Weighted dip belts are the equivalent of having little kids hang from you while you do dips. But instead of kids, it is Olympic weight plates.

Pull Up assist bands

Pull Up assist bands – this special piece of equipment is for those of us who have a hard time doing a pull up without stepping on our friends back.

Not that I have ever done that, except yes, I have. This band is wrapped around your leg or knee.

The resistance from the band lifts some of your body weight while your arms do the rest.

This equipment is especially useful for women as they often have less upper body strength and these bands are the perfect stepping stone on the way to doing a pull up unassisted.

Push up bars

bodybuilder doing push-ups with bars

Push up bars can be used for push ups, obviously. But the have a ton of other uses too.

My instructor’s favorite seems to be mountain climbers. They are also used I many balance and stability exercises that work core and abs.

Push up bars are a super simple, inexpensive piece of equipment that has a lot more to offer than may meet the eye. An excellent choice for a home gym.

Jump Ropes

Man with compression shirt exercising with jumping rope

Jump Ropes – Another simple and inexpensive piece of equipment, there is no reason not to have a jump rope in your home gym.

They offer an excellent cardio workout and travel anywhere. Never have an excuse not to get a workout in if you have one of these.

Medicine Balls

Medicine Balls are another inexpensive versatile piece of home gym equipment.

They can be used with partners, for core and ab work, to increase rotational power, strengthen arms and more.

Plyometric Boxes

working out with a box at the gym

Plyometric Boxes an archetypal piece of CrossFit Equipment is the iconic Plyo box.

Available it several heights and styles.

If the daunting and sharp corners of the plyo box strike fear in your heart, there are padded versions, a kinder, gentler version of the standard unyielding pine box seen most often.

Looking for some CrossFit workouts to go with your CrossFit home gym? Check these out!

3. Boxing Garage Gym

It’s a well known fact that hanging a heavy bag in the garage or on the porch is a great way to blow off a little steam. But what would be cooler than setting up your own boxing gym at home?

girl workout in boxing ring at crossfit gym

Bragging rights galore!

A few things you need for a well rounded boxing gym:

  • Heavy Bag Obviously a staple in the boxing gym is the heavy bag. It is the best at home gym equipment for the boxing gym, coming in second to none. Obviously a pair of boxing gloves and maybe a speedbag will be necessary.
  • Get really fancy and get a set of portable boxing ropes and a timer and invite a few friends over for a match.
  • Jump Ropes are a simple effective cardio workout favored by those who “float like a butterfly” because they train you to be quick and agile, a required boxing skill.

Boxers can benefit from a standard weight lifting home gym, so check out section 5 for tips on how to set up a weight lifting gym.

Boxers must also focus on Cardio, so check out the section on cardio machines for a few ideas.

III. Where will I Set up My Home Gym?

Man and woman workout with jumping rope in crossfit gym

Home gyms are usually set up in a garage, basement or spare room in the home.

Obviously the space available determines what equipment you can have.

Really Really small spaces

Super Compact Home Gym Ideas This article outlines several solutions for small spaces and covers several types of home gyms.

Compact and travel friendly TRX and suspension training solutions.

Again, if you are extremely limited on space and cash, all you need is a door.

Virtually every room has a door, and the TRX gives quite a workout considering it is basically two straps and a hook. Plus, you can take it with you when you travel.

Simple space saving pull up bar another solution for exercise in small spaces is the pull up bar.

It can be installed in a doorway and won’t get in the way or take up precious floor space. Get one of these and pair it with a suspension trainer and you are good to go.

Adjustable dumbbells, for weight training in tight quarters

If weightlifting is a must for you, despite having virtually no room, adjustable dumbbells are a requirement.

They only take a few feet of floor space, can be stored in a closet, behind the couch, maybe even under the bed, and come in weights up to 100 lbs each.

Garage

The garage is the IDEAL location for a home gym especially if you lift weights.

Why?

  • You can open the garage door and enjoy beautiful summer days and have instant fresh air.
  • The Garage is away from the rest of the house. No noise for your family.
  • No gear in the house detracting from the decorating.
  • A garage usually has higher ceilings which you need for cages, dip bars and heavy bags.

Spare Room inside the house

Benefits:

  • Better climate control, ideal for cold climates.
  • Sometimes the garage is full, is being used by cars, or you just don’t have a garage.

IV. How do I Plan My Home Gym

man lifting heavy barbell on squat rack

How to create a home Gym

In Section II we actually started planning by defining you as an athlete, and what your goals would be. Section III covers space issues.

Now that you know the who and where, its time to move on to the what, as in what equipment you should get.

The following section focuses on building a weight lifting gym and goes over essential equipment piece by piece.

Planning

I assume you know where you will set up your gym and that you have measured the space, so you can use this tool to map out where to place equipment.

It allows you to plug in the room dimensions and place equipment on the floor plan to give you an idea of what you are working with. It is fun to use and allows you to overlap equipment, like the power rack and bench.

Hint: Use the drop down menus on the “symbols” tab for a huge variety of equipment.

V. What Gym Equipment is Essential

The following equipment applies to the best home gym setup for weightlifting power lifting and bodybuilding.

CrossFit and Functional Fitness athletes may also like a gym with at least some of this equipment.

Boxers, MMA, Martial artists and other athletes may want to incorporate some of this equipment into their home gym as well.

1. Power Racks, Half Racks, Cages, Squat Racks and Power Towers

women doing squat workout with power rack

Nuts and BOLTS

You probably already know this, but a rack or cage must be bolted to the floor. Some people build platforms to bolt their rack too, while others use 2×4’s, but the most stable solution is bolting it to the floor.

Which means maybe the garage is a better spot for this type of gym, unless you want to build a platform, which is cool too.

Ceiling Height

I should also mention that you need a higher ceiling to use a power rack, especially if you are tall.

I hate to give general measurements, but aim for a ceiling at least 9 feet tall. Many garages have this height, whereas a spare room may not.

Squat Rack vs Power Rack, which should I choose?

Trying to decide between a squat rack or a power rack? For a home gym my vote is power rack, as it is more versatile. You can do squats in the power rack plus so much more.

But….

It will certainly take up more space, and remember the weights are placed on the back, so you can’t put it up against the wall. Keep that in mind when planning the layout of your gym. You need it to be at least 10” from the wall.

Power racks and Squat racks available. This is a list of power rack home gym reviews so you can get an idea of what is available.

What NOT to get:

The biggest regrets come from those who get half racks.

Why?

If you are a bodybuilder, just get a full rack, you will thank me later unless you are performing Olympic lifts.

Olympic lifts are easier to perform in a half rack as they have more “room” to move.

2. Smith Machine and power towers

muscle men doing pull up exercise

Smith Machines are “ok”. What I like about the smith machine is it makes a fair replacement for a spotter and a lot of the time in a home gym you won’t have a spotter.

What I don’t like about the smith machine is that the barbell is locked in and you can only lift in that specific angle, which to me seems to defeat the purpose of using a barbell in the first place.

One of the reasons a barbell is so awesome is that while you lift, you are also keeping the barbell balanced, thus using (and working) very important stabilizing muscles.

The smith machine has the bar locked it so you don’t use the balancing muscles to the same extent. Boo!

What is the deal with Power Towers?

Power towers are towers that allow you to do dips, pull ups and have back and arm rests for leg lifts.

Unless you have a decent amount of space, then you could save a bit of space by having a dip station and pull up bar on your power rack instead.

Get a Power Rack instead

Some power racks even have space for a leg lift attachment. But you can also invest in the power tower and have two separate pieces of equipment.

3. The Barbell, Curl Bar

Active young man training with barbell in gym

Barbell Sets – awesome list of the best barbell sets. You need a barbell if you plan to lift seriously. Some weightlifters would rather go cheap on everything except the barbell, which is why a good barbell is damn hard to come by used.

A barbell is one of the best home workout equipment pieces you can own if you lift.

Olympic Barbell Sets There are two types of barbells. Standard barbells with a 1” diameter, and Olympic barbells with a 2” diameter. If you do or plan to lift heavy go with an Olympic set. The Olympic barbell weights about 44 lbs by itself.

Keep in mind: Olympic plates and standard weights are not interchangeable. Standard weights have a 1” opening and Olympic weight plates have a 2” opening. Stick with one or the other.

Curl Bars – you may want to invest in a curl bar, and there are several styles available. Of course, you can also use your barbell to do curls if you don’t want an extra piece of equipment.

On the other hand

There are curl bars that offer varying grips, which work muscles from different angles, so one could make a decent case as to why an additional curl bar is needed. At the end of the day it’s up to you.

Weight lifting hooks

Pfftt, who needs em?

Well, you if you have any problems with grip strength. You can also use wraps or straps to assist with heavy deadlifts.

Weight lifting hooks completely place all the weight in the hook, instead of your palm, which can be a good thing or a bad thing.

It’s good because it allows you lift heavier if your grip is getting in the way. It’s a bad thing for the same reason. If you use them you are not developing a strong grip.

4. The Plates and weights

man preparing for barbell training in gym

Most sets come with plates. Just be sure your plates match your barbell and you are golden.

Bumper Plates are designed for Olympic lifts and are used by Olympic lifters and CrossFitters most often. Bumper plates have a uniform diameter, regardless of weight (usually).

They are coated and designed to be dropped, something you don’t want to do with other Olympic or standard plates.

5. Dumbells

Muscular man lifting rubber hex dumbbells at gym

When it comes to the best free weight home gym equipment dumbbells are at the top of the list, being the very definition of free weights.

No home gym designed for lifting would be complete without a dumbbell set.

Hex Sets are a staple at many commercial gyms and many want a set in their home gym.

That’s cool if you have space they really add an air of seriousness to your home gym.

There are several dumbbell racks and sets we have reviewed, check them out.

Adjsutable Dumbells are best if your dream gym has the footprint of a VW bug. They offer a lot of weight and only take up a little space. Nice!

6. The Bench

man holding dumbbells and working bench press at gym

Weight Bench is the second most important consideration of your home gym next to the barbell, which is number 1.

It is a personal choice for sure, but we have assembled this list of reviews to get you started. The weight bench is the best home workout equipment, and one of the most important.

Preacher Curl bench – Not a home gym requirement by any means, but a nice to have bench if you have the space.

7. Home Gym Flooring

We already discussed the need to bolt down your rack, so whichever floor covering you choose, you will need to bolt through the flooring you lay down.

There are two reasons you want to consider flooring:

  • It protects the floor
  • It protects your equipment

You decide which is more important. But if you are an Olympic lifter or do an Olympic lifts and drop heavy weights, some heavy duty rubber flooring is a must.

The best rated home gyms have start with a good foundation.

8. Machines for muscle isolation

Strong bodybuilder training quads with leg extension machine

If you have the space isolation machines are great for defining and focusing on specific muscles. Isolation machines make some of the best at home exercise equipment for bodybuilders especially.

Bodybuilders use these a lot to work on growing just one specific muscle, so if you are a bodybuilder, you may want to add some of the best home workout machines to your home gym.

Check out home gym reviews of these isolation machines and see what might work for you.

9. Cardio Machines

young woman using air resistance bike at the gym

Virtually all athletes need at least a little cardio in their routine.

Some like to include more than others, but aim to have at least one cardio option in your home gym if you have the space. Don’t neglect a cardio option while creating your best home gym in 2018.

Some great options include:

VI. Workouts – the Programming

workout shoes close-up

Once you have your home gym set up, you may want to get a routine planned if you don’t already have one in place. Here are some resources to get you started.

Planning your Workout

  • How to plan a workout schedule is a guide for beginning lifters and has tips on how to get started crafting the perfect plan for you.
  • How to stay Motivated is another important piece of the puzzle. Motivation will not always be on tap. There will be days you need to psyche yourself up, so get prepared ahead of time to face those days.

Stretching

A good warm up is important no mater what type of athlete you are, or what type of home gym you create.

Intense all body routines

Here are some butt kicking, intense routines that can be done with very little equipment.

Always a bonus if you don’t have a stacked home gym or are short on space but not short on ambition. Here are three workouts we have reviewed that fit the bill:

CrossFit Programs

Boxing, MMA, UFC

Weight Training

  • Beginners Guide to Barbell Training is a good resource to get you started on the basics of using your barbell.
  • How long should a workout last to gain muscle? A common question we attempt to answer in this article. The answer may surprise you!
  • 5 x 5 workout While you may have just heard of 5 x 5 workouts, they are not new. They were developed by a football coach in the 70’s named Bill Starr. The premise is 5 sets of 5 reps and increasing the weight by 5 lb increments. You will need a standard weight lifting setup to accomplish this workout.

Two young sportsmen training on rowing machines

This Wraps up the Guide to Creating Top Rated Home Gyms

I am always open to feedback and would love to hear from you. If you think I left out something important, let me know.

If you have built your own home gym send me a picture!

We may open a space for a best at home exercise equipment gym gallery if we get enough submissions, so show off your home gym!

We may even have a contest for best equipment for home gym.

PS: I know this is a little off topic, but I spent a lot of time researching creatine and discovered some surprising things about this supplement. I realize I am bias, but I think it is one of the most through write-ups on creatine out there. Check it out!