Gluck - August 2021
How to Plan a Home Gym
Everyone loves a good gym tour video but there seems to be a lack of content on how to actually plan out and build your own home gym. While we've hit on these topics in various videos this article (and it's accompanying YouTube video) focus on the steps I think people should consider when building their own home gym.
Step 1: Your Style of Lifting
If you can figure out the type of lifting you'll be doing in your gym it'll help you to plan and decide the type of equipment you'll need. Someone who loves to Crossfit is going to have vastly different needs than a Strongman. A bodybuilder would have unique wants in comparison to a powerlifter. While there's overlap in all areas, eventually you'll probably develop enough equipment in your gym that it's a good idea to think about your goals and style before you get to far in.
Don't worry if you aren't 100% sure, the essentials are very similar if not the same for most styles of lifting. We're all probably going to want a barbell, some plates, a spot to lift, and a some sort of bench.
Step 2: Planning (OK it's Really 3 Parts)
Planning out your gym can be an overwhelming process if you think about all parts that have to go into it but if you spend some time planning it you'll reap the rewards later on. For this section we're actually going to break it into 3 parts, your equipment, the space, and the budget. These don't necessarily have a strict order, you'll have to jump around between them to make it all work.
When I planned my gym I prioritized it into levels (because I'm a gaming nerd). These levels were based on what I needed the most in my gym and how they fit within my budget. High use versatile equipment came first and I branched out later as I had more money. This way I had a functional gym that I could keep adding onto.
Level 1 The Essentials: For my style of training I need a power rack, a barbell, a bench (I went flat bench first because the adjustable I wanted wasn't in stock), Olympic plates, and some collars. I also built a platform out of plywood and horse stall mats so I had a place to lift without damaging my garage floor. These things gave me a functional gym that would last for months (if not longer) if need be. I still have all these things and use them all every single workout.
Level 2 Versatility: Once I had saved up more money I started adding on. I focused on items that would add a lot of variety to my style of training. I purchased a set of fixed dumbbells from 5-50lbs, a landmine for my power rack, resistance bands (ok those probably came long before), and horse stall mats for flooring. Since I had the basics down this is where I got to have a little fun and buy things that would allow me to add a lot more movements to my workouts. These are the things I added, all the things you purchase should cater to your wants and needs though this is a pretty good list to start with.
Level 3 Getting Fancy: Now that I had enough equipment to keep my workouts interesting I kept saving up so that I could get my end goal, a functional trainer. Honestly I had bought things between the levels (as I'll mention in the next section) but I was always saving as much as I could for when the opportunity to get a cable machine came along. I lucked out, a gym was closing down and I had the pick of it. Admittedly others had gotten there before me but nobody wanted a commercial trainer?! It doesn't matter what you big ticket items are, the point is to get yourself into a position that if a great deal comes along, you're there to scoop it up. This is also where I got my dumbbell racks from, commercial hammer strength racks for $500 for both. I couldn't pass it up. In one weekend my gym was transformed into exactly what I had dreamed. It sounds awesome, it was, but I spend over 18 months saving and planning until it all came together.
Level 4 A Home Gym is Never Complete: I love reading Reddit posts where people complete their gyms. I love those guy, they helped my channel grow and support me, but I always chuckle. Yeah, I completed my gym about $5,000 ago too but here we are. Do I need these things? No, but they make me happy and I look forward to using my home gym. I don't care what you buy as long as you buy stuff that makes you happy and keeps you working out. That's all that matters. So plan for the future because those barbells and accessories need a place to stay after they're delivered.
We all do things differently but I think spending a few minutes measuring and doing a quick sketch has huge benefits. Admittedly I made these renderings for this video but I did draw things out beforehand, I just lost the paper awhile ago.
Start with your measurements so each time you decide what you want to get you can rough in where it'll fit. Don't neglect the height either. You'll probably do overhead movements and you might want to add things like gymnastic rings later on and to do pull-ups you'll need some head space as well.
Not everything has to be perfect, I didn't know exactly which cable machine I'd get but I researched a few and settle on a common size so I knew when the time came I could get one in there.
It pays to really try to think about the possibilities and how each decision affects the next. I had to remove a window from the garage to get my rack oriented the way I wanted so that I'd have enough height and space to rack and unrack plates. That and I didn't want to be too close to the mirrors I had planned out along the wall.
Maximize the space you have, it'll never be enough and you can find yourself adding things as you go whether you planned it or not. Storage is at a premium so you may have to get creative as you go.
It's a good idea to create long-term and short-term goals for your budget. This is basically my gym levels system in a nutshell. I knew I couldn't afford to get everything at once so I planned my purchases in stages.
Prioritize your needs over your wants so you can determine how much money you'll need to get started. Taking some time here will also help to restrain any impulsive purchases. Once you have a general list of what you need (or want) you can start researching the best items within your budget for each.
If you have the option to buy used (or locally) or build things, it might be a great way to save some money. Before Covid I bought my Rogue Infinity R6 rack with all it's attachments for under $600. The setup would've cost me over $2,000 new to ship to my house. My first 2 sets of weight plates were free and my gym is half filled with things someone owned first. If it's in good shape and I'm getting a great deal I don't really care who touched it before me.
Make sure to buy the best thing you can afford. You can insert all the classic lines, buy once cry once, buy nice buy twice, everyone has one. The point is, you're trying to future proof your gym. By knowing your end goals, timeframe, and planning things out you ensure your gym will be useful forever (or at least you can adapt it as you go).
The Things We Never Think Of
My gym is climate controlled and has a better system than my house. I'm not bragging (that's kind of embarrassing) I bought and installed an oscillating fan, 2 dehumidifiers, and 2 infrared heaters before I got to this point. It's not that I didn't plan it out, I just didn't have the money. Your gym won't be perfect at first but it can be, you just have to be flexible and creative to get it there.
There's bound to be things you miss, it's going to happen. But with a great plan you can adapt and make it work. Here's a few things we tend to forget until it's a pain to fix because well, this stuff is heavy and expensive.
HVAC: Heating, cooling, and humidity. The most fun parts of a home gym (besides maintenance and cleaning) are the ones we think about when it's probably too late. I've lifted in my gym when it's below freezing and it hurts your hands to grip the bar and well into the 90s. I've had to stop squatting because I'm so drenched in sweat I can't keep the bar in place as I tire out. Those day sucked but not as bad as watching and battling rust on my equipment. I felt like I was throwing money away as the moisture ruined my investments.
Flooring: Try to get it early in the process. Believe me putting my cable machine up onto the 3/4" flooring was fun. When I have to move my dumbbell racks to get the last of my mirrors in I'm sure I'll be filled with joy. Sometimes it's unavoidable, we don't have unlimited money, but you can limit it or at least plan for it in the future. Most of us just use horse stall mats because they're the cheapest option and they work really well too.
Lighting: The role lighting plays on your mood is probably often overlooked. It's not exciting but good lighting makes everything so much better. I'll update this section when I complete my gym lighting video but for now it's something you want to keep in mind and plan for.
Storage: Home gyms tend to collect things. I use to have a single band hanger, then two, now I have 5 metal pegboard stations and I'm still deciding where to put things. You can't plan for enough storage, you're going to get gifts and buy things, that gym will never be completed.
Decorating: I told Wynie I'd decorate the gym when I complete it. What a moronic thing to say ('m good at stupid statements), I can't complete it and creating a space that's inviting and you want to be in goes a long way to keeping you in there. If you don't love it, you won't use it so make sure to think about how to make your space the most badass version of itself you can (just don't take advice from me on how to do that part).
Regardless of how you design and build your gym a little planning goes a long way. Mistakes can be costly and that's with time and money. I can't claim that I didn't make any mistakes and I wouldn't have done certain things differently but I always had an idea of what I wanted and how I wanted to do it and my gym looks very much like that vision. There are also home gym planners that companies have created to help you. They cater towards their own products as they're trying to get you to buy their things but they work well and most machines have similar footprints so even if you go another direction, it still works. One of the best out there is the Rogue Fitness Zeus Gym Builder. It's worth a look if you're not into drawing things out.