What would your perfect garage gym setup look like? Can you picture it in your mind? Imagining this is the first step towards building your perfect garage gym.
Most garage gyms start with humble beginnings and that’s fine, but regardless of whether you can afford the perfect setup from day 1 or not, it helps to know where you’re going.
Whether your ideal garage gym is a palace or a dungeon is a matter of preference. In either case, the goal is the same. It’s about having your own place to move some metal around. To work up a sweat and melt away the stresses of life. To pick up heavy things and then put them down again.
In this article, my humble goal is to help you figure out exactly what your perfect gym setup would be.
Things to keep in mind before you start putting your gym together are as follows:
- Space: How much room do you have for equipment, open space, storage, etc?
- Budget: How much are you going to spend?
- Goals: What are your fitness goals, and what equipment will help you reach them?
If you don’t have an idea of how much space you have then it’s going to be difficult to plan a garage. Building a garage gym without knowing the dimensions of your garage is plain stupid. Some equipment is especially high, so measuring the ceiling height is vitally important also. Measure, measure, measure!
Knowing roughly what you’ve got to spend is important as you might not be able to afford everything new. I cover some tips for buying your equipment later on in this article.
Some of us are most interested in strength training at home, while some of us are bodybuilding or just exercising for general health and to look good naked. Different goals require different tools (in this case equipment).
Space and budget, as previously mentioned, will play a key role in which equipment you shop for. You don’t want everything to be super cramped in there because having some room to stretch, pace around in between sets, and to not worry about bumping into things all the time is really nice.
Not everyone will have that luxury, and some will have to make due with the space they have, but in those cases you may look at more compact equipment rather than having to dip and weave in between equipment.
What Every Garage Gym Needs
While there is undoubtedly a very relative aspect to every gym – there are also some common features in all of the best ones.
Every garage gym is going to need adequate flooring. This not only helps protect your equipment, but it also helps protect you. Uneven ground can cause equipment to be unstable and this can cause accidents.
Flooring is an essential part of any good garage gym.
You can get some incredible resin-like floors poured into place, or you can go with gym mats, carpeting, or even just plywood. You can get those interlocking mats that are 2×2 feet each, starting around a few bucks per square. They’re fairly decent, and can come in different colors and patterns, including faux wood grain.
Flooring is actually more important than an afterthought, and can add a lot to the overall comfort and feel of your garage gym. If you’re still going to use the garage for a car, especially if you’re in a place with or a lot of rain, you’ll want to take that into consideration and choose something that might not be ruined by some water run-off.
Check out our guide on how to pick garage gym flooring.
The most important part after ensuring that you have the correct flooring to exercise on safely is the actual equipment.
Depending on your goals, past or present injuries and general preference – you’re going to want varying equipment.
I wrote a garage gym equipment list which covers the most common items that you’ll want in your gym.
In case you don’t want to check out the article, here are the basics:
- Power Rack / Half Rack
- Heavy-Duty Bench
- Olympic Barbell
- 120kg Weight Set
- Dumbbell Set
This bullet version is by no means the full list but it does cover the absolute essentials for gaining strength or size.
There are also some specific items that you might want to consider such as smith machines, preacher curl benches and leg press machines. All of which can be useful for goal specific workouts e.g. bodybuilding or for those with injuries that prevent them from doing something like squats (so a leg press machine makes sense).
Regardless of what you decide on getting it’s got to be what fits the space you have available, so make sure that you didn’t skip the part about measuring your space!
This is for the winter folks. If you get cold winters, you’ll want to consider either getting a heater for your garage, or picking equipment that you can move inside your home during the colder months, at least for some of the equipment.
Nobody wants to work out in their full snowsuit when it’s minus 40. A heated garage can take care of that, but it’s also going to be quite expensive, especially if you have a detached garage.
Even using space heaters, it’s a pricey proposition. You could warm it up 30 minutes or an hour before starting your workout and let body heat take you the rest of the way, too.
If you’re planning on spending a lot of time in your garage gym it’s not a bad idea to get a water cooler in there or even a mini-fridge. Either one will likely run you around $100-$200, or much less if you’re able to scoop up some deals online.
Anything that saves you a trip inside the house, and keeps you in workout mode is going to be a plus. There are even some people who cut up the old plastic bottles from a water cooler to turn into a makeshift urinal, but we’ll leave that up to your imagination.
A full-length mirror can be helpful in a garage gym. It’s not just for ‘mirin your gains, but it can also help ensure you’re hitting the right form to avoid injuries and to get the best results.
Storage is extremely useful, whether it’s for your dumbbells or an old chest for extra equipment you don’t want to use all the time.
Having good gym storage solutions is going to save you space and stop you from having to climb and manuever around everything.
Best Places To Buy
There are a bunch of great places you can buy gym equipment from, here are a few.
Obviously, most of this equipment is brand new and as such the price comes at a bit of a premium. If you are on more of a budget you might find the next section useful as it’ll help you save a few dollars.
Finding Gym Equipment Cheap
Once you have a rough idea what you want, you can start to price out what it’s going to cost you. It’s better to start with what you want, then make it fit your budget, rather than starting with an arbitrary budget and trying to fill it up.
Look at a few different fitness stores, get a rough idea what things cost new, and see how that works into your budget.
If you’re a serious powerlifter, you’ll probably want to invest more of that budget in things like a very solid power rack, a great heavy-duty bench, quality plates, and a strong, thick mat for when you’re dropping weights.
On the other hand, if you’re more about the cardio, you may want to spend extra for a very smooth rowing machine, spin bike, elliptical, or whatever else.
– Check the local classified websites, you can find new things every few days, and people are usually selling fitness equipment at a steep discount. Not only that, but there’s usually room for negotiation – when it comes to this sort of stuff, people usually just want it gone and will take what they can get. You can find incredible deals on high-end fitness equipment, and lower-quality stuff is practically free.
– There are a lot of sales just after the holidays. Stores that don’t normally stock a lot of fitness stuff will bring in extra for holiday shoppers and the New Years resolution crowd. Once that time has passed, they’ll be eager to unload the leftover stock. Additionally, weight sets are on various sales almost year round, so it’s always worth keeping an eye out for good deals.
– Even people you know may have some equipment kicking around in their basement that they’d let you take.
– Thrift stores and second-hand stores have an ever-changing stock, but if you keep an eye on a handful of them, you’ll eventually nab some gems.
Putting It All Together (Building Your Garage Gym)
Once you have figured out the size of your garage, what equipment you need and where you’re going to buy it from all that is left to do is actually build the garage gym.
In most cases you’ll need an extra pair of hands to put some of the larger pieces of equipment together. So get a friend or your partner to help you do so.
Once the gym is completed it’s a good idea to let some air in to your garage for a few hours, especially if you want to workout right away (who doesn’t).
And that’s all there is to it.