How to create a home gym

Make going to the gym as easy as possible by installing your very own dedicated space to work out in at home. Here’s how

TODO alt text

Gym memberships can easily cost £500 each a year. Creating your own home gym might sound like a luxury, but with a bit of careful planning you can have all the benefits of fitness equipment available for your exclusive use when you want it — and potentially save money into the bargain.

You can create a home gym either through extending or remodelling your home or, more easily, you might have a small space in an office or spare room that you could put to better use with the addition of a few bits of kit. We look at where to add a home gym and what equipment you might need to get started, as well as extra design considerations such as lighting and flooring.

Choosing the right location for your home gym

You may be restricted by what space you have available, but if you are undertaking an extension or remodel, your options will be less limited. Garage conversions are a popular location for a home gym, or you could create a dedicated room in the garden.

Locating the gym on the ground floor is the most sensible option for several reasons:

  • Installation of heavy gym equipment needs to be accounted for. If the gym is downstairs, and near an entrance, this will prove much easier than lugging heavy equipment upstairs;
  • Exercise machines can be heavy so it is best if you can avoid having to worry about reinforcing an existing upper storey (particularly in an older house);
  • If you do plan to put a gym above ground level, you will need to soundproof the floor — rowing machines and treadmills can be particularly noisy to the room below.
  • If you plan to use your gym early in the morning before the rest of your family are awake, you will want to ensure it is away from their bedrooms.

home gym in a garden room

(Image: © motive8)

Connecting your home gym to the outdoors by placing it in a garden room, or using bi-fold doors, makes working out more enjoyable and aids cooling in the summer. This space specially designed by motive8 sits alongside a swimming pool, creating a fitness suite in the homeowner's garden

How much space do you need?

Most machines need at least 2m2 and you need to allow for plenty of circulation space. Some equipment will need extra room for movement during operation. 

Fitness Superstore’s gym planner helps you visualise the layout of your room, with their detailed machine measurements.

“Don’t try and fill the space, keep it functional and safe with space saving storage and then you can always add kit later if the space allows. If space is limited, try to select equipment with multiple functions i.e. a soft plyometric box which can be used as a step, or a bench to jump onto.”

Matt Leadbitter – Gym designer, Motive8

Does the space need to be multifunctional?

If you don’t have the option of dedicating a whole room to your fitness needs, your new gym could share a space with your home office or guest room. Just remember to plan the space carefully, prioritising exactly what kit you need so you don’t overcrowd the room. If your gym can be packed away, this will help you get ‘in the zone’ whether you are working or working out.

Converting a garage into a home gym

An underused garage is one of the best places to locate your gym. The floor has been built to take the weight of a car, so there will be no worries about strength. 

You will also have strong block walls which are well-suited to hanging equipment on. What’s more, even an attached garage will tend to be sensibly located in relation to other rooms (most are attached by a kitchen or utility, so you are less likely to find noise transfer to be an issue). 

a home gym in a garage

(Image: © motive8)

How much does a home gym cost?

Costing a home gym will depend on what kit you need. This is why it is important to be clear about exactly what you want to use the space for. If you get your cardio workout in other ways (going for a run or swim), then don’t waste space or money on expensive treadmills and machines. 

Guideline costs for a home gym in a 16 sqm room*

Room decor and flooring: £1,000
Non-folding, electric treadmill: £2,000
Multi-gym: £800
Foldable bench and squat rack: £250
Rack of free weights (8 pairs up to 25kg): £350
Barbell and weight plates: £80
Yoga mat: £15
Gym ball: £10

Total: £4,505

*Approximate costs based on average equipment costs from major retailers

It is also worth noting that the costs of gym equipment vary widely, but you really do get what you pay for. For example, a foldable, manual treadmill can be picked up for as little as £70 yet commercial-standard machines cost £1,000s because of the extra features, quality and sturdiness of the product. 

So, if you are committing budget to specialist equipment, don’t scrimp — check it has all the functions you want (heart monitors, training programmes, fitness app connectivity etc), or you will quickly be looking to upgrade.

Here is a guide to the costs of associated building or renovation work to create the room:

  • Converting a garage (including heating, lighting and flooring): £5,000–10,000 to convert the average single garage.
  • Building a heated garden room with connection to mains power: £300–1,200/m2 for a bespoke building - typically £8,000–20,000
  • Renovating an existing room (updating flooring, decorating and adding task lighting): £500–2,000

How to choose the right equipment

If you already have a very set routine at the gym, you will know exactly what kit you need. For example you might be sure you want to use your space for one workout such as yoga or weightlifting. 

If not, you need to do a little bit of practical research to decide what you need. Take advantage of a trial at a local gym where you can try out lots of different machines. You might even want to book a session with a personal trainer where you can discuss your fitness goals and work out what kit will be most beneficial for your training program.

Choosing gym equipment will come down to how much space you have and what your budget is, but if you want your gym to cater for all-round strength and fitness, the basic needs are:

Equipment for cardio

It is recommended that everyone does 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a week. Walking/running on a treadmill, rowing, using an exercise bike, stepping on a stepper, or hopping on the cross trainer will all get your heart rate up and burn fat. If you don’t have enough room for a machine, just ensure there is space somewhere for a cardio routine (think burpees, star jumps — even just running on the spot).

A stylish home gym with stainless steel walls and floors

(Image: © Motive8)

Equipment for strength

Anyone who is into weightlifting can’t go without a good set of weights, but don’t assume weights are only for those looking to build muscle mass. Muscle strength is important for overall fitness, and healthy joints. Holding small dumbells while lunging, squatting or crunching will help tone your body.

A multi-gym with various pulleys, bars, and levers will work all your major muscle groups. They allow you to lift weights safely by aiding technique. However they can be big, expensive and tricky to set up.

If space (and budget) is at a premium, free weights such as barbells, kettlebells and dumbbells are more appropriate. Look for options which come with their own racks or storage systems to keep your gym organised.

man lifting weight at a power rack

(Image: © Motive8)

A power rack allows you to safely lift weights, while giving you somewhere to store spare weight plates while out of use. This home gym by motive8 includes shock-absorbent free-weight matting

Equipment for flexibility

A flexible body is less likely to suffer injuries and will lead to better posture (which in turn also prevents injury). Stretching your body does not require special equipment, but it is definitely worth investing in a mat to make sitting or lying on the floor more comfortable. You can also buy resistance bands, exercise balls and rollers, to assist stretching and strength workouts.

father and daughter do yoga tree pose in loft apartment

(Image: © Getty)

Read our expert buying guides to find the right equipment for your home gym:

Audio visual

Whether you want to blare out a high-tempo playlist to keep you moving, or some zen background music for your yoga routine, a good sound system should be high on your gym wishlist. Connect this to your smart phone, or voice control system such as Alexa or Google Home, for hands-free operation while you work out.

Find out more about surround sound in our buying guide:

You might also want a TV screen so you can catch up on your favourite shows as you run or row.

Don’t forget to relax:

The sole purpose of your home gym is not to punish your body — relaxing is just as important for wellbeing. Why not invest in a massage chair (or massage pad), home sauna, or even something as simple as an aromatherapy diffuser and mood light to take your cool down to the next level.

Home gym with cardio and weights gear

(Image: © Motive8)

This home gym designed by motive8 includes a TV screen and mirrored wall for checking weightlifting technique

Walls and ceilings in gyms

Mirrors

No, not just so you can admire the results of your hard work — mirrors are really important for checking your form while performing various exercises. Injury can occur if you lift weights incorrectly so a mirror is essential for keeping your positioning in check. 

If you use the space for dance or yoga, again, mirrors are a necessity.

You may want to suspend kit from your gym walls or ceilings, such as storage or punch bags. If you don’t have solid block walls, you will have to reinforce the walls and secure heavy items to the studs. 

At the same time, you should address the soundproofing of the room as gyms can be noisy places. Look for special, sound insulating plasterboard, or add insulation between walls, floors and ceilings to decrease sound transfer.

home gym with weightlifting machines and a mural

(Image: © motive8)

motive8 design, install and maintain home gyms to suit all budgets

Which flooring should you choose?

When choosing flooring for your gym, you need to ensure you find a product that:

  • you won’t slip on while exercising;
  • can withstand the wear of weights and equipment.

Carpet is a bad choice because it is hard to keep clean and you will want to avoid porcelain, stone or ceramic tiles that will crack if you drop weights on them. Tiles can also be slippy.

The best choices are:

Climate control

Your body temperature will change a lot while you work out. Cardio will get you hot and sweaty, but you need to remember to keep your muscles warm while you cool down. So it is important that you include heating and cooling that can be easily controlled.

While underfloor heating is generally a good option, radiators will offer more instantaneous heating control. In a dedicated home gym, you will almost certainly want to include an air conditioning unit too.

Windows

When adding windows to your home gym, you need to consider passive solar gain. If you have lots of south-facing glazing, the room will quickly become unbearably hot in summer, rendering the space useless. If south-facing windows are unavoidable, look for units with solar control.

At the same time, think about privacy as nobody wants to be gawked at while working out. Clerestory windows at ceiling height are one option, or you could specify privacy glazing.

home gym with a sauna

(Image: © Getty)

Lighting a home gym

When designing a lighting scheme for any room, experts split the kinds of lighting you need in to three types:

Ambient lighting: Also known as general lighting, this is the type of lighting that provides a good level of visibility without being too bright. Overhead pendants, or wall-lights usually offer a good level of ambient lighting. You might want to use dimmable lights if you plan to use the space for something like yoga or as a relaxation room.

Task lighting: This is the lighting needed to ensure you can see what you are doing. In a home gym, this might be best achieved with a set of spotlights positioned somewhere where you might need brighter lighting, such as over your weights area.

Accent lighting: Accent lighting does just that — it accents a specific feature in a room such as a piece of art of an architectural element like the treads of a staircase. While it does not serve a practical function in your home gym, accent lighting can add a layer of interest or even colour to the space.