The reign of the commercial gym is over! Why pay expensive monthly costs to wait in line for your favorite machine and stare at brazenly uncovered old men in the locker room?
This guide is for those that are part of the new generation of lifters who appreciate their home comforts. We will break down the costs and the pitfalls of building a gym at home, covering several different budgets. We are also going to look at how much you will save in terms of money, time, and motivation, so sit back, get comfortable and let us educate you.
TLDR: If you don't want to read this brilliant article, here is the lowdown.
Table of Contents
Gym Membership Cost vs. Budget Home Gym Setup - The Math
The cost of a gym membership can vary wildly depending upon their quality. Some of the most basic memberships available will only set you back $10 a month, but these are usually pretty awful in terms of equipment quality and hygiene. A good gym will set you back around $100 a month if you have a full membership package with full access to things like pools, spas, and classes.
To see the value of the home gym, you need to look long-term. Yes, the initial cost of setting up a garage gym is pretty high, but you need to remember that you will never have to pay membership fees ever again.
Let's look at some estimates if we take an average 25-year-old, an experienced lifter who wants to work out consistently until they are at least 50 years old. That is 300 monthly gym payments. 300 monthly payments at the average cost of membership, $100 is $30,000.
Setting up an average gym with high-quality flooring and a good array of machines that you have chosen personally is between $3000-6000 dollars. At this price, you should be able to buy high enough quality weights and bars that will last you for as long as you regularly maintain them.
For those of you who are bad at math, that's a saving of over $24,000 over 25 years.
Where To Begin?
So, you've decided to take the plunge, but you have no idea where to start. There are two routes you can take to get going.
The first route is the easier of the two, but it requires more capital. For this route, you will purchase all of your equipment in one go. This route has its benefits and its negatives. Firstly, you will most likely be able to get a discount on your equipment if you purchase it all at once. You will also be able to clump together with your delivery, saving a fortune on shipping.
The second method is the method that the majority of people take. It involves purchasing the key equipment for your workout routine and only buying the essentials. This will give you a good base to start from for a lower cost, and then you can keep your eyes open for deals and 2nd hand gear to add to your collection slowly.
One vital thing you should do at the beginning of your planning phase is to create a realistic budget for your project. You need to get this out of the way quickly and be really honest. This will stop you from getting carried away with the project at a later point and spending more than you can afford or getting disappointed when you can't afford all of the items in your basket.
As part of the budget planning stage, you need to work out where your priorities lie. If you are a cardio nut and do a little bit of CrossFit, you will not need the full-weight selection that a bodybuilder might need. Instead, you will want to save a big part of your budget for the highest quality cardio equipment like a good treadmill or a high-end rowing machine.
The key thing to remember with a home gym is that quality is always far better than quantity. Poor quality weights, for example, will degrade quickly and require you to replace them. A good high-quality set will last forever if treated correctly.
Buy high quality, buy once. Buy poor quality, buy many times.
Location, Location, Location
Home gym builders are a creative bunch. Over the years, we have seen gyms built inside basements, garages, lofts, attics, bunkers; you name it. As part of your initial planning stage, you will need to decide where you will put your home gym. For most of us, we already have a good idea of where this will be.
Here are the most common spots, their benefits, and their negatives.
The garage gym is the poster boy for home gyms. They are incredibly versatile and offer several benefits. One of the major positives to a garage gym is the logistics. With a garage door, you have easy and wide access to your home gym. When a truck turns up with a box full of Olympics weights, it is really easy to pallet truck them inside, where you unbox them in your own time out of the cold.
Garage floors also come with a cement floor. This is perfect for installing rubber tiles and protection too.
Finally, it can be really nice on a hot summer day to throw open the garage door and let the outside in. That summer breeze has never felt so good.
Cost of Conversion without Equipment: $500-$1000 depending upon whether you install rubber flooring.
Basements are another common location for a home gym. They already have solid floors that you won't have to worry about if you drop a weight. One thing to consider is the humidity and airflow. It might seem like your basement is always freezing, but when you start working out, it is amazing how quickly the temperature of the room can change. Get a good humidifier or ventilation as a priority.
The other thing you will have to consider is access. Getting your equipment down to your home gym might be difficult if you have a tight staircase and no outside access. Make sure you consider this before you order anything difficult to maneuver.
Cost of Conversion without Equipment: $500-$2000 depending on whether you want to install flooring or need to install ventilation.
Lofts and Attics
Much less common but still not rare is the attic space home gym.
With a gym in the attic, you will have a lot more considerations to make before taking the plunge. The first and most crucial thing to work out is how much weight your floor will be able to handle. Often, the flooring used in DIY loft conversions is not capable of taking as much weight as a typical floor or anywhere near as much as a concrete floor found in basements and garages.
You will also have to deal with the space issues caused by being near the roof. This means there will be less room to stand, and you will have to seriously think about your equipment placement.
Cost of Conversion without Equipment: $3000-$5000 for a good subfloor and loft conversion.
The Spare Bedroom Gym
A popular and inexpensive location for a home gym is the spare bedroom of the house. If you don't have a garage or a basement or the money to convert your loft, it can be an easy way to start out and begin collecting your equipment ready for when you have a better space.
Conversion Cost without Equipment: 0-500 depending upon whether or not you need to protect the floor.
Set Up Costs to Consider
Now you have decided where you are going to set up your home gym and you have decided what your budget is, here is a more in-depth look at space setup costs.
The lighting is an important aspect of any home gym. Good natural light has many benefits, from increasing your body's production of melatonin to helping control cortisol levels. Good lighting also makes you look better, and this can provide a huge confidence boost as well as dopamine release when you like what you see in the mirror.
The main thing you need to watch out for with gym lighting at home is the heat they produce. You won't want your lights to add to the room's heat, especially if you are working out in a basement or loft.
Total Cost: Around $600 to add recessed lighting to a home gym space.
The flooring in your gym is another incredibly important aspect. If you have a concrete floor and you don't mind a little dust and noise, you will be able to avoid this next cost.
Foam tiles are one of the more popular choices when it comes to a home gym. They are cheap and can be installed with very little knowledge. You can also use horse flooring from any tractor shop. This is a popular hack.
Total Cost: Allow $1-4 per square foot depending upon the quality you desire.
Weightlifting Equipment Costs
The setup we are going to look at is a basic weightlifting setup. This is a bare-bones setup that will allow you to do all compound lifts and most popular supporting workout exercises.
The first and perhaps the most important item you will be purchasing for this setup is your barbell. When it comes to barbells, you will want to make sure it has high tensile strength and a good coating. We advise that you look at a brand new bar as you have no idea how well it has been treated if you buy 2nd hand.
Look for a full-size Olympic-style bar that can carry you through any stage of your progression.
For a barbell that is well designed for squats, deadlifts, curls, and bench press, you will need to spend at least $250-$300+.
To go with your Olympic barbell, you should grab a good set of weightlifting plates. You should look to get a good range of weights here to allow you some versatility. Olympic plates should be high quality, but you could definitely save some money if you look for them on a pre-loved website.
Good plates last forever, so finding a gym that has closed down could mean a hefty saving. That being said, brand new plates are reasonably priced, and aesthetically they look a lot nicer than old battered ones.
For a good set of Olympic plates, you should be able to get a complete set for $300-$500, depending on how many of each plate you want.
Dumbbells are the next most important on the list. A good set of dumbbells is just as important and versatile as a good barbell and Olympic plates.
Dumbells can come in sets of 1-20+, so a good way to save money here is to only buy the weights you need individually and purchase heavier dumbbells as your progress. This could save you a lot of money compared to a full set of dumbells that will most likely contain many weights you don't ever use.
For a full set, look at $350-$450 dollars for a decent quality set. Individually, you can spend anything from $5-$50 dollars per dumbbell, depending on brand and quality.
In order to do essential lifts like the bench press and close grip bench press, you are going to need a good bench. A good lifting bench offers support and will allow you to complete a wide range of exercises that use a dumbbell or a barbell.
Benches can be really cheap, but we highly recommend that you buy a higher quality option if possible.
A high-quality bench will be $80-150.
Cardio Equipment Costs
Most of us will need some form of cardio equipment in our home gym. Whether this is one or more pieces will depend upon how much cardio you do and how much space you have.
Exercise bikes are a great low-impact option for those who want to do some steady-state cardio. For the more advanced user, you might want to opt for a spin bike or an assault bike.
Treadmills are the king of the cardio machines. In terms of pure calorie burn per hour, nothing compares. They are heavy on the joints, however, which makes choosing a high-quality treadmill essential. The cheaper machines have less cushioning and will lead to problems later on down the line.
Rowing machines are the perfect blend of cardio and strength, and for this reason, they are often used during bulking season. They can help you strengthen your upper and lower body and, during intense HIIT sessions, will burn a massive amount of calories. They are also low impact, with less gravity being exerted on your joints.
With the sitting-down position, they do take up more room, so you will need to be conscious of this.
Elliptical machines are perfect for beginners. They allow for a moderate amount of cardio and incorporate both your arms and legs. This makes them the ideal choice for people who have never trained before and who need to build up their cardio ability for the bigger machines.
Buying Second Hand
The garage gym building community knows the importance of second-hand deals. With amazing marketplaces like the Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, and eBay, you have a huge selection.
Facebook marketplace, in particular, is a great place to find deals as there is no cost to list your items on there. You could find a gym that is closing down and take their entire collection of dumbells for a fraction of what they paid for them.
Building What You Can
While we always recommend picking trustworthy high-quality brands for things like dumbbells, plates, and barbells, you could save a fortune by building some of the less important but still necessary equipment for your gym.
One popular DIY project is to build your own lifting platform from plywood and stall mats. Another popular project is to build your own weight plate holders. These are simple projects and replace expensive items.
Tips for Creating a Home Gym You Will Actually Use
Unfortunately, many people who embark on this journey end up listening to everyone else. This means they buy the equipment other people tell them to buy and build their gym exactly like everyone else.
Please remember, your home gym is just for you. Build it in a way that is going to motivate you to use it. Follow these tips to create a space that you will definitely use:
Personalize the Space
Make sure you take time to personalize the space you have specifically for yourself. You don't need to have a Rogue-style iron gym just because everyone else does.
You should consider filling your space with posters and inspirational quotes that are personal to you. Put a sound system in and blast the music you love.
If you live in an often extremely cold or hot climate, you will need to make sure you are prepared. Nothing will put you off your training sessions like minus degree temperatures, and nobody wants to do cardio in the scorching hot either.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
How much does it cost to build a home gym?
If you built a gym with all of the items we included in the weight section, in a normal space with rubber flooring and lighting and one piece of cardio equipment, you should be looking at around $3000-4000 for the full conversion and set up.
Does a home gym add value to your home?
If you have modified part of your house to become a perfect home gym, it will definitely add value to your home. If you want this to be the case, you should make sure you invest in good lighting, mirrors, and flooring, as these will be the items that you most likely leave behind.
Is a home gym a good investment?
If you intend to work out until you are 50 at the age of 25, you will save $25,000 dollars on average. As long as you plan to work out for long enough, a home gym is an excellent investment.
Building your own home gym is a rewarding and enjoyable task. This is going to be your sanctuary from the world, a place to focus and work on your goals. Make sure you take the time to plan it correctly.