Building An Outdoor Home Gym? (Ideas & Setup For Backyards)

Home gyms are one of the most economical and most productive forms of exercising. You don't have monthly or annual dues, parking isn't an issue, and all you have to do is show up. In most cases, you won't even need to fight over using the equipment or wait for a stranger to get done with the machine.

Building a home gym can be an exciting time. It can get expensive if you want it to, but starting out on a budget is also quite doable. Where do you build the home gym, though? Outdoor home gym construction can be done covered, uncovered, or even in a shed. This article will take you through all the options and help you decide which is best for your needs.

Congratulations! You have decided to take the next step in the future of your health and want to build a home gym. Before you take a shovel to dirt, though, there are several factors you need to consider. Below, we cover those factors and explain why each is important.

Covered Vs Uncovered 

When it comes to the type of gym, you have options. Uncovered outdoor gyms (also called open-air gyms) are constructed on existing patios or porches, or even out in the middle of the yard. These are great when using equipment like pull up bars and corrosion-resistant materials.

Covered gyms are a bit better. You can stay out of the direct sunlight, a slight rain won't bother you, and except for the temperature and maybe some wind, you can work out almost year-round.

Sheds are your third option, an enclosed space not connected to the house. They give you all the benefits of being outside, with all the benefits of also being inside. You can control the temperature, airflow, ventilation and can work out all year long, regardless of the weather. 

Temporary Or Permanent 

Your current situation will also determine if your outdoor gym is temporary or more permanent. Temporary outdoor gyms are those with more minimal equipment and are usually packed up and stored away when not in use. 

This is also true of larger gyms in a rented home using portable gym equipment so you can disassemble and move everything if needed. A permanent solution will include mounting equipment to the studs and joists, using more permanent and non-portable equipment, and establishing the area as your gym space. 

Gym Equipment To Be Used

One of the most significant factors is your choice of equipment. Because you are outdoors, you are more limited in your equipment options. Rubber and neoprene will be your best friend, especially when it comes to bench coverings, weights, and other accessories that will be left outside. 

Because there is moisture, rain, and other elements, electrical equipment is rarely found outdoors unless it is taken out, used, and stored indoors. Of course, a shed home gym doesn't have these concerns. 

Long-Lasting Materials 

You will almost always still require some sort of flooring. Rubber mats and tiles are common, as well as artificial grass tiles. You can create your own aesthetic and oasis right in your backyard with a bit of planning and knowing what you need. 

When doing your research and shopping, though, make sure your chosen items are rated for outdoor use and are, at a bare minimum, fade and water-resistant. 

Privacy & Noise Levels 

Distraction is a big negative to working out. Instead of concentrating on your form, getting better, or proper lifting techniques, you find yourself concentrating on prying eyes, listening ears, and nearby peeping Toms. Building a screen, fence, or wall can be an excellent privacy addition to your space.

Bamboo and temporary fences will offer privacy without breaking the bank or needing a permit. You can also extend off of an existing fence, if you have one. As mentioned above, rubber mats or tiles on the ground will also help dampen noise levels, act as a shock absorber, and protect your concrete flooring. 

outdoor gym with fence around it

Gym Tiles Vs Artificial Grass Vs Cemented Areas 

The base flooring will also be a major factor. In almost all cases, some sort of shock-absorbing mat will be needed. If you are over concrete, you want thicker pads to protect your equipment (and knees). If you are in a shed, you will want something thick, sturdy, and absorbent to protect the flooring.

Open air gyms may find themselves on dirt or grass. In these cases, you want larger mats, folding gym pads or tiles, and rubber mats to prevent decay, rusting, and prevent you from working out in water puddles or mud.

The best long-lasting material for home gym flooring is rubber. Check out the our article on the benefits of rubber flooring and if you need it for your outdoor gym.


Design, Planning, And Layouts For Outdoor Gyms

Whether you have only a small collection of free weights or a complete gym complex worth of racks and devices, proper planning is essential. 

The most crucial aspect of your planning is measurement. While you mostly won't have to worry about overhead space (except in shed gyms), you still need to know how much space your equipment takes up and, more importantly, how much space in the yard you have to work with. 

After getting your measurements, you can properly scale your equipment using drafting software or pen and paper. Using graph paper will help you decide the best spot and position for everything you have (or plan to purchase). 

You will need to consider things like equipment placement, accessibility of your accessories, storage, usage space, shelving, racks, and workout area. Once everything is in place on your paper or computer screen, you can begin the construction. 


Building An Outdoor Home Gym (Backyard DIY Gym Ideas)

outdoor home gym in a shed

When considering the great outdoors as your gym space, there is a lot to think about. One of the best methods of planning your own gym is to get inspiration from those that have gone before you. Let's take a look at some real-world examples of backyard home gym ideas to get your creative juices flowing. 

One of the best backyard home gym sheds is this example from near London. This UK family built their shed to be a gym that met all of their needs. With wide opening doors for fresh air to a heating and air system to help control temperature and humidity. 

Inside is a full rack system, benches, free weights, and treadmills. The space was designed for lawn equipment and converted, at a rather decent price, into a home gym. Similar to this shed gym, you may find that you need to invest in cooling for your gym. Review our favorite gym fans to keep you sweat-free while lifting.

backyard gym

The backyard has always been a place to play and be free. As an adult, your backyard sports home gym may look something like this. The treated posts offer the support and stability needed for pull ups, ring holds, and other lifting exercises. You can even use them with resistance bands for alternative lifting techniques. 

The squat rack is portable but sturdy, giving you the freedom to keep it out of inclement weather or replacing parts as they wear down. While we would prefer to see some padding and gym mats on the concrete, you can easily see how a simple space can be a great gym location. 

outdoor home gym with gymnastics rings and barbell

Without a fence, you may worry about neighbors and prying eyes. However, when your fence line is a greenbelt with large trees, you don’t care so much. Working out under a covered outdoor gym is something else. 

The lights are simple and affordable string lights that give you the option to not only workout year-round but at all hours of the day or night. Your schedule doesn't have to limit you to working out at a 24-hour commercial gym. 

outdoor gym with climbing and weight equipment

When you have time and proper planning, you can easily recreate an outdoor sport gym such as the one seen here. This owner saved a lot of money by being able to work the lumber themselves. With proper knowledge and the right tools, you can, too. 

With proper depth for the concrete supports, your beams and lumber can be as strong and sturdy as anything in a commercial gym, and even more affordable. 

outside gym with pull up bars and weights

One of the most important aspects of any gym space is storage. Here we see that all the equipment and accessories are stored outside with the racks and bars. In a water-tight container, you don't have to worry about corrosion or rust. 

You will still need proper care and maintenance, but as we see here, the mats protect the deck, and you can work out under the sun and stars with fresh air all around you. 

outdoor DIY gym

No deck? No problem. Not everything requires a professional flooring solution. Sometimes all you need is the proper motivation and a little dirt. While this won’t work for mechanical machines or electric equipment, you can get a full workout with more rustic equipment. 

The only downside to this particular setup is that the ground will stay muddy long after a rainy day, and you may be more limited in your available routines (or require multiple showers before you can come inside). 

outdoor workout equipment

If you have the money, a complete set of outdoor workout equipment can be had that matches something like this. The covered gym is made specifically to get an outdoor workout without compromise. Lights, fans, and overhead storage, as well as space heaters and full padded floor mats, make this a space that can make commercial gyms jealous. 

small shed gym

While you may not be able to afford a layout like this, you can start smaller, using what you see here as guidance and inspiration.

The owner of this shed gym made everything themselves. Not only is it a skill in woodworking and construction, but it serves as an inspiration to the DIYer on a budget. You can see the overhead storage space, racks, and padding throughout.

The incline climbing wall, squat and jump blocks, and benches are all made from treated lumber. Without worrying if it is raining or too hot, this climate-controlled area can be used year-round, in any weather, at any time.

We would suggest more lighting for darker day workouts and some sort of heating such as space heaters or propane heaters for winter workouts, but otherwise, there is nothing to complain about here.


What Gym Equipment Can You Put Outside? 

Any gym equipment stored outdoors will require extra maintenance and diligence to properly maintain. There are some things that shouldn't be stored or even used outdoors. Just keep in mind that anything outside will get wet. 

For the equipment that does get used outdoors, let's take a look at how to properly care for and use it so that you can get the most from your home gym. 

Power Rack 

Once your rack is assembled and secure, you want to paint all exposed parts of the nuts and bolts. Using an enamel-based paint or a matte finish clear coat will add to the protection without taking away from the color of the original paint job.

You also want to consider using a tubed spray can to spray the inside of the rack for an extra coating. Also, drilling hold in the lowest parts of the rack, including the base, legs, and stands, will give rainwater and moisture a way to escape without causing any damage.

For the outside of the rack, you want to use a 3-in-1 oil, WD-40, or mineral oil to coat the exposed areas. You can also cover the equipment with a waterproof tarpaulin between uses to help with UV and moisture protection.

Looking for a new power rack for your outdoor gym? See our full list of the best power racks to help you decide!

Barbells 

Your barbells may be the most important piece of equipment when it comes to the outdoor gym sector. You want to protect these at all costs. When building an outdoor gym, focus on buying stainless steel bars. These require virtually no maintenance, with spot checks done on contact areas. 

You also need to keep all moisture out of the sleeves. Using WD-40 will help the ends repel water and prolong the use of your bars. 

If you're not sure what kind of barbell you need, read our guide to all the different types of barbells to familiarize yourself before making a purchase.

barbells in an outdoor gym

Bumper Plates or Rubber Coated Plates 

When outside, the humidity, temperature, and UV light can wreak havoc on your equipment. Rubber will expand and shrink with temperature changes, which will cause premature breakdown over time. 

Using 3-in-1 oil will help maintain the rubber coating and prevent UV damage. Bumper plates typically use stainless steel hubs, which are fine outdoors, but keep a close eye and remove any oxidation when spotted. 

See Also - Best Olympic Weight Plates

Weight Bench 

There are a lot of spray protectants for vinyl, rubber, and gym equipment. Mineral oil, 3-in-1 oil, WD-40, and 303 Protectant are just some on the top of the list. You will want to spray and coat your benches and chairs with the protectant to allow moisture repellent. 

Make sure to coat the seams, all rubber and vinyl parts, and any exposed metal areas that have scratch potential like your bar catches. This will help reduce fatigue and UV exposure damage. 

Iron Plates, Dumbbells & Kettlebells 

For your plates, dumbbells, and kettlebells, paint is your best defense. Scratches, gouges, and dents can remove the paint and expose the metal to the elements. You can repaint as needed, but this can get tedious. 

Using a 3-in-1 oil on any painted surface will also help. Make sure to wipe off the excess, so it doesn't get on your skin, though. You also want to store your weights and bells on a rack that has drainage built-in so rain, dew, and moisture can roll off or evaporate quickly. Keep them off the ground and covered, if possible. 

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What Gym Equipment Should Always Be Covered? 

Outdoor gyms are freedom and excitement wrapped into one. However, they pose their own sets of problems and issues that indoor gyms don't have. Because of that, some pieces shouldn't be left out in the open. 

Treadmills/Ellipticals/Rowers 

Treadmills and rowers, elliptical machines, and anything with a battery, electrical connection, or drive belt should remain indoors. These machines are precision instruments and require a dry, clean location at all times. 

If any dirt, debris, or moisture (or insects) gets into the drive motor, belt, or gears, they could break instantly. The best case scenario is that they slowly degrade over time, but even then, the more expensive parts of your gym will need replacement sooner than scheduled. 

Weight Machines 

Weight machines using pulleys and cables require friction-free operation and can pose major injury issues if exposed to the elements. Pulleys can bind and rust, cables can corrode and snap, and weight stacks can seize. 

When you are trying to use good form and the proper weights, anything that prevents this is a danger to the equipment and, more importantly, to you. Keep mechanical machines inside and move to racks, cages, and free weights outside. 

Yoga & Workout Mats 

With the exception of floor tiles and mats that your equipment stands on, yoga and workout mats designed for you should also be used inside only. Water and dirt may not seem like a big threat to a yoga mat. 

However, repeated exposure to the elements, direct sun, and UV lighting will cause premature degradation to the material and cause you to need to replace the mats sooner rather than later. 

people rolling up yoga mats

Maintaining Outdoor Workout Equipment 

Proper care and maintenance are crucial for any gym, but more so for an outdoor gym. There are several extra steps you need to take in order to keep your equipment and accessories in tip-top shape. 

  • Covers - Utilize tarps and covers for all equipment when you can. This includes racks, benches, stands, and even shelving. 
  • Oil - 303 Protectant, WD-40, and 3-in-1 oil should be on hand and used often. Coat the iron and metal parts, protect the rubber and vinyl with spray and wipes after each use. 
  • Inspection - In a commercial or indoor gym, scratches and dings are expected, and not much to worry about. For an outdoor gym, they can cause the entire system to fail. Inspect your equipment, contact points, bearings, and sleeves constantly and repair or replace them as needed. 
  • Temperature Control - It's important to control the temperature of your outdoor shed gym where possible. Some important items you may need to look into are dehumidifiers for gyms to keep humidity at bay.
  • Paint - Painted metal will scratch and dent, causing the paint to peel, crack or become removed. Repainting these parts will help prolong the equipment or weights and keep you moving through your workout. 

What Are The Benefits Of An Outdoor Home Gym? 

While outdoor gyms have extra care and maintenance, they also have their own set of distinct advantages. Outdoor home gyms are special and have a place in almost every neighborhood. Let’s take a look at those benefits here. 

Fresh Air 

Fresh air may be the biggest factor out there. You don't need to worry about working out in stale air, filtered and cooled air, or artificial air that may not have enough oxygen. When you work out outside, you get the best, cleanest air available, and for free.

No Traveling 

With an outdoor home gym, you don't need to travel to muscle beach or the local park. You don't have to get in the car and go anywhere. All you have to do is open your back door and get to work. 

By not traveling, you can prep all of your pre and post workout drinks and routines right in the comfort of your own home and jump into your own shower the moment you are done working out. 

No Sharing 

With the exception of couples working out, you won't have to share the machines, equipment, or weights. When you need to do a bench press, you have the bench to yourself; you can take longer breaks between sets, add the weights you need (or remove them), and take your time to get proper form and full extension without having others eye you while waiting their turn. 

Saves Money 

Because your initial investment will pay for itself over time, by not paying gym fees, dues, or upkeep and maintenance on your car for gym travel, you can end up saving money in the long run with a home gym. 

You can read our complete breakdown of home gym costs to get an idea of your overall budget.

Saves Space 

The great outdoors is all yours, at least the area marked by your property line. This means you can spread your equipment out or keep it bunched together to save space. You aren’t limited to a small spare room on the second floor of your home, or being shunned to the basement for a workout. 


People Also Ask (FAQs)

How much does it cost to build an outdoor gym? 

The actual cost to build an outdoor gym will vary based on your needs and equipment types. High-quality brand names with a large amount of equipment will cost more than a gym built with second-hand items and off-brand equipment. The typical cost, including maintenance and construction of an outdoor gym, though, ranges between about $4,000 and $15,000 overall. 

Can I put a treadmill on the balcony? 

If you read the owner’s manual for almost any treadmill, there will be a section that states a strong recommendation not to use a treadmill outdoors. Because of moisture, rain, snow, and other external factors, treadmills do not perform well or last long when exposed to the elements. However, with a proper cover, or portable model that is moved out to the balcony, you shouldn't have any issues. 

Can I put a treadmill in my shed? 

Shed gyms are still indoors. While it may be harder to control the temperature in a shed, the treadmill is not exposed to the elements. You still need to worry about condensation and dew because of the drastic temperature changes and humidity in the air. With a treadmill cover, though, using it inside your shed is doable. 

Can I put my cross trainer outside? 

Just like a treadmill, elliptical, or rower, anything using electricity or battery with a drive motor, belt, or combination should not be used outdoors. You will need proper footing, such as gym mats underneath, and you must keep the machine clean from dirt, dust, and debris and lubricate much more often. Even with all of this, you still run the risk of malfunction or binding.  


Conclusion

Working out at home has a lot of benefits. Working out at home and outside brings a new level of freedom and comfort to your routines. However, it isn’t always easy or cheap to build a proper outdoor workout space. 

With proper planning, some creativity, and a bit of additional maintenance, though, your outdoor home gym can be the envy of the block and your own personal getaway to work out in peace and quiet while breathing in the fresh air of the outdoors. 

Paul J