Small Apartment Home Gym (Design, Setup & How-To Guide)

Apartment gyms are growing in popularity after the events of the last few years. 

Being at home, maintaining your workout regimen, having a healthy lifestyle, and saving money are all major benefits of building a home gym. 

What if, though, you live in a small home or apartment building? There may not be enough space for a fully kitted out gym setup. 

However, there are ways to get full body workouts in an apartment gym set up in limited space, and we will show you how.

Recommendation | Our #1 Apartment home gym

man using preacher curl attachment on the Marcy MWM-988

Marcy MWM-988 Home Gym

Workout Versatility

9.0

Value For Money

10.0

Ease Of Use

10.0

Ease Of Assembly

9.0

Materials & Durability

9.0


Overall Rating

9.4

In this apartment home gym guide, we will cover the equipment, concerns, benefits, and costs.

This should help you get an idea of essentials items you need, how to plan and budget your apartment gym, and more.

Planning, setting up, and building a home apartment gym can be an exciting time. 

However, if your space is limited, you will need to take extra time in the planning stages. 

To assist with that, we offer a small apartment gym setup guide that will help you work with very little space.

Below you will find inspiration from other small space gym setups, and we will explain why they work and what may be best for you.

Related Article - How To Build A Cheap Calisthenics Gym

squat rack on a small outdoor apartment patio

Let’s start simple. When you don’t have apartment floor space inside, consider the outside for workout equipment. 

Here we find a simple rack with a standard barbell and Olympic weight plates. 

Because it is an outdoor home gym, there is a concern for rust or corrosion, but this can be mitigated with rust-resistant applications.

It can be challenging to use bench exercises on a small patio like this, but with the higher ceiling height, pull-ups and cardio training are easily performed. 

This gym in an apartment patio also has a grounded outlet, so the addition of a compact exercise bike could also be employed if you have the floor space.

Ensure you are effectively using extra space where you can.

Also Check Out - Is A Home Gym Worth It? - YES!

indoor living room home gym with squat rack and weight bench

Moving back inside, the owner of this gym in an apartment has taken over part of the living room. 

Because the living room has a higher per square foot pound rating, it can accommodate higher weights like the squat rack and the free weights. 

The use of the workout mats is essential to help distribute the weight, dampen sound and offer some floor protection in case weights are dropped. 

When setting up something like this, though, you need a larger room which is why this is found in the living room, where furniture can be moved to accommodate the space requirements. 

bedroom home gym with power rack, weight bench, and adjustable dumbbells

This owner not only has a cute dog but has also decided to transform the bedroom instead of the living area into their apartment gym setup. 

Luckily this one is on the ground floor, so weight isn't as much of an issue. 

Because of that, a full weight rack is utilized, along with a Swiss bar, standard barbell, and a folding bench. 

You will also notice the use of the Bowflex SelectTech adjustable dumbbells and rack storage hooks to save space. 

This smaller townhome turned a small spare room on the first floor into their gym and has made use of exercise tiles for the flooring protection.

Related Article - Home Gym Vs Gym Membership

diy wooden home gym in a small space

The rack and storage were handmade and are fully mounted for security. 

This is a great use of storage space to double as the rest and rack while providing ample room for the workouts. 

This owner also plans to include a rowing machine which will most likely double as a workout chair when needed. 

The important takeaway here, though, is that while space may be at a premium, combining the rack and storage in a space-saving design is one solution if you have DIY talents. 

It also makes building a garage gym a lot cheaper if you can make some items yourself. 

spare room home gym with power rack, weight plates, and a dumbbell rack

For the rest of us, though, spare room home gyms may look something more like this: no handmade racks and storage, but plenty of options. 

The natural light, overhead light, and mirrors add depth to the space, making it look larger. 

The free weight storage racks accommodate the multiple dumbbells, but a couple of adjustable dumbbells would save even more space here. 

The folding bench and rack are the main focus and where most of the workout will take place. 

But we love the ample room in the front to perform your warm-up and cool down stretches without having to move a lot of items around. 


How Much Space Do You Need For A Quality Home Gym?

When you live in a smaller apartment or condo, one of the biggest concerns is required space. But how much available space do you actually need? The answer may surprise you. 

For a basic guide, you need to know how much room you require as an individual.

You need to be able to stand, raise arms over your head, perform jumping jacks and other height moves, as well as floor work like push-ups, sit-ups, and more. 

As long as you have enough room to stand, jump and move with arms out, you have room for a home gym.

The bare minimum space required is about 7 feet by 3 feet, with an 8-foot ceiling. 

Obviously, more room will increase your potential for equipment additions, but you can do a lot in a small space. 

Related Article - Best Home Gym Layouts & Setup


Potential Problems Of Small Home Gyms In Apartments

As you can imagine, not everything in a small space gym will be a benefit. There are pitfalls and downsides to be aware of.

If you know about potential problems ahead of time, you can avoid them or find solutions during construction. Let's learn what the biggest issues are. 

Weight Limits 

One of the biggest drawbacks to apartment gyms are the weight limits.

With the exception of the ground floor units, the higher the floor you are on, the less weight each floor can hold. 

While all floors will be able to handle the average weights of standard household items (furniture, appliances, etc.), the additional weight for equipment and plates can be too much. 

Causing stress, fractures, and even breaking of the load-bearing framework, you will need to know the maximum weight per square foot of the space [1]. 

If you are unsure or cannot find out, it is best to keep your equipment near the edges of the room and near the center of the apartment where the load-bearing beams meet. 

Learn More - Can You Put A Home Gym On The Second Floor?

Noise 

Noise is another concern that can cause many apartment dwellers to work out at fitness centers. 

Constant impact with weight stacks, dropping weights, jumping, and using the equipment can get noisy. 

Shared walls and floors with downstairs neighbors will be the most disrupted by your workouts. 

You can avoid this by using quiet equipment and non-metal plates such as bumper weight plates. We recommend getting at least a yoga mat or rubber floor tiles to reduce noise.

You can also exercise during normal waking hours to minimize the complaint opportunities.

You might even want to consider some soundproofing to block out excessive noise and vibrations during your workout [2]. 

Read Also - Bumper Plates Vs Iron

Vibrations 

With movement comes vibration, and that vibration can transfer from one area to another.

If your home gym is located in a room that shares a wall with a neighbor, for example, your equipment vibrations can shake the walls and even knock photos or items from the walls next door.

To avoid angry neighbors, you want to minimize vibrations by utilizing workout or yoga mats under your heavy weights and equipment and avoid using the shared wall for weight or equipment storage.

See Also - Do I Need Rubber Flooring For My Home Gym? 

Regulations 

Some apartment and condo complexes may have limits and regulations against setting up home gyms or heavy equipment.

Usually, for the reasons outlined above, if you fall under this restriction, there may not be much you can do. 

You want to read through your rental agreement or lease carefully to ensure you have the right to add or build gym equipment in the apartment.

Otherwise, your best bet may be to use the shared gym at your complex. 

Space 

Obviously in smaller apartments, space is the number one concern.

While there are ways around this (see below), using the right equipment, planning your gym layout properly, and taking your time to expand and grow will be the best combatants of the space situation.

Read Also - Home Gym Size Guide For A Small Space

home gym with gym mats, small squat rack, and hex dumbbells

What Kind Of Home Gym Equipment Is Ideal For Small Apartments?

When looking to start building your own apartment gym, there are certain parts, pieces, and equipment setups that will work well and others that won’t. 

Your choices will depend on several aspects, including the space you have and the type of gym you wish to construct.

Knowing the limits based on your current setup and future needs will help you get started on the right foot. Let’s find out more about the specific equipment perfect for smaller spaces. 

Check out our complete guide to every piece of equipment with pictures to help you understand all the different options available.

Free Weights 

Free weights are a muscle building staple in any home or commercial gym, regardless of size.

They are readily available, have multiple uses, and are generally affordable. In a small home gym, though, they may be the primary focus of your setup. 

With free weights, you can use dumbbells for most movements, even mimicking a straight bar bench press.

You can also use straight bars and curl bars with weight plates that all mount on racks for out-of-the-way storage. 

With selectable weight dumbbells, you can save even more space by essentially combining multiple weights into a single unit. They are available in dumbbell and kettlebell form as well. 

Suggested Equipment - Best Olympic Weight Sets

Portable Training Gear 

Portable training gear is also a worthy investment. By design, portable items are made to be compact, easy to store, and use without taking up a lot of space. 

The list of these includes weight vests, ankle and wrist weights, resistance bands, workout balls (medicine and exercise balls), and more.

Portable designs are generally meant to be packed and taken with you on trips, used in hotels, or on the go.

However, with limited home gym space, they fill the gap between a full-sized home gym and not having the right equipment for the muscle building routines you wish to complete. 

Another great option is a resistance band. They are cheap, easy to use, and store. They offer a great solution for small budgets and spaces. They are a good alternative to cable machines as well.

If you want a multi-functional, portable workout solution, we recommend the BodyBoss 2.0. It comes with everything you need to get a full-body workout using different exercises on-the-go.

Read Also - Garage Gym Ideas On A Budget

Cardio Machines 

While you still need to concern yourself with weight limits and noise or vibrations, cardio machines are an excellent low-impact solution for many home gyms.

Elliptical machines and compact folding treadmills are a great way to increase heart rate and get a decent workout without taking up valuable living space.

Another excellent form of cardio, and a personal favorite of mine, is a rowing machine. Most rowing machines for apartments either fold up or detach so you can store them separately. 

One of the most compact cardio machines is an exercise bike. They take up very little space compared to treadmills. Exercise bikes are also much easier on your joints.

If you decide to go the machine workout route, there are plenty of options to choose from. 

With folding options and models designed for portability and storage, you can get high-quality equipment that remains out of the way when not in use. 

Suggested Equipment - Best Cardio Equipment For Home Gyms

All In One Home Gym Machines 

All-inclusive systems typically have everything you need for a full-body workout.

Whether a full rack system or a cable and pulley machine, you can use a weight stack, free weights, full bars, and even Olympic plates. 

The best part is that these systems typically come in various sizes to fit different situations. You can even find designs built to be placed in corners, so they are useful but out of the way when you aren’t working out. 

All-in-one home gyms usually come with a weight stack included, so there's no need to buy additional weight plates. 

Of course, with an all-in-one solution, you have extra weight, higher initial costs, and more noise or vibration. This also means there is more assembly and high levels of routine maintenance.

However, with the right system, sized to match your apartment space and the right floor mats, care and maintenance routines, you can get the most out of these setups compared to the other options. 

One of our favorite models is the Marcy MWM-988 home gym. It has a 150-pound weight stack, which is enough weight for most users.

It allows you to work out your upper body and lower body as well. You can also upgrade the weight stack later when your progress in your training. 

Suggested Equipment - All-In-One Home Gym Reviews

Recommendation | Our #1 Apartment home gym

man using preacher curl attachment on the Marcy MWM-988

Marcy MWM-988

Workout Versatility

9.0

Value For Money

10.0

Ease Of Use

10.0

Ease Of Assembly

9.0

Materials & Durability

9.0


Overall Rating

9.4

5 Recommended Home Gym Items For Condos/Apartments

When space is a concern, and you need to be limited on your equipment, there are several pieces designed to help.

Below we outline some of the most recommended home gym equipment standards that work well with little space. 

1. Adjustable Weight Bench 

An adjustable bench allows you to perform home workouts with both free weights and cable weights. In addition, you can use an adjusting bench as a rest, chair, laying for bench presses, and more. 

In small spaces, though, you need a compact bench that can still offer full functionality. This is where folding weight benches come into play. 

Models like the Vanswe Adjustable Weight Bench are ideal for small spaces. It has a smaller footprint of 61 inches long when fully extended. It also features 7 different backrest positions and 4 seat positions. 

Best of all, it also comes equipped foot holders so you can use it as a sit up bench, and hooks for your resistance bands—full functionality of a weight bench plus the added space-saving design for other exercises.  

Our Favorite Adjustable Weight Bench

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2. Adjustable Dumbbells 

Adjustable dumbbells are affordable and compact in design.

With several dumbbell brands and models to choose from, you can have your pick of various weight ranges that allow a single dumbbell to replace several. 

They will save you storage space and make your weight selection and workouts smoother and faster.

Take the Bowflex SelectTech 552, for example. This adjustable weight dumbbell ranges from 5 to 52.5 pounds and stores everything in a 15 x 9 inch area. 

While the initial price may seem a bit high, when compared to buying individual dumbbells that, combined, will take up to 10 times the space, it costs much less.

On average, an adjustable dumbbell can save you up to 30% compared to buying individual dumbbells. 

Many people find that adjustable dumbbells are all the equipment they really need for strength training.

Our Favorite Adjustable Dumbbell Set

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Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells...
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Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells...
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3. Door Or Wall Mounted Pull Up Bar 

Pull-ups are one of the more essential workout routine exercises, and they target a lot of muscle groups, including shoulders, back, and core muscles.

In a tiny apartment, you may find it difficult to perform a pull-up without the use of a compact wall or door-mounted model. 

The Gronk Fitness wall-mounted pull up bar is one such example. This model mounts easily to a wall and will allow you to perform a variety of pull-ups, chin-ups, and wide-grip pull-ups without fuss. 

You can even attach your resistance bands to the multi-gym for different angle exercises. 

Our Favorite Pull Up Bar For Home Gyms

Gronk Fitness Wall Mounted Pull Up Bar | Chin...
146 Reviews
Gronk Fitness Wall Mounted Pull Up Bar | Chin...
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4. Smaller Than Usual Barbell 

Barbells come in many sizes, styles, and shapes. A standard barbell, Olympic barbell, and Hex bar are the more common local gym bars. However, they typically are very large, bulky, and long. 

In an apartment or condo, you may not have the room width to accommodate a full-size bar and will need a compact model.

Ones like the Rogue Fitness C-60B are compact, durable, and still meet standard requirements. 

The Rogue Fitness C-60B is only 59-inches long, weighs 25 pounds, and has a weight rating of over 300 pounds.

The distance between the collars is only 44 inches, which prevents it from being racked on a standard barbell rack.

Our Favorite Short Barbell For Small Gyms

5. Folding Squat Rack

Squat racks can be useful for many reasons, not just squats! 

However, with a bench, the rack can also hold the barbells for performing bench exercises, seated exercises, and catch the barbells if they fall. 

However, finding one to accommodate a small apartment can be a challenge. Wall-mounted folding racks are great if you have a wall big enough and stud beams strong enough. 

One of my favorite options for a wall-mounted folding rack is the PRX One and Pro models. 

Ideally, though, you are using a non-standard barbell (as mentioned above) and will need a rack system that can accommodate. 

The best options are squat stands. Freestanding, easy to store, and can be placed close together to fit smaller barbells.

The popular CAP model below is a great choice for tiny apartment spaces and it'll offer you a good workout.

Our Favorite Standing Squat Stand

CAP Barbell FM-8000F Deluxe Power Rack, Blue
2,066 Reviews
CAP Barbell FM-8000F Deluxe Power Rack, Blue
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Common Questions About Apartment Home Gyms

Is it safe to have a home gym in an apartment? 

It is perfectly safe to have a home gym in any home, including an apartment or condo. With the smaller units, though, you need to concern yourself with structural safety and weight limits more than other homes. You can ask the property owner or city for specifications to ensure your equipment stays below safety thresholds.  

How do you store weights in a small apartment? 

Storage is one of the main concerns for smaller spaces, and the answer lies in wall and rack storage. You can make a DIY weight plate storage rack and mount it to a stud that will support the weight of multiple weight plates. Dumbbells, kettlebells, and workout balls can easily fit on racks designed to hold them, many of which are compact and easy to keep in the corner of the room or closet. 

Can I put a squat rack in my apartment? 

The answer will depend significantly on the ceiling height and room dimensions for the rack. A folding rack or a smaller squat stand may be the most viable option. However, if you have the space and can easily maneuver the weights, seats, or benches as well as you, then there is no reason a rack won't work. The main problem will be with sound, vibration, and your neighbors. Lifting weights causes a lot of noise and vibration, which can be highly disrupting. 

How much weight can you put in an apartment? 

This will be determined by several factors, including where the apartment is built, how many apartment floors it has, and when it was constructed. Current standards require about 30 pounds per square foot for sleeping rooms and 40 pounds of support in non-sleeping rooms. However, your city or state requirements may be different, and it is best to call the city planning office or building inspection department of the local city hall to find out what the total weight is for most apartments.


Conclusion

Apartment living is a cost-effective and simple solution for many of us, and it shouldn't hinder our ability to have a home gym. However, there are several consideration factors that homeowners don’t have to worry about. 

Once you have considered your neighbors, sound and vibration levels, weight distribution, and equipment type you prefer, you may come to the conclusion it isn’t worth it.

On the other hand, small apartments can still function as a home gym with the right setup, proper planning, and equipment purchases. 

Compact designs, folding or portable models, and weight sets are ideal for smaller home situations. 

References:

  1. https://www.hunker.com/13400811/how-to-calculate-floor-load-capacity
  2. https://www.thespruce.com/soundproof-your-room-or-apartment-4062945

Last Updated on October 21, 2022