Exercise is the key to achieving your lifestyle and fitness goals.

Traditionally, people paid gym membership fees and used that gym for all their training, but in the last few years home gyms have become increasingly popular. 

In this article we'll both options and help you decide which is best for you. 

There are benefits and drawbacks to commercial gym workouts and working out from home. 

Which is better for you ultimately comes down to things like your budget, personal interests, and how you motivate yourself.

So is it best to join a gym, or to build your own - and are home gyms actually worth it?  Here are the key considerations to help you decide:

1. Cost (Short And Long Term)

Cost tends to be the determining factor for both people, and both options have short and long term cost considerations. 

If you join a gym you'll have to pay a monthly or annual fee to use it. The average cost for a US gym membership is $50 a month, but it does vary massively. 

On top of the subscription cost you have additional cost for classes and travel to and from the gym. 

When you work out at home you don't pay a monthly fee, but you have to pay for all the equipment you're going to use (except for a few additional accessories like a yoga mat, water bottle etc.).

A basic home gym can cost you $500- $3000, and a lot more if you want premium equipment. Although this is expensive, it's all one-time purchases and you won't have to pay travel costs on top.  

You'll have to pay for things like dumbbells, a treadmill, a yoga mat, a weight bench, and anything else needed for your workouts. 

A home gym costs a lot more upfront, but the long term costs of gym memberships are usually higher.

Check out our guide for home gym ideas if you're on a tight budget!

2. Equipment Options

When you work out in a commercial gym all the equipment is there for you. You don't have to bring anything or worry about upkeep.

Every gym is slightly different, but you'll generally have access to kettlebells, cable machines, treadmills, free weights, cardio equipment, and sometimes even a pool and sauna. 

If your goal is centred around building muscle, then having access to heavy duty weights is important for a great workout and commercial gyms make it easier. 

If you work out at home you have to purchase all your own equipment and maintain it yourself. 

Depending on your space and budget you may not have room for larger pieces of equipment and therefore your home workouts are likely to be more limited - or reliant on body weight exercises. 

If your workouts use a lot of equipment then joining a gym is best. If you're happy with body weight circuits and cardio then a home gym is a better choice.

Check out our home gym essentials if you decide to go that route!

3. Comfort Levels

For many people, though, at least initially, it can be very intimidating and nerve-racking working out in a gym in front of other people. 

There's a certain level of comfort that comes with working out in the comfort of your own home, on your own machines, with your own equipment, with no one else watching you or waiting for the machine you're working with. 

If you're a beginner then you may be more comfortable with home workouts. More advanced lifters are likely to be more comfortable in a commercial gym. 

4. Accountability & Motivation 

Everyone has different sources of motivation and it's not one size fits all. 

In a commercial gym it's often easier to push yourself because you're surrounded by people working out. Plus, you've travelled all the way so it may seem like a waste of time if you don't make the most of it. 

It's easier to avoid the home gym or just give it a half hearted workout. Workout apps, fitness tracking apps, and online personal training resources can help you, but you're still reliant on being self motivated. 

There are different trains of thought and some people find it easier to train harder at home, but if you are more motivated with other people around you then joining a gym is best.

5. Confidence Or Embarrassment 

Many people don't like trying new things in front of strangers, no matter the situation. Trying a new fitness routine can be very intimidating, even if you're doing it alone.

Messing up on a lift or not being able to keep up on the treadmill in front of others can be very embarrassing, and it could make you want to quit working out altogether. 

However, some people feel more comfortable around other people and can learn correct form by watching fitness instructors or other lifters in the gym. This can actually give you more confidence in the long run.

However, If you're the type that gets nervous in crowds, working out at home is definitely for you. 

6. Results (Weight Loss Or Muscle Building)

Some people that have gone to gyms their whole life will swear up and down that you can't get the same great workout at home that you can get in a gym.

They argue that having a dedicated space outside their home makes them work harder, and they can separate relaxation time at home from training in the gym. 

However, it all comes down to personal preference. Are home workouts as effective as workouts in the gym?  Yes, they most definitely are and even the backyard gym built on a shoe string budget can be just as good as a large commercial gym. 

You can get an effective workout in just thirty minutes with absolutely no equipment as long as you give 100% effort.[1]

You can also video or livestream classes to get the same experience at home.

Your results ultimately come down to the effort you put into your training, no matter where you decide to do it. 

However, those working out at home are less likely to have access to all the weight lifting equipment found in many gyms, and a home workout is likely to involve more body weight exercises. 

These are great to give more flexibility, toning and weight loss, but if your goal is to build muscle and increase strength then you may be better joining a commercial gym. 

woman training at gym with guidance of PT

Pros and Cons of Working Out at Home

When deciding whether you should work out in a gym vs at home, you have to weigh the pros and cons of both choices.

To get started, we'll go over the pros and cons of working out at home. 


  • You Save Money
    People who work out at home stand to save money longer term vs. those who work out in gyms. When we compare gym memberships and home gyms, memberships can be expensive, and there's additional travel costs. These long-term costs are typically more expensive than building your home gym.
  • You Save Time
    Getting to and from the gym can take a lot of time, especially if you aren't close by and you're travelling in rush hour and can't skip traffic. Having a long commute can also kill your motivation, and you might not go at all. When you set up a home gym, you are always a few steps away from a good workout.
  • You Have More Freedom 
    When you work out at home, the only set of eyeballs you have on you are yours. You set up your own rules and work out when and how you want, no questions asked. And you can wear whatever you want—no need to impress anyone at the gym with your latest workout attire.
  • You Have Access To Your Kitchen
    Your diet is just as important as your workout. That's why you need to put as much effort into what you eat as you do into your training. Having access to your kitchen right after your workout allows you to fuel your body with the proper nutrients and not be tempted by fast food on the way home.
  • No Waiting For Equipment
    Unless you bring a workout buddy into your garage gym, you can get on and off equipment at your own pace whenever you are ready. There's no awkward small talk and no waiting around.
  • More Sanitary
    As this is your own gym, you are in charge of cleaning and maintaining it. You will always know for sure if the equipment is clean and kept instead of relying on others or hoping it is.
  • Tailored To You
    Gyms contain a wide range of equipment to suit various people; you curate a garage gym set up for you. This means that you can be more flexible and as experimental as you want to be, and used specialized equipment that works for you.


  • Getting Motivated Can Be Difficult
    Being in an environment where everyone else around you is working hard for their goals can work wonders for your motivation. When you work out at home, you don't have that extra bit of encouragement, and it can be challenging to flip the switch in your brain to give it your all. 
  • You Have Limited Equipment And Space
    Some fitness equipment could cost you thousands of dollars at home (although there's usually a dumbbell variation you could do instead.) By paying for a gym membership you have a access to all the fancy or expensive equipment which gives you unlimited workout options, and you can always keep your routines fresh.
  • There's Little To No Accountability
    It can be hard to find accountability when you work out at home. Unless a significant other or a roommate is working out with you, you have to hold yourself accountable. Unfortunately, you won't have someone encouraging you to keep it up or helping you get that last rep up.
  • High Upfront Cost
    A home gym is more affordable in the long run, but you have to buy all the equipment needed upfront. It can be a big outlay to buy the right equipment, and you'll have to be prepared to spend to get a gym that's worth using.
women getting ready for working out at home

Pros And Cons Of Working Out At The Gym

Like working out at home, there will be pros and cons to working out at a gym. 


  • You Get All Of The Gym's Amenities
    Exercising is a lot easier when you have access to a lot of equipment. So if you like cardio, you can have a great workout on a treadmill, assault bike, rowing machine, or an elliptical...the list goes on. And if you want to build muscle through weight lifting, you'll have more than enough different types of weights to choose from as well as cable machines, bands, and more.
  • You Can Sign Up For Classes
    Signing up for a gym membership lets you register for fitness classes or work with a fitness coach/ personal trainer. You do have access to online fitness programs and online at home workouts when you train at home, but there's nothing like going to a gym and getting personalized attention from a trainer.
  • It's Easier To Focus
    Some people are admittedly married to their phones regardless of the situation. But, it's much easier to stay focused on your workout when you're at the gym. You can put your phone away in the locker room and focus entirely on working out. 
  • You Might Find A Workout Buddy
    Workout buddies can help keep you motivated and make training more fun. If you're a beginner, they can also help you to understand complicated equipment. You won't get this at home so if you're sociable it's a big plus for joining a gym.


  • Gym Memberships Are Expensive
    Gym memberships usually aren't cheap. And when you add in travel expenses and the wear and tear you put on your vehicle, the costs add up quickly. Once you've paid for the equipment in your home gym, it will be free to work out for the rest of your life.
  • You Have To Commute
    Actually getting self motivated to set off going to the gym can be hard. Plus, if you have kids, finding someone to take care of them or paying for childcare is an extra hassle and expense. Throwing on a pair of shorts and having a home workout is often much easier.
  • Gyms Can Get Really Busy
    Gyms can be very busy, especially in January, and a crowded locker room can make it more of a challenge for introverted people. Sometimes putting in headphones and trying to ignore everyone around you isn't enough, but it's never an issue if you work out at home alone.
  • Waiting For Equipment
    If you are someone who often goes to gyms during peak times, you may find yourself spending half the time waiting for equipment (especially if your gym only has a few squat racks). This can increase the time you spend at the gym, leaving you with less personal time than you planned.
  • Opening and Busy Times
    While some gyms are open 24/7, many gyms have set days and times when they are available. This means that you have to fit the gym around your own and the building’s schedule, which can be difficult.
woman doing high plank hold at gym

3 Tips On How To Have An Effective Workout At Home

Whether you pay gym membership fees or you workout from home, it's all about you. The effort and drive you put into your workout will influence your results, and there's a few ways to get the most from your at home workouts:

1. Warm Up

It can be tempting to dive straight into your home workouts, but you need to warm up first. 

Light stretching or gentle cardio (like jumping jacks) will help to warm up your body, prevent injury, and get the proper form while you workout.

If you're using a fitness app it's worth looking at the latest health news or any injury prevention tips they have as safety should always be the number one priority. 

2. Track Your Progress

Pushing yourself more week on week and month on month is the key to reaching your goals. Progressive overload on weights is what stimulate muscle growth, and that will improve your overall strength. 

Use an app (or go old school with a pen and paper) to track your progress and note down any new workouts you're doing. This will help you see how far you've come over the course of a few months and hopefully keep you motivated. 

3. Use Fitness Apps And Online Resources

You don't need specific personal training to reach your goals, but you can use a wide range of resources out there to plan your workouts. 

On YouTube and other streaming platforms you can find workouts designed by a personal trainer which are completely free to follow. Plus, there are a wide variety of fitness apps out there to give you lots of motivation and inspiration for your workouts.

Common Gym & Home Workout Questions

Do you really need a gym to get fit? 

You don't need a gym or even equipment to get in shape. If you have a tiny bit of space in your house, there are plenty of bodyweight workouts you can do that can help you lose weight and get strong. 

Can outdoor gyms be a good workout solution? 

Even if you enjoy going to the gym, there are a few extra benefits of outdoor gyms. When you workout outside, you get an extra dose of Vitamin D. You also get to enjoy the fresh air and a dose of nature as you grind through your workout. 

Can you bulk up without weights? 

There's a big misconception out there that you need big heavy weights to bulk up. While weights may be necessary once you hit a certain fitness level, it is possible to add bulk by doing bodyweight exercises and eating the right foods. 

How much does a full home garage gym cost? 

The cost of a home gym will vary from person to person. You may need more or less equipment than the next guy, which can raise or lower the cost of your garage gym. Your basic home gym can cost between $1,000-$2,000, but again, it can be much less or much more depending on your needs. 

How can I find the best gym to join? 

The best gym for you will be a matter of preference and what you're looking to accomplish. But, no matter what type of gym you're trying to join, you should research things like their location, hours, cost, equipment, and amenities offered to decide what gym you should join. 

Conclusion - Which Is Better For Working Out?

Working out in a gym or at home can both achieve outstanding results, and what's best for you ultimately comes down to personal preference and budget.

If you can motivate yourself and you don't need an accountability buddy, you can save money by working out at home.[2]

But if you're easily distracted, need an extra bit of motivation, and don't mind the commute, gyms are right up your alley. 


  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/an-efficient-and-thrifty-way-to-exercise-at-home
  2. https://www.popsugar.co.uk/smart-living/Ways-Motivate-Yourself-42337310
Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.