9 Tips For Building a Killer Garage Gym


9 Tips for Building a Killer Garage Gym

Thinking about building a garage gym, but not sure where to start? Or maybe you’re going through the planning phases for your garage gym and looking for some tips to take it to the next level.

I decided to turn my garage into my own gym about two years ago and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Access to a weight room has never been an issue for me, I literally work in one every day. But, there is something about being able to workout in your own garage that is immensely satisfying.

I’m going to go over all my best tips for planning out your space and equipment for building a killer garage gym that you’ll love for years to come.

Planning Out Your Garage Gym Space

While it’s way more fun to jump ahead and start shopping for a squat rack, it’s really important that you take inventory of exactly where you’re going to setup your garage gym and what kind of space you’ll be working with.

Also, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Garage Gyms don’t necessarily have to be in a garage. I have buddies who have their home gym setup in their basement, in a barn and I even have one friend who has a platform that sits right in his living room.

The point is, location is key when planning out your garage gym. Here are some tips on things to take into consideration when deciding on where to setup your garage gym.

Square Footage

This is probably the most obvious. Measure the square footage of the space you’re thinking of using. Next start looking up measurements on how much space the equipment you want is going to require. It doesn’t have to be everything at this point, just a few basics. A platform, squat rack and maybe a piece of cardio equipment is a good place to start.

Are you going to have enough space for what you want?

Don’t forget to give yourself room to actually workout. My platform is 8 foot wide. But I give myself extra room between the edge of my platform and the wall. If I didn’t, my wall would be littered with holes from my bar bouncing after a Clean or Snatch.

Ceiling Height

Unlike square footage, it’s easy to overlook and not think about ceiling height until you realize it’s an issue. The height of your squat rack could depend heavily on how high your ceiling is.

Pro Tip: An 8 foot rack with an 8 1/2 foot ceiling may fit, but it’s not going to leave you much room for exercises like pull-ups and will definitely eliminate muscle-ups as an option. Take into consideration how you’re going to use your equipment when figuring out space needs.

Overhead movements like snatches, jerks and shoulder presses can all get dicey with a low ceiling. Take your height, with arms extended and add an extra 8 inches (to account for the plate on the bar) to figure out how much height you’re going to need.

Sound

Between the music, iron clanging and bumpers dropping garage gyms are noisy. Somewhere between a little noisy and a car crash happening inside your house noisy. Is that going to be an issue for you?

Take into account whether other humans (especially tiny ones) are going to be sleeping while you’re getting in your workouts. Or are you going to be annoying your significant other while they try to watch TV?

The further away you can setup your gym from the living and sleeping spaces of others the better. Even if this means setting up your gym on the far side of the garage, every bit helps. Maybe your basement is a better space if little ones might be sleeping on the second floor. Don’t wait until you’ve woken someone up from a nap to address your sound issues.

Garage Gym Equipment Tips

The most exciting, and overwhelming, part of building out your garage gym is buying all of your equipment. Gym equipment is expensive and the amount of companies and products on the market can be dizzying.

Here are a few tips to get you started and headed in the right direction when you start purchasing your equipment.

Figure Out Your Budget

How much money do you want to spend? When building out a garage gym, you can spend as little as about $500 all the way up to insane amounts of money.

Figure out what your budget is and then price out all the pieces you want before you make your first purchase. If you spend a big chunk of your budget on a barbell before you start looking at racks, you may be really disappointed in what your options are.

Bonus Tip: This is usually the point when many people start to doubt the idea of building their own gym. While building and outfitting your own gym isn’t cheap, it can actually pay for itself pretty quick when you compare it to spending money on a gym membership.

What Kind of Lifter Are You?

Now that you know you budget, it’s time to start picking out pieces. The most important question to ask yourself first is what type of lifter are you? Here’s an example:

One of my first purchases was a Uesaka Barbell. Why? I’m a big Olympic lifter and I’ve always wanted one, so I splurged and got the exact barbell I’ve always wanted for myself. However, I wouldn’t recommend most people burning that kind of money on a barbell. If you’re going to be doing mostly bodybuilding exercises then it’s simply not worth it.

So, decide what type of lifting you’ll actually be doing and what equipment that type of lifting utilizes.

Buy Multi-Use First

Glute Ham and Lat Pulldown machines are really cool additions to any garage gym. They’re two of my favorite machines. However, the amount of functionality you get from them is very limited. They’re designed to do one, maybe two, things.

On the other hand, with a barbell and a set of bumpers you can do an almost limitless amount of workouts and exercises. This is where you want to begin when you start buying equipment for you gym. Select pieces that are going to give you the most bang for your buck.

Which pieces these are goes back to ‘what kind of lifter are you?’. Almost everyone is going to get a ton of use out of a barbell. But, what about a medicine ball? If you’re a Crossfit person, then you’ll get tons of use out of a med ball. However, if you’re a powerlifter, probably not so much.

Buying equipment that will give you a ton of different uses within your workouts is the best way to make your budget go along way when you’re first getting started.

Don’t Buy Cheap

I’ve already mentioned multiple times that gym equipment is not cheap. Flooring, Racks, Barbells, Plates, etc adds up quick – even if you’re buying it secondhand. It can become really tempting to go buy the cheapest equipment you can find, from say, Wal-Mart or Amazon. When it comes to weight equipment, like many things, you really get what you pay for.

While it is expensive, quality gym equipment will last you years, if not decades. You’re way better off buying something once then having to buy it again every couple years.

Knowing the difference between what’s cheap and what’s a good price is knowledge that you build over time, but here is my best tip. Rogue and Titan make some of the best, budget-friendly home gym equipment that you can buy. I’m not saying you have to buy from them, but I would check the prices of comparable items on their websites. If what you’re looking at is a lot cheaper than theirs, I would be concerned.

Flooring?

Yes, you’re going to want flooring. Dropping weight repeatedly on your garage floor is a good way to end up with cracks in your flooring. Thick, rubber gym flooring is a great way to help protect your floor and something I highly recommend. If you’re going to be doing a lot of Olympic lifting I would also suggest getting yourself a platform to work on even if that means building one yourself.

My suggestion for garage gym flooring are Horse Stall Mats from Tractor Supply Company. Yes, they come with their downfalls, but for the price and the durability, I still think they are the best option for a garage gym floor.

You Don’t Need Everything at Once

When you’re first building out your garage gym, you want to buy everything. Everything you use at your current gym. That piece that you loved using in your college weight room. That machine you see on commercials all the time.

There is no need to get everything all at once though. Your gym will continue to grow and expand over time. Ask anyone that’s had a garage gym for awhile how many times they’ve said to themselves, “now it’s finished.” Then ask them how many times they bought “just one more piece.”

When your first getting started, get what you really need to get started. Your garage gym might start with a floor mat and a couple sets of dumbbells – and that’s okay! Put something on your Christmas list. Save up and buy yourself something at the start of each summer. Whatever works for you.

Final Thoughts

My final, bonus tip if you will. If you’re thinking about building out a garage gym – go for it. From somewhere who has worked in weight rooms their entire adult life, I can’t believe it has taken me this long to build my own gym at the house. Even if I’m getting some workouts in at the school still, there are multiple times every week that having my gym at the house is a game changer.

There are a hundred different ways you can talk yourself out of starting your garage gym, but if you make the decision to go for it, you’ll be really happy you did.

Stay Strong!

Ryan H

My name is Ryan Horton and I've spent the last 18 years as a Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach and am currently the Director of Sports Science with Georgia Tech Football. I've always set up workout areas at home everywhere we've lived, but now I have a garage and I'm going all out.

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