How to Set Up a Home Gym You Will Want to Use

by fitness journalist

If you’re a fitness enthusiast, setting up a home gym sounds like an excellent idea. You will never have to wait to use the equipment, you get to train any time you want, no upfront payment of exorbitant fees, and surely you will feel more motivated to exercise now that you don’t have to travel to the gym. But how do you ensure that the space doesn’t go to waste when the novelty wears off and all that fancy equipment you just purchased gets resold on Carousell? We speak to three gym and fitness experts to find out how you can set up a home gym that you will actually want to use:

How big a space do you need?

Design: Luxespace

Consider how many people are using the gym at the same time. If it’s just a couple of people, a regular-sized bedroom in a typical HDB flat is sufficient. Malcom, a personal trainer with Personal Trainer Solutions advises setting aside at least a 2.5 metres by 2.5 metres of space.

Roz Alexander, Exercise Scientist and Strength & Conditioning Coach at BeachFit recommends that you also consider if you will be engaging a fitness instructor to work with you in your home gym as that will increase the headcount and gym space you require.

The space you need will also depend on your exercise regime. If you’re planning for different equipment and machines (e.g. a cardio machine and a multi-station gym set-up), Vanan, the founder of EzFit, recommends at least a 300 to 400 square feet space. “Make sure there’s also enough space to walk.”

For homeowners who live in double-storey homes, it’s ideal to have your home gym on the ground level to prevent weights from dropping onto the ceiling of the lower level. If you’re having it on the upper floors, be aware of the maximum imposed load of your apartment or home. For HDB, it’s 150 kg/m2.

What equipment to purchase?

Overly expensive and fancy machines are generally not recommended by the experts we spoke with. Instead, they advocate a selection of anchor equipment based on your training needs. For the general gym-goer, Roz recommends going for an adjustable bench that incorporates decline and incline features, a selection of dumbbells ranging from 2 kg to 20 kg, a TRX for suspension training and a good quality and a yoga mat and a selection of rubber resistance bands. For cardio exercises, she suggests a good-quality exercise bike that can be wheeled around for more flexibility as well as a good quality treadmill. “Forget cheap, lightweight bikes or treadmills as they usually can’t take higher-intensity use and rust quickly.”

Malcom’s suggestions are for the competitive lifter, strongmen or cardio enthusiast. “A squat rack with a functional training system would be the most ideal as they are able to cover most of the workouts for the individual. A squat rack is useful for compound exercises like deadlift, squats and bench press, whereas a functional training system includes training accessories that can target individual muscle groups.”

Vanan highlights some accessories that are good to have, including a foam roller (to apply pressure on muscles to ease soreness), mats and acupressure balls.

Design: Fineline Design

If you’re setting up a home gym for the first time, it pays to ask a professional to assess what equipment you should go for. If not, consider smaller equipment first and add on only when you have a better idea of what you will need.

What other features should a home gym have?

A mirrored section of the wall is necessary to check form. Consider also equipping your home gym with entertainment systems such as a wall-mounted TV, good speakers and Internet access—not only will they create a more enjoyable time in your gym, they will also keep you motivated and kill time faster.

Go for a home gym that has a bright and airy space, with plenty of big windows. “Natural ventilation and daylight are great for early morning or evening training sessions when the air is cooler,” says Roz.

If you’re not relying on the natural air and light, Vanan recommends going for air-conditioning as well as white artificial lights rather than warm ones to keep you focused and safe.

Avoid including anything that makes you too comfortable, says Malcom. Don’t install a daybed or beanbags for instance that will make you want to lounge and relax rather than work out!

What safety precautions to take?

When setting up a home gym, there are a few safety precautions to bear in mind. One of the most important is flooring. Make sure you install a flooring material that is non-slippery and preferably rubberised.

Don’t allow young children to play in the home gym. Keep doors closed and locked when not in use. Roz recommends going for a high door handle to prevent your little ones from entering the room without permission.

Where you place your dumbbells, racks and other heavy equipment matter. Keep them away from breakable materials like glass or mirrored walls.

Finally, make sure your equipment can take the loading of your structural beams as well as your flooring. Do keep suspension systems bolted to a solid wall rather than to a gypsum wall or a door.

How to make sure your home gym gets used?

Avoid buying the wrong equipment. “A multipurpose tower system with cables for all sorts of exercises will often end up being boring very quickly and the equipment sits and gathers dust. Keeping it simple with a bench and dumbbells selection will cover all you need for upper and lower body. A really good quality treadmill or bike is also essential. Saving money on these items don’t pay off and the equipment becomes very unstable very quickly and again sits unused for years,” says Roz.

Get a training regime going. “Set a routine for workout and stick to it. If you start slacking, engage a personal trainer to come over to get you back on your regime,” suggests Vanan.

Add entertainment. “Get in music to keep your adrenaline pumping while you work out!” says Malcom.

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