DIY Home Projects
Gym at Home
The need-to-know about a building a gym in your basement
A home gym is more than a few pieces of little-used exercise equipment stashed in a vacant room. To make the leap to being an enjoyable workout room, your gym needs to be in a convenient, accessible space with good lighting, adequate ventilation, and comfortable flooring. It should have adequate electrical supply for a stereo and other entertainment components, as well as powered exercise equipment. It should be a pleasant space that’s wisely outfitted to suit your needs.
A home gym can be fairly simple, but at a minimum you’ll want a shock-absorbing floor and good light and ventilation. You’ll also want to include custom details, such as mirrors or a ballet barre, that are related to your workout preferences.
Look for space that’s large enough to hold the equipment and filled with natural light and fresh air. Or, look for one that holds the possibility of adding plenty of light and adequate ventilation without too much difficulty. Avoid overly remote locations. If a home gym is tucked too far back in a corner, you may not be motivated to use it. Out of sight can mean out of mind, whereas walking past the open door to the gym can be a reminder to make the time to use it.
The basement is a popular location for home gyms, as is a guest bedroom. If you plan to build your gym in a basement, check the ceiling height. The ceiling should be at least 7 feet, but preferably 8 feet high to provide enough headroom for equipment and for stretching.
Unless circumstances—and your budget—allow for superior soundproofing, don’t force the gym to share a common wall with an occupied bedroom. Working out can get pretty noisy, what with the clanking of weights, the pounding rhythm of music, or the television cranked up so it can be heard over the whir of the treadmill.
Choose a location large enough to accommodate the equipment you own or plan to include, with plenty of access so you can use it comfortably. Diagram your potential location and possible arrangements of your equipment. Here is a list of some basic equipment and the space required for each.
• Treadmills: 30 square ft.
• Single-station Gym: 35 square ft.
• Free Weights: 20 to 50 square ft.
• Bikes: 10 square ft.
• Rowing Machines: 20 square ft.
• Stair Climbers: 10 to 20 square ft.
• Ski Machines: 25 square ft.
• Multi-station Gym: 50 to 200 square ft.
Belonging to a health club is no reason not to build a home gym. According to a recent survey from the International Health, Racquet and Sports Association (IHRSA), 67% of people who go to health clubs also own exercise equipment that they use at home.
A flattering lighting plan is an important part of a home gym. Good lighting makes everyone look better. Looking good takes you several steps toward feeling good, and, as we all know, feeling good makes it easier to take on the challenges of the world, including an exercise plan.
Low-voltage track lights are especially good options for a home gym because they generate pleasant, focusable light without producing as much heat as standard track lighting. It may be appropriate to include some overhead fluorescent lights, but don’t limit your lighting plan to those fixtures. Add some incandescent side or uplights, too, to balance shadows and the color of the ambient light.
Mirrors are a good addition to a home gym. They enhance the available light in addition to letting you see and correct your form and posture.
If your home gym has operable windows, ventilation should not be a big problem. If it doesn't, mechanical ventilation will make the space more comfortable and pleasant. Installing an exhaust fan on a wall or in the ceiling will help remove moisture and unpleasant odors from the air.
Select a fan sized to provide adequate ventilation for the gym’s square footage. According to The Home Ventilating Institute, the air in rooms other than kitchens and bathrooms should be replaced at least six times per hour; the replacement rate recommended for a kitchen is 15 times an hour and 8 times an hour for bathrooms. These are, of course, minimums, and a home gym has unique ventilation needs. You might want to discuss the project with a heating/ventilation/and air conditioning (HVAC) expert before selecting an exhaust fan.
If the ceiling is high enough to make it workable, a ceiling fan can be a good addition, too.
A wall-mounted vent fan can be installed to provide ventilation to supplement operating windows and to provide four-season air movement.
Home gym floors have to be comfortable, durable, and easy to clean. Hardwood floors have some of the necessary give and clean up beautifully, but they have a tendency to get scuffed, scratched, and damaged easily. Carpet offers a fairly forgiving and durable surface, but keeping it clean can be a challenge in a gym.
Resilient flooring is one of the best options for floor covering in a home gym. Rubber flooring (see page 30) is particularly appropriate in a home gym: it’s easy on the knees, simple to clean, and tough enough to stand up to hard use.
If your floor covering is not ideal and changing it is not an option, place large rubber anti-fatigue mats (you can buy them at building centers as well as flooring stores) in critical areas.
Manage Receptacles & Cords
Most larger pieces of workout equipment, such as treadmills and elliptical machines, require electricity. Because it is a safety hazard to have extension cords running all over the floor of your home gym, make sure you have a sufficient number of electrical receptacles in your gym room. If you do not have an outlet every 6 feet along all walls, upgrade your wiring circuit.
Whether it’s a driving backbeat that keeps your feet moving or an upbeat tune that pumps you up, music makes working out easier and more fun for almost everyone. While some people do find music motivating, others consider it a distraction. Television and movies are the same: some people reward themselves for running on the treadmill or using the cross trainer by watching favorite programs while they work out. In most cases, there is no right or wrong—individual tastes vary and you simply need to identify and include components that motivate you personally. Weight lifting, however, requires careful attention from the aspect of safety as well as efficiency. Trainers suggest focusing on the specific muscles being used while lifting. Listening to music is unlikely to interfere with that focus, but television and movies might.
Gym flooring should be cushiony enough to be comfortable to lie on, while absorbing shocks and sound. Rubber flooring like this is an excellent choice. If you plan to do aerobics or dancing in the gym, you may prefer flooring that allows for sliding.
An entertainment center houses stereo and video components and offers storage space for CDs and your favorite workout DVDs.
Most experts agree that life’s too short and time too precious to deal with cheap equipment. And, while it’s often true that you get what you pay for, the most expensive products are not always the best. Research equipment online, consult retailers, and talk with fitness experts to determine what best meets your needs.
Populating a home gym is largely a matter of choosing equipment that can help you reach your goals. Some types of equipment help you build strength and muscle mass (resistance bands, weight machines, free weights); others help you improve cardiovascular fitness (treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationary bikes). Most of today’s professional trainers recommend building core strength as well as doing cardiovascular and weight training.
Diagram the placement of the equipment you plan to include. Next, plan to place electrical outlets as necessary to serve not only the equipment you have but any you hope to add over time.
• Swiss (or Stability) balls ($20 to $40) help you improve core muscle strength, balance, and stability.
• Resistance bands ($10 to $20) come in different strengths, usually indicated by colors. These bands help you lengthen, strengthen, and tone your muscles.
• Balance trainers ($50 to $120), such as wobble boards and balance balls, help you develop core strength and balance that will prevent injuries.
• Medicine balls ($20 to $75) help you condition your abs and upper body.
• Free weights (about $1.00 a pound) can be used in exercises for the entire body.
• Weight benches ($100 to $500) can be fixed or adjustable and may or may not have racks to hold weights or bars. They help you get into position for a variety of lifts.
• Weight machines, also called single-station gyms, ($200 to $3,000 and up) provide stations and weights for strength training. Look for a unit that is designed to fit within the space you have available and one you can add accessories to as you progress in your training.
• Treadmills ($200 to $5,000 and up) come with every bell and whistle you can imagine and a few you probably can’t. Whether or not you want a TV with DVD player built into the control panel is strictly a personal issue, but other features are easier to define. You want a unit that runs quietly. It needs to be designed to protect your knees by absorbing as much shock as possible, and the belt should be durable. The motor needs to be reliable and heavy enough to stand up to the weight of its users.
• Elliptical trainers ($500 to $4,000 and up) duplicate walking or running but without impact on your joints. The egg-shaped (elliptical) motion takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it can be like walking on air. The arms let you work out your upper body along with your legs. Key features include a smooth motion and durable mechanisms.
Free weights with stand and bench
More things to consider for a gym...
1. Wall Mirror
2. Rubber Flooring
3. Ballet Barre and Chin-up Bar