The ultimate home gym guide
Thinking of setting up or expanding your home gym? You already do your fitness training at home and want to step it up a notch? Are you looking for the ideal setup for training in your own four walls, which also promises you long-term motivation for regular workouts?
Then you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post I try to answer all your questions about fitness training at home. In the best case, you will get some food for thought and one or two new ideas.
If you prefer watching videos to reading, I have an alternative for you. In a somewhat streamlined form, you will find all the home gym content in this approx. 10-minute video.
So you decided to read on. Excellent 😊
First of all, here is an overview of what you can expect in this very detailed home gym blog article. Click directly on the desired section if you want to reach your destination more quickly.
📑 Table of contents
- ✔️ Benefits of the home gym: What speaks in favour of working out at home?
- 🏋️ Exercises: Which exercises are recommended in the home gym.
- 🔧 Equipment: Which equipment is recommended in the home gym.
- 📏 Space requirements: How much space is needed for training at home.
- 💰 Cost: How much money you should invest in the home gym.
- 🔥 Motivation: How to integrate fitness training at home into your everyday life in the long term.
Why should I train at the home gym and what are the advantages?
If you have already decided that you want to train at home, you can skip this section. However, you may still discover an aspect that you weren’t aware of. Here are my top 4 benefits of working out at home:
You are the boss. Inconvenient opening hours, pandemic regulations, occupied equipment. All that is a thing of the past with a home gym. So “reserving” your machine with a towel is no longer necessary. 😉
Gain of time
Car or bike ride to the gym. At worst, looking for a parking space. Check-in. Way to the locker room. Searching for a locker not yet occupied. Waiting for a free cross trainer or your pair of dumbbells. There’s also a short 10-15 min Tabata workout in the home gym that you probably wouldn’t have made the trip to the gym for. Depending on the distance to the gym, you can save up to a few hours per month, depending on how often you train per week.
Of course, many people go to the gym because they can have a chat and meet people they know. Sometimes you meet an old mate in the changing room and the first half hour has already passed. Or between two sets you suddenly get involved in a conversation and someone starts babbling.
You’ve seen it all before, haven’t you? Nothing against social contacts – on the contrary. But often your day is tight and scheduled anyway, and all you really wanted to do was follow through with your training plan, right? There’s nothing stopping you at home gym. Music on, timer on, let’s go.
Privacy, quiet and hygiene
This advantage may not apply to everyone. But you have to remember that for some people it is not an entirely pleasant situation to train surrounded by others. After all, the phenomenon has a name and has already been investigated in studies: gymtimidation. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel completely comfortable in your body or if you are not yet completely confident in performing the exercises – the feeling of working out on a plate in a gym is a hurdle or even a knockout criterion for some people. At home, you are not accountable to anyone.
At the same time, more sensitive people who feel disturbed in the studio by loud moaning or particularly intense fragrances from fellow exercisers also benefit from this. Within one’s own four walls, one only has to answer to one’s partner 😉.
In (the unfortunately still never-ending) times of Corona, the issue of hygiene naturally also plays a role for many people. Machine pads, gym mats, cardio equipment handles – all these contact points are places for germs and viruses.
I will come to the costs of a home gym in a later chapter. Depending on the point of view, the costs of a home gym compared to the costs of a fitness studio could be used as advantage #5. However, such a general consideration is not sufficient. On the one hand, there are significant differences in the monthly fees for fitness studios, starting at around 15 € per month up to prices of 100 € per month and more in the premium studio category. On the other hand, I can buy a rudimentary home gym with a gym mat for 20 €, or I can invest in a well-equipped home gym for 15,000 €.
Then there is the decisive factor of time, without which this calculation is not complete. If I invest €2,000 in a home gym, but only use it for a year, I definitely get a better deal with a gym membership. But the more long-term I invest, the more clearly the calculation speaks in favour of investing in your very own private gym.
If your wallet allows it, the combination of both worlds, i.e. gym and home gym, is of course an excellent solution that gives you the greatest possible freedom and flexibility.
What are the best home gym exercises?
Most of the exercises you do on a machine in the gym can be done at home with smaller equipment on a smaller surface. An exception to this is training on cardio equipment. There are gradations between commercial gym equipment and home fitness versions that are cheaper and take up less space. However, this does not change the fact that if you want to cycle, jog or row in your own home, you cannot avoid buying an indoor bike, treadmill or rowing machine.
It’s a different story with all the strengthening exercises. Here, with a little imagination, you will find a solution for targeting every muscle in your body, as long as you provide at least a minimal set-up of equipment.
Exercises in functional training can be classified as pushing, pulling, locomotion (leg training) and rotation. Depending on the classification, whole-body exercises can also be considered a special form of exercise, as well as the so-called level changes, which are closely related to the movement pattern of locomotion in their exercise forms. Depending on the definition, hip hinge is also placed in a separate training category of functional training.
Bodyweight exercises – you are the training stimulus
Admittedly, probably the most versatile training tool is free and constantly available almost everywhere: gravity. Thanks to the smart invention of gravity, you are already able to perform almost all of the above-mentioned exercise categories with your own body weight. Only pulling exercises without an external tool or a positioning element are only possible to a very limited extent.
In the body weight exercises category, a number of exercises are possible without any additional training equipment (here and there a wall or chair will be necessary):
- Legs: Squat, Lunge, Wall Sit
- Core: Crunch, Sit Up, Hip Press, Plank in all variations, Superman, Good Morning
- Arms, chest, shoulders: Push-up in all variations, Dip, High Plank, Handstand
- Combined exercises / whole body exercises: Burpees, Jumping Jacks, Mountain Climbers, Standing Scale, Bear Crawl, Crab Walk….
With some of these exercises you will notice after a short period of regular training that you will soon be able to perform a lot of repetitions. The more repetitions, the higher the endurance component of the workout and the less you are in the strength training area, which not only helps you build strength and muscle, but indirectly burns more calories via a higher basal metabolic rate and thus reduces body fat.
Here is an overview of the basic methods of strength training:
1. Training method
2. Number of rep. / intensity in % of maximum strength / speed of execution
3. Goals of method
4. Target groups and field of application
Strength endurance training
> 20 reps / 30-65% / slow to fast
Improvement of fatigue resistance
Everyone / beginners / general or health-oriented fitness, body shaping
Hypertrophy method (muscle building training)
8-12 reps / 65-85% / slow to fast
Body shaping, increase of muscle quantity, improvement of maximum strength
General fitness training, bodybuilding, rehabilitation, basic training for athletes
Maximum strength training
1-3 reps / 85-100% / explosive
Intramuscular coordination, activation ability
For competitive athletes with developed strength levels
Fast strength training (explosive strength, reactive strength)
3-10 reps / depending on variant up to 100% / explosive
Rapid contractility, intermuscular coordination
Sport-specific rapid strength improvement for athletes
So you will quickly reach a point – assuming your training goal goes beyond a basic improvement in your strength endurance – where you need a stronger training stimulus. This usually requires either additional weight or more resistance. More on this in the next section.
With the above exercises you already have a broad portfolio of functional exercises that you can intensify with some additional training stimulus. For the range of pulling exercises (pull-up, rowing, biceps curl, deadlift) you will always need at least one of the training tools dumbbells or barbells, resistance bands, suspension trainers, gym rings and/or pull-up bar.
Big Five: The exercise recommendation for (almost) every athlete
So what are the best exercises, as asked at the beginning? Well, these depend on your goals and, as almost always, a blanket answer makes little sense. However, if your training goals coincide with those of many fitness athletes who are aiming for a holistic toning and strengthening of their entire body or a reduction of body fat in favour of an increase in muscle mass, then you are well served with the following number for a start – regardless of your performance level: 5. More precisely: “Big 5“.
I’m a fan of the so-called Big Five – no, we’re not talking about a safari here, but five exercises that are actually recommended across the board (although this tip should be confirmed by a doctor beforehand if you have any previous injuries or illnesses). These five exercises each involve several joints and the muscles around them and thus train a large part of your entire musculoskeletal system.
Thus, a workout consisting of only these five exercises or variations of them is already a comprehensive whole-body workout. It is functional because it includes movement patterns that are close to everyday life or sport-specific movement patterns and at the same time saves time because you would have to address the same number of muscles with significantly more exercises.
Exercise #1: The good old squat
This exercise primarily trains the entire thigh and gluteal muscles. Untrained people should perform the squat without additional weight and, if necessary, with the support of an additional support point. Even the complete lowering of the buttocks, i.e. the maximum bending of the knee and ankle joints, may not be possible at first due to limited mobility. Trained athletes use dumbbells or barbells as additional weights and vary the load on the leg muscles involved mainly through the positioning of the weights and the positioning of the feet.
Exercise #2: The pull-up
This exercise trains the upper back muscles and the arm flexors. For many people, performing a pull-up is (too) challenging at first. As a rule, it is not flexibility that is lacking, but simply strength. Therefore, the lat pulldown or rowing with gymnastic rings, for example, can also be used as an introduction to the pull-up.
Exercise #3: Deadlift
The deadlift primarily targets the entire thigh, buttock and lower back muscles and corresponds to one of the most fundamental movements of Homo Sapiens; picking up a heavy object from the floor. While the classic version of the deadlift is done with the Olympic barbell, this exercise can be performed very well with a water box for beginners. In the home gym, kettlebells or dumbbells also work very well. More on this in the next section.
Exercise #4: The (Bench) Press
The bench press primarily targets the chest muscles and the arm extensors. The upper body is horizontal and the arms move a mass away from the body towards the ceiling.
Exercise #5: Shoulder press
The shoulder press primarily targets all parts of the shoulder muscles and the arm extensors. Compared to the four exercises above, this one addresses slightly smaller muscle groups. However, lifting a weight above head height is a common movement in everyday life and is therefore highly relevant in functional training.
Here you will find a larger overview of basic functional exercises that you can perform with different training tools. The portfolio of these exercises serves as an orientation for training with the Gymfurn Epeius fitness cabinet.
Conclusion: Challenge your body as holistically and comprehensively as possible. Your body contains hundreds of muscles, and while you can’t target all of them, you can target a large portion of the major muscle groups in one workout. Combine exercises that involve multiple muscles. Pulling exercises and core exercises are particularly important as they are often atrophied by sedentary behaviour and are responsible for our posture and a healthy back. Define in advance what your training goals are and use this as a basis to find a suitable training plan or seek support in creating this plan.
What equipment do I need in the home gym?
Which fitness equipment is useful for training at home essentially depends on two factors. Firstly, what exercises do you want to do (see previous section), or to put it another way, what are your goals when exercising? Secondly, what do you enjoy doing? Simple example: You want to do only endurance training at home, but don’t like to sit on an indoor bike for more than 15 minutes? Then you should probably think about a rowing machine or a cross trainer.
This infographic gives you an overview of the typical fitness equipment in the home gym, the respective area of application and the variety of exercises. The tools are roughly sorted from small to large.
Variation is king
My basic recommendation: Choose training equipment that promises a high variety of exercises. In the long run, variety promises more motivation and enriches your training. If you want to do a holistic fitness workout, a combination of an exercise mat, resistance bands and possibly an exercise ball is a good start.
Training equipment for pull exercises
If you also want to do pulling exercises, you need at least one external anchor point for your resistance band. Wall bars are not only visually appealing, but also allows for multiple anchorage heights for resistance bands. At the same time, the rungs also offer the possibility for various mobilisation exercises.
And hey, you should definitely integrate pulling exercises into your training. Your back is decisively involved in this. It not only looks better when it’s trained, but is also responsible for keeping your posture up despite many sedentary activities. Pulling exercises in particular, as well as core training, strengthen your back muscles: so remember: pulling is good, pulling is important! 😉
Pull-up as the supreme discipline of pulling exercises
If you are a little more ambitious, you cannot avoid a pull-up. As described in the previous section, the pull-up is one of the Big 5 strength exercises. It trains a large part of your back, neck and arm muscles. With the support of power bands, even beginners can slowly approach the pull-up.
Versatile fitness tools for bodyweight training
A sturdy pull-up bar can also act as a suspension point for a sling trainer or gym rings, opening the door to a variety of bodyweight exercises. Of course, a separate ceiling suspension for these two tools is also possible – provided your ceiling is of an appropriate nature and safe for mounting.
With a suspension trainer like the well-known TRX® model or the even more versatile aeroSling® ELITE, you have real Swiss army knives among training equipment. Not only pulling and pushing exercises are possible, but also a lot of special core or leg exercises.
If you like it classic and are a fan of wood like me, you can use the tried and tested gym rings. They offer you a similar range of exercises as sling trainers, but with slightly different handling.
Another advantage of sling trainers and gym rings is that almost every exercise can be adjusted in its degree of difficulty downwards and upwards for every athlete. The fitness coach refers to this as de- or progression.
Only iron gives strength
Many people still think that strength training without heavy iron is not strength training. Although hypertrophy training is also possible with bodyweight exercises and strong resistance bands, dumbbells and barbells and also the kettlebell naturally offer their own special training feeling, their own charm and above all their dedicated exercise possibilities.
It doesn’t always have to be the barbell
If you want to do squats or deadlifts in your own home, you don’t necessarily have to use Olympic barbells and a squat rack. If you can provide the necessary space and, in the best case, a special training floor for setting down a heavily loaded barbell, you will probably have a set-up that is in no way inferior to an ordinary free weight area in the gym.
However, you can also do a squat or deadlift in a slightly modified form in a small area. Two sufficiently heavy dumbbells or kettlebells, or alternatively a kettlebell gripped with both hands, allow you to train the same muscle groups.
Of course, it’s not a 1:1 substitute, because you don’t place the dumbbells in your neck when doing squats. But with the adjustable PowerBlock® dumbbells, for example, you can train with up to 41 kg per dumbbell. You either have them on the long arm next to your body or you place them on your shoulders, which is a hybrid of a classic squat and a front squat with a barbell. Due to the greater instability, dumbbell training requires a little less weight than you would put on the barbells anyway.
So if you’re a fan of iron, don’t plan a dedicated gym space, and instead prefer to keep the dimensions compact for your home gym; adjustable system dumbbells such as those from PowerBlock® are the perfect home gym dumbbells.
How much space do I need for my home gym?
The answer depends primarily on your training equipment. If you see your home gym setup more as a supplement to the gym and primarily want to work on strength endurance, you will be able to get by with an area of 2-3 m² (6.5-10 ft²). On this area you can roll out your gym mat and have enough length for exercises with a sling trainer, dumbbells, a kettlebell or resistance bands. You need the same area for an indoor bike or for placing a weight bench.
If you want to work with a barbell, in the ambitious case with an Olympic barbell, you should calculate with at least 4-5 m² (13-16.5 ft²) of training space.
A compact weight station has a footprint of around 2 m² (6.5 ft²), more versatile models can reach 4-5 m² (13-16.5 ft²). Depending on the model, these cannot be placed against a wall. In addition, you need about the same area for the exercises, i.e. an area of 8-10 m² (26-32 ft²) should be available for a versatile strength station.
Would you like an example? The fit and very likeable athlete Madlen took measurements and kindly sent us two pictures of her home gym setup. Her squat rack including Olympic bar already requires a floor space of about 6 m² (20 ft²). Whether this equipment is compatible with your living room or your study is up to you. Madlen’s rack and sports floor are located in a dedicated fitness room.
You can find Madlen on Instagram here: instagram.com/madlen.fit Follow command ☝️😁
If you want to combine several pieces of equipment, e.g. cardio machine + weight station + loose small equipment, you will soon reach a point where you should think about a separate room. Here we end up with 15 m² (50 ft²), which you should plan for.
You should also consider the ceiling height. Sloping ceilings or low basement ceilings are not compatible with weights that are moved above head height and are not suitable for hanging sling trainers or gymnastic rings. Jumps are also a frequent part of ambitious workouts and are also critical, especially for tall people and low ceilings.
If, as mentioned earlier, you are thinking about buying an (Olympic) barbell that you also want to place on the floor – for example, for deadlifts – you will hardly be able to avoid a sufficiently thick sports floor. If you live in a flat with several floors and you are concerned about the relationship with your neighbours, you should check how the acoustics are during your workout below you, even with a dampening sports floor. It is better to avoid drops like those in the weightlifting area or in your Crossfit box.
How much does a home gym cost?
A home gym costs between 0 – 10,000 euros. Outliers downwards are unlikely, upwards possible. Okay, that’s not a very satisfying answer at first. But unfortunately this question can be answered as precisely as: “How much does a car cost?”.
As described in the section on training equipment, you can also start with an exercise mat and two resistance bands and, depending on the source of supply (e.g. discounter), you won’t have spent more than 30 euros on them. For a high-quality exercise mat that has been tested for harmful substances (e.g. from ARTZT vitality) and the practical TheraBand® CLX resistance bands, you will end up with a price of around 90 euros. Is that already a home gym? From my point of view, absolutely. It’s not your equipment that turns your home into a gym, but your training. What matters is how often you move your body in your home.
If you start at the other end, you can easily spend 5,000 euros on a weight station with a footprint of around 3 m². Add a treadmill and rowing machine for 2,500 euros each. You’ve already filled your 15 m² fitness room with 10,000 euros of equipment. The sky’s the limit, depending on which manufacturer you choose.
As you can see, there is a wide range of costs for your home fitness area. In addition to your budget, your spatial possibilities and your training goals form the basis for your investment decision.
Very important: think carefully about which type of home gym is most likely to keep you going in the long term and not make you lose interest. This is what the next section is about.
How do I stay motivated in the home gym in the long term?
Monotony is the killer. What applies to your diet is just as valid for your training plan. In other words: “Variation is king”. Yes, I’m happy to use that slogan a second time at this point. As with the right training stimulus, repetition also helps here. By the way, this statement is not only justified in terms of motivation, but also in terms of training stimuli. Your muscles also need different stimuli. If they get used to the same movements with the same intensities, you will quickly reach a performance plateau and will not improve any further. Your physical transformation will also stagnate at this point.
That’s why I think creating long-term incentives for training at home is the key element in setting up your home gym. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking a step-by-step approach to upgrading your home gym, just like your wardrobe. But keep in mind at the beginning what this can lead to. As a rule, you will have to clean out your wardrobe again and again. So if your home gym is overflowing with tools at some point, you probably won’t be too happy about the large number of colourful little training devices.
That’s why it’s better to think about a concept at an early stage so that you can still enjoy training at home in 2-3 years time without having to say goodbye to the training equipment you’ve grown fond of because it simply gets in the way of your home.
The big advantage of a home gym is that you can create exactly the atmosphere that motivates you. Listen to music and a motivating playlist. Unlike in the gym, you can do without headphones and turn up your sound system.
If you also want to add variety to your training, try a combination of workouts. A classic hypertrophy workout with longer breaks for muscle recovery usually takes longer than a High Intensity (Interval) session (HIIT) or a crisp Tabata workout. So spice up your training plan with varied sessions that can be used flexibly depending on your daily shape. Also try other things, such as Yoga or Pilates. You can find plenty of inspiration and suitable workouts for beginners in the endless depths of YouTube.
Of course, having a workout partner is motivating. Invite your training buddy to your workout. Even in a small space, a workout can be done in pairs, e.g. with a station or circuit training. Or arrange to meet remotely and train together via Facetime or Zoom meeting. A digital high five after the workout can also feel good.
If you are looking for guidance and perhaps some external motivation, you may want to hire a personal trainer. Meanwhile, remote training with a personal trainer is no longer a problem.
Another aspect that goes hand in hand with motivation is routines or habits. In the blog post “How resolutions become training routines” we highlight how important routines are for the realization of your training goals and how you can establish them.
Integrating your home gym into your living space
Think about how you can integrate your home gym into your flat or house so that it is quickly ready for use, but also so that everything can be easily stored away so that it does not disturb you.
The big advantage of the Home Gym is that you can also have a short training session. Any 10-minute workout is better than no workout. But if you already invest 5 minutes of set-up time, in the long run you might think twice about putting in that much effort just for a short workout. An “ready-for-takeoff-gym” is definitely a motivational plus. On the other hand, it can be annoying for yourself or your girlfriend/boyfriend if training equipment is always visibly in the way. As a rule, fitness equipment doesn’t look very nice. So if you don’t like living in chaos, you need a proper solution for storing your equipment.
Do you have any questions about Home Gym? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if something is missing here, or even if you disagree with something. I look forward to your feedback.