It is easy to see the appeal of having a great gym as close to home and easy to get to as inside your own home’s garage. However, one of the most challenging aspects of building out your own garage gym is a potential lack of available space for equipment. There are a variety of factors that will impact your garage gym. What equipment you can fit inside it will depend largely on the size of your garage, the space you can devote to a gym, and how permanent your setup can be. This is why making sure you have the most compact and versatile equipment possible is so important for the quality of any workout you can hope to accomplish in your garage gym.
The equipment you should consider when building a garage gym of your own can be broken into three broad categories: weighted equipment, unweighted equipment, and resistance systems. We will look at examples of each, how to best utilize them and how they might fit in your garage gym below, so read on!
Weighted Compact Equipment
When building your own small garage gym, it is careful to consider the options you have for weighted equipment. These will be some of the heaviest and hardest to store pieces of equipment to store, so careful thought and consideration of your needs and abilities is required. While they will not be the most compact equipment, they are nonetheless essential for a wide variety of workouts. Below are a few pieces that everyone should make room for in their own garage gyms.
Even those short on space should make room for a basic set of weights. Almost everyone should be familiar with the old standard of hand weights, like these dumbbells, what you might not realize is that they can actually provide a surprisingly effective workout for their size. This is because they can be incorporated easily into a variety of bodyweight exercises to increase their difficulty thanks to the additional weight. Even holding what would seem like a trivial amount of weight, say five pounds in each hand while doing lunges, will add enough load to make your workouts more productive and tone muscle. So, if your results seem to have plateaued from what you can accomplish with your bodyweight alone, consider adding a set of hand weights to your routine.
While often compared to weights like the ones above, Kettlebells are unique for their U-shaped handle which terminates in a single weight. Their shape makes them ideal for leg exercises such as squats or lunges. But kettlebells aren’t just for leg-day workouts either, if you get a pair of kettlebells you can easily incorporate them into modified push-ups, planks, and arm curls. The kettlebell listed below is a great starter weight, at 15 pounds it should provide a decent challenge to anyone just beginning to use kettlebells as part of their workout. At least one of these versatile weights should be a part of any garage gym.
If you have the room for one, a bench press (like this one) can be an incredibly versatile piece of equipment to add to any garage gym. This is because bench presses allow you to get a fuller range of motion and support when used properly. Besides the bench itself, they rarely require anything other than some free or plated weights and a chest-press bar. Weight training benches are also great for those that want to be able to do cross-fit or circuit training workouts.
A step deck is a multi-functional piece of equipment that can be incorporated into free weight training or used simply by itself for stepping. Some models, like the one below, even have their own storage space, making them even more convenient for those short on room in their garage gym. More versatile than a simple bench press, the step deck featured below, for example, is capable of both providing incline or decline of 30, 45, and 70 degrees respectively, for use in either step or bench mode. To use with free weights simply put a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand when stepping, increasing the weight used to increase the difficulty of your workout.
A slam ball, or wall ball, is a piece of equipment usually used in core and endurance training. Using a slam ball is as easy as picking the weighted ball up, lifting it up above your head, and forcefully slamming it back down towards the ground or a wall. Doing so is more than just great stress relief, however, as the repetition will work your arm, shoulder, core, and back muscles. For an even bigger challenge try catching wall slams at the top of your sit-ups or crunches. These balls can often be found inexpensively, like this one, but be sure not to get a medicine ball, as those won’t stand up to slamming in the same way.
Wrist and Ankle Weights
Weights that strap on to your legs and arms are great for those that want to add load to their workouts without becoming too encumbered. This can be accomplished with sets, like the ones featured below from Bala Bangles, which strap easily to your ankles or wrists to add weight to your already existing cardio routines. This is a low impact way to increase the difficulty in your workouts if you feel that you are reaching the limits of what can be accomplished with your bodyweight alone. One of the easiest ways to get use out of such weights is to use them when walking or running, which will help increase your heart rate, tone muscle, and burn fat when working out.
Unweighted Compact Equipment
Unweighted equipment is an essential part of any garage gym, this can include mats for groundwork or jump rope for cardio. Below are a few essentials for even a small garage gym.
Many people are surprised to learn that a simple jump rope can actually provide a great cardio workout in a minimal amount of space, but it’s true!
That is because a jump rope packs away to almost nothing, which means you can easily fit it amongst your garage gym equipment. What’s even better is the complete cardio workout it can give you. Furthermore, jumping rope can be great when used as a part of circuit training, which is one of the most effective ways to boost your metabolism and lose weight.
Yoga mats are good for more than just practicing your yoga flows on. Having a padded surface beneath you will make all of your workouts easier and safer. If you incorporate floor exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups, or leg lifts, you know that having a comfortable spot on the floor to do such exercises is of the utmost importance. Luckily, yoga mats provide a comfortable foam surface to do floor exercises on and they also double as a non-slip mat. Best of all, yoga mats are easy to roll up and store and can be purchased for much less than padded gym floor tiles. Be sure to get a mat that has at least half an inch thickness, and feel free to get multiple mats to fill your space.
A pull-up bar is a must for any garage gym as it takes up little space and most can be easily installed in a doorway, like this one. Pull-ups are a great workout because they engage almost every core muscle group at the same time. While lifting and lowering yourself you are working your arms, back, core, chest, and even leg muscles, all in concert with one another. The pull-up bar we have listed below is even more versatile, as it can be taken out of the doorway and onto the ground in order to provide leverage for deeper dips, crunches, and even forearm exercises.
These days the popularity of integrated workout systems has reached new heights. They come in a wide range of styles, from resistance-band systems, and balance trainers to suspension systems and abdominal trainers that can fit under a bed or in your carry-on. There are a lot of great options that can suit a variety of needs, let’s take a look at a few below.
Suspension Trainer System
Suspension trainers, like this one from TRX, are great for more than just garage gyms. Their small size and portability make them easy to take with you on the road or to a park. The system can easily be anchored to a door, or any beam if on the go, and uses your own body weight and seven foundational movements to give you a capable full-body workout. The system should be set up a few feet above your head and can provide an easier way to do difficult bodyweight exercises such as row and fly motions, which are great for working on your shoulder and back muscles.
Balance trainers, like the one we have featured by manufacture BOSU, are a fantastic way to improve your natural balance and are useful for strength and sports training as well. The best part of the BOSU balance trainer below is that it can be deflated, making it even easier to store if space is tight in your garage. By requiring your body to stabilize itself when pressed upon, a balance trainer strengthens muscles and is useful for those hoping to prevent injuries or even take on challenging yoga poses. Balance trainers are also great for plyometric workouts. Such workouts can be of benefit for athletes, in sports such as football, basketball, or tennis and can help by improving their explosiveness and quickness.
Core and Abdominal Trainer
If you struggle with back problem that makes doing conventional sit-ups and crunches painful or impossible, you might find use for a core or abdominal trainer. This is because systems, like this one from Core Max, are able to provide both support and resistance through the full range of motion of an exercise such as a crunch or push-up. The best part about the model we have featured below is that it requires no assembly and is compact to store, as it is able to fold flat for easy storage under a couch or bed.
Resistance Based Trainer
The stress-free ergonomics of resistance trainers, (like this bow-style one, or the above system from TRX) means that workouts can contain a variety of movements that shouldn’t be performed with free weights alone. The advantage that the bow-style system has over the TRX one, is that the former doesn’t require any anchoring. Instead, the bow-style resistance trainer wraps around the body, which makes it perfect for those who might not have an easy doorway or beam to attach other styles of trainers to. With the bands behind the user and the bar in front, this system is perfect for bench presses and push-ups and can also be used when doing crunches or lunges.
If you think mini-trampolines (like this one) are only for kids, think again, trampolines can provide a great cardio workout for all ages. This is especially true for those who can’t take the usual pressure on joints like knees or hips. This is because trampolines naturally rebound to help cushion your jumping during workouts. In fact, the rebounding present in trampoline workouts has also been shown to have health benefits for your lymph nodes. This particular mini trampoline has removable legs to help it be stored flat in a fraction of the space it uses when you are working out.
For those hoping to fit a dedicated cardio machine in their garage, but are worried about their available space, a bike pedal exerciser, like this one from DeskCycle, can be a great option. The pedal exerciser featured below is also useful for those who are physically limited from actual biking, as it can be used while sitting. Different resistance levels will provide a different workout, from lower-levels of resistance for simple cardio to higher-levels which are great for strength training. The best feature of this system for garage gyms is its compact size. The exerciser stores easily and only requires 27-inches of clearance when working out on it! The machine is quiet, even when in operation, and comes with an LCD screen to provide you with the important vital statistics of your workout.
So, as you can see, the possible equipment options for your own garage gym are nearly endless. We hope you have enjoyed reading this article and learned something in the process. Remember to check out The Garage Junkie for even more FYI and DIY garage information that you can use to make any garage more than just the place where you park your car. Thank you for reading!