If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that making plans to have some kind of ‘recourse to fitness’ at home is more than just an investment in your health— but an insurance policy against gym closures, transport issues and those times when life just gets in the way of your best laid plans.
We’ve long espoused the benefits of having access to the ‘minimum effective dose’ of fitness equipment at home; our ‘You Are Not Your Gym Membership’ programme was aimed at progressively building your kit supply (with effective programming, to boot), leaving you with a reliable kit cache, to keep the wheels spinning on your goals, whatever life throws at you.
In this series of articles we aim to take a deeper dive, looking at the most effective ways in which you can take full ownership of your fitness journey, whatever your situation, and help you to plan and execute on the best investment you’ll ever make- your health.
In part one we’ll look at the different types of spaces you may have available to you, and how we can begin to transform them into part-time, full-time or hybrid fitness spaces.
THE ‘NO SPACE’, SPACE
Anything from a few dumbbells in an under-stairs cupboard, to a barbell leaning in the corner of a utility room. The ‘no space’ gym is about storage more than finding a dedicated place to throw down, but it can be pulled off to great effect.
The trick here is finding storage space for your equipment that’s easily accessible and allows you to quickly transition to an area where your workout can take place, before returning it to convenient storage.
Size isn’t important here, we’re looking for convenient storage space for the minimal effective kit you need to aid you in your goals, alongside a convenient area to use that kit; be that your garden, living room or outdoor car park.
BEST USED FOR
Ideal for solo trainees with less specific goals, requiring a smaller kit list and those who can be more versatile with their kit selection. Although if you have access to a larger, outdoor space you’re only limited by the amount of kit you can store, making partner workouts viable and even enabling you to integrate movements smaller spaces may not allow such as carries and sprints.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
There are two main factors to consider here, the first is convenience. You may have ample storage space, but if it’s out of the way or difficult to access this can majorly impact your motivation. The idea is to find storage that is quick and convenient to access— you don’t want to be walking kit for miles, or trying to pull heavy dumbbells out from behind boxes of Christmas decorations, giving yourself one more reason not to train.
The next consideration is where you’re going to actually train. Ideally you’ll have an area as close as possible to where your equipment is stored, again mitigating any will-power sapping friction. In the same vein, try to utilise an area that requires minimum adjustment, you don’t want to be moving furniture back into place post workout.
If you’re limited to indoors space, you may feel as though you don’t have anywhere that fits the bill, but as a good rule of thumb— if you have room to roll out a yoga mat, you have room for a workout.
THE SHED GYM
This may be a space that you earmarked for storage, but with a bit of spring cleaning and a few well overdue trips to the charity shop, you could be looking at a dedicated micro fitness space.
2.4m x 2m - 4m x 4m.
Sheds come in a range of sizes, but even the smallest of garden buildings can be used effectively, especially following the ‘yoga mat’ rule we outlined above. However, if you’re looking at purchasing a garden building with the intent of creating a purpose made fitness space, consider the type of kit you will want to use within when measuring up, more on that in a minute.
BEST USED FOR
Again, perfect for solo trainees, but larger sheds could accommodate partner workouts, especially with liberal usage of an open door and outdoor space, in fact, this is where garden buildings come into their own. Perfect for storing equipment outside of the house, ready for garden use, but quickly doubling up as a dry training space during the winter.
As with all smaller spaces— larger, bulkier equipment is less than optimal. But a garden building puts you in a position to have a selection of dumbbells or kettlebells, as well as a bench or rack that can be left in place for convenience.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
As mentioned above, whether you’re sizing up a new shed or looking to equip an existing one, the most important consideration is not just whether or not your equipment will fit, but will it be usable in the space? A standard olympic barbell may only come in at 7ft long, but care must be giving to ensure you have space around the barbell for it’s movement, and to safely load, unload and spot the bar.
Before you purchase any equipment to go into your space, consider chalking out any dimensions onto the ground to ensure you will still have ample room to move around, and perform other movements.
Another priority consideration is the elements. Garden buildings may offer you a reprieve from the weather, but for kit with electrical components or equipment that’s liable to rust, you may want to consider weatherproofing measures such as sealing any joints, adding felt or a waterproof membrane to the roof and raising the building up on a concrete plinth.
THE HYBRID GARAGE
With roadside parking at an absolute premium in many areas, your dreams of a fully stocked garage gym may have been dashed by the reality of it having to pull double duties as a parking space. But the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive, with clever planning, space savvy kit and storage solutions, you can meet in the middle for a truly multifunctional space.
2.4 x 4m - 3 x 4m (with a need for clear floor space when not in use)
Single garages don’t tend to deviate on size greatly, but if the space is doubling up as car parking, chances are you have at least 3-4m to play with. The challenge here isn’t making equipment fit into the space, but storing it in a manner that leaves you with the lion’s share of floor space for a vehicle.
BEST USED FOR
Working on the proviso you’re going to back your car out before you train, you now have a lot of floor space to play with— with a bare-bones training approach, it’s not unrealistic to think 2-4 trainees can be throwing down at any given time.
If your kit wish list is light and your requirements for your goals can be flexible, then simple slim-line storage for basic equipment is perfect. With that being said, larger additions such as racks, benches and barbells are all now on the table with clever planning, opening you up to a wider array of pursuits.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Storage, storage, storage. As a multi purpose space, start by mapping out what needs to be in there, then begin measuring out what space you have left. With your vehicle parked in situ and any other items in place, chalk out the dimensions for your kit wish list when stored vertically and in different positions. Ensure you’ll be able to move around freely, opening the car doors, driving in and out and exiting the space.
Wall mounted and folding solutions are ideal in multipurpose spaces, so another thing to take into account is the construction of your garage itself, are the walls concrete, stud? Will any alterations need to be made to attach any equipment to the walls or floor? Will you require special fittings or the assistance of a builder?
THE GARAGE GYM
The gold standard of accessible home gym fit outs. Need we say more?
2.4 x 4m - 3 x 4m
BEST USED FOR
For solo trainees, the sky really is the limit here, with some of the best athletes in the world, across multiple sports having achieved huge success training not in world classed facilities, but in humble garage gyms. With that being said, with the right kit selection and storage solutions, 2-3 people can comfortably train in a standard sized garage gym.
Extra floor space allows for a wider selection of free weights and larger equipment choices such as metabolic conditioning kit, power/ squat racks and dedicated machines.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
With additional, full-time floor space versus a hybrid garage gym, vertical storage and wall mounted options are less imperative, but dimensions still needs to be considered. Remember, as we said above, it’s not just about being able to get the equipment into the space, but ensuring it’s usable, functional and convenient within the space.
Wall mounted and folding racks and storage will allow you to get more out of your space, but as mentioned previously check the construction of your walls before making decisions, and consider chalking out any prospective purchases to ensure you can still move around freely, load barbells and get weights back into storage, safely.
An often overlooked factor, especially with garage gyms is ceiling height- with rafters, pitched roofs and suspended ceilings, you may find your movement selection hampered, especially overhead pressing. When designing a layout, consider the placement of any racks, and not just whether or not you can safely load a barbell from either side, but whether or not you’re able to press a barbell overhead. Positioning between rafters, or perpendicular to the pitch of the roof are viable solutions, but in a pinch you may find that pressing outdoors is the most expedient option, when it comes up.
THE DOUBLE GARAGE GYM
Although not as common in the UK, a double garage opens you up to a world of home fitness possibilities. If you’re speccing for a hybrid space, you’ll be able to park a vehicle whilst still having all of the usable space of a full sized garage gym.
If storage isn’t a necessity, you’ll have the option of either a pragmatically stocked but well spaced out gym, with ample, open floor space and room for multiple trainees, or you could use the liberal square footage for a fully stocked out, high performance space, incorporating a wide array machines, conditioning equipment, racks and a generous selection of weights and speciality bars.
4 x 6m - 8 x 8m
THINGS TO CONSIDER
All of the same considerations as a regular sized garage gym are on the table here, and of course if you’re sharing space with a vehicle or have to allot some room for household storage, measuring, chalking and checking you can actually move around in the space once it’s fully fitted is critical before you reach for your credit card.
Again, checking wall and floor composition is a must before opting for wall or floor mounted options.
With liberal space you’re practically a kid in a candy store when it comes to kit selection, but be sure to check for leaks and general weatherproofing if opting for equipment with electrical components; remember just because the rain can’t get in, doesn’t mean that moisture can’t build up!
As with a single garage, head height/overhead pressing is an important consideration, however with more room to play with your layout options are greatly increased.
I’VE FOUND MY SPACE, WHAT NEXT?
Hopefully you’ve found some inspiration here, perhaps even realising that a home gym is more viable for you than you may have thought.
In Part Two we’ll get into the exciting stuff- kitting out your space, whatever your situation or goals; covering everything, quite literally from floor(ing) to ceiling and kit, to storage.
Better get that measuring tape out.