Home Free: A Weight Room of Your Own

You know strength training is important, but you may find it hard to make time to get to a gym or cover the cost of membership. You may be able to work around it by creating a gym at home.

A home gym will give you more time flexibility. It can also be done on a small budget. It is also a great way to encourage the entire family to get fit. Start with a clear idea of what you want to buy and how you will use it.

Getting Started

There are many things you will want to think about. You will need to decide on your budget, space, and the activities that will keep you most engaged.

Space

Look for a place that is spacious, well-lit, and clutter-free. It should be free of hazards for you and other people in your home. The size of the room may also guide what type of equipment you should think about. Know where you want to set up your gym before you shop.

Keep in mind that some areas of your home may get damp or moldy, dusty, or very hot or cold. They will not make ideal spaces.

Equipment

Choose equipment wisely. You may be able to substitute expensive equipment with low budget ones, but most of the time you cannot. Quality rules, so do not let cost alone guide your decision. Remember, this one time purchase will often cost less than a year long gym membership.

Some equipment can only be used to do one exercise while others may be used to do many. Keep in mind what will motivate or de-motivate you. Is the equipment too complicated to adjust? Are the exercise options too limited for your advanced program, or are there too many options for your basic needs?

A basic home free weight program should have one or more of these items:

  • An adjustable weight bench will help you vary your workout.
  • Dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and/or stability balls. Try them out before you buy. You may want to think about starting with one type of weight and then trying or adding another as your program progresses.
  • A dumbbell rack keeps weights out of the way to prevent injury.
  • A full-length mirror can help you check that you are using proper form.
  • An exercise mat will make floor exercises more comfortable.

You may also be thinking about getting a multigym. It is more costly, but it is a good choice for someone who is just starting out. You need to know certain exercises to use free weights, but a multigym is designed to help you through the ones it offers. The downside is that they have a limited variety of exercises. This may leave you feeling bored as you progress.

Equipment is available at sporting goods stores, small athletic equipment retailers, and through websites. Visit different stores to find options that feel best for you.

Create Your Program

If you have not worked with weights before, a trainer can help you with a program. Some trainers will also come to your home and suggest ways to use the space. Find a trainer through referrals from friends, gyms, or websites. Always check credentials and do interviews to make sure the person you choose will be a good fit.

A cheaper choice is to work from a book, DVD, or website.

Keep in mind that you may need to talk to your doctor first before starting a program. This is true if you are older, have a family history of heart disease, or have other risk factors, like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Making Progress: Expert Training Tips

  • Choose a schedule you can commit to. For beginners, strength training 2 to 3 days a week works well. A morning routine may be better. This is because we are often more tired later in the day and may be tempted to skip a workout.
  • Never push yourself to full fatigue. Lifting too much weight is dangerous, especially when you are at home by yourself.
  • Watch your form carefully in a mirror. You may think that you are doing something correctly, but you need to see if your motions are correct.
  • Lift and lower weights with slow, controlled movements. If you rely on momentum, you will not focus on the muscle group or get the results you want.
  • Increase weight and repetitions gradually. Work up to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions before adding more weight.
  • Make sure equipment is properly stored and monitored. This is especially true if you have children in the house. Parents should also make sure they have time to exercise while the children are occupied and supervised.

Always think about safety. Use weights and all your equipment the right way. It is the best way to get the most out of your purchases.

RESOURCES:

American Council on Exercise
http://www.acefitness.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
http://www.canada.ca

Physical Activity Alliance
https://paamovewithus.org

REFERENCES:

Best home workout equipment. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: https://www.acsm.org/all-blog-posts/certification-blog/acsm-certified-blog/2020/10/27/best-home-workout-equipment-infographic-download. Accessed June 29, 2021.

Fit facts: how to design your own home gym. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/pdfs/fitfacts/itemid_2588.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2021.

Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 6/29/2021