Building a Home Gym

We are about to build an extension on our home. We’ve had to downsize the original dream extension due to the massive costs of these things these days but we now just want to have a home gym as the downstairs room.

How big does a home gym need to be? It’ll need to fit a trainer, a treadmill, a weight bench and probably a TRX, and of course my massive old leather armchair which my wife has always wanted me to dump. How big is a decent home gym?

Also, what is the minimum ceiling height we’d need, in practice?

Any other must-haves or things we need to think about at the design stage?

If you haven’t already searched or seen these, there are several existing threads with related info to review:

And the grand daddy of topics also has plenty of related discussion:

To that end, I am very tempted to merge this with one of those above, but will wait to do that for a while.

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These items by themselves will pretty much consume a “normal” size bedroom (at least normal sized San Francisco bedroom), without leaving you really any space to workout. Your best bet is to lay these items out + space to workout / lift weights / storage, and see what you come up with for minimum needed space.

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If the basement room is “unfinished” with concrete floors… I strongly recommend horse stall mats as flooring. They usually come 4x6ft, heavy, super strong, easy to clean, kinda smell at first and horrible to move up and down the stairs. Cost around $35 at the local Tractor/Farm supply store.

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Start with the equipment you expect to have and then leave room for the movements you want to perform and room to walk around the gear. Someone who wants to do farmers carries and battle rope work will need a lot more space than the guy who has a kettlebell and a chin up bar.

A standard home basement with 8 foot walls gives about 7 feet of height floor to joist. Nine (9) foot will provide about 100 inches. Some gym equipment like functional columns and lat pulldown machines exceed 100".

Remember if you are want to press overhead or do pull/chin ups, you need sufficient ceiling height. Figure out what movements you want to do and what equipment you want in your gym. Then talk to your builder to ensure you have enough finished height to work with.

Others: Lighting and mirrors should be planned early.

Plan for storage. Your equipment will multiply and you’ll need a place to put it.

A mistake folks make is thinking the dimension of the equipment is what is needed. Remember that a power cage might be 4 x 4 foot wide but the barbell is close to seven feet long. Then add space to load the bar and put a bench and a human in the cage to lift and you need 8x8 or more just for that station. If you use your power cage as the TRX anchor will need room to do the TRX work. etc etc

Planning ahead, drawing things out and playing with configurations is a good way to start.

Have fun !!

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For fun, here are some schematics of a few gyms I’ve had a hand in.

The one with the orange cross (a Sorinex J*Squat) is mine. Its evolved over 15 years. The smaller one with the red dot walls is an example of smaller but very functional and how one might do a strength area and a cardio / stretching area. The large one is a gym I designed for a friend who is going all in on a large “home” gym which he will share with friends and family.

For me, the cores of a home gym are:

(1) Barbell area with some sort of support system. Having had various types (stands to full cage), we settled on a half rack. It’s more than safe for the weight we can move and also allows attachment of things like a dip bar, pull up bar, TRX anchor point and has weight plate storage. A barbell, plates, bench and some bands, dumbbells and kettlebells was the core of our gym for a decade-plus.

(2) A functional cable column (FCC) or functional trainer (FT). The FCC/FT may seem like overkill for home use but these allow a ton of movements in controlled (safe) fashion. A high quality (like Sorinex) FCC will run $2500. It can also serve as a Lat/Row station. Legend Fitness offers something called the Fusion 3 module which is an FCC attached to a half-or full rack. Great option for limited space. A good Functional Trainer (Legend Fitness, Rep, others) will run $4,000 or so. Buy once and this is a lifetime piece of kit for home use.

No matter what you do, spend some time with pen and paper and really think about what types of training you want to do. Always leave room to move around in the gym. Also, much like bicycles, invest in contact points. What you touch, what you sit on matters. Weight is weight but the contact points matter.

Finally - if you shop around at gym liquidations or used equipment dealers there are some bargains on specific machines. You need to be able to move heavy stuff (shipping is costly on heavy and bulky items) and learn how columns and stacks go together. But its all simple stuff.

Extra Finally on edit - Gym equipment can be bulky and awkward to move. When building a gym space it is worth thinking of how you will get stuff into and out of your gym.

Cheers and hope the schematics are useful as you plan out your space.

My Basement Gym (which includes a small bike shop area):

Big Gym for a Friend and His Family (being built now):

Small but Sweet Gym with a strength area and a cardio / stretching area:

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They look awesome. Thanks dude!

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Also since this is an addition from scratch it sounds, tell them you want to use it as a gym and see if they can make it a clear span with no poles if they have it planned with them now.

Our architects drawings had 2 poles and they were offset so not the worst. I asked if it was possible to get rid of them without spending too much, she spoke with the engineer and going to 12 on center instead of 16 on center in this one section meant we didn’t need the poles. Doing the same for the second floor meant that the first floor walls weren’t load bearing and we could change up the floor plan a little if we wanted. 4 or 6 (forget) more LVLs total is likely no real cost difference between pouring footers for the poles and putting the poles in so hopefully will cost us the same.

I wanted 10ft walls but the engineer said no. She cut me off at 9ft walls which show a 8’9.5"ceiling height on the drawings before finishing the floors, might just polish/seal and then throw horse mats in the gym area. I’ll probably just build boxes into the ceiling where I need room for the plates for overhead lifts. So as mentioned above consider height, and if you are finishing it test out if you need height anywhere before finishing and try to build that in.

Our plans are still out for quoting with the builder… scared.

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