During the pandemic many people have decided their safest option is to workout at home. But other than a few dumbbells and maybe a spin bike, they’re not really sure what they should get. Or what they can afford. At the membership gym or amenity fitness center that’s part of their HOA or apartment complex they have everything. A variety of cardio machines, a ton of strength equipment and all sorts of accessory items. It’s not realistic to replicate a commercial gym at your home. And you only have a small – or a very small – space you can devote to fitness equipment.
So, we’ll look at two common areas in the home where many have some space to dedicate to fitness – A small corner or area in the living room, a bedroom, den, basement; and a typical garage space. Two of Heartline’s fitness experts and sales & design consultants have shared their recommendations on each.
First up, a smallish to very small space in a room in your home. Crystal Capone, our Carolina Rep had two words to say when I asked her how to outfit a small workout space the most effectively – go Vertical and go Virtual!
Of course, your equipment choices will depend on what kind of workouts you enjoy and what you want to get out of it. Think flexibility, endurance, strength, mobility and more. And yes, you can still do this in a small space at an affordable price. Back to your equipment. Here’s what Crystal lists as the pieces she would recommend when you’re limited on space, many because of their versatility.
Dumbbells – or consider Kettlebells which let you do curls but also other workouts like sumo squats and Russian kettlebell swings (which truly is a full body workout). Whichever you prefer, consider getting a minimum of three pairs – 10lb, 15lb and 20lb or 25lb dumbbell/kettlebells, depending on your preference is what Crystal advises for most women of moderate fitness. (For men, 20lb, 30lb, 40lb or perhaps 50lb if he’s been training longer.) There are vertical racks for both of these types of weights to save on space. And Crystal does recommend a rack as otherwise the weights tend to be left around haphazardly and can be a tripping hazard. Don’t want to break a leg trying to get fit!
Note: there are adjustable dumbbells. “These are a great space-saving option that allow you to change your weight with the spin of a dial,” Crystal explained.
Strength Bands, Tubes or Cables. (Also called Resistance Bands) You can forego weights all together as resistance bands/cables can give you the same kind of workout and they’ll hideaway in a drawer when you’re not using them! You’ll see that the bands and cables come in different colors and different thicknesses; as the bands get thicker, it’s like lifting more weight. Same application as the ‘bells.
Rower. “A rower is an amazing piece of equipment for a small space,” Crystal reports. She just bought one for her home (Aviron; $1,999, plus $29/mo. content subscription). They are long, lean pieces that can give you a total body workout and you can store them against the wall when you’re not using it. You can even “break it in half” – many are made to disconnect right in the center for easy storage. Aviron’s home Rower folds in half, Crystal reports. And most models are on wheels so it’s super easy to stow them away in a corner, in a closet or even under the bed. Concept 2 is another brand Crystal likes. (Heartline sells many different brands of rowers, so she’s not biased.)
Bikes. But if you don’t like the idea of a rower as your primary exercise, get a bike – Schwinn’s bikes have a great compact design for every level of user. Or look at several “virtual reality” bikes that gamify your ride, mimic the feel of a real outdoor ride or let you ride along the Nile river or other exotic terrain. (Note: There are brands of rowers that have these same options; check out Echelon or Expresso).
Small squat rack. A wall mounted squat rack or small portable squat stand will save you space and open up a whole new array of strength exercises for you. This would make a bench almost a necessity. You can do squats without one, but other exercises require it. Crystal recommends a multi-adjustable bench, sold by most fitness manufacturers. And they can also be leaned up against a wall or stored in a closet.
Little curl bar and weights. You can do different exercises and forego the dumbbells/kettlebells with these; In addition to curls, you can do a deadlift; bent over rows and many other exercises.
Here are just a few other items to add if you have the space. To work on flexibility, get a foam roller, or splurge and get a Hypervolt gun with Bluetooth to their app to walk you through these exercises for enhanced recovery/mobility.
Stability Ball and/or Bosu ball. Both are great for balance and stability. They can be a little bulky so think about where you’d keep them when you’re not using them. Nice thing is they are not unsightly if you just leave them tucked in the corner on a ball base (non-roll) or convert an attractive wall holder and put it up high.
Now let’s say you only have a 2’ x 2’ space. You’ll make a huge impact with an Echelon Reflect “mirror” and your new strength bands! You can use your resistance bands in that amount of space, but the Reflect gives fitness content and even one-on-one live personal training right there in the corner of your room. If you’re not familiar with these types of products, when not in use, they look like a decorative mirror; turn them on and live and virtual fitness content is literally at your fingertips. Any type of exercise for fitness, wellness, or general health is available through the subscription. You will need an exercise or yoga mat if your floors are not comfortable!
Fitness Set-Up in Your Garage
Now let’s move out into the garage; for our purposes we’re talking about just a one-car garage, or one stall in a multi-car garage. Rob Burgess, our greater-Atlanta area Rep has a one-size-fits-all suggestion. A Compact Half-Rack System. These systems can be fully customized with dozens of attachments allowing you to configure them to best fit your workout routines.
This type of set up comes with attachments to facilitate any strength and/or conditioning exercise you can think of and everything stores right on the rack in a neat and orderly fashion. This highly versatile unit gives you literally hundreds of workouts (and you’ll still have lots of room in the garage for storage or other uses). Several of the top fitness manufacturers make these rack systems and most offer it in a variety of colors. Here’s Rob’s rundown with suggested manufacturers, but shop around; for consumer sales, different discounts are offered all the time.
- XTC 2’ x 4’ Compact Rack w/ Pull-up bar (Throwdown) – Extremely versatile, you can work all major muscle groups performing Olympic lifts, Squats, Bench press, Lunges, Clings, Overhead press, etc.
- Multi Adjustable Bench (Nautilus)
- Rubber Bumper Weight Plate (Intek) Set 5-45lbs.
- Olympic Bar (Intek)
- Kettlebells (Intek) 10-50lbs.
- Pro Straps (TRX) to hang from pull-up bar. Very popular for any cross fit trainer. Great for core body training.
- Resistance bands (Prism) light to heavy. Will give you added resistance on lifts. Builds stabilizing muscles.
- Stability Ball (Prism) – Great core-training tool. Even just sitting on it can give your core a workout.
- 4 Gym Mats (Supermats) – Allows you the ability to drop the bar for deadlifts. Each of these mats is 4’ x 6’ and .75” inch thick making nice “flooring” without the high cost of actual flooring.
The set-up Rob has detailed here can be had for less than $5,000.
“I tend to think of a garage buildout for strength training, but you can certainly add a couple of cardio machines out there,” Rob explains. Using the aforementioned “other uses” for the rest of the space, a couple of cardio pieces will fit nicely.
Depending on the type of workout you prefer, Rob recommends one or two of the following:
Treadmill. Take advantage of the extra space in the garage and get a treadmill.
Rower and/or Bike. For the reasons Crystal cited above, Rob recommends a rower and/or a bike. You can’t really replicate the workout those pieces get with other equipment.
Stairmill. Stairmaster’s SM3 is designed for home use but be warned, it is very noisy, but if you want the feel of the stepper at the gym you used to go to, this one is smaller than what you’re used to, but it will give you the same workout.
All that is just steps away from your front door? That is a Class-A fitness space. And it’s all for you (and your family).
Take some of these ideas, talk with an experienced fitness pro, maybe a certified trainer at your old club, a good equipment salesperson or other fitness professionals. There are so many options for the home fitness enthusiast right now – manufacturers literally cannot keep up with demand. Don’t be intimidated, don’t think you “have no space.” You have the space. Now get the gear! Good luck.
Crystal and Rob both enjoy helping people outfit their fitness spaces and come up with creative solutions to whatever hurdles are in the way of you meeting your fitness goals. Feel free to reach out to either of them as you look at your spaces now and get ready to create your perfect fitness space.
Crystal Capone: (843) 360-5047; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rob Burgess: (404) 227-3515; email@example.com.