The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Dream Home Gym

Photographer: Sam Sabourin | Source: Unsplash

Have you dreamed about having your own home gym? A safe haven where you can work out without having to share your space with others? Since the pandemic of 2020, home gyms have exploded in popularity. People have been converting their garages, guest rooms, sheds, and even outside spaces into their own personal gyms.

It’s fun to explore the creative spaces that your average person has created. Self gym enthusiasts are very innovative in using equipment in tight spaces or in unique ways. I have even seen so many instances where people completely create their own equipment. Some examples include weights made from concrete and workout machines made from wood. If you are not particularly handy, I would not recommend trying to build your own machines as you can purchase equipment from so many resources online which I will go over later.

In 2019, I started building my first home gym inside of your typical one-car garage. It is important to figure out for yourself why you are building a gym. Do you work from home? If so, is it more convenient to work out at home? Are you looking to save money? You can spend a lot of money building your own space so beware. If you have an inexpensive membership to a “Planet Fitness” or “Crunch,” you may only be incurring $20-$30 per month in gym dues. If that is the case, then building your own gym may not be cost-efficient for you. On the other hand, if you are spending $100-$250 per month on a boutique or niche gym such as Crossfit, then building your own gym may be a great long-term option for you.

Why? I have been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for over a decade. I love it. It is my safe haven and happy place. I spend quite a bit of money on dues around $150-$200 per month (this represents different memberships and schools over 10 years). In my early 20’s I was your average gym meathead, just lifting as much as I could and spending a lot of time at NYSC.

When I discovered BJJ, I also got into boxing, Muay-Thai, and MMA. Naturally, as I got older into my mid-thirties I fell in love with BJJ, and also realized that I could not train everything. I started to hate lifting weights, as it was counterintuitive for jiu-jitsu. The bigger and more muscular I got, the less limber and flexible I was. This also led me down the path of Hot Yoga, which I do not get to practice often. In an ideal world, I would train Hot Yoga 2x, BJJ 4x, and weight sessions 3x. This would require doing 2x days on some days, and let’s be honest who has time for all of that. I’m a Restauranteur, putting in 8-10 hour workdays 7 days per week. So finding time to even workout once per day may be tough.

I realized that as I approached my mid-thirties, my body could not do what it did a decade ago. I am more prone to injury now, gain weight easily, and I am definitely not as strong as I use to be. On the rare occasions that I would find myself at a gym, I was embarrassed for my bench press and how weak I was at your typical “meathead” routine workouts. For me, it wasn’t just ego, but I knew that having muscular strength would translate into better jiu-jitsu and also my own health and longevity. For those of you that train BJJ, you understand that the young guys (twenty-something-year-olds) have that youthful energy and strength. It’s not as fun when they are talented and trying to rip your head off.

One day in 2019, I was inside of my garage, which was just used for storage. I wasn’t even parking my car in it, because I have a driveway, and my car barely fit. The previous tenant had built a shoddy wooden loft out of plywood and 2x4’s that held extra storage. As I as looking at the wooden crossbeam, I thought to myself, “I could hang a punching bag from there.” Boxing was a pastime that I enjoyed training so much in my twenties. Learning technique and eventually sparring was so exhilarating. Who doesn't like hitting stuff? To be honest, getting punched in the face isn't as fun. But I knew that I missed just hitting the bag for cardio. So, I decided to buy my first home gym item ~ the Aqua Bag.

I remember meeting the Founder at a Martial Arts Convention in NYC years ago. The bag is filled with water, instead of your conventional sand found in heavy bags. When you punch the bag, your hand would bounce off it with feedback, which was a bit more realistic in simulating hitting an opponent. I thought to myself what a great product. Sure enough, the Aqua Bag became a worldwide hit and is found in almost every boxing gym.

I ordered the bag from Amazon which to my surprise was super affordable. It came deflated, was simple enough to fill with water. I then took a metal chain and looped it over the cross beam in my garage to hang it. The bag once filled with water was super heavy, so I needed a friend to get it hung. Boom, I had my first real piece of equipment hung in my new “home gym.” As I hit the bag for 30-45 min cardio workouts, I would fantasize about having more equipment in the garage so that I could work out at my own leisure. I took a look at the space, and the wooden loft, and decided at that moment that I was going to demolish the loft, and completely build a gym from scratch.