Home gyms have become really popular over the last few years. Oftentimes people convert spaces like spare bedrooms, attics, and basements into their home gym, but another good option for a home gym is a garage.
Garages can be great home gyms as they’re often wasted storage spaces so have plenty of potential for being a more in-use space. There’s an underground culture for garage gym enthusiasts and it’s only set to grow further as more people find the benefits (and excitement) of building a garage gym.
However, when converting a garage into a home gym there are some common mistakes that people make. Here I’ve explained what these common mistakes are and how you can avoid them.
9 Garage Gym Mistakes
The top 9 mistakes people make when creating a garage gym are:
- Not having enough space
- Wrong flooring
- No mirrors
- No ventilation
- No power sources
- Inadequate lighting
- Buying things you won’t use
- Buying similar products twice
- Not budgeting properly
So these mistakes basically come down to three main factors: space, budget, and use. Check out this video on home gym mistakes and how you can avoid them:
Now that you know these top mistakes, I’m going to explain what you can do to avoid making them and have a successful home gym:
1. Not Having Enough Space
Probably the most common mistake people make when it comes to their garage gym is not allocating enough space. As garages aren’t a standard size, it’s important to check and make sure that this space is big enough for a home gym.
For a home gym, you’ll usually need at least 3m (L) x 3m (W) of space. This amount of space should be enough to fit in one or two main pieces of equipment, like an elliptical machine or squat rack. This amount of space should also be enough for you to safely move around the equipment, as well as leaving some free space for floor exercises and stretching.
It’s a good idea to look at the equipment you want to buy, or already have, to make sure that this fits in the space you’re planning to use. This sounds obvious, but making sure the equipment you’re getting actually works in the space you have is really important.
Another thing to think about is height. When it comes to the space, people often think about square feet, but forget about ceiling height. Exercise equipment can be quite tall, squat racks for example can be as tall as 7ft. Other equipment like spin bikes also needs a height clearance if you’re planning to stand up when using them.
So you need to make sure you’ve got enough height in the garage. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you have at least a foot clearance above any piece of equipment you buy, with potentially more for pull-up bars.
This is assuming you’re average height, if you’re taller then you’ll need even more clearance.
2. Wrong Flooring
Garage gym flooring is an important thing to think about when it comes to a garage gym. Garages are often made out of flooring that can potentially damage your equipment, like concrete. For example, dropping weights onto a concrete floor can crack them.
I’d go as far as saying having the wrong flooring for a garage gym is arguably the biggest mistake that the majority of people make with a garage gym.
Your gym equipment can also damage the floors. Just as dropping weights can damage the weights themselves, the weights can also crack and damage flooring. So whilst concrete might be a good flooring option for a garage, it really isn’t good for a gym!
When planning your home gym then it’s important to have the right flooring. My advice would be to use rubber flooring as this is designed to protect both your equipment and the floor underneath from damage. There’s a reason why rubber floors are so common in commercial gyms!
If you can’t completely cover the space you’re using in rubber flooring then I’d recommend getting some rubber floor mats. These can go under pieces of equipment and are a great way to protect areas of floor that are potentially going to get damaged by equipment. They’re also a more cost-effective option than completely covering a space.
3. No Mirrors
When converting a space like a spare bedroom into a home gym you might already have mirrors on some of the walls. This is unlikely to be the case with a garage.
Although mirrors aren’t strictly necessary in your home gym, they’re an important thing to include in a home gym because they help you to see your form when exercising. By seeing your own form you can make improvements if necessary. Seeing your form is also important for preventing potential injuries.
So it’s a good idea to include mirrors in your garage gym. These don’t need to be huge and you don’t need a lot of them. Realistically, one wide full-length mirror will be enough to see your form when working out.
In terms of what type of mirror to get, I’d recommend getting a wall-mounted mirror. Mirrors are easily broken in a home gym, which isn’t ideal because they can be expensive to buy and replace. Wall-mounted mirrors are sturdy and if you leave a foot clearance around them then they’re unlikely to get broken.
The mistake people make with mirrors though is that they get a cheap acrylic option. These mirrors warp and are not the same as what you’d find in a commercial gym, especially because of the way they reflect light.
A good quality, perspex mirror (which is also acrylic) is usually the preferred option as they are easier to install and won’t warm or become distorted.
4. No Ventilation
Garages typically aren’t designed to be well-ventilated spaces. Ventilation is important when working out, as poor ventilation has been linked with health issues. Being in a space that’s badly ventilated is also going to be pretty off-putting, so won’t make it enjoyable to work out in.
The best ways of improving ventilation are by bringing in fresh air. This can be done pretty simply by opening a door or window, which allows air to circulate through the room. It’s a good idea to do this when you’re in the garage, rather than before or after your workout so that you have proper ventilation during your workout.
If the garage you’re using doesn’t have a window or door that you can leave open then there are other ventilation options available, although these are more expensive. For example, if you can air condition your garage gym then this is a great way to improve ventilation in the space and make sure it doesn’t become damp or moldy.
It is more costly, there’s no denying that but for long-term use, it’s essential.
A dehumidifier can also be used to combat damp or mold whilst improving the air quality at the same time. This doesn’t need to be an expensive purchase and you can even use something a budget dehumidifier like this:
5. No Power Sources
Not remembering to include power outlets in a home gym is a common mistake, especially with spaces like garages, basements, and attics which often lack any kind of power outlets.
Power outlets are important to think about because some exercise equipment like treadmills need to be plugged in, and other equipment might need charging in between uses.
Power outlets are also important for other things. For example, if you want to put a fan in during the summer, a dehumidifier to prevent mold as mentioned above, or just to plug your phone in to listen to music while you’re working out.
So if your garage doesn’t have any power outlets, it’s a good idea to invest in getting some wired in.
How many power outlets you need and where you should position them will really depend on what equipment you’re using and what setup you want to have. I’d recommend having at least two on different walls, this way you have some flexibility in where to position equipment.
Whilst it’s better to have power outlets directly wired into the space, if you don’t have the ability to do this then you can use extension cords from other areas of the house. However, it’s really important to position extension cords properly and make sure they’re not anywhere that could pose a hazard as you’re using the space.
6. Inadequate Lighting
Garages typically aren’t well-lit spaces which can be a real issue with a home gym because lighting has been shown to play a huge role in people’s moods as well as motivation levels. Put simply, no one wants to work out in a dark dank gym.
It’s best to try and incorporate natural light when you can. This can be done by adding windows, or doors with glass windows, to your home gym.
However, if you can’t incorporate natural light then it really can be as simple as having a couple of good overhead lights. For overhead lights, I’d recommend installing spotlights. This way you don’t have to worry about accidentally breaking them or leaving a good clearance around them as you workout, as they’re tucked into the ceiling.
If it’s not possible for you to put in overhead lighting then I’d recommend getting some lamps and plugging these in. However, you need to be careful about where you place these and be cautious of how you position the wires after plugging them in so that they don’t pose a hazard when working out.
Lighting really can make a big difference to your garage gym, especially if you plan on working out in the evening or during winter months when it goes dark earlier, so it’s a worthwhile investment in the long run.
Also, check out our guide on garage gym lighting for more detailed or specific solutions.
7. Buying Things You Won’t Use
It’s important to think about your goal when you’re setting up a home gym. Are you looking to build muscle, or are you mainly focused on cardio? Or are you looking to do a variety of workouts in your home gym?
If you know your goal then you can make a much better choice about what equipment to get. For example, if your goal is to work on cardio then it’s good to look at equipment like treadmills or spin bikes. If your goal is building muscle then a squat rack or free weights are going to be a better choice.
Being really clear about your goals means that you’ll get equipment that you’ll actually use.
There’s nothing worse than spending a lot of money on equipment that’s just going to sit there collecting dust. This often happens when people buy things impulsively, like if they’re on sale, but don’t end up with products that support their workout goals.
So I’d recommend brainstorming what your goal is before you set up your home gym and really give yourself the chance to think through what’s best and what kind of equipment you’ll get the most use out of.
8. Buying similar products twice
Don’t buy similar products twice.
Although this sounds so obvious, it’s actually a common mistake people make when setting up their home gym. For example, there’s no point in getting an elliptical machine and a spin bike because they’re designed to enable similar workouts.
Likewise, there are some good-quality power racks that also come with a cable machine included. This not only saves space (something that is vital in a garage gym) but will also save you money in the long run.
This level of versatility is crucial for both space and budget-saving purchases. We are not blessed with space (mentioned earlier) and doubling up on items means that you reduce the available space for items that serve a function you don’t currently have.
In order to avoid buying similar products twice, I’d recommend thinking about your goals with your home gym. If you want to work on cardio, then look into what equipment is best for this. Equipment will have plenty of reviews online, which will help you to make a choice about what the best product is for you to get.
That way you don’t end up buying equipment that’s pretty much doing the same thing for you, and can save yourself money.
9. Not Budgeting Properly
When it comes to setting up a garage as a home gym it can be very easy to spend a lot of money. The average home gym costs about $1500 but can be done for much less at around $500, or much more with some spending as much as $20,000.
It’s important to know your budget before you start setting up your home gym if you want to avoid a huge bill at the end of it. Your budget should factor in different costs, including equipment, as well as lighting, flooring, and ventilation. You might also want to factor in other costs, like adding power sources, if these are things that your garage doesn’t have.
By being clear about exactly what you need for your garage to work as a gym and about how much you can spend on each thing on your list you can avoid blowing your budget.
Setting up a garage gym is a very personal thing, so you’d think it would be rare to make a mistake during the process. Unfortunately, garages are not designed to be used as a gym so when it comes to converting one, there are many mistakes that can be made.
The biggest mistakes usually come from structural decisions. These are things that commercial gyms focus on as a priority (not equipment) to create the correct training atmosphere and environment. Some of these crucial aspects include:
- Having the wrong flooring
- Have low or no ventilation
- Having no insulation (to control temperature)
- Buying too much equipment but not having enough space
These infrastructure-based decisions are key to having a functioning and effective garage gym. The priority should be getting these things in place first along with having some basic equipment before you try to fully kit your gym out with as much equipment as you possibly can!