Recently home gyms have been getting some serious attention and it brings about the question of whether it’s worth setting up a home gym or just sticking with your gym membership. Now it’s no secret that I love having a garage gym. I have been burned in the past by a commercial gym but that was my fault. I do see their value and honestly both have their own benefits.
There’s a lot to consider and what’s right for you will greatly vary based on your goals and circumstances. Hopefully reading this will help you make the decision.
What is a Home Gym?
Before we get into it let’s make sure to set a definition of home gym. (This really isn’t necessary for a gym membership…)
A home gym is a dedicated or hybrid space that has the equipment needed to get stronger, lose fat, or improve your cardiovascular health. This could be a garage gym, complete with a squat rack, airdyne bike, and Olympic weights. It could also be a set of adjustable dumbbells, a yoga ball, and a jump rope.
What I’m trying to accomplish by defining a home gym is to explain that it’s more than a band or two, a yoga ball, and some furniture sliders. A home gym is thought out systematically. It’s not some jugs of water or furniture. Those can work in a pinch but not as a long term gym replacement.
Hopefully it’s clear that a home gym is more than a silly beachbody workout in your living room. It’s as much of a commitment as a gym membership in many ways. There are many pros to having a home gym and at the same time there are just as many pros for having a gym membership.
The Case For a Gym Membership
Let’s discuss a couple of reasons why a gym membership would be better than a home gym.
A commercial gym has way more equipment than you’d ever be able to have in your home gym. They have your choice of cardio machines with treadmills, ellipticals, air bikes, rowers, etc. There’s never a shortage of nautilus weight machines. You most likely will have your choice of dumbbells and benches. Many gyms are adding “functional” areas with kettlebells, turf, and suspension trainers. There are also a wide variety of possible amenities that you could be provided at a gym.
One of the benefits of going to a gym is having a place that is dedicated to working on your body whether it’s strength training, cardio, basketball, or sauna. It can help your mental state to have a dedicated place that you can go to practice some self-care by exercising.
A Gym Membership is Cheaper Month to Month
You can join a quality gym for $20-$40 per month that offers some great amenities and services. If you are looking for a gym with great options you can find options that are 4-6 times more than this.
Trainers and Classes
Many commercial gyms offer trainers and group classes that you can use (usually with an additional fee). These can be a great help for the right person.
Downsides of a Gym Membership
Many times you are stuck in a contract when you are with a commercial gym. This can reduce your flexibility when things in your life change. Maybe you get a new job that doesn’t have a branch nearby or you lose your job and aren’t able to pay. In either of these scenarios, you are probably still going to be required to pay your monthly fee or pay out the rest of your contract. These contracts can also get sneaky with extra fees, like annual “gym maintenance” fees or some bologna like that. Be careful before you sign any contract that you read it through and really understand what you are agreeing to.
One aspect that I really dislike is having to share the equipment with the other gym goers. I like to use what I want when I want and unless you go to the gym at 10 AM, you probably aren’t going to have that luxury.
You can’t workout at any time. This is a smaller item because most gyms are open for at least 18 hours per day and are only closed for a couple days each year. But if you want to do a nice Christmas afternoon workout, to take advantage of the carbs you’ve most likely been indulging on the previous day or two, chances are your gym won’t be open.
The Case For a Home Gym
We’ve looked at gym memberships, now let’s take a look at why you might want a home gym and why it might be better than a gym membership.
Ease of Use
Having a home gym means you can take a 5 minute break to practice some squats or do some pullups. It means your 45 minute strength session actually takes 45 minutes because you don’t have to drive to the gym. Everything you need is already at home so you end up saving travel time and the cost of gas and car depreciation.
Having a home gym makes it much easier to get greater amounts of volume throughout the course of the day.
Cheaper in The Long Run
While you probably are going to pay more upfront (unless you buy from someone who offers payment plans), you will pay less in the long run. A $30 gym membership costs $360 per year which isn’t bad but it’s $360 in perpetuity. A home gym is a one time fee and then you own it. I was able to find a bench, squat rack, barbell, 225 in weights, and a handful of bands and kettlebells all for under $500, just under 17 months of a $30 gym membership. Most of it wasn’t new but it is in good condition and gets the job done. And now I have it until I don’t want it and can probably sell it for most of what I bought it for.
Easier to Incorporate Into Your Life
With weights and equipment at home, you are able to incorporate it into your daily living. While I’m not doing a full-body strength session every day, I do train in some form each day and having everything I need already at home makes it so easy. Not to mention it has been good for my family too. My 18 month-old daughter loves exercising with me even if it mostly feels like herding cats, I know it’s teaching her valuable lessons about physical health that will help her in the future. My wife is also benefiting from our home gym, she’s not the kind of person who enjoys going to the gym, in fact, neither of us love the “gym culture”. Having the equipment we need to have in order to get stronger and more fit at home allows us to avoid the gym culture without missing out on the benefits.
Downsides of a Home Gym
Gym equipment isn’t cheap. The most common reason I hear that people don’t have a home gym is cost. If you’re looking to buy a squat rack, a barbell, weights, and a bench you can easily spend a couple thousand dollars. But you don’t have to. You can buy used on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and as long as you’re patient, you can find some really good deals.
With a home gym you also don’t have a dedicated location for your training, whether it’s your basement or garage, you are still at home with all the at home distractions of food, to-dos, tv, etc.
What’s The Right Choice?
I have found that for me the right option is a home gym for the flexibility, long-term savings, and benefits it gives my family. I am more productive because I don’t have to drive somewhere in order to workout. It is the more sustainable option for me that will help me stay strong, mobile and fit for years to come.
What’s the right option for you? What do you need in a gym? Are there any must-haves that you look for in your training?