Gym noises can be pretty loud and irritating. What can you do to make your gym a little quieter inside and outside. I’ve done some research and found the best ways to make your gym quiet.
The top three ways to make a home gym quieter;
-Make your workouts quieter by changing your workouts.
-Prevent noise from being produced by having gym flooring, bumper plates and crash pads.
-Add noise insulation to your floor, walls and ceilings to prevent noise from leaving your gym.
Find out what the biggest sources of noise in your gym are and what you can do about it. There are 16 things you can and one of the biggest
What creates noise in a gym?
Before we look at what we can do to limit the noise in and outside your home gym, it’s important to know where the noises come from. If you know where they come from, it’s easier to find a solution.
By far the biggest source of noises in a home gym is dropping the weights. The weight plates hitting the floor can be loud, depending on your flooring and type of plates you’re using. Bumper plates will be better than cast iron ones although even bumper plates can still be noisy.
The flooring also plays a big part. Dropping something on a concrete floor makes way more noise than on a rubber floor. And finally the weight and height you drop it from impacts how big the impact is and thus how much noise it makes.
There are two ways dumping a barbell or dumbbell creates noise. The first is the direct impact. This will cause vibration in the weight plates and the barbell. This is usually a higher pitched noise that’s doesn’t travel too far. Dropping a heavy weight also vibrates the floor. The weight moves the floor a tiny bit since there is a little flex in almost every floor. That causes the floor to vibrate almost like a guitar string. Those vibrations get transferred to the whole structure of your house. This can cause the whole house to hear and feel exactly what you’re doing in the gym.
Often times people like to play music during their workouts. It’s your own gym so you can play whatever music you like. There’s no need for headphones like a commercial gym. The volume many people like to play their music at is pretty high.
Not everyone else will appreciate you playing some heavy metal at a really high volume just so you can get hyped up to break your deadlift PR.
The last thing that makes noise in a gym is you. People are different and some people make a lot of noise when they’re lifting weights. Others are barely breathing. If you’re in the first category it might sound like you are being mauled by a bear.
That’s not the type of noise you might want to expose your family and neighbors to day after day.
Sound deadening or noise insulation?
Before we move on to the solutions, it’s important to understand the difference between sound deadening and noise insulation.
They are not the same thing.
- Sound deadening: Keeping noises from bouncing around inside a room.
- Noise insulation: Preventing noises from getting into or out of a room.
Sound deadening measures might have a small effect on noise insulation but they’re not going to have the noise insulation effects you’re looking for. You’ll see below they are addressed separately in this post.
Basic noise insulation strategies
What are some basic strategies to prevent noises from getting where you don’t want them? You stop the air from vibrating. How can you do this?
- Fill any air gaps. Sounds transmit easily through air. So if you’ve got a direct air route between the source of the noise and the listener, those are the easiest gains you can make.
- Make things more difficult to vibrate. Walls and windows transmit noise by vibrating. Stopping those vibrations will stop the transmission of noise to the other side.
- Detach the noise from your ear: If the noise can’t reach your walls or windows, you won’t hear anything.
Basic sound deadening strategies
With sound deadening, you’re not trying to prevent sounds from going to another space. You’re trying to not let the same sound come back to your ear twice or more times. There are two ways to do this:
- Sound absorption: Absorb the sound energy so it doesn’t go anywhere else
- Diffuse the sound: Break up the sound in different parts and send them in different directions.
Sound management strategies in a home gym
Now in a home gym, you can use both of those strategies and have decent results. The best way to manage your noisy gym is to prevent the noises from being made in the first place. Now with most noise places this isn’t possible. In a gym there are some ways to actually prevent noises from being created. More on that below.
How can you make your home gym quieter?
Now on to the important stuff. How can you actually make your home gym quieter? Here are 16 things you can do;
1. Gym flooring
By far the biggest thing you can do to reduce the amount of noise being produced in your home gym is to install gym flooring. Gym flooring in general does a whole lot of great things for your home gym but it does a lot for noise control as well.
The speed of impact of the weights has a big part in how much noise you’ll get when dropping weights. Now if you have a floor that has a little bit of ‘squish’, it reduces the speed less abruptly and therefore creating less noise. It also has the result that your floor will vibrate less, transferring less noise to the rest of the house as well.
The thickness and ‘squishiness’ of your gym floor impacts how much damping it provides. The material you use also has an effect. At the bottom I’ve outlined a flooring combination that would provide a lot of noise control for a reasonable price.
If you’re thinking that you’ll just make your floor super thick and soft and everything will be good and quiet, you might want to reconsider. Sure, softer and thicker will make your gym quieter. But at some point your floor will become so soft you start almost sinking into it. Think about working out on a trampoline. Not optimal to say the least.
2. Deadlift platform
The single exercise that creates the most noise in any gym is the deadlift. Especially when you start lifting really heavy weights, this is the lift that will cause you the most noise problems. When putting the bar back on the floor you’ll have the plates banging together and the vibrations created by the weight slightly moving the floor. Those vibrations are what will be felt throughout the whole house.
The only way to prevent those vibrations and noise from getting out of your gym, is to prevent the floor from starting to vibrate in the first place. Once the structure of the house starts vibrating, it’s almost impossible to prevent the noises to get into the rest of the house.
Gym flooring like described above will help a lot already but it’s not enough for people that lift heavy weights. At some point, probably a little before 400 lbs. you’ll have to get a deadlift platform or crash pads (see #3).
Most commonly available commercial deadlift platforms are rectangular metal frame that measures 8’ by 4’ or 6’. Inside the frame you can have just rubber tiles or a combination of some kind of wood to stand on and rubber tiles where the weights rest.
If you put a deadlift platform on top of normal gym flooring, you’ll have a good extra bit of soft flooring between the weights and the concrete floor. This helps dampen the vibrations that would otherwise be absorbed by the ‘real’ floor.
3. Crash pads
Even with a gym floor and/or weightlifting platform, dropping weights from overhead can still create some vibrations.
Crash pads are like airbags for your weights. They slow down the weights a little less abruptly than a hard floor would. Crash pads are squares that measure +-25”-40” per side and 5” thick. The outside is made of vinyl covered fabric that is UV, fire, water and mildew resistant. This material allows for a lot of heavy drops without damage.
The inside is a dense foam that is a bit softer than the usual gym flooring and is a lot thicker. That means you can drop heavy weights without creating a big noise and vibrations.
The air in the foam slowly releases when weight is dropped on these crash pads slowing down the weights, exactly like a car airbag makes the impact less hard in case of an accident. For deadlifts and other lifts where you drop weights on the floor, this is the option that will dampen the most noise and vibrations out of all the options.
Deadlift crash pads aren’t the cheapest thing in the world but compared to a platform they’re very affordable. These Yes4All pads are reasonably priced and high quality. Find the current price on Amazon.
4. Bumper plates
Bumper plates are weight plates that are made of rubber instead of steel. This doesn’t allow you to drop 500lbs. on a concrete floor without any noise but it surely is a whole lot less noisy than cast iron plates.
There are also weight plates available that aren’t completely made of rubber. They just have a rubber casing on the outside. These plates won’t bounce in a similar way real bumper plates will but, for noise these rubberized plates are still pretty good.
Weight plates make noise when dropped on the floor. The contact with the floor creates vibrations in the floor and plates that create noise. Another big way the plates make noise is by banging together. This doesn’t only happen while dropping weights. It happens all the time when moving the weights, especially if you’re not using collars to secure the weights on the bar.
Having rubber on the outside limits the sound the plates make by banging together dramatically. Maybe you’ve already got cast iron plates and don’t want to buy new ones. In that case you can try adding some electrical or cloth tape to the sides of the plates so you won’t have the metal on metal noise anymore.
5. Rubber on your rack
You don’t always put your weights on the floor. Most of the time you’ll actually put it back on the power rack or bench rack. Managing noise is all about managing vibrations. Metal on metal gives you more vibrations and thus more noise. Metal on metal contact is also more likely to transfer those vibrations.
Putting the bar back on your rack creates some vibrations. These vibrations will transfer to the whole rack and create more noise. Having rubber in the places you put the bar down will reduce the noise and reduce the vibrations that are transferred to your rack.
Just a few pieces of rubber in the right places where your bar touches the equipment will make a difference. The two most important places are the hooks and the safety pins since that’s where your bar touches the most often.
6. Rubber under your equipment
To limit vibrations and noise being transferred from your equipment to the floor, it’s a good idea to put some rubber under the legs of your equipment. Just a small piece of ½” that fits under the legs will work. Don’t make it too thick or your equipment might become a bit unstable and shaky. That’s not what you want to happen. Safety is much more important than being a bit quieter.
Most equipment already comes with rubber feet but adding some extra won’t hurt.
7. Lower your weights slower
The force of impact is a big factor in how much noise it creates. The force a barbell hits the floor with depends on two things: Weight and speed. While you could use lower weights, that’s not really the point of going to the gym. What you can influence is the speed at which you set down the weights. Lowering your weights slowly will radically the amount of noise that is produced.
Now I know there is a big debate on if you should drop your bar or lower it in a controlled manner. All I’m saying is that if noise is a concern, lowering them in a controlled manner is much better. There are some lifts where it really shouldn’t be a problem to do this. The only lifts where it’s difficult is the Olympic lifts where you have to lift above your head.
Many people won’t do any Olympic style lifting in their home gym. The vast majority of people who have a personal gym just do power lifting or general weightlifting. For most of those lifts it’s very possible to lower them in a controlled way.
8. Exercise selection
Choosing the right exercises helps to keep the sound to a minimum as well. Dead lifting is the noisiest lift by far since you often drop heavy weights on the floor. For many people their dead lifts are a main part of their workout program so they don’t want to exchange it for something else. Maybe you could limit the amount of times you deadlift or just limit it to a certain time of the day.
Another part of a workout that tends to make some noise is the cardio. A treadmill, elliptical or rowing machine can actually be surprisingly noisy. A recumbent bike is often a quieter option. Alternatively you can do some form of bodyweight cardio exercise. This way there are no machines that are noisy.
9. Close the door
Many people use their home gym with their door open. Usually to get some fresh air into the space and not let the temperature go up too high. Closing the door is a very easy way to lower the amount of noise that leaves your gym. Sure, most doors aren’t very noise insulating but anything is better than an open doorway.
Many doors are hollow and don’t actually stop much noise. To improve this you can try to add insulation to the inside of the door but this is a bit complicated to do it properly. Hanging a heavy moving blanket on the door will help making the door more soundproof without having to taking it apart.
Closing the windows is also an option of course. The problem is that once you close your doors and windows, you’ll have to change your gym ventilation.
10. Sort out your ventilation
Having everything closed off will cause some issues with the atmosphere in a room. It’ll get hot, humid, sweaty and smelly. A gym needs a supply of fresh air to stay inhabitable. In the last point I’ve pointed out that closing the door is a good way to limit the sound from leaving your gym. That also blocks one of the largest entrances of fresh air to your room.
That means you have to find a different way to ventilate your gym.
I’ve written a long post that outlines everything you can do to improve the air quality in your home gym. Check it out for a full explanation.
Since you want to close your doors and windows, you’ll need something to get fresh air into your gym without natural airflow. Ventilation ducts with fans and/or air-conditioning is your best bet.
11. Decorate your walls
If your problem is that the sound bounces around too much inside your gym, you need some sound deadening. Sure a gym floor already helps a lot but four walls and a ceiling can still bounce around a lot of noises.
Just like on the floor, soft things on your walls can help absorb the sound waves. And absorbing the noise is the name of the game in sound deadening. Heavy soft things are the best at absorbing sound waves. That’s why gym flooring works so well, it’s dense and heavy but still soft so it can absorb the noises without bouncing most of them back. The more sound waves bounce around, the more opportunity they have to escape to the rest of the house as well.
Flags, curtains, banners and other decorations that are soft are all going to help. Sure, acoustic foam and thick mats would help the best but it doesn’t have to be a recording studio.
12. Fill gaps
The easiest way for sound to escape your gym is through the air. Sound waves have a much easier time traveling through air than through a wall. That’s why it can be a good idea to fill up some of the gaps in your home gym to prevent noises from leaving and bothering other people in your house.
What can you do?
- Get weather stripping around the windows and doors. The easiest to install is foam with pre-applied adhesive. This one for example (Amazon).
- Add a heavy door sweep to the bottom of the door. This is a good one (amazon)
- Fill small holes with sealant.
13. Maintain your equipment
Badly maintained equipment can make more noise than new and/or well maintained machines. In general, if machines are not properly maintained, they’ll create more vibrations and thus more noise. They also won’t last as long.
- Treadmill belts need lubrication every 6-8 months. Read the user manual to know how to lubricate your treadmill with the right lube at the right time in the right places. Try to keep as much dust away from your treadmill. Dust wears out your belt and motor quicker which means you’ll have more noise and vibrations.
- Machines with pivot points need to be lubed as well.
- Keep your barbell sleeves spinning freely.
A basic cleaning and lubrication routine should be enough for your machines to stay in good condition and make less noise.
14. Add sound proofing to your walls
Up next are your walls. How can you soundproof your walls? There are a few ways to go about it. First we have to go back to the difference between sound deadening and sound insulation. Sound deadening is getting rid of the ‘echo’ in a room. Sound insulation is preventing noise from getting in or out of a room.
What can you do to your walls for sound deadening?
- Use acoustic foam (amazon link) on the walls.
- Hang moving blankets on the wall. Moving blankets are thick and heavy which makes them great for noise deadening and also for noise insulation.
- Hang heavy curtains in front of windows.
What can you do to your walls for sound insulation?
- Use soundproof drywall. Soundproof drywall producers claim that one sheet of their product has the same soundproofing effect as eight layers of normal drywall.
- Add MLV (Mass Loaded Vinyl) to the drywall or wooden walls. MLV is heavy and dense. This means the walls will vibrate less and transfer less noise. (MLV on Amazon)
- Add Sheetrock behind the drywall. This will absorb some of the sound energy before transferring it to the next room.
15. Add sound proofing to your ceiling
If all of that isn’t enough, one of the last things you can do to stop noise from escaping your gym is to add soundproofing to the ceiling. In a home gym this is often difficult. Since many home gyms are in a garage or basement, the ceiling isn’t very tall to begin with. To add noise insulation to a ceiling you’ll have to create some kind of dropped ceiling under the ‘real’ one. This will take even more height away that you might really need for your exercises.
In houses where there is already a ceiling installed, you can add extra Rockwool between the joists. This will require you to remove the current ceiling and install the insulation.
If there is no finished ceiling, you’ll have to install a dropped ceiling. In that case, you’ve got a few options for sound proofing.
- Use acoustic ceiling tiles
- Add fiberglass insulation between joists
- Seal all gaps with caulk.
16. Work out during the right time
If all those previous measures aren’t enough and you still bother other people with your workouts, you’ve got to do something else. The best option is to adjust your workout schedule. There must be some time of the day where you’re bothering fewer people or it’s more acceptable to make noise.
You can discuss with your neighbors which time of day it would be acceptable to scream like a monster or bang your weights on the floor.
With all the measures listed above this probably won’t be necessary since that will provide enough sound damping for most situations. But if you’ve got thin walls and want to work out at 3:00 A.M. you might have to make some compromises.
Where to start?
What should you do first? It depends on your situation. With a few simple changes you can probably eliminate a large part of the noises. Changing your workout routine a little bit is easier, faster and cheaper than to keep the noise from escaping.
- Making some changes to how you deadlift, lower your weights and your weights plates will probably already get rid of the worst noises for very little time and effort.
- The next step is to get some good gym flooring.
- Add an extra deadlift platform and/or crash pads
- Add rubber under your equipment
- Close all the gaps and add ventilation
- Add sound deadening to the walls
- Add sound deadening to the ceiling
- Change your workout time
Work through these steps until you find a noise level that is acceptable to everyone involved. You can’t really expect 100% noise insulation without going through really extreme lengths. Focus your efforts on the things that have the biggest impact first.
Also, if you’re trying to prevent leaking out to a certain direction, focus your efforts on that side. Maybe there’s a bedroom on one side of your gym that should stay free of any noise. If that’s the case, you can focus on that wall and leave the other ones alone to save time, money and effort.
Want to make your gym louder? Check out this post on home gym sound systems.
How can I make my treadmill quieter? There are a few things you can do;
- Put your treadmill on rubber so vibrations don’t transfer to the floor
- Lubricate and maintain your belt.
- Maintain the engine and bearings
- Tread carefully
- Choose a treadmill with more damping
- Use a greater incline.
- Use shoes with damping.
What’s the difference between bumper plates and rubber coated plates? Bumper plates are completely made out of rubber. Coated plates have a metal core. The biggest difference is that bumper plates bounce a bit more and can be dropped from overhead without problems. That means rubber coated plates are not good for Olympic lifts. Coated plates are a bit cheaper.