Is it possible to create a gym in a shed in the garden? And what do you have to think about? That’s what I asked myself a few days ago. A lot of Google searches later, here are the answers.
Building a home gym in a garden shed is possible and not too difficult. If your shed is big, tall and strong enough you can build a great gym in it. There are some things to keep in mind like flooring, legality, layout and ventilation/heating in order to make it a pleasant gym to use.
There are a few things you need to know to be able to turn your shed into a gym you’ll actually want to use. Keep reading to find out what they are and how you can make your garden gym something you’ll want to use often.
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Can a garden shed be a gym?
Absolutely it can. A gym is just a place to work out in. A ‘real’ gym has a lot of equipment and some amenities to make things comfortable but as long as you can do whatever workout you want to do, it can be your personal gym.
Gyms and garden structures both come in a lot of varieties. Having clear expectations for your gym and picking the right structure that fits those expectations is going to result in the gym you want.
A gym doesn’t need to have a shower, juice bar, sauna, bunnies at the front desk and sound like a nightclub to be a gym. The most important thing about a gym is that you can work out there. All the other things are just fluff to get more money out of your pocket. A good place to work out is worth more (to me) than the sauna and music.
People do different types of workouts. That’s why a commercial gym needs a whole lot of machines. Most of which you probably never touch. To get a good workout at home or in your shed, you don’t need 40 different machines. A few well-chosen pieces of equipment can provide everything you need for your type of workout.
Sheds come in many shapes and sizes and can be many different things. There is no reason why a shed couldn’t be a gym, provided it is big and strong enough to house everything you need and actually do the exercises you want. Sure, a 2’x2’ shed that just holds your tools isn’t going to work. But what is?
Below I’ve listed a few things that are important when thinking about building a gym in your shed. Whether you already have a shed ready or you’re planning on building one, you can use the points below to either decide if you can use your existing shed or what your new shed will look like.
Gym shed size
First things first. Your garden house has to be big enough to fit all your equipment and be able to use it with some comfort. Ok, that’s obvious but what does that mean in practice?
I’ve written a whole post about how much space you need for a weightlifting gym. As you can see in that post, I’ve advised a space of 8’ x 8’ (244cm x 244cm) as a minimum amount of space to be able to lift weights. That gym includes;
- Power rack
- Space to deadlift/stretch/other
If you want to have a little bit more room for activities and maybe add a recumbent bike for cardio, a space of 8’ x 10’ (244cm x305cm) would be better.
Now what if you want to add a treadmill? Treadmills are quite large so you might think you’d need a lot of extra space to add it to your garden gym. Luckily, many treadmills for home use have a fold away deck. That means the part you walk on can flip up, meaning you don’t use the floor space when not using the treadmill. It still takes up some space however.
Since you won’t be doing anything else while using the treadmill, you can use the empty floor space you’d otherwise use for stretching/deadlifting/etc. Once you’re done, fold up the treadmill deck and you have space to do other things.
A shed or fancier garden structure that measures 10′ x 10′ will be big enough to house a full weightlifting setup and enough space to properly use that equipment. For cardio equipment only, a 5′ by 8′ structure is sufficient.
Want to build your own shed but don’t like to pay for an architect to design something? Here you can find thousands of shed plans for you to follow. You could use it to build yourself or let a contractor do it. With all these plans there will be one that is the correct size and look for your situation.
If you want to put heavy weightlifting equipment in your garden gym, make sure you have a solid foundation below it. A concrete slab is the best option. For some lighter weights and cardio equipment a braced wooden floor is sufficient.
Something you might not immediately think about when planning your garden house gym is the floor. Gym equipment in general but weightlifting equipment specifically, is heavy. So heavy that your shed floor might complain a little if you’re not careful.
Most shed floors are wooden planks sitting on a wooden frame. The beams that make up the frame have likely no issue supporting any weight you could put on it. A 8’ 2×4 can support about 1000 pounds of load before it breaks. There are quite a few of them under a standard shed so that should be plenty of support for all the weight in your gym.
There are two problems with this though. 1. You probably won’t spread out the load evenly. 2. The weight could land in between two joists where there are just planks. If you drop a heavy weight on that part, it might damage the floor.
The best floor for a gym shed would be concrete. It’s stable, hard wearing and can handle plenty of load. Having a concrete floor for your shed means you also need some kind of foundation, a flat surface and a professional to look at it. Those things will help you to build the right shed to support all the weight you’ll put in it.
I understand not everyone wants to go through the time, trouble and expense of getting a concrete floor poured for a simple shed. Wood can certainly work but you want to ask a professionals opinion on what kind of support is necessary for the weight you’re planning to put on it.
Whatever floor you choose, it’s a good idea to put a gym floor on it. Gym flooring is a firm foam or rubber that protects whatever is underneath. Usually it’s 3/16” to 1/2” thick. This flooring protects your floor, dampens noise and spreads out the weight load, making it safer for the floor underneath.
Many garden structures have a relatively low ceiling. This can cause problems when using tall equipment or lifting weights overhead. 7′ tall ceilings are the minimum height you want and even then it’s necessary to make a few adjustments in your workout.
There’s both good news and bad news regarding the height of a ceiling. Bad news first; to be able to do all the exercises you want including overhead presses and pull ups, the ceiling of your shed has to be pretty tall. Taller than most standard garden house designs or pre built packages.
The good news is that if you haven’t built your shed yet, you can still change your plans.
How high does your gym shed have to be? For the average sized man, a ceiling height of 9’ is enough to do all exercises including overhead pressing and pull ups. I’ve written a whole article about what a good ceiling height for your gym is. Take a look if you want to know why it should be 9’. With 9’ you can do everything you could in a commercial gym.
If you don’t have a lot of interest in doing pull ups and overhead pressing, but more in cardio workouts, you could get away with having 7’ tall ceilings. The part of a treadmill you walk on is generally 8”-9” high. Add onto that the average person of 5’9 and you’re at 6’5. That would still mean your head would hit the ceiling just by standing on the treadmill.
You’d need a couple extra inches to be actually be able to walk and run. That means you need at least 7’ ceilings to use a treadmill. A little extra would probably be nice since it’s pretty uncomfortable to be worried about hitting your head while having a hard workout.
There aren’t many pre-fab sheds that have a ceiling height of 9’. Most smaller ones barely make it to 7’. Make sure you get a shed with the height of ceilings you need.
Luckily many sheds have an A-frame roof. That means that if you leave the ceiling open, you’ll have a little extra headroom in the middle than at the walls. You can plan your gym layout with that in mind, you can get away with having slightly lower walls.
Its’ important to find out what the legal implications of your planned structure are. I can’t give you an answer to what is legal in your location since this can be read from all over the world and rules are different. Not only that, within the English speaking world these rules can differ from country to country, state to state, province to province and even city to city.
Often there are rules about how big, tall, ugly a structure in your garden can be. The rules can even be different depending on the location you build it in your garden. Some places have different rules for structures that are attached to the house. Some places have special rules for structures that are close to the property line.
Please find out what the rules are in your locality before you have to take down your freshly built gym. Or just build it and hope nobody notices or complains. Not that I would ever advice you to do that of course…
Equipment and layout
Since you’re probably not going to build a huge second house in your garden, your space will be a little limited. Above I’ve already mentioned that to create a basic gym, you’d want a space of at least 8’ x 10’. 10’x10’ makes things a bit more comfortable although it’s still not huge of course.
That means you can build a decently complete gym although not to a commercial gym level. There’s a floor plan below that visualizes what kind of gym you can build in a 10’ by 10’ garden shed.
Here’s what kind of equipment you can fit in a shed of 10’ by 10’ and be able to use everything as intended.
- Power rack (Find my favorite home gym power rack here)
- Dumbbells and rack (Here are my picks for the best home gym dumbbells)
The treadmill can be exchanged for another cardio machine you prefer. This gym is mostly focused towards weightlifting with free weights. If you prefer another type of workout, you could change the power rack for an all in one home gym machine.
Here is an example floor plan for a shed gym that measures 10’ by 10’. As you can see you can fit most things you need for a good workout. It’s not equipped to a commercial gym level but you can be sure that you can build a good body in this gym. The ceiling height used is 8’.
You want a better and healthier body. That means you have to go to the gym. If your gym is uncomfortable to work out in you will go less often and that has as a result you won’t get the body you like.
Plan the ventilation, heating, insulation and lighting of your garden gym before starting construction. Those things are hard to add after everything is finished but make a huge impact on the comfort level of your garden gym.
A shed has the potential to be very uncomfortable in anything but optimal weather conditions. Sheds often don’t have a lot of insulation or ventilation. When the sun is out, things get toasty pretty quickly. If it’s cold, it’ll be freezing inside your garden gym as well. This could cause you to not use your personal gym as often as you’d like.
Often times people will want to work out when it’s dark outside. That means some lighting will be very useful as well. There’s no need to restrict the usability of your garden gym to the hours there’s daylight. You don’t build a personal garden gym only to be limited by daylight.
Making it a bit more habitable will help you go to your gym more often and get you working out more often. So what can you do?
- Add insulation to walls and roof
- Have options for ventilation
- Have a power source so you could run lights, a fan or space heater. A fan and lights could be run off of a battery source, a space heater needs more than that.
With just a few changes, you can make your garden shed gym much more comfortable to work out in and make sure there are no excuses for not using it. No excuses means more workout sessions and that will help you reach your goals.
If you’re concerned about the cold in the winter, check out these two articles;
Why build a shed gym?
The first thing you might wonder is, why would you put a gym in a shed in the garden? Can’t you just build a gym in the garage, basement or get a membership at a commercial gym? Sure, you could if you’ve got the space. But most peoples’ basements and garages are full already. And working out in a commercial gym is just out of the question for some people.
So when people decide that they want their own personal gym, but don’t have any space in the house, the garden is one of the places people will look. An outdoor gym is an option but being completely outdoor makes your workout schedule very vulnerable to weather conditions.
Another option is to build a shed and move your stuff out of the garage or basement into the shed. That would free up the garage or basement to build your gym. But that doesn’t quite make sense in my mind.
In your basement, you don’t have a very good view while working out. Sure, that’s not the point of exercising but it makes your workouts a bit more pleasant if you have some nice plants and flowers to look at instead of concrete walls. Being in the garden gives you a view of the garden. Most people prefer to see their garden.
That’s why it makes sense in my mind to build a gym in a garden shed. And if it turns out you don’t want to use the gym anymore, you still got the shed to turn into something else. You can easily turn it into a man cave for example.
Favorite home gym tools
Many people often forget a few important pieces of their home gym that isn’t directly gym equipment. Here are my favorite home gym tools.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and all types of other workouts, the GymNext Flex is easily the best and easiest to use.
- Mirrors: Fab & Glass (Amazon link) makes the best large mirror sheets so you can see your exercise form.
- Flooring: American Floor Mats gym flooring (Amazon) or equipment mats make your gym quieter, easier to clean and keeps your floor and equipment safe.
- Fan: The Rowenta VU5670 (Amazon) is a great way to stay cool while working out.
What’s the best shed material for a garden gym? Wood is the best option for a shed that is going to be a gym. Wood makes a cabin a bit more comfortable and livable in hot and cold weather. A metal shed gets very hot when the sun hits it and the walls might be dangerous to touch when it’s cold. Resin sheds are usually too small to build a gym in.
Can I add a sauna to my gym shed? Yes, it’s possible to add a sauna to your garden shed. It’s a good idea to add some extra insulation between the sauna and gym part. Since saunas need time to heat up and you’ll often use it after working out, the sauna will heat up the gym part. If your gym is hot already, the extra heat from the sauna will make it very uncomfortable.