How To Create Compact Home Gym In a Small Apartment


I know from experience that building a home gym in an apartment is not as easy as in a garage or basement. So what kind of home gym can you build in a small apartment that works well? Let’s find out.

An apartment home gym will have to make some compromises in equipment choices because space is often quite limited. Also, because moving heavy weights can create noise and vibrations that are unwanted in an apartment, weight has to be limited and good flooring has to be used.

Here’s how you can build the best home gym in an apartment.


Which space is available?

A good home gym is one that helps you reach your goals, fits in the space you have and where all the equipment works together. To build a good home gym, the first thing you have to look at is the space you’ve got available.

Apartments don’t have basements, garages or attics. That means the type of space people tend to use for a typical home gym aren’t an option.

That means there are only a few types of rooms you could build your home gym in. In the average apartment that means you have (part of) a bedroom or the living room left over for workout equipment. That means your setup will probably look a little bit different than if you’d build it in a garage or basement.

In this post, I’ll focus especially on what you can do when you have very little space available. Because we’re working with a limited amount of space, you’ll probably not be able to get all the equipment in there you really want. However, even in a small space, you can build something that helps you get in shape.

What’s the absolute minimum amount of space you need? For bodyweight and kettlebell/resistance exercises, you want a rectangular space that’s a little longer than you when laying down. It should be wide enough where your hands don’t touch anything when reaching to the sides. For most people that will be a space of about 6’ by 6’ or 7’x 7’ if you’re taller.

For a home gym with compact equipment 7’x6’ is the minimum size you’ll need and that will be quite tight and the equipment has to be optimal to be able to create a complete home gym.

More equipment isn’t necessarily always better but with severe space limitations, extra space probably affords you a little room to get some equipment in there that dramatically improves your exercise options. It just makes your workouts less repetitive and thus (for people like me) less likely that you’ll get bored.

If you have a space for your apartment gym in mind, measure it quickly and see if you’ve got enough space.

Don’t have enough space? A storage unit could be and option. Check out the top 10 considerations for building a gym in a storage unit.


What do you need to get in shape?

Getting in shape means something different for everyone. For some people it means lean and muscular, for others as strong as possible and for others it means great cardiovascular health.

While your fitness goals might be different from the next person, there is quite a bit overlap in the equipment you use. Many of the differences will come from the workout program you follow.

In a nutshell, here is how you work on reaching the most common fitness goals;

  • Muscle building: Resistance training: Free weights, cable machines, resistance bands, bodyweight exercises.
  • Losing weight: Burn calories & build some muscle: Cardio machines and things named above.
  • Cardiovascular health: Raised heart rate for extended period of time: Cardio machines

The ways to get in shape don’t change when you live in an apartment. However, because of certain restrictions, the specific tools you use might be different. Let’s look at what some good apartment gym setups can be for different goals.


Example home gym setup for apartment

Here are three different setups for different types of workout. These are setups that will work in small apartments.

All of the setups are pretty compact although there are small differences in size. Some pieces of equipment just fit in a smaller space than others.


Apartment gym example #1: Compact free weightlifting

This apartment gym setup is for the people that want to focus on building muscle and/or strength. For that purpose, free weights are just the best. If you currently are used to working out on machines to train your muscles, in a compact space that’s just not possible.

The space used for this example is 7’ x 6’. This isn’t very large and does requires some compromises but you can get a complete free weights setup in here.

Free weights are incredibly multifunctional and with a few supporting pieces of equipment, you can train your whole body with just a barbell and weight plates or dumbbells.

Here’s what that can look like;

  • Short barbell
  • Squat stands
  • Weight plates
  • Bench
  • Optional: Adjustable dumbbells
  • Optional: Small cardio machine

You can see the adjustable dumbbells in the pictures above. If you want to add a cardio machine, you’ll need a bit more space.

The bench will have to be folded or put outside the gym for some exercises.

I usually recommend a full power cage for home gyms since it’s just a lot safer when lifting alone. However, in this case there are two reasons why I recommend squat stands;

  • Squat stands take up a lot less space than a power cage
  • Squat stands allow you to use a shorter barbell

Squat stands are just two stands with a little ledge to put your barbell on. They take up a lot less space than a power cage. Since the two sides are often separate from each other or at least adjustable, you can change the space between them to fit a shorter barbell than fits on a normal power cage. Those two things combined mean that a lot less width is necessary. This means you can use a 6’ barbell without problems.

Combined with a bench, you have a ton of exercise options that allow you to train any body part. If you want to add even more exercise variety without taking up much more space, add a set of adjustable dumbbells. This allows you to do many other variations of exercises.

If you not only want to train your muscles but also improve your cardio, a small cardio machine can be added if you’ve got enough space. Exercise bikes are great for cardio workouts and don’t take up a lot of space. An exercise bike is also unlikely to create noises the neighbors can hear like a treadmill would.  


Apartment gym example #2: Multi-gym + Extras

This is for people who want a little bit of everything; muscle, losing weight and improving cardiovascular health but without free weights. Free weights are intimidating for many people which is why machines are very popular in most gyms.

The floor space used for this example measures 8’ by 8’. Even though there are only a few pieces of equipment in here, there are a lot of exercise options here.

  • Multi-gym
  • Exercise bike/Rower
  • Kettlebells

A multi-gym is a machine that combines as many separate gym machines into one piece of equipment. That means they are still not small by any means but they are much smaller than all the different machines together.

A good multi-gym can be used for a complete, full body workout without needing anything else to build muscle.

Besides that you will want a cardio machine like an exercise bike or rower that doesn’t take up much space.

Actually I did sneak a set of free weights in the setup above. Kettlebells are free weights, although many people aren’t as intimidated by them as by a barbell. They are a great addition to this setup for a few reasons;

  • They barely take up any space.
  • They can be a great integrative tool to combine your muscle building and cardio training.

Kettlebell workouts are often a good combination of cardio and muscle building, training both at the same time. Also, kettlebell workouts often train the backside of the body’s musculature which is often forgotten in a normal muscle building workout.


Apartment gym example #3: Compact stowaway

This example is for people that don’t want to see their gym equipment when not using it. Maybe you only have space in the living room and don’t want some big metal pieces right there. This means all the equipment here is small enough to be put in a cupboard so it’s out of sight.

The floor space used for this example measures 6’ by 6’. If you’re 6’ tall or close to it, you’ll want a slightly larger space.

  • Kettlebells
  • Resistance bands
  • Jump rope
  • Yoga mat

This setup is good for bodyweight exercises and kettlebell/resistance band exercises. Since this setup is meant to be put in a cupboard somewhere, that means you probably use your living room or bedroom to work out.

That means you likely have more space than this available so the floor plans above just show you the actual space you need to work out in.


Recommended apartment home gym equipment

Above you can see a quick overview of the different possible setups and for who they are. Now let’s look at which equipment specifically is good for those apartment setups.

Here are the specific items I recommend for an apartment home gym.

Full weightlifting setup

  • F2C squat stands: These squat stands are cheap and to the job. The barbell can be held at different heights for different exercises. The two sides are separate so it’s possible to adjust exactly to the length barbell you’ve got. It’s also easy to put them away in a corner after use so you can free up some extra floor space.
  • CAP 6’ barbell: A simple and cheap but well-built 6’ barbell. Has plenty of load capacity for the vast majority of home lifters. 6’ barbells are long enough to use for all common barbell exercises but are not as cumbersome as a full sized one. This barbell won’t work on most full size power cages.
  • XMark Weight plates: High quality weight plates with a rubber coating on the outside to reduce noise and vibrations. The plates fit on the recommended barbell perfectly.
  • Fitness Reality 1000 Bench: An adjustable bench that isn’t too large and heavy so it can easily be stored elsewhere when not in use. The 800 lbs. load limit should be plenty for most home gym users.
  • Bowflex 552 adjustable dumbbells: These adjustable dumbbells can range from 5 to 52.5 lbs. of weight in a single set. They are used just like normal dumbbells but you can adjust the weight weight a dial on the side. A very compact way to add a set of dumbbells to your home gym.
  • Schwinn IC3: A sturdy and overall high quality stationary spin bike. Not many bells and whistles like big displays and connectivity but very effective and compact. Can be substituted for another type of bike like a recumbent bike.
  • SkiErg Ski trainer: This type of trainer is relatively new but are a very effective and compact solution. Takes up a bit more space than

All-in-one

  • Bowflex Blaze: Bowflex multi-gyms don’t have a weight stack that moves up and down. That helps dramatically with reducing noise and vibrations in an apartment. Instead, the resistance is created by bending metal tubes which are also much lighter than a weight stack. The Blaze is a good model for a relatively friendly price.
  • Schwinn IC3: A sturdy and overall high quality stationary spin bike. Not many bells and whistles like big displays and connectivity but very effective and compact.
  • Concept2 Model D: If you’ve got a long space available, a rowing machine is a good alternative to the exercise bike.
  • Yes4All kettlebell: Kettlebells don’t have to be anything fancy. These Yes4All kettlebells are solid and have a vinyl coating to protect your floor and reduce noise. They do a good job for a good price.

Compact

  • Yes4All kettlebells: Kettlebells don’t have to be anything fancy. These Yes4All kettlebells are solid and have a vinyl coating to protect your floor and reduce noise. They do a good job for a good price.
  • Bob and Brad resistance bands set: Bob and Brad are two physical therapists that are semi-famous on Youtube. They have ventured into creating exercise equipment that fits their standards and a doing a good job at that. This resistance band set is all you need.
  • Yoga mat: Mats can be had very cheap but since it’s something you’ll be in contact with quite a bit, it’s a good idea to get something that’s good and doesn’t release any nasty stuff. This Ajna organic yoga mat is exactly what you need. Organic materials so you can feel safe using it for as long as you want.

Apartment gym considerations

Building a home gym in an apartment isn’t as easy as in a garage or basement. There are more factors to consider in an apartment and those factors might mean you have to make some compromises.

I’ve written a large article about the potential problems and solutions of building a home gym in an apartment. Click here to find it.

I’ll hit on all of the considerations and potential problems here quickly. If you want a deeper explanation, check out the post linked above.

Here are the biggest potential problems with building a home gym in an apartment;

  • Noise: Working out creates noise. Usually by weights being lowered to the floor a little too quickly but also by impacts from running or similar movements.
  • Load limits: This isn’t likely to be a problem for many but a few very strong individuals have to be careful not to exceed the load limit of the floor. Basements and garages have much higher load limits than first floors and apartments.
  • Vibrations: Working out usually involves moving weight. Either your own weight or dumbbells/barbells. Putting weight down on the floor can create vibrations. Those vibrations can bother the neighbors and even cause damage over time if it involves very heavy weights.
  • Regulations: Some apartments don’t allow things like this.
  • Neighbors: A bigger problem than the landlord is going to be your neighbors. Unhappy neighbors can make your life miserable. It’s up to you to negotiate with them and make sure they’re OK with you having a home gym, especially if it involves free weights (which often cause more noise and vibrations).
  • Space: That problem should be solved after reading this post.

Compact home gym building manual

Need some more help building a compact but functional and comfortable home gym? I’ve created a manual that shows you exactly how to go about doing just that from start to finish. Click here to find it. It comes with a ton of extra floor plans you can use for inspiration

Matt

Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to HomeGymResource.com. I've been going to the gym for about 15 years and am now looking to build my own. In the process I've learned many things I'd like to share with you.

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