What’s The Smallest Home Gym Possible? Free Weights/Cardio

What’s the smallest space you can build a home gym in? If you have limited space, it’s good to know what your options are. So here is how much space you need to build a small home gym in.

The minimum amount of space you need to create a home gym with a bench and dumbbells is 30 sq. ft. That will allow you to do all the exercises. For a full free weights setup, 45 sq.ft. is recommended. An exercise bike is the smallest cardio machine that only needs 12.4 sq. ft. of space.

What do you need and why shouldn’t you go any smaller? Find out below.

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What’s The Smallest Possible Home Gym?

So what is the smallest space you need to build a functional home gym? Well, that depends on what you want to do in your home gym and what your goals are. Let’s take a look at which goals most people have for their home gyms and what the best setup is for this.

Type of workout

How big your home gym depends on what you want to do in it. Doing yoga takes up a lot less space than a full setup with separate machines for each muscle.

In my opinion, there are two main goals why people want a home gym;

  • Build muscle and/or strength
  • Lose body fat

It’s also common to have both goals at the same time and that is perfectly possible but will require some extra space since you need different equipment for both goals.

There are people who want to train for a specific sport but those are the minority. Also, much of the training for many sport overlaps greatly with the two goals stated above.

Build muscle and/or strength

Building muscle is quite simple although not easy. To build muscle and strength, you have to increasingly apply resistance to the muscle you want to grow. That means you need things that are heavy and adjustable in weight. On top of that, you need to be able to lift those weights in various positions so you can target different muscles.

Free weights are the solution here. Free weights are weights that aren’t connected to anything. That means; barbells, weight plates, dumbbells and kettlebells. These things can move in any direction which means they are very flexible in how you can use them. That’s why free weights provide a lot of exercise options for the amount of space they take up.

Lose body fat

Lifting weights is actually a great way to lose body fat since it burns a lot of calories per minute and you have the added benefit of growing muscle which burns more energy even when you’re not doing anything.

However, many people like to do some kind of cardiovascular exercise to burn extra fat and that is a great way as well. There are tons of different machines that you can use for cardio exercise. Some are very large while others are much smaller.

So what do you actually need to accomplish those goals in a compact home gym? That’s what you’ll find out below.

Which Equipment Is Good For Small Home Gyms?

Which equipment you should choose depends on your goals. But once you know your goals, here is the direction you should look in.

Compact home gym equipment to build muscle/strength

The most efficient way to get resistance and a lot of exercise options in a small space is to use free weights. A complete free weights setup consists of;

Click the links for more information on those separate pieces of equipment.

With that setup, you can do all the exercises you need to do to build a great physique. However, even if you get the smallest version of all these pieces of equipment, it’s still a sizable setup that needs at least 45 sq. ft. to be utilized to the fullest.

What if you don’t have enough space to fit the full free weights setup? The next best thing is to just get a bench and dumbbells. You lose some exercise options but for beginners and intermediate lifters, a set of dumbbells can build a great body. Just make sure they are heavy enough for a challenging workout. For beginners a set of dumbbells that ranges from 5 lbs. to 50 lbs. is suitable. Once you get stronger, you might want to add a set of 60 lbs. dumbbells or even more.

A good set of adjustable dumbbells will have many weights in one set of dumbbells and is a very good way to save space. A set of adjustable dumbbells and folding bench means you can store your gym equipment in a very small space when not using it. However, to use it, you need about 30 sq. ft. of free space. Read more about why below.

A set of adjustable dumbbells and a foldable bench are the most compact way to build muscle.

Compact home gym equipment for cardio

There are tons of different cardio machines, some bigger than others. The best option for a hard cardio workout in a very small space is an exercise bike. It has the smallest footprint and can provide a really tough workout.

To place and use a good exercise bike like the Schwinn IC4, you need about 12 to 13 square feet.

If you prefer another cardio machine, that’s fine too but almost all of them take up more floor space than an exercise bike.

And of course if you want to accomplish both goals (build muscle and lose weight), you need both types of equipment. That doesn’t mean you have to add the space requirements together. The space requirements are to use the equipment. You don’t use all the equipment all the time.

Most equipment is pretty easy to move around. When you’re lifting weights, just push the bike into the corner and you’ve got more floorspace you can use for lifting weights. So as long as you always use your gym alone, you just have to add on the space the bike actually takes up.

Read more about the space requirements below.

Home Gym Size

So let’s finally get to the important point. How much floorspace do you actually need and why?

Full free weights setup

For a full free weights setup with power cage, barbell, weight plates, dumbbells and bench, you need at least 45 sq. ft. of free floor space. Sure you could fit all the equipment into a smaller space but then you can’t really use it. With 45 sq. ft. you can fit all the equipment and use it for all exercises you could want to do without bumping into the equipment.

With a short barbell, folding bench and adjustable dumbbells, you could go down to 42 square feet but I wouldn’t recommend that since some exercises might not be possible without bumping into the walls.

A normal barbell is 7’2 wide and the shortest possible barbell is 6’ long. You still need a bit of space on both sides of the barbell (at least 6” on both sides) so that dictates the width of your gym. That means even with a 6’ barbell your gym has to be 7’ wide.

For bench pressing and some other exercises you lie down on the bench. On the bench you have your legs bent so you don’t need a full body length of space. However, you also don’t bench press with your head against the wall. Your head will probably be about a foot from the wall. That means you need about 6’ of length and 6.5’ if you’re on the taller side. That means 42 to 45 square feet of space is required for this setup.

Dumbell setup

For the more compact setup with just dumbbells and a bench you need about 30 square feet. That amount of space is mostly necessary to actually be able to use it.  The actual equipment doesn’t take up much space at all. You want to be able to spread your arms and lie down on the bench with your knees bent. For a 6’ person that means you need a space of about 6’ by 5’= 30 sq. ft.

For exercises that don’t need the bench, you simple fold it up and put it against the wall and you’ll have plenty of space to do them.

Exercise bike

A good spin bike like the Schwinn IC4 measures 48.7″ L x 21.2″ W. Those are just the dimensions of the bike itself though. If you actually want to use it, you want a few more inches in length so you don’t rub up against the wall but, about 3” will be enough.

How wide of a space you need to use the machine depends on how wide you are. The outside width of your shoulders plus a few inches is enough. My shoulders are about 30” wide so roughly 35” is enough to use the machine. It won’t be spacious but it’s enough.

That means roughly 12.4 square feet is enough space to use an exercise bike.

As said before, if you combine an exercise bike with weightlifting equipment, you don’t have to add up the two space requirements. Because all the space requirements I listed in this post, included the space to actually use it.

However, you probably won’t use all the equipment at the same time. So the free space you need to lift weights, can also be used to use the bike. In the meantime you can push either the bike or the bench into a corner and it just needs the space it actually takes up.

So for example, if you get the Schwinn IC4 bike, you just have to add a space of 48.7″ L x 21.2″ W to your free weights space and you will be fine as long as you’re willing to move the bike around.

What Can You Do In a Tiny Home Gym?

What if you’ve got less than 30 square feet available. What can you do? Is there still an option to work out? Sure, there are a few options. This is the point where you start being limited in the functionality of your gym however.

If you don’t have enough space to fit a full free weights setup or even a bench and some dumbbells, you probably don’t have enough space to spread your arms or lie down in that space. Which means your exercise selection is somewhat limited.

For cardiovascular training there is one option that is smaller than an exercise bike and that’s a jump rope. It doesn’t take up any space, you can do it inside, anywhere you want. Just make sure there is nothing in the way the rope can catch on. There is a reason old school boxers use the jump rope for conditioning. It’s effective, cheap and you can take it anywhere.

For resistance training, the smallest you can go is a set of resistance bands and a kettlebell. Both those things can be used for a full body workout with some creativity. You can store restistance bands, kettlebells and a jump rope on a small shelf so once you’re done it doesn’t take up a lot of space at all. To use this equipment you will still need enough space to lie down and spread your arms. How much that is depends on how tall you are.

However, this type of equipment doesn’t necessarily need its own room. You could do this in the living room as long as you put a movable rubber mat under the area you work out and you’re perfectly fine.

Don’t forget to check out my new eBook! It goes into much more detail and helps you to build a great, compact home gym every step of the way. Click here to find more information.


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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