The basics: Floor plan first

unnamed-1So, you’ve decided to start making your own home space to work out. Before you buy your first dumbbell, I think it’s a good idea to consider exactly what you are hoping to get out of your home gym. Do you want an extra workout space that will supplement your gym membership, for those days you don’t feel like leaving the house but would like to get some exercise in? Or do you want a full-fledged home gym? Who else (if anyone) will be using it? What kind of training will you do? Will your space permit you to train the way you like? All these questions should be answered before you start laying out your gym.

With mine, I valued versatility, both with my floor space and my equipment. My two-car garage  has 10-foot ceilings, and is just about 19×24 feet or so. While the garage door mechanism in the middle of the ceiling means I can’t be lifting overhead or jumping around much right in the middle of the room, there’s still plenty of room around it without worrying about clearance. But if you’re transforming a spare room, a basement or an attic, you might not have that kind of headway or space. I like to mix up my methods when I train, so I do a lot of jumping and explosive movements in addition to traditional weight training.

The reason I bring all this up is to urge you to not consider just floor space horizontally, but also vertically. Understanding the limits of your space before you buy anything is key.

Flooring material

The first setup I had with the stall mats was four large ones and four small ones. I've since added four more large ones, for wall-to-wall coverage.

The first setup I had with the stall mats was four large ones and four small ones. I’ve since added four more large ones, for wall-to-wall coverage.

I wanted about half my garage to be dedicated to my workout area. That meant a floor space coverage of 19 feet wide by 12 feet deep or so. I strongly suggest a floor covering, whether you’re inside your house or in your garage. Protect both your floors and your equipment. I went with horse stall mats from Tractor Supply – they’re about $40 each for a 6’x4′ mat and $20 for a 4’x3′. The thickness on the larger mats is much better, and I drop loaded barbells on them without any worries about my weights or the garage cement. My floor coverage is 8 of the large ones and four of the small ones. From corner to corner, they fit in snugly with no overlap. As I said, the large ones are thicker than the small ones, so be aware of this if you plan to mix and match.

I’ve seen piece-together gym mats on Amazon and other fitness-specific “puzzle-piece” style flooring, but it gets expensive quickly. The cheaper versions, so I’ve read, tend to not hold up to consistent weight dropping. A friend of mine who started his own CrossFit gym went with these stall mats and swears by them, and so do I. For me, the stall mats are fantastic and based on personal experience, I wouldn’t recommend anything else.

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