There’s no questioning the popularity of a gym membership. Many who exercise regularly have one, and according to International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, more than 62.5 million in the U.S. had a gym or sports club membership in 2018, up from 60.9 million in 2017. However, data collected from the Guardian also suggests that as much as 80 percent of those who sign up drop out within eight weeks.
Whether it’s to save money or to avoid crowds or a commute, a growing number of homeowners are trying to replicate the gym experience at home.
“It’s a definite shift out there. Almost everybody who comes in here has an active gym membership, but everyone’s also saying it’s hard to get there,” said Shaun Lewis, owner of NLV Weight Equipment in North Las Vegas.
Fortunately, for those looking to build a home gym, there are plenty of ways to get the most of out of spaces and create great exercise experiences without leaving the house. Here’s a look at some of today’s home gym trends.
Ken Coats, president of Las Vegas-based Equip Fitness, which designs fitness centers for multifamily complexes as well as custom homeowners, said the biggest home gym trend is what he calls “home-assisted training.”
More and more homeowners are investing in equipment such as the Peloton stationary bike or treadmill, he said. The machines include a monitor with software that offers access to a variety of workout routines.
With an internet connection, the system also allows for competition with others around the country and globe. In a way, it’s like bringing the gym spin class or treadmill challenge into your living room or home workout space.
“It’s like getting trained by a personal trainer in the comfort of your own home,” Coats said. “This is definitely where the residential fitness market is going.”
Similar to Peloton are offerings like Expresso and Wellbeats. Wellbeats is a virtual fitness app that can be downloaded onto a mobile device or desktop. It houses more than 400 workouts for bikes, treadmills or even simple dumbbell and body weight resistance routines.
Expresso is a stationary bike with three different interactive ways to train. You can engage in a road race, take a studio class or enjoy a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) gaming experience.
The Mirror is another interactive workout program where the device, an actual mirror with an embedded camera and speakers, allows you to see yourself as you exercise alongside a virtual instructor. The greatest selling point to the program is that routines only require the space of a yoga mat.
Some classes may involve dumbbells or kettlebells, but many simply involve exercises such as lunges, squats and pushups using one’s own body weight.
Old-school weights are still popular
Even with technology bringing the gym class experience to the home, there’s still no shortage of customer requests for old-school gym pieces like dumbbells, kettlebells, weight racks and bars, even TRX suspension bands, alongside traditional treadmills and stationary bikes. With the popularity of HIIT, many fitness enthusiasts have come to realize they don’t need entire racks of dumbbells or bulky bars and cages. Fitness clubs like Orange Theory have popularized the body weight exercise, too.
“Being in the fitness industry, I take those classes just to see what they do,” Coats said. “Less and less space is required for home gyms these days, especially if you’re using your own body weight.”
Many home gyms today are still being built in garages, too, Lewis added.
“Some will use a portable cooler for when it gets hot out, but then there are a lot of people who just like the sweat,” Lewis said.
Heather Hess, a Las Vegas-based interior designer, agreed that garages are still one of the most popular places to build a home gym. “Especially ones that can open through to the backyard. These types of garages are perfect because they bring in a lot of fresh air and can double the size of the workout area,” she said.
Lewis said homeowners have learned how to assemble a home gym relatively inexpensively by purchasing used equipment. If done right, for between $1,500 and $3,000, a homeowner can build out a space that allows him or her to enjoy a wide range of exercise programs.
Lewis said many of his customers like the Smith machine. The device includes a barbell attached to a fixed rail system that guides the bar vertically as it holds weight. A used Smith machine can be purchased at a 30 to 40 percent discount compared to a new one. Many people also are open to purchasing used dumbbells, kettlebells and weight plates, Lewis added.
“A lot of people will save money on that big piece of equipment, then use that savings to buy a new Olympic barbell and mats,” he said.
Because people are often looking for space-saving offerings, the popularity of cages has diminished, according to Lewis. More people are opting for half-rack systems instead, some of which come with chin-up bars. These setups take up less space and still allow for all types of bench press, squat and lunge exercises using a barbell and weights.
“I also try to show people the common sense of having adjustable dumbbells,” Lewis said, adding that Ironmaster and Hoist are quality brands for adjustable dumbbells. Hess recommends Bowflex and NordicTrack adjustable dumbbells, too.
Tips for building a home gym
A home gym can be built in a small bedroom, a section of your great room, in the garage, or just about anywhere else in your home. Here are some tips to keep in mind before creating your own home workout space.
Avoid carpet flooring. It will stain and hold sweat and odors, Coats said.
Stick with reputable brands for cardio machines, Coats said. Vision, Horizon, True and Matrix are some brands he recommends.
Do some research before you install gym mats indoors. The rubber smell can be very strong, Lewis cautioned. He recommends leaving them out in the sun for a few days before installation. This will help to eliminate some of the harsh smell.
If your gym is on the second floor, think about how and if a piece of equipment can be disassembled and reassembled in order to get it into your exercise space before you make your final decision, Lewis said.
Consider your wall colors, too. Beige and neutrals are great for sleep and tranquility, but red, blue or orange may help you exercise for a longer period of time, Coats said.