I’ve been meaning to jump on the “garage Gym” craze for a while now, and this year I finally got around to it... With a twist. I don’t know about you, but I like parking my car inside, that’s why I moved into a place with a garage in the first place.
This posed a problem, I wanted to set up my own home gym, but I wanted to keep my garage clutter free
Besides, the thought of messing up my garage ceiling installing a garage punching bag wasn't very enticing. But I wanted to have my cake, and eat it too, so I knew I had to get creative.
I thought about an outdoors gym, but after doing some research it became apparent that eventually your stuff breaks down and your weights rusts, so that was a no go. That’s when I spotted it, my shed, full of crap I didn’t use and just about the right size.
In this article I’ll tell you all about how I cleaned up my shed and built a home gym that’s better than my old commercial one!
Can Your Shed Be Turned Into a Gym?
Short answer? Yes. Long answer? It depends on your shed. There are a few things you need to consider before starting your project. The first one is size, is your shed big enough for what you have in mind?
If it is, what are you planning to do with what’s inside your shed right now? I ended up throwing away a bunch of crap I didn’t need, but for whatever you wanna keep you’ll need some storage space.
After that, it's time to think about comfort. Does your shed have any windows or ventilation? Does it get too hot in there? Too cold? What about floors? Can your shed floors take a pounding or will you need some mats?
Those are just some of the things you’ll need to address while building your gym shed. My advice is to be ready for compromise, you’re not building a luxury gym here, just something that gets the job done.
How Hard Is It to Make a Diy Backyard Gym Shed?
Again, this depends on your own situation. For most though, setting up a gym shed is pretty easy. Most people use their sheds to store random crap that they don’t wanna throw away “just in case”, though they never use it.
In my experience, the hardest part of building a gym shed is just getting rid of all the things you were storing, after that it's as simple as laying down some mats and setting up equipment. Maybe buying a fan or a heater, depending on your weather.
Of course that’s if you already own a shed, otherwise you’ll have to buy one. This may actually be better, since you get to pick something that works for you. Shed’s aren’t that expensive so you shouldn’t worry about cost.
Benefits of Converting a Shed Into a Gym?
Here are a few of the great benefits you get from converting your shed into a gym.
No Wasting Time
Honestly, I never realized just how much time I wasted when training at a commercial gym. It may not seem like much, but even a 15-20 minute drive adds up.
In fact, I did the math: If your gym is 20 minutes away and you train 5 times a week, you’ll be spending 40 minutes driving per day, three hours per week, 12 hours a month, 144 hours a year!
Imagine what you could do with all that time! Start a side hustle, work, spend it with loved ones! Anything is better than driving. Instead of wasting time, with a backyard gym shed you just gotta walk up to it and start training.
Don’t even get me started on what you save on gas!
No More Gym Fees!
It goes without saying that once you have your own gym in your backyard, you won’t be paying for commercial gym fees. Once again, these may seem cheap, especially when considering how expensive gym equipment is.
However, gym equipment lasts for years and will eventually pay for itself, while if you stick with commercial gyms, you’ll always have to pay a fee. Looking back, I realize if I had invested in a space-saver treadmill, one of those foldable exercise bikes with a backrest, another space saver exercise machine, or a squat rack and other equipment years ago, it would have saved a ton in gym fees.
There’s something uniquely satisfying about walking into your home gym at 2am after finishing a rush job and working off all my accumulated stress. That’s something I couldn’t do before, my gym closed at 10pm.
Maybe you’ve got a 24 hour gym close to your home - i don’t - but you’d still have to drive all the way there. With a backyard gym shed, it’s right there, you just walk a few feet and you’re in the gym and down pulling off some calisthenics or weight lifting workouts.
Did I mention you won't have to be waiting in line for a turn on the bench or the smith machine.
The Equipment You Want, and Only That
Ever saw a cool exercise online, but couldn’t do it because your gym didn’t have the right equipment? Yes, you could buy each thing and take it to the gym, but that means you gotta carry a huge gym bag, and it isn’t practical for heavier stuff like barbells.
It’s even worse when the equipment starts breaking down! Most commercial gyms will put off spending any money on their equipment for as long as possible, while you’re still paying your fee to use decaying equipment.
With a home gym, you can buy any specialty bars and specific equipment you want. It’s a personal gym that’s custom built to your workout style and needs, you can get a hack squat machine, or different squat rack types depending on what you want.
If you want cardio exercise machines you can get a stationary bike, an elliptical, or a treadmill (an incline treadmill if you want a bit more challenge), you can even throw a pilates chair in there, it's all up to you.
If something starts to wear out, you can repair or change it right away, though since you’re the only one using it, it probably won’t.
How to Build Gym Shed at Home
See, it’s actually really simple. Don’t get intimidated by all the fancy equipment. All you really need is a good squat rack, some decent floor protection, an affordable barbell, some plates and a set of budget adjustable dumbbells and kettlebells for an all-rounded workout experience.
Getting a good squat rack and barbell can be a whole problem on its own though, that’s why you should check out squat rack & barbell buyer guides if you have any questions!
How to Turn a Shed Into a Gym
What’s the Minimum Shed Size?
If you’re building or buying a shed for this project, you should be wary about shed size. Bigger sheds are more comfortable and roomy, which is great, but they’re also more expensive. It also comes down to your lifting style.
If you’re on a budget, I’d say go for at least 10 ft x 10 ft. A bar is 7 feet long, so you’ve got 3 feet of clearance to move around and to load your plates comfortably.
That’s why you also gotta think about the way you lift before settling on a shed size.
Though.. If you wanna do olympic lifts but don’t have the budget for a bigger shed, I may have a solution for you.
The Outside Gym
What I call the “Outside Gym” is kind of a mashup between an inside gym and an outside gym. Basically, you use your shed more like a storage container + squat rack. Every other olympic lift, you do outside.
Of course, the problem with this is that the weather will work against you. I wouldn’t wanna lift out on the rain, snow or a blazing sun. I’ve seen some people extend the roof of their sheds to get some weather protection.
And while at it, they've also been able to get the right height to hang an aqua bag or heavy bag off the roof. One just gotta make sure the beams are strong enough since some of these bags can weigh in at a whopping 300 pounds. However, if the structure is a bit shaky, you can still opt for a heavy bag stand instead, or you could simply a free standing punching bag - both of these are actually more practical since you can move it around if need be.
The key here is to be creative with what you’ve got, think outside the box.
What Types of Flooring Can Be Used?
Flooring is one of the most important features of a home gym. You need something that can withstand slamming weights without breaking, but also without damaging the weights (be careful with dropping weights though,;you could easily end up bending your barbell) either. That’s why super hard flooring like concrete is out of the question.
Most gyms use something that has some cushion, such as:
- EVA Foam
Let's dissect each one to see which one is right for you.
EVA Foam Flooring
EVA foam flooring is a remarkably cheap and easy way to protect your shed floors from the strains that come with weightlifting. These usually come in interlocking tiles that can simply be placed on top of your regular floor for protection.
Foam is also waterproof, durable and comfortable if you wanna lay down for booty belt workout, essential fitness exercises or some essential core exercises like the double crunch or planks and push-ups.
The catch with foam floors is that most foam tiles will not be dense enough to withstand heavy weights slamming into them. They’ll compress and transfer all that force to the floors below. To fix that you can either go for super thick mats or a slightly more expensive, high density variant like the BalanceFrom.
Rubber is a slightly more expensive flooring option for your backyard shed gym. Depending on where you get it, it comes in both mats and rolls, which is great if you’re trying to cover a big area at once. Much like foam, rubber is waterproof and provides enough cushion to protect your floors.
Where rubber stands out is on noise dampening and overall durability, it’ll be able to take a lot more weight, and make a lot less noise while doing so. A great option if you work out at weird hours and don’t wanna disturb your neighborhood
You can even glue down your floors, which is a bit of a hassle but comes in really handy when you’re sliding around heavy equipment like sleds or benches.
Vinyl is one of the most durable flooring options out there. So much so that it isn’t just used on gym floors, but also homes in general. However, as durable as it is, it won’t be able to take the pounding from slamming weights without denting.
Why put it on the list then? Well vinyl is great material to use as an underlayer to your home gym. Instead of using mats, which have cracks where moisture and dirt can gather, you can lay down a layer of vinyl and cushion it with rubber where you need it.
This will protect your shed floor from mold, sweat, grime and add an extra protection layer.
I’m not really a huge fan of carpet flooring myself. Yes, it will cushion the slamming weights just fine, but to me carpet floors just feel a bit dirty. Think about it, you’re seating all over a carpet that will rarely be washed, it’ll accumulate grime and dust, which might lead to mold and smells.
However, there is a case to be made for carpet floors. They’re cheap, cozy, durable and come in a variety of colors, which is why a lot of home gym owners still choose it.
What Kind of Lighting Should You Use?
Lighting is one of the main issues you’ll run into when building a home gym. Most sheds are very barebone structures, that will only have a flimsy lightbulb, if they have any lighting at all.
I’m not gonna sit here and suggest you go through the trouble of wiring up some lights to your shed, it's just not practical.
What I did instead was purchase the cheapest pair of LED strips I could find and just glued them to my ceiling. Then wired all of those to an extension cord.
Now I can control all of my lights with a remote, they use minimal power and output very little heat, and I can even change colours to kind of mimic sunlight, which is a lot better than white light.
What to Do with Walls?
If you’re a little vain, like me, you’ll miss the big sprawling mirrors that commercial gyms have. You don’t have to do without them though. It's pretty simple to hang up mirrors on your walls, though it can get expensive if you wanna cover the whole thing.
I just placed a full length mirror in front of my power rack, which allows me to check my form as I lift.
My other walls I just painted, then hung up some peg boards for a neck harness, resistance bands, a battle rope, and a few other light euipment.
And towards one of the corners I have a simple but cool homemade dumbbell rack that fills up the void nicely while still keeping my assortment of BWSS adjustable dumbbells off the floor and easily accessible.
What Kind of Equipment Can Be Added to A Gym Shed?
Equipment is the lifeblood of your home gym, and what you can and can not do varies wildly depending on three things: What you can fit; What you want; What your budget is.
There’s no way for me to cover everything that you could purchase, so I’ll just stick to the basics that I think any home gym should have.
Like I said above, squat racks are the lifeblood of any home gym. You can do without one if you’re really really good at olympic lifts, but for us mortals it’s a necessity.
Squat racks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the one you need will depend on the size of your backyard gym shed and your budget. If both the size of your shed and your budget allow, my recommendation is to go with a power rack. It's the safest and most versatile option of the bunch.
However, if space or money are an issue, you should start looking into half racks, wall mounted racks, j-hook squat racks, or even squat stands. If you’re not familiar with those terms and wanna know more, there’s a detailed squat rack buying guide you should check out.
No matter how good your squat rack is, you won't be doing any squatting if you don’t own a barbell.
What kind of barbell will also depend on what you’re planning on doing. I prefer an Olympic bar myself, but not everyone needs one of those, if you’re not planning on performing Olympic lifts then there’s really no need to spend the extra money on one.
Flat or Adjustable Bench
Yes, you can do without one if you really have to, but eventually you should aim to buy one.
It’s an incredibly versatile and incredibly cheap tool to have in your gym. Not only for bench pressing, but also for dumbbell-only exercises, rows, overhead pressing, etc.
I really have to emphasize just how cheap this is, an amazon basics gym will go for about 50 bucks and it's perfectly usable.
If you wanna be a little fancier, go for an adjustable bench. These are slightly more expensive, but they’re incredibly versatile.
Pretty self explanatory i hope. You need some weight for your workout. I’d suggest going on craigslist and finding the cheapest ones.
Do note, however, that some of the cheap weights out there are not in mint condition, but if it's just simple rust that you can clean off easily, then go for it. What you really need to watch out for is any chips or cracks on the weights.
How to Perform Exercise Comfortably in A Low Ceiling Shed Gym?
Low ceilings are an unfortunate reality of some backyard gym sheds. It can really hamper your ability to do standing overhead exercises.
There is no way to fix your ceiling height without destroying your shed and building a new one. But luckily, there is something you can do to be able to work out overhead easily.
First, you can do seated overhead exercises, though it can be a bit uncomfortable if you don’t own an adjustable bench. What you can do is use these Stump Straps to hang your weights from the bar, which will give you a bit more clearance room.
How to Manage Storage in A Small Space of A Gym Shed?
Storage space is a tough one in small gyms. Once again, there are a few solutions you can go for. Ideally, you’d combine all of these to maximize the amount of storage available.
First, try to go for a rack with lots of weight pegs, and storage for you to put your plates and bars on. If that’s not something that works for you, maybe consider a foldable rack which will sit flush with the wall when not in use.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Gym Shed?
Again, tough question. It depends on what you’re buying of course, but for a budget oriented gym, I’d say around two to three grand for a basic setup that covers all your needs. That is of course, if you already own a shed.
If you have to buy a shed, add 2 to 3 grand to your budget.
Is It Cheaper to Build or Buy a Shed?
While it's a lot cheaper to build a shed, it is a lot harder. It’ll take a lot longer, be a lot harder and may not come out that great if you’re not handy with tools.
I guess it all comes down to how handy you are.
Is a Gym Shed Worth It?
YES! I really believe that for most people, it's an amazing investment. The only scenario where I think you wouldn’t benefit from a home gym is if you really like the social aspect the gym has.
Obviously, you’ll probably work out alone most of the time, maybe you can invite a friend but not much else.
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