Learn how to set up a small home gym on a small budget using affordable storage solutions and smart layout planning.
I have been quietly working on setting up our home gym for a couple of months, and I am SO excited to finally reveal it to you! I was working with a weirdly shaped room, tons of windows, and a super small budget, so I had a lot of challenges to work through. I want to share all the hacks I found along the way to maximize the small space and get the biggest bang for my buck so you can build your own home gym without breaking the bank.
Create A Plan First
The most important step in setting up your home gym is creating a plan. Before you paint the walls, arrange your equipment, or even sweep the floors, you should be coming up with a plan for the layout and storage systems.
Here’s the process I used when I planned my gym:
1. Create a Pinterest board with home gym inspiration photos
2. Draw or digitally map out your room to scale with measurements (here’s a tutorial)
3. Measure all workout equipment and existing furniture and arrange them in your room layout, leaving enough space for adequate movement and floor workouts
4. List all the workout accessories and small equipment that needs a “home” in the room
5. Shop (or pull from another room) for storage furniture and wall shelving, keeping measurements in mind
Optional: Make a mood board using Canva to see your entire plan together.
Prep Your Space
A home gym gets a lot of wear and tear, especially if it’s inside your house versus in your garage. Before you start piling things inside, take a day to prep the space while it’s empty. Some of the steps below may seem unimportant to you, but it’s better to do it now instead of having to clear it out again later or when an accident happens.
How to prep your room before setting up your gym:
1. Deep clean the floors, walls, windows, light fixtures, vents, doors, and baseboards
2. Paint the walls or just touch up any scuffs
3. If your workout equipment is extra heavy, have a contractor check the floor joists to make sure they can withstand the weight
4. Add safety mats where large equipment will go that could slip during use and cause injury
5. Mark stud locations on any walls that will have shelving installed
Add The Big Stuff First
Before all the dumbbells and elastic bands and yoga mats come through the door, it’s important to go ahead and bring in the big stuff first. Even though you mapped out your room layout on paper or digitally, you won’t really get a feel for the amount of space you have until you can see it with your own eyes. What looked spacious on paper may feel cluttered in person. Don’t add anything to the walls until you’ve got all the big stuff locked in.
An extra tip to test out your floor space is to do a few exercises in the open area to make sure your movement isn’t restricted. Once the equipment is placed and your shelving is up, it’ll be a big pain to move things around to account for open space, so take time to make sure your layout is adequate now.
Ways to test open floor space for mobility:
1. Do jumping jacks- are your arms hitting anything?
2. Lay down flat on the floor with your legs and arms fully extended- do your feet or hands touch anything?
3. Grab a couple of weights you use often (dumbbells, kettlebells, barbell) and run through some exercises in your routine- are you comfortable doing them?
Set Up Safe Storage Solutions
A home gym is not the place to put your wobbly recycled furniture. Your safety should be your main priority, and protecting your home is priority number two. But heavy duty storage can get very expensive. If your goal is to keep the price tag small while still keeping your safety in mind, opt for these budget friendly solutions that can withstand some heavy wear.
Galvanized Steel Pegboard Wall
A regular pegboard is made of composite wood called masonite, which is basically wood fibers that have been steamed together to create a “hardboard.” They’re thin, flimsy, and require furring strips (pieces of 2×4 wood) to install. Although they’re cheap and easy to get from any store, they are NOT safe for a home gym.
If a pegboard is a storage solution you want to include in your gym, opt for galvanized steel. It won’t bow like plastic does, and it doesn’t require furring strips. You can install it right onto the studs in the wall using a standard drill. I used these steel pegboards because they’re incredibly strong and easy to put up. Make sure you note the weight limits for both your pegboard, wall anchors, AND pegs to avoid damage to the wall (or your floor if things fall).
Freestanding Closet Organizing Shelving
A lot of closet “furniture” on the market is great for a gym because it’s made to hold the weight of clothing and shoes. You can grab shoe shelves and cube shelving from your local hardware store to hold your small accessories. Don’t keep any weights on these, though, because they aren’t made for that.
Make sure you anchor all furniture to the wall using metal L-shaped braces to ensure they don’t tip or get knocked over. Those little straps your shelving comes with is not strong enough for a gym, so spend the extra $2 for a pack of metal braces.
Another great option is metal shelving made for garages. They can withstand a lot of weight and are adjustable so you can set them up to hold anything you need in your gym. These shelves do have gaps in between the wires, so small items will slip through. You can store things in lidded containers or add a shelf mat to keep that from happening. You can also use S hooks to hang things off the side of the shelves, too.
Raid The Command Hook Aisle
Command hooks have come a long way since they first came out, and the brand has a lot of really great gym storage options beyond a basic hook. I used 8 different types of Command hooks in my own gym, and I love them because they were half the price of fully-installed hooks, and I can easily move them if I need to without wall holes. This post covers all the ways Command products can transform your gym on a budget.
Make It A Real Room
Just because your home gym is, well, a gym, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat it like the other rooms in your house. Add some decor that makes you smile like a fun piece of art, motivating posters, full length mirrors, nonslip rugs, air purifying plants, and pretty containers and baskets. Don’t be afraid to try something out of your comfort zone, too.
I painted my gym walls Breathess by Sherwin Williams, which is a shade of pink I would never be brave enough to experiment with in the rest of my house. A home gym should be inspiring and relaxing, and it doesn’t have to match the rest of the “flow” in your house.
Also, be open to budget-friendly alternatives. I really wanted a full mirror wall, and I stalked the Habitat For Humanity ReStore for weeks waiting for a large bathroom mirror to show up, but I never found one. I didn’t want to shell out $300 for a new one, so instead I bought some cheap door mirrors from my hardware store for $6 each and lined them up. It works out fine and I don’t mind the frames on them as much as I thought I would.
- Create a layout plan
- Prep your space while it’s completely empty
- Add your big equipment first
- Set up safe storage solutions
- Treat your gym like any other room
Update! I Changed My Gym Again!
After a few years of using our gym, our fitness goals and needs have transformed, so it was time to add even more storage space to the small room, along with rearranging the layout to fit a Peloton Bike and All-In-One Fitness Machine. You can see the whole reorganization project in the YouTube video below (or watch in the Youtube App here). I’d love to know which version of our gym you like better!