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How to create a home gym (in any space)

Image of a home gym by @rubix_construction

How to create a home gym (in any space)

Lockdown saw online stores stripped of weights, dumbbells and boxing bags, as many of us sought to convert corners of our homes into gyms. With Zoom workouts and exercise apps shaping up to be an ongoing trend, personal trainer Norman Bernard (@normskipt) reveals his workout essentials and the dos and don’ts to creating a home gym.

Please note that proper technique is essential when using the following equipment. Check out Norman’s Instagram feed for plenty of instruction and inspiration!

Workout essentials for small spaces

Are you pondering the idea of a home gym but fear that expensive kit will end up cluttering up your home? Start with simple equipment that’ll build strength and new habits without taking up too much space.

Dumbbells

“You can’t go wrong with a pair of dumbbells for a full-body workout,” says Norman. “Often used for joint-isolation exercises such as biceps curls, chest flies or shoulder raises, dumbbells are also great for full-body movements. Plus, they offer many benefits for cardiorespiratory fitness and flexibility, so they’re a worthwhile investment.” Norman uses the Hex rubber dumbbells; you can buy them from various websites but Argos has a few at great prices.

Kettlebells

A kettlebell workout is known to improve overall strength, core power, balance, flexibility and coordination. “It’ll also melt fat and sculpt healthy and lean muscles,” explains Norman. “Kettlebells have an offset centre of gravity (usually about 6 to 8 inches away from your grip on the handle) so they’re harder to control – which makes for a better workout. I recommend Escape Fitness kettlebells. They’re pricey at the moment but that won’t last forever.”

Image of a home gym by @East London Stylist
Image: Beth Golding’s balcony (@theeastldnstylist) features wooden storage benches, perfect for storing or resting weights between reps, while a bamboo ladder for hanging her resistance bands. Don’t forget a soft surface: Norman recommends the BodyZen yoga mat, which has a great grip for hands and feet.
Resistance bands

Resistance bands/tubes and loops have been proven to improve strength, size and function of muscles in the elderly as well as those undergoing rehabilitation. “Bands can provide very light or heavy resistance depending on your level of fitness,” says Norman. “They work your muscles in much the same way as dumbbells, barbells and other free weights do, but they don’t rely on gravity to provide the resistance. Not only does this mean resistance bands are easier on your bones and joints – helping to keep you injury-free – but they also allow for a wider range of motion.”

Suspension trainer

“A suspension trainer is a terrific bit of home kit,” says Norman. “Suspending one or more limbs in the handles of the trainer adds instability to every exercise you do, so your core works overtime to keep you balanced. You’ll need a sturdy anchor point for the ropes, but a door, pole or ceiling that can take the weight should do. Alternatively, you can take it to the park and put around a tree!”

The TRX training system is the best-known suspension trainer, but it’s not the only one and it’s by no means the cheapest. You can find suspension trainers from as little as £15, with the priciest kits costing around £150.

Image of a home gym by @Kirchhoff_archtects
Image: What better place to shift those lockdown pounds than here? This space was designed by Kirchoff & Associates Architects.
Workout essentials for home gyms

If the thought of breaking a sweat with others isn’t appealing right now, then maybe you should turn your garage, basement, loft or even your guest bedroom into the gym of your dreams.

In terms of investing in equipment, a treadmill is great for cardiovascular workouts and has shock-absorbing plates to reduce pressure to the joints, muscles and tissues. “A treadmill allows you to take your workout at your own pace as you can walk, jog or sprint,” explains Norman.

“A squat rack is an absolute must,” he continues. “It mainly works the quads, glutes and hamstrings, but it’ll also work your core.” Team this with a  pulley machine, which can work the entire body: back, triceps, biceps, core, legs and shoulders. “There are various models out there but Life Fitness has good-quality machines,” Norman adds.

And finally, shop for a bench. “This is great for multiple exercises and you can combine it with the pulley or squat rack for a longer workout. Again, Life Fitness makes quality benches,” says Norman.

Featured image: If you have the outdoor space for a garden room, follow in the footsteps of these savvy homeowners who’ve transformed theirs into a well-equipped gym. Rubix Construction lowered the ground level to create extra internal head height while complying with planning restrictions. They then added bi-fold doors to create a strong connection to the garden.

Want more? If you enjoyed Norman’s tips, don’t miss our other expert tips blogs.