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Garage Gym Ownership – The Pros and Cons

Pros and cons of owning a garage gym vs having a gym membership

I’ve been working out in my own private garage gym for about two years now. Prior to that, I had always been a member of one commercial mega gym or another, dishing out monthly dues to basically borrow someone else’s equipment. Even though my most recent gym contract was at a nicer gym than most, I was still more bummed out about going to work out than I was excited about it. Nice place or not, I simply found myself annoyed at the gym more often than I felt was healthy.

I stayed at that last gym for many years before I finally decided to both cancel my membership and start ordering equipment for my garage gym. I made that decision to work out at home for what I’m pretty sure are all the same reasons you have for considering it: for the convenience, for privacy, to save money, to improve the quality of my workout, and to make better use of my time; just to name a few.

A very basic and affordable, yet complete garage gym setup. This could be yours!

Crowded gym, presumably during peak hours. I sure hope so anyway.

Making the switch to a garage gym turned out to be just as amazing as I assumed and hoped it would be. Having said that, let me make one thing clear. I am not saying that you cannot reach your fitness goals in a commercial gym; I have no doubt that you can. You’ll just have to learn to deal with certain amounts of BS to do it though; the same BS that drove me out of the gyms.

For instance, unless you can completely avoid peak hours, you will spend a decent amount of time waiting for equipment. This is especially true if you’re trying to use the free weight equipment like the dumbbells, benches, and power racks. You have to accept that your workouts will take longer than they need to because of that waiting, and the driving to and from the gym, and all the other things that slow you down due to being surrounded by other people all trying to do the same thing that you are.

You will also need to come to terms with the fact that your monthly dues; your lease on the equipment that you use, will never make it your equipment. You’re not renting to own, you’re just renting. So unless your membership is provided by work or by your school for near-nothing fees, or you rent an efficiency apartment and have no space for your own equipment, or you go to the gym for reasons other than to work out, you’re throwing away your money in much the same way you do when you rent a home rather than buy it.

For me, one of the biggest issues I had with the gym was the actual equipment. Thousands and thousands of square feet of equipment in these mega gyms, yet they are filled wall-to-wall with useless, garbage machines. Try to find a power rack in most gyms and you’ll be lucky if they provide you with one or two of them. So while the entire member-base has access to only a couple racks; arguably the most useful piece of equipment in any gym; you have access to nine different machines for working out your biceps without having to touch a dumbbell or barbell. Always seemed ridiculous to me.

If all of this sounds familiar to you, and you’re reading this post, it probably means you’re at the very least entertaining the idea of going with a garage gym. Let me tell you, it is as awesome as it sounds, but there are a couple drawbacks. I’ll tell you what those are before I tell you all the perks.

Garage Gym Drawbacks

  • Initial Investment – Getting set up costs some money up front. It can be done fairly inexpensively, or you can go crazy with it and spent a ton. It really doesn’t matter though, as it’s some of the best money you’ll ever spend assuming you intend to live a healthy, active lifestyle for more than a few months after New Years each year.
  • Different Workouts – If you’re completely new to weight training, or were trained on those junky isolation machines, you’ll be at a slight disadvantage for a short time while you learn compound movements. This isn’t even a bad thing, rather something to be aware of. Unless you have a disability, you probably should get off those machines anyway.
  • Loss of Space – A garage gym will eat up a single car garage, or the better half of a standard two-car garage. It’s a really cool use of the space, but it does typically introduce you to the reality of street parking and driveway parking.
  • Climate Issues – I’m in Texas, which means there are a limited number of months in the year in which the weather is ideal for working out in a garage. This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker by any means, but depending on where you live, you may need to invest in a space heater and/or air conditioning for your gym. I just have a giant metal fan that cost like $80 and works wonders in the heat.

One comment regarding the first item; the initial investment. While dishing out a decent amount of money up front sucks, you have to consider that you will recoup every penny of that cash in much less time than you think in saved gym dues. In my case, other than the new Concept2 rower I bought a few weeks ago, my gym has been entirely paid for in these savings already. Again, if you intend on working out and staying healthy your whole life (as I hope you do), you’ll save thousands and thousands of dollars over the years.

Garage Gym Advantages

You probably already have many thoughts and ideas on why having a gym in your own home would be awesome. Let me see if I can add some reasons to your list as someone who’s been lifting at home for a while now.

  • More Time – You get a lot of lost time back when you start working out at home. There is no more driving to and from the gym, and no more traffic. There is no having to deal with (insert adjective) locker rooms before and after your workout. There is no more standing around waiting for that clown to stop bicep curling in the squat rack. You know, the place you want to actually do squats.

Not something you'll have to worry about in a garage gym

  • Maybe Even More Time! – Your overall time commitment needed to work out goes down so much that you may be able to do your workout at an entirely different, more convenient time of the day for you, thereby freeing up even more time for other stuff. You also won’t have to schedule your workout around peak times at the gym. If 6 am is good for you, you can do that. 7 pm look better? It’s not a peak time in your own garage.
  • Money – As I mentioned previously, the money you ultimately save in gym dues is insane. Again, I’ve already paid for all the equipment we have here at the house with saved gym dues money. Full size rack, multiple bars, 400 pounds in bumpers, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, a commercial adjustable bench, and even flooring… all paid for already in under two years. At this point, every month I don’t buy something new is found money.
  • Music – Don’t laugh, you’ll see. No more (pardon my language) shitty, repetitive (Black Eyed Peas, anyone) pop music playing over the sound system. Pick your own music, turn it up, and no headphones required.
  • Convenience – This goes hand in hand with the first reason I gave, time. Your gym is a couple steps away from you anytime you’re at home. Walk thru the garage door and there it is, waiting for you. Get the urge to lift, go for it. No waiting, no driving, just walk right in and lift.
  • Child Care – Unnecessary! You’re at home.
  • Equipment – You choose your own equipment. That means no redundant equipment and no useless equipment. Buy what you need, nothing more. Look around at the gym next time you’re there and ask yourself how much of the equipment you see is really necessary. Doesn’t a squat work the entire leg? Last I checked it did. Do you need leg curls, leg extensions, leg press, calf raises, lying fake squats, thigh abductors, and all the spin offs they have of each of these machines just to do what a squat does? Nope.
  • No Trolls – Working out at home gets you away from one of the tackiest things about going to a gym: the trolls. Won’t be any of that at home unless you have creepy neighbors, in which case I can’t help you there. I’m male, so I can’t even begin to imagine how appealing this is for women to work out troll-free.

No more gym creepers in a garage gym

  • No Rules – You can use chalk in your own gym. You can grunt in your own gym. You can drop weights in your own gym. That means you can snatch and clean and drop that loaded bar from an overhead position and not have people stare at you, or have the gym employee ask you to stop doing real lifts because it’s loud, or destructive, or intimidating. You can take your shirt off, or wear those tacky stringy tank tops. Whatever, it’s your gym; no one is monitoring you.
  • Easier – The whole process of getting your workout in is just easier. There is nothing in the way of you and those weights except your willpower.

I realize there are people who just love the gym scene. Whether it’s vanity, a social engagement, or just so they can update their location on Facebook or take selfies, there are those who will never leave the gym. However, I think the majority of us just want to get in and get out without any hassle and without anyone bothering us. We want to be healthy, look great, and be happy. This is who garage gyms are for.

Getting Started – Equipment

If the idea of a garage gym sounds appealing to you, and you’d like to learn more, it’s your lucky day. You’ve already found the one site that is completely dedicated to the garage gym movement. So let me see if I can point you in the right direction.

Following is a list of the most common equipment needed to get started. Each item links to a post with more information about those items. You can learn about each item, compare prices and specifications from reputable brands, and get recommendations.

These five items alone give you access to an endless amount of compound exercises. I would also recommend taking a look at this CrossFit checklist post to get more equipment ideas. You can find more equipment resources and also equipment reviews on the navigation bar at the top of this and any page on this site.

Whether you leave your gym in favor of a garage gym or not, stay strong and keep working out. It’s time well spent no matter where you do it – even if it does take longer.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Emmanuel Pimentel February 16, 2015, 7:09 pm

    Very spot on! It’s actually thanks to your reviews/guides that I ended up investing in my own garage gym this past summer. It’s a decision I don’t regret and only wish I had done it sooner! I ended up going with a lot of Rogue equipment for my bar, bumpers, squat rack (S-2 Squat Rack), and bench. Getting the Ironmaster Dumbbells next month finally.

    The one thing I’ll add to this is that a garage gym is an on-going investment since over time you’ll be adding new things as you progress.

    • jburgeson February 16, 2015, 8:55 pm

      That’s awesome. Yeah, it kinda never ends; all kinds of equipment becomes appealing once you get the core stuff handled. So far I’ve never heard anyone upset that they invested in their own gym. It’s just so convenient.

  • Agjoc May 23, 2015, 11:58 pm

    You forgot about the bonus of having a kitchen 10 feet away, i mean if gains is your goal that should be the jackpot

    • jburgeson May 24, 2015, 12:00 am

      Yeah that is a good one actually. And your own shower!

  • Fyr August 4, 2015, 9:21 pm

    There’s also the advantage that you don’t have to wander round half the gym trying to work out where the last person to use it left the weight you wanted. One of the main thing that drove me away from commercial gyms was that when I went to the weight rack there was invariably a gap where the dumbbells I wanted should have been. I never understood why so many people didn’t grasp the basic principle of putting gear back when you’re done with it.

    • jburgeson August 4, 2015, 9:44 pm

      Yeah that’s definitely a thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hole in the wall gym or a pretentious, upper-class club; there are still people that don’t give a crap about anyone else and will make you find the gear they ran off with, or make you wipe their 8 oz of sweat off the equipment. I don’t miss it.

  • Brandon October 28, 2015, 11:17 am

    Bought a new home back in February and have been slowly building the gym in basement off of the garage. I just ordered a concept 2 rower and it should be my last major purchase. Building a garage gym has been one of the best decisions/investments that I have made. All of the points that you made are spot on. Just having your own space, no one in your way, saving money on membership, gas, and time make it all worthwhile. In about 20 more months it will pay for itself. Great website and keep up the good work.

    • jburgeson October 28, 2015, 11:45 am

      Thanks Brandon. Congrats on getting set up at home. It’s pretty damn nice.

  • joe November 28, 2016, 1:58 pm

    Thanks! Very helpful.

  • joe November 28, 2016, 1:59 pm

    Very helpful, thanks!

  • Dylan December 25, 2016, 9:22 pm

    I’m thrilled to design my own gym. The single biggest payoff is greater independence. It’s just easier to execute intentions in a more controlled environment. I also like the idea of having less meaningless social interactions in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love people, but I have boundaries to protect my own needs. When it comes to training, I’d rather be driven and 100% focused than worrying about someone else’s feelings. Taking the gym crowd out of the whole equation will move a mountain for me and my goals.

    I was at Gold’s Gym for 4 years before it was bought out by a local franchise. I cancelled my membership after only a few visits to the new gym. I was sad at first, but it’s brought me to a much better vantage point where I can see new horizons. Thank you, JB! I’ll be sure to ask you some questions in the near future.

    • jburgeson December 26, 2016, 10:29 am

      Of course! I’ll do my best to answer those questions.

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