Everything You Need to Set Up the Ultimate Home Gym, According to Fitness Experts

Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN
·5-min read
Photo credit: Danielle Daly
Photo credit: Danielle Daly

From Good Housekeeping

Photo credit: Danielle Daly
Photo credit: Danielle Daly

Creating an at- home workout haven makes fitness accessible 24/7 since there’s no keycard required for check in and no attendants to lock up. Plus, a home gym provides a safe space for you to break a sweat if you’re not ready to head back to a public gym quite yet in a COVID-19 landscape.

To that end, it’s more important than ever to invest in your home gym to build a motivating area where you can exercise comfortably and safely: Research suggests that regular exercise can boost immunity and provide some serious mental health benefits too — all top of mind right now.

At GH, our team of experts can help you curate the ultimate home workout zone. Our engineering and fitness experts specialize in testing exercise equipment, while our Textiles Lab pros test apparel to find the sports bras, leggings, and sneakers that will power you through any workout. Our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and personal training expert guides the picks for your best workout and recovery regimen (and snacks!). Own your workout space with our top-tested tips and equipment picks to follow through with your health goals in 2021:

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned


Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: jacoblund
Photo credit: jacoblund

Assess your space to decide where to build a workout zone. Here are a few GH Institute favorites and the pros and cons of each.

  1. Garage. This area often offers privacy and quiet (especially if it’s detached), away from any family distractions. Plus, a garage can usually accommodate large equipment like a treadmill or a weight rack. Temps tend to be hard to regulate in garages, so you may need an appropriately sized heater in the winter or better insulation.

  2. Basement. While this spot offers cooler temperatures and privacy, awkward layouts or lower ceilings might obstruct some moves (like jumping rope or jumping jacks), and concrete floors aren’t exactly friendly to joints. The good news: Floor mats help with cushioning. Try a dehumidifier to reduce any dampness in the air.

  3. Spare corner. You don’t need a lot of space to lay down a yoga mat, stow a few dumbbells or even set up a stationary bike. But unless you live alone, you won’t get much privacy, and you could wake others with early morning workouts. Still, having all of your equipment in sight might just motivate you to use it more often!

Q: How do you work out when the kids are at home? “If they don’t want to participate with me, I let them know I have an appointment just like they have class or a Zoom meeting. I allow them a little extra screen time while I do yoga or jump on the bike,” says Peloton instructor Kristin McGee. It needn’t be perfect — just get moving and embrace the chaos!

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Now that you figured out where you’ll be breaking a sweat, it’s all about fine-tuning, from easy storage to injury prevention. Here’s how:

  1. Stock a sturdy basket. Roll up your exercise mat post-workout and store it in a stylish woven storage hamper. Opt for one that stands up on its own and can fit a few rolled-up mats, a yoga block and workout bands.

  2. Install storage cubbies or shelves. Keep rolled towels, cycling shoes, water bottles and hair ties within reach by storing them neatly in a cubby or on a floating shelf. Small clear stackable bins can also help keep gear orderly.

  3. Lay down padded flooring. If you have the space, interlocking mat tiles can help protect the floor —and your knees! You can find an affordable set on Amazon and customize the size to your space.

  4. Add a full-length mirror. This not only helps make your space look bigger, but also allows you to keep an eye on your form during complex exercise movements. If space is tight, hang one on the wall or behind a door.

Motivate Yourself to Move

Manifest inspiration with these tips on how to get moving on the regular.

Q. How do you make home workouts a habit? “Sometimes the hardest part is just showing up, but starting is just as important as finishing,” says Pure Barre teacher Shantani Moore. Set your workout clothes out the night before, and join forces with a friend to hold you accountable. Sign up for a virtual race to have something to work toward.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Danielle Daly
Photo credit: Danielle Daly

Essential Equipment

Whether you prefer cardio or strength training, quality gear is essential. These top-tested versatile picks are your best basics.


Top-Tested Fitness Apparel

Fiber scientists in the GH Textiles Lab share activewear essentials that stood out in their tests with innovative materials and superior performance.

Pro-Approved Sweat Tech

Add a device to elevate your space and get fully immersed in your workout.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Q: Is it better to work out in the morning or at night? There are benefits to both, but the best time to work out is at the same time every day. Not only can this aid you in forming a habit, but over time it can train your body to release adrenaline and other hormones to enhance your energy during your workout. Plus, exercising at the same time every day ensures that you’ll get maximum recovery time between workouts. That said, any exercise, at any time of day, is better than none! Even 10 minutes of activity counts — the whole point is to get moving. If you can’t commit to a consistent time, just find slots in your schedule that work best for you.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Jumping into a new workout routine can leave you sore and achy. Here’s how to help your muscles recuperate in almost no time:

Refuel Post-Workout

Aim to eat within 45 to 60 minutes after your workout with a combination of carbs and protein so your muscles will absorb nutrients most efficiently.


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