7 Tips for Building a Garage Gym in a 15' x 22' Garage

Training changes lives. When a person commits fully to a regimen of daily workouts and progresses through a training program, remarkable physical and mental adaptations are possible. Unfortunately, there are myriad obstacles that can keep the average person from joining a box. Assuming there is one near you, the dues at a box can easily surpass $150 per month, presenting a financial obstacle that not everyone can afford. Coupled with the time and fuel spent commuting to work out, the costs alone can be insurmountable.

Even for those with the time and money to invest, a local box may not be the ideal solution. Some boxes hire lackluster coaches that missed the classes where compassion and understanding were taught, and some are hives of drama and elitism that put off more single-minded athletes.

Step one foot in a box or strength and conditioning gym, and it may seem impossible to duplicate in a limited space. True, the tractor tire flipping and keg lofting may not be possible in a 15- by 22-foot garage space, but the typical workout of the day (or WOD) can be performed in its entirety without all the extraneous equipment that crowds the local box. Believe it or not, a single-car garage can easily be transformed into a functional gym, and it can be accomplished for less than a year’s dues at the local box.

1. Prioritize the Equipment

The tighter the home-gym budget, the more its equipment must be prioritized. More equipment can be added gradually, and, with constant effort, assembling a complete gym in your garage in a short amount of time is possible. Initially though, the equipment options are limited as much by what you want to accomplish as by what you can afford.

There are many types of WODs, each with its own requirements in terms of equipment. Of course, there is some overlap between types. AMRAP WODs and strength-bias WODs both utilize bars and plates, for example, though the weights of the plates will likely vary. Bodyweight and endurance WODs each eschew weights, but may require certain other pieces of equipment, such as a plyo box or a rowing machine. Decide where it is you’d like to begin, and get the suitable equipment for that type of daily workout first.

2. Know Your Goals

The more general the goals, the more varied the equipment in the garage gym must be. Choose one source of WODs, and search back as far as possible to see the types of equipment you will need most. Are you looking to build strength or achieve a certain aesthetic? Or, is your ultimate goal to simply lose weight and achieve a greater level of fitness? Your goals should be attainable, realistic and measurable. Selecting a WOD type that is geared toward individuals with a similar set of goals will help narrow the equipment requirements for your garage gym.

3. Bang for Your Buck

Cheaping out on training equipment is a common error when new athletes create garage gyms. The problem is that cheap equipment can increase the likelihood of injury, which can cost time spent recovering and slow the process of improvement. Cheap racks, for example, can have ergonomic issues. Cheap kettlebells often have rough casting seams on their handles that cause unnecessary blisters. Getting the best deal does not always mean purchasing the cheapest equipment available. In the case of a home gym, getting the most bang for your buck means purchasing the most applicable equipment for you and your personal goals, not simply purchasing the cheapest available stuff.

If the WODs you plan on utilizing focus on strength building, it would be wise to invest in items that multiply the uses for a barbell and plates setup. For example, snatch blocks can double as plyo boxes, and squat racks can also serve as pullup stations. An item like a sandbag trainer can be utilized to vary the angles of the weight training portion of a WOD, and a weight vest can add a new dimension to endurance WODs. Any piece of equipment that satisfies more than one requirement for a program is a good investment.

4. Consider Frequency of Use

While globo-gyms are loaded with dumbbells and kettlebells in five-pound increments, a home gym need not be so encumbered. Look at your preferred source of WODs, check for bells and consider the RX weights. It is conceivable that up to 80 percent of the exercises in a given WOD can be accomplished without bells by using substitute equipment. Even if they are truly necessary for your program, a full set is not. Beginners may want to purchase weights below the typical RX weights in a program. As their strength builds, heavier kettlebells and plates can be purchased one at a time.

5. Avoid Overcrowding

Given only a 15- by 22-foot area, it is easy to spend yourself into a complete lack of space and make it difficult to utilize any of the equipment you purchase. Plan your gym with the idea that space is at a premium. If the choice is between performing a WOD program fully or maintaining free space in the garage gym, opt for saving space and use substitute equipment.

6. Essential Equipment

At a minimum, an early stage garage gym should have an Olympic barbell, a set of bumper plates and a rack with a pull-up bar. One of the most useful items in a garage gym is a means to protect the concrete floor from damage when weights are dropped — and they will be dropped. Rubber tiles or stall mats provide protection to the floor, while also providing comfortable cushioning. Programmable interval timers take up no space and simplify HIIT workouts such as AMRAPs.

Olympic Bar and Bumper Plates

A set of bumper plates can be built gradually or it can be purchased as a full set. Inexperienced trainees can start with just a couple pairs of lighter plates to save some money, which should be used to get a better bar. Those with higher budgets should purchase the best Olympic weight set they can afford, as this is easily the most frequently used equipment in WODs. Consider bumper plates with contrasting colors, as they make identifying the weight of each plate simple.

Squat Rack

Without the ability to squat heavy, a training program will only take an athlete so far. The ability to rack the bar makes heavy squats easier and, more importantly, safer. A tubular-steel framed rack will provide more varied uses than simple squats, but an independent squat rack will provide the ability to rack the bar and retain valuable space at the same time.

Pullup Bar

Because pullups feature prominently in most programs, a pullup bar is a requirement for any garage gym. The cheapest solution is a door-mounted unit, but these are dangerous. A better option is a stud-mounted system, which mounts onto a wall or a ceiling joist and can support more weight more safely than door units can handle. Another option is to purchase a squat rack with a pullup bar attachment. These units typically don’t cost any more than stand-alone racks, providing savings of space and money.

7. Peripheral Equipment

If space and budget were both unlimited, the list of secondary equipment for a home gym could go for miles. From RX equipment in WODs to homespun substitutes, anything could go in the gym, regardless of how infrequently it is used. However, the realities of space and budget affect everything we do in our homes, especially our home gyms. Again, let frequency of use within prescribed WODs instruct your buying decisions. Unless a plyo box features prominently in your source of WODs, leave these space hogs out. A bench won’t likely feature prominently in many programs, but it can serve multiple purposes.

Gymnastic Rings

Of all the secondary equipment that could conceivably occupy space in a garage gym, gymnastic rings will likely see the most frequent use. They feature prominently in many programs, and for good reason. The inherent instability of the rings forces the athlete to provide the stability in pullups and dips. Gymnastic rings are affordable, and they won’t sit idle for long. Beginners should consider investing in a quality pair of gymnastics grips can help save the skin on the palms for the next set.

Weight Bench

A quality, well-built weight bench makes a fine addition to any garage gym. The great thing about this piece of equipment is that it has multiple uses. Assuming the bench is made from quality materials, it can be used in place of a plyo box, and can mimic the functions of a GHD. Of course, there are also the classic weightlifting uses, such as bench presses, pull overs, skull crushers, etc.


The kettlebell is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in any gym. Their handles make them suitable for swinging, rowing, curling and pressing, as well as other conditioning exercises featured in various WOD types. A single kettlebell will suffice at first, so long as it is of sufficient weight to be challenging. As strength improves, heavier kettlebells can be added to round out the garage gym.


The essential equipment mentioned earlier should form the foundation of your garage gym, as most of the exercises in typical WODs will feature at least these three pieces of equipment. The peripheral equipment can be added later as finances allow. The point is to get moving, and to keep progressing and getting stronger. The financial requirement may constrict what WODs you can fully complete in your gym in the beginning, but the time investment you commit will give returns in health and stamina that are immeasurable.


Guest Post Author: Paul Montes - http://dumbbellshub.com

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