This second installment of Big Gains in Small Spaces is going to teach you how to transform your spare bedroom into a fulfilling exercise space. You can read part one of the series, Big Gains; Small Spaces Part 1: Apartment Gym Setup here. Spare rooms are not always the biggest, but you don’t need a lot to do a lot!
One option to pack a lot of gym into a small space, is to invest in a multi-station. Multi-stations are useful because of their versatility and range of workout styles. Aside from the main unit itself, accessories, bands and cables can be utilized to broaden your workout capabilities. It is this adaptability to tailor itself to anyone’s routine that makes a multi-station a sound and valuable investment.
In his review of the Powertec Levergym, Joe Gray, discusses how important it is to still train with barbells and free weights as the focus of your workout; how a multi-station can “fill the gaps in a lot of ways for your typical bodybuilding routine, and can help add some volume and variations into what can often become a stagnant revolving door of Squats, Bench, and Deadlift in a garage gym.”
Free weights are an important addition to any at-home gym for numerous reasons. The most appealing is that they are a budget-friendly asset. While the complete sets do look nice all lined up together, you can buy barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells individually based off of your personal fitness needs.
Buying adjustable dumbbells will make furnishing your gym even more affordable, since you can upgrade weights as needed and then sell old or unused ones!
An adjustable bench press is recommended in addition to your free weight set. It’s best to get one that adjusts to flat, incline and decline, known as a FID. Even in a small spare room, an adjustable, flat, incline, decline bench doesn’t need a ton of space and the weights can be stored atop or underneath when out of use.
If you have neighbors underneath your gym room, buy or build a weight lifting platform to help muffle the noise. Another consideration would be for bumper plates instead of kettlebells or barbells. These are made of a thick, tightly packed rubber, so they are safer when dropped and quieter.
One interesting new product in this area is the Pound Pad. According to their website, “. . . the Pound Pad is comprised of a military-grade vinyl cover and a proprietary blend of industrial-strength foam”. This has tremendous potential to muffle if not outright kill the vibration and noise; saving you an awkward conversation with your landlord.
It can be hard to know where to start or what kinds of things to consider, so here is some advice from a few home-gym creators about their struggles:
u/sineater is a member of the r/homegym subReddit and he’s got some helpful suggestions for you if you plan on a home gym in an apartment or any upstairs spare room. “I’d suggest that anybody thinking about a spare bedroom gym upstairs (or anywhere inside the house) consider what type of lifting they do/plan to do, what other equipment they’ll have (e.g., a treadmill), and maybe have somebody stay downstairs while somebody else goes upstairs and jumps around, maybe smack a couple of plates together or something to simulate the sound,” he said. “Try it with the TV/stereo on and off, etc. Then you’ll have a sense of whether or not it would drive other people in the house nuts, make watching TV impossible while somebody is working out, etc.”
This may not be practical if you’re putting a home gym into your spare bedroom in an apartment but you might be able to work something out with your neighbors if you can train at a
time that won’t be too disruptive for them. u/sineater also points out that lifting style will heavily influence how noisy you are.
“Lifting doesn’t seem to make enough noise to be a nuisance even from directly below,” he said. “But again, we don’t drop loaded bars beyond a heavy deadlift coming down (under control) with a bit of a thud maybe. And I do cleans, but I lower the bar. I get that some people may be accustomed to dropping the bar after a clean or maybe they just enjoy it, but it’s really not necessary under most circumstances.”
There are some other little tricks to help keep the noise down. We’ve mentioned bumper plates. According to u/sineater, “Felt, foam, etc. on the rack where the barbell may may hit can help reduce noise. I have monolifts that I use for benching and I’ve put felt disks on the arms where they make contact when the arms swing down in order to dampen the sound. Little things like that can make a notable difference. Some people put foam on pin and pipe safeties too which protects the bar and reduces noise”.
Apartments can be a bit tricky to construct your gym in, but it is not impossible. Establish a game plan by informing yourself of what is going to be safe to have in your apartment’s specifications, and budget for items that you may not need, but which your neighbors might, like a platform, or mats. Again, pound pads may be helpful.