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Updated: 4 Mar 2022

How to set up a home gym

Made a new year resolution to have a healthier 2022? Stay fit and burn calories from home with our expert guide on buying and using home gym equipment.
Jake Massey
Senior-exercising 4

If you don't want to fork out and pay for a gym membership, or you just like the idea of being able to exercise in your living room, a home gym could help you hit your 2022 health and fitness goals.

For obvious reasons, working out at home has become more popular than ever, so you'll be pleased to know that you don't need to break the bank to get started – there are ways to exercise and stay healthy even in the smallest of spaces.

Keep scrolling for more details on how to keep fit at home, whether you're new to working out or a gym-goer looking for an alternative setup suitable for your home.

New to working out? Home gym ideas for beginners

Step one of your fitness journey is buying the right gear, but don't fall into the beginner's trap of overspending on high-tech equipment you may not use.

You don't need to spend hundreds of pounds on fitness paraphernalia if you're just starting out. A basic, inexpensive floor exercise accessory such as a resistance band or medicine ball could be all you need to get results. 

Even more substantial pieces of exercise equipment, such as exercise bikes or cross trainers, don't have to cost the earth. You can get your hands on one of these for around £100, and build up your exercise empire over time if it turns into a good habit.

Keen to pedal in your living room? Read our guide to how to buy the best exercise bike.

Looking for a great all-body workout? We reveal how to buy the best cross trainer

Top tips on getting started

If you class yourself an exercise newbie, here are some top tips:

Consider why you are exercising

Strength activities build muscle power, while cardio workouts burn fat and improve heart and lung health.

Don't push too hard

Factor in time between workouts to give your muscles time to recover and reduce the risk of injury. If you exercise on a Monday, have a rest on Tuesday before starting again on Wednesday.

Set goals

Do you want to feel more energetic, get down to a target weight or achieve a certain lap time? Having a goal in mind when you're exercising will help you stay motivated.

Be consistent

One of the keys to success when exercising is consistency. Write up a schedule and stick to it as closely as possible.

Remember too that a fitness tracker or smartwatch can help you stay motivated. And if you're keen to improve your diet and enjoy a healthier lifestyle, you may want to buy a juicer or electric grill.

NHS advice on exercising

Adults aged between 19 and 64 should aim to be active every day. Per week, the NHS recommends 'at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity' or '75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity'.

Moderate intensity activities include brisk walking, riding a bike or pushing a lawn mower. Vigorous activities are defined as those that make you breathe hard and fast – think running, swimming or an uphill bike ride.

Strengthening activities, such as yoga, lifting weights or push-ups, can all help to build your muscles at home. The NHS website notes that you should do these activities to the point where you need a 'short rest' before repeating.

As you get older, remaining active is no less important, but rather than power through long exercise sessions, you could spread out your activities. Aiming for 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week could work better for you, so explore your options.

Ready to buy? Here are the most popular types of home gym equipment

Exercise bike

Why get one? An exercise bike will provide a good cardio workout that avoids too much pressure on the knee joints; cycling also strengthens your thighs and hamstrings. 

How much does an exercise bike cost? Popular models cost between £100 and £500, though high-end models from the likes of Peloton can cost much more.

How much space do I need for an exercise bike? Exercise bikes are relatively compact compared with other exercise equipment, such as treadmills; there are foldable options that can be stored when not in use if space is limited. 

Where can you buy an exercise bike? Retailers such as Amazon, Argos, eBay, Fitness Superstore, John Lewis, Sports Direct.

For more details on how to buy an exercise bike, the features to look out for, and the results of our exercise bike brand satisfaction survey see our full guide on how to buy the best exercise bike.

Treadmill/Running machine

Why get one? Run or walk for a good cardiovascular workout in your home.  This builds endurance, works your legs and core.

How much does a treadmill cost? Popular models cost between £250 and £1,000.

How much space do I need for a treadmill? This depends on whether the treadmill has a foldable design. Running machines usually take up more space than exercise bikes.

Where can you buy a treadmill? Retailers such as Amazon, Argos, Fitness Superstore, John Lewis, Powerhouse Fitness.

For more details on how to buy a treadmill, the features to look out for, and the results of our treadmill brand satisfaction survey, see our full guide on how to buy the best treadmill.

Rowing machine

Why get one? Works all muscle groups, including arms, shoulders and legs. Also offers effective aerobic exercise. 

How much does a rowing machine cost? Popular models cost between £100 and £1,000.

How much space do I need for a rowing machine? Rowing machines are one of the most space-consuming pieces of equipment, and usually take up more space than a treadmill. The total length can be around two metres.

Where can you buy a rowing machine? Retailers such as Amazon, Argos, eBay, Fitness Superstore, Powerhouse Fitness, Sportstech, WaterRower UK.

For more details on how to buy a rowing machine, the features to look out for, and the results of our rowing machine brand satisfaction survey, see our full guide on how to buy the best rowing machine.

Cross trainer

Why get one? Provides a good cardiovascular workout that puts less pressure on knee joints than running. Many cross trainers work both arms and legs. 

How much does a cross trainer cost? Popular models cost between £100 and £700.

How much space do I need for a cross trainer? Can vary considerably depending on the model. There needs to be room for the pedals, which can extend behind you when the machine is in use.

Where can you buy a cross trainer? Retailers such as Amazon, Argos, Fitness Superstore, FitKit UK, John Lewis, Powerhouse Fitness, Sportstech.

For more details on how to buy a cross trainer, the features to look out for, and the results of our cross trainer brand satisfaction survey, see our full guide on how to buy the best cross trainer.

Weights and weight bench

Why get them? To tone and shape your body and build strength.

How much do weights cost? £10-£60 for dumbbells, £30-£200 for a weight bench.

How much space do I need for weights? Dumbbells take up very little space and are easily stored away. Weight benches will generally take up the same amount of space as a reclining chair.

Where can you buy weights? Retailers such as Amazon, Argos, Decathalon.co.uk, Fitness Superstore, Sports Direct, Sportstech.

For more details on how to buy weights, the features to look out for, and the results of our weight brand satisfaction survey, see our full guide on how to buy the best weights and weight benches.


Small exercise equipment

You don't always need to go big. You can improve your workout, save some money and get noticeable results with smaller fitness accessories such as those we've listed below. 

Foam rollers

Foam rollers are used to improve blood circulation and can also reduce muscle aches and pains. These inexpensive fitness buddies are best used to prepare your body for a workout or help it to recover afterwards.

They're relatively cheap – you can pick up some foam rollers on Amazon for £10-£20. They come in various sizes and densities.

When using a foam roller, pick two points on your body close to each other and work the roller from point A to point B slowly, but firmly. Breathing deeply will help you keep a nice rhythm.

You can use foam rollers to focus on:

  • Calves – Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Place the foam roller at your calves, raise yourself off the ground slightly by pushing down and roll the foam forwards and backwards.
  • Hamstring – Start with the roller at the back of your knees. Raise yourself off the ground and use your hands to push yourself forwards and backwards.
  • Upper back – Place the roller underneath your shoulder blades, lift your hips and use your weight to apply pressure to the shoulders.

You'll get better results with a foam roller if you use it multiple times a week. If you feel pain, you're likely putting pressure on a tense area – repeating the process over time will make things more comfortable.

Resistance bands

The name is a giveaway – resistance bands create resistance, which means you can focus on working specific muscle groups harder. The harder you pull or stretch the band, the more force you'll feel working through your body.

These rubber bands come in various sizes and can be used to complement your existing workout routine. They were originally developed for post-injury exercise and place muscles under tension for long periods of time. Some will wrap around your legs, while others come with handles ('handled bands') and are pulled on to build upper body and arm strength.

A thicker band offers higher levels of resistance. The colour of the band is also an indicator of its strength, with darker colours requiring more effort to pull. If you're looking for an entry-level band that's not too tight, shop for a lighter colour. You may also want to try buying a bundle of bands that offer varying levels of resistance. That way, you can work your way through the colours over time.

You can use resistance bands to focus on:

  • Arms – Using a handled band, place both feet on the middle of the band, grab the handles and stand upright. Make a T shape and you'll feel some resistance as you lower and raise your arms.
  • Legs – Using a handled band, place both feet on the middle of the band and bring the handles over each shoulder. Keeping your abdominal muscles tight, squat down and then return to your starting position.
  • Chest – Start by lying face down on the floor with your hands in a push-up position under your shoulders. Wrap the resistance back around the top of your upper back and pin down each end of the band with your hands. This will make your push-ups that little bit trickier.

Most resistance bands will cost you less than £20. They're widely available online and in-store from brands including Argos, eBay, John Lewis and Sports Direct.

Punching bags and boxing gloves

Adding a punching bag to your home gym will help you let off some steam and gain muscle strength at the same time.

There are various types of punching bag to choose from, but you'll probably be happy with one of the two main varieties. The first is known as a standard heavy bag – these hang from the ceiling and are kept in place by a ceiling buckle or hook. When buying a bracket for these bags, make sure you pay close attention to how much weight it can hold.

Alternatively, you can try a freestanding heavy bag. These don't need to be dangled from the ceiling as they're weighted at the bottom, so even if you're striking them with force they won't dance across the floor.

Argos has a healthy selection of punching bags and gloves. Expect to pay anything from around £25 for a basic, freestanding model up to more than £100 for a more heavyweight bag.

Skipping ropes

These are a proven winner when it comes to burning calories. Get your technique just right and you'll be building stamina and tightening your core at the same time.

You have a couple of different types to pick from. A standard skipping rope is good for beginners, and the cheapest option starts at around £5. If you want to push yourself further, you can grab a speed rope or a weighted rope.

Speed ropes are lightweight, durable and designed to be used at high speeds. A weighted rope, as the name implies, is chunkier and has more bulk to it. Expect to pay around £20 for a speed rope or a weighted rope.

Medicine balls

These weighted balls, also known as 'med balls', will integrate additional weight to your workout. They can help you work your abs, hips and thighs. Unlike dumbbells, they won't damage your floor if you drop them. In fact, they're designed to be thrown around.

Medicine balls are available at different weights, so do your research before you place an order. You don't want to injure yourself picking up a medicine ball that's far too heavy.

You can use medicine balls to focus on:

  • Core – Sit on the floor and raise your feet off the ground, with your knees closer to your chest. With the medicine ball in your hands, tap it on the floor to your left and then your right. This repeating twisting and tapping motion will work your abs.
  • Upper body – Use your medicine ball to perform an 'overhead slam'. Hold the ball behind your head, swing it above you and chuck it towards the floor, away from your feet. Make sure you have plenty of floor space.

You can expect to spend between £10 and £30 on a medicine ball, depending on its weight. Argos is currently selling the Opti Medicine Ball – Set of 3.

Home gyms for different space sizes

Home gyms for small spaces

If you're planning a workout in the living room, you probably won't have too much floor space to work with. With that in mind, resistance bands or weight training could work well.

An exercise bike that folds up neatly when not in use could also be suitable. You might want to position the bike near your TV when working out to help pass the time.

Looking for a new TV? Best Buy TVs have superb picture quality, sound fantastic and are easy to use — perfect when you're exercising nearby.

Home gyms for medium spaces

An empty spare room can transform into a neat home gym, especially if you can clear out its existing contents. While floor space may still be limited, you'll probably have more room than in an area with lots of furniture that you need to use for other purposes.

If you only have room for one large piece of equipment, you may be debating the pros and cons of either a running machine, an exercise bike or a rowing machine, for example.

For maximum calorie burn, a treadmill could be best if you're able to run on it; you'll burn far less if you only plan to walk. You'll get a similar calorie burn from both an exercise bike and a rowing machine, but an exercise bike will take up less space. A bike won't work your arm muscles like the rowing machine does, however. Make your decision based on space and the parts of your body you're looking to work on.

Home gyms for large spaces

A spacious garage could make for the perfect spot for a home gym, assuming there are no cars in the way and you've de-cluttered the space.

With enough room, you can kit your garage out with a treadmill, rowing machine, ceiling-mounted boxing bag or a cross trainer.

However, check manufacturers' instructions before putting equipment in a garage; some advise against this as the cold and damp in a garage can cause problems with the electrics or moving parts. There's also the risk of dirt and grit from the garage floor getting into the equipment. 

If you place equipment in a garage against manufacturers' recommendations, this could potentially invalidate your warranty. 

Gym equipment for the garden

If you're taking your workout outside to get some sunshine while you sweat, consider investing in a weight bench.

Check that your weight bench is durable enough for outside use – the manual it arrives with or the brand's website will have the details. The unreliable British weather means an outdoor workout isn't always an option, so you'll probably want to cover up the bench when it's not in use.

Resistance bands and medicine balls can be used on the patio. You might want to avoid chucking a heavy medicine ball on the lawn as it could damage the grass.

A sunny day in the garden can also pair nicely with a relaxing yoga session. If this appeals, take a look at our yoga equipment buying guide.

Check out our wireless, smart and Bluetooth speaker reviews and enjoy your favourite music while exercising outdoors.

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How we selected prices and retailers

Retailers and gym equipment chosen based on popular UK search terms and availability. Prices correct as of December 2021 and obtained from manufacturer's own website where possible; otherwise, obtained from third-party retailers listed on Google Shopping.