We all know the story. You buy a treadmill or a stationary bike, maybe some dumbbells or a weight bench, and after a week of use they sit collecting dust until they get cleared out to make space for something else. To get some tips on how to create an effective, useful workout space at home, we talked with brother Luis and Marco Echeverry, certiﬁed personal trainers and co-owners of South Tampa’s Driven Fit, and their team members Kim Huynh and Dr. Sarah Sponaugle about what to do, what to avoid, and how to make your workout stick.
Before you start setting up your home gym
“Have a plan in mind and know what your goals are,” says Luis Echeverry, owner of Driven Fit. “Create a program that works for you. There are many ways to get started, whether it’s with a trainer or by edu-cating yourself on exercise. No matter what, we always recommend taking into consideration your own limitations. At a minimum, get yourself an assessment with an exercise professional, and if you have any health risks or preexisting issues, check with your doctor be-fore starting any exercise program.”
Pick multi-use pieces of equipment
“At times, we all can look at things in a one-dimensional manner. For example, take the adjustable weight-lifting bench. The ﬁrst thing that may come to mind is that this machine is built only for chest exercises. Then a person feels they need multiple pieces to work each muscle group. However, if you give us trainers at Driven an adjustable bench, we will turn this into a tool that can work every muscle group.”
Where to set up your home gym
“If possible, try to ﬁnd a place that allows for natural light to come in. There is always the thought of using a garage for your gym space. My recommendation is to let your wellness space serve as that alone. Over and over again, I’ve seen equipment pieces like elliptical ma-chines share space with other rooms in the household, and they easily become coat hangers. Also, having your workout space being shared with a car means moving your car to work out. As easy as it sounds, it may turn into a deterrent.”
“Measure your space entirely, and factor in the space needed when exercise is being conducted with and without machines to include walk-through space and space to remove weights. Also, discovering the best type of ﬂooring to use is a must to deaden the sound for the rest of the space or home. An example would be to purchase a deadlift platform to avoid damaging the ﬂoor and at least ¼-inch thick mats for placing under cardio machines or heavy lifting machines. Mats about ⅜ inches thick would be good for lightweight dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells. When moving up to the heavier lifts, we recommend ½-inch to ¾-inch-thick mats for maximum protection of ﬂooring.”
What to do about cardio if you don’t have a large space
“There are plenty of full body movements that can be done without machines. There are space-saving cardio machines that may work for your goals or needs, like the TrueForm Runner, rowing machine, a cycling bike like a Keiser or Peloton, or a Keiser Total Body Trainer, which operates like a fan bike. Battle ropes can also be an option, and they can be easily stowed away when they’re not being used.”
What to add to a home gym
“Colors and design do play a part in motivation. Find colors that inspire you and make you feel motivated. A dedicated sound system for music that isn’t shared with other parts of the house is a great choice. We use a Sonos system. Finally, add some bright green indoor plants and aromatherapy. Both are scientiﬁcally proven to enhance mood. For scents, try lemon or orange essential oils.”
Make yourself at home
“Make your space as comfortable as you’d like. There is no set standard on creating a motivating space. Look at your own individual needs. As a simple example, the majority of our team regularly has either water or espresso on the training ﬂoor. Thus, we added our own invention — the gym ledge (a simple, ﬂoating shelf attached to a wall).”
Don’t forget a mirror
“As a beginner, a mirror is important because you need a reminder of your posture and form, but it doesn’t need to be an expensive one,” says Sarah Sponaugle, licensed doctor of chiropractic and owner of Sponaugle Chiropractic & Wellness Studio inside Driven Fit. “A mirror is a good thing to put high on your priority list of things to get. It helps when you’re starting out to have visual cues.” Trainer Kim Huynh adds, “When using a mirror, keep your neck neutral. You can get used to looking up at yourself in the mirror.”
Getting in the workout headspace once your gym is set up
“Look at your individual habits and be real with yourself,” Luis Echeverry says. “Power off your phone if you’ll get distracted having it in your sanctuary of wellness. Allocate your work-out time to you only. Block it off in your calendar just like you would with a business meeting or doctor’s appointment. You can get a lot of work done in 20 to 30 minutes, and when you’re trying to get results, 20 minutes six times a week is going to be more effective than working out for long periods of time twice a week.”
Driven uses a Cybex bench that both inclines and declines for comfort. You can do multiple different exercises using the bench.
The Driven team recommends rubber or steel dumbbells for durability. They special-ordered theirs from Watson Gym Equipment.
Good for comfort and stability when doing weight exercises and stretching.
Medicine ball (6, 8, 10 lbs. as you progress)
Try a single-leg crunch with a med ball. Put your foot under something heavy to keep the second leg on the ground. As you sit up, maintain the contraction until you reach about a 45-degree angle, then lower back down.
For upper and lower body in light, medium and heavy resistances. “You can use resistance bands for pretty much anything you can do with a dumbbell,” says trainer Kim Huynh. With longer strips, you can do curls, rows and delt exercises. Use smaller bands for leg exercises. Work your glutes and outer thighs with squats paired with resistance bands and kettlebells. “The resistance activates your glutes and the whole posterior side of your muscles,” Huynh adds.
Good for people with exercise limitations. It’s more comfortable to do movements like chest presses and situps.
TRX Suspension Trainer
Great for travel. Pikes are good for hip movement, works the abs, shoulders and back muscles.
TRX Rip Trainer
Also good for travel. You can do a total body workout with it. Known for its use in HIIT, but also great to use for sports performance and functional training. It helps with balance and stamina. Good for anybody at any fitness level looking to do any kind of activity.
Corner cable machine (recommended: Cybex Bravo Advanced)
Has back stability to simulate being on a bench while doing presses with the cables. Try alternating arm and chest presses while in squat position.
Rogue Fold Back Wall Mount Rack
The pieces of the weight rack fold in and it’s mounted on the wall, which saves space.
Just for fun: Clearlight Infrared Sauna
To burn calories before or after your workout. Can fit in a small corner and is easy to set up.