Money is tight these days, so you may not have the funds to buy a smart gym or even a “high-tech” home gym. Luckily, there are many ways that you can go about building your own smart home gym on a budget.
Technology is one of many advancements in the twenty-first century, but can it help you exercise better, and is it worth the extra cost? New high-tech home gyms are becoming popular ways to exercise at home, but their costs are crazy and going up every year. Are the extra costs for a smart or high-tech home gym worth it over a traditional home gym.
First lets quickly define the difference between a few common types of home gyms.
- Smart Home Gym = Interconnected with other technology and the internet. Often connected to an online service with added features. This will often connect to your smart bands and automatically track your progress. This will be your Peloton Bike, Tonal, iFit enabled equipment, and even your fitness app on your phone.
- High-Tech Home Gym – Using technology in your home gym, but may or may not be smart. This will often include all equipment that needs to be powered to be used. Think Treadmills, Digital Exercise bikes, Ellipticals, magnetic resistance stuff. VR exercise apps may also fit into this area.
- Traditional Home Gym = Equipment that does not use technology. Free weights, weight machines, dumbbells, resistance bands, etc.
- Minimalist Home Gym = This is typically are area in your house where you perform exercises but may not have dedicated floor space for your fitness equipment. An open area in a room can allow you to do all types of body weight exercises, yoga, and countless fitness routines you can easily find on a fitness app.
The goal of this article is to build a dedicated Smart home gym on a budget, with helpful technology and most of the benefits that go along with that technology. I am not talking about buying a Fitbit and walking around your neighborhood. I am mostly talking weight machines or dumbbells with an app streaming to your TV. Lets get started.
What are Your Fitness Goals
The first and most important question you need to ask yourself are what are your fitness goals. This will be the core of your home gym design. People who want to build massive muscle will need very different equipment then someone who is looking for flexibility health reasons.
The purpose of a gym is to get fit (or improve your fitness) and when combined with a healthy diet will do wonders for your overall health. A home gym cannot function as the sole tool in a weight lose program. If you are to remember anything from this article, remember this:
You get fit in the Gym, and you lose weight in the kitchen.
The 5 types of exercises most home gyms can do are listed below, and in order to be fit, you really need to spend time doing all 5 of these. Our home gym will make sure to touch each of these areas.
- Aerobic fitness = Anything that will get your heart in its target zone. This could be bulky equipment like an elliptical or something small like a jump rope.
- Strength training = This is needed to build muscle to counter the natural aging effects of aging. You can use weights or just your bodyweight to build and maintain muscle.
- Core exercises = Your core supports your body and provides stable movement of all your other body parts. It is the key to your mobility. Yoga, bodyweight, and Pilates are just a few options to build your core muscles.
- Balance training = Balance is similar to core exercise as it will use the same muscle groups but a focus on single leg or balance ball exercises will be key.
- Flexibility and stretching = My personal favorite, flexibility can easily be performed just on a floor or mat with proper knowledge.
Benefits of a Home Gym
The average gym membership fee in America is $50 per month, or about $600 a year. Even more important is the time it takes to work out at one of these gyms. Maybe 20-30 minutes driving and returning home, and don’t get me started on the wait time for your favorite machines. Most gym goers like to camp out on some equipment making it near impossible to get the workout you want. Add all this up and your gym membership is sucking you dry financially.
The cost of the average personal trainer in America is about $60 an hour. The benefits of a good personal trainer cannot be understated and in my opinion completely worth it. It doesn’t matter if you work with your trainer in a commercial or home gym, if you are just getting started, you need the advice of a good trainer to make sure you do not get hurt.
COVID has pushed the world into a new direction. Why not work out at home and save the hassle of going to the gym, waiting for your equipment, and spend more time working out instead of waiting.
If money was not an option, spending 4K for a Tonal with the $50 monthly membership charge would be a great option for everyone, but not everyone had 4K to spend on the equipment and $600 a year for membership fees. How can we get the same workout for close to free?
Building Your Home Gym
By now, we should have our fitness goals written down. Now lets figure out the space we need to reach those goals.
Before we define a space, we need to know what exercises we plan to do in order to reach those goals. So many people run out to the store and start buying stuff because they think they will use it, but the reality is often times it goes unused for months or years.
I recommend signing up for a 3 month membership at your local gym, talk to a personal trainer, and tying out all the equipment they have available. This way you will get personal advice from a qualified trainer and learn what exercises and what equipment you like to use.
Our goal here is to add in some or all of the benefits of a commercial gym, using technology where it makes sense, and do it at a fraction of the retail cost. Why does staying fit need to be expensive?
Designing your own personal gym to exercise in at home can be a difficult task. With so many pieces of equipment needed to get into that desired shape, it’s not always easy to find space for all of them. But there are ways to get creative with designing your space so you don’t have to compromise anywhere.
For example, maybe you loved working out with free weights and the dumbbells were your go to piece of equipment, then for home buying a set of PowerBlocks or BowFlex adjustable dumbbells would provide you the same function for $300. This is a fraction of the cost of a full set of dumbbells and take very little space too.
Maybe you loved the elliptical over the exercise bike. Looking for a used one will get you a great piece of equipment for $100-$200, and in my experience, will be in like new condition.
The point here is to limit as much as possible the equipment you will need and after your 3 month membership is over, you will know exactly what equipment you will want for your home gym.
For me, I built a 500 square foot basement gym with the equipment listed below, well under 4K, buying most of it used or through Amazon. None of it smart, yet.
- Elliptical (NordicTrack ACT)
- Exercise Bike (Life Fitness)
- Rowing Machine (Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050)
- Treadmill (Horizon Fitness)
- Twister Stepper (Sunny)
- Core, Balance, Flexibility
- Stability Ball – (Bosu)
- Stability Ball – (Tone Fitness)
- Sit-up Station
- TRX – Bodyweight Straps
- Inversion Machine
- Stretching Straps
- Yoga Mat
- Resistance Bands Set x2
- BodyCraft Express Pro Gym
- Dumbbells – Adjustable (PowerBlocks 502)
- Dumbbells – Adjustable (Bowflex 552)
- Kettlebell – Adjustable x2 (Apex)
- Pull Up Dip Multifunctional Station
- Weight Bar – 2″ 7ft (CAP)
- Weight Bar Curl 2″ (CAP)
- Weight Bench – Adjustable (FLYBIRD)
- Weight Bench – Flat (Marcy)
- Weight Plates w/ stand (CAP 650 pounds)
Time to add smart fitness technology.
Smart Home Gym Technology on a Budget
So what does a high-tech home gym offer you over a traditional gym. A smart home gym tries to offer you all the things you have in a commercial gym. A high-tech smart software will motivate you to exercise harder, reward you, add socialization, and provide knowledge and personal training (sort of).
High-tech gym equipment will try to combine fitness equipment and personal trainers software together. They increase the cost of the equipment usually by a factor of 4 and charge a monthly fee for the online training programs or trainers. These subscriptions are are usually about $20 a month. Note that these are often not live trainers but training programs or recorded or group training sessions. To have a 1-1 personal online training session, they typically cost between $50-$200 a month.
When did exercise become such big business? Digital fitness apps are expected to grow over 16% a year and is a huge market in America. It is easy to see how this has progressed from workout VHS tapes in the 80’s, to DVDs, and now digital subscriptions. People today want more variety in their exercise program. The days of walking in the park for some exercise seems to be a dying activity in the 21 century.
Lets Get Smarter
First thing I added was a Google home (Nest) and an Amazon Echo. I reused some older speakers and added a Bluetooth amp and connected it to the echo. I added a Google Chromecast and a Amazon Firestick to the 2 wall mounted TVs. I took an 8 year old laptop (HP Elitebook i5) and connected it to the Internet. I also added smart light switches. You can easily cut this list in half and not use dedicated hardware but I happened to have this laying around. All this for about $200.
- Google Nest 8″ ($60)
- Amazon Echo Dot ($25)
- Bookshelf Speakers (free)
- Bluetooth Amp ($30)
- 2 TV’s (50″ and 24″), Both free
- Amazon Firestick ($25)
- HO Laptop (Depreciated)
- Smart Lights Dimmable ($50)
With all this added, I have the basics to build. I have workout music through speakers or wireless headsets. I have the ability to stream any workout video from the computer, phone, fitness app, or table directly to either TV. I can track and record all my workouts with the computer, table, or my phone too.
To add smart functions, I am using 2 apps.
- FitOn – A fantastic amount of bodyweight workouts. I use this for acrobatic workouts and a bit of yoga.
- JeFit – This allows me to manage and track all my workouts in one place. I use this app for mostly strength workouts.
Both of these apps can have all of their training videos streamed to both TVs. I plan to create separate reviews on each of these apps but so far they are exceeding my expectations.
If I was limited in space, then these 2 apps, the $200 of smart technology, and simple fitness equipment like the BowFlex dumbbells would be all that I would need to get a great workout and maintain my fitness plan.
Lastly, there are the personal fitness devices. Everyone should have a fitness tracker. I happen to use a Fitbit I bought about 5 years ago for about $100. I track my exercises with my Fitbit, I monitor my diet with MyFitnessPal, and I monitor my weight and body fat with Renpho Body weight scale. All my data syncs to MyFitnessPal so I can get a full picture of my progress.
This is what I have done and you can do the same. Total investment in my home gym with all the included smart technology, under 4K, and no monthly fees since I am using all free apps and services.
Any reasonable person who can add will be asking themselves, why didn’t I just buy a Tonal? A fully installed Tonal will cost under 4K installed and have all the smart technology built into one really nice compact package. I can use it with or without the $50 subscription fee. Why dedicated 500 square feet to exercise if you can get all the exercise I could want in the Tonal?
I started building my home gym over 10 years ago and never expected it to grow to the point it has. I spend 1-2 hours in my gym several times a week and can do just about any exercise needed. I am a fitness geek and wanted to copy the commercial gyms as much as possible. I like weights and I want to keep my exercise options open.
For the average family, I would probably recommend a Tonal over a dedicated gym for the simple fact that home space is limited and you can get a great exercise in a few square feet. For me and others like me, it comes down to this. If you love fitness and exercise, and plan to do this your whole life, then a dedicated space with a lot of equipment is your best bet.
So what are your fitness goals and what type of gym fits your lifestyle best?