Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Garage Gym

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Garage Gym

Starting a garage gym can be really exciting. You’ve finally made the commitment that, yes, I’m ready to build my very own Iron Fortress inside my garage. You’re probably already starting to plan out your space, looking for and pricing out equipment and figuring out your budget.

At this stage in the process, there are some pretty big mistakes you’ll want to make sure you avoid. Building out a garage gym can be pretty expensive and the last thing you want to do is waste even more money by making some very common, and easily avoidable, mistakes.

I’m going to share with you what I consistently see as the 5 biggest mistakes that people tend to make when starting their garage gym. Hopefully, by reading this, you can avoid all of these frustrating (and costly!) garage gym mistakes.

Buy Quality Equipment the FIRST Time

I know this is basically true when it comes to many things hence the saying, “Buy nice or buy twice”. But, this is ESPECIALLY true when it comes to lifting equipment. For starters, there is really no such thing as “cheap” equipment. All weight lifting equipment, whether it’s racks, bars, flooring, etc. is going to cost you a decent amount of money.

The key is to make sure you only buy all of these things ONCE. A really good rack or a high quality barbell will last you almost a lifetime. On the other hand, low quality cheap pieces can tear up in less than a year. (Sometimes A LOT less than a year)

So while it may be painful to drop the kind of money necessary on quality equipment and you may find yourself saying things like, “I don’t understand, it’s just steel?!?” – it is absolutely worth it in the long haul.

This is all not to say that there aren’t some areas where you can save money. There are a lot of areas where you can choose to go the DIY route. I built a DIY Squat Rack for less than $60. Just make sure that if you decide to go the DIY route that you know what you’re doing and build things right. You can seriously injure yourself, or worse when using DIY lifting equipment.

You can also get creative with some gym accessories as well to save some money. For instance, I use a simple Tupperware container as my chalk bucket. It cost me literally nothing because I just stole it from our pantry.

For your main equipment needs though – your rack, barbell, bumper plates and flooring to name the biggest ones – spend the money once and take solace in the fact that you won’t have to spend money on that piece of equipment for a long, long time.

Never lose sight of the fact that building a garage gym is an investment. If done correctly, this gym will replace the $40/month you’d be spending on a gym membership.

Get Equipment That Fits YOUR Workout Style

What do I mean by ‘equipment that fits your workout style’? Well, for example, I just mentioned bumper plates in the previous paragraph. For me, I do mostly Olympic Lifting. If I didn’t have bumper plates, working out in my garage gym would be nearly impossible.

Uesaka Bumper Plate
Bumper Plates are made of rubber and designed to be dropped after finished lifts.

But, what if you don’t do Olympic lifts or drop plates at all for that matter? Do you need bumper plates? Probably not. In fact, you can save yourself quite a bit of money by not buying bumper plates.

So, figure out what you really need. Are you going to be doing Crossfit? If so, you’re probably going to want equipment that is prominent in many Crossfit workouts like a medicine ball, pull-up bar and a set of rings. If I bought a pair of rings, it’d probably be a mistake and a waste of money. I’d probably use them once and never again. But, if that fits you, go for it.

Everybody is different. One of the best things about a garage gym is you get to focus on YOU. So figure out what kind of workouts you’re going to do in your garage gym and plan your equipment need list accordingly. Not sure if you really want something? Hold off until you figure it out. You may even find a good deal while you’re waiting.

Figure Out Your Flooring FIRST

You need to lay down some rubber flooring for your garage gym. Starting out, you might be able to talk yourself into the idea that you don’t need flooring. You do. The sooner you accept that the better. Leaving your garage floor bare is a recipe for a damaged floor, damaged equipment, or most likely, both.

Horse Stall Mat Gym Flooring
Horse Stall Mats are thick, durable, cheap and even look great. What’s not to love?

The good news is, flooring doesn’t have to be a budget buster. I recommend Horse Stall Mats for your garage gym flooring. It’s what I have installed in my garage and was one of the best decisions I made. It took 7 mats to cover the area I needed and ended up costing me just over $300.

The other reason I’m emphasizing figuring out your flooring FIRST is because you want to have your flooring laid out and in place before you start adding your equipment. Have you ever moved a fully assembled rack or platform? I have. Trust me when I say it’s not fun.

Don’t Buy Things You Don’t Really Want/Need

As you’re looking up and pricing out equipment, you may start to look into used equipment. This could be through the Facebook marketplace, Craigslist or local used equipment warehouses. This is smart and something I highly recommend, especially with things like iron plates and kettlebells.

Patience is critical though when used equipment shopping like this. You may go weeks or even months without seeing what you really want. It’s easy at that point to talk yourself into buying something that’s close to what you want. Don’t fall into that trap.

Buying something that’s close or buying something just because it’s a good deal is a great way to have something in your gym that collects a lot of dust.

If a piece of equipment is something you NEED, spend the money and buy it new if you have to. If it’s something you WANT but can live without, stay patient and wait to get exactly what you want.

Plan Your Layout – Stick to the Plan

One of my favorite sayings that I picked up as a Strength Coach is, “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”. When you start building out your garage gym, make a plan. What is your budget? What is your equipment needs? What do you need right away and what can you hold off on?

My garage gym started out with a barbell, bumper plates, a DIY Squat Stand and horse stall mats. This covered everything I really needed to workout day in and day out. I could do my main lifts like snatch, clean, jerk, squat and do accessory work like lunges, RDLs and presses. Everything else I could wait and pick up when I found a good deal.

Figure out what you really need and how much money you have to spend and then stick to your plan. In all honesty, having a plan is really the best way to avoid the large majority of mistakes when putting together your garage gym, including the mistakes I talked about here.

Final Thoughts

Having a garage gym is awesome. Being able to walk straight out to my garage, play the music I want to play, open the doors and breathe in fresh air is often times the best part of my day. If you plan smart and stick to your plan, you can end up with the gym you always wanted… right in your own garage.

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