When I tell people about my garage gym I generally get met with looks of jealousy and envy. I’ll tell them how the cost isn’t as much as they think and how awesome it is not having to leave your house to workout. Then, the response I get most often is,
“Ok. That sounds great, but how much space do I need for a Garage Gym?”
How much space you need for a garage gym is based on three things. What type of lifting do you want to do? What equipment do you need? And how much space do you have available? These three questions will let you know exactly how much space you’ll need.
Now, let me do my best to help you figure out the answers to those questions.
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What type of lifting do you want to do?
Why is this important to know? The type of lifting you focus on will determine your equipment needs. Once you fill out your space with your equipment needs, then you can fill up any remaining space with extra equipment wants. Here are some examples:
Space Needed for Olympic Lifting
I start here because it’s the type of lifting I do personally. The really good news for Olympic lifters is your space and equipment needs are pretty minimal. (On the flip side the equipment we need is generally way more expensive, but that’s a different topic) What you will need is platform space, a rack for squatting and well… that’s about it.
Things like a pull-up bar and a Glute Ham are a nice bonus but not completely necessary.
Platform Space – A standard Olympic platform is 8 feet by 8 feet, but can be made smaller (mine is a 6 x 8). While you don’t need to build or buy an actual platform (although I do highly recommend it) you do need to account for the space you’ll need. An Olympic barbell is about 7 feet long. Then you need to account for space on each side, in front and behind in case you need to bail on a lift.
The more novice you are to the lifts the more space you’ll need. For example, I lift with the end my barbell about a foot away from a wall. I do this only because I’ve lifted long enough I can control my drops and keep my bar in basically the same spot. I would never allow a newer lifter to do this. You’re going to need a lot more space for the bar to kick around if it’s dropped unevenly.
Rack – You can get by with a pretty minimal rack. The only things you’ll need from your rack is a setup that allows you to squat and rack and unrack jerks. Squat Stands, a half rack or even a DIY rack like the one I built should do the job.
Rogue has a pretty awesome Wall Mounted Rack that can actually fold in, giving you even more floor space for your lifts. When extended, the rack sits 21.5″ from the wall (there is also a longer 41.5″ option as well) and when folded in it only sticks out 5″ from the wall. 5 inches! That’s pretty cool.
Pro Tip! Don’t forget to check rack height! Nothing would be more deflating than getting a rack home, begin installing and realize it’s too tall for your garage or you’re going to put your head through the ceiling if you do a pull-up. The height of the Rogue Wall Mount I just mentioned is 90″.
Wants – The first one that comes to mind is jerk boxes. Jerk boxes are big, tall boxes that allow you to drop a loaded bar directly on them. Because the weights themselves sit on the box rather the bar hitting a rack, it’s the optimal setup for doing jerks. They are big, not to mention heavy, and take up quite a bit of space. Adding jerk boxes to your garage gym is a pretty big commitment.
Outside of jerk boxes, a pull-up bar and a Glute Ham are probably the other two big wants. A pull-up bar is an easy, low space addition that may already be on your rack.
A Glute Ham machine does take up a lot of space. (Glute Hams are pretty standard regardless of the company. Plan on about 4 feet wide by 6 feet long) It’s a nice addition, but not totally necessary. It just depends on preference, space and cost.
So How Much Space Do You Need For an Olympic Setup?
Please understand that these are just my recommendations and there are many factors that can influence these numbers. For example, do you have a good storage space for smaller equipment and gear in or close to your garage? I have a decent size closet in my garage that I use to store bands, lifting shoes, etc.
Use my recommendation as a starting point and then figure out what will work for you.
My recommendation for the minimal space needed for a basic setup would be about 10′ x 12′. This gives you room for a rack and a good amount of space for your lifts. Plates can be placed on a storage rack or leaned against a wall.
The optimal space for an Olympic Setup is about 10′ x 18′. This is roughly half the space in a typical 2 car garage. This gives you enough room to add a Glute Ham machine and even a set of jerk boxes. Any space in addition to that I would consider a bonus.
Space Needed for Powerlifting
If your main focus is going to be on the big three lifts, bench, back squat and deadlift – your setup needs are a little different. You still won’t need a ton of space, just organized a little differently.
Rack – For a powerlifting setup, I would go with a heavy duty, full rack. The rack is where you will spend the majority of your time and if you’re moving big weight, you want a heavy duty rack. If you can get a full rack that allows you to deadlift inside the rack itself that can be a big space saver.
This Monster Rack from Rogue checks all those boxes. It doesn’t need to be bolted to the floor like some power racks. It’s heavy duty 11 gauge steel and it has a low enough profile you could deadlift inside the rack if you needed to. It’s overall footprint is 54″ x 50″ (94″ tall).
Platform Space – If you can’t deadlift inside your rack you’ll need some space outside the rack. Since deadlifts are much more controlled than cleans and snatches you don’t need quite as much space. This area can also double as an area to move your bench when squatting and doing other lifts inside the rack.
Wants – You can get away with just a rack, bench, barbell and plates and have a legit powerlifting setup. Extra equipment like a Glute Ham, Reverse Hyper and Lat Pulldown are great to have, but not completely necessary.
So How Much Space Do You Need For a Powerlifting Setup?
My opinion is the space requirements for a basic powerlifting setup are the same as the Olympic setup. The rack may take up more space, but the floor space needed for deadlifts is less.
I’d recommend around 10’x12′ for a basic setup and 10’x18′ for an optimal setup – giving room for a Glute Ham and maybe a Lat Pulldown.
Space Needed for Crossfit
While I have dabbled in Crossfit on a few occasions over the years, I do not claim to be the foremost expert on Crossfit. Although having done my fair share of Fran and Dirty Dozens – I think I can cover Crossfit equipment requirements.
Rack – In my opinion, you want something in between the Olympic rack and the Powerlifting rack. A half rack will help save space, but you definitely want a built in pull-up setup and enough space and flexibility to be able to bench as well as squat.
Platform Space – If I were focusing on Crossfit I would want extra open space. Crossfit incorporates Olympic lifts, but I’d also want plenty of room to be able to do things like box jumps, jump rope, handstand walks and on and on. Some workouts call for many of those exercises to be super-setted or circuited. When you’re going for time it’s nice for everything to have their own dedicated space.
Other Equipment Needs – FYI I’m not going to include things like Medicine Balls, Rings and other small pieces of equipment that are not space hogs.
I’ve mentioned a Glute Ham machine twice already, but because GHDs are so often featured in workouts I feel like it’s more of a need than a want. You’re also going to want a box for box jumps. I’ve not mentioned dumbbells until now, but with Crossfit you will need a few dumbbells. Between dumbbells and kettlebells it will probably be enough to warrant some type of storage rack.
Wants – A C2 Rower is a feature in a lot of workouts so it’s definitely something nice to have.
So How Much Space Do You Need For a Crossfit Setup?
For a Crossfit setup, I think you need the full 10’x18′ size space to be able to have space for the different pieces of equipment you are going to really want. I say want because Crossfit is pretty flexible about making modifications for things you can’t do whether that be physical or equipment limitations.
However, if you’re going to be serious about doing Crossfit it’s going to become really frustrating to have to constantly mod workouts due to equipment limitations.
What if I Just Want to Workout?
If you’re thinking, I don’t care about any of this stuff, I just want to workout. If you’re a general fitness person then your setup will probably be a mix of the powerlifting and Crossfit setup. Hopefully, this article has given you enough information that you can piece together what you want, what you need and how that’s all going to fit in your space.
Being concerned about having enough space for your garage gym is a valid concern. Figuring out your space needs before you go out and buy a bunch of equipment is the responsible thing to do. As you can see here though, you probably don’t need as much space as you think you do.
Figure out your priorities first, see how much space you have left over and then add any pieces you want and still have room for.
And while I’m giving 10’x18′ as a general recommendation for most garage gyms, you can make almost anything work if you’re determined enough and creative enough.
At the end of the day, even a small gym with nothing more than a bar and some plates is way better than no gym at all!