How much space do you need for a home gym?
The amount of space you need will depend on the kind of lifting you plan on doing or what kind of equipment you prefer to use.
- With a Power Rack and Bench Setup
- With a (Smaller) Squat Stand and Bench
- Wall-Mounted Squat Rack
- Dumbbell Bench
- Olympic Lifts
With a Power Rack and Bench Setup
A power rack is about 4ft wide, or at least just including the uprights. It might be wider overall if it has something extending out like large feet or plate storage pegs.
The uprights, however, are always around 48″ width from the outside edges, because they need to accommodate a barbell that is typically about 52″ between the shoulders, with the shoulders and sleeves sitting completely outside of the rack so you can load plates. The extra few inches between 48″ and 52″ allows for some “slop” in how carefully you re-rack the barbell. (One of the few things to scare you or piss you off when using a power rack is re-racking the barbell too far off-center and hitting the shoulders on the bar catches, as you struggle to keep holding the weight up while trying to figure out which direction you’re off.)
But the width of the rack for space planning becomes irrelevant, because a barbell to fit the rack will usually be 7ft long. You also need a couple extra feet on each side to be able to stand and load weight.
If you’re borderline on the room width, say around 9-10ft, you can do it, but you’ll be best off with getting plates with grip holes. It’s going to be awkward loading 45lb plates on without enough room to stand comfortably on either end of the bar to load weights, so if you’re going to have to reach in there you better have grip holes.
Another way to mitigate the situation is with a special 6ft bar that is made with the same inside length as a 7ft bar and with sleeves 6″ shorter on each side. They also make women’s olympic lifting bars that have the same dimensions, but the diameter is a thinner 25mm that most users won’t like.
As far as the depth of the area from front to back, you will ideally want enough room to slide your bench in and out. Add together the length of your bench (4-5ft) plus the depth of your rack (4-6ft) and the overall space you need is anywhere from 8-11ft. You can do it with less, if you can slide or roll your bench out at an angle.
Flat benches will be closer to 4ft long, because there isn’t as much to them. Adjustable benches might be closer to 5ft long, because they sometimes have space for leg or preacher attachments.
Basic power racks can be only 4ft deep for entry-level models that consist of not much more than the 4 uprights, safety bars and adjoining pieces.
Models that are made to bolt to the floor can also be only 4ft deep because their stability is achieved from bolting to the floor and so they don’t require so much depth. If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re working with a small space such as a bedroom where you can’t bolt anything to concrete, but if you’re converting your garage to a personal gym then this might be an option.
Extra space in front of the rack will be useful also for things like deadlifts, cleans and overhead presses, some or all of which you won’t be able to do inside your rack.
Cleans are such a dynamic movement that will have a varying range of motion if your form isn’t perfect, and it isn’t smart to do them inside a rack, at the risk of hitting the uprights or bar catches.
Deadlifts are nice to do outside the rack too. Deadlifts can be done inside some racks by removing the safety bars. Other racks have safety bars that can only slide up and down, so you can’t get them low enough for your plates to touch the floor, but you should be able to slide the safety bars really high out of the way instead and slip the bar underneath.
Overhead presses can be done inside some commercial racks that are very tall, but most home and light commercial racks are made to fit under 8ft ceilings, meaning an average height male will likely bang against the bar against the top crossmembers, if not hit the plates on the ceiling. It depends on how tall you are and how many inches of added flooring, such as plywood and rubber, you have under your workout area.
Don’t forget about where you’ll be storing your weight plates. If your power rack doesn’t come with plate storage pegs, you need a separate weight tree and enough room around it to pull off plates. You can’t just set it right next to your power rack either, or it will be in the way of the range of motion of the barbell.
So all that being said, for a basic power rack and a flat or adjustable bench to use in it, you want at least a 10ft x 7ft area.
With a (Smaller) Squat Stand and Bench
See this thread on reddit: Do I get the “Smallest Home Gym” award? He managed to fit a squat stand and all the trimmings in a 10’x5′ area.
Normally a small squat stand doesn’t save much space over a power rack. But when you’re THAT constrained on space, it very well might make a difference if you can get a small-footprint squat rack like this one from Get Rx’d that is like the one in the above pic:
You can use independent squat stands (which are like the above but the two sides stand alone and are not connected to each other) if you absolutely have to move them away to make space for other exercises, but if at all possible I recommend something like the above pic because it’s always going to be more stable and you don’t have to worry about lining them up just right and setting them the right distance apart.
Wall-Mounted Squat Rack
This is a cool type of squat rack that just came out to wide use in 2016.
The main feature is they fold up against the wall when not in use, taking up mere inches of floor space.
When you fold it out, it has only a top bracing (or pull up bar) holding the two sides together. Pop the pins and remove the pull up bar to fold the sides of the rack in.
So the real trick with wall mounted racks is to install them carefully. You need the feet barely touching the floor or hanging a millimeter above it, so that the load is transferred to the floor instead of to your wall when you put weight on it. Likewise, you don’t want to install them such that the feet drag too hard on the floor as you try to fold the sides in.
Rogue makes one that sticks out 21.5″ or 41.5″ from the wall. Obviously for our purposes here I’d recommend the 21.5″ to save space.
Titan Fitness has a lighter-duty (and less expensive) version.
Dumbbell work on a bench will ideally require at least a 6ft x 7ft area. You’ll want plenty of room to spread your arms. A bench may be only 4ft long, but the 7ft area is suggested because you will have dumbbells sitting on the floor in front of your bench that you need to lean over and pick up. And of course, you’ll need space to your dumbbells somewhere out of the way.7ft+
If you’re doing the snatch or clean-and-jerk, an 8ft x 6ft area is needed. Note that this is a little narrower than the minimum 10ft space I recommended above for a power rack setup, just because with the barbell on the floor you can roll plates to the end of the bar while you stand over the shaft instead of the end. Lifting platforms made for olympic lifts are 8ft wide. Platforms are made 6ft or 8ft deep, so again that will be the minimum length. 8ft really is nice so you have room to drop the bar behind you as well, which often happens with a failed snatch. A few extra feet behind you beyond that will also help prevent injury when you have to push a failed lift forward, away from your body, as you fall backward out of the way.
As far as room height, it’s close to be pretty close with an 8ft ceiling if you’re 6ft tall. Bumper plates will stick out about 8″ beyond the bar, so you might be able to guesstimate whether you’re going to be marking up your ceiling by holding a tape measure in your hand and reaching up. A snatch will require slightly less height because your grip is wider, while a thruster (a front squat, push press, and back to front squat position, usually done in high reps) will require slightly more height because it’s done with a lighter weight that you can repeatedly throw up to the limits of your reach.