home gym ideas for smallspaces

Most New Yorkers don’t have this much space for a home gym. (From a listing at 288 West St. #6W5W)

New Yorkers are used to living in small spaces. After all, anything one could ever desire is right outside the front door! But things changed when the stay-at-home order went into effect for COVID-19. Now, tiny apartments are taking on multiple duties as home offices, day-care centers, and gyms. But getting your sweat on in limited square footage is challenging. Here, several prominent trainers reveal their top home gym ideas for apartments.

How to Build a Home Gym (and Soundproof It!)

Home gym idea yoga mat

A yoga mat can turn any spot on the floor into a home gym. (Equinox Media)

By now, you’ve probably mastered cooking in a tiny kitchen and created a home office for remote work, but finding space for a gym can be trickier. Plus, installing a treadmill or jumping around could annoy the neighbors below. Don’t fret, though. You can get a great workout in a smaller area than you’d imagine.

“You ideally want about the space of a yoga mat to exercise,” said Gerren Liles, the founding trainer for MIRROR and an Equinox Master Instructor. Harrison Mercado, Equinox Tier X Coach, and Variis Instructor added, “If you can lunge in each direction around you, that’s usually a rule of thumb that your space is big enough to do just about anything.”

If you don’t have space solely dedicated to fitness, a great home gym idea is to use a multi-purpose space. “My fiancée uses the open space of our living room to her advantage and moves the coffee table to create a larger workout area that can be transformed right back as soon as she’s done,” said Mercado. 

Then get space-saving equipment that can be put away easily into a container or closet. “It’ll help keep your home from looking like a gym and can fit in a minimal area,” said Liles. 

Another great tip? “Configure things within reach of a TV or have a place to set up a computer so you can watch a video,” said Jonathan Cane, an exercise physiologist and head coach of City Coach Multisport. That way, you can access workout videos and online content, immediately switching the living room or bedroom into a home gym. And if it’s a less focused session and you’re just zoning out, it’s nice to have a source of distraction.

Basically, find an area anywhere in your apartment that could fit a yoga mat and has some sort of ledge nearby, and you’re set.

As far as soundproofing your home gym goes, a few products can minimize both sound and vibration. For one, a yoga mat can do the trick for a lot of bodyweight type exercises and low impact cardio. If you plan on installing a treadmill, spin bike, or doing a lot of heavy-duty jumping, consider laying down interlocking rubber pad tiles or room mats underneath the equipment. These can add extra cushion and still be stored easily. 

Home Gym Equipment for Small Spaces

home gym in home office

Zillow employee Taylor Harsh carved out room for a spin bike in her home office.

OK, so you’ve found your yoga-sized nook and put some mats down to prevent a noisy home gym session. Now, you need to stock that home gym with the right equipment. What should you get? 

“For most people, unless you have specific and extreme goals, probably surprisingly little,” said Cane. “If you’re an elite athlete or have a very narrow focus, it may be hard. I wouldn’t want to be an aspiring Olympic swimmer. But for most of us, with a little creativity and an open mind, you shouldn’t need a lot.”

These are the basics the experts recommend.

  • Dumbbells: “A set of adjustable dumbbells is always a great tool to have for a wide variety of strength exercises,” said Mercado. Bonus: “They take up a fraction of the space,” added Cane.
  • Yoga Mat: “I swear by using my yoga mat for yoga, obviously, but also for stretching and any other in-home workout,” said Joi Rychelle, yoga instructor and creator of Essentially Connected. “It’s the only essential piece because it’s providing safety and a cushion for the spine and joints.” It also acts as a sound barrier for most other exercises. 
  • TRX Suspension Straps: “I’m a big fan of TRX,” said celebrity trainer and bestselling author Harley Pasternak. “It uses your body weight, but the intensity changes based on your angle. And you can just hang it over your door. There’s no installation required.”
  • Resistance Bands: “Resistance bands of any tension are a great asset to have specifically for pushing and pulling patterns throughout the body,” said Mercado. Liles added, “They build strength, endurance, and really give you a burn.”
  • Sliders: “I love sliders for hamstring and abdominal work,” said Pasternak. “They are an incredibly cost-effective tool that allow you to go through a range of motion with just enough friction to cause resistance to activate certain muscle groups that are tough to do without traditional gym equipment.”
  • Pull-Up Bar: “If you’re somebody who wants to do pull-ups, you can buy those bars that clip onto the doorframe,” said Pasternak. “It’s a great upper body and core workout.” 

If you want to kick things up a notch, one of the best home gym ideas is investing in high-end equipment.

  • Spin Bike: If you’re missing that SoulCycle class, consider investing in an at-home spin bike. SoulCycle actually just launched an at-home bike with access to top instructors. Of course, there’s also the classic Peloton that has tons of live and on-demand classes available with their bikes.
  • Trainer or Stationary Bike: “Rather than buying a spin bike, get a trainer device that makes your regular bike into a stationary bike,” said Cane. “It’s cheaper, smaller, and more versatile.” And if you’re less budget conscious and want more bells and whistles, opt for a “smart trainer” such as the Wahoo Kickr or Tacx Neo. “It connects to a computer so you can use it for simulated outdoor rides and classes.” For a cheaper option, Pasternak recommended a Slim Cycle. “It’s a collapsible stationary bike that you can do your Zoom calls from and store it under your bed.”
  • Treadmill: “If space allows, add a treadmill,” said Pasternak. There are several compact ones that you can fold and store in your closet when done.
  • Mirror: “For those who need expertise and a community feel, and have a passion for a specific format, live streaming equipment is also a way to go,” said Liles. The Mirror home fitness system features interactive cardio, strength, yoga, boxing, Pilates, barre classes, and more via a hanging or standing full-length mirror. When not in use, it acts as a standard sleek mirror.

Brooklyn Rentals Under $3,500 on StreetEasy Article continues below

Alternative Home Gym Equipment Options

Yoga mat makes room for two to workout.

Fitness experts Joi Rychelle (left) and Helen Mann (right) working out before the pandemic. (Hans Gonzalez Photography)

What if you don’t have the space — or the cash — for workout equipment? Don’t worry. Many home gym ideas will still suit your needs.

“Honestly, using your body weight can be very effective in a workout without any equipment,” said Rychelle. “Furniture like a chair or the edge of a sofa has multiple uses. You can do static stretching or chair yoga while sitting in a chair, as well as incorporate a piece of furniture into a workout for balance while doing tricep dips or squats.” 

Look no further than your kitchen and bookshelf for “equipment.” “You can use canned goods, water bottles, candles, or shampoo bottles as hands weights for upper body and arm exercises,” said Mercado. “A chair and step are two other useful at-home tools, and can be used to elevate your body during certain exercises or for additional resistance.”

Also, a backpack, duffle bag, or shopping bag are all great for loading additional weight. “Books or any objects around the house will also do the trick,” said Mercado. “You can carry the bag on your body for added resistance as you perform bodyweight movements, or use it as a weight to curl, press, shift, and rotate.” 

Virtual Classes are a Great Workout Option

Virtual classes in home gym

Zillow employee Caitlyn Gosseen set up a monitor for virtual workouts.

If simply having a home gym setup isn’t enough to get you moving, consider trying virtual workout classes.

“I recommend investing in a digital fitness membership to recreate the energy of an in-person class from the comfort of your own home,” said Mercado. “With digital classes, you have unlimited access to expert instructors, visual and audio guidance, and a variety of class formats that keep you motivated and feeling connected.”

The best part? You can participate in classes all over the world with some of the top trainers. And while there are seemingly countless options, here are a few paid and free ones.

  • Variis App: Currently available for US Equinox members and those who preorder the SoulCycle at-home bike, the app provides unlimited, on-demand access from industry-leading fitness brands. That includes Equinox’s famous group fitness classes, SoulCycle sessions, PURE Yoga flows, and even mediation classes.
  • 54D: The Miami-based fitness phenomenon is a results-based, nine-week training program utilizing high-intensity group training, discipline, and commitment. Owner and former professional soccer player Rodrigo Garduño has been offering their classes for free every morning on Instagram live via his account (@ro54D). Did we mention it’s supermodel Adriana Lima’s new obsession, and no equipment is required?
  • Obé: People have been raving about this workout app that has more than 4,000 intense live and on-demand classes. And they’re known for their signature 28-minute classes. So, you can get a great burn in a short amount of time.
  • Instagram: Pretty much every fitness influencer and trainer is posting workouts on Instagram. Find some you like and learn their killer moves. Pasternak, for example, is sharing two moves every day he uses with his celebrity clientele that don’t involve any equipment. 

Outdoor Workout Facilities in NYC

Sometimes the best home gym ideas have nothing to do with being inside. As the weather gets warmer, you can do a lot of workouts outside. Go for a run or bike along the river, or check out an NYC park with workout equipment. Some may be closed off for now, but keep checking back as restrictions begin to ease up. Also, remember to practice social distancing guidelines and updated government recommendations, such as wearing a mask. 

Whether you’re looking to rent or to buy, find your next NYC apartment on StreetEasy.