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Creating A Portable Gym For Small Home Spaces

With a little bit of setup and tear-down, you can have an exercise area that doesn’t get in the way of your life.

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In a world where quinoa tasted like cotton candy, every house and apartment would have a gym with elaborate machines that no one else ever used. Oh, and a free smoothie bar. In this world, however, some of us don’t even have the space for a home gym, much less the budget to fill it with expensive equipment. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make working out at home work for you. With a little bit of setup and tear-down, you can have an exercise area that doesn’t get in the way of your life.

Maximize Your Space

Even if you live in a small space with only enough room to fit your essentials, there’s always more room to be had if you’re willing to reorganize and find storage solutions. For example, instead of keeping a Blu-ray tower in the corner of your living room, display your films on wall shelves. Get rid of a heavy armchair or loveseat in favor of something that slides easily across the floor when you need to clear the area for exercise.

RELATED: 5 Sneaky Design Tips To Help Improve Your Home Gym

Take advantage of wall space by going vertical with your storage whenever possible—and make sure to prioritize. I just moved into a small apartment and decided that the dining room would be put to better use as an office/workout area. Bar stools at the counter suffice when my husband and I want to eat together, and we have plenty of room to spread out yoga mats or weights without shifting furniture around.

When it comes to storing your workout gear, consider trading out your furniture pieces for dual-purpose ones with storage. It will keep you from leaving things around to stub your toe on, and also will keep you from having to reach into the top of your closet to get out your supplies.

Get the Right Supplies


It may be hard to come up with portable version of pulley machines or squat stations, but you can get an incredibly thorough workout with minimal supplies. Here are a few things you’ll need:

  • Yoga mat. Without a mat, floor exercises can be uncomfortable or even unsafe. And even though you’re in your home as opposed to the germ-ridden gym, you probably don’t want your sweaty body coming into contact with the floor. You could make do with a towel, but a yoga mat is well worth the $15 or $20, even if you’re on a tight budget. In addition to adding comfort and cushioning impact, a yoga mat defines your space and can help you keep your workout contained in the area you’ve set aside for it.
  • Weights. You really only need three sets of weights. Invest in sets of 5, 10 and 15, or 10, 15 and 20. If you want to be even more budget-friendly, you can make weights out of canned goods or milk jugs filled with sand. Put a trash bag of sand in a duffel bag and do various lifting exercises for a great core workout. Weights don’t need to be fancy and expensive to get the job done.
  • Pull-up bar. The pull-up bar is a helpful piece when it comes to portable fitness. You can hook it onto the doorway for a quick session and immediately take it down and store it in the closet. Make sure to get a model with this feature rather than a model that has to be permanently mounted.
  • Resistance bands. Resistance bands take up less space than any other type of workout equipment. They’re also safe for a solo workout at home, whereas weights can be risky if you don’t have a buddy.
  • Guided workout videos. Without the comprehensive options of a gym, you may have trouble knowing whether you’re challenging every part of your body that needs attention. Videos bring much-needed structure to what could potentially be an underwhelming workout.

RELATED: 5 Home Workout DVDs For Runners

  • Atmosphere. A little bit of ambiance can mean the difference between a powerful workout and shuffling just a few feet to the couch to watch Netflix. Hang a mirror on the wall to keep an eye on your form. Get a portable speaker to pump yourself up. Use your TV to display motivation landscape photos or hang inspirational quotes on the wall. Whatever inspires you to be healthy and active, make sure your portable home gym has that make-or-break quality.

Bryn Huntpalmer is a mother of two young children living in Austin, Texas where she currently works as an editor and writer for with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.

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