Tune into daytime television, and you’ll see commercials for complete home gyms—especially during resolution and “beach body” seasons. (Bowflex, anyone?) If you have a large home with with space for full-body weight training equipment, those big machines might be the right choice for you. But there’s a misconception that only people with a sprawling house have room to exercise. In reality, you can get a full-body workout in a studio apartment or a dorm room if you choose the right modalities and equipment.
The amount of space you need depends on your height. The width of the area should be at least equal to your wingspan, (a measurement of fingertip to fingertip, with your arms in full lateral extension; this is usually the same as the height), and the length should be large enough for your to lie down flat with your hands and toes fully extended in opposite directions. Height requirements can vary: ideally, you want enough space for an explosive jump since jumping is an easy way to increase your heart rate. Keep in mind, however, that the average ceiling height is only 8’ tall. If you’re over 6’ tall, you may have to avoid those big jumps indoors. For example, if you’re 6’ tall, your workout would be approximately 6’ x 7’.
To be fair, 42 sq. ft. is a significant chunk of real estate in small home, but it doesn’t have to be permanently dedicated to fitness. You could simply push a coffee table or sofa to the side to clear the area for your workouts. Once you’ve settled on a space, the next step is choosing types of exercise.
The most fuss-free exercises are driven solely by your bodyweight. Think squats, jumping jacks, planks, push-ups, skaters, and burpees. When you want to add variety to your routine, there are lots of small tools that you can add into the equation, like bands and gliders, that will occupy relatively little space in a small home. (Most of those tools will fit into a file box of milk crate for easy storage when you’re finished.) If you’re looking to incorporate weights into your routine, something as simple as a kettlebell could be a smart purchase. Kettlebells are ideal for squats, swings, snatches, thrusters, and walk carries. They help you combine strength and cardio while engaging multiple muscle groups during workouts.
Prefer to stick with an all-in-one solution for your small space? Think about the TRX Suspension Trainer, a full-body tool that adapts to any and every body. It’s easy to adjust how much bodyweight you apply to your “load” with the Suspension Trainer—simply adjust your angle by taking a step forward or back—so you can make exercise easier or harder without upgrading to a new tool. Plus, the straps easily fold into a small carrying pouch, so you can take or store them anywhere.
Almost any space, even a studio apartment, can accommodate a home gym. When the commute to exercise is standing between you and your fitness goals, it’s time to stop scheduling your life around business hours, and start bringing the gym to you.