Home Gym vs. Gym Membership (Which One Is Better for You?)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 9, 2024
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This is possibly one of the oldest debates you’ll hear in the personal fitness industry. And I personally believe that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to figuring out if a home gym or gym membership is better.

To help readers, our team got together, and we asked about 50 clients and friends why they would prefer one of the others.

The result is a list of advantages provided by real-life people, not just a group of personal trainers who might have some bias.

Here’s what we came up with in the home gym vs gym membership debate.

Quick Summary

  • Deciding between a home gym and a gym membership involves weighing factors like cost, convenience, and personal fitness goals, with each option offering distinct advantages.
  • Home gyms provide the convenience of working out anytime without travel, while gym memberships offer access to a wide range of equipment and social interaction.
  • A significant consideration is the upfront cost of a home gym, which costs around $1000 to $2000, according to Energy Fit.
  • Many of my clients find the flexibility and privacy of a home gym more conducive to a consistent workout routine.

10 Reasons for Switching to Home Gym Equipment

A man working out at his home gym

Here are the main reasons why people prefer to use home gym equipment.

1. Save Money on Gym Memberships

A gym membership can mount up significantly, and depending on where you live, you could be paying over $100 per month for a basic membership.

And if you plan to head to a CrossFit gym or want access to certain classes, your local gym might charge even more.

While a garage gym will have an upfront cost to deal with, I know many people who have done so for less than $1,000, and the money they save on memberships ends up paying for this in less than 18 months.

It’s a significant incentive, especially with gyms charging more each year.

2. Less Travel Time and Expenses

My clients find the lack of travel for home workouts a game-changer, especially when juggling a busy work schedule.

And if you tend to work out later in the day and on weekends, then you won’t have to overcome the gremlins telling you that the travel time isn’t worth it.

I also find that people end up exercising more regularly because they can head to their home gym if they find a spare half an hour on a busy day.

It can help you save money and time.

3. More Flexibility With Workout Times

A man working out at a home gym

This is something you simply can’t value enough when it comes to having a garage gym at home.

People don’t tend to head to the gym late in the evening, and I know many people who can’t find the time to go in the morning before getting their kids ready for school.

But when you have workout equipment at home, you can take advantage of 20 or 30 minutes of free time.

And that means you don’t have to skip a workout altogether just because you’re too busy with life.

4. No Queueing for Equipment

When you have your own essential home gym equipment, you don’t have to adjust your training plan because there are two other people lining up to use the power rack.

Even if you have multiple people working out at home, it’s much easier to coordinate times and training plans to have access to the exercise equipment.

Some people like the small talk that you might have with others. But I find that it can disrupt a training session, and your muscles might cool down too much.

It also means you get less work done in the time you have available to spend at the gym altogether.

5. Reduce Concerns Over Hygiene and Cleanliness

A woman working out at home

I appreciate the cleanliness of my home gym, especially knowing I'm the only one using the equipment.

Unfortunately, it still happens that people don’t wipe down equipment after they’re finished.

When you have your own gym that you might be sharing only with your family, then you have fewer people using it, and you have a lot more control over how clean it is before you start your home workout.

6. Avoid Small Talk and Distractions From Others

While it’s perfectly OK to tell someone you’re busy working on your sets, you’ll always have some folks who continue to engage in small talk.

In your home gym, you can get rid of all distractions from other people, avoid music you don’t like, and not inevitably try to listen to some gossipy conversation.

With home workouts, you can set a goal, completely stick with it, and not worry about other people or distractions.

7. Exercise to Your Favorite Tunes Without Headphones

A woman tying her shoes

In my home gym, I love blasting my favorite tunes without needing headphones—it's a small but significant perk.

Some gyms might have better-skilled staff at DJing, but they won’t always pick the music you enjoy.

With your home gym, you can set up a speaker in the corner, put on your favorite workout playlist and just let the beats motivate you through cardio or weight-lifting sessions.

And according to a PubMed study, music can have a huge influence on performance [1].

8. No Staring Eyes to Annoy You

No matter where you are on your fitness journey, many people don’t feel comfortable with others looking at them while working out.

While people with weight issues are more conscious of what other people might think, I’ve seen bodybuilders struggle with this too.

In your garage gym, you can take care of all your personal training movements with only you present.

You can do a total body workout and not lose motivation because you think someone might be critical of what you’re doing.

But I also have to say that commercial and CrossFit gyms, in general, are not places where people are critical of others trying to get fit.

9. Get Changed and Showered in Total Privacy

A woman wearing a towel at home

This is something that many people prefer with a garage gym workout, as you don’t have to share a locker room with others.

There’s no worrying about the hygiene levels, and you don’t need to have a gym bag either.

You simply go from your own home gym straight to your bathroom for a hot shower.

It also means you can work out whenever that suits you rather than having to worry about queues for the showers.

10. Customization and Personalization in Home Gyms

Customization and personalization can significantly enhance your workout experience, making it more enjoyable and effective:

  • Tailored equipment selection: Whether your focus is on weightlifting, cardio, yoga, or a combination of various activities, you can select the tools that best suit your regimen.
  • Design your ideal workout space: You can choose a color scheme and design elements that resonate with your personal style, whether it's vibrant and energizing or calm and soothing for activities like yoga.
  • Incorporating technology: Smart fitness tools like fitness trackers and apps can help monitor your progress, while smart mirrors or screens can bring virtual trainers into your home for a personalized training experience.
  • Adding personal touches: Decorate your walls with motivational quotes, posters of fitness icons, or personal achievements like race bibs and medals to keep you inspired. Include a hydration station, a towel rack, or a small fridge stocked with post-workout snacks and drinks.
  • Adaptability and growth: As your fitness journey evolves, so can your gym. It's easy to update the space with new equipment or rearrange it to suit changing fitness goals or routines.

6 Reasons to Stay at a Commercial Gym

A woman lifting weights at the gym

Now, let’s take a look at some of the advantages that you have at a commercial gym.

1. Access to High-End Equipment

One of the big advantages of a gym membership is that you will have access to pretty much everything you could need for your fitness routine.

I remember appreciating the variety of equipment at my old gym, which is something to consider if you crave diversity in workouts.

Whether it’s a squat rack or the latest cardio machines with smartphone integration, a good gym will have these and regularly add to them.

Membership gyms will also buy the sturdiest equipment with the best range of features to ensure that it lasts for heavy daily use by hundreds of people.

So, if you are thinking about a change to your workout plan, your monthly membership ensures that you’ll have what you need to make those changes.

2. No Worry About Replacing Equipment

A man working out in a commercial gym

Your monthly membership cost also pays for having access to working equipment.

There will quickly be a long line of people complaining if some of the equipment breaks down and isn’t replaced or fixed within a few days.

If stuff breaks down in your garage gym, you’ll need to fix or replace it yourself.

And that can become expensive with specialized equipment like weight machines with pulley systems.

Plus, if one machine breaks down at the gym, there is probably at least one more that you can use, so it won’t disrupt your workouts.

3. Support From Gym Instructors

With your gym membership, you’ll also gain access to a personal trainer who can help you with anything from adjusting your training plan to learning proper form with new exercises.

This can be particularly important when weightlifting on squat racks or even doing bodyweight exercises on a pull-up bar.

By having a coach occasionally check in on your performance and movement, you’ll get a lot of value from those monthly fees. 

According to a study in the International Journal of Behavioral and Physical Activity, you will also gain a lot of motivation from a coach who regularly checks in with you [2].

4. Personal Contact With Fellow Members

A man working out with other people in a commercial gym

A membership gym can also be a great place to meet people and socialize.

People who are on the same fitness journey as you can become great workout buddies who help motivate you.

I’ve made many new friends at commercial gyms and know many clients who end up making arrangements to have the same training times to have an accountability partner.

It’s the one that you won’t find in garage gyms unless you have family and friends who are happy to join for some cardio or strength training.

5. Access Workout Classes

Many gyms also offer different types of workout classes. It might not always be included in the basic gym membership package, but you generally have the option to join different classes, from yoga to spinning and aerobics to pilates.

I also know a lot of fitness coaches who use one piece of cardio equipment, like a stationary bike or rower, for each class participant and alternate the intensity levels throughout the class [3].

If you’re self-motivated, you could always join a service like Peleton, where you can stream live classes to your own home gym.

But for many people, their personal preference is to do this as part of a class.

“Group training is a great way to find motivation and actually enjoy your workouts.”

- John Gardner, CEO of Kickoff

6. Spotters Available for Heavy Lifts

A woman spotting a heavy lifter

One thing you’ll be missing in a garage gym is a spotter when you’re lifting weights.

Whether you’re in a squat rack going for a personal best or loading up for a bench press, a general safety rule is to have someone close by to help if you can’t complete a rep.

You can get safety features on racks and Smith machines for home use, but I still find there is more comfort in having a person spot you.

FAQs

Can You Get in Shape With a Home Gym?

Yes, you can get in shape with a home gym setup. The main things you need are the right equipment and a training plan. After that, it all comes down to putting in the hours and sweat to achieve your ideal physique.

How Long Does a Home Gym Last?

A home or garage gym should last 7-15 years with moderate use. This will depend on the quality you invested in, but if you buy decent equipment and work out 3-5 times a week, you should get at least seven years.

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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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