Build a Functional Fitness Garage Gym Like a Pro

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So you want to build a functional fitness garage gym?

Lucky for you, the garage gym movement is having a moment, so there’s a bounty of info out there, as well as gear.

But with the information inundation can come confusion, doubt and worry.

Let’s cut straight to the chase and focus on the core, guiding principles of a functional fitness garage gym.

This will eliminate most of the cognitive dissonance and uncertainty, while making sure that you build your garage gym like a pro and impress everyone on your block and beyond.

functional fitness garage gym

More Church, Less Cathedral

Like so many pop culture trends, the functional fitness garage gym movement can get too focused on vanity at times.

The popularity of garage gyms has grown, so much so that you now can find garage gym makeovers on home remodeling shows.

Right from the start, home remodeling puts an entirely different frame on the project.

There’s more focus on aesthetics than functionality.

Think of your garage gym as more like a church, than a cathedral.

Your purpose is to go in there and stay focused on a task, not to “ooh and aah” people.

Don’t worry about stained glass windows if you don’t have a pulpit, so-to-speak.

Your functional fitness garage gym has to work for you.

This bears repeating.

Your garage gym has to work for you. It has to work both in the literal and figurative sense.

It’s a high functioning room in limited space, which immediately dictates your layout and design choices.

This is what we’re going to focus on here; the layout and design tenets of a high quality, functional fitness garage gym.

Ignore the Hype

A lot of garage gyms boast a big “wow” factor.

They feature a perfectly clean space, free of clutter, with an immaculate paint job, glowing with brand new, fancy, high-end gear.

Let’s face it. This is out of reach for the average garage gym enthusiast.

We’re limited by a whole host of factors like budget, time, space, and even our own personal goals.

Don’t ever forget that inmates get insanely ripped and strong in prison yards with equipment that is probably 50 years old.

That said, I think it’s safe to say these guys aren’t worried about their Instagram followers.

functional fitness garage gym

So focus on your goals and what you need to get done, then use that to literally and figuratively, frame out your garage gym.

Once you have that well-conceptualized, run your decisions through these 7 design and layout principles.

7 Functional Fitness Garage Gym Design Principles

Here are the 7 main considerations for your garage gym that should guide all your design and layout decisions: flooring, optimum floor space, rig selection, gear leveraging, storage space optimization, equipment, and miscellaneous.


Your garage gym is like a body shop, except you’re the mechanic and you’re not working on a car. The same potential for messes, noise, injury and chaos exist. The best mechanics keep these to a minimum and that starts with what you’re standing on- flooring. Any kind of functional fitness garage gym worth its salt will include barbell work, and probably some Olympic lifting. You have to be able to dump the weight. That means weights crashing on the ground, which you’re going to need horse stall mats for. Three-quarter inch thick mats are the standard and that should work fine for most people. The mats will reduce wear and tear on your gear, soften unplanned landings or falls, and most importantly, decrease barbell reverb flowing into your home. How much do you need? That brings us to…

horse stall mat

Optimum Floor Space 

This is the #1 design and layout goal of your functional fitness garage gym. Every last thing you do, and every single decision you make, should be with the optimization of floor space in mind. You want to do everything in your power to max out your floor space. This could be dozens of things. Cleaning all the junk out of your garage, renting a storage pod for stuff, parking a car in the driveway, or whatever obstacle exists in your garage, standing between you and max floor space. Only you can figure that out. The 3 things that take up the most space in garage gyms are: rigs, equipment storage and specialty equipment. Try and keep those to a minimum. You can use Sketchup, which is a free and handy, 3D design tool, to help with your layout. Once you have this sorted out, then you can calculate how much flooring you’ll need.

Rig Selection

This will arguably be the centerpiece of your garage gym. Make your rig selection with great care. You can choose a wall mounted rack, a collapsible or retractable rack, or a free standing rig like a power rack. Again, this is a highly subjective decision based on what? Yeah that’s right. Maximizing floor space and achieving your goals. It’s a fool’s errand to even begin to suggest what kind of rig you need, what brand, or anything, without knowing enough about your personal situation.

Gear Leveraging

Remember how specialty gear takes up a lot of space? That GHD might as well be another car in your garage gym. Maybe you don’t need it, and can convert a piece of equipment you already own into something similar. Find creative and innovative ways to put your existing equipment into double-duty.

Storage Space Optimization

Optimizing your storage space goes lockstep with optimizing floor space. The less you have on the floor, the more room you have to train. You want to maintain your functional fitness garage gym with discipline and a ruthlessness for cutting out clutter and random stuff that’s lying around. Use an “overhead bin” mentality. No one ever wants their bag, backpack or purse, under the seat in front of them, because it reduces your leg room and foot space. The same concept works for your garage gym. Try and get as much as you can into your “overhead bin” so you leave the most room to work in possible. Can you put barbells on a wall rack, instead of vertical, floor storage? Can you put a treadmill into a spare room in the house? Do you find yourself moving that weighted keg out of the way once a week? If so, find a better place for it, which probably means, getting rid of it altogether. That type of “get-in-the-way” gear quickly becomes a pain in the butt.

functional fitness garage gym storage


The core of your garage gym should include: barbell, rack, bumper plates, a bench, kettlebell (or dumbbells), and a weight tree or weight storage. This gear profile covers all your basic, required movements and lifts. Of course, depending on your goals and available floor space, you may choose to include additional equipment. There are plenty of resources out there to help you with gear selection. Here’s a quality garage gym guide that digs deeper into equipment.


There are a few random things to consider, that are also dependent on you personal situation. What is your lighting like? Think about the body shop again. The best body shops are well lit, making it easier to work. If you’re functional fitness garage gym is lit like a castle basement, you may not be so motivated to spend time training in there. Where do you live and what’s the climate like? If you live somewhere with chilly winters, you’re going to need a heater. Or do you live somewhere with blazing hot summers? Maybe a garage door screen and fan are in order. Do you have a music setup? You know you’re going to want that.

Make Your Dream Functional Fitness Garage Gym a Reality

If you’re sold on a garage gym now, and would like to have a look at more resources, there’s an excellent guide here and another one right here to help your dreams become a reality.

The Secret Weight Loss Weapon for Your Garage Gym

If you have a garage gym, we’d love to hear from you. Please share with us all the insights, tips and feedback you have, or better yet, a pic of your garage gym.

We want to hear from you, and who knows, you might end up in a future blog.

Thanks again for reading. Keep training hard, have a great day and stay awesome!

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