Creating an Olympic Style Gym in your Garage

Posted August 31, 2017 in Exercise Equipment No Comments »

So, you want to train at home. Great! Having your training on tap is going to make your life easier and your workouts more frequent. But, if you plan to train heavy in your garage, you had better make sure that you set it up right. In this article we pace you through the key steps required to set up a heavy duty Olympic style gym in your garage.

Olympic home gym

We’re assuming here that you have at least the size of a single car garage or basement to work with and that you have the freedom to install flooring and wall mirrors.

The first you need to do it is to clear out your potential workout space. Get rid of it all so that you have a blank space to work with.

Step One: The Flooring

No doubt you’re planning on throwing some pretty heavy poundage around your new gym. That means that you’re going to need to have something solid underfoot. Heavy duty floor padding will protect not only your building’s structure, but also your training equipment. In addition, well padded flooring will provide protection to your joints when you’re doing jump squats or other types of plyo training. An athlete’s foundation start at his feet, meaning foot health should be at the top of your priorities for yourself and your clients.

You don’t have to spend a ton of money on your gym flooring. The jigsaw puzzle style flooring segments that you can pick up in packs at your local hardware store will do just fine. They give you depth of a half inch and come in range of colors, so you can color coordinate different training areas. 

Step Two: The Mirrors

Mirrors in gyms are far more than vanity aids. You definitely need one for checking form. You will want to have a couple of full length mirrors that allow you to see you entire frame when you are doing squats and deadlifts.

Kitchen or bathroom mirrors will work fine in your garage gym. If you can’t get  single full length mirror, buy two 3 x 2 inch foot sheets and place them alongside one another. This will be more cost effective than purchasing a gym mirror. You should be able to fit out your mirrors for less than  hundred bucks.

Not sure how to fix those mirrors to the wall? Check out this how to video . . .

Step Three: The Power Rack

The first and most fundamental piece of training equipment that you need for your Olympic garage gym is a power rack. A  rack will allow you to safely and securely performing the big compound Olympic bar movements like squatting and deadlifts. This will be the most expensive piece of gear that you buy, but it is imperative that you DO NOT skimp on quality.

You don’t want  rack that is top confining. The walk in space should provide you with at least four feet by four feet. This allows you to do  wide variety of barbell exercises within the power rack. The uprights need to be solid and secure, which means a minimum of 12-gauge steel that is at least two inches thick.

Your power rack needs to provide a very solid and easily adjustable pair of safety bars to ensure that you are spotted safely when training alone. The maximum weight allowance on your rack should be at least 1,000 pounds. Ideally you will also want the uprights to incorporate the Westside hole spacing system, which provides you with one inch hole spacing through the bench press zone and two inch spacing above and below that level. This provides you with a greater level of customization when positioning the bar. Numbered upright holes also makes adjustment easier and faster, reducing time waste between sets.

Step Four: The Olympic Bar

An Olympic bar is seven foot long and weighs 44 pounds. It has  more aggressive knurling than a standard barbell in order to give you a better grip. Different brands have different levels of knurling, so you will want to check this aspect out. You want it to be sufficient to provide good grip but too much that it will rip up your palms as you transition between movements. I’ve never seen an athlete happy about bloody torn calluses – theirs or anyone else.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of powerlifting, you will want a specialist powerlifting bar, which typically has more give to it than a standard Olympic bar. Choose a bar with tensile strength of at least 180,000 PSI. In order to ensure that you get good level of spin in the sleeve, you will need a bar that has ball bearings fitted.

A chrome plated bar gives you the most protection against rust and degradation.

Step Five: The Plates

Olympic plates come with a two inch diameter. They are far more sturdy and stable than standard weight plates. They are available in the following variations:

  • Rubber weight plates – these are cast iron plates that have been covered in  rubber layer. It makes the plate harder wearing and longer lasting.
  • Bumper Plates – bumper plates are rubber coated weights that can be dropped from a height. This makes your training environment safer.
  • Powerlifting Plates – powerlifting plates are available in cast iron, steel or chrome metal. They are thinner than other types of plates. This allows you to pile more weight onto the bar.

Step Six: The Deadlift Jack

A deadlift jack could well become your favorite gym accessory… It’s just what it sounds like – a jack that allows you to lift your deadlift bar in order to make it easier to get the plates on and off. If you want to conserve your energy for the actual lift, you’ll find it indispensable.

A good rack will be made from 2 x 2 inch, 11 gauge steel. It should have at least a quarter inch heavy gauge steel cup. The length handle should be at least 34 inches and the unit should be very easy to operate.

Step Seven: The Bench

The bench that you lie on when you’re bench pressing or doing  seated press needs to be extremely secure in order to keep you safe. It needs to have a solid frame, made from at least two by two inch 12 gauge steel framing. You’ll want an adjustable bench that provides you with at least seven adjustable positions including at least one decline angle. The angle adjustments need to be easy change and very secure.

While you do want a good level of comfortable padding on the bench, it shouldn’t be too thick or you won’t be able to achieve a rigid position when bench pressing. The bench should have  separately adjustable seat that allows you to customize your positioning.

Step Eight: The Dumbbells

You’ll need a full complement of dumbbells in order to fully kit out your Olympic garage gym. Unless you’ve got unlimited access to funds, however, this can present a problem. Rather than forking out thousands of dollars for a full set varying from 20 to 100 pounds at 5 pound increments, you might choose to focus on your current dumbbell bench press weight and the next weight up. If you do decide to buy individual dumbbells, look out for the rubber coated hexagonal variety.

Alternatively, you can invest in a set of selectorized dumbbells. These provide you with a full complement of dumbbell weights at an affordable price. It comes in  number of variations, but the basic concept is that you have a base rack which houses a series of 2.5 or 5 pound plates and a handle set up. You simply dial in the weight that you require and it will lift that weight out for you. If you need a different weight on your next set, just put the dumbbell back into the base rack and dial up your new weight.

One thing to be aware of with selectorized dumbbells is that they can get quite unwieldy in terms of their size. This my restrict your range of motion especially on isolation moves such as dumbbell curls.

Step Nine: The Pull Up Bar

If you want to get a bigger and stronger back then you had better be doing pull ups. If you’re lucky you will be able to find  pull up bar that comes with a quality pull up bar. If not, you’ll want a bar that you can fix to a wall or ceiling beam. Make sure that the bolt setup is extremely secure and rigid. You’ll also want a bar that is versatile enough to allow for a variety of hand positions, including wide, mid and close grips. The standard pull up bar width is one inch.  A thicker diameter will allow you to work more in your forearm and grip strength.


Having followed through our 9 steps process, you have now got yourself a high end Olympic gym right under your own roof. Now you’ve got no excuse for missing that workout. So, set your resolve to train hard, train with consistency and make your Olympic garage gym investment pay off big time.

Share the Swole!

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply