Having a low ceiling in your basement or garage kinda sucks.
…nah…it really sucks.
Sitting around with your fingers crossed, hoping that you won’t have to do any movements that require a high ceiling kinda sucks.
Waking up to see that CrossFit Open Workout 23.1 required wall balls (ugh) and ring muscle-ups (uggghhhh) really sucked.
It was somewhere during my 30-second “commute” to my wall ball station…
…or maybe it was during my 8th or 9th L-sit ring muscle-up…
…that I realized I needed to get an outdoor home gym.
Whether you’re aching for this kind of set-up for more “practical” reasons (like me) or you just simply enjoy working out in nature, I can assure you that there is just something…different about working out outside.
Today, I’m here to sing the praises of all things outdoor home gyms. By the time we finish up here, you’ll already be dreaming of how to up-charge your envious neighbors who will be clamoring to get a workout in on this bad boy!
Table of Contents
Things to Consider When Building an Outdoor Home Gym
One of the greatest perks of building an outdoor home gym is that you can do almost anything with it…the sky’s the limit (in some cases, literally!). You can choose everything from the layout to the equipment without worrying about keeping everything in the confines of a (usually) limited garage or basement space. However, there are a few things to consider when building an outdoor home gym. Here are the most important.
Temporary or Permanent
The first thing to consider is whether your gym will be just a temporary workout place or a permanent fixture in your backyard.
Temporary gyms are good if you have limited outdoor space that you also want to use for other things/make into a true “multi-purpose” area. Also, you might want to use your outdoor gym only during the warmer months if you live in a place where outdoor winter workouts would be…not so fun.
If either of these scenarios describes your unique situation, you should choose light and/or easily-packed up equipment so you can move and pack your gym with minimal hassle. The flooring and other components of the general outdoor home gym layout should be easy enough to relocate when the time comes.
In contrast, a permanent outdoor gym requires a setup and equipment that can withstand weather changes and that can be used throughout the year. The upside is, your mounted pull-up bars and other equipment will generally feel more stable and if they are weather-resistant, will endure the elements just fine.
Covered or Uncovered
The decision to make your gym covered or not will likely be very closely correlated to whether or not it’s permanent or not.
Generally, you have three options:
- uncovered: if your “gym time” each year is going to be temporary and you plan to use the space for other activities, mounting a cover can be a hassle. However, this also means you will have no sun or rain protection for you and your equipment (at least you’ll have an excuse to skip your workouts on rainy days!). This also means that your options are limited to portable and light equipment that you can easily remove when you’re finished working out (either for the day or for the season).
- covered: even a temporary gym can have a simple cover that will provide sun and rain protection. You can install a cover that can easily be removed if needed. Covered gyms are better because they allow you to work out even when it’s a little rainy or windy. They still won’t protect you from wind, cold or extreme heat, though.
- enclosed: this is basically a building that will allow you to exercise year-round. Of course, it takes much more investment and effort to build it if you are starting from scratch. However, an easier and less expensive option would be converting an existing space, such as a garage(!!!), to a home gym. The biggest advantage of this kind of outdoor gym is that you have much greater control over the conditions (such as temperature and airflow) for your workout regardless of the weather. However, this option lacks the open space and “freedom” that you would get from a more “traditional” outdoor home gym setup. If this was your primary goal, then an enclosed gym might be too…enclosed.
The flooring is one of the most important elements of your outdoor home gym. It plays a crucial role in ensuring safe (both for you and for the ground underneath!) and effective exercise.
Of course, you can always go true “minimalist” and use the bare ground, but it’s not exactly a great choice. The terrain can be uneven which can make equipment unstable, and your movement execution…less than great. Plus, if the ground is wet, it can become slippery or even muddy, which is definitely not desirable for any kind of sports activity. Just ask Alexandre Caron what his experience with “wet lifting” was like at the 2018 CrossFit Games (skip to :45 for maximum ouch!)
Now, the material you can use for building the floor of your outdoor gym can vary:
- Mats: a popular choice that provides a cushioned surface. They lower impact on the joints and prevent slipping (well, some of the time. Just ask Alexandre about it!). Plus, they’re easy to remove and store after the workout making it a great option for temporary gyms. Horse stall mats are oftentimes the way to go!
- Gym pads and tiles: these are lightweight and portable, easy to assemble and disassemble. The tiles interlock with one another, which makes them a stable and secure surface, plus they are made from non-slippery material. Tiles come in different textures and thicknesses, regarding your specific fitness requirements and aesthetic preferences.
- Artificial grass: it’s a good option for both temporary and permanent gyms. It offers a natural feel but also provides adequate support. However, ensure that you choose artificial grass that’s designed for fitness endeavors. This kind of grass provides proper shock absorption.
If you are building a permanent outdoor gym, the floor should be stable and durable, especially the base. The first layer can be a cement floor which provides a solid foundation. You can lay down gym tiles or other shock-absorbing layers over it.
Here are 3 excellent flooring options to choose from:
Privacy & Noise Levels
If you are a person who doesn’t like to exercise with a bunch of gawkers around (which might be a reason why you are building a home gym in the first place), you should consider how to increase the privacy of your outdoor home gym. Different kinds of barriers can hide your gym from views and also reduce the noise so you can have a more peaceful workout space and not disturb your neighbors when dropping weights.
(unless your neighbors suck. In that case, drop away!)
- Natural barriers: bushes and plants can be both aesthetic pleasing as well as effective barriers that provide privacy around your outdoor home gym. They will also reduce the external noise a bit and provide clean and fresh air.
- Fences: different kinds of fences can serve this purpose, so you can choose how sturdy and aesthetically pleasing it will be. Plus, you can add a dense layer of insulation to further reduce the noise.
- Enclosed space: finally, if you want to have a really private space, you can consider placing your home gym in an enclosed space (such as a garage(!!!)). With this solution, you can totally reduce the outside (and inside) noise and create your private gym. However, as mentioned before, this is not exactly an outdoor home gym.
Outdoor Gym Equipment
The outdoor gym equipment doesn’t have to be so different from what you would regularly use in a gym. However, there are some steps you should take to protect it from humidity, temperature, and UV light which can damage it.
For non-portable equipment, you can cover up with a waterproof tarpaulin between uses.
Here is what else you can do to protect the main equipment in your outdoor gym.
- Take care to assemble the rack firmly so it’s stable and secure
- Paint all exposed parts of the nuts and bolts with enamel-based paint or a clear coat
- You can add an extra coating to the inside of the rack with a tubed spray
- 3-in-1 oil, WD-40, or mineral oil can be used at the outside of the rack for additional coating
- Drill holes in the lowest parts of the rack (base, legs, and stands) for drainage
Three additional pieces of advice when selecting a rack for your outdoor home gym
- It should either be one specifically designed for outdoor use
- …or it should be mobile
- …or, you should resign yourself to a rack that combines quality with affordability…because…it’s not gonna last
Our top picks for your outdoor home gym:
- Use stainless steel barbells
- Barbells made of other, durabell material (cerakote) can also be used
Some great barbells for working out in nature:
- If you are using rubber plates, you can use 3-in-1 oil will help maintain the rubber coating, which can otherwise get damaged due to temperature changes
- Bumper plates usually have stainless steel hubs, but you should still check if there is any oxidation and remove it promptly
Some plates best suited for the elements:
- Protect your weight bench with moisture repellents such as Mineral oil, 3-in-1 oil, WD-40, and 303 Protectant
- Add coating to the seams, rubber and vinyl parts, and any exposed metal parts to protect them from moisture and UV exposure
Your best indoor/outdoor bench options:
The Equipment You Should Never Leave Outside
Some pieces of equipment you should never leave out in the open:
- Machines with pulleys and cables
- Yoga mats
These things can easily get damaged if exposed to moisture, direct sunlight, or debris and dirt. Don’t be lazy; just bring them inside when you’re finished!
The Benefits of an Outdoor Home Gym
As you may guess, an outdoor home gym has numerous benefits compared to regular gyms:
- Natural ambiance: if your outdoor gym is placed in the garden and surrounded by trees and plants, it adds to the stress-relieving effect of your workout. Plus, you are exposed the fresh air and sunlight, which is essential for your health.
- Privacy: if you don’t like to exercise in front of other people for whatever reason, the outdoor home gym is a way to have your personal workout space. Also, you never have to share or what for equipment!
- Personalization: you can arrange your gym according to your wishes and needs, from its layout to the equipment you use.
- Cost Savings: although it requires some investment at the beginning, having a home gym will save you money in the long run because you don’t have to pay for a monthly membership fee. Plus, there is no commute, which saves time, money and…sanity!
So, an outdoor home gym is not technically a garage or basement gym. However, here at Garage Gym Revisited, we still consider these beauties to be part of the “family”.
Now, I’m not advocating for getting outside for a workout during the dead of winter. In many cases, you’ll need indoor alternatives.
However, on a late spring day, when there isn’t a cloud in the sky and a slight breeze is in the air, an outdoor workout is tough to beat.
Plus, if you have…high aspirations for your fitness journey, you’re going to have to get used to doing workouts outside.
Need to review a wider array of barbell options before choosing one for your outdoor home gym? Check out our list of the top 15 best barbells for CrossFit where we cover the best bars for all budgets and purposes (to include outdoor lifting!)