Is having your own home gym viable in a HDB? Here are 5 things to note

A Chinese man lifting weights on a sit-down bench in his living room home gym while his cat hangs around. (Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)
Is having a home gym viable in a modern HDB? (Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

The two year 'Circuit Breaker' lockdown period in Singapore changed many of our daily routines.

From trying to cook at home every day, to having ways to socialise with your friends amid the rules, to finding activities that one can do at home to keep ourselves sane.

For me, one of the biggest changes came in the form of my fitness routines.

Prior to the lockdown, I had a relatively active lifestyle.

I had an active Anytime Fitness gym membership, occasionally dipping my hands into cardio-based classes like Barry's, and I was also actively performing as a professional wrestler. I have been actively training my body since 2014.

All this came to a halt when the lockdown started.

I cancelled my AF gym membership, refunded whatever there was left of my Barry's classes and never stepped foot inside the ring for a good two years, from March 2020 to early 2022.

I had to find ways to maintain what I have built for the last six years.

Building your fitness and your strength is an arduous task. It took me a good two years to finally be able to deadlift 200kg, and I had to find ways to maintain that (I can't do it anymore, sadly. At least not as of writing this).

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I proceeded to procure myself a workout bench and dumbbells.

Two years later, I have re-signed with Anytime Fitness again.

So, does it mean it was not viable to set up a little space in a HDB for a gym? Here are the things you should note before you answer that question.

1. Space

Let's start with the simplest of all, your space constraints.

I live in a modern 4-room HDB. My living room has adequate space in addition to being able to fit a two-person couch and a dining table for four.

Space isn't such an issue for me. If I wanted to, I could convert one of my common rooms to a dedicated gym space.

But although my personal setup doesn't take that much of space, if i had decided to get anything beyond a bench and a few dumbbells, I would have to look for a much more dedicated area in the house.

A picture of a living room with a couch, dumbbells and a bench. (Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)
This has been my workout space in my living room the past two years. (Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

If you are looking to have a weights rack and more elaborate setups, you do have to give it more thought, while also making sure that you have your floor protected at all times so you do not damage them.

Your tiles can break if you do accidentally drop something heavy on them.

Or they can get damaged by the heavy weights, like the rack.

But to be honest, the space needed is actually the least of your worries.

2. Sound

This is something that will probably be the most annoying for the people around you.

The walls in a modern HDB unit aren't very thick. I can hear the movement of furniture from my neighbours upstairs, and also their occasional renovation works.

Placing heavy weights down on the ground or on a rack will cause loud sounds, whether you like it or not. Unless you are someone who is super controlled with your weights, this will be a problem sooner or later.

There will be times where you will be fatigued during a workout, and you have no choice but to somehow drop your weights down.

It doesn't matter whether you do it on a rack or on the floor, the sound will likely be heard by your poor neighbours.

If you are like me (I do my workouts at 6am), you are probably going to incur the wrath of someone wanting that additional five minutes of sleep before they wake up.

A friend of mine, who also has a modern HDB unit, complained to me a year ago that he was hearing a constant thumping sound every morning from his neighbour upstairs at 8am.

One day, he decided to check on the neighbour and realised that the sound came from someone running on a treadmill.

Thankfully I haven't had anyone complain about this to me yet, but I do need to make sure that I don't wake my wife up while I work out.

3. Money

Let's face it. Gym equipment isn't at all cheap.

While getting a good pair of dumbbells won't set you back more than S$100, if you require additional equipment, you will need to fork out more.

I personally have a S$80 bench, but lately, I barely feel safe on it.

When I sit on it with 20kg weights, I feel the whole bench creaking and vibrating. It really feels like it is going to break apart anytime now.

A picture of a black workout bench in a living room. (Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)
The 80-dollar bench that has served its purpose. (Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

On hindsight, I should have spent a little more to get a more reputable and stable bench.

This is something that you will need to think about when you decide to purchase your equipment.

Your safety is paramount, and working out at home can also be very dangerous if your equipment isn't very stable. It is always recommended to invest in a more reliable and proven product.

If you plan to invest in a rack plus a barbell and weights as well, the cost can go upwards to about S$1,000-$2,000, depending on the brand. And you have to make sure you have enough space to keep them.

And that's still not the end of your worries.

4. Maintenance

Yeap, the one thing that you never had to do when you had a gym membership.

Most weights are made out of metal. And metal rusts. You will need to know how to oil them and maintain them to keep them safe.

This is especially bad in our climate because of our humidity levels.

While there are many other weights out there that do not use metal as the primary 'weight' on the product, they are usually very bulky, which will take up more space.

Picture of a black dumbbell weight on grey flooring. (Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)
There are also sand-filled weights that require no maintenance, but these are generally bulkier than standard metal weights. (Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

Not to mention that you will need to constantly make sure your equipment is always safe for use.

One small defect on a rack or a bench may lead to it being a little unsafe, and may cause injury.

This is why I rarely use my bench these days, and I am looking to discard it.

5. Distractions and variability

I have two cats at home. Without fail, whenever I workout, they will surround me.

I will need to watch my step so I don't crush them with my weights, and I also need to make sure they are not distracting me.

If you have children or pets at home, that may be one of the factors that you need to take into account.

This is easily avoidable, however, if you have a dedicated room for your workouts.

And while it's sometimes easy to blame motivation, having the right environment does play a part.

If you somehow feel like doing exercises that you aren't prepared for at home, there is nothing your $2,000 setup can do for you, no matter how creative you get.

If you feel like punching a punching bag, there is nothing your weights and rack can do for you.

If you do not purchase any heavier weights, you are stuck with what you have, and you cannot experiment with anything heavier as well.


So is it viable to have a home gym in a HDB?

Absolutely, if you are ready to deal with these limitations.

If you are someone who is ready to put in the effort to make space, protect your floor, make the most minimal noise, maintain your equipment, and are okay with your surroundings, it is a no brainer.

A gym membership could cost upwards of S$1,000 a year, and one can argue that all the equipment bought will be a good investment in the long run, if it is maintained well.

If you want to do some cardio, you can simply go for a run around your block or do some skipping at your void deck.

Personally, I signed back with a gym simply because I am not ready to sacrifice more space at home for my setup. There is only so much I can do with a pair of 25kg dumbbells.

I have missed using the barbell, but I wasn't ready to invest in one due to the money and space needed for it. And I wasn't confident that I was going to make zero noise when I used it for my workouts.

The dumbbells and equipment at home aren't discarded, however. I keep them for days that I need to do a quick workout and if I don't have enough time to head down to a gym.

I do appreciate having some weights around the house so I can keep training at home when I want to.

Dominic loves tech and games. When he is not busy getting bodied in games or watercooling anything he sees, he does some pro wrestling.

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