Last updated on March 10th, 2021 at 06:13 pm
One of the biggest benefits of having a home gym is that it’s right there in your home. One of the biggest drawbacks is that, well, it’s right there in your home.
It’s easy for you to get to, but it’s also easy for your family (if you have one) to be a distraction from your work outs. By the same token, your work outs can easily become a distraction for the family. Especially when the clangs, bangs, loud music, and grunts coming from your unexpectedly loud home gym cause family and neighbors to come pounding on your door asking you to keep it down.
Taking the time to reduce the sound coming from your gym is an easy process that you, your family, and even your neighbors will appreciate.
To quiet a noisy home gym, you’ll need to address how much noise is being made in your gym as well as soundproofing the gym itself. Using quieter implements in a way that produces less sound along with deadening the walls, doors, and ductwork will result in a home gym that doesn’t disturb others.
What to do about the noise?
Do you work out when the rest of the house is asleep? Is your gym close to communal living spaces or bedrooms? If so, the noise coming from your gym can be enough to drive the rest of your household crazy. Because most of us can’t move our training area to a different part of the house, we have to be considerate of others and work to fix the problem in alternate ways.
This particular problem really only has two possible solutions. We can change our schedule or we can deal with the noise. I don’t know about you, but changing the time I work out isn’t going to happen. That leaves option 2. Luckily, with a handful of projects that you can easily complete in a weekend, you are only a few steps away from a much quieter gym that both you and those you’ve been disturbing will love!
In full disclosure, I don’t have a wife or kids at home to disturb. But I do have neighbors that don’t want to hear my music blasting at the crack of dawn when I like to train. They also don’t appreciate hearing me drop a fully loaded barbell on the ground at 5am. At their request, I now have to figure out how to make my garage gym a lot quieter.
When I first started researching this issue, I figured I’d just “soundproof” my garage. As I built out my new gym space, I thought I’d put in a little of this and a little of that, and voila the room would be soundproof. I could crank my music and drop my weights and no one would be the wiser. Easy, right?
Wow was I in for a surprise. I quickly discovered that’s it almost impossible to truly soundproof a room. I also found that it was obscenely expensive to even get close. Since my original plan of “soundproofing” wasn’t going to be possible, I needed a different approach.
There are two basic areas of attack when dealing with a noisy home gym. First is to reduce the noise that both you and your equipment make. Second is to deaden, as much as possible, the sound that can escape the room.
Quiet your workout
When it comes to limiting the noise that comes from you or your gear, there are quite a few quick and useful tips. Some are free and easy to do. Others are not free and will take some effort. All are completely feasible for any home gym. Here are the 8 I find to be most helpful.
Do more body weight exercises
The less you rely on barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, the less heavy things will be banging together or hitting the ground. That banging and dropping can make your gym sound like a construction site.
Don’t think body weight exercises can work as well as weights? Try adding gymnastics rings or a TRX suspension kit to your set up. Suspension training can make body weight workouts challenging to even the strongest of athletes. In fact, one of the most challenging workout programs you can do is the MAPS suspension program from the guys over at Mind Pump.
According to Jocko Willink (and if you don’t know who Jocko is, stop reading right now and check him out!!!), if you were to only have one implement in your home workout arsenal, it should be a set of wooden gymnastics rings. You can build an amazing body with just this tool. And you can do it silently!
Even without rings or other suspension gear, a full body weight circuit of any kind can be an incredibly effective way to get in a training session if the kids are asleep and you can’t break out the iron. Think of it as a temporary fix if you’re in a pinch.
Coated dumbbells and kettlebells
As much as I love my rings, there’s no way I’m getting rid of my weights and kettlebells!!! You can pry them from my cold, dead hands! I’m guessing you aren’t going to forgo those completely either. And you shouldn’t have to!
The key is to make sure that the implements you use are as quiet as possible. That means buying weights and kettlebells that are coated and not just bare metal. Polyurethane coated dumbbells are quieter than exposed iron. The same goes for kettlebells. Rubber coating works well too, but it can have a strong smell. Rubber also tends to be less durable than urethane. In the end, both are a quieter option than raw, uncovered steel.
Use bumper plates
Better yet, go with bumper plates. Not sure what a bumper plate is, or if they are right for your home gym set up? I wrote an entire article on them here. The short version is that not only are they noticeably quieter than any other option for weight plates, they are also the best choice overall when equipping your garage gym. If I was to buy a barbell and plates tomorrow, bumper plates from Fringe Sport are the only way that I’d go.
Tape things up
As for the bars and racks those plates go on, use some cloth tape in strategic places to limit the clanging and banging. Dampen any metal on metal contact that you can. This also goes for the j hooks that your barbell rests in. You’ll be surprised how much quieter racking the bar is on presses, squats, and deadlifts when the contact points are muted by cloth tape.
Use a platform
For those of you who will be power or Olympic lifting, you have another challenge. In fact, you have probably the biggest opportunity for noise complaints of all. That’s because you spend a lot of your time in the gym dropping the weights once you get them up.
Dropping a fully loaded bar on the ground over and over and over again is probably the single loudest noise that will ever come from your gym. With these styles of lifting, not dropping the bar simply isn’t an option. Luckily, there are two fairly effective solutions for this.
The first is a lifting platform. For those doing this type of lifting, a platform will be all but required anyway. Even a solid cement floor will be cracked and broken over time when weights are dropped on it repeatedly. For that reason alone, you’ll want a lifting platform. I wrote a complete guide on the topic that you can see here!
There are two ways to go about this. One is to buy one. I love this one by Fringe Sport, but it’s a little expensive. You can also find more reasonably priced options on Amazon. I don’t think you need to buy either one. For me, DIY is the only way to go when building a lifting platform.
There are plenty of DIY plans available on line and you can have a really nice platform that you custom make for your gym done in the space of a short weekend project. In addition to saving you money (I still can’t believe how much that Elite FTS platform costs!!!), you can design a very cool modification that will directly help even further with the noise of a dropped barbell.
Instead of using rubber or wood where the weights will land, build a small pit instead. At the bottom of the pit (maybe 4” – 6” deep or so?) place a layer of rubber flooring. On top of that pour in a layer of sand. By cushioning the impact area with sand, you’ll all but silence the thud of dropping that barbell. If you are a hard core power or Olympic lifter, you’ll almost certainly want a lifting platform with this feature!
Use Silencer Pads
If you are doing barbell work and trying to keep things quiet at the same time, silencer pads are a must have! There are few things designed specifically to deaden the sound of your weights hitting the floor, and these are the best of them! Titan Fitness makes a very affordable set. There’s simply no reason not to have these in your gym if noise is a concern!
Use quieter implements
Aside from quieting your weights and introducing body weight training, you can also check out some gear you might not have thought of that is simply quiet to begin with. One that comes to mind for me, and that I love to train with, is the sand bag. It’s a versatile tool and can be used to get a tremendous workout. All while being almost silent compared to the metal implements in your gym.
Another that comes to mind is sand bells. A cousin of the kettlebell, these are really fun to train with and are one of the best ways I’ve found to work your grip while you’re working out. They are filled with small, metal shot and make almost no noise, even when you drop them (or slam them down repeatedly like I do pretty often).
Rep Fitness is making some of the best sandbags in the game right now. Lots of size and color options and all at very reasonable prices. See all the colors, sizes, and pricing here on the Rep Fitness site.
As much as I hate this next tip, depending on the time of day, it’s something I’m sometimes forced to do. Occasionally, you have to turn off the stereo and use headphones instead. I love cranking up the tunes in my garage gym. I installed a speaker in each corner just for that reason. When I’m working out, especially when I’m weight training, I love loud, in your face, offensive music. It helps psych me up for a great workout.
It also really bothers my neighbors. For that reason, I had to find a pair of headphones I liked. After a lot of looking, and trying several pairs I ended up returning, I found this pair by Klipsch. They are sweat proof, stay securely in my ears, and are the only brand of in ear headphones that fit comfortably in my ear canals without falling out!
The last tip I have is to simply lift quieter. In most cases, showing a little care can significantly reduce the noise produced in your gym. I know, booooooooring! I get it. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Quiet your gym
Now that we’ve addressed quieting the workout itself, let’s talk about deadening the sound that gets out of (or hopefully doesn’t get out of) your gym. These measures may take a little more effort and money than the above tips, but they can go a really long way towards limiting how much of your workout can be heard outside of your training area.
Location, location, location
This first tip is free and it’s something you should do before ever building your home gym in the first place. A common mistake that a lot of people make is gym location. They don’t stop to think about the noise that will be created by their workouts. And noise there will be. A lot of it. So even though that unfinished basement is far away and not climate controlled (I wrote a whole article on how to fix this too), it may be a better choice than that spare bedroom that’s adjacent to where your children sleep.
Build quiet walls
Once you decide on a good location for your gym, consider installing new drywall. Specifically, sound deadening drywall. There are several types and all of them do a nice job in limiting how much sound can travel through your walls. This isn’t an option for everyone, but it’s a great idea for those of you starting with an empty space and building out from there.
You can find this at almost any home improvement store. Head in and ask them for “acoustic drywall”. A very popular brand name is Quietrock. It will be more expensive than standard sheetrock/drywall, but it will be more than worth it once it’s installed.
If you are starting from studs, like in an unfinished garage or basement, use lots of insulation behind that acoustic drywall. The more you use, the better it will work.
There is the option of specially made acoustic insulation as well. It is denser and would do an amazing job of absorbing noise. It’s also crazy expensive and probably overkill for a home gym. Only you can really determine that, but if you combine the above mentioned Quietrock with standard insulation, you should be in good shape.
Other benefits of doing this are energy savings and climate control. If you find yourself carving out a home gym in a cold, drafty area walled with bare walls and studs, you’ll appreciate the temperature regulation that insulation and drywall will bring. Trust me when I say it will be worth every dollar and drop of sweat you invest.
At minimum, finish your space off with something. It will look nicer and anything you do, no matter how minimal, will be better for sound deadening than nothing at all.
Carpet the walls
If your space is already finished, and you don’t have the time, money, or inclination to install new drywall and insulation, there are a variety of products you can hang on your existing walls that will deaden sound, eliminate the clanging echos of your weights, and prevent some of the noise from escaping your gym.
The least expensive option is to hang carpet on the walls. You can get remnants at pretty much anywhere carpet is sold and it typically doesn’t cost a lot. How much you use and how you hang it is up to you, but it will work for the purposes we are discussing here. Keep in mind, the more of the walls you cover, the more of the sound you will eliminate.
Install acoustic panels
Some folks will want something that looks a little nicer than carpet on the walls (if that’s your thing, though, go for it!). That’s kind of where I fall. And that’s why my choice for sound deadening will be to install acoustic panels. They come in a variety of colors, shapes, and patterns. They are light and easy to put up. You can even get them custom designed to match your gym exactly!
One caution is that they can get pricey pretty fast depending on what you install. Panels will range from basic “egg crate” style that are on the low end of the price spectrum to fiberglass panels on the high end. Somewhere in the middle are what are called 12×12 studio foam tiles.
This type is made for recording studios but will work great in a gym. You can get multiple colors and install them in a variety of patterns. You don’t need to cover every inch of your walls, but the more you cover, the better off you will be. Most people will install rectangular sections at regular intervals along their walls.
One last thing to be wary of is the fire rating of the panels you choose. Some basic foam panels will actually accelerate a fire. Other are fire retardant. As you can imagine, the fire retardant versions will be more expensive. This may or may not matter to you based on the location of your gym, but it is worth mentioning.
After a lot of research, I’ll be installing these that I found on Amazon. I like the fact that they are fireproof and they aren’t too expensive for the number that you get per pack. A trick that will help you install them is to glue them to a large piece of cardboard first. Then hang that whole assembly on the wall. This will make initial installation easier as well as make moving them a snap down the road.
Acoustic panel alternative
Since I won’t be using acoustic panels across the entire wall surface, that will leave room on the walls for another clever sound deadening solution. In my gym, I plan to have some sweet looking motivational images on the wall. Just a few large and tasteful images that will get me fired up.
The trick is not to simply buy posters or have something printed on paper. Instead, have those images printed on what is called a “canvas gallery wrap”. That means that the image is printed on canvas and then wrapped around a wooden frame. This leaves a space between the wall and the canvas that you can’t see when the print is hung.
Go to the dollar store and get some cheap towels. Pack the space between the canvas and the wall with those towels and you have some really nice looking acoustic panels. Oh, and bonus, canvas wraps are some of the least expensive ways to get things printed in a large size, suitable for hanging!
Now that we’ve addressed the walls, let’s talk about the ceiling. If you have bare joists, like in a garage or basement, the above mentioned insulation and acoustic drywall is key. Outside of that, a good practice is to hang sound baffles at regular intervals across the ceiling. These can be as simple as hanging strips of rubber flooring or carpet as an inexpensive option. Or you can purchase finished baffles that come complete with eyelets to hang them from.
This is probably not something most people will do in their homes as baffles hanging down from a standard height ceiling are just going to get in the way most times (especially for me at 6’6”!). But if you have the room, and you are looking to get every last bit of sound deadening possible, this is an option to look at.
From the ceiling, we work our way to the floor. I wrote a great article about choosing the best flooring for your gym that you can read here. The short version is to use rubber flooring across your entire workout area. It has a ton of benefits and is the best choice for almost any home gym. You can see the exact flooring I use in my gym here on Amazon. It’s the only flooring I recommend to anyone building a home gym!
One of those benefits is that it deadens the level of sound in the room. A lot. Another is that it significantly reduces the sound of heavy things being dropped. The difference in sound between dropping a loaded barbell on a cement floor and dropping it on the rubber flooring is very noticeable.
In addition to rubber flooring, an acoustic underlayment placed beneath the main flooring material is another measure that can be taken. This underlayment will help to further absorb vibrations. It won’t help a lot to decrease the sound of the dropped weights, but it will add protection from loud music and loud people. It also does a great job of dealing the motor noise that comes from treadmills and other similar machines.
Once you have the walls, ceiling, and floor addressed, it’s time to look at sound protection that is specific to individual pieces of equipment.
Ellipticals, treadmills, rowers, bikes, and other similar machines all transmit vibration through the floor. This is through a combination of the motors and moving parts inside them and your body moving on top of them. Rubber flooring will help, but these items often need an additional level of protection.
That’s why I like the idea of putting a second matt under each of these pieces of equipment. For my treadmill, I simply installed and additional layer of rubber flooring. Doubling up on that will work nicely.
At a minimum get a matt made for those pieces of equipment. You can find a nice one on Amazon here for not much money. In addition to helping with noise, these mats will help your machines to stay in place too. Not sure what I’m even talking about? I wrote a full article on cardio mats that you can check out here!
Install a sound maze
As you are taking care of your walls and ceiling, you may notice that you have air vents. Some people will simply close these off, but I feel strongly that this is a bad idea. Of all the areas in your home that need good ventilation, you gym is at the top of the list.
Instead, install a “sound maze” inside the vent just behind the grill. Basically, you will be taking 4 small pieces of insulation board and putting them inside the vent in a staggered pattern (see image below). By gluing them in this pattern, you leave a path for air to circulate freely. You have also created a pathway that sound has trouble traveling down. You’ll be surprised at how well this actually works.
Dampening these wide open pathways to other rooms and areas of your home is one of the the single best ways to keep the noises of your home gym inside your home gym. If I was only to do one or two things to help sound deaden a room in my home, this would definitely be one of them.
Under the door
The last thing to look at when deadening the sound coming from your home gym is the door. If you look at your door and you see light coming in under the bottom of it, that’s a major source of sound escaping the room.
There are two ways to fix that. The least expensive is to get a better door sweep. Get something made of heavy rubber or vinyl and attach it to the bottom of the door. This will not only help with the noise, but it will also eliminate unwanted drafts.
The better option is to install something called an automatic door bottom. The problem with a fixed door sweep is that if the door isn’t perfectly level, or the floor under the door isn’t level, the sweep can make it hard to open and close your door. An automatic door bottom raises and lowers to address this issue directly. They take a little work to install, but are totally worth it once complete.
The great thing about most of these tips and techniques is that you only have to do them once. That’s miles better than people coming in, interrupting your work out, and asking you to keep it down. Your gym should be your sanctuary. It should be a place you can go and not be disturbed. Likewise, it should be a place that doesn’t disturb others.
And when you do want noise, in the form of some loud music, you will be absolutely amazed at how much better the music in your gym sounds when the room has been deadened. When you eliminate the hard reflective surfaces, the echoes, and other sound issues, your tunes will sound so much better you will think you upgraded your stereo too!!!
One last note I’ll leave you with. There are more benefits to quieting your workout space than just limiting how much you bother others. Reducing the echoes, clangs, and bangs will help you too. I didn’t realize it until I spent time in a “sound proofed” gym. I felt less frazzled. I was able to focus more clearly on my workouts. And I was able to do it for a longer period of time. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first, but the lack of excess noise was amazingly helpful.
If you had asked me about that before the experience, I would have scoffed at you. I would have told you that part of the gym experience I loved was the sound of heavy weights moving. I liked the grunts and the blaring music and the overall din of a well used gym. In fact, the noise was something I thought I was going to miss about training in a larger, commercial gym.
Turns out that’s not the case at all. I like it quieter. I bet you will too.