Who wouldn’t like to have a home gym? It’s actually one of my main goals once I move into a bigger place. But we rarely think about the noise that our workouts produce.
Commercial gyms play loud music that neutralizes the noise, and we also don’t have to worry about the neighbors. But the situation is different at home, unless you’re living in a Bill Gate’s style secluded mansion.
There’s the old couple living upstairs, and they’ve got a broom stick prepared to launch warning knocks in case you only think about grunting or doing deadlifts. The neighbors just got a baby. His name is Mike! And you gotta think about the baby!
So with that being said, how can you make your home gym soundproof or at least minimize the noise so that no one complains about it? Here are 10 major tips that you can use to your benefit. They’re common sense solutions, and easy to implement in any situation:
1. Cover the floor with thick rubber mats
Every standard gym has rubber mats all over the place. Especially in the area with the free weights.
There are three reasons why that’s a good idea. First, thick rubber mats are the best floor protectors for weightlifting equipment. If you drop a heavy dumbbell on a concrete or hardwood floor, it’s gonna do some damage. But rubber mats absorb the weight and protect the floor.
Secondly, they also absorb any impact noise produced by dropping the weights on the floor. And thirdly, having soft material on the floor and the walls is the best way to reduce the echo in the room. Rubber mats and acoustic panels are used in recording studios for this very purpose.
While commercial gyms typically don’t care about the noise too much, this is an important tip for minimizing noise in home gyms. It’s practical and easy to accomplish.
Measure the amount of floor you want to cover (ideally you would cover the entire floor) and then purchase enough rubber mats to cover the area. When the mats arrive simply place them on the floor in the places where you use free weights and you’re done.
I suggest getting interlocking floor mats. They’re usually 1/2-1 inch thick, durable and they’re found in most gyms. If it works for Gold’s Gym, I see no reason why it wouldn’t work in a home gym.
They stay in place better than regular rubber mats because they’re interlocked. They also look pretty nice and you don’t have to worry about the dust and dirt like you would with a rug or carpeting. You’ll still need to vacuum them from time to time just like any floor for that matter.
I recommend 1/2 inch thick interlocking floor mats since they fit the criteria and have tons of positive reviews from other lifters.
If you want to go with something thicker in the areas where you’re dropping serious weight (performing heavy deadlifts for example), then I would personally get a couple of heavy duty 3/4 inch thick mats. These mats are made entirely from tire crumb. They’re very durable and anti-slip, which makes them safe for weightlifting areas just like the interlocking floor mats.
Once you’re finished, your floor should look something like this:
2. Use rubber coated plates, dumbbells and kettlebells
Iron free weights that are not coated with rubber will resonate much louder against hard surfaces you place them on. That includes the floor and any holders you might have in your gym.
The rubber coating is really helpful for reducing sound without having to worry about it all the time. However, if you plan on placing the weights only on a rubber mat, this is optional and won’t make much difference since the rubber mats will absorb the impact noise anyway.
3. Cover the plates and weights with adhesive tape
If you’ve already got iron weights without the rubber coating, this is a good way to get a similar effect. Tape the outer rim with cloth tape. This will work with dumbbells, plates and kettlebells.
4. Reduce treadmill noise
The loudest piece of gym equipment is the treadmill. Some treadmills are louder than others, but all of them create noise to some extent.
The first noise reduction tip is to place the treadmill on a thick rubber mat. Or place anti-vibration pads on the corners of the treadmill. By doing this you can reduce the impact noise of the treadmill on the floor while running on it.
The faster you run, the more noise there will be. Walking on an incline instead of running on the flat surface can further reduce noise. Wearing light running shoes or going barefoot is also useful.
If your treadmill is older than a few months, you may need to lubricate the belt. In that case, make sure to use the proper lubrication oil for your treadmill. The instructions on which oil and how to use it are typically found in the owner’s manual.
If the belt is dry there will be more friction and vibrations inside the machine. You should lubricate the belt once every 6-8 months on average, or sooner if there’s a lot of noise.
I’ve explained these techniques in more detail along with a few others in my treadmill noise reduction article.
5. Use quieter cardio equipment
If you don’t have a treadmill already, that’s great! Because treadmills are the loudest piece of gym equipment ever. There are plenty of other useful cardio tools that are much quieter. A heavy bag is excellent for warm ups and doing cardio.
Punching bag workouts are my personal favorite because they’re so much fun and they make me sweat like crazy. Plus, improving fighting techniques is always useful.
Skipping rope is another quiet cardio method. Stationary bike, elliptical machine, rowing machine, you name it – all of them are quieter than a treadmill. And most of them take less space as well. I know that treadmill seems like a must-have piece of equipment. But it’s really not.
If you’re really determined about getting a treadmill, make sure to implement the tips above to at least reduce the noise to some extent.
6. Don’t throw the weights around
Training with proper form will not only improve your results and prevent injuries, but also make your workouts less noisy. If you have to drop the weights around because you can’t hold them in your hands, you’re lifting too heavy. Period.
I’ve been working out in the gym for over 10 years, and I’ve trained with competitive bodybuilders. Not a single one of these guys throws weights around. I know that Branch Warren, Ronnie Coleman and these other huge bodybuilders do it for entertainment value on videos. But it doesn’t add anything to their performance.
In fact, Warren uses bad form a lot, which is why he has a torn lat and torn triceps as well. These injuries have completely ruined his symmetry and his placings in bodybuilding competitions. Ronnie Coleman had a hip replacement surgery shortly after ending his bodybuilding career.
And another legend of the sport who is famous for lifting huge amounts of weight is Dorian Yates, the 8x Mr. Olympia from the 90s. Guess what? He tore his bicep, and this injury put a stop to his prolific career.
Now let’s look at a positive example. Dexter Jackson is 45 or 46 at the moment and he is STILL competing in Mr Olympia and Arnold Classic, two toughest bodybuilding competitions on the planet. His secret to longevity? Train smart.
The moral of the story is this: lift weights you can handle, and you won’t have to abuse the floor, your tendons, and the neighbors too much.
7. Add mass to the walls
Making the walls of your home gym thicker will make it harder for noise to escape. This is soundproofing 101. There are many ways to soundproof a wall:
- install regular drywall or soundproof drywall
- insert rockwool sheets between wall joists
- screw mass loaded vinyl on the wall joists
- hang fiberglass panels directly on the wall’s surface
- hang thick moving blankets on the walls
If you’re worried about the noise escaping through only one side of your home gym, then soundproof only that one wall. Or soundproof only the ceiling. Or only the floor by installing floor underlay and floor mats.
By focusing on the most vulnerable exit point for noise, you can make this an affordable and easy project that yields great results.
Out of all of these methods I prefer to install Mass Loaded Vinyl on the wall joists. It’s effective against impact noise and airborne noise, and it’s affordable. If you’re interested in the methods mentioned here, read my simple wall soundproofing guide.
8. Reduce the echo with moving blankets or acoustic panels
Acoustic panels made from soundproofing foam are good for reducing echo. So are moving blankets. Moving blankets are a cheaper option and I’m starting to like it more than the acoustic panels.
By covering the walls with any of these two soft but thick materials, there will be far less echo and some reduction in overall noise as well.
To hang acoustic panels I recommend using hanging strips that are typically used for hanging framed paintings. Read more about this along with my top acoustic panel recommendations in this guide.
For hanging moving blankets it’s best to use nails on each corner to keep it in place. My suggestion is to use 2 layers of moving blankets to really get the best sound insulation possible. They’re pretty affordable so try to get the best out of it.
9. Perform workouts at an appropriate time
If you haven’t soundproofed your home gym, this is the best way to prevent complaints from neighbors and housemates. Try to perform your workouts between 8 am and 8 pm.
Or try asking them about their schedule. Then do your workouts at the time when they’re not at home or not doing anything important. They’ll appreciate your concern for their well being and probably let you off the hook way more than they usually would.
10. Build a deadlift platform
As I’ve mentioned already, deadlifts are the loudest free weight exercise on the planet. If you’re using a lot of weight on this exercise, you’ll likely drop down the weight at some point. It just feels so good! And it’s actually safer when doing heavier deadlifts.
While a standard rubber mat can absorb some of the noise, it won’t block it completely. To protect your floor and produce less sound when performing heavy deadlifts, it’s best to perform them on a deadlift platform.
How heavy are we talking about here? More than 400 lbs. If you’re deadlifting less, stacking a couple rubber mats is enough to absorb the impact. But if you’re doing hardcore weights, the best thing to do is to build a deadlift platform.
The whole process and materials for making one are shown in this excellent video:
Also, I recommend getting 2 deadlift wedges. They make loading and unloading the bar much easier and also prevent back strains and unnecessary exhaustion from this annoying between-sets activity.
Home gyms are a dream come true for many lifters, myself included. If you have the opportunity to lift weights and do cardio at home I congratulate you. Don’t let the noise stop you from building epic muscle, strength and getting shredded.
If you implement the advice from this article, you can reduce the noise to an extent, or completely prevent it from escaping the walls of your home gym. It just depends how much money and effort you’re willing to invest in soundproofing your home gym.
I always recommend pin pointing the noisiest areas or pieces of equipment and dealing with the rest later. It’s the old 80:20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle. In other words, roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. Solve those major 20% noise sources and you’ll eliminate 80% of the noise.
Hope this helps!