Civil servant Shahibul Kahfi’s morning routine isn’t anything too out of the ordinary: he wakes up early and goes to the gym to work out.
Except the gym he frequents is within his five-room Build-To-Order (BTO) Housing Board flat in Bukit Batok.
A squat rack, a dumbbell rack, a flat bench, an adjustable bench, rubberised weight plates and commercial-grade gym mats occupy the space behind his sofa and TV in the living room.
The 31-year-old, who is currently studying full-time in Nanyang Polytechnic, set up his home gym in March this year when he and his wife Nuraishah Ibrahim, 30, moved into their new flat.
He says the gym equipment he has at home is enough for him to do all his main exercises such as squats and bench presses and works out at home three to four times a week. He occasionally supplements his home workouts by going to the school gym for accessory exercises which are smaller muscle-specific exercises.
“Our initial plan was to leave the space as a play area for our future kids. But we have two other spare empty bedrooms so I decided to turn it into an adult play area,” says Mr Shahibul, who set it up with the help of home gym contractor DirectHomeGym.
While having a gym set up in an HDB flat might not be the norm, Mr Shahibul is far from being the only one.
Founder of DirectHomeGym, Wayne Poh, 33, estimates he sets up an average of 30 home gyms each month and with almost half of them installed in new BTO flats. His biggest customer group are clients aged between 25 and 35.
He adds that young couples who are into the fitness lifestyle are more likely to invest in a gym set up in their first home after moving out of their parents’ home.
“The sporting and fitness culture is quite big these days and young people want to look good. It make sense to build a gym at home, even if it’s in your bedroom, so you can work out anytime,” says Mr Poh.
For many home gym owners, the convenience of having exercise equipment within their living space is the biggest draw.
Freelance personal trainer Nikolas Lim, 25, and educator Jacqueline Ten, 28, work out almost daily in their home gym since they set it up two months ago.
The newlywed couple, who met in a commercial gym two years ago, decided that they wanted a dedicated gym room from the get-go. They worked with their interior design to hack down two walls in their five-room resale flat in Sengkang to convert a room into a glass-panelled gym.
“It’s so convenient to gym at home. We don’t have to waste time travelling to other gyms outside or wait for your turn to use the equipment,” says Mr Lim, who has since cancelled his gym membership.
Besides convenience, easy accessibility and home gym equipment costs going down are the other reasons why home gyms are becoming a more popular feature in homes.
Besides DirectHomeGym, there are at least three other e-commerce businesses that specialise in setting up home gyms.
Mr Chen You Soon, 29, founder of home gym contractor Gymsportz, says a basic set-up with dumbbells and an exercise mat will cost around $100.
For something more complex with a squat rack and weight bench, it can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 or more, depending on the quality and brand of equipment.
“In the past, people have this misconception that you have to be rich or have a big house with lots of space to own a home gym but that thinking have changed. You can make space for it in your flat and there is equipment to fit your budget,” he says.
In April this year, IT consultant Max Wang, 28, and his wife Natalie Tiong, 27, turned a spare bedroom in their five-room BTO flat in Punggol into a gym to train for powerlifting competitions.
“I did the calculations and decided that it was a worthy investment as we both train majority of the time at home now. We’ll break even, so to speak, in about three years’ time,” says Mr Wang, whose home gym costs $10,000 to set up. The couple’s biggest consideration was less of what equipment to buy, but how not to disturb their neighbours.
Thick shock- and sound-absorbing gym mats, along with safety features such as canvas straps in place of metal safety bars in their power rack, ensure that there is no noise from the machines when they work out.
“If you’re gymming in your own house, you won’t slam the weights because you also don’t want to destroy your own flooring,” adds Mr Wang.
But working out at home alone can be lonely too.
To counter that, Mr Wang, who coaches powerlifting part-time under his own label Ascend Fitness, says he has tried out live-streaming his workouts on Instagram a few times. It mimics the community camaraderie in commercial gyms.
“My friends and followers leave comments to say ‘hi’ and ask questions when I do a live stream, so there’s some sort of interaction and makes the workout more interesting,” he says.
By Michelle Ng