Exercise is noisy.
Whether you're using a running machine, lifting weights, rowing or doing burpees all of these movements create a significant amount of impact sound.
If you are setting up a home gym or you run a gym that is (in)conveniently located in the same building as residential homes then it is important to ensure that excessive noise doesn't create problems with your neighbours or family...especially if you're the kind of person who likes to exercise at 5am!
Dropped weights are one of the biggest creators of noise in a gym.
Dropping even a relatively small weight, such as a 22lb or 10kg dumbbell, from a height as low as a couple of feet will create huge vibrations which can easily be heard in adjacent rooms.
This happens because when a weight hits the floor its fall speed immediately drops to nothing.
The energy from the falling movement is then transferred into the flooring.
If you have a solid concrete floor none of that energy is absorbed so a huge impact is created over a short duration which creates a very big noise.
Machines such as running machines can also create a lot of noise due to the impact of feet repeatedly hitting it, while it would be nice to be able to teach everyone who enters your gym how to run quietly, this is not a possibility, thankfully other techniques are available.
Dropped weights and noisy machines can combine to create a very noisy atmosphere unless gym soundproofing measures are put in place.
Reducing the noise levels in your gym is always going to be beneficial, it makes the gym more comfortable for members to work out in, it prevents neighbours from being disturbed and it can also help your equipment last longer.
Here are our top tips to make it happen:
Using soundproof gym flooring is the number one step you should take to minimize gym noise. Flooring does incredible things for gym sound reduction.
Rubber flooring means that when a weight is dropped it doesn't immediately stop, instead the flooring gives, this means that the falling speed of the weight doesn't immediately fall to zero, instead it stops more gradually.
This means that the noise generated is greatly reduced, instead of creating a high impact sound over a short duration rubber flooring increases the duration of the sound meaning that noises will be lower frequency.
This significantly reduces the volume as the energy is dispersed over a longer time frame into the flooring.
Decoupling noisy equipment from the floor will help absorb impact vibrations and stop them traveling through your floor.
An effective way of decoupling is to fit shock-absorbing pads to the feet of all of your exercise machines.
Fitting these to treadmills will help further cushion the impact and reduce the amount of sound generated when someone is running on it.
Machines such as stationary bikes and rowing machines usually make much less noise than a treadmill however if you do feel the need to dampen their vibrations then you put them on top of an anti-vibration treadmill mat (the kind which is typically used under washing machines).
Bumper plates are weights that are designed to be dropped.
They are typically used for Olympic weightlifting or exercise programs such as Crossfit.
Bumper plates are much thicker than cast iron plates, this is because they are made from solid rubber that surrounds a steel or brass hub (as seen in the photo above).
Being made of rubber means they can be dropped from overhead and will bounce, causing no damage to the floor and significantly reducing the volume of impact sound.
Equipping your gym with bumper plates will help reduce the impact of sound vibrations caused by dropped weights.
You should make bumper plates available in any part of the gym where people perform exercises where the barbell is likely to be dropped, for example:
Weightlifting platforms encourage gym users to lift heavy weights in areas that are designed specifically to reduce the impact of big weights being dropped.
A weightlifting platform consists of a central wooden platform where the lifter stands while making their lift. Either side of this are thick rubber mats, usually at least a couple of inches thick (considerably thicker than most gym flooring).
When a heavy barbell is dropped onto the rubber mats they absorb a lot more of the impact than a standard rubber floor would because they are so much thicker.
A professionally built lifting platform can be very expensive, if you can't afford the expense it is not too difficult (or expensive) to build one yourself.
Check out this article on how to build a weightlifting platform for less than $150.
Big gym halls can often feel very echoey, this has the undesirable effect of seemingly amplifying all sounds within the gym.
Instead of hearing one loud bang as someone drops their weights you hear it echoed back two or three times.
Reducing echo in your gym will help make it quieter.
Echo is common in gyms because there are usually a lot of hard surfaces that air-borne sound bounces off.
If you have covered your floor in rubber matting you have already taken one significant step to reduce echo, however walls are usually the biggest echo causing culprits.
To minimize echo coming from your walls take these steps:
The reason this works is that acoustic sound panels or acoustic foam are both very soft, this means sound doesn't immediately bounce straight back off it.
Instead sound waves are absorbed into the foam and bounce around inside it, they then hit the wall on the other side and bounce back again through the foam, however in doing so much of their sound energy is dispersed and lost by the time it gets back through the acoustic panel.
Some gym machines are not designed with noise reduction in mind.
You can put all the decoupling equipment in the world on some treadmills but if they are poorly designed then they will still sound like an elephant is running through the gym when someone uses them.
Sometimes you have to face facts, if you want your gym to be significantly quieter there isn't always a cheap shortcut.
If you have machines which are notoriously loud then consider switching them for machines such as quiet treadmills, quiet rowing machines, quiet exercise bikes or turbo trainers and ellipticals which are designed with noise reduction in mind.
If you have punching bags setup in your gym make sure you put them towards the back of the gym so that gym life isn't punctuated by the noise of someone hitting it. You could also invest in quiet punching bags or simply ensure that people wear thicker gloves when hitting the bags in your gym.
If your gym is the type of gym where people are doing olympic lifts and are frequently dropping heavy weights onto the floor from overheard then this will create some serious noise!
The best way of muting this without putting a blanket ban on dropping weights is to use weightlifting drop pads.
These are effectively giant cushions will significantly soften the fall of weights, getting your members to use these will make a huge difference!