This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my affiliate disclaimer for more information.
After literally YEARS of using a broken watch face I finally bought a dedicated garage gym timer! Enough was enough, and I needed to stop being a cheapskate.
It always puzzled me why gym timers were SO expensive, but with the latest magnetic timers now available coming in MUCH cheaper I finally bit the bullet.
Here’s what you need to know when considering a gym clock!
At a glance…
- The BEST garage gym timer in the UK is the Bulldog Gear magnetic gym timer
- When buying, consider:
- Price – look for best VALUE, not the CHEAPEST
- Battery power – MUCH nicer than trailing wires!
- Programs and modes – make sure they work for YOU and YOUR training
The best garage gym timer in the UK?
PERSONALLY I bought the Bulldog Gear Magnetic Gym Timer and I think it’s ONE OF the best gym timers out there for MOST people with a garage or home gym.
I say that because:
- Price – traditional wall timers are quite expensive, often running in to the hundreds. A magnetic timer can be had for around a quarter of that.
- Battery powered – virtually all large wall mounted timers are mains powered and therefore have trailing wires and need a socket. Not this one. With a built in USB-C rechargeable battery I can use it in the garage and charge easily. This saves me needing to keep and dispose of single use batteries and suits most garages where there are few power outlets.
- Size – coming in around 16cm x 5.5cm tall the screen is smaller than some of the large commercial spec units. Thanks to the high contrast display it’s easily visible from across a garage gym (and beyond!) At 3cm deep the profile of the whole timer is very slim and can be tucked away when not in use.
- Portable – owing to the batteries and small size I can move the timer around the garage as I’m working out. I’m regularly moving it from power rack upright to the weight tree, then maybe to the air bike. I even take it outside when I’m doing a session in the garden! It is easier to leave your clock stationary in a larger gym space.
- Magnetic – while a free standing timer would work having the magnets is really handy in a tight garage. It means I can slap the timer on to surfaces that aren’t flat, on uprights or high up and not worry about toppling over, tilting the wrong way or falling and breaking.
- Screen – despite the small size the screen takes up virtually ALL the front of the device and is therefore very clear from across the gym.
- Programming – with hardware buttons and a phone app the timer can be used in a number of default modes OR set up with a completely customised program! Larger commercial timers often have a dedicated remote control (like a TV remote) but this feels overkill for a regular garage or shed set up
There are a whole bunch of positives with this timer and, to be honest, not too much to complain about. I’d prefer a bespoke phone app with a more intuitive interface but this is a small gripe (and I use the hardware buttons 90% of the time anyway).
If you’re after a garage gym timer then the Bulldog Gear Magnetic Gym Timer is well worth checking out!
Is a magnetic gym timer worth it?
At a few hundred quid the old school wall mounted gym clocks were simply poor value for me. BUT at sub-£100 these smaller, magnetic gym clocks are a MUCH better proposition!
Does it offer anything that the old watch face or a mobile phone with an app can’t do? Not really. Indeed I survived without one for years.
BUT… I like to use my phone for phone things, so it’s nice to have a dedicated, always-on clock in my eye line all the time. This is where the gym clock is amazing.
Here are a few positives I’ve found since buying a magnetic garage gym timer:
- Accountability for rest intervals – something about the red timer slowly counting up keeps me more honest with my rest intervals. It was too easy to ignore my phone clock or avoid looking at my battered watch face, there is no getting away from the red digits of doom though!
- Battery powered – all the large commercial wall timers I looked at were mains powered. I do not want another mains powered device in my garage at the moment and I definitely don’t want a cable hanging down from the wall. A battery powered unit solves both of these issues.
- Manoeuvrable – being able to cart the timer around in my pocket is a game changer. I had no idea how much I would love this. As it’s so small and light I can chuck it on my air bike, move it from my rack to my plate tree when I’m benching, chuck it on a window ledge when in the garden gym, you name it. You can’t do this with a wall mounted timer!
- Magnetic – Following on from above the magnet opens up a lot of options for keeping the clock in view – on a plate tree, on your air bike, on a power rack upright – you name it!
- Bright display – the current wave of magnetic timers offer full size digits on their displays compared with the older wall-mounted style which typically had quite thick borders. This means while they are pretty compact the numbers are still a decent size and the bold red and blue colours pop from the black screen. The read out is EASILY visible from across a garage gym.
- EMOM workouts are far better – audible beep and bright, always on display beats a mobile phone with the screen regularly turning off
- Droppable – at <£100 I am less precious about moving around the gym with the timer and propping it up on things than I am with a comparatively expensive smart phone
- Dedicated device – having a dedicated clock keeps my phone free for ‘phone’ things. When doing longer workouts like LISS on an air bike or strength training I prefer to have my phone available to check my program or change music around
- Rechargeable – the Bulldog magnetic timer I am reviewing here is recharged with a USB-C cable. This is super-convenient for me as I have a few USB-C devices already so can simply add it in to my charging routine
The main negative is the price. While undercutting the wall mounted options out there it is still a LITTLE pricey – enough to make most of us stop and think before we order.
I will emphasise that they are HUGELY cheaper than the commercial wall mounted units which regularly run in to the hundreds (which was sufficiently high I just didn’t think it was worth it for me personally and exactly why I haven’t had one for years)!
I wouldn’t blame someone for passing it up – a gym clock is NOT an essential. BUT I have found it to be an excellent ‘nice to have’. If you have the basics covered (bench, barbell, rack, etc) and you have the money to spare a clock is a fantastic addition.
Particularly if – like me – you need a bit of a nudge to stick to your rest times to build your work capacity!
Plus it’s a new gym gadget – what’s not to like?!
How do I use my timer in the gym?
I use the timer every day in one mode or another. In general when strength training I use the count ‘up’ function (I try and keep my training to around an hour).
When doing LISS cardio I will do a count ‘down’ from my target duration. At the moment I am regularly doing 40 minute LISS sessions on the air bike keeping my heart rate around 75% – I keep my phone on the Wahoo app tracking my heart rate zones and use the magnetic timer to count down the 40 minutes. Finally – perfect.
For CrossFit or WOD style training I delve in to the other modes – but the above are my most commonly used options that suit my current training style.
What to look for when buying a garage gym timer
Modes and customisation
It’s a gadget and I want it to do gadget-y things, like have lots of modes and be customisable!
Most of the slimmed down magnetic timers have the same range of modes built in usually including some or all of these:
- Clock – a simple digital clock. I’m quite fond of this one!
- Stopwatch – counting upwards can be handy for timed rounds. Accuracy of the timer may be important to you, for example my Bulldog timer does this to the nearest hundredth of a second
- Count up – very similar to the stop watch this counts up from nil. It’s to the nearest second and therefore is a little less manic for longer sessions such as weight training. Again this is a regular mode for me.
- Count down – the opposite of count up, this is super handy for LISS training or doing time limited density blocks.
- Tabata – do you want to finish your workout in 4 minutes? Then Tabata might be for you! It’s a predicated interval format of 20s on / 10s off, repeated 8 times. This is not a training format I utilise but some people love it!
- Fight Gone Bad – For this pick 5 exercises and then the timer will give you a minute performing each followed by a minute of rest. Repeat this 3 times. And why the name? Well after the 18 minutes are up you will feel like you’ve just lost a fight… Badly! This is a great mode for GPP days.
- Custom intervals – pretty much any garage gym clock worth its salt should let us code our own intervals. For example I quite like 20s on / 1:40 off so I want to be able to program this easily
- EMOM – really good for getting the volume in, and a favourite of none other than Mat Fraser of CrossFit fame, doing a set each minute is awesome. Having a gym timer mode set up for this is excellent as instead of checking your phone and rushing around you can just program the timer and then stay in position listening for the audible beeps to tell you when it’s time for the next set!
Having a few pre-set modes is handy for quick workouts but I also like the granularity to edit everything myself so that is something I look for.
Don’t expect surround sound, but a timer that beeps is a must at the prices they are charging us. A simple, loud beep will suffice!
Equally important is the ability to turn this OFF – I workout in a garage gym in a regular suburb so I like the option to not add further disturbance for my family and neighbours if I’m doing an evening session by adding mega loud beeps in to the street!
The Bulldog Gear timer is really clear and easy to hear. I had some concerns after reading reviews of another magnetic gym timer made by TimeBirds that said it was too quiet to hear in a garage gym – I can confirm the Bulldog magnetic timer is DEFINITELY audible!
I went as far as testing the volume – it beeped at 81db which is in line with an alarm clock.
Connectivity and control
While some of the large commercial timers come with remotes and various options the more recent range of magnetic timers are done with either the buttons on the device itself or via a phone app utilising Bluetooth.
This is pretty much perfect for me as I always have my phone nearby anyway and I would lose a remote, or have to find somewhere to keep it at the very least.
All of that said I still think it is a MUST to have decent controls on the device. If not setting up custom intervals I find just flicking the clock on and toggling manually through the basic timer modes is far more natural than connecting via Bluetooth, getting the app open etc.
Aesthetics and design
While many advocate function > form, I do like a nicely designed piece of gym equipment. Particularly if they are premium priced I think they owe it to us to have a sharp aesthetic.
PERSONALLY I find the large wall mounted gym clocks have quite a dated appearance due to their size, large borders and usually a trailing wire to mains power!
The ‘new’ style of smaller magnetic gym timer has a much sleeker aesthetic which I like – the front fascia has little to no border and the rubbery buttons look chunky enough to suit the style. The curved edges really pull it all together and make it easy to handle.
Display wise, as the read-out is simple digits the small timers are still mega clear and easy to read and they usually have different colours for time and intervals which makes it easier to interpret the data. Some older style clocks have everything in red which can be a pain to read at a glance.
Overall the small magnetic gym timers look better to me with the downside being the size. If you have a large commercial gym space you might find the larger timer easier to see from further away.
At risk of stating the obvious – the traditional large gym clocks were almost always meant to be wall mounted. The smaller magnetic timers are not.
I am happy to wall mount equipment if needed but I am fortunate in that the walls in my garage gym are very sturdy and I’m comfortable doing it myself. Others may not be able to do so.
This could rule out the larger style clocks for some people.
By contrast the portable gym timers are magnetic so you can wall mount them if you like (simply screw a metal mount to your wall) OR just slap them on to anything metal you have in your space already.
Honestly the versatility of the magnetic mount is excellent, I’ve stuck it on to loads of things:
- Weight tree
- Ironmaster dumbbell stand
- Power rack
- Weight bench
- Air bike
It’s fantastic being able to move it around and keep it in eyeshot regardless of which work station I’m using. I was really surprised at just how much I benefitted from this.
Having tracked several LISS workouts (30 – 40 minutes) running my Bulldog Gear Magnetic Gym Timer alongside a timer on my phone I can confirm has excellent calibration.
Why am I saying this?
Well the Bulldog Gear Magnetic Timer I’ve got looks similar to a product sold by TimeBirds in America and there have been a ton of complaints that their version loses around half a second per MINUTE!
So in my LISS session I COULD have seen a pretty significant 20 second difference. I saw NO difference.
Needless to say I’m glad the Bulldog timer functions as it should, so it is something for you to wary of when shopping for your own timer.
I see three ways to power a timer:
- Mains power (boo!)
- Battery power (acceptable)
- Rechargeable (ideal)
Mains power – for me – is a firm no. Having an atypical garage gym set up I don’t have many power sockets available therefore the logistics simply don’t work for me. You may be able to do this however and if you can it opens up the options.
Battery vs rechargeable is much closer. Rechargeable gets the top spot as it’s convenient to cycle in with other devices (particularly if you use the connection type already – my one uses a USB-C charger which I have at my desk for other devices already).
AA batteries or similar would also work well but would obviously need changed periodically and disposed of.
Overall I would be happy with either a battery or rechargeable timer.
Being mounted on a wall is pretty good for longevity – the clock sits there out of the way. The magnetic type – not so much! It is far more likely to get dropped.
Design can help here with rounded edges and decent construction materials helping mitigate any impacts.
Some have nice rubber cases (sold for a hefty premium) which may help with grip and drops. TimeBirds for example sell these with their clocks for an extra $20.
There are reports online that those with timers in rubber cases have issues with the strength of the magnet weakening. I can believe this so it is definitely something to consider if you’re going to drop the money on a case if it renders the magnet unusable.
My Bulldog gym timer does NOT have a rubber case BUT they are considering releasing one in the future. If they do, we will get one in and test it!
I went for the Bulldog Gear Magnetic Gym Timer as it was the cheapest pocket-sized magnetic timer available at the time I was purchasing.
As noted above I had some reservations following unfavourable reviews of the TimeBirds equivalent so I stuck with what I knew. You may like to try the TimeBirds version however which is available in the UK for around £90 with a case.
BUT the MAIN alternative is to just use your phone!
PERSONALLY I did this for YEARS and it was perfectly adequate. HOWEVER I do like to use my phone for phone things such as changing music, looking things up and updating my workout templates as I go. Possibly just my rubbish apps, but I also found myself getting annoyed at my screen constantly dimming or turning off when I was timing sets on an iPhone.
Having a stand alone timer works well for me because of this.
If you don’t want to do any of those things when you’re in the zone then an app may be a great solution!
Possible improvements or features
So, a lot of words about gym timers here – who knew there was so much to an LED clock?!
Overall I am really pleased with my timer, but if I was asked where it could be improved a few ideas jump out:
- More intuitive apps and interfaces – it takes a few attempts to remember the controls for customising intervals
- Option to buy a rubber case (coming soon!)
- Ability to replace in-built functions such as Tabata and Fight Gone Bad with my own customised interval set up
- Outline or guide where the magnet fittings are – this would make it easier to stick on to power racks as you get an appreciably stronger connection if the magnets are NOT over the holes
It is fair to say this is quite a short list – I will add anything else that I think of as I keep using the timer.
When looking for a home gym timer – particularly in the UK – I though the market was… well… pretty boring. A lot of the larger wall mounted clocks are huge and the design is a little out of date. I FINALLY bought one when we started to get the modern magnetic timers.
The size, magnetic rear, nice aesthetic and rechargeable battery make them PERFECT as a garage gym timer.
For a number of reasons I went with the Bulldog Gear magnetic gym timer and I don’t regret it at all. Surely that is the ultimate test?