- 1 Benefits of home gyms
- 2 Best home gyms by price
- 3 Top 10 home gyms for full body workouts
- 4 What’s the best home gym for your budget?
- 5 Best home gym under $200 – Weider Ultimate Body Works
- 6 Best home gym under $500 – Bowflex PR1000
- 7 Best home gym under $1000 – Marcy MD-9010G
- 8 Best home gym under $2000 – Body-Solid SBL460P4
- 9 Best home gym under $3000 – Body-Solid EXM3000LPS
- 10 Types of home gym
- 11 Protective flooring and shipping options
- 12 Brands reviewed by USA Home Gym
- 13 Top 10 checks before you buy
- 14 Best compact home gym
With new home gym equipment coming to the market every year, it’s easy to lose track of the latest developments and key features to look for.
How do you know which resistance system to choose, and whether the resistance is still going to be high enough after a few years of strength gains?
These are the types of questions we answer with our home gym buying guide, which offers a balanced analysis of the highest quality models. This means in-depth reviews of the individual machines and an unbiased approach to the pros and cons.
We also review and rate the best home gyms based on how they perform for different fitness levels, overall product quality, warranty coverage, user feedback, and even customer service where possible.
When you add this to the feature comparisons for models in a similar price range, we believe this is the most comprehensive home gym guide available.
In this first section we’ll be covering the benefits of home gyms, the different types of resistance system, and protective flooring options.
UPDATE: If you want to jump straight ahead to our shortlist of the top 10 home gyms for 2016, you can do so here.
Benefits of home gyms
Don’t get us wrong, commercial gyms and fitness centers will always have their place. But in many cases it’s simply more cost effective, time efficient, and honestly more productive to have a multi gym setup at home.
We’ve highlighted a handful of these benefits in the list below:
As we continue to lead busier lives, finding the time to get to the gym on a regular basis can be difficult.
It also doesn’t help that there are now more distractions than ever to occupy our time. So how can you help ensure you’ll stick to a new fitness plan long enough to see a noticeable difference in your strength, definition, and muscle tone?
For many the answer is a home gym. Creating an environment that’s conducive to their training and which they can control, where you don’t have to worry about finding the energy to travel to the gym after a long day at work or on busy weekends.
Having a home gym system in your basement, spare room, garage, or even folded away under your bed means you can make the most of any workout time.
- Cost Efficient
Commercial gyms can be a great place to socialize and have access to a wide range of high-end fitness equipment and health facilities.
But have you ever considered how much use you actually get out of a gym membership?
Even if you do manage to get there 4 or 5 times each week, you’re paying for facilities that you may never even use.
The chances are you have a couple of favourite cardio machines, and a variety of strength training equipment that you use in your workouts each week. But if your gym also has a pool, sauna, tennis court, etc., is it really that cost efficient?
The quality of home gym equipment is now equalling, and in some cases surpassing that of commercial gyms
The quality of home fitness equipment is improving all the time, as is the affordability.
If you were to calculate how much money you spend on the gym membership over the course of a few years, in many cases you could fit out your home gym with top-of-the-line cardio and strength equipment for the same price. Equipment from leading fitness companies will also include a lifetime warranty and retain its value well into the future.
- Total Body Workout
If you’re looking to develop a well balanced physique, you need to be training upper and lower body muscle groups as part of a total body workout plan.
This means being able to move against resistance through the three planes of motion;
Sagittal Plane – Up and down movements. This includes flexion exercises (bicep curls, hamstring curls, etc.) and extension exercises (tricep extensions, leg extensions, etc.).
Frontal Plane – Sideways movements. Any exercise that moves a body part away from or towards an imaginary center line will move through the frontal plane.
This usually includes abduction (away from center) and adduction (towards the center) exercises, such as hip adductions, and side lateral raises.
Transverse Plane – Rotational movements
Having access to a single piece of equipment that offers in excess of 30 exercises means you can take advantage of all three planes of motion, creating a more well-rounded and better balanced physique. This includes exercises for your arms, chest, shoulders, back, and legs.
Effective routines can be put together with wide variety and involve lower body exercises with low pulleys or leg press / curl / extension stations.
- Privacy and freedom
Unless you’re fortunate enough to live close to a 24 hour gym, your workout times are going to be restricted by the gym’s opening times.
Commercial gyms can also be restricted by health insurance and a long list of rules, including the maximum dumbbell weight they can carry. None of this applies when you workout at home.
The gym can also make some people self conscious, and may put them off setting fitness goals altogether.
Having a workout plan that you can complete at home means you can listen to your favourite music, catch up on news, and wear whatever workout clothes you like.
You’re also not having to time your workouts around peak times so that you have access to the equipment you need, as is the case with some of the more popular locations.
- Time Efficient
Not everyone trains the same. Some people will see great results from hip rep volume training, while others will see better results from low-rep strength routines.
There’s also no set-in-stone ‘perfect duration’ for your workouts.
If you’re short on time you might only have 30 minutes, which might not be enough to get to a commercial gym and get the most from a workout.
Having a home gym system, even if it’s a Glideboard model that requires some assembly from folded, means you can make the most of opportunities like these.
When you add up all the extra training sessions over the course of a year, you’re going to see greater strength gains, better definition, and all-round faster results when combined with a balanced nutrition program.
- Multiple machines in one
Most commercial gyms will have weights machines that rely on a single stack of weight plates and a pin that you move to select the weight.
Each machine tends to offer only one exercise, such as the leg extension, preacher bench, shoulder press, or hack squat.
Although you can certainly find equipment like this for home gyms, companies like Body Solid, Inspire, and PowerTec have also created multi-station ‘universal’ home gym equipment.
In some cases this allows you to perform a much wider selection of exercises with just a single weight stack, but in all cases this means a more efficient use of space.
Having multiple workout stations is ideal if you have a training partner, as they allow for 2 or even 3 people to use the equipment at the same time.
You can even find multi-station home gyms with removable FID (Flat, Incline, Decline) benches for the ultimate in workout versatility.
When you combine something like this with a set of high quality adjustable dumbbells like the Ironmasters, you have everything you need for a lifetime of fitness gains.
- Combine resistance training with cardio
On the opposite end of the scale to the multi-station ‘universal’ home gyms from PowerTec we have machines that combine resistance training with an element of cardio.
These are usually bodyweight controlled machines that allow an element of rowing, but we would be hesitant about recommending them as an alternative to true cardio equipment.
Elliptical trainers, upright bikes, treadmills, and rowing machines are all designed to optimize your movement through one basic type of motion. This isn’t something a combination trainer can do easily.
You’re also not going to have any console to monitor workout feedback as a way of determining your progress and any increase in fitness level.
Best home gyms by price
PRICE RANGE: $50-$200:
PRICE RANGE: $200-$500
- Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym – 650+ Reviews
PRICE RANGE: $500-$1000
PRICE RANGE: $1000-$1500
PRICE RANGE: $1500+
- Bowflex Revolution Home Gym – 35+ Reviews
- Body Solid SBL460P4 Freeweight Leverage Commercial Gym – 15+ Reviews
- Body Solid EXM3000LPS Double Stack Home Gym – 30+ Reviews
Top 10 home gyms for full body workouts
|Name||Features||Rating (1 to 5)||Read Review|
|Body Solid SBL460P4 Freeweight Leverage Gym||4.5|
|Inspire Fitness M4 Home Gym||5|
|Bowflex Xtreme 2SE Home Gym||4.5|
|Body Solid G10B-LP Bi-Angular Gym||4.5|
|Bowflex Blaze Home Gym||4.5|
|Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym||4.5|
|Bowflex Revolution Home Gym||4|
|Weider Ultimate Body Works||4.5|
|Body Solid EXM1500S Home Gym||4.5|
|Powertec Fitness Workbench Multi System||4.5|
What’s the best home gym for your budget?
We featured cost as one of the most important aspects of choosing a new home gym, as well as the importance of having a budget in mind to ensure the choice you make is affordable.
But with hundreds of different models available, where do you start with searching for the best home gym for each price category?
Listed below you’ll find our top choice for each price range, based on our own in-depth reviews into the warranty, features, build quality, dimensions, exercise options, and resistance type.
Best home gym under $200 – Weider Ultimate Body Works
As you might expect from an entry-level price range, there isn’t a huge amount of choice for under $200.
That’s not to take anything away from the Ultimate Body Works, but you’re not going to face competition from lever systems or multi-station home gyms at this price point.
You might find a few used single-stack selectorized models, and basic squat racks, but to have any real selection to choose from you’ll need a budget of at least $500.
That being said, the Ultimate Body Works is an affordable, adjustable incline bench that uses a combination of bodyweight and resistance bands to vary the intensity of your workout.
Featured as one of our top 3 compact home gyms later in this guide, it’s ideal for total body workouts and available at a fraction of the cost of a Total Gym.
Unfortunately you can’t load any weight plates to the side the same as you can for a VigorFit, but this is to be expected from such a low price range.Read the full reviewBuy now
Best home gym under $500 – Bowflex PR1000
This is a considerably more competitive price range than the one above, as we start to see some of the bestselling PR home gyms from Bowflex, and selectorized weight stack designs from well known brands like Marcy and Gold’s Gym.
Between $200 and $500 is the main price range for glideboard trainers, and includes the older generation of Weider Body Works, the Total Trainer 4000-XL from bayou Fitness, Total Gym 1400, and of course, the VigorFit.
But our top choice for this price category is the Bowflex PR1000, with its 300 lb weight capacity and patented Power Rod resistance system.
The 210 lbs of resistance that can be generated using these Power Rods is lower than the 440 lb claimed by VigorFit for their model, but they do make it much easier to adjust.
Unfortunately you don’t have the option to upgrade the resistance to 310 lbs or 410 lbs until the PR3000 model.
By not relying on a weight stack th PR1000 is significantly lighter and more affordable than higher priced commercial level machines.
Power Rods carry a 5 year warranty, but the 1 year on frame and 60 days on parts is far from the best in the industry. Away from the glideboard trainers this is fairly typical of home gyms, and not something you’ll see improve much until you get closer to the $1000 range.Read the full reviewBuy now
Best home gym under $1000 – Marcy MD-9010G
We’ll start off by saying that the MD-9010G isn’t your traditional home gym focussed around one or two forms of resistance.
But because it includes high and low cable pulleys with a selectorized weight stack, smith machine, FID (Flat, Incline, Decline) weights bench, and support for free weight barbell exercises, we couldn’t imagine another piece of equipment offering more for your money.
Although the list price is closer to $1900, you can often find it at a near 50% discount on Amazon for under $1000, bringing it into our target price range.
The weights bench is fitted with both a leg developer and preacher curl pad, while the front of the frame supports high cable pulleys for crossovers and pushdowns.
Towards the back of the frame you have a plate loaded low cable pulley system, pec fly, and ample storage for an Olympic barbell and weight plates.Read the full reviewBuy now
If you’re looking for more of a compact home gym and don’t have the space for the full frame of the Marcy system, we would recommend the Bowflex Blaze.
Usually retailing for closer to $700, we’re well within our $1000 budget. You could even buy both of the Power Rod resistance upgrades (310 lbs and 410 lbs) and still pay less than $950 at the right time of year.
As with their PR collection, the Blaze uses resistance rod technology with a 5 year warranty on the rods and 60+ exercise options to ensure you have plenty of workout variety.
The leg extension and leg curl attachment provide additional exercises for your lower body to support total body workouts, and there’s even an in-depth exercise guide included.
There are multiple cable pulley points around the machine, ranging from the lat pulldown to the leg extension, allowing you to target a wide range of muscle groups from a variety of angles.Read the full reviewBuy now
Best home gym under $2000 – Body-Solid SBL460P4
As we move into the premium price ranges, we start to see the multi-station lever and selectorized weight stack designs that haven’t been available in the lower price categories.
This includes designs from Yukon, Body Solid, BodyCraft, Powertec, and Powerline.
But at the same time we have some of the top-end single station designs from same companies, as well as the Bowflex Revolution and Xtreme 2SE models.
This made it incredibly difficult to choose a single home gym that stands out from the others as the best option between $1000 and $2000.
The term ‘best’ could mean different things to different people. For some, the ‘best’ home gym at this price range would be one where they can train with heavy weights, while for others the range of exercises would be more important.
That’s why we narrowed our selection down to two designs; the Body-Solid SBL460P4, and the Bowflex Xtreme 2SE.
Although the SBL60P4 is very similar to the Powertec Fitness Workbench in the number of exercise stations and overall design, we did discover a few key differences.
Firstly, Body-Solid offer a lifetime warranty on everything, including parts, wear items, and grips. Powertec only offer lifetime coverage on the structural frame, with two years on components and one year on the pads and grips.
Also, the bench on the Powertec isn’t completely freestanding, which means you can’t roll it away from the main frame and use it with a smith machine, squat rack, or dumbbells the way you can with the SBL460P4.
Both systems are priced around the $1500 mark, and support similar weights on the lever arms (500 lb on the press and squat, 400 lbs on the lat).Read the full reviewBuy now
Bowflex Xtreme 2SE
Building on the success of their PR range of home gyms, the Bowflex Xtreme 2SE features a number of upgrades to the cable pulley system, seat cushioning, and overall ergonomics.
As with the PR3000 and PR4000 models, the Power Rod resistance starts at 210 lbs, but can be upgraded to 310 lbs or 410 lbs depending on your strength level.
For the first time on a Bowflex you’re actually able to adjust the horizontal position of the cable pulleys used in the presses and flys. You also have a whole new set of pulleys at the top of the back support for performing weighted crunches to develop core strength.
Even with over 70 exercise options, a preacher curl attachment is available to extend the number of arm exercises if required.
The Xtreme 2SE also has lifetime warranty coverage on the Power Rods (breakage), and 7 year warranty on the machine.Read the full reviewBuy now
Best home gym under $3000 – Body-Solid EXM3000LPS
Between $2000 and $3000 is a price category that Body-Solid seem to have dominated for the past few years, with a number of high quality smith machines, functional training centers, and home gyms.
But they still face tough competition from the earlier generations of functional trainers from Inspire Fitness, as well as from Bowflex (revolution), and Bodycraft.
Unfortunately the closest match we could find to the EXM3000LPS in the Bodycraft collection – the GXP Strength Training System – was priced outside of this range.
The standard unit retails for just over $3000, and by the time you add the optional leg press you’re looking at closer to $3700. The weight stack also measures up 10 lbs lighter than the Body Solid, although both offer a full lifetime warranty.
Featuring 7 workout stations that focus around 2 weight stacks, the Body-Solid EXM3000LPS includes all the attachments you need for a total body workout.
You can even extend the standard design by fitting their VKR30 vertical knee raise attachment for dips and abdominal exercises.
If you have plenty of upper body exercises and are looking for more for the lower body, you could attach their FUSION Multi-Hip station in place of the knee raise attachment for focussing on the thighs, hip flexors, and glutes.Read the full reviewBuy now
Types of home gym
Generally speaking there are four main types of resistance system:
- 1. Weight stack
- 2. Weight plate
- 3. Resistance rods
- 4. Bodyweight (Glideboard)
Each has their advantages and disadvantages, and knowing which one is right for your own workouts is the first step to finding your ideal home gym system.
- Selectorized weight stack
Made famous by companies such as Body Solid and Best Fitness, these are the home gyms that rely on one or two stacks of weight plates.
These weight plates are then pulled vertically via a cable and pulley system, with the resistance being adjusted using a sliding pin.
Compact and safe to use, they can often be found can be found with high and low cable pulleys, and support a wide range of attachment options for a greater variety of exercises.
Unfortunately they don’t tend to support the same amount of weight as lever systems, and even with upgrades available for certain models you’re not looking at more than 300 lbs per stack.
There’s also no way to remove the weight plates without taking the machine apart, which makes any movement of the machine once it’s setup nearly impossible.
But provided you assemble the unit on top of any protective flooring and in the area you intend to use it, this shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Some weight stack systems can even be expanded to cover multiple workout stations, such as the Tunturi 4-in-1 multi gym.
- Plate Loaded
This type of home gym usually includes several workout stations, but can also be combined with high and low cable pulley systems, such is the case with the PowerTec Fitness Workbench Lever Gym.
PowerTec are generally pretty good at providing weight plate storage, but this is certainly something you’ll want to check. Without storage pegs, you’ll also need the budget and floor space for a weight plate tree or storage rack.
Finding a plate-loaded lever gym with a cable system as well has a number of benefits.
Not only can you lift heavier weights safely with the fixed plane of motion on the lever (to 500 lbs+), but the cable systems are often rated much higher than selectorized weight stack designs.
For example, the Powerline BSG10X has a 160-pound weight stack for a list price of around $1300, yet the Powertec Fitness Workbench (also with a $1300 list price) can handle 300 lbs on the cable pulleys, and 500 lbs on the pressing arm.
Lever gyms offer a much higher weight capacity than selectorized weight stacks
Unlike some of the advanced smith machine systems, you won’t usually have access to any free weight options, and can’t use advanced training techniques like band or chain-assisted lifts.
However, you do have much more control over the amount of weight that’s loaded compared to selectorized designs. This is because the plates in the weight stacks usually increase by set increments (e.g. 10 lbs). Plate loaded home gyms let you load weight plates as small as 1 lb or lighter.
Most designs will require Olympic rather than Standard weight plates (2-inch diameter hole in the center), which is something worth bearing in mind as an additional expense if you only have standard plates already.
Perfect for experienced lifters, but also a safe option for beginners serious about lifting heavier weights without a spotter.
- Resistance Rods
This is a type of resistance that Bowflex have patented with their Power Rod technology, where force is applied in proportion to their extension and positioning.
The amount of resistance generated is also determined by the diameter of the power rods, with the smaller diameter rods providing 5 lbs of resistance, and the 410 lb upgrade set offering 50 lbs per rod.
The weight increments for the Bowflex PR range of home gyms are smaller than most selectorized systems, but connecting the correct combination of rods can be more time consuming.
This reduces the overall product weight considerably, as you’re not having to load Olympic weight plates or have a stack of weight in a tower.
This also makes it easier to upgrade the resistance, with 310 lb and 410 lb upgrade sets available for many of the Bowflex home gyms (Ultimate, Xtreme, Xceed, Sport, and Blaze models included).
You can also choose to fold the bench rail away on some models, reducing the footprint required and helping you make better use of space when it’s not in use.
Combining the power rods with one more anchor points for the cable pulleys also means you have more choice when it comes to the range of motion for each exercise.
- Body Weight / Glideboard
Glideboard home gyms, like the Total Gym range, utilise a combination of resistance systems, but primarily your own bodyweight.
You can adjust the resistance by increasing or decreasing the angle of the support rail, or in some cases adding resistance bands.
Some models also support weight plates for extra resistance if the angles and bodyweight aren’t challenging enough. They’re the best type of home gym if space is an issue or you’re on a tight budget due to their affordable priced.
The glideboard works via pulleys mounted at the top of the rail, which you pull against while sitting on the board to perform exercises.
Many of these home gyms often offer a trial period, which isn’t too much hassle as they arrive almost completely assembled.
If you don’t want to keep the system at the end of the trial, there is some disassembly required. You’ll also need to confirm who pays for the return shipping.
Protective flooring and shipping options
Although some elliptical trainers can weigh in excess of 400 lbs, home gyms / functional trainers are by far the heaviest type of fitness equipment you can own.
It’s not hard to see why. You only have to look at models like the Inspire Fitness Ft2, which has two 150 lb weight stacks, not to mention the frame weight and weight of the adjustable bench that accompanies it.
For the multi-lever home gyms you’re looking at even heavier. The Powertec Workbench Multi System has a 500 lb capacity on the pressing arm alone, not to mention any plates you have loaded on the other stations, plus your bodyweight and the weight of the frame itself.
Having what can easily be over 1000 lbs pressing down on your floor can easily lead to damage, which can easily be avoided by using thick floor pad tiles.
The density of the foam won’t cause the unit to sit unevenly, and will protect the flooring at minimal cost.
Systems like the Powertec Workbench also have solid platforms under the calf raise / squat stations, so you’ll still have a solid base to press against during these exercises.
Quick and easy to install, they’re relatively inexpensive, and tiles measuring half an inch thick should be enough to provide adequate protection in most cases.
One example is the XMark Fitness XMat, which features a non-slip, easy clean surface, and measures 4 ft wide by 6 ft long.
For a unit like the Powertec you’ll probably need six of these, weighing 75 lbs each and at a price of approximately $100 per mat.
Shipping and delivery
Despite the size and weight of many home gyms, free shipping is often available when you buy through sites like Amazon.
Although the delivery date won’t always be as quick as if you were ordering a barbell or set of dumbbells, you can usually expect to receive the unit within 6 to 10 days. This isn’t bad considering you’re only paying for the product and not delivery.
However, if possible it’s certainly worth checking which delivery company will be used where possible.
The larger home gym systems will arrive in multiple boxes, and many couriers will only carry these to the front door at best. This could mean having to stay in and be able to move the boxes to where you want it assembled.
This is why it’s also important to plan where you’re going to assemble your new home gym system.
For example, if you’re planning to get setup in a basement, you may need to carry the parts down piece-by-piece. We would recommend having someone else available to give you a hand with this.
In some cases the company that made the home gym will also have an option for home assembly. Although this will inevitably add to the cost, it could be a sensible choice if you don’t want to get dragged into complicated user manuals.
Brands reviewed by USA Home Gym
With over 50 brands currently selling thousands of home gym systems on Amazon alone, how can you be sure that we’re really finding and reviewing the best designs?
It’s actually a relatively simple process, but one which helps us identify not just the current bestsellers, but also the newest systems that are set to gain in popularity to help you stay ahead of the crowd.
Firstly, we’re constantly monitoring press releases and company news to stay up to date with the latest developments and product releases in the fitness equipment industry.
This helps us identify new product ranges – like the Precor EFX and TRM cardio equipment in 2014 – and put together in-depth reviews and comparisons with equipment that’s already established at that price range.
Although we’ll be monitoring developments from all the major fitness product companies, we do have a shortlist of those which have a great reputation that specifically relates to their home gyms.
These are brands that have proven themselves with bestselling designs and amassed thousands of reviews since their inception.
Home gym equipment brands shortlist
Established in 1986, Bowflex joins Schwinn, Universal, and Nautilus’ own product range as part of the Nautilus family of fitness equipment.
One of the best known names in the industry, Bowflex have developed some of the all time bestsellers including their SelectTech dumbbells, workout benches, and home gyms.
Their innovative design team are constantly working on new types of effective resistance systems, which to date have included the Power Rod and SpiraFlex technology.
But it’s not just resistance training that Bowflex are famous for. They’re also the name behind the Treadclimber range of cardio equipment, as well as the recent Max Trainer M3 and M5 models.
To encompass all aspects of a healthy lifestyle, Bowflex recently expanded their product range beyond home gyms and fitness equipment with the introduction of Bowflex Body Nutrition.
A name synonymous with bodybuilding nutrition and health supplements, Weider have also developed a range of successful home gyms, including their Total Body Works 5000 and Ultimate Body Works models.
Although they don’t have such an extensive product catalog as some of the other big brands, their Body Works designs are excellent examples of affordable total body workout equipment.
They also have a bestselling power tower, but their selectorized 2980 X Weight System gym doesn’t really compete on the same level as the Powerline and Bowflex designs.
- Body Solid
One of the biggest names in functional and strength training, Body-Solid have a wide range of commercial and home gym equipment that spans everything from Crossfit to Powerlifting.
These products range from simple plyo boxes for increasing your vertical jump height, through to Hexagon Rigs for functional training and squat racks for improving your strength with free weights.
But the reason we’ve included them in our home gym guide is their vast selection of machines and accessories, suitable for beginners through to advanced lifters.
Body-Solid don’t just have a variety of dual weight stack cable systems. They also have a wide range of leverage, plate loaded, and body weight equipment for isolating individual muscle groups, or training multiple muscle groups as part of a compound exercise.
Their range of cardio equipment includes upright bikes, recumbent bikes, indoor cycling bikes, treadmills, and ellipticals.
If you’re interested in checking how much space one of their home gyms will take up in your room at home, they also have a very useful Room Planner, similar to the Icovia version we tested with Precor.
- Total Gym
After their first generation of Total Gym was released in 1974, this is a company that has since gone on to become one of the market leaders for glideboard equipment.
Although they tend to be higher priced than the Weider or Vigorfit designs, with over 3.5 million units sold, Total Gym continue to be one of the most popular suppliers of compact full body workout equipment.
They also include fitness, workout, and nutrition DVDs with many of their home gyms, such as the bestselling Total Gym XLS.
Easy to move around and requiring minimal floor space, this is a company that specializes in full body workouts and physical therapy exercises for your home, as well as the commercial fitness industry.
USA Home Gym is also home to in-depth reviews for multi gym systems from Body Champ, Kettler, Powerline, Marcy, Bodycraft, Inspire, Weslo, Titan, Schwinn, Adidas, Horizon, Precor, Ironman, XMark, Nautilus, and Powertec.
Top 10 checks before you buy
With this in mind, we’ve put together a quick 10-point pre-purchase checklist to ensure you get the best value equipment that also helps you achieve your fitness and strength goals.
Although some of the top home gym systems from Body-Solid can set you back in excess of $5000, the majority of bestsellers are actually priced below $1500.
That’s why before you start your research, we would recommend setting a top-end budget. We’ll be listing what we believe to be the best home gym for each price point later in the guide, but always have an upper limit.
However, it’s also important to consider the value for money aspect and the long term outlook.
If you’re buying a home gym for $500 now that you think you might grow out of in a year, it probably makes sense to look for a $1000 model with a higher weight capacity that will last you 5 years or more.
- Size of the workout area
Check whether you have enough space to setup your new equipment, either using the traditional method of a measuring tape, or using an online room planner tool if you’re buying from a company like Precor or Body Solid.
Take into account any changes in dimensions due to body movement. Inversion tables for example may require more height than their dimensions suggest due to their unique rotation design.
You’ll also want to consider the location of the workout area. It’s all very well having ample space on the second floor, but can it take the weight of the home gym you plan on buying when multi-station units can weigh in excess of 1000 lbs?
- Foldable for easy storage
With most cardio equipment, you can usually get a pretty good idea of the size if you’ve used a machine at the gym. Rowing machines for example won’t double in size as they are essentially built around similar dimensions to cater for user heights and stroke lengths.
It’s a completely different story with home gyms.
However, although the larger leverage systems are going to be fixed position, some of the Bowflex models allow you to fold their rails up to preserve space when not in use.
So would you need to fold the gym between workouts or do you have enough space to leave it setup?
If you need a folding model, check what dimensions it folds down to. Glideboard models are ideal for under-bed storage, whereas multi-station systems are best for where space isn’t an issue.
- Number of exercises available
What type of exercises are you interested in? What are your fitness goals?
Unless you find a home gym that facilitates and encourages your goals then you’ll find it more difficult, if not impossible to achieve them.
Looking to gain strength? Then consider the weight you’re lifting now for each exercise and scale it up in-line with realistic goals.
In terms of exercise selection, most of the modern home gyms are excellent at providing enough variety. Even the more affordable designs can provide in excess of 100 exercise options.
Just because a home gym is higher priced, doesn’t mean it provides you with more exercises. It usually means the resistance is higher or that it supports more compound movements for your legs, back, arms and chest.
This is often a deciding factor in choosing between a shortlist of preferred equipment. Think about which exercises are a must-have and which are optional if you need to save money or justify the expense.
It’s also worth taking into account how easy it is to switch between exercises. Do you need to change power rod configurations? Some gyms also use the same cable for the low pulley and leg developer. If that’s the case, how easy is it to switch between the two?
- Maximum resistance level
This tends to go together with exercise variety as one of the most important things to check before buying any new home gym.
You’ll need to take into account future strength gain to prevent outgrowing your new equipment after just a few months. Also think about any injuries you might have that affect your range of motion so you find a machine that’s suitable.
If you’re not sure, there are a number of models that offer upgrade options, although these tend to be resistance rod designs and not the systems that rely on selectorized weight plate stacks.
Lever and plate loaded systems offer a sturdy and stable frame design that’s ideal for heavier weights, so if you’ve been training a few years for bodybuilding or powerlifting you might want to start there.
- Who will be using the gym?
This is only really an issue if you’re using a model that relies on a weights bench to support you. It tends to be the power rod systems again, with lever press machines having some of the highest weight capacities in the industry.
As with cardio equipment, it’s worth taking into account the weight of anyone who may want to use the machine.
This also goes for any height adjustment settings. Models like Total Gym that rely on bodyweight and a glide rail will often have a maximum user height that they support. Ensure the home gym you decide on is a good fit for the height and body type of anyone that’s going to be using it.
If you’re going to be training with a partner and space / price isn’t too much of an issue, you may want to look at multi-station designs that support two or more people using the equipment at the same time for different exercises.
- Complexity of the assembly process
Unless you move house, assembling your home gym is hopefully something you’ll only need to do once.
Even so, consider the difficulty of assembly, time required, and whether or not the company you’re buying from has a professional assembly service if it doesn’t quite go to plan.
The company that manufactures the equipment will sometimes have specially trained technicians who can schedule a time and set the equipment up for you, but it’s best to find out the cost of this beforehand.
It’s also a good idea to setup in the final location you’re going to be training in, as the larger home gyms aren’t built with transport in mind.
Glideboards like the Total Gym XLS are the only real exception, where they arrive almost fully assembled.
Whether you’re buying a top-of-the-line home gym or a more affordable entry-level design, it’s important to know the level of warranty it’s supplied with.
For cardio equipment this is usually broken into a warranty that covers parts, frame, labor, and electronics. For home gyms, this can include frame and welds, pulleys, bearings, cables, upholstery, and grips.
Body-Solid offer one of the most comprehensive levels of coverage in the industry, with a lifetime warranty on all of the above if you’re the original purchaser. Unfortunately the same warranty isn’t extended to any of their used or refurbished equipment.
For companies that provide a more limited warranty service, check with the manufacturer to see if additional product cover is available.
Warranty is a reflection of the manufacturer’s own confidence in a product, so it’s preferable to find a company that offers a minimum of 10 years coverage on the parts and preferably lifetime on the frame and welds.
Warranty coverage for some of the most popular home gym brands is listed below:
Body Solid – Lifetime on parts, frame, and welds
Precor – Lifetime on frame, 10 years on parts
Powertec – Lifetime warranty on structural frame, 5 years on moving frame parts (pressing arms, etc.), 2 years on components (bearings, pulleys, locking pins, etc.), 1 year on pads and grips
Total Gym – Lifetime on frame, 6 months on parts (optional extended warranty is 2 years)
Bowflex – Varies widely depending on the equipment chosen. As an example, the motor on their TC5000 is covered for 5 years, while the motor on the TC1000 is covered for just 1 year.
- Expansion capabilities
Being able to upgrade the resistance as your strength improves is one thing, but what about adding entirely new workout stations?
This tends to be an option on very few home gyms that we’ve reviewed, but with some designs you can buy a weight plate station for training your upper body, then expand with a lower body station and cable crossover in the future.
You can see an example of this with the Tunturi 4-in-1 Strength Station, but you’ll inevitably require much more space and a much bigger budget.
Because there are so few of these available, we’re not going to focus too much on them in this guide, but it’s worth knowing they’re available if it’s something you’re interested in.
- Bench or no bench?
This tends to be a feature we see more with smith machines, but you also have a number of home gym systems that swap their fixed seats for an adjustable bench.
The Body Solid GLGS100P4 is a good example of where the bench can be rolled away for performing dumbbell exercises.
A slight variation on the Body Solid model is the Marcy Pro PM4400. This incorporates a lock and load removable bench section, which can pivot around the frame to clear space for shrugs, rows, squats, and calf raises.
However, for most home gyms this won’t be the case, but designs like the Bowflex PR3000 still leave enough space for you to use the bench provided for a variety of exercises with dumbbells in place of the power rods.
If a removable FID bench is high on your list of priorities, you might want to take a look at some of the smith machines we’ve reviewed that also include a cable pulley. The Marcy MD-9010g in particular is a bestseller that we recommend.
Best compact home gym
Although there a number of systems that you can fold to some extent to preserve space, we were curious to find out which was the most compact home gym that could fit under a bed but still provide effective workouts.
Almost immediately we ruled out selectorized weight stack designs, as well as plate-loaded and lever systems. We also excluded the popular Bowflex PR range of home gyms, as although they are compact to an extent, there are better options available if space is minimal.
We thought about which type of design was going to be the lightest to move around, had the smallest footprint when not in use, but could still provide a total body workout.
The 3 shortlisted compact gym designs:
- Weider Ultimate Body Works
- Total Gym XLS
This list is also in ascending price order, although the exact price will vary depending on what special offers each company is running at the time.
Usually the Weider model retails for less than $150, with the VigorFit priced at between $400 and $500. The Total Gym is towards the upper end of the scale for glideboard trainers at approximately $800.
All three are ideal for small apartments or if you have limited space to workout, but there’s some important differences you need to know before making your decision.
Weider Ultimate Body Works
An upgrade of the Total Body Works 5000, the Ultimate Body Works features a padded glideboard and collapsible folding design for easy storage.
However, although the build itself is high quality, you’re looking at a very short 90 day parts and labour warranty, and a 275 lb weight capacity that’s lower than the other two home gyms on our list.
Power bands let you add up to 50 lbs of additional resistance, and the incline can be adjusted using a simple locking pin if you need to increase or decrease the intensity of your workouts.
Given the price, the resistance band and bodyweight combination is impressive, and the shorter warranty hasn’t stopped it from gaining a high average rating and hundreds of reviews on sites like Amazon.
One of the main competitors to the Total Gym is the VigorFit, with a heavy duty vinyl covering the 2″ thick, high density padding.
The lifetime warranty on parts and frame sets it ahead of any other warranty we’ve seen on glideboard trainers, with the VigorFit Power Band assembly providing over 188 lbs of additional resistance (440 lbs total).
When you consider the Weider was limited to 50 lbs created by the bands, this is a noticeable improvement, and helps to prolong its life through future strength gains.
A full range of accessories are available, including a toe bar, Pilates shoulder pads, and Dual Leg Ropes System.
In terms of the dimensions, it’s actually a very similar folding and roll-away process to the Total Gym, but at a fraction of the cost.
Total Gym XLS
Being a glideboard trainer that relies primarily on bodyweight and incline for resistance, the overall design of the Total Gym is very similar to the Weider model.
However, the 400 lb weight capacity is a significant improvement, as is the 6-month warranty on parts and lifetime warranty on the frame.
The dimensions once folded are also smaller than the Ultimate Body Works, with the main glide rail folding in half to a height that’s the same as the padding.
Arriving almost fully assembled is a bonus, and you can expand on the 80+ exercises already available with a series of innovative attachment options.
Easy to use and accessible for beginners, but with a limited life expectancy for serious strength training and bodybuilders.
Overall, we would have to rate the Total Gym XLS as the most compact system for home gyms due to its small footprint once folded and impressive frame strength.
However, the VigorFit would be our top choice for the best compact home gym in terms of value for money, as it offers some substantial improvements in the number of resistance levels, cushioning, and warranty coverage.
It’s also on a very similar level to the Total Gym in terms of the folded dimensions, collapsing down to just 8″ tall when laying flat.