Finding the best home gym isn’t easy. With new equipment released each year, you can quickly lose touch with the latest trends.
Should you choose a machine that uses weight plates, Power Rods, bodyweight, or a selectorized weight stack?
More importantly, does it provide enough resistance for years of future strength gains?
To help answer questions like these, we created our home gym buying guide.
This includes a balanced analysis and unbiased, in-depth reviews of the best home gym equipment for 2021.
We review and rate home gyms based on several key factors. How they perform for different fitness levels, overall product quality, warranty coverage, user feedback, and even customer service.
This is in addition to feature comparisons and sample workouts, to make it the most comprehensive home gym guide available.
Best Home Gyms by Price
PRICE RANGE: $200-$500
- Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym Review – 650+ Reviews
PRICE RANGE: $500-$1000
PRICE RANGE: $1500+
Top 10 Home Gyms for Full Body Workouts
What’s the Best Home Gym for Your Budget?
Price can have a big influence over which home gym you buy. It’s important to have a budget in mind, to ensure the choice you make is affordable.
But with hundreds of different machines available, how do you find the best home gym in each price category?
Listed below you’ll find our top choice for each price range. This is 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
If you want to buy a home gym for less than $200, your selection will be quite limited.
We’ve got nothing against the Ultimate Body Works, it’s one of the best compact home gyms on the market. You’re just not going to find any lever systems or multi-station home gyms at this price point.
You might find a few used single-stack selectorized machines and basic squat racks. But to have any real selection to choose from, you 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, it’s ideal for total body workouts. It’s also available at a fraction of the cost of a Total Gym.
The only downside is that you can’t load weight plates onto the side, the way you can with a VigorFit.
Best Home Gym Under $500 – Bowflex PR1000
This is a much more competitive price range than the one above. We’re starting to see the bestselling PR home gyms from Bowflex, and selectorized machines from Marcy and Gold’s Gym.
Between $200 and $500 is the main price range for glideboard trainers. This includes the Weider Body Works, Total Trainer 4000-XL from bayou Fitness, Total Gym 1400, and of course, the VigorFit.
But our top home gym for this price category is the Bowflex PR1000, with a 300 lb weight capacity and patented Power Rod resistance system.
The 210 lbs of resistance generated by these Power Rods is lower than the 440 lb claimed by VigorFit. But the Bowflex resistance is much easier to adjust.
Unfortunately, you don’t have the option to upgrade the resistance to 310 lbs or 410 lbs. This is only an option if you buy the PR3000 model.
By not relying on a weight stack, the PR1000 is much lighter and more affordable than commercial gym machines.
Power Rods carry a 5 year warranty, with 1 year on the frame and 60 days on parts.
Aside from the glideboard trainers, this is fairly typical of home gyms. Warranty coverage doesn’t improve much until you get closer to the $1000 price range.
Best Home Gym Under $1000 – Marcy MD-9010G
The MD-9010G isn’t your traditional home gym, focussed around one or two forms of resistance.
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 home gym equipment offering more for your money.
The list price is around $1900, but it’s often available at a discount on Amazon, for under $1000.
The weights bench is fitted with a leg developer and preacher curl pad, which gain their resistance from weight plates. You also have high cable pulleys mounted to the front of the frame, for crossovers and pushdowns.
Towards the back of the frame you have a plate loaded low cable pulley and pec fly system. Multiple weight plate pegs provide ample storage for an Olympic barbell and weight plates.
If you need a compact home gym that still provides high levels of resistance, we would recommend the Bowflex Blaze.
This usually retails for around $700, which is well within our $1000 budget. You could even buy both Power Rod upgrades (310 lbs and 410 lbs) and pay less than $950.
As with their PR collection, the Blaze uses resistance rod technology. This has a 5 year warranty on the rods and 60+ exercise options, to provide plenty of workout variety.
The leg extension and leg curl attachment provide additional exercises for your lower body. This helps support total body workouts, and there’s even an in-depth exercise guide included.
Multiple cable pulley points are also positioned around the machine. These range from the lat pulldown to the leg extension, allowing you to target a wide range of muscle groups from a variety of angles.
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).
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.
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.
Types of Home Gym
Generally speaking, there are four main types of home gym resistance system:
- 1. Weight Stack
- 2. Plate Loaded
- 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 Leverage Gyms
This type of home gym usually includes several workout stations, and sometimes features high and low cable pulley systems. An excellent example is the PowerTec Fitness Workbench Lever Gym.
PowerTec are great at providing weight plate storage, but with other brands 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 leverage home gym that’s combined with a cable system has a number of benefits.
Firstly, you’re able to lift heavier weights safely, thanks to the fixed plane of motion on the lever (to 500 lbs+). Also, the cable systems often support much more weight than selectorized weight stack machines.
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.
Unlike some smith machine systems, you won’t usually have access to any free weight exercises. You’re also unable to use advanced training techniques, such as band or chain-assisted lifts.
However, you do have much more control over the amount of weight that’s loaded. This is because the plates in the weight stacks usually increase by set increments (e.g. 10 lbs). In comparison, plate loaded home gyms let you use weight plates as small as 1 lb or lighter.
Most leverage gyms will require Olympic rather than Standard weight plates (2-inch diameter hole in the center). Buying a while new set of Olympic weight plates can be an additional expense if you only have a set with the standard diameter.
In summary, plate-loaded lever gyms are perfect for beginners and experienced lifters alike. They allow you to lift heavier weights at home without a spotter.
Bowflex patented this resistance with their Power Rod technology. Force is applied according to the extension and positioning of the rods, which store more tension as the muscle contracts.
The amount of resistance generated is also determined by the diameter of the power rods. Smaller diameter rods provide 5 lbs of resistance, while the 410 lb upgrade set provides 50 lbs per rod.
Weight increments for the Bowflex PR home gyms are smaller than most selectorized systems. The only downside is the extra time it takes to connect the correct combination of Power Rods.
The material they’re made from reduces the product weight considerably. That’s because you don’t have to load Olympic weight plates or use a weight stack tower (selectorized).
This also makes it easier to upgrade the resistance, with 310 lb and 410 lb upgrade sets available. These are compatible with many of the Bowflex home gyms, including the Ultimate, Xtreme, Xceed, Sport, and Blaze models.
You can also fold the bench rail away on some models, reducing the footprint and helping you make better use of space when it’s not in use.
Combining the power rods with one more anchor point for the cable pulleys also gives you choice when it comes to the range of motion for each exercise.
Body Weight / Glideboard
Glideboard home gyms, like Total Gym, use a combination of resistance systems, but mainly your own bodyweight.
You can adjust the resistance by increasing or decreasing the angle of the support rail. You can even use resistance bands to create a more intense workout.
Some machines also let you add weight plates for added 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.
The glideboard works via pulleys mounted at the top of the rail. When you pull against them while sitting on the board, your bodyweight acts as the resistance.
Many of these systems 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 work out who pays for the return shipping.
Protective Home Gym Flooring and Shipping Options
Home gyms and functional trainers are by far the heaviest type of fitness equipment you can own.
It’s not hard to see why.
Machines like the Inspire Fitness Ft2, can have multiple 150 lb weight stacks, not to mention the frame weight. You might also need to factor in the weight of an adjustable bench that accompanies it.
For the leverage home gyms, the weight can be even higher. The Powertec Workbench Multi System has a 500 lb capacity on the pressing arm, plus any plates you have loaded on the other stations. Add the weight of the frame, and you can be looking at several thousand pounds.
Having that much weight pressing down on your floor can quickly lead to damage. Thick floor pad tiles can help to avoid this.
The density of the foam won’t cause the unit to sit unevenly, and protects your flooring at minimal cost.
Systems like the Powertec Workbench also have solid platforms under the calf raise / squat stations. This means you’ll still have a solid base to press against during these exercises.
Quick and easy to install, home gym flooring is relatively inexpensive. Tiles measuring half an inch thick should provide adequate protection in most cases.
One example is the XMark Fitness XMat, which features a non-slip, easy clean surface. Each tile measures 4 ft wide by 6 ft long, weighs 75 lbs, and is priced at around $100.
For a unit like the Powertec you’ll need around six of these.
Home Gym Shipping and Delivery
Despite the size and weight of many home gyms, free shipping is often available if you buy through Amazon.
The delivery date won’t always be as quick as if you ordered a barbell or set of dumbbells. But you can usually expect to receive the unit within 6 to 10 days. This isn’t bad, especially if you’re only paying for the product and not delivery.
However, if possible, it’s still worth checking which delivery company will be used.
Larger home gym systems arrive in multiple boxes, and many couriers only carry these to the front door or driveway. This could mean you staying home and moving the boxes to where you want it assembled.
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 help you with this.
In some cases, the company that made the home gym will also have an option for home assembly. This adds to the cost, but could be a sensible choice if you’re faced with a complicated user manual.
Benefits of Home Gyms
Commercial gyms and fitness centers will always have their place. But it’s often more cost effective, time efficient, and productive to have a multi gym setup at home.
We’ve highlighted 7 of these benefits in the list below:
As our lives become busier, it becomes more difficult to visit the gym on a regular basis.
So how can you stick to a new fitness plan long enough to increase your strength, definition, and muscle tone?
For many, the answer is a home gym.
This allows you to perform exercises in an environment you control. Having this fitness equipment at home means you don’t need to travel to the gym after a long day at work.
Setting up a home gym system in your basement, spare room, or garage means you can make the most of your workout time. Some of the more compact home gyms can even fold under your bed, to save on space.
More Cost Efficient
Commercial gyms can be a great place to socialize. They also provide access to a wide range of premium fitness equipment and health facilities.
But how much use do you actually get out of a gym membership?
Even if you visit 4 or 5 times each week, you’re paying for facilities that you may never even use.
You might use a couple of cardio machines and a variety of strength training equipment in your workouts. But if your gym has to pay maintenance for a pool, sauna, tennis court, etc., is it really cost efficient?
The quality of a home gym is improving all the time, as is the affordability.
Think about how much money you spend on gym membership over the course of a few years. You could be surprised to discover how much home gym equipment you can buy for the same price. This includes top-of-the-line cardio machines and strength equipment.
The best part is, many home gym companies offer a lifetime warranty on their equipment. This helps to retain its value well into the future.
Support Total Body Workouts
If you want to develop a well-balanced physique, you need to train both upper and lower body muscle groups. This will form part of a total body workout plan.
For strength training and muscle building, this means moving against resistance through the three planes of motion:
1. Sagittal Plane – Up and down movements. This includes flexion exercises (bicep curls, hamstring curls, etc.) and extension exercises (tricep extensions, leg extensions, etc.).
2. Frontal Plane – Sideways movements. Any exercise that moves a body part away from or towards an imaginary center line will use the frontal plane.
This includes abduction (away from center) and adduction (towards the center) exercises. Hip adductions and side lateral raises are two popular choices.
3. Transverse Plane – Rotational movements
Many of the best home gyms support more than 30 exercises. This means you can take advantage of all three planes of motion, creating a more well-rounded physique.
Effective muscle building routines can be created with a variety of upper and lower body exercises. High / low cable pulleys allow you to train your arms, legs, back, shoulders, and abs from a variety of angles.
Better Privacy and Freedom
Unless you live near a 24 hour gym, your workout times will be limited to the gym’s opening times.
Commercial gyms can also be restricted by health insurance and a long list of rules. This includes the maximum dumbbell weight they can carry.
None of these rules apply when you buy a home gym.
Fitness centers can also make people self-conscious, and may put them off setting fitness goals altogether.
Having a home workout plan means you can listen to your favourite music, catch up on news, and not worry about wearing the latest fitness apparel.
You’re also not planning your workouts around peak times, just to access the equipment you need. This is a common problem some of the more popular commercial gyms.
More Time Efficient
Not everyone trains the same. Some people see great results from high-rep volume training, while others see the best results from low-rep strength routines.
There’s also no perfect duration for your workouts.
If you’re short on time you might only have 30 minutes. This may not be enough to visit your local gym and get the most from a workout.
Having a home gym system, even if it’s a folding Glideboard that requires some assembly, lets you make the most of opportunities like these.
Add up all the extra training sessions over the course of a year, and you could see some incredible results. Greater strength gains, better muscle definition, and faster results can be seen when combined with a healthy nutrition program.
Multiple machines in one
Most commercial gyms have weights machines that use a single stack of weight plates to create resistance. The level of resistance is controlled by a pin, which you can move to select the weight.
The problem is, most machines support just one exercise. Some great examples are the leg extension, preacher curl bench, shoulder press, and hack squat.
You can certainly buy fitness equipment like this for home gyms, but companies like Body Solid, Inspire, and PowerTec have also created multi-station ‘universal’ home gym equipment.
This often allows you to perform a much wider range of exercises, still using a single weight stack. It’s also a much 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. This can be a great way to combine your home gym workout with adjustable dumbbells and free weights.
Combine Resistance Training With Cardio
In contrast to the multi-station home gyms from PowerTec, we have machines that combine resistance training with cardio.
These are usually bodyweight controlled machines that support indoor rowing. However, we wouldn’t recommend them as an alternative to true cardio equipment.
Elliptical machines, upright bikes, treadmills, and rowing machines are all optimized for one 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. This is important for measuring your progress, and any increase in fitness level.
Best Home Gym Equipment Brands
With over 50 brands selling hundreds of home gyms on Amazon, how do you know we’re reviewing the best designs?
It’s actually a relatively simple process, but one which helps us select the current bestsellers. We also identify the new systems that are set to gain in popularity, helping you stay ahead of the crowd.
Firstly, we’re constantly monitoring press releases and company news. This keeps us up to date with the latest developments and product releases in the fitness equipment industry.
We use this process to identify new product ranges – like the Precor EFX and TRM cardio equipment. Then we review and compare these new machines with equipment that’s already established at that price range.
We’re constantly monitoring developments from all the major fitness product companies. But we also have a shortlist of brands who have built their reputation on high quality home gyms.
These are companies that have proven themselves with bestselling designs, and amassed thousands of reviews since their inception.
BodyCraft produce some of the best home workout equipment for elite home gyms. Two of their bestsellers are the Xpress Pro and Galena Pro.
The GXP Strength Training System is their top-of-the-line multi station home gym, with up to 400 lbs of resistance. You can quickly switch between the pulleys, leg developer, leg press, and press / row stations, for total body workouts.
The design of BodyCraft home gyms is also based on over 20 years of experience in the fitness equipment industry.
Their residential lifetime warranty means they’ll replace or repair any manufacturer defects for as long as you own the machine. Free shipping is a bonus, especially when some of the larger multi station gyms weigh over 580 lbs.
BodyCraft machines only use selectorized weight plate stacks, which means there’s no need to move Olympic weight plates around between sets.
Products range from plyo boxes for practising vertical jumps, to Hexagon Rigs for functional training. Squat racks are also available for improving your strength with free weights.
We’ve included Body Solid in our home gym guide because of their vast selection of machines and accessories. These are suitable for all experience levels, from beginners through to advanced lifters.
In addition to their dual weight stack systems, they also manufacture leverage, plate loaded, and body weight equipment. These can help isolate individual muscle groups, or train multiple muscle groups with compound exercises.
To see how much space a Body Solid home gym needs in your home, they have a Room Planner tool. This is similar to the Icovia version we tested with Precor.
Established in 1986, Bowflex joins Schwinn, Universal, and Nautilus as part of the Nautilus, Inc. family of fitness equipment.
Bowflex have developed some of the most popular strength equipment, including their SelectTech dumbbells, workout benches, and home gyms.
Their innovative design team are constantly working on new types of effective resistance systems. To date, this includes their Power Rod and SpiraFlex technology.
To embrace all aspects of a healthy lifestyle, Bowflex recently expanded their product range beyond home gyms and fitness equipment. This was with the introduction of Bowflex JRNY Digital Fitness Platform.
Our Marcy home gym reviews include the bestselling MD-9010G Smith Machine, and the MWM-990 Multifunctional Home Gym System.
As a company, Marcy produce a wide range of home gym equipment. Everything from recumbent bikes and weight benches, to spin bikes and trampolines.
They’ve also built an excellent reputation for delivering high quality fitness equipment at an affordable price.
Marcy home gyms are mostly single-stack selectorized systems, such as the MWM-990 and MWM-988. Both machines have a 150 lb weight stack, but with the MKM-81010, this increases to 200 lbs.
Home gym systems with lighter weight stacks are also available, such as the MKM-81030. However, this gets negative reviews from the handful of people who have bought and tested it.
If want a machine with more than 200 lbs of resistance, we recommend the Marcy Diamond Elite Smith System (MD-9010G).
It’s more expensive than their SM-4008 smith machine, and both support up to 600 lbs. But the commercial grade frame and natural 7-degree slant means the MD-9010G is incredible value for money.
Powertec Fitness produce some of the top plate loaded home gyms in the world, with over 25 years of experience.
The Workbench Multi System (WB-MS) is the best home gym machine from Powertec, in terms of exercise options. It also lets you lift much heavier weights than you can with a Weider or Marcy home gym.
With their Workbench, the weight capacities are: 400 lbs lat lever, 500 lbs press arms, and 500 lbs on the squat lever arm.
Powertec have also created the world’s strongest functional trainer (WB-FTD16). Although you don’t have as many exercise options as a home gym, a 1,000 lb load capacity is seriously impressive!
The first generation of Total Gym was released in 1974. Since then, the company has become one of the market leaders for glideboard equipment.
Their machines tend to be more expensive than the Weider or Vigorfit designs. But with over 3.5 million units sold, Total Gym remain one of the most popular suppliers of compact home gyms.
They also provide fitness, workout, and nutrition DVDs with many of their home gyms, such as the Total Gym XLS.
This is a company that specialize in full body workouts and physical therapy exercises for your home. Their fitness equipment is easy to move around and requires minimal floor space.
A name synonymous with bodybuilding nutrition and health supplements. Weider have also developed a range of home gyms, including their Total Body Works 5000 and Ultimate Body Works models.
They don’t have such an extensive product catalog as some of the other big brands. But their Body Works machines are excellent examples of affordable home gym equipment.
Unfortunately, their selectorized 2980 X Weight System can’t compete with the Powerline and Bowflex designs. Weider also have a bestselling power tower.
We also have home gym reviews for the following brands:
- Body Champ
Top 10 Checks Before You Buy
To ensure you only buy the best home gym for your budget, we created a 10-point pre-purchase checklist.
- Some of the top home gym systems from Body-Solid can set you back over $5000. Fortunately, the majority of bestsellers are available for less than $1500.
That’s why before starting your research, we recommend setting a limit on how much you’re willing to spend. We’ll list what we believe to be the best home gym for each price range later in the guide.
However, it’s also important to get good value for money.
What if you’re buying a home gym for $500 and you grow out of it in a year? It would be better to find a $1000 machine with enough weight to challenge you for 5 years or more.
- It sounds obvious, but check whether you have enough space to setup your new equipment. This could be using a measuring tape, or if you buy from Precor or Body Solid, an online room planner.
Consider any changes in dimensions due to body movement. Inversion tables, for example, may require more height than their dimensions suggest. This is due to their unique rotating design.
You’ll also want to think about the location of the workout area. Ample floor space on the second floor is great, but can it take the weight of the home gym? Bearing in mind multi-station workout systems can weigh in excess of 1000 lbs.
- With cardio equipment, you get a pretty good idea of the size from the machines at your local gym.
Rowing machines, for example, won’t double in size. They’re essentially built with similar dimensions to cater for different user heights and stroke lengths.
It’s a completely different story with home gyms.
Larger leverage systems are going to be fixed position, so you can’t do much to reduce their footprint. But some of the Bowflex gyms allow you to fold their rails up, to preserve space when not in use.
So would you need to fold the machine between workouts, or do you have enough space to leave it setup?
If you need a folding home gym, 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.
- 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, you’ll find it more difficult 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.
Modern home gyms have no problem with exercise variation. Even the more affordable systems can support in excess of 100 exercises.
Just because a home gym has a higher price tag, doesn’t mean it provides you with more exercises. This usually means the resistance is higher, or it supports more compound movements for your legs, back, arms and chest.
Exercise choice is often a deciding factor in choosing the best home gym equipment. Think about which exercises are a must-have, and which are optional if you need to save money.
Also consider how easy it is to switch between exercises. Do you need to change power rod configurations or add more weight plates?
Some gyms 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?
- In addition to exercise variety, this is the most important thing to check before buying a new home gym.
You’ll need to consider future strength gain, to prevent outgrowing your new equipment after just a few months. Also, think about any injuries you have that might influence your range of motion.
If you’re not sure of your current strength level, there are a number of models that offer upgrade options. But these are usually resistance rod designs, not selectorized home gyms with weight plate towers.
Lever and plate loaded systems offer a sturdy and stable frame design that’s ideal for heavier weights. If you’ve already been training for years, even if it wasn’t bodybuilding or powerlifting, you might want to start here.
- As with cardio equipment, it’s worth considering the weight of anyone who may want to use the machine. This tends to be more of an issue with power rod systems, rather than lever press machines.
The same goes for any height adjustment settings. Models like Total Gym rely on a glide rail for movement, which means they have a maximum supported user height.
Make sure the home gym you buy is compatible with the height and body type of anyone that’s using it.
If you workout with a partner and space / price isn’t too much of an issue, check out multi-station gyms. These support two or more people using the equipment at the same time for different exercises.
- Unless you move house or switch workout rooms, assembling your home gym is something you’ll only need to do once.
Even so, consider the difficulty of assembly, time required, and whether the company you’re buying from has a professional assembly service.
Fitness equipment companies sometimes have specially trained technicians who can set the machine up for you. If this is a service you’re interested in, it’s best to find out the cost before you buy.
It’s also a good idea to setup in the final location you’re going to be training in. Some of the larger home gyms aren’t exactly built with transport in mind.
Glideboards, like the Total Gym XLS, are the only real exception, because they arrive almost fully assembled.
- It’s important to know the level of warranty supplied with your home gym.
For cardio equipment, the warranty usually covers parts, frame, labor, and electronics. For home gyms, this can include frame and welds, pulleys, bearings, cables, upholstery, and grips.
Body-Solid offer some of the best warranties in the industry. This often means lifetime coverage on all of the above, if you’re the original purchaser.
Unfortunately, the same warranty isn’t available on any of their used or refurbished gym equipment.
Some companies with a shorter standard warranty offer additional product cover, at a cost.
Warranty is a reflection of the manufacturer’s own confidence in a product. We recommend finding a company with at least 10 years parts warranty, and preferably lifetime on the frame and welds.
Warranty coverage for some of the most popular home gym brands:
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.
- Upgrading the resistance as your strength improves is one thing. But what about adding entirely new workout stations?
This isn’t an option for most home gyms, but some designs can be expanded. You could buy an upper body workout station, then add lower body and cable crossover stations in the future.
The Tunturi 4-in-1 Strength Station is a great example, but you’ll need much more space and a bigger budget.
- Benches are usually associated with smith machines, but some home gym systems also swap their seats for an adjustable bench.
The Body Solid GLGS100P4 is a good example, where the bench rolls away to support free-weight exercises.
A slight variation on the Body Solid model is the Marcy Pro PM4400. This features a removable bench, which pivots on the frame to create space for shrugs, rows, squats, and calf raises.
For most home gyms this won’t be the case. Even so, designs like the Bowflex PR3000 leave enough space to use the bench provided with dumbbells or power rods.
If a removable FID bench is high on your priorities, you might want to check out our smith machines reviews. The Marcy MD-9010g is a bestseller that we highly recommend.
1. How much should you pay for a new home gym?
2. Size of the workout area
3. Foldable for easy storage
4. Number of exercises available
5. Maximum resistance level
6. Who will be using the gym?
7. Complexity of the assembly process
9. Expansion capabilities
10. Bench or no bench?
Best Compact Home Gym
Many home gym systems can be folded to preserve space. But we wanted to find the most compact home gym that fits under a bed but still provides effective workouts.
We ruled out selectorized weight stack machines, as well as plate-loaded and lever systems. The popular Bowflex PR home gyms were also ruled out, as there are better options available.
We needed a design that’s light enough to move, has a small footprint, and still provides a total body workout.
Top 3 compact gym designs:
- 1. Weider Ultimate Body Works
- 2. VigorFit
- 3. Total Gym XLS
Usually the Weider model retails for less than $150, with the VigorFit priced at between $400 and $500. The Total Gym is a premium glideboard trainer, priced at roughly $800.
All three are ideal for small apartments, or if you have limited space to workout. But there are some important differences to consider before you buy.
Weider Ultimate Body Works
Ultimate Body Works is an upgrade of the Total Body Works 5000, and one of our most popular home gym equipment reviews. The design features a padded glideboard and collapsible folding frame for easy storage.
Although the build quality is high, you only have a very short 90 day parts and labour warranty. The 275 lb weight capacity is also lower than the other two home gyms from Vigorfit and Total Gym.
A shorter warranty hasn’t stopped it from gaining a high average rating and hundreds of reviews on sites like Amazon.
Power bands add up to 50 lbs of resistance, and the incline can be adjusted using a simple locking pin. It’s a quick and easy way to increase or decrease the intensity of your workouts.
The resistance band and bodyweight combination is certainly impressive for a home gym at this price point.
The Vigorfit is a competitor to the Total Gym, with heavy-duty vinyl covering the 2″ thick, high density padding.
A lifetime warranty on parts and frame sets it ahead of other glideboard trainers. VigorFit Power Bands also provide over 188 lbs of additional resistance (440 lbs total).
Weider Ultimate Body Works is limited to 50 lbs, created by the bands, so this is a noticeable improvement. Tougher resistance also helps prolong its life when you make future strength gains.
A full range of accessories are available, including a toe bar, Pilates shoulder pads, and Dual Leg Ropes System.
As for storage, the fold and roll-away process is like the Total Gym, but at a fraction of the cost.
Total Gym XLS – Universal Home Gym
The Total Gym is a glideboard trainer that relies on bodyweight and incline for resistance, similar to the Weider model.
However, the increased weight capacity and longer warranty are a big improvement. Total Gym XLS supports up to 400 lbs, with a 6-month warranty on parts and lifetime warranty on the frame.
Folded dimensions are also smaller than the Ultimate Body Works, as the main glide rail folds in half.
Being nearly fully assembled is a bonus, and attachment options let you expand on the 80+ exercises already available.
Easy to use and accessible for beginners, but the resistance may not prove challenging for serious strength training and bodybuilders.
Overall, the Total Gym XLS is the most compact system for home gyms. This is due to its small folded footprint and impressive frame strength.
However, the VigorFit would is our top choice for the best compact home gym. It has some significant improvements in the number of resistance levels, cushioning, and warranty coverage.
The folded dimensions of the Vigorfit are also similar to the Total Gym, collapsing to just 8″ tall.