Finding the best home gym can be daunting to say the least. Everyone has different personal needs when it comes to health and fitness, and because of that there are literally hundreds of different home workout machines on the market to choose from. Are you trying to gain muscle, or lose body weight? Are you looking for any advanced features, or just the basics? What’s your budget like? These are just a few questions on the long checklist of things to consider before buying.
If you’re in the market for a new home gym and want to get the most honest, unbiased help in finding the perfect model for your personal needs, you’re in the right place. Over a period of about 11 months, we examined over 120 of the industry’s highest-rated home gyms. We put each model through a meticulous research and review process, and even had the opportunity to physically test about 75 of these models in person with our own hands. After countless hours of comparison and preparation, we’re happy to say that we’ve finally created the ultimate home gym buyer’s resource. No matter what your needs may be – whether it’s related to budget, fitness goals, experience level, or something else – this guide will help you find the most suitable home gym for you.
Since we’ve got a ton of information packed into this guide, we created a few quick links to the most popular sections so that you can jump right where you want to go (if you already know what you’re looking for). If you don’t yet know what you’re looking for, you can use the buttons as a guide or just keep scrolling to browse the page freely.
View on Amazon
View on Amazon
View on Amazon
Comparing home gyms in each price range
Home gyms under $500
There is a lot of work that goes into designing and producing a home gym, and because of that there aren’t a whole lot of quality options in this price range (in fact, there are barely any options in this price range at all; only about 15-20 models in total). Most manufacturers offering machines priced below $500 have unfortunately traded quality production for cheaper parts in an effort to keep their prices lower than competitors and to appeal to those who are on a lower budget. The caveat to this, of course, is that you spend less money up front, but you have more issues with your exercise equipment in the long run.
Fortunately, there are some big-name manufacturers like Bowflex and Weider who have realized the demand for quality in the sub-$500 category, and have therefore designed some impressive exercise equipment specifically for this price range. They may lack some of the fancier features that are found on the more expensive home gyms, but they are impressive nonetheless and the important part is that they offer all of the basic functionality necessary for a well-rounded workout.
This is a really popular price point for many people. That’s why we have a whole article dedicated to the Best Home Gyms Under $500, which features a bunch of really great options that we don’t discuss here. If you want an even less expensive unit, check out our Best Home Gyms Under $300, which features the Weider Ultimate Body Works that we love as well as a few more top-notch units.
We’ve listed the five best home gyms under $500 below, starting with a comparison chart and following with our top pick.
Top pick: Bowflex PR1000
The Bowflex PR1000 is without a doubt the best home gym under $500. As mentioned in the introduction to this section, there aren’t many quality options in this price category due to the fact that most manufacturers use cheap parts, so picking the Bowflex PR1000 was a pretty easy decision. It offers higher quality, more functionality, and more resistance than any other model in this price range. But don’t just take our word for it, check out the reviews on Amazon where the PR1000 holds an excellent 4.7/5 star rating from over 550 customers – one of the highest customer ratings in the entire home gym market.
Why we chose this model over competitors
Designed with beginners and casual fitness enthusiasts in mind, the Bowflex PR1000 offers just over 30 exercises. When compared to the competition, 30 exercises is right on par with the rest of them, but the PR1000’s advantage lies in the fact that there are exercise options for every major muscle group on the body. Having exercise options for all muscle groups is crucial in ensuring proper muscle development because it allows you to build muscle and strength across all of your body without having to exclude certain parts. Most models in the sub-$500 price range excluded one or more major muscle groups, and you wouldn’t want to train just your upper body while completely ignoring your legs, would you?
In addition to having a more comprehensive exercise selection, the PR1000 comes standard with 210 lbs of resistance, which is about 40% more than the closest competitor (most other models in this price range offer 120-150 lbs, like the Marcy Home Gym MWM 990, which is great but only goes up to 150 lb). A higher resistance offering is key because it allows more of a challenge as well as more room for growth as you build muscle and strength over time.
While we’re on the subject of resistance, it’s also important to mention Bowflex’s unique resistance rod system. Rather than a traditional adjustable steel weight stack like you’d find in any other home gym, Bowflex uses a scientifically-developed Power Rod technology to provide resistance. Bowflex’s Power Rod system has been scientifically proven to not only build muscle more effeciently than a traditional adjustable steel weight stack, but it also greatly reduces the risk of injury because its unique progressive nature helps alleviate much of the pressure associated with lifting weights.
Another unique feature that sets the PR1000 apart from the other models under $500 is that it includes a built-in rowing station to give you an option for cardio. Cardio features are basically unheard of on any home gym, let alone in the sub-$500 category, so this is a huge benefit over the competiton. Typically if you wanted to perform cardio you’d have to buy a separate cardio-specific machine entirely, but with the PR1000 you have a weight lifting machine and a cardio machine all in one. Rowing specifically was also a great choice by Bowflex because it is considered one of the most beneficial cardiovascular exercises of all time.
After discussing all of the above features and benefits, it should be pretty easy to see why the Bowflex PR1000 is the best home gym for this price range. It is comfortable to use, made with true Bowflex quality, and delivers a well-balanced workout of both strength and cardio. It has numerous advantages over the competition, and even offers a 6-week money-back guarantee to ensure you’re completely satisfied with your purchase. Check out more details here.
The best Bowflex Alternative: Weider Ultimate Body Works
Advertised as a “body shaper and toner,” the Weider Ultimate Body Works’ design is quite a bit different than a conventional home gym. While regular home gyms help you build muscle through traditional weight lifting exercises, this total-body-styled workout tool is designed to “sculpt” the body through unique full-body exercises that shred body fat and increase muscle definition. For those who have never experienced this total-body workout style before, it is extremely intense and works incredibly well, and because of that the Weider Ultimate Body Works is one of the hottest workout tools on the market with nearly 94% positive reviews from customers.
The Weider Ultimate Body Works is a great runner up to the PR1000 because it also offers premium quality at an exceptionally low price – around $150 to be exact. While it might not the best choice if you’re looking to put on a few pounds of muscle, it is excellent for body weight loss, toning your body, improving strength, and boosting stamina (and speaking of which, it was actually our top pick in the Best Home Gym For Weight Loss category).
Using the cable-and-pulley system, there are over 50 exercises you can perform on the Ultimate Body Works machine. These exercises target all of the muscles on your body simultaneously, and you even have the ability to add up to 50 lbs of resistance with the help of four resistance bands that are built into the bottom of the bench. In addition to the resistance bands, altering the bench’s angle can also create a tougher workout as you’ll have a steeper incline to pull yourself around on. With wide variety of different customizations, you’ll have more than enough resistance variation to keep your workouts challenging for years to come.
Things to consider before purchasing a model in this price range
The most important thing to consider in the sub-$500 price range is quality. Thankfully, we’ve already taken that into consideration with our research and shown that the models above offer excellent quality, so in that area you’re covered. However, the thing to consider now is your long-term fitness goals.
While the Bowflex PR1000 is an outstanding entry-level home gym, the one minor drawback is that you cannot add more resistance to this machine if you outgrow it in the future. This is important to keep in mind depending on what your goals are. If your long-term goal is just to build a little muscle, lose a little body weight, and overall tone your body to keep you in good shape and good health, the PR1000’s resistance is going to be perfectly suitable for you and you will likey never have any issues outgrowing it. On the other hand, if your long-term goal is to gain some serious muscle and/or strength, you will probably want to consider a higher-level model that offers more resistance, like the Bowflex Blaze. The Blaze home gym is very similar to the PR1000 but offers more features and more importantly allows expansion kits to increase the amount of resistance to 310 or even 410 lbs, giving you the ability to grow and stay challenged for years to come.
As far as the Weider Ultimate Body Works goes, this is an excellent workout tool to shape and tone the body, but is not very effective at building muscle. If your goal is to shed excess body weight and shape up, the Weider UBW will work wonders for your body. I have personally seen the physical transformations of people who have used this machine and there is no doubt that it can sculpt a mean, lean figure. However, with that said, if your goal is to put on a few additional pounds of muscle, the PR1000 will be the better choice because it provides gym-like strength-training exercises (which is proven to be the best style of exercise for muscle building). Just remember what I said above about planning for the long-term in order to make the best decision for yourself.
Home gyms $500-$1,000
This is arguably the most competitive category when it comes to home gyms. In the last price range, Home Gyms Under $500, we discussed how there were only a small number of good-quality options due to the issue of most manufacturers using lower-quality parts in order to stay below the $500 belt. In this price range, however, all hats are off as you have every big-name manufacturer with their hand in the game in a cut-throat competition to earn your business. In case it isn’t obvious, this is great news for you. Why? Because this is where real quality starts to emerge; high competition like this is what drives huge demand for superior machines.
This much competition also means there are a heck of a lot more models to choose from. There are roughly 60 home gyms priced between $500-$1,000, with all sorts of features and exercise options from lat pulldown bars to cable pulleys to leg developers. Most of the models in this price range are solid quality and offer a lot functionality, but as with anything in life there will always be certain products that have an edge over the rest. After a rather time-consuming comparison of each model in this price range, we’re narrowed the results down to a top five. Below are the best of the best when it comes to home gyms under $1,000.
Top pick: Bowflex Blaze
While there are a lot of nice models in this price range, the Bowflex Blaze is the undeniable best choice. It offers more quality, more features, more exercise options, and more resistance than any of the other models in this category, all for a price that’s right on par with the rest of them. With an average 4.6/5 star rating from customers, it is one of the highest-rated home gyms on the market, and also happens to be our #1 pick in the category of Best Home Gym For The Money.
Why we chose this model over competitors
One of the greatest benefits of the Bowflex Blaze is that you have over 60 exercise options that cover all muscle groups on the body, which is around 20-25 more exercises than any other home gym in this price range. When it comes to exercise options, more is always better. More exercises means a more comprehensive workout, which will undoubtedly lead to better fitness results over time. In addition, more exercises also means you would likely never run into a plateau.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a plateau is basically where your muscles no longer gain strength and size because they have become too accustomed to doing the same exercises over and over. This can be a common issue when exercise options are limited, so while some people might experience a plateau with other models that offer fewer exercises, you would likely never experience this phenomenon with the Bowflex Blaze due to the wide variety of exercises it offers. The exercise benefits explained here earned the Blaze some major points when scoring it against the other models in this category.
Another huge benefit to the Bowflex Blaze is that the resistance is upgradable. The Blaze comes standard with 210 lbs of resistance, which is usually more than enough for the average user. However, as you become stronger over time (or if you’re just blessed with superhuman strength from the start), you may reach a point down the road where you’ve outgrown this standard resistance and find yourself needing more weight to continue challenging yourself.
In most cases, this would mean forking out the wallet and buying an entirely new machine because you wouldn’t be able to add weight to a traditional adjustable steel weight stack. But in this case, since the Blaze uses Bowflex’s signature resistance rod technology, all you have to do to add weight is order a resistance upgrade kit and you can have your Bowflex Blaze equipped with 310 or even 410 lbs within 10 minutes (the kits are very easy to install). A home gym is an investment that’s going to last you for years, probably even decades, and upgradable resistance is crucial to get the most longevity out of your purchase.
In addition to the 60+ exercise options mentioned above, the Bowflex Blaze also comes with a built-in rowing machine. This is something we loved about both the Blaze and the PR1000 models from Bowflex; a cardio option is unique and highly beneficial because it allows you to get a well-balanced workout of both strength training and cardio from a single machine instead of needing separate products. The fact that Bowflex chose a rowing machine over any other exercise is also great considering rowing is one of the best aerobic exercises of all time and its cardiovascular benefits are higher than nearly all other forms of cardio.
Given the mass amount of benefits mentioned above, the Blaze was an understandable top pick as best home gym under $1,000. The fact that this home gym offers nearly TWICE the amount of functionality as any other model in this price range, plus options for both strength training and cardio, means it offers a better value for your dollar and a more well-balanced workout than any of the other models. In addition, the great thing about purchasing a Bowflex system is that they have a 6-week money back guarantee. This gives you ample time to test the Blaze for yourself and make sure you love it before deciding to keep it. Read more details on the Blaze here .
The best Bowflex Alternative: Powerline BSG10X
Powerline is a brand that’s owned and operated by Body-Solid, one of the most reputable and respected manufacturers in the home fitness equipment industry. While the Body-Solid brand focuses more heavily on super high-quality advanced home gyms, the Powerline brand focuses on more regular-level home gyms that provide a good value for your dollar. The Powerline BSG10X is a perfect example of this, providing a nice mix of quality, exercise options, and affordability.
The Powerline BSG10X offers 40 exercise options and 160 lbs of standard weight using a traditional adjustable steel weight stack, just like the style you’d find in your local gym. Both of these variables are a little lower than what the Bowflex Blaze offers, but it’s still effective nonetheless. The real beauty in this model lies in its size and assembly. The BSG10X is the most compact home gym on the market, needing no more than a 70″ x 42″ area to operate. This is a full 12″ shorter in length than the closest competitor, which is a great benefit if you’re working with a small area. In addition, the setup of this machine is completely painless. The BSG10X literally comes 90% assembled out of the box; all you have to do upon delivery is follow the instructions, install about 9 bolts, and you’re good to go. The entire install from start to finish takes about 20 to 30 minutes, making this the best home gym for those who don’t like tinkering around with exercise equipment.
Honorable Mention: Body Solid GLGS100
The Body-Solid GLGS100 is another solid addition to our list of best home gyms under $1000, and stacks up well with the competition. At first glance, this home gym may appear like a big departure from other, more traditional home gyms, but once you begin using it, its ingenious design becomes apparent.
The Body-Solid GLGS100 is increadibly compact compared to many of the other home gyms in this price range, but manages to still pack in a load of functionality. With no bench attached, this home gym easily tucks away into even the smallest of areas, allowing you to make the most use out of what limited space you have.
The GLGS100 utilizes Olympic plates for loading, so you can easily pile on as much weight as you’d like, without worrying about maxing out in-built weight stacks. The necessity of olympic plates may either be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it though. I happen to be a fan!
Home gyms $1,000-$2,000
This category puts us officially into the 4-figure range, which means lots of features and lots of functionality. This is where things start to get a little more serious and you see the addition of more advanced home gyms like free-weight systems and Smith machines. This is also where you see the drop-off of any knock-off brands, since any low-quality brands usually get weeded out by bigger brands before they even have a chance to surface and make sales. So with that said, nearly everything in this category will be good quality. This category is more about comparing features and making considerations about the performance you’ll be getting for the amount of money that you’re spending.
For that exact reason, we spent a lot of time comparing and weighing the different benefits and drawbacks of each model in this price range. There were several new things to consider thanks to the addition of those two new machine types noted above (free-weight systems and Smith machines), so some brands excelled where others couldn’t due to their design. With much consideration, we’ve listed the five top options below starting with a comparison chart followed by our choice as the best home gym in this range.
Top pick: Body-Solid StrengthTech EXM2500S
The Body-Solid StrengthTech EXM2500S is considered by many to be one of the best home gyms of all time. With over 80 exercises and 210 lbs of weight packed into an impressively compact design, this model offers more exercises and more weight than a lot of local public gyms can even offer you! As a company, Body-Solid is one of the most respected and reputable manufacturers in the game, and the EXM home gym line is their pride and joy with the EXM2500S being its most popular seller. The EXM2500S has been awarded #1 Best Home Gym by Consumer Magazine, and currently holds an exceptionally high rating with over 97% positive reviews from customers who own it.
Why we chose this model over competitors
While there are a lot of very impressive machines in this price category, the EXM2500S took the top spot because it offered more functionality, better long-term quality, a better warranty, and had a higher customer review rating than any of its competitors in this class.
Starting with exercise options, the EXM2500S has the highest amount in this category, and it should be pretty obvious that with 80+ exercises to choose from, this home gym provides options for the entire body. Chest, back, arms, shoulders, legs, abs – you name it. In addition, the EXM2500S also features high, mid, and low cable pulleys so that you can perform cable exercises from any angle you choose. This is extremely nice to have because a big majority of competitors only offer one pulley (sometimes two if you’re lucky), and then you’re stuck with whichever position they give you. With the EXM2500S, you have every option possible. To add to the versatility of these cable exercises, Body-Solid also offers extra attachments like handles or ropes so that you can really make the most of your machine.
For resistance, the Body-Solid EXM2500S utilizes a traditional adjustable steel weight stack with 210 lbs of weight. To adjust, simply move a metal selector pin between weight plates, and you can adjust the weight in 10 lb increments. If you want to move in smaller increments, there’s an easy solution for that too. Body-Solid offers 2.5 lb and 5 lb weight stack adapter plates that you can slide on top of the adjustable weight stack in order to give you the most precise weight adjustments. These little adapter plates are very useful in helping you steadily build strength to push your way into new limits.
Although the resistance cannot be upgraded, we did not see much point in the ability to upgrade weight as 210 lbs of raw steel resistance is typically more than enough for even the most demanding athletes to stay challenged. The likelihood of you outgrowing this weight level is extremely slim, but if you feel you may, check out the runner-up Bowflex Xtreme 2SE model which is available for upgrade to 310 or even 410 lbs.
The final variable that secured the EXM2500S as the top pick was its long-term quality and durability. If you plan to have your home gym for years, which you should if you’re spending over $1,000 on one, then you will seriously appreciate how Body-Solid has built this model for longevity. For starters, the frame is built with 12 gauge high-tensile steel, the cables have a 2200 lb tension strength, and the parts have been machined from incredibly high quality materials, making this one of the most durable home gyms on the market, period.
If that isn’t enough for you, Body-Solid has also given the EXM2500S the ultimate stamp of product approval: a lifetime warranty. I mean, seriously, their product certification literally says, “Lifetime Warranty On Everything, Forever, Period.” (I have to admit, that made me chuckle a bit. A big company with a good sense of humor. Got to love it!) While most companies will advertise a lifetime warranty, it usually only covers the frame. In this case, Body-Solid covers everything, all the way down to the last little bolt. You just can’t get better than that. Check out more details on this home gym here.
The best runner up: Bowflex Xtreme 2SE
The Bowflex Xtreme 2SE is the second-in-command in Bowflex’s line of home gyms, just below their top-of-the-line Revolution model. Using the innovative resistance rod technology that Bowflex is notorious for, the Xtreme 2SE provides just over 70 exercise options and comes with a standard resistance of 210 lbs. According to our research, which consisted of compiling over 1,000 user reviews on the Xtreme 2SE, it has an average 4.8/5 star rating with 98% of customers stating they would recommend to a friend, making this the highest-rated home gym by customers.
Bowflex systems have been our top picks as best home gym in both the Under $500 and $500-$1,000 categories, so it came as no surprise to us that another one of their models would end up in a top spot again in this category. However, this time it’s #2, whereas Bowflex was our #1 choice in both of the other categories. With that being said, the Xtreme 2SE is still a great choice. It offers a similar amount of exercise options (70 compared to the EXM2500S’s 80), and it equally comes with 210 lbs of resistance standard. One thing it does have over the Body-Solid model is upgradable resistance if you outgrow 210 lbs down the road. In addition, Bowflex offers a lifetime warranty on their resistance rod technology, as well as a 7-year warranty on the rest of the machine. It’s not quite as lengthy as Body-Solid’s warranty, but still a very long period of coverage compared to competitors that only offer 1-3 years. All-in-all, the Xtreme 2SE is a great home gym, but the Body-Solid EXM2500S just had so many advantages that it could not be dethroned from the top spot.
Even thought it couldn’t grab the top spot, it still may be one of the best Bowflex models. You can see how the Bowflex Xtreme 2SE compares to other Bowflex models in our Bowflex Xceed vs Xtreme 2 SE Home Gym Review and Comparison article and our Bowflex PR1000 vs Xtreme SE article.
Honorable mention: BodyCraft Galena Pro Home Gym
The BodyCraft Galena Pro Home Gym is a newer addition to our list of best home gyms in this price range. It’s designed to be tucked away into a corner, which means it takes up a lot less space than more traditionally designed home gyms.
The BodyCcaft Galena Pro comes with a dual-functioning pec dec, chest press, leg curl, leg extension, lat pulldown, low pulley, and abdominal crunch attachments. Optionally, you can also add on a leg press, which means you can work every muscle group in a short amount of time.
The Galena Pro Home Gym comes stock with a 200 pound weight stack, and is adjustable in 10 pound weight increments. The weight is supported by 2”and 2”x2” heavy gauge steel tubing and uses 3.5” diameter fiberglass reinforced nylon pulleys to move the weights. Each cable is rated at a tensile strength of 2,000 pounds, so there’s no need to worry about anything snapping the heat of the moment!
Overall, the BodyCraft Galena Pro Home Gym is a solid home gym in the upper price range, and one I am happy to include amongst the best home gyms under $2000 category!
Home gyms over $2,000
The fourth and final price category are the incredible machines tagged over $2,000. These home gyms are the most advanced on the planet, capable of what seems like an infinite amount of exercise options. In most cases, the machines in this category will be able to perform all of the same exercises that you would find in a public commercial gym (if not more!), giving true definition to the term ‘home gym.’
With that much functionality packed into each machine, this category took us the longest to research. There aren’t a ton of models in this price range (only around 25 in total), but because of how many features each model offered, we wanted to take our time to ensure we performed the most thorough investigation possible. Not only that, but we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss anything! We’ve had the opportunity to test most of the models in this category in person, so needless to say we have everything figured out to the tee. Based on our meticulous testing and review, below are the top five best home gyms in the powerful $2,000+ price range.
Top pick: Body-Solid EXM3000LPS
Body-Solid is a world-renowned exercise equipment manufacturer that’s specifically known for producing some of the best home gyms in the world, and without putting it lightly, they dominate when it comes to advanced workout machines. They have a number of highly-rated home gyms, Smith machines, and functional trainers in this category, but their EXM3000LPS Home Gym is by far the most comprehensive model. Combining 7 different workout stations into 1 compact system, the EXM3000LPS is capable of over 120 exercises and features not one but TWO adjustable 210 lb weight stacks for a total of 420 lbs of available weight. This system offers more exercises, more weight, more features, and more customization than any other model in the $2,000+ category. And the craziest part? It’s also the lowest in cost.
Why we chose this model over competitors
The home gyms in this price range are truly impressive, and quite frankly, any single one of them would be a good choice. They are all very high quality and come with a ton of useful features and functionality. With that said, Body-Solid’s EXM3000LPS is the best choice because of its excellent value – it offers the most features, at one of the most competitive costs.
Let’s start by talking about exercise functionality, because this home gym offers more of it than any other competitor. With the EXM3000LPS, Body-Solid has essentially taken every piece of exercise equipment you’d find in a public gym and impressively combined it into one home-sized machine that can do it all. It features 7 major stations: a multi-press, leg press, lat pulldown, ab crunch, leg extension, and seated row. With all of these stations, you’d think that this machine would take up a ridiculous amount of space, but for what it is, it’s actually surprisingly compact. Using these stations along with 3 different cable pulleys (high, mid, and low), the EXM3000LPS allows you to perform over 120 exercises.
As if that’s not enough, Body-Solid also offers an 8th station as an attachment, which is a leg raise/dip station. This opens up an entirely new category of body weight exercises to perform, which can be very useful in helping you master your overall body strength. In addition to all of these options, the EXM3000LPS offers other attachments like handles or ropes to expand your cable exercise options, as well as 2.5 lb and 5 lb adapter plates to add to the weight stack for precise weight adjustments.
With weight stack home gyms, there are single-stack machines and multi-stack machines, meaning there are either one adjustable stack of weight plates or several adjustable weight stacks. The Body-Solid EXM3000LPS is a multi-stack system, so it features not just one but two 210 lb adjustable weight stacks for a massive 420 lbs of total weight – the most out of any home gym in this class. Having so much available weight is a huge benefit for serious athletes or home bodybuilders because it gives you a ton of room to progress over the years as you grow stronger and build more muscle. You’ll be able to take advantage of the system’s heavyweight exercises like chest press, row, or leg press and never have to worry about maxing out the weight.
The last variable that secured this model as our top choice was the warranty. Because the home gyms in this category are the most advanced in the world, you also have more things that could potentially go wrong, and a good warranty is the sole difference between peace of mind and the headache of repairs (not to mention the cost of repairs as well). While most machines in this category are covered for 3-5 years, Body-Solid has given the EXM3000LPS the ultimate stamp of product approval: a lifetime warranty. And this isn’t just on the frame, this is on parts, pads, pulleys, everything. Body-Solid’s warranty certificate literally says, “Lifetime Warranty On Everything, Forever, Period.” When it comes to product coverage, it really doesn’t get any better than that.
Labeled as a “Light Commercial Gym,” the Body-Solid EXM3000LPS really is like having a commercial gym in the comfort of your own home. With so many exercise options and so much available weight to choose from, you’ll have just as many possibilities as any Gold’s Gym or 24 Hour Fitness, if not more. And at a price that was on the lower end, the EXM3000LPS is a true winner. In our opinion, this is the absolute best home gym that money can buy. See more details and other user reviews here.
The Best Runner U
p: BodyCraft Xpress Pro
BodyCraft, similar to Body-Solid, is another brand that’s well known for its production of high-end advanced home fitness equipment. Along with home-based exercise equipment, they’re also a wholesale supplier of commercial exercise equipment, so you may have even used them at your local gym before! Among their portfolio of premium exercise equipment is the Xpress Pro Home Gym. Receiving a near-perfect review rating from customers (4.8/5 stars with 100% recommendation rate), this home gym is sure to offer all the features and functionality you could be looking for.
The BodyCraft Xpress Pro provides over 100 exercise options with dual adjustable weight stacks that combines for 400 pounds of total available weight. Although these two variables are slightly lower than what the Body-Solid offers, the biggest benefit to the Xpress Pro is in its size. This model boasts a footprint of only 56.5″ x 82.9″, which is fairly compact for any home gym in general, let alone one that offers this much functionality. In addition, this model still comes with a lot of the same goodies as the Body-Solid EXM3000LPS, including multiple adjustable cable pulleys, multiple attachments, and the sacred everything-is-covered lifetime warranty. All-in-all, if you don’t have a lot of space to work with but still want a massively feature-packed machine, the Xpress Pro is the perfect solution.
Choosing the best home gym for you
Shopping for a new home gym is exciting. Knowing that you’re just a short time away from having a beautiful new piece of exercise equipment delivered to your doorstep, it can be seriously tempting to jump the gun and just pick an attractive model out of pure eagerness alone. However, selecting the best home gym for your personal needs requires a little more consideration than that. We’ve put together a few tips and guidelines below to help you make the most educated decision possible so that you’re completely happy once you get the knock on the door from that delivery man.
Budget is usually the number-one thing to consider when choosing a product to purchase, but when it comes to fitness equipment, there is something more critical that precedes that. While cost is obviously an important factor to think about, your primary decision factor in selecting a home gym should be its ability to help you reach whatever fitness goals you have. After all, the goal you’re trying to accomplish is the entire reason you’re purchasing a home gym in the first place, isn’t it? Remember, you’re not just investing a machine here, you’re investing in your body and your health, and you can’t put a price on a healthy body.
Now, we’re not saying that you have to go out and spend $2,000+ just to get a decent product; there are good models available no matter what price range you’re looking at. However, certain models are more effective at reaching certain goals, so first you have to define what those goals are. What are you trying to accomplish long-term? Do you want to build muscle, or lose weight? Maybe a combination of both? Or maybe you don’t have a figure-specific objective, and you’re just looking for a workout machine to keep your body in good health? Whatever your reasoning may be, identifying that reasoning is crucial in selecting the best home gym for you – THEN we can talk about budget.
Fitness goals usually fall into four main categories: muscle-building, body weight loss, toning, and general health and fitness. We’re going to talk each objective below in order to help you choose the best home gym for your personal goals.
Building muscle & strength
Building muscle requires focusing on a type of exercise known as strength training. Strength training is usually what you think of when you hear the phrase, “lifting weights.” The basic explanation is that you use some sort of resistance (like weights, for example) to induce muscular contraction and hypertrophy, which are the physical processes that build the strength and size of your muscle fibers. To best induce these processes, you perform a resistance exercise (like bench press) for a set number of repetitions (like 3 sets of 10 reps). Over time, you gradually increase the resistance used in these exercises, and your muscles progressively grow in strength and size to accommodate it.
If building muscle is your primary goal then you’re in luck, because about 90% of home gyms are built with strength training in mind. In fact, this is literally the reason that home gyms were invented in the first place – so that people could have a convenient way to build muscle and strength right from the comfort of their own home without ever having to visit a public commercial gym. So with that said, nearly any home gym on the market is going to be good for building muscle, but choosing the right one for you depends entirely on how much muscle you want to build. Below we’ve outlined 3 common goals to show you the best home gym for building muscle according to how much you want to build.
0-10 lbs of muscle
If you’re only looking to put on a few pounds of muscle, then the Bowflex PR1000 would be an excellent choice for you. It offers a little over 30 exercises, and most importantly offers the ability to exercise every major muscle group on the body so that you can work everything evenly. With 210 lbs of standard resistance, it provides more than enough room for growth to build the amount of muscle you’re looking for as well as keep you challenged for long after you’ve hit your goal. It even comes with a built-in rowing station so that you can work on cardio as well. Although strength is the main focus when it comes to muscle building, cardio also plays a big role in your overall health and is important in providing your body a well-balanced workout to stage the foundation for muscle growth. The Bowflex PR1000 was our #1 top pick for home gyms under $500, read our recap here to see why we believe it is the best choice in its category.
10-30 lbs of muscle
For those who want to make a more serious physical change and get into the double-digits of added muscle, the Bowflex Blaze is your best choice hands-down. This mid-level model from Bowflex is quite a step up from the PR1000 we just spoke about above. The Blaze provides more than 60 exercises with options for every muscle group on the body, which is nearly 50% more exercises than other models in its price range. More exercises means more ways to build muscle. Just like most home gyms in its category, it comes with 210 lbs of standard resistance – but the key feature that sets the Blaze apart is its ability to upgrade the resistance to 310 or 410 lbs. This is crucial for those looking to gain a larger amount of muscle because you need to keep increasing resistance load in order to grow. Finally, just like the PR1000, the Blaze also has a built-in rowing station for conditioning and balanced workouts. The Bowflex Blaze is the highest-rated model in our entire guide, earning our #1 top pick in home gyms under $1,000, #1 in home gyms for beginners, AND #1 best value for your dollar. Read our full recap here to see why it did so well over its competition.
30+ lbs of muscle
If you’re looking to radically change your body and pack on an extreme amount of muscle, then you’re looking for a model that offers a lot of exercises and a lot of weight. In this situation, the Body-Solid EXM3000LPS will be the best home gym for reaching this goal. Packing 7 workout stations into 1, this model provides over 120 exercises and includes several major compound movements that you’d typically only find in a regular public gym, such as leg press, bench press, and dips. Compound exercises are paramount in crafting a serious body because they are known to build the most muscle. In addition, the EXM3000LPS has 420 lbs of available weight by incorporating two adjustable weight stacks, making this the highest weight offering of any home gym on the market. I’m sure you can figure out why more weight is better when it comes to building muscle. The Body-Solid EXM3000LPS was our #1 top pick in the advanced category, feel free to read our notes here on why we chose it over the other high-end competitors.
Additional resources for strength training and effectively building muscle
When it comes to body weight loss, conditioning is going to be the most effective form of training for you. Conditioning is basically fitness jargon for exercises that require you to work hard or move fast for a specific amount of time. The words “conditioning” and “cardio” are often used interchangeably as synonyms, but the truth is they are not the same thing. Cardio is the parent category, and conditioning is just a specific form of it that focuses on training at high-intensity for short time periods (like 30-60 seconds). This both builds strength and improves cardiovascular health, but the main reason that conditioning is recommended as the best type of training for body weight loss (not just by us, but also by nearly every other fitness expert) is because it burns fat more effectively than any other type of cardio. For example, a 20-minute conditioning workout can easily burn as much fat as 60 minutes of traditional cardio like running or cycling.
While home gyms were initially created for the purpose of muscle-building, in recent years, the fitness industry has seen the exciting introduction of new models that are focused specifically on conditioning workouts to assist with weight loss and toning. This style has quickly become a massively popular option among consumers, so let’s talk about the top choices below.
The best home gym for weight loss
The two big players when it comes to weight-loss-oriented machines are Total Gym and Weider. Both companies’ home gyms are very similar in terms of design, using an inclined glide board and cable-and-pulley system to pull the body back and forth in order to provide an intense full-body workout that builds strength and destroys fat. However, when it comes to choosing one or the other, the Weider Ultimate Body Works is your best choice because of the sheer value for your dollar it offers. Both Total Gym’s and Weider’s machines are very similar in the amount of features they offer, but with the Total Gym XLS costing nearly $900 and the Weider priced under $200, the decision between the two is a no brainer.
Another good option
If you aren’t a fan of the bodyweight-style workouts like those offered by the Total Gym and Weider UBW, then the Bowflex PR1000 would also be a good choice due to the fact that it offers an effective cardio feature: a rowing machine. While this home gym may not be designed specifically for weight loss and toning like the above two models, there are plenty of users who have reported excellent weight loss results using the PR1000’s combination of 30 exercises and cardio rowing feature. As noted above, conditioning is the preferred form of training for the quickest weight loss results, but a combination of lifting and cardio like this could yield just-as-effective results as long as you stick to it and really nail your workouts.
An important note about losing weight
One thing to keep in mind if weight loss is your goal: you need to dial in your diet. A clean diet designed to help you lose weight is far more important than which home gym you choose. There are debates on exact numbers, but the general consensus is that weight loss is 75% diet, and 25% exercise. So with that said, you could buy the best home gym on the planet with every cool feature possible, but if you’re still stuffing down bad calories, the weight is not going to come off. Weight loss is a challenging task but can definitely be achieved with a smart regimen of hard exercise work and a carefully crafted diet.
Additional resources on conditioning and effectively losing weight
For toning, you will want a model that provides a combination of both weighted exercise and conditioning. In case you’re unfamiliar with the terms, let me provide a quick explanation for you. Weight training consists of exercises like lifting weights that focus on building and strengthening the muscles. Conditioning consists of more fast-paced exercises like sprints or rowing that focus on burning body fat and defining the muscles. Together, these two types of training are the perfect combination for a toned and lean body.
Most home gyms are made with only strength training in mind, so it can be tricky trying to find something that can also offer the conditioning aspect (and honestly, the conditioning aspect is the more important of the two training types because that’s what really shapes and defines the muscles, giving you the toned figure that you’re looking for). There are, however, a select few home gyms on the market that offer both types of training and have become extremely popular options for those with the goal of toning.
The best home gym for toning
As a first choice, we would highly recommend the Weider Ultimate Body Works as the best home gym for toning. Literally advertised as a “body shaper and toner,” this workout system provides a unique full-body workout that is the perfect blend of lifting and conditioning. The exercises work like this: you sit on an inclined glide board and use a cable-and-pulley system to pull yourself back and forth on the rails, using different exercise variations to target different muscle groups. Using adjustable resistance bands that are built into the machine or by altering the angle of the glide board, you can increase the challenge and make your workouts even more intense. While it might not sound too intense just reading text on a screen, take our word for it – there’s a reason that this is one of the highest-rated machines on the market. The Weider UBW has become a staple in the weight loss and toning industries for its intense style, and for under $200, this is a complete steal when it comes to exercise equipment.
Another good option
If for whatever reason the Weider Ultimate Body Works’ style does not work for you, your second best bet for toning would be the Bowflex PR1000. The PR1000 is more of a traditionally-styled home gym, but it is one of the extremely few home gyms that does offer features for both strength and conditioning. For strength, you have over 30 exercises that target every major muscle group on the body. For conditioning, there is a built-in rowing machine that works extremely well and gets the blood pumping quick. Using both the strength and conditioning features offered on the PR1000, this model is an excellent alternative to the Weider to help tone and shape the body.
Additional resources on toning the body
General health & fitness
If you don’t have a body-specific goal and you just want some sort of home workout machine to keep you in overall good health and shape, then you’ll be happy to know that you can choose any home gym you want! Pretty much any of the models discussed above will be a great tool for staying in good health, the key advice here is just to make sure that you use it! Too many times you see home gyms collecting dust in the garage or in some corner of a house. As long as you use it routinely and continue to challenge yourself with exercises, you will improve your general health and fitness. Now that you know that, follow along with our next few pieces of advice to narrow down your choices to a model that best suits you in other areas such as budget, size, and experience level.
Now that you’ve defined what your fitness goals are, the next step in the purchase process is to define your budget. Figuring out how much you’re willing to spend is not only smart financially, but it will also narrow down the options, which in turn makes it easier to find your perfect match.
Generally speaking, when it comes to home gyms, the higher the price, the better the machine. You can find quality models in the lower-end price categories, but they will usually only offer basic functionality. Investing in a higher-end model will give you more workout features, more exercise options, a higher weight range, a longer warranty, and overall a better-quality machine that’s going to last longer. In most cases, higher-end models end up being the smarter choice because they typically provide more value for your dollar and are more effective at helping you reach your goals. However, with that being said, consider your own personal resources and stick to the budget that you’re most comfortable with. Depending on what your fitness goals are, basic functionality might be all you need.
The best home gym for the money
The four main price categories for home gyms are: Under $500, $500-$1,000, $1,000-$2,000, and over $2,000. But regardless of which price range you choose, there’s something even deeper that any smart consumer wants: value for your dollar. Whether you’re on a tight budget or you’ve got all the money in the world, everyone wants to get a good value for your dollar. It’s basic shopping knowledge to make the most of your money, so if you’re a money-conscious consumer like we are, below are the top three home gyms that offer the best bang for your buck.
Top pick: Bowflex Blaze
Although there are a lot of great home gyms out there these days, when it comes to value for your dollar, the model that stands out most is the Bowflex Blaze. The Blaze offers nearly TWICE the amount of exercises and features compared to other models in its price category, in addition to several other unique benefits that even home gyms in the $2,000+ range do not offer on their machines, making this by far the best home gym for the money.
Let’s start with the basics. In the $500-$1,000 price range (which the Bowflex Blaze falls in), the average home gym provides about 30-40 exercises. The Blaze offers over 60. In the same price range, the average home gym provides about 150-200 lbs of maximum standard weight. The Blaze offers 210 lbs standard, but also has the ability to upgrade to 310 lbs or even 410 lbs should you need it. Upgradable resistance is very rare to come by, especially in this price range, so that versatility is very beneficial.
In addition to the basic feature comparisons above, the Blaze also includes a built-in rowing machine for cardio. This offers a huge value because it allows you to perform weight lifting and cardio from a single machine, rather than having to buy a cardio machine separately (rowing machines are typically in the $200+ range so you can see the cost-effectiveness). The Blaze’s value is not just in physical features, though – Bowflex also offers a 6-week money-back satisfaction guarantee, which no other brand offers. While that’s not necessarily a physical value, you can’t put a price on peace-of-mind, and a money-back guarantee is the best peace-of-mind you can ask for when making a big purchase.
Overall, if you’re looking for the best home gym in terms of value for your dollar, the Blaze takes the cake. All of these benefits above and it still has a lower price tag than most of the models in its price range. There’s a reason 98% of people who currently own it say they would buy it again and recommend to a friend. In case you want some more info on the Blaze, read our full overview here.
The two runners up: Weider Ultimate Body Works and Bowflex PR1000
If the Bowflex Blaze is a little more than what you’re looking for, the Weider Ultimate Body Works and Bowflex PR1000 are your two excellent runners up.
Total-body home gyms have become all the rage in recent years, and the Weider Ultimate Body Works has become the #1 best-seller in this category for one main reason: value for your dollar. While most total-body gyms are in the $500 and up range, the Weider UBW is available for under $200. With that big of a price difference, usually you would expect some sort of lack in quality or features, but the Ultimate Body Works is high-quality, durable, and packed with functionality offering over 50 exercises, putting it right on par with the rest of the total gym systems but at a fraction of the cost. In addition to being our #2 pick in best value for your dollar, the Weider also earned our #2 pick in home gyms under $500 as well as #1 best compact home gym, making this nearly the best scoring model in our entire guide.
The Bowflex PR1000, on the other hand, is the baby brother model to the Blaze, so it offers a lot of the same principals but with less options overall. The PR1000 offers 30 total exercises instead of the Blaze’s 60. Compared to other models in its price range of under $500, 30 exercises is just about average; the thing that sets it apart in terms of value is that it includes exercise options for the entire body, which most of its competitors do not. It also offers more standard resistance. While the second-closest competitor tops out at 150 lbs of resistance, the PR1000 has 210 lbs. In addition to valuable exercise options and higher resistance, the PR1000 also includes the built-in rowing station just like the Blaze, which other models in the sub-$500 definitely do not have. We’ve already discussed above why this is such a beneficial option in terms of cost-effectiveness.
Size & space
Checking size and space is something that is very often overlooked when shopping for home gyms. Most of us have pretty limited space at home, so it’s always a good idea to plan out your exercise area before you actually buy exericse equipment. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard the story of someone who bought some big fancy workout machine just to realize it didn’t even fit in their home because they didn’t check the dimenions beforehand. Do yourself a favor: grab a measuring tape and take down the dimensions of the area you plan to setup your new home gym so that you know exactly how much room you have to work with. This way, when you’re comparing home gyms, you can verify that the models you’re interested in will fit in your designated area.
If you’ve only got a small space available, we’ve provided a brief recap of the most compact home gyms below so that you that can find a suitable model to fit your home.
The best compact home gym
Having a smaller workout space at home doesn’t mean you’re forced to use basic exercise equipment. In fact, being limited on space is a pretty common issue these days, so there are certain models that have been specifically designed with these situations in mind. If you’re looking for the best home gym for compact workout areas, below are your top three options.
Top pick: Weider Ultimate Body Works
The Weider Ultimate Body Works is quite literally the most compact home gym on the market. With working dimensions of only 70″ x 27″, this total body workout machine is over 12″ shorter in length AND 18″ narrower in width than the average home gym. But it didn’t win our top pick as best compact home gym just because it’s the smallest in size; the Weider UBW also packs a fantastic value for your dollar.
If you want a total body machine with features similar to the Ultimate Body Works (adjustable incline board, cable-and-pulley system, built-in resistance bands, and 50+ exercises), comparable models will be in the $500+ range. The Weider, on the other hand, is available for under $200. We were so impressed with its capabilities and affordability that it was also our #2 pick in home gyms under $500, as well as #2 best value for your dollar and #1 best home gym for weight loss and toning.
The two runners up: Powerline BSG10X and Bowflex PR1000
If total body systems aren’t your style, there are two great options when it comes to traditional strength training machines: the Powerline BSG10X and the Bowflex PR1000.
Starting with the Powerline BSG10X, this model requires a very minimal working space of 70″ x 42″, which is the same length as the Weider UBW but just a little bit wider. The BSG10X was our #2 pick in home gyms under $1,000, and in addition to its compact sizing, another great benefit is its extremely simple assembly (it comes about 90% assembled right out of the box, all you have to do is install a couple bolts and you can have the entire thing put together in about 20-30 minutes max). Read our recap on the BSG10X here.
The Bowflex PR1000, on the other hand, requires a slightly higher-than-average working area of 100″ x 78″ due to its resistance rod design, but its biggest benefit in terms of compactness is thanks to its foldable design. When the PR1000 is not in use, the bench can be folded up to a space about 30″ x 30″ and easily tucked away in any regular closet or corner. Read our notes on the PR1000 here.
Rather than shopping by fitness goals, you may instead choose to shop by the amount of experience you have with working out. There are really only two categories when it comes to this subject: experienced and inexperienced. We’ve split each category up into sections below in order to help you select the best home gym based on your experience level.
If you’re just getting started in fitness, there is no better piece of exercise equipment than a home gym to help you learn the ropes of working out. They are easy to use, highly effective, and offer dozens of different exercise options to help you build muscle and strength in every part of your body. Whether your goal is muscle building, weight loss, general health and fitness, or any other fitness objective, a home gym can help you achieve a better and healthier lifestyle right from the comfort of your own home. We’ve provided a couple of recommendations for beginners below based on different fitness goals.
For beginners looking to build muscle, we would recommend either the Bowflex PR1000 or the Bowflex Blaze. These two models are like siblings, the PR1000 being the little brother and the Blaze being the big brother. Both are very similar in terms of design, the Blaze just offers double the features. If you’re only looking to put on a few pounds of muscle or you just want to generally tone up the body, the PR1000 would likely be the better choice. It offers exercises for the entire body, options for both strength and cardio, 210 lbs of resistance, and is competitively priced under $500. However, if you want to make some more serious muscle gains (think 5-20 lbs of muscle), the Blaze would be the better option. Not only because it has 60 exercises instead of 30, but because the resistance is upgradable from 210 lbs all the way up to 310 or 410 lbs as you need it. The PR1000 cannot upgrade resistance, and upgradable resistance is a key feature for those who want to get a little more serious with the muscle building.
For beginners looking to lose weight or shape and tone the body, we would recommend the Weider Ultimate Body Works. This model is specially designed with weight loss and toning in mind, offering a full-body conditioning workout that both builds strength and burns fat. Conditioning is key for cutting body fat quick, and the Weider UBW’s workouts have proven to effectively burn fat better than nearly any other type of traditional cardio such as running or cycling.
Additional resources for beginners to learn workouts and exercises
• The Complete Beginner’s Workout Program by Muscle & Fitness
• The Beginner’s Workout (for guys) by Men’s Fitness
• Non-Intimidating Exercises For Beginners (for women) by Shape
If you already have experience working out, then you likely know what to look for when shopping for home gyms, so we’ll keep this section short and sweet. For those who want to make a serious physical transformation, you will likely want a more feature-packed system like the Body-Solid EXM2500S or Body-Solid EXM3000LPS. These machines offer an extremely diverse amount of exercise options as well as a lot of available weight to work with, making these excellent choices for experienced lifters. On the other hand, if you’re not necessarily interested in gaining serious muscle, something like the Bowflex Blaze or Weider Ultimate Body Works would be a great choice. These two systems offer a combination of both strength and conditioning, allowing for a well-balanced workout and the ability to build muscle and improve cardiovascular health simultaneously.
Things to consider before buying a home gym
In the above section we covered the most important factors in choosing the best home gym for your personal needs. In this section, we’ll cover a couple of secondary considerations to make that are not quite as crucial as the ones discussed above, but are still worth thinking about while shopping.
Exercise options is usually the main variable that differs between home gyms (other than the obvious things like quality or design). With this consideration, more is better. More exercises means more versatility and overall better workouts, which is ultimately what you want from a home gym. In addition, exercise variety is key to fitness success. So other than just the sheer number of exercises, it’s also important to think about the types of exercises you will have as well.
Most models these days come with a wide variety of features and exercises for every part of your body; however, sometimes you may come across a model that excludes a certain area or lacks a specific feature that you wanted. One of the rows in our home gym comparison tables verifies that the model in question has exercises for the entire body, but in case you’re browsing machines outside of our guide, keep your exercises options in mind to make sure you get everything you’re looking for.
You don’t usually hear complaints about a home gym not having enough weight, but it’s something worth mentioning depending on what your fitness goals are. If you’re wanting to gain quite a bit of muscle, weight range is going to be important to your goals as this is what’s going to keep your muscles challenged and growing. Look for a model that either has a high standard weight range or offers the ability to upgrade so that you don’t run into the issue of not having enough weight in the future. If your goals do not consist of more serious muscle gain, you will likely not have to think twice about weight range.
A home gym is something that will last for years if you do proper research and buy a quality system, but having a good warranty on your exercise equipment is just another aspect to ensure you’re covered in the event of an unexpected issue. While this isn’t really a make-or-break variable, warranty is definitely worth taking a look at because coverage can vary wildly between different brands. There are a lot of moving parts on these machines, and you can never be too careful. To make your shopping as easy as possible, we’ve listed the warranty in each of our home gym comparison tables so that you can see the different coverages without having to search around on manufacturer websites.
In most cases, assembly on one of these bad boys is going to take you a couple hours. It’s better to just expect that now and be patient while you put everything together, because trust me – you’d much rather spend a little extra time making sure it’s done right, rather than trying to rush through it just to be frustrated when you find out something was done incorrectly. However, with that said, there are a few home gyms out there that come with some pretty horrendous instructions that can make your setup a nightmare.
Our best advice here is to make sure you read through customer reviews to see what others thought of a particular model’s assembly. More than likely, if there are any serious issues with it, the reviews will make it known and even have solutions that will make assembly easier for you. Another option is to order in-house assembly with your purchase. It’s a little costly (around $100-$200 on average), but may be worth it for those that don’t like to mess around with exercise equipment setup.
Most home gyms these days have little rubber traction knobs that go on the bottom to provide stability to the machine and protect your floors from damage. However, sometimes these knobs can wear down easily due to the weight and pressure of the machine, so it may benefit you to invest in a few mats of gym flooring to provide extra foundation and protection against damage. It’s also nice to have because it provides a clean stable workout space. If you’re interested in seeing the different styles of flooring, we tested each type in person and created a detailed home gym flooring guide to help you find the best kind.
Different types of home gyms
Home gyms are all made with the same intention in mind – to provide a convenient way for people to workout at home. But because people’s needs vary based on their fitness goals, experience level, and budget, there are several different types of home gyms available. Some serve certain purposes better than others, so we provided the general details on each type below so that you’re aware of the different benefits and drawbacks of each style.
Strength training home gyms
Strength focused home gyms are usually the first thing that come to mind when you think “home gym” because they are by far the most common and most popular style. These machines don’t really need much explanation – they look and work almost exactly like the machines you’d find in a regular public gym, providing isolation exercises that are great for building muscle and strength. However, the one main difference between these machines is the resistance type. There are two main categories when it comes to resistance: traditional weights and resistance rods.
Traditional weights (weight stack/free weight)
Home gyms that use traditional weight come in two different types: weight stack and free weight. In weight stack systems, there is a numbered stack of weight plates built into the machine and you adjust the weight using a little metal selector pin that slides into each plate. In free weight systems, the machine does not have weight built in, and instead you use Olympic free weight plates and manually add or remove the weight plates to the machine yourself. Either way, traditional weight tends to have a very natural lifting feel with one consistent resistance throughout the entire movement of an exercise.
Resistance rods are quite a bit different. Developed and patented by Bowflex, resistance rods (or Power Rods, as Bowflex calls them) are made of a high-strength flexible composite material that uses different thicknesses and tension rates to basically mimic the feel of traditional weight, but with a couple slight twists. Rather than having one consistent resistance throughout an exercise movement (like traditional weight), Bowflex’s resistance rods are progressive, meaning the resistance is easier at the beginning and then gets increasingly more difficult as you continue through the movement of an exercises.
For example, imagine a bicep curl. In the beginning of the curl, the resistance would be easier, but as you curl upward, the resistance would get increasingly more difficult. In addition to progression, resistance rods do not rely on gravity, which eliminates inertia and makes it impossible to cheat your way through an exercise by using force. Because of this, your body is required to use 100% muscle to get through every repetition.
Traditional weights vs. resistance rods
So now that we’ve discussed both categories of resistance in strength focused home gyms, the obvious question at hand is: is one better than the other? Bowflex claims that “no free weight system or weight stack machine even comes close” to the safety, efficiency, and results of a resistance rod system. Now, that’s a pretty bold statement, and we were a bit skeptical when we first saw that, thinking this was just typical big brand marketing tactics.
We decided to look into this for the sake of proof, and all of our doubts were resolved when we came across a study by Dr. Jim Stoppani comparing the effectiveness of traditional weights versus elastic resistance (the same style provided by resistance rods). For those who don’t know the name, Jim Stoppani is considered one of the world’s greatest experts on fitness, with a PhD in exercise physiology and nearly 30 years of experience under his belt. After several pages of technical research and comparing the benefits and drawbacks of each type of resistance, Jim concludes his study with this statement:
“A program using elastic tubing resistance can provide similar benefits to a program that uses free-weight resistance, such as increased muscle strength, increase muscle tone and size and decreased body fat. In addition, a program that uses elastic tubing resistance can also provide benefits that are not offered by free-weight resistance programs, such as more functional strength, better injury prevention, greater ability to change muscle emphasis during exercises, greater muscle power development and easier use.”
So according to the science of each resistance type, elastic resistance (like resistance rods) is considered to be more beneficial than traditional weights. With that being said, everyone has their own personal preference, so if you still feel more comfortable using traditional weight plates, then go for it! You’ll still do just fine in the results department. There’s a reason machines in public gyms still use traditional weight – it works.
Total body home gyms
Total body home gyms provide a conditioning-style workout that is great for weight loss, toning, and muscle strengthening. In case you’ve never seen one of these machines before and you’re unfamiliar with it, let me preface with how this style came to be. A company named Total Gym was the first producer of these total-body workout machines, and they were initially used in rehabilitation centers as a physical therapy tool where they were loved for their physical conditioning exercises. They eventually gained mass public popularity when they began airing TV commercials featuring celebrities like Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley back in the 90’s. From there, other brands caught on and began developing their own versions, and now this style is right up there in popularity with traditional machines.
Now let’s talk about how the machine actually works. As you can see from the video above, the design is much different than a traditional home gym. There is a padded glide board attached to a rail system (kind of like a roller coaster, woo!), and you use a system of cables and pulleys to pull yourself up and down the rails. You can change the incline on the board to make things more challenging, and there is usually some sort of built-in resistance to increase the difficulty as well. At first thought, this might not sound like a tough workout, but after 30-60 seconds of pulling back and forth you’ll be reconsidering that thought. While a conditioning workout style like this isn’t necessarily great for putting on pounds of muscle, it is highly beneficial from a toning perspective because it can build strength and stamina while burning body fat at the same time.
Top home gym brands to look at
There are dozens of different brands offering home gyms, ranging from knock-offs to big name brands. Buying from a reputable brand can help ensure you get a high-quality machine that’s going to last for years to come. Below are the five most recognized and respected home gym brands to check out.
Bowflex is likely the first name that comes to mind when anyone thinks about home gyms. Their advertisements are in every fitness-related store on the planet and you can usually catch a television commercial for a Bowflex product multiple times a day. Bowflex has been producing fitness equipment since 1986 and is arguably the most popular brand out there. They are well-known for premium quality, value for your dollar, and even offer a money-back guarantee on all of their models to ensure users are completely satisfied. If you’re just starting your research and you’re unfamiliar with brands, you can’t go wrong with anything that bears the Bowflex name.
We’ve reviewed a lot of Bowflex home gyms and we honestly can’t find one we don’t like. Here’s some of the top Bowflex models for you to check out:
- Bowflex Blaze review
- Bowflex PR1000 review
- Bowflex Home Gym HTV review
- Bowflex Ultimate 2 review
- Bowflex Xceed review
- Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE review
Body-Solid is another brand that is known well for their top-notch quality, with several of their models earning “#1 Best Buy” awards from major consumer research companies like Consumer Magazine. Founded in 1989, Body-Solid lives and dies by the motto “Built for Life.” They believe in the long-term, which is why all of their home gyms come with a lifetime everything-is-covered warranty. It is hands-down the best warranty in the industry, so if that’s something that is important to you, definitely give Body-Solid a look. They make every type of workout system from basic to advanced, so you will undoubtedly find something that fits your needs from them.
Powerline is a brand that’s actually owned by Body-Solid. If I understand correctly, they began in the early 2000’s and were later acquired by Body-Solid (this is no surprise, Body-Solid is parent company to several different fitness equipment brands). While Powerline doesn’t offer quite as many models as Body-Solid does, the models they do offer are nice in quality and great when it comes to the price tag. You can usually expect a good value for your dollar and the same lifelong principles that Body-Solid follows for their own brand.
Joe Weider was a pioneer to the world of bodybuilding and to the fitness industry as a whole. This is the man who co-founded the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB), created the Mr./Ms. Olympia bodybuilding contests, and published several of the top fitness media companies like Muscle & Fitness and Men’s Fitness. His contributions to the industry were monumental and timeless. Knowing that, it’s no surprise that his line of workout equipment, Weider Fitness, is highly regarded. While Weider’s traditional strength systems aren’t anything extraordinary, the total body category is where this brand excels.
As the name implies, Total Gym specializes in total-body machines. Their machines were actually initially used in physical therapy offices as a body rehabilitation tool, but they got such positive feedback in their machine’s ability to train strength and conditioning that they went public with things. Following a few endorsements and infomercials with celebrities like Christie Brinkley and Chuck Norris, their company blew up and is now the #1 brand in total body systems with several different models to choose from. Our 2 favorites? The XForce and the XLS. You can read our Total Gym X-Force review and our Total Gym XLS review for more info.
Who are we and why should you trust us?
Here at HomeGymr, we are avid fitness lovers. Several of us are even certified personal trainers with academic degrees in fitness-related majors. But most importantly, we are consumers, just like you. This unique combination of passion, experience, and consumer-mindset gives us the perfect set of qualifications to be researching home gyms because we know exactly what to look for in an ideal machine (not to mention we look at everything from a completely unbiased perspective because we are an independent group with no ties to any brands, companies, or manufacturers).
The key difference that sets our guide apart from the rest is personalization. There are already plenty of “top 10” lists for the best home gym, but the problem with those is that they are extremely broad. Nothing is personalized, which just doesn’t make sense when it comes to fitness equipment because we all have different needs. While you might be trying to gain muscle, I might be trying to lose body weight. Or maybe you are comfortable with spending more money, whereas I want to stick to a tight budget. The list goes on and on, and therefore the best home gym for you might not be the best for me.
Our goal in creating this guide was to have the most comprehensive home gym resource on the internet so that anyone in any situation would be able to come here and use our 100% honest, unbiased information to find their perfect match – and that’s exactly what we’ve done. It may have taken us almost a full year of reviewing and comparing home gyms until we were satisfied with our results, but now we can rightfully say that we have research-backed solutions for everyone no matter what your personal situation may be.
Whether you are a complete beginner or you’ve been working out for years; whether your goal is building muscle, weight loss, toning, or general health; whether you’re on a tight budget or you’ve got all the money in the world – we’ve covered every possible aspect of home gym research here to make your buying process simple and personalized to your specific needs.
Our research and review process
As noted in our introduction, we examined over 120 home gyms during our research for this guide; that’s nearly every model on the market (I say ‘nearly’ because there were a few off-brand machines that we chose to exclude from our research because they had terrible user reviews – less than 2.5 stars on average). Of those 120, we even got to test about 75 of those in person. During review and hands-on testing of each model, we used the following checklist of criteria and considerations to determine a model’s rating within our guide:
• Quality – First things first, is the machine well-made? How is the quality of the frame, parts, and features?
• Durability – Can the machine hold up to tough gym-like workouts or do you have to hold back for worry of damaging something? How will this machine last over the years?
• Exercises – How many exercises does the machine offer and are there exercises for all major muscle groups? Are there any unique exercises that set the machine apart?
• Weight Range – Does it offer a wide weight range or will a user have to worry about not having enough resistance? Can the resistance be upgradable in the future if needed?
• Features – Are there any additional features that help improve workouts and/or use of the machine?
• Assembly – Is the machine easy to assemble for the average person? How are the instructions and does it include all parts needed for setup?
• Size – How big is the machine? What’s the minimum required floor space to set this up?
• Ease of Use – Is the machine easy to use? Does it require any advanced knowledge or can someone with no experience jump on and begin using without a problem?
• Comfort – Is the machine comfortable to work out on? Are there any restrictions that would limit someone from using it?
• Performance – Do all the features work properly as intended? Are the movements smooth or are there any caveats to be aware of when using certain functions?
• Warranty – What are the warranty details? How long are things covered and what exactly is covered?
• Drawbacks – Are there any types of drawbacks (minor or serious) to mention?
• Market – Who is the home gym best for? What experience level and what fitness goals can the machine help with?
• Value – Does it offer a good value for your dollar or are there better options for getting the most from your money?
• User Reviews – What do other users think of the machine? Are there any other benefits or drawbacks that we missed? Any trending issues to be aware of?
In addition to the extensive details above, we also examined the in-depth reviews of multiple consumer research companies such as Consumer Reports and Consumer Search. By comparing our own findings with the findings of other research experts, we were able to get the most well-rounded conclusions about the many different models we reviewed.
Wrapping it up
If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this guide, bravo. That’s quite a bit of reading! But now, you should have an excellent idea of which home gym is going to work best for you. As you’ve seen, home gyms come in all shapes and sizes and some are much better suited towards certain needs. Considering your personal budget, fitness goals, experience level, and more will help you choose the model that’ll put the biggest smile on your face when you hammer out your first workout. If you have any additional questions about a particular model or need a little extra guidance in choosing which home gym to go with, feel free to leave a comment or email us and we will be happy to point you in the right direction.