The Best Home Gyms 2017 – Top Picks & Reviews
- Our Top 5 Home Gym Picks
- Factors To Consider When Buying a Home Gym
Strength training is an important part of every fitness program, or at least it should be. But, the biggest impediment that keeps people limited to cardiovascular exercises is lack of equipment.
Yes, you could argue that bodyweight exercises allow strength training with little to no equipment. However, bodyweight exercises require you to move through progressively more difficult variants of an exercise progression. This means, just when you get used to one exercise, it’s time to learn another.
But, home gyms allow you to add resistance without changing the exercise. Also, it integrates all the equipment you will ever need to hit every muscle group. Add to this the comfort of working out in your home instead of having to travel to a gym, and it’s the best of both worlds.
No more commuting and no more waiting for your turn. Plus, a home gym will help you save a lot of money in the long run. So, are you ready to invest in the best home gym for your needs? Great, that’s what we’re going to help you with. Let get started!
Our Top 5 Home Gym Picks
|MODEL||PRODUCT DIMENSIONS||ITEM WEIGHT||USER RATING||PRICE|
|Bowflex Blaze Home Gym||59 x 23 x 14 inches||214 pounds||4.4/5||$$
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|Powerline Body-Solid Powerline Home Gym||87 x 24 x 18 inches||300 pounds||4.4/5||$$$
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|Body-Solid StrengthTech EXM2500S||83 x 51x 83||4.2/5||$$$$
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|Bayou Fitness Total Trainer 4000-XL||52 x 21 x 16 inches||92 pounds||3.8/5||$
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To organize the information in an easy-to-process form, we’ve divided this article into two parts. In the first part, which is home gym reviews, we’ll introduce you to the most popular products on the market in this segment. In the second part, we’ll discuss the factors you must consider when buying a home gym. The two parts put together will give you a strong foundation, allowing you to make the right decision with confidence.
#1 Bowflex Blaze Home Gym – Our Top Pick
Think of the Bowflex Blaze as the Swiss Army Knife of home gyms. Considering the 60+ exercises you can perform on this platform, it is the best home gym on the market right now. Its Power Rod technology lets you select resistance from 5 lb to 210 lb right out of the box. You can also upgrade the resistance to 310 lb or 410 lb when required. So, you don’t have to worry about out powering the machine. The Blaze’s versatility, upgradability, and affordability are its greatest strengths.
However, the Power Rod technology comes with a drawback. Unlike stack weights, which always provide the same resistance, the Power Rods lose a bit of their resistance as you use the machine. Ambient temperature also affects the resistance. When you set the resistance at 50 lb, you can never be sure whether you’re truly getting 50 lb of resistance.
Another fault of the Power Rod technology is that you must hook or unhook the rods to set the resistance. So, if you’re switching from a stronger muscle group to a weaker one, or vice-versa, the switch takes time. Switching resistance in stack-weight home gyms, however, is as easy as pulling the pin out and re-inserting it at the required weight.
Also, this equipment requires a lot of space. If you’re looking for a compact home gym, this is not the machine for you. The reason I’ve highlighted the negatives of this product is because customers who buy this product without knowing these limitations are often unsatisfied with their purchase. Now, there’s no home gym on the market that gets everything right. But, the Bowflex Blaze meets the expectations of home fitness enthusiasts better than any other home gym does.
- 60+ exercises
- Reasonable price
- Upgradable resistance
- Occupies a lot of space
- Power Rods lose resistance
- Switching resistance is a hassle
#2 Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym – Best For The Money
If you don’t have the budget for the Bowflex Blaze, consider buying the Bowflex PR1000. The product’s popularity and functionality make it the best home gym for the money. Now, the Bowflex PR1000 also uses Power Rod Technology to create resistance. In the review on the Blaze, I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of this system of resistance. The same applies to the PR1000 as well. But, when we account for the price difference, the impact of the negatives is softened and the benefit of the positives is amplified.
Although the PR1000 offers a lesser number of exercises per muscle group than the Blaze does, the PR1000 does cater to all muscle groups. On one hand, the lack of options is an advantage because it allows you to focus on mastering the exercises available. On the other hand, the lack of variety can be disadvantage because it limits the flexibility of your workouts.
Another important fact to consider is that the PR1000 does not allow you to upgrade the resistance. So, if your muscles develop to the point where 210 lb is not challenging enough, the machine cannot support you in further development. But, if you reach that point, you can take on other strength training methods, such as free weight training or bodyweight training.
On the whole, I believe the compromises made in favor of economy are fair. Even though you lose out on the extras, Bowflex didn’t mess with the core functionality when they designed and developed the PR1000. That’s the reason why this model has been so successful on the market.
- Targets all major muscle groups
- Popular and well-reviewed
- Limited number of exercises
- Resistance cannot be upgraded
- Resistance degrades over time
#3 Powerline Body-Solid Powerline Home Gym – Best Compact Home Gym
The primary benefit of buying the BSG10X is its compactness. The unit requires only 3′ 6″ x 5′ 10″ of floor space. That’s about 20 square feet. Despite the size, this home gym provides more than 40 different exercises and it is easy to assemble too.
Unlike the Bowflex home gyms that are on this list, the BSG10X provides resistance through weight stacks, not power rods. The pin-through-hole design of weight stacks makes it easy to switch the resistance and also provides consistent resistance throughout the product’s use. The machine comes with a 10-year warranty on the frame and a year’s warranty on the parts.
The BSG10X, however, is not without flaws. The most prominent of which is the lack of options for lower body workouts. You have to by the BSGLPX Leg Press Attachment separately. Also, a few customers have mentioned that the cable is a common point of failure and the cable is expensive and difficult to replace. Lack of upgradability in resistance is another drawback of this machine.
Now, this model is more expensive than the Bowflex Blaze and the Bowflex PR1000. However, the BSG10X comes closer to the equipment you find in gyms than the Bowflex models do. If you’re used to working out on equipment with weight stacks, switching to a power rod based system may throw you off. So, if you want a compact unit that is consistent with popular gym equipment, give this model a try.
- Easy to assemble
- 40+ workouts
- Ineffective for lower body
- Resistance cannot be upgraded
- Cable a possible point of failure
#4 Body-Solid StrengthTech EXM2500S – Another Honorable Option
The EXM2500S from Body-Solid is a multi-station home gym with weight-stack type resistance. The products high-quality construction and design really set this machine apart from other home gyms. With a lifetime cover on all critical parts, including frame, weld, pulleys, cables, and even upholstery, you get the best purchase protection in the industry.
The weight stack allows you to set the resistance from 10 lb to 210 lb in increments of 10 lb. This range is more than enough for beginners. The module occupies about 30 square feet of floor area. While it’s not as compact as the BSG10X, the EXM2500S is more compact than the Bowflex Blaze.
Now, I did notice a few problems with this machine. First, Body-Solid no longer sells the leg press attachment for this model. This makes the EXM2500S unsuitable for lower body workouts. Also, the assembly instructions in the manual need improvement. Yes, you can still assemble the unit without assistance, but Body-Solid could have made it easier. Lastly, the number of pulleys the cables go through affects the resistance. So, when you shift from station to station, the resistance varies.
In some ways, the EXM2500S justifies its high price. The model is sturdy, durable, functional and well-designed. Plus, you get amazing purchase protection. However, in some aspects, the model leaves more to be desired. For instance, the lack of workouts for the lower body. But, if you’re okay with doing squats for your lower body, the EXM2500S will take care of the rest of your body.
- Excellent design and construction
- Supports many upper body and core exercises
- Lifetime warranty on critical components
- Lack of options for lower body exercises
- Assembly instructions need improvement
#5 Bayou Fitness Total Trainer 4000-XL – Another Affordable Home Gym
The Bayou Fitness Total Trainer 4000-XL does not resemble conventional home gym platforms. At the heart of the machine are the glide board and the pulley system that lets you use your own bodyweight as resistance. The 11 levels of resistance let you change the incline, thereby changing the percentage of body weight employed to provide resistance.
The instructional DVD and exercise card accompanying this model explains how to use the machine optimally, as well as giving you structured programs to follow. The 4000-XL comes fully assembled. So, you can use the machine right out of the box. When you’re not using the machine, you can fold it into a compact unit that’s easy to store.
The Total Trainer provides attachments and accessories to work all your muscle groups. You can even use the machine for warm ups and cool downs. However, the method of exercising on this equipment differs from conventional methods. It will take some time to learn and to get used to the proper form. Also, the resistance will change with a change in your body weight. However, you can change the incline or add free weights to compensate.
This equipment is reasonably priced and provides good value for money. But, it comes with only a year’s warranty. A better warranty would make the product more attractive. That said, this is a novel and effective setup to get fit and to grow strong.
- Uses body weight to provide resistance
- Comes with instructional DVD
- Folds into a compact unit
- Fully assembled
- Takes time to master new forms
- Resistance changes with body weight
- Only one year’s warranty
Factors To Consider When Buying a Home Gym
In the previous section, we introduced you to the leading home gyms on the market. In this section, we’ll take you through a sequence of correct decisions that will lead to a satisfactory purchase.
First, I’ll explain the advantages and disadvantages of buying a home gym. After that, we’ll see the common types of home gyms based on the resistance mechanism. From there, you’ll learn about important factors to consider when buying a home gym. Finally, I’ll point you to popular home gym brands so that you can expand your options.
At the end of reading this section, you will be able to choose a product from our list of the best home gyms. You will also be able to choose from the product lineup of recommended brands if you want to conduct your own research. So, shall we get started?
How can a home gym help me get back in shape?
In fitness circles, people use the term home gym in two contexts. A home gym can refer to a place at your house where you have space to workout and keep all your exercise equipment. In another sense, the home gym can refer to exercise equipment that integrates common gym equipment into a single platform. In this article, we’re concerned with the second meaning.
The obvious advantage of owning a single piece of equipment that can target all your muscle groups is that you can do gym-quality exercises at home. With the average gym membership in America costing $40 to $50 per month, even high-end home gyms will pay for themselves within a year or two. Plus, you save time and energy commuting from your house to the gym. So, the home gym is an excellent fitness equipment for people who want to exercise daily despite their busy lives.
However, a major disadvantage of home gyms is that if you diligently use the machine, at some point you will outgrow it. Thereafter, you’ll have to switch to free weight or body weight exercises. This can make the home gym redundant. So, the home gym is ideal for people who want to cultivate and maintain a basic level of fitness. But, it isn’t ideal for someone who is aiming for superior results.
I see there are different types of home gyms. Which is the best one for me?
Home gyms come in many shapes and sizes. The most familiar type of home gym, the weight stack type, resembles the equipment you find in gyms. It has a stack of weights connected to exercise stations through cables that run along pulleys. In such machines, it is extremely easy to increase and decrease the resistance, courtesy of the pin-through-hole design. However, these machines usually don’t allow you to augment the default resistance range through the addition of free weights.
Another popular type of home gym uses rods to create resistance. The tip of the rod connects to various exercise stations through cables and pulleys. When you use the exercise station, the rods flex. The rod’s tendency to spring back to its original position creates the required resistance. However, frequent flexing gradually makes the rods weaker. As a result, the resistance decreases. So, after a couple of years, you may have to replace the entire set of rods.
Now, let’s address the second part of the question. Weight stack home gyms occupy less space than power rod home gyms do. For those looking for a compact unit, a weight stack machine is the way forward. However, the most common problem with such machines is that they do not provide a wide array of lower body workouts. Power rod type home gyms offer a broader selection of exercises. But, the resistance system isn’t accurate. For instance, the 50 lb setting may actually provide only 30 to 40 lb.
Okay, so what are the factors that I must pay attention to?
You can split a strength training routine in many ways. You can plan the splits based on muscle groups – upper body, core, and lower body. Or, you could plan the splits based on movement – push movement and pull movement. And, if you’re a beginner, you may choose a total body split. So, before you buy a home gym, you must plan your strength training routine. Once you have your plan ready, you must identify exercises compatible with your plan. Then, and only then, you should shop for home gyms. Once you plan your splits and identify the exercises, you can scout for home gyms based on these factors:
- The Number of Muscle Groups: Broadly speaking, the major muscle groups of your body are shoulders, arms, chest, back, obliques, abs, butts, thighs, and calves. Choose a home gym that allows you to target all these groups.
- Exercises per Muscle Group: It’s good to have multiple options to exercise the same muscle group. For instance, while isolated exercises target a specific muscle group, compound exercises target multiple muscle groups. Your home gym should provide a good mix of isolated and compound exercises.
- Resistance Mechanism: We spoke about resistance mechanisms earlier. While weight stacks provide more reliable and uniform resistance, power rods provide greater functionality. Unless it leaves out critical muscle groups, I generally recommend buying a weight stack machine.
- Floor and Storage Area: Before you buy a home gym, identify the place where you will keep the machine. Measure the place in advance. This way, you will know whether a product is too large for your space. Also, keep in mind that the space required during the workout may exceed the product dimensions.
- Instructional Resources: Some home gym exercises are intuitive. But, to make full use of the machine, you will need instructional resources. So, buying a machine that is well supported by a community of users and training videos will help you get the most out of the machine.
- Warranty and Service: Once you buy a home gym, it’s probably going to stay with you for a lifetime. So, buy a machine that has a good warranty offer. Also, read the warranty policy carefully to understand what parts are covered and for how long.
Great, I think I’ll buy a home gym. What are my options?
Now that you have learned so much about home gyms, I suggest you revisit the list of home gyms we have here. It’s very likely that you will find what you’re looking for. But, if you want to look beyond the home gyms we recommend, then are a few brands that generally make high-quality home gyms. Check out the ranges from Bowflex, PowerLine, Body-Solid and Atlantis Strength.
You’ve read our list the best home gyms and you’ve read the factors to consider when buying your own gym. Based on what you have learned, you can go for the compactness and durability of Body-Solid machines or the versatility and cost advantage of Bowflex machines. Alternatively, you could go for something totally different and buy the Total Trainer.
But, your choice of equipment must complement your strength training plan and selection of exercises. Also, factor in your current fitness level because some gyms cater to people at an intermediate level of fitness while others are better suited for beginners.
Ever since the rise of the home fitness culture, people are increasingly looking for ways to get fit independent of joining gyms. And, fitness companies are introducing newer products into the market in response to increasing demand. Some of these products are extremely good, but most of them are lacking in important areas.
But, using the information in this guide, you can navigate to different price points and find good products no matter what your budget is. Remember, once you buy a home gym, it will probably stay with you forever. So, it’s important that you choose wisely. Hopefully, this article will help you do just that.