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Best home gyms: home systems to improve your fitness

Home gym
(Image credit: Boflex)

The best home gym could turn your house into a space of progress and positivity. That, in turn, could turn your body into a healthy temple which leaves you feeling energized, happy and positive.

That's a big statement to make and, of course, none of that will happen if your shiny new home gym becomes a clothes rack with little use other than for drying your laundry. But thanks to the quality of home gyms these days, that is less likely to happen. It also means you can build and tone muscle at home without the time and health risks of going to a gym.

A home gym system isn't simply a setup of multiple machines, it's a single machine that has everything you need for a total body workout, all built in. These generally work using a system of weights, including bodyweight, and pulleys. So while you're pulling and pushing different handles and working different muscles, you're always using the same weight source. That makes it compact enough for lots of spaces in your home.

That's right, you don't need an entire spare room to create a home gym, just one of these systems and a healthy helping of will power to get you coming back. Of course the results from working out should help with that.

One way to make sure you're making progress, and to keep you motivated is to pair your home gym system with a tracking device. Check out our best fitness trackers for the one that suits you.

Of course you might want to build a home gym space, beyond the home gym system, adding in cardio for example. In which case you might want to check out the best treadmills and best exercise bikes

If you're really committed, make sure your muscles are ready to go again sooner by adding in a massage using one of the best handheld massagers too.

But for now read on to find the best home gym system for you.

Total Gym FIT

(Image credit: Total Gym)

1. Total Gym FIT

Best overall home gym

Dimensions: 18.5" x 50.5" x 8.5" | Type: Glide board | Exercises: 85+ | Supported user weight: 450 lbs

Has 85+ exercise options
Lightweight and compact design
Comes with instructional videos
Has an MSRP above $2,000
Is hard to conceptualize at first glance

The Total Gym FIT is a bit different from a lot of home gym systems as it uses that glideboard. That means it's able to create resistance by using your bodyweight. This is a good thing as it means the system is compact and light enough to fold and store away, minus weight plates to move. But also it means it can be used for a whole host of exercise, over 85, in fact. It's also good to support user weights of up to 450 pounds, which is about 150 pounds more than most systems.

While all the home gyms we reviewed can help you tone and strengthen your muscles, the FIT also provides unique cross-training exercises designed to improve your cardiovascular health. The Total Gym FIT weighs only 66 pounds. Its dimensions unfolded are 93 x 18.5 x 44.5 inches (length, width, height), and it folds to just 50.5 x 18.5 x 8.5 inches.

This is one of the more expensive home gym systems reviewed but for that you get a lifetime frame warranty and two year guarantee on parts. Total Gym has an excellent live chat service to help you make purchasing decisions and warranties the FIT for a lifetime.


Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE

(Image credit: Bowflex)

2. Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE

Best Power Rod home gym

Dimensions: 53 x 49 x 82 inches | Type: Power rods | Exercises: 70+ | Supported user weight: 300 lbs

Upgradeable resistance
Expensive

The Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE is a relatively compact and lightweight home gym that does away with weights in favour of torsion based resistance that offers up to 210 pounds and expandible to 410 pounds. This uses power rods, which work like a bow under torsion, to offer 210 pounds of weight broken down into increments. This means easy changing between exercises with over 70 available across the upper and lower body as well as core work.

This home gym weighs 185 pounds, which is heavy enough to keep it safely grounded during intense workouts but not too heavy for two adults to move. It'll support a user weighing up to 300 pounds and works for one person at a time.

This is one of the most expensive gyms we tested, especially with the expanded resistance, preacher curl and ab attachments. However, it is one of the best home gym system we reviewed for strength training workouts in the comfort of your home.


Marcy MWM-988 Multifunction Home Gym

(Image credit: Marcy)

3. Marcy MWM-988 Multifunction Home Gym review

Best heavy weight plate home gym

Dimensions: 69 x 36 x 79 inches | Type: Weight plates | Exercises: 35+ | Supported user weight: 300 lbs

Relatively affordable
Sturdy steel construction
Over 36 exercises
Non adjustable seat
Weight stack can't be increased

The Marcy MWM-988 Multifunction Home Gym is an affordable way to get a full multi-station weight based training system in your home. This study 14 gauge steel gym offers over 36 exercise options from its non-adjustable padded seat which is good for users up to 300 lbs. 

The weights use a protective stack shielding for safety which also means a more quiet workout. You get up to 150 lbs of weight which can be used with the high pulley, low pulley, curl pad, pec fly, chest press and leg attachment.

There is a separate dual function arm press which means you get vertical butterfly and chest press. In the case of the vertical butterfly each arm swings separately giving more balance based work to make sure you avoid muscular imbalances.


TRX Go Suspension Training

(Image credit: TRX)

4. TRX GO Suspension Training home gym system review

Best for workouts from anywhere

Dimensions: 7 x 5 x 4 inches rolled up | Type: Straps | Exercises: 1,000+ | Supported user weight: 350 lbs

Easy to setup anywhere
Lots of exercise options
Strong and sturdy
Limited to bodyweight
Requires learning

The TRX Go Suspension Training system uses straps with grips for hands and feet to create bodyweight resistance. This is able to offer over 1,000 exercise variations which can be carried out anywhere that the straps can be connected. Thanks to included anchoring options this applies to lots of places from any door, rafter, beam, tree, pole and beyond.

There are seven basic moves: push, pull, plank, rotate, hinge, lunge and squat. Lots of workouts can be built from that. This comes with a six month membership for the TRX app which is filled with useful workout techniques for you to follow.

Compact, at one lb, this is ideal for use on the move, in small spaces, in the yard or anywhere else.


Bowflex PR3000 home gym

(Image credit: Bowflex)

5. Bowflex PR3000 home gym

Best cardio Power Rod system

Dimensions: 64 x 41 x 83 inches | Type: Power Rod | Exercises: 50+ | Supported user weight: 300 lbs

Power Rods system up to 310 lbs
Over 50 exercises
Heavy duty steel construction
Expensive
Limited by rod weight

The Bowflex PR3000 home gym is a multifunction system which uses Power Rods to create resistance. You get 210 lbs as standard but can add more to get up to 310 lbs if you need to. The home gym is good for over 50 exercises and uses a no-change pulley system which makes it easy to transition between sets – ideal for HIIT or cardio based workouts. The addition of a row station makes this an even more inviting option for cardio fans.

The seat is adjustable, unlike some others, and is good for up to 300 lbs of user weight. This is a great option for multiple users that want to change settings to suit them. It's not the cheapest but then you're paying for that Bowflex name and a seven year Power Rod warranty and one year frame cover.


Total Gym XLS

(Image credit: Total Gym)

6. Total Gym XLS

Best affordable glideboard home gym

Dimensions: 19 x 90 x 43 inches | Type: Glideboard | Exercises: 80+ | Supported user weight: 400 lbs

Comes fully assembled
Over 80 exercises
Foldable for storage
Tops out at 6'2" user height
Fewer resistance levels than the Fit

The Total Gym XLS is a great option for anyone that's tight on space and wants a home gym that can be folded away for storage. It's also useful for users up to 400 lbs, something even the large multi station gyms don't support in many cases. Despite the compact size, the XLS is good for over 80 exercises and comes with a Total Gym TC Basic account for viewing guided workouts online.

The squat stand works well, with lots of grip and the pulley system is smooth for even resistance using bodyweight. The whole unit comes fully assembled making it one of the best options for a quick start right after delivery. Sure, you need to learn a few moves first but once that's done this is an easy, effective and safe way to workout at home.


Why Trust Us

We define home gyms as pieces of fitness equipment that help you achieve a full-body workout with multiple strength-based exercises, and we’ve been reviewing them since 2014. 

During our most recent evaluation, we spent 120 hours researching dozens of products to help you choose from the best selection we could find. Our goal is to help you find a home gym with exceptional quality, durability, versatility and customer support. 

Buying a home gym can be a significant investment, so we also looked at price. It’s important to keep in mind that home gyms provide value both in terms of money and time. If you have a home gym, you won’t have to spend money year after year on a gym membership. 

Also, there’s no driving across town to exercise and no schlepping gym bags and smelly workout clothes to the gym and back – and you won’t have to worry about being judged, comparing yourself to other people or having to wipe someone else’s sweat off a grimy machine.

How We Weighed In

Our research into home gyms was thorough and far-reaching. To provide you with the best information available, we studied product websites and literature, watched instructional videos and examined warranties. We also contacted manufacturers directly, both to get answers to our questions and to test the responsiveness of their customer support teams.

To become even better informed, we read exercise and fitness articles, scrolled through blogs and looked at consumer reviews. We also interviewed industry experts such as Tom Holland, who is a nationally-recognized exercise physiologist, a Nautilus, Inc. fitness advisor and the author of Beat the Gym. He helped us understand why strength training is so important and why purchasing a home gym can be advantageous.

“Strength training is truly the fountain of youth, not only adding years to your life but also adding life to your years,” Holland said. “If you have a home, then you have a home gym. Everyone needs to exercise and can now do so in the privacy of your own home. In the amount of time it takes you to travel to the gym, you can be finished.”

Once we had digested all the research we gathered, we narrowed down our favorites to 10 and ranked them based on carefully chosen criteria. With so many options available, we chose a variety of home gyms, all excellent quality, that accommodate a wide range of household needs and personal fitness goals.

Home Gyms vs. Commercial Gyms

If you’re debating whether to invest in building a home gym or buying another annual commercial gym pass, let us help you decide. Below are some benefits and downsides of each option, so you can determine what works for your budget and lifestyle.

Home Gyms. The primary benefit of a home gym is that you get to choose what equipment and accessories are there and set them up exactly how you want. And you’ll never have wait for other people to get off the equipment you need to use or have to clean up someone else’s sweat and mess. A home gym is also open whenever you want it to be, doesn’t require a commute and won’t require you to deal with sudden changes in hours of operation or busy peak hours.

Plus, working out on your own has advantages: no random distractions, no worrying about judgmental people. It's just you focused on your workout. You can listen to or watch whatever you want, wear whatever you want, and even grunt if your workout is getting intense. You won’t have to smell other people’s sweat, and your changing room and bathroom are fully private.

And finally, although a home gym can involve a lot of upfront costs, it is without a doubt more cost-efficient over time. After only a few years, approximately, the cost of those annual memberships will outstrip the cost of the home gym; you can end up paying less in the long run for access to a commercial gym.

Commercial Gyms. Undoubtedly, the best part of having a commercial gym membership is that you have access to all kinds of equipment, accessories and amenities. For a monthly fee, you can have the exact workout your body needs without purchasing and maintaining the equipment yourself. At a gym, you’ll even have access to a personal trainer, should you need a few private sessions. You can find people to spot you and take part in a large fitness community. And the energetic environment and motivation from fellow members is a bonus for some people.

Commercial gyms are also climate controlled, and many also have daycare options. Often they’re located closer to city centers where many people work, so you can visit them conveniently during a lunch break.

Stacking Up Buying Decisions

Buying a home gym is a weighty decision, but we’re here to make it easier.

“It used to be that you had two main options when buying a home gym,” said Holland. “Order it from a late-night TV infomercial or go to multiple stores in person. Now, thanks to the internet, you can watch videos, read reviews and truly do your homework before you purchase.” Don’t worry – we’ll help you with the bulk of the legwork. Here are the four main things experts recommend you consider:

Space. Home gyms are big, heavy machines. Because space is such an important consideration, we outlined the dimensions and weights of each model.

“Since these machines come in various sizes, you want to make sure you can fit the product in that space,” said Scott McDonald, CEO of Body-Solid Inc. “Both height and working area factor into this.”

Along with accounting for your machine’s footprint, keep in mind that you’ll need additional space for range of movement as you extend your arms and legs during your exercise routine. If you choose a multi-station system, you’ll also need room to get around the machine as you move from one station to another, and you’ll want to allow enough space away from walls and doors to make your workout as comfortable and convenient as possible.

Resistance Technology. Free weights – such as dumbbells and barbells – are used for independent weight lifting that doesn’t require a machine. By contrast, most home gyms use either weight stacks or weight plates to create strength-building resistance. Weight stack machines let you choose your resistance level by adjusting a weight stack built into your equipment’s frame. A cable and pulley system provides the mechanism for you to lift and release the weight. Weight plates are weights you manually fasten to your home gym’s workout components and exchange for heavier weights as you build strength. 

We also reviewed home gyms that use power rods, total nitrocell technology and even your own body weight to create resistance. Power rods like those on the Bowflex Xtreme 2SE provide resistance much like the resistance on a bow. The resistance increases as the tension becomes tauter and eases as the rods straighten. Total Nitrocell Technology like you’ll find on the Bio Force Extreme uses nitrogen-charged cylinders to provide consistent, silent resistance that can be changed in 2.25-kilogram increments. Unique to Bio Force home gyms, TNT resistance is said to create fluid resistance that stimulates muscle development.

Holland says beginning exercisers often choose home gyms with weight stacks, which are also called sectorized or selectorized machines, because they allow users to build strength more safely than free weights. Also, they offer convenience.

McDonald agrees.

“Plate-loaded pieces are good for someone who already has a set of weights to use on them but they are a hassle to change when compared to a selectorized machine,” said McDonald, “so I would not recommend them in most cases.”

It’s important to determine which style of resistance you personally prefer, and you can do this by visiting retail outlets. Also, it’s a good idea to consider buying a home gym that lets you add more weight or upgrade its resistance technology as you get stronger and your goals become more ambitious.

“It is worth the trip to your local fitness store to at least see what they offer before you buy,” said McDonald.  “Hopefully they have a few different models on the floor and you can try them.  See how sturdy they feel as you exercise.  Do the cables and pulleys move smoothly?  Is there enough resistance to make you have to work at it?”

Being able to answer these questions will help you choose the right gym for your home.

Price. We found a wide range in the price of home gyms. Systems on the lowest end start under $200, while the most expensive equipment costs nearly $10,000. Based on our research, it’s best to budget an average of $1,300 for a high-quality in-home machine that provides the most important workout features.

Keep in mind that the price of a home gym can depend on the size and capability of the machine, the quality of its materials, the technology it employs, its manufacturer’s warranty, etc. We learned through our research that you can buy a solid, functional home gym for under $2,000, but equipment priced below $500 will likely be disappointing.

“Don’t buy the cheapest piece, but don’t necessarily go to the top of the range either as then you are probably at a commercial level of equipment,” said McDonald. “There are lots of good choices in the middle range.”

With such a wide range in pricing, isolating a middle range isn’t easy, especially because manufacturers of exercise equipment often use price gimmicks to offset high MSRPs by perpetually having their machine “on sale” for much less than the list price. As a result, we focused on home gyms with MSRPs ranging from just under $800 to about $2,300, and higher-priced machine rank lower in our ratings. Thankfully, you can often find discounted pricing on more expensive models.

As you consider your budget, you’ll also want to think about your current fitness level and your long-term fitness goals. It might be worth it, in the long run, to spend a little more money upfront rather than needing to invest in new equipment as you get stronger.

Where to Set Up Your Home Gym

Once you know what equipment you want for your home workout space, the next step is to figure out where to put it. Ideally, you’ll want to set up your home gym somewhere with a concrete floor because all-in-one home gyms and free weights are extremely heavy. You’ll want flooring that can support your equipment and also withstand drops. We also recommend a space with good airflow, so you don’t overheat while working out and to keep your home gym from smelling.

Typically, most people use part or all of a garage or unfinished basement, as they offer the most room and best temperature control. You can also opt to set up your home gym in a spare bedroom, office or back porch. Make sure your setup plan allows enough room for a good workflow.

Consider using closets, shelving and containers to store things like dumbbells, resistance bands, jump ropes and other accessories, so they stay organized and stay out of the way. We also recommend leaving an open, uncluttered area within your home gym so you can have room to do Pilates, yoga, jump rope, stretching or lunges and similar exercises.

Additional Workout Equipment

In addition to your main home gym equipment, there is additional equipment you should consider that can really round out your home workout center. The best way to approach this is to get equipment for strength and cardio training, along with peripherals for training your flexibility and balance. Having a broad selection of equipment ensures the best, most thorough workout and really helps you get your money’s worth.

Strength Training. With good strength training equipment, you can elevate your metabolism, build muscle, burn fat and reap additional benefits beyond those. There is plenty of equipment available for strength training, across all budgets. If money isn’t an issue, opt for the all-in-one machines featured in our reviews above. These are terrific, powerful options that, despite their high upfront cost, can save you thousands of dollars in annual gym memberships over the years. Mid-range equipment, such as bench presses or other individual gym stations for specific muscle groups, cost less than all-in-one machines. We also recommend adjustable dumbbells and smaller accessories like resistance bands and kettlebells.

Cardio Training. Workout equipment designed with this focus helps elevate your heart rate and work your major muscle groups. Depending on your specific needs, there are low- and high-impact options available to you, including treadmills, elliptical trainers, rowing machines and upright exercise bikes. You can also use step machines if you don’t have much room or are on a budget.

Balance and Flexibility. Whether you’re warming up for a bigger routine or you just want a simple weekend workout, having exercise gear for stretching and developing core strength can help round out your home gym. Exercise balls and balance boards are excellent, and for Pilates enthusiasts, a Pilates reformer is a must-have. With a few of these, you can tone and strengthen your body while improving your flexibility.

Home Gym Accessories

In addition to purchasing smaller pieces of equipment to workout with, like yoga mats or resistance bands, there are also larger accessories worth investing in for your home gym. With the right accessories in tow, you can seamlessly transition between workouts comfortably and safely, and maybe even have a little fun in the process.

First, we recommend investing in some mats and pads. If you’re putting free weights in your home gym, padded flooring will help absorb the impact when you drop your dumbbells, and also make the floor more comfortable to stand on. You can also add padding to any walls, or keep a stack to move around your gym as you see fit.

It’s also good to get at least one mirror for your gym. This way you can watch yourself during a workout – or dance – to ensure you’re maintaining good form. Many people add entire wall of mirrors to their home gym, allowing them to monitor their form no matter where they are working out. This is also a must-have for dancers.

If you fancy yourself a boxer or MMA kind of athlete, getting the necessary gloves, wraps and helmets is a must, especially if you invite a friend over to spar. These help keep you protected and in good form. You might also choose to install shelves or drawers to keep smaller accessories like these stored and out of the way when you aren’t using them.

Lastly, consider adding a TV or sound system. It’s easy to keep your spirits and motivation up during a workout if you have something fun to listen to or watch.

Strength Training Apps

Some of the home gyms we evaluated come with instructional videos or wall charts that suggest exercises to target specific muscle groups. If you want to archive comprehensive workout logs and get exercise recommendations, a strength training app is a better option. Here are some of our favorite free workout apps.

JEFIT
This workout tracking app has a library of more than 1,300 exercises with images, videos and animations. Exercises are categorized by muscle group and include a timer feature to keep you on track and alert you to begin the next set. The free version includes a training log tracker, body stat tracking and the exercise database. The Elite version starts at $7 per month and adds advanced training reports, stat sharing with friends and removes the ads. JEFIT has a progress picture feature that allows you to track your transformation with before and after pictures.

Workout Trainer by Skimble
This workout app doesn’t have the comprehensive tracking tools found in JEFIT, but the workout catalog is much more varied. In addition to the strength training and weightlifting offerings, Workout Trainer also includes a great selection of stretching and cardio exercises to warm you up. The Shakerciser feature asks how much time you have and what exercise category you want to focus on, then the app picks a random workout within those parameters. Workout Trainer also has a trainer directory that matches you with a certified personal trainer if you want extra motivation and a customized one-on-one treatment. The one-on-one training is an extra charge, but far less expensive than hiring a personal trainer at your local gym.

If you’d like to supplement your home gym with other types of exercise equipment, check out some of our guides: