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Best home gyms: home systems to improve your fitness

Best home gyms: home systems to improve your fitness

We spent 120 hours researching home gyms to find the best and most versatile workout systems. Of the dozens we examined, our top pick is the Body-Solid G1S, which provides 40 exercise options, 160 pounds of resistance and a lifetime warranty – all for under $1,000. 

The machine uses a weight stack on a smooth pulley and cable system to help you achieve an excellent full body workout and improve your health, strength and fitness. To track your workouts, we'd suggest investing in one of the best fitness trackers too, and if you're interested in running and walking, consider one of the best treadmills for the home.

Best home gyms

Body-Solid G1S

Body-Solid G1S

Provides 40+ exercises
Has a space-saving design
Has a lifetime warranty
Doesn’t have a leg press option
Resistance isn’t upgradeable
Maximum user weight isn’t defined

The Body-Solid G1S is our top pick among home gyms because it packs so much functionality and durability into such a small footprint. It’s comparable to much larger home gyms in terms of performance, features and accessories, but its price tag is much more affordable.

It’s centered on a 160-pound weight stack, and it provides more than 40 exercise options. Divided into five workout stations, it works your upper body, lower body and abs.

Along with high, mid and low-pulley stations, the G1S also has a chest press station and a leg developer station. Exercises you can perform include lat pulldowns, triceps press downs, ab crunches and seated rows. You can also do leg extensions and curls, but the G1S doesn’t come with a leg press. Also, it doesn’t have upgradeable resistance, and its maximum user weight isn’t defined. These are important factors to consider if you want your machine to grow with you as you get stronger or if you currently weigh more than 300 pounds.

For added comfort and durability, the G1S’ seat pad is contoured and adjustable, and its cables, pulleys and upholstery are high quality. It comes with a water bottle holder and a triceps strap. Add-ons for the machine include an accessory rack, weight stack adapter plates, an ab crunch harness and a multipurpose bar. Guaranteed by Body-Solid for a lifetime, it has one of the best warranties in the industry.

Best value

Body-Solid Powerline BSG10X

Body-Solid Powerline BSG10X

Great value for its price
Provides a workout comparable to commercial gyms
Easy to install
Weight stack isn’t upgradeable
Doesn’t have instructional videos
Disappointing warranty on moving parts

If you’re eager to get fit but need to keep an eye on the budget, the Body-Solid Powerline BSG10X is a great choice. This economical price comes at the expense of some of the extras that more-expensive home gyms offer, but there’s enough variety in the Powerline’s design to give you a fine overall workout.

This compact home exercise system is durable and sturdy. It's also easy to install since most of its parts – approximately 90 percent – arrive already assembled in the box. Body-Solid’s CEO told us that the BSG10X is designed to go together with just nine bolts, which is unique in the industry. It also takes up less space than most home exercise systems, yet you can still perform 40 different exercises that work your whole body. Like the Body-Solid G1S, this machine has one adjustable seat, and it comes with a 160-pound weight stack. Unfortunately, you can’t upgrade to a heavier weight stack. You can, however, purchase upgrades such as a leg press, weight shrouds and a triceps rope.

Among the body-strengthening parts that come standard with this home gym are a 48-inch lat bar, an ab crunch harness and a low row bar. You get all the basic exercises you could perform at a commercial gym, but you don’t have to leave home to take advantage of them. The machine's frame comes with a 10-year warranty. Unfortunately, the moving parts are only warrantied for one year, which is shorter than higher-end home gyms. Also, it doesn’t come with instructional videos.

Best for small spaces

Total Gym FIT

Total Gym FIT

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
Live chat is only for sales

The Total Gym FIT is an impressive home exercise system with a unique, compact design. At first glance, it looks nothing like traditional home gyms because its profile is so small and low to the ground, but it offers all the same benefits of larger systems.

Instead of using weight stacks, power rods or total nitrocell technology resistance, the Total Gym FIT uses your own body weight to create resistance. It can accommodate a maximum user weight of 450 pounds, which is more than any other machine we reviewed. The weight limit on most home gyms is 300 pounds.
As we researched this piece of equipment, we were impressed with its versatility. 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. Most home gyms in our review weigh more than 300 pounds and have much more unwieldy dimensions. Granted, some larger machines are designed for up to three users at a time, but the Fit can accommodate two if you purchase additional accessories.

At its official MSRP, the Total Gym is the most expensive home gym we reviewed. However, this company consistently lists its products as being on sale at deep discounts. For example, at the time this review was published, the FIT was available for under $1,600 (much lower than its MSRP of over $2,300). Total Gym has an excellent live chat service to help you make purchasing decisions and warranties the FIT for a lifetime.

Best for strength training

Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE

Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE

Upgradeable resistance

The Bowflex Xtreme is a compact, lightweight home gym with 210 pounds of resistance, though you can upgrade to 310 or 410 pounds.

The gym's Power Rod resistance technology reduces the risk of joint pain associated with free weights and provides a full body workout with more than 70 exercises. It comes with a lat bar, two hand grips, a squat bar and a shoulder harness for ab workouts. The unique pulley system allows you to switch between exercises quickly, which keeps your heart rate up as you progress through your workout.

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. The owner’s manual includes seven workout regimens designed specifically for this machine by certified trainers. These range from quick two-minute exercises to longer bodybuilding and anaerobic circuit training workouts.

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

Best multi-station

Powertec Workbench Multi-System

Powertec Workbench Multi-System

Has three seats
Weight plates must be purchased separately

If you’re looking for a home gym that can support multiple users at a time, the Powertec Workbench is a solid choice. Unlike most of the home gyms we reviewed, the Powertec uses weight plates for resistance rather than having its resistance drawn and released by a pulley and cable system. However, you must buy the plates separately.

The weight limit varies from 100 to 500 pounds based on the exercise you’re performing, and you have 25 available options. It comes standard with three seats and helps you work your upper body, lower body and core. There are additional attachments available that let you do curls, flys, leg lifts and presses.

This home gym is large and bulky. It weighs more than 400 pounds without weight plates and has a much larger footprint than single-user equipment. To help you get started on your strength training, instructional videos are available. Powertec warranties the Workbench’s frame for a lifetime, and customer service is available by phone and email.

ProductPriceOverall RatingPriceGym Performance & DesignFeatures & AccessoriesWarranty & SupportResistance TechnologyExercise OptionsMaximum User Weight (pounds)Standard Resistance (pounds)Users at One TimeFull Body WorkoutBase Footprint (l x w x h, inches)Unit Weight (pounds)Pulley & Cable SystemUpgradeable Resistance CapacityAb Strap or HarnessAnkle Cuff/StrapInstructional Guides/Wall ChartsInstructional VideosExtras & Optional AttachmentsFrame WarrantyPhone and Email SupportAdditional Support Options
Body-Solid G1SView Deal4.5/59.3899.3WEIGHT STACK40NOT SPECIFIED160149 X 36 X 83323--LIFETIMENONE
Body-Solid Powerline BSG10XView Deal4/59.887.38.3WEIGHT STACK40NOT SPECIFIED160170 X 42 X 80328----10 YEARSNONE
Bowflex Xtreme 2SEView Deal4/55.89108.8POWER RODS70300210153 X 49 X 82185--7 YEARSLIVE CHAT, FACEBOOK
Marcy Club 200View Deal4/5107.56.86WEIGHT STACK15300200152 X 39 X 85.5400----2 YEARSSERVICE PORTAL
Total Gym FITView Deal4/ BODY WEIGHT85450BODY WEIGHT193 X 18.5 X 44.566--LIFETIMELIVE CHAT
Life Fitness G2View Deal4/567.51010WEIGHT STACK25300160171 X 48 X 83379--LIFETIMELIVE CHAT
Powertec Workbench Multi-SystemView Deal4/55.38.399.3PLATE LOADED25NOT SPECIFIEDWEIGHT PLATES3120.1 X 73.3 X 80.5424----LIFETIMENONE
Yukon Wolverine Multi-StationView Deal3.5/ STACK27275200486 X 115 X 82610----LIFETIMENONE
Bodycraft Galena ProView Deal3.5/53.886.39.3WEIGHT STACK25300200258 X 72 X 81.75483-----LIFETIMENONE

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.

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: