One thing that most home gyms have in common is that they are big. Even those home gyms that are described by their manufacturer as "compact" might be more than 3-feet wide and 5-feet long. That won't work if you live in a small apartment, or have limited space in your home or designated gym area. Enter the glideboard. A glideboard, or bodyweight gym, uses the weight of your own body to provide resistance for strength training.
There are quite a few glideboards on the market, but there are two in particular that are very well-known: the Weider Ultimate Body Works (Est. $130) and the Total Gym XLS (Est. $850) which we review in our As Seen on TV section. Reviewers say if you want a glideboard, buy the Weider -- it's almost identical to the Total Gym and you'll save more than $700.
With both of these home gyms you sit or lie atop a board, or bench, that slides on inclined rails. Then you pull or push on pulley cables to move the glideboard up the rails; your body weight acts as the resistance. This type of exercise is easy, accessible and a satisfying challenge for beginners. However, the pulleys' mechanical advantage means you'll only ever lift a fraction of your body weight, so it's not for serious body builders. However, for those who are just interested in establishing or maintaining a baseline fitness level, the Weider gets some of the highest ratings at user review sites of any type of home gym.
The Weider Ultimate Body Works has a set of resistance bungees you can engage for up to 50 pounds of additional resistance, a feature the Total Gym XLS lacks. It's no wonder so many users rave about the Ultimate Body Works' value. Best of all, its small footprint means it'll fit just about anywhere. It's also very quiet, without the clanking of weights that are a feature of more traditional home gyms, so it won't disturb neighbors or other family members. It folds down and, supposedly, can be pushed under a bed for storage. However, most say the Ultimate Body Works is hard to move since it doesn't have wheels, and you may have to partially disassemble it to fit it under many beds.
We saw few complaints about durability with either the Ultimate Body Works or the Total Gym. The Body Works has a super short, 90-day warranty. The Total Gym goes one better with a lifetime frame warranty and six months of coverage for parts. Both machines are easy to set up and use. However, if you prefer a more traditional workstation-based home gym, see our discussion of the Best Home Gyms elsewhere in this report.
Full-sized or compact, plopping your home gym unprotected on carpet or hard floors is a bad idea. Even the lightest of the home gyms in this report weighs close to 80 pounds and, in addition to damaging your floor, your equipment may move around too much without non-skid flooring. Exercise equipment often gives off an oily or dusty discharge, and dedicated exercise flooring will make it easier to clean that up as well.
The XMark Fitness XMat Ultra Thick Gym Flooring (Est. $100) is a very well-reviewed option as a mat to put under individual pieces of exercise equipment. At 4- by 6-feet it's large enough to fit under most machines. It's half an inch thick, which provides a nice cushion to protect your floor or your joints. The non-slip surface means your equipment will stay in place -- and you won't have to worry about instability when holding or moving heavy weights.
If you want to add flooring to a larger area, or to a whole room, the ProSource Puzzle Exercise Mat Interlocking Tiles (Est. $24) includes six tiles that measure 24- by-24 to cover a total of 24 square feet. Like the XMark mat, its .5-inch thickness is plenty for good cushioning, reviewers say. Sets of the ProSource tiles can be put together to cover a larger area.
Both the XMark and the ProSource mats get good reviews for being easy to clean and for holding up well. Many people say they have purchased more than one -- or more than one set in the case of the ProSource -- to expand their cushioned exercise area.