What the best home gym has
- Versatility. Any home gym you buy should have at least a full-body range of strength
exercises to work the arms, legs, abdomen and chest. Others can convert to
rowing machines to offer a cardio workout as well.
capabilities. It's great to start with lighter weights,
especially if you're a beginner, but a good home gym will grow with you, giving
you the ability to add weight or resistance as you get stronger.
- Adjustability. If
you have more than one family member using the home gym, especially if
there's a large size difference between users, be sure you can adjust the
machine to fit various body types and sizes.
- Easy exercise changes. On
some models, you have to disconnect and reconnect cables to switch from
one exercise to another, but it should be easy enough to do that it
doesn't interrupt your workout for long.
- Good assembly instructions. With
the exception of glideboards, which come partially assembled, putting
together a home gym can be quite a project. However, clear assembly
instructions will make the job easier.
- A sturdy build. Home gyms have to lift and hold heavy weights and lift and hold your body.
They should remain extremely stable while doing so.
- Available add-ons. Many of the top home gym manufacturers have options for adding additional "stations"
to some home gyms to add an even greater variety of exercises. However,
this adds to the overall price and, sometimes, to the home gym's
- A detachable bench. This allows you to use the bench independently, as a weight bench for free
weights or other exercises.
- A good warranty. Home gyms are made up of many moving parts, and the fact that they are
constantly under stress when they're being used means they're subject to
wear and tear. However, they should be durable enough to hold up well
under those demands and the manufacturer should be confident enough in
their product to offer an appropriate warranty.
Know before you go
How much space do you have? Although
some home gyms fold to reduce their footprint (and some glideboard models can
fold to store under the bed -- at least theoretically), they're usually going
to stay put after assembly. We also recommend that you measure -- and not just
estimate -- your workout space so that you know exactly how much space you have
to work with. And remember, it's not enough to account for the home gym's
footprint; you also need to allow extra room for any moving parts and your
body. Don't forget to measure for height, too.
What types of exercises do you want to do? If you just want to do strength training,
almost any home gym will do just fine. If you'd like the whole package --
cardio and strength -- look for a machine that converts to a rower.
How much resistance do you need? Keep in
mind that as you continue lifting weights, you're going to get stronger and
need even more resistance to challenge yourself. So use your current maximum as
a starting point, not the end point. A weight stack of 150 pounds might be
enough for a light exerciser, but dedicated users will want more.
want to assemble it yourself? Most retailers offer packages
that, for a few hundred dollars more, include delivery and set up. This may be
worth the extra price, especially if you have problems carrying heavy items --
some gyms come in two or more large boxes -- or simply can't take a few hours
out of your schedule for assembly.
try it out first? Home gyms are big, and often expensive, and can become the world's largest
towel hanger very quickly if they aren't a good fit. We strongly recommended
trying one out at a fitness or sporting goods store before buying.