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Best Home Gyms

By: Kelly Burgess on December 12, 2017

Editor's note:
Bowflex still leads the pack among home-gym manufacturers with its mid-priced Blaze and cheaper PR1000, but we've updated our runners-up with new recommendations in both categories. If you're looking for something more basic and compact, we still like the Weider Ultimate Body Works, which uses your own body weight for resistance.

Bowflex Blaze Home Gym Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Resistance - Power Rod # of exercises - 60+ Total weight: 210 lbs. (can upgrade to 310 or 410)

Best home gym

The Bowflex Blaze is a great value in home gyms. It's reported as easy to assemble, use and adjust. It comes with a starting weight of 210 pounds and is upgradable to 310 or 410 pounds. The Blaze features 60+ possible exercise combinations. Its horizontal bench also lays flat, allowing you to use it as a rowing machine for cardio workouts. Many say the Blaze that they can complete a full-body workout in about 30 minutes.

Buy for $799.00
Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym Review
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Resistance - Power Rod # of exercises - 30+ Total weight: 5 to 210 lbs.

Best mid-priced home gym

The recently updated Bowflex PR1000 remains one of the most popular, affordable home gyms we've reviewed since we began writing this report years ago. With more than 30 possible strength exercise options and a built-in rowing machine, the PR1000 is a great choice for getting or staying in shape. It's reported as easy to assemble and use, with a couple of expansion options. It also folds to take up less space when you're not using it.

Buy for $499.00
Weider Ultimate Body Works Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Resistance - Body weight/bands # of exercises - 50+ Total weight: Body weight plus 50 lbs.

Best compact home gym

The biggest downside to most home gyms is just that -- they're big. Even those considered "compact" can be real space hogs. That's why people love the Weider Ultimate Body Works. At 49.5 by 26.5 inches, it fits just about anywhere. As basic as it is, using resistance bands and your own body weight, users say it's effective for getting and staying in shape. Owners also find it sturdy and durable, even those at the upper range of its 250-pound weight limit.

Buy for $125.29

Home gyms use various types of resistance

The amount and type of resistance your home gym offers will ultimately define your user experience. This report includes models with each common type of resistance for home gyms:

Weight stacks are rectangular weight plates that are pulled vertically along a bar by a cable, just like equipment at most gyms. Users slide a sturdy metal pin into the stack to select how much weight to lift. This makes changing resistance quick and easy, but you're limited by the stack's maximum weight.

Plate loading requires users to heft the weight plates onto the machine's lever bars. All the plate-loading machines in this report use Olympic weights, which have a 2-inch diameter hole in the middle of each plate. Plate-loading machines usually have the greatest versatility, and are also capable of handling the most weight -- perfect for a heavy lifter, but equally accessible for beginners.

Power Rod resistance is Bowflex's proprietary technology. It uses flexible rods that start out straight. As you move the home gym's handles through the range of motion, you bend the rods. The more they bend, the more resistance they offer. This is sometimes known as non-linear or progressive resistance because the rods offer a progression of increased resistance throughout the range of motion.

Glideboard resistance uses your own body weight. Home gyms with this resistance tend to be smaller, lighter and less expensive. To use these, you sit or lie on a padded board that glides on parallel rails. Pulleys are mounted at the top of the rails, and you pull on the cable handles to move the board. The steeper you set the incline, the more your body weight works as resistance.

Ultimately, the only way to be sure a home gym is right for you is to test it. Don't be shy about going to a local fitness equipment or sporting goods store and trying out some of the floor models before you buy online. While there, actually do the exercises, or at least make sure the machine is comfortable to adjust and use. (Some home gym manufacturers offer a short trial return window, but that's not exactly convenient. You have to put the gym together to try it, which can take anywhere from two to 10 hours, depending on the model. Then if you don't like it you have to disassemble it, repack everything in the original packaging, and return it to the manufacturer at your expense -- all within the limited trial period.)

A word about shipping

Some home gyms arrive in multiple boxes but, even then, they're so large and heavy that retailers may use specialty shippers. You might have to make an appointment with the shipper to receive your package. Make sure you're there at the appointed time, or you may be assessed delivery fees. Read the fine print on the delivery agreement carefully to make sure you understand your obligations. Often, you'll have to pay extra if you want the shipper to bring the boxes inside. This "inside delivery" may be worth paying for; otherwise, you might end up with a home gym in your driveway.

What else do you need to round out your home gym?

With a few exceptions, the purpose of a home gym is strength training. For cardio, you'll need a different type of equipment, such as a treadmill, elliptical, stair climber or exercise bike. You might also want to invest in a fitness tracker or heart rate monitor to keep track of your progress, too. We cover all of these fitness products in separate reports.

The best home gyms

If you want a solid home gym that will go the distance, you won't find another one as highly rated as the Bowflex Blaze Home Gym (Est. $720). The Blaze uses Bowflex's patented Power Rod resistance, which increases resistance as you progress through the range of motion. The Power Rods take getting used to, users say, but the technology's fans applaud their smooth, quiet operation. The Blaze comes with 210 pounds of Power Rod resistance -- plenty for beginners -- and can be upgraded to 310 or 410 pounds. Upgrades cost roughly $80 to $90 per 100 pounds.

There are more than 60 configurations for exercise options on the Bowflex Blaze, although you have to do some fiddling with the cables to change things up. Some dislike the interruption, although making the changes is not difficult to do. The Bowflex Blaze can also convert to a rowing machine -- a very popular option with owners, who say that it gives them an excellent cardio workout in addition to the full-body strength training. Users also like that the bench will lay fully flat so it can be used for other exercises as well.

The Bowflex Blaze receives very fewer user complaints regarding durability. This home gym is not available on the Bowflex website; it is manufactured by Bowflex for the retail market and is available elsewhere, including Amazon, Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods.

The Body-Solid Powerline BSG10X (Est. $770) is a similarly priced home gym that also receives solid reviews. This home gym uses weight stack resistance that goes up to 160 pounds. It doesn't offer a squat or leg-press station, but the latter, the Powerline BSGLPX Leg Press (Est. $160), is available separately and can be added on.

Reviewers say parts operate smoothly and assembly (though time-consuming) is fairly easy, and the maker has a well-deserved reputation for good customer service. A few reviewers say they feel the cables aren't as strong as they should be, but by and large, owner feedback is positive on this model.

Both the Bowflex Blaze and the Body-Solid Powerline BSG10X provide a lot of bang for your buck, but if you're looking for serious lifting equipment and can spend a little more, the Powertec Fitness Lever Gym Work Bench (Est. $1,250) can handle up to 300 or 500 pounds of cable or press-arm resistance, respectively. The downside is that users have to provide the weight plates themselves. Expect to spend up to around $1 per pound on the plates, although this can vary widely.

Despite not including the weights, the Lever Gym Work Bench remains a great value compared to similar equipment geared to serious lifters. The U-shaped press arm, which does not cross the plane of your body, means you can lift heavy weights without fear of serious injury in case of an accident, and a removable pin lets you move the two press arms separately (isolateral movement) as well as together.

The best mid-priced home gyms

With a very attractive price, the recently updated Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym (Est. $500) is an extremely popular home gym. The upper resistance of the Bowflex PR1000 is just 210 pounds (and there's no option to add weight to that as there is with the Bowflex Blaze), but unless you're a serious fitness buff, you're not going to need more than that.

The PR1000 is versatile enough to accommodate more than 30 exercises, enough to work your whole body. There's also the option to use it as a rowing machine for a cardiovascular workout as well. It's also easier to assemble than the more complex Blaze and has a slightly smaller footprint. Both the Blaze and the PR1000 fold up when not in use, although they're still not small machines.

Another popular, mid-priced home gym is the Marcy MWM-990 150 Pound Multifunctional Home Gym Station (Est. $410). A few reviewers say it's not big enough for taller users, but if you're under 6 feet, this machine is very smooth and has a good range of exercises along with a durable build. Its upper lifting limit is 150 pounds, so is more suitable for those who merely want a home gym as an overall addition to their exercise routine, as opposed to serious fitness or body-building buffs.

The best compact home gyms

One thing that most home gyms have in common is that they are big. Even home gyms described 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, helps you use 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. $160) and the Total Gym XLS (Est. $850). We review the Total Gym in more depth in our As Seen on TV (Est. $850) section, but reviewers say if you want a glideboard, buy the Weider -- it's almost identical to the Total Gym and you'll save hundreds of dollars.

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 from reviewers 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.

Expert & User Review Sources

Credible expert reviews of home gyms are hard to come by. However, the editors of ConsumerSearch are dedicated, knowledgeable fitness buffs, and we gathered the opinions of other exercise equipment owners to find the best home gyms. The most valuable sources for those user reviews were Amazon, Walmart, Dick's Sporting Goods and Sears.

Recently Updated
Home Gyms buying guide

What every best Home Gyms has:

  • Versatility.
  • Expansion capabilities.
  • Adjustability.

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