Getting into shape and building some muscle isn’t as complicated as people make out. All you really need is a good gym, a steady diet, regular sleep and plenty of discipline.
However, what if you can’t get to the gym as often as you like? What if your job restricts you from having access to a gym, or if you live too far away? Being consistent with your workout is as important as discipline.
This is where home gyms come into play. These relatively compact units offer multiple ways of working out, allowing for effective full body workouts at home. The perfect solution if you cannot get to the gym.
Whether you want to build strength, increase your chest size or simply want to tone your body, you have come to the right place!
In today’s article we are highlighting our top ten favorite multi gym systems on the market. We also offer a complete buyer’s guide, as well as a dedicated FAQ section to help answer your home gym queries.
Loads of stations allow you to hit multiple muscle groups from multiple angles
Features a solid fixed and free weight squat rack
Comes with all the accessories you need
Weight plates are sold separately
No pullup bar – feels like this should be an obvious inclusion
Pec deck doesn’t offer great range of motion
While this heavy-duty unit may be overkill for many home gyms users, it’s undoubtedly one of the best on the market at the moment – as we conclude in the main review of the MD-9010G.
The MD-9010G shows off a wide range of Olympic plate-loaded stations including both a free-weight squat rack and an incorporated Smith machine, as well as a dual high-pulley cable crossover system. This alone is an excellent pairing, allowing for many different movements.
However, it also comes with some classic multi gym features, including a low row station, butterfly arms, leg developer and a preacher pad. The fact that Marcy does it all at a relatively affordable price and compact size just adds to the value.
Solid range of movements including squats, shrugs, pull-ups and multiple presses
Ideal compact multi gym for building true size and strength
Body Solid’s GLGS100 is a surprisingly compact multi gym that boasts advanced features compared to many others. It may not provide as many stations as its peers, but those it does feel strong, stable and perhaps worthy of a commercial gym.
With a heavy-duty steel build and aircraft grade cables, the GLGS100 allows you to load it up with Olympic plates (sold separately) for a great mass and strength-building workout.
The multi-purpose press arms allow you to train your main muscle groups with heavy squats, overhead presses, shrugs, and – with the bench (also sold separately) – multiple chest press variations. In addition to the press arms, you’ll also find a low row station and a lat pulldown bar.
Compact but sturdy build – perfect for smaller homes
Allows you to perform more than 65 movements
Power Rods lose their resistance over time
The weight sometimes feels less than the advertised amount due to the way rods work
Doesn’t offer the best lower body workout
The Power Rod system on Bowflex machines will never offer the same beastly feel of hoisting sizable Olympic weight plates – yet they are certainly no toy! With up to 410lbs of upgradable resistance on offer (210lbs included), the Bowflex Blaze is a worthy contender for anyone looking to get in great shape at home.
This innovative multi gym offers multiple workout stations, a versatile upper and lower pulley system, and several attachments for more than 65 movements.
As well as working your muscles, you can also give your cardiovascular system some attention with the built-in aerobic rower. Simply adjust the seat on the bench and off you go. When you are done with your workout, you can fold the rail upwards – a great space-saving design.
Movement list isn’t as extensive as others on this chart
Quality control is temperamental
The BSG10X from Powerline by Body Solid is a compact but effective multi gym with a no-nonsense design. While small, this sturdy machine features an 11-gauge steel frame and military-grade aircraft cables, and offers plenty of ways to hit each muscle group.
It features a high, middle and low pulley system, along with a leg developer and multi-grip pressing arms. This allows you to perform the shoulder press, chest press, rowing variations, bicep curls, lat pulldown, squats and many more movements.
While advanced users may need a heavier load, the 160lb metal weight stack will be plenty of resistance for most people. One big plus is that the BSG10X comes 90% assembled, meaning you are pretty much good to go from the box!
Similar to other Bowflex units, the Power Rods can lose resistance over time
Not as compact as the PR3000
No option to upgrade the resistance
The popular PR1000 is another innovative multi gym from the legendary Bowflex, although one that comes in at a more affordable price when compared to the Blaze.
This highly-rated unit features 210lbs of adjustable Power Rod resistance, with both an upper and lower pulley system. Combined with the various attachments, it promises more than 25 exercises, allowing you a solid total body workout. Thanks to the folding bench, it’s also a pretty compact machine that works great in small spaces.
Just like the Blaze, the PR1000 also offers a bench on rollers for the useful aerobic rowing function. There’s more on this and everything else on offer in the complete review of the Bowflex PR1000.
Not the best multi gym if you want to build big strength and muscle
Very tall or very short users may find it uncomfortable
Feels a little overpriced
Even though it is endorsed by none other than Chuck Norris – who calls it his ‘lean, mean exercise machine’ – the Total Gym XLS is a quality piece of equipment that is fully capable of selling itself.
While very different to some of the others we’ve featured, this unconventional home gym proves you can get a great total body workout with a unit that folds up and fits in the closet. It comes with plenty of attachments that combine to deliver more than 80 exercises, including the chest press, bicep curls, squats, shoulder press and crunches.
As with other Total Gym machines, the XLS features a padded glideboard on rollers and nylon strap handles, allowing you to use your own bodyweight as the resistance. A great compact choice.
For an affordable home gym, the Marcy MWM 990 is a sturdy and stylish unit that boasts plenty of features. One of these is the 150lb weight stack (with 10lb increments), allowing you to make decent strength and muscle gains.
With a heavy-duty steel construction, the MWM 990 offers your typical multi gym movements. There are dual-action butterfly arms to work your chest; a multi-angle lat pulldown bar for your back and triceps; a removable preacher pad for cable bicep curls; and a padded leg developer.
The spine of the unit features a chart full of exercise examples so you won’t be short of inspiration during a workout. The additional accessories, such as an ankle strap, add to the versatility of this budget unit.
A good weight stack with a total of 330lbs of resistance
Features an adjustable preacher pad for arm development
Vinyl weights feel a little cheap
Not as sturdy as some of the other units on this list
Even if you are just getting into bodybuilding, chances are you already know the name Gold’s Gym. While the XRS 55 isn’t a like-for-like replacement for a session at an actual Gold’s Gym, this compact and affordable unit offers pretty much everything you need for a good full-body workout.
With a stylish design, the XRS 55 is loaded with a 125lb vinyl weight stack, attached to an upper and lower pulley system. It features the traditional multi gym stations, including dual-action press arms, a preacher pad, padded leg developer and low row plate.
Of course, it has its limitations and certainly doesn’t feel like a high-end home gym. Yet it’s a worthwhile consideration if you are looking for at-home weight training on a budget.
Adjustable resistance bands add a greater challenge
Very compact design
Lacks the stability that some of the more expensive units offer
Nylon straps don’t feel particularly durable
You may struggle for a full range of motion if you are tall
Inspired by the Total Gym, the Ultimate Body Works from Weider delivers plenty of functionality for an effective full-body workout, while folding down to a compact size when you’re done.
This very affordable unit features the same principles as Total Gym, using bodyweight as resistance with a gliding board and pulley system to perform the majority of exercises. There are more than 50 low-impact movements on offer, including rowing and pressing variations, as well as bicep curls, triceps pulldowns and core exercises.
Plenty of attachments to deliver a total body workout
Easy to take on the go – from the office to a vacation!
The 40lb resistance bands may not be challenging enough for some users
Additional resistance bands are sold separately
Base doesn’t always feel sturdy
If you are looking for a multi gym with a tiny footprint, the BodyBoss Home Gym 2.0 is well worth your time. While it doesn’t feature the kind of resistance or traditional stations you’d find on bigger units, there are still around 300 movements on offer!
It’s said to ‘simulate thousands of dollars’ worth of gym equipment’ – while we suggest taking this with a pinch of salt, the actual workout you can get is very effective.
The gym features a base, resistance bands, squat bar, handles, door anchor and wrists/ankle straps, catering for moves likes squats, bicep curls, bench press, upright rows, and triceps extensions. This innovative gear allows you to work out in small spaces, in the garden, at the office or even while travelling.
As you have already seen on this page, there are countless home gyms available, all catering for different budgets, spaces and requirements.
Are you a premium buyer? Or a beginner on a budget? Which one is right for you?
Below, we have listed some considerations to make before shopping for your next home gym.
First things first – try to determine what you will use the gym for. This may sound obvious, with ‘working out at home’ the answer, but there’s more to consider than that.
For example, what are your goals? If you are a beginner who has never done any resistance training, you will probably be fine with a Total Gym unit, offering bodyweight movements to help build a lean, toned physique. These machines are also great for seniors and people suffering injuries, as they offer low-impact movements.
If you are more advanced, you will probably prefer a traditional multi gym with features like an adjustable bench, butterfly arms, lat pulldown bar and leg developer. This style will give you a similar experience to the machines you use at the gym, with a decent resistance (usually in the form of a weight stack or resistance rods).
If you are already lifting serious weight in the gym, or want to develop big muscles and strength, a standard multi gym may not cut it. Instead, you should look towards a heavy-duty unit that possibly offers an incorporated squat rack and plate-loading system.
Of course, you don’t have to listen to our advice. You may be a novice senior who wants to learn to squat heavy, or a bodybuilder who just wants to keep lean on a Total Gym!
The point is that you must define your goals before you shop, otherwise you may end up with a home gym that’s not fit for purpose.
After you have determined your goals, it will be easier to decide what core features you need from a multi gym.
This is what you should look out for:
Design As we have mentioned, home gyms come in a range of different shapes and sizes, catering for all requirements. Big, small or somewhere in between, there’s plenty of choice!
However, we can roughly split the multi gym market into a couple of different categories.
First there is what we would call your ‘traditional multi gym’. Essentially, these look like a marriage of multiple gym machines.
These usually have a bench to sit or lie on, with both a high and low pulley system – occasionally a middle pulley as well. They would have features such as butterfly arms, a lat pulldown bar, a leg developer and a low row station, in addition to multi-purpose handles.
Then there are Bowflex gyms, which are very similar to the traditional multi gym design, apart from that they are more streamlined (not as many fixed stations) and that they utilize composite rods as the resistance.
Next, there are Total Gym style units. These feature an angled bench on rollers, which glides up and down as you use the pulley system to manipulate your bodyweight in a variety of ways.
Finally, you will come across compact ‘gym in a box’ designs, such as the BodyBoss Home Gym 2.0 or the WonderCore Genius.
As the name suggests, the components come in – or at least would fit in – a box. These may include things like resistance bands, handles, a base and various attachments to offer a surprisingly capable total body workout.
Workout Stations With each of the designs comes different workout stations, although there is a similar theme. For example, regardless of the unit you buy, you will always receive a pair of pulley handles to pull the high/low/middle cables, allowing you to perform everything from chest flyes to bicep curls.
On bigger units, you will usually find fixed multi-function arms. These let you perform a chest press and flyes, while you can sometimes use them the other way around for a rowing station.
Bigger multi gyms also provide things like a leg developer – an often-detachable station with padded rollers to cater for leg extensions and curls. More advanced models will sometimes feature a free-weight squat rack and/or a Smith machine, to allow you to perform heavy squats and presses.
Some multi gyms will offer a pulldown station with a high pulley plus a straight or angled bar. On this you can perform a pulldown for both your lats and triceps, while others will provide a straight bar for the low row station and other movements.
You may also find things like an ankle strap, enabling you to carry out glute and leg exercises, or a rope for a multitude of upper body exercises.
Resistance A multi gym with no resistance is not much use to anyone, so let’s take a look at what varieties of resistance you can expect.
Starting with the most basic, you’ll find the weight of your own body is the preferred choice of several budget (but also some higher-end) multi gyms.
While your bodyweight is hard to change instantly, these machines make it easy to adjust the resistance they offer – usually by altering the angle of the bench. On some, such as the Weider Ultimate Body Works, you will also find bungee cords which add resistance, allowing you to progress past your own bodyweight.
Next, on traditional multi gyms, a weight stack is usually the load of choice. Stuck at the rear of the unit and attached to the cable/pulley system, weight stacks perform much like those you’d find in a commercial gym. On multi gyms, they will often come in between around 90lbs and 200lbs.
However, many affordable home gyms will feature vinyl weight stacks to keep costs lower. These are obviously bigger and don’t have that satisfying metal on metal clink, but still work fine. You will see metal stacks as you move up the price ranges.
On Bowflex units, of which there are many, the prime resistance is their unique Power Rods. These composite poles bend and create resistance as you pull them. Each pole will have its own resistance (some with 5lbs, some with 10lbs, some with 50lbs, and so on), and you can usually combine them together for a surprisingly heavy load.
There are some problems associated with this style of rod. Users often complain that the amount of resistance they are using doesn’t feel like the amount it should. For example, pressing 210lbs may only feel like 210lbs in the final quarter of the movement, and so on.
These rods are also known to lose their resistance over time. While you can purchase replacements rods, it’s a good idea to buy an official Power Rod Rejuvenator to prolong the life of the rods.
Another form of resistance, often used on smaller ‘gym in a box’ units, is resistance bands. These bands work very well and can deliver a great workout. However, usually only one set comes with the gym, with additional sets sold separately.
More advanced lifters will not find the challenge they need working solely with resistance bands. This is why the final resistance we cover is weighted plates. Some heavy-duty units require you to add Olympic plates as the load.
The advantage of this is that you can add heavy weights and develop true strength and muscle gains. You can also add increments of your own choosing, which is great for progressive overload.
Of course, the disadvantage is that these plates are sold separately and – if you lift heavy – can quickly add up in terms of cost.
Extras Regardless of price, most multi gyms will come with at least a sheet of paper showing some of the exercises you can do with it.
Some will go further and offer you a workout chart to stick on the wall, while others come with a chart of movements already stuck to the machine itself.
Depending on the model, you will also find some offer workout guides, cards and flip charts, while others provide full DVD workout guides. Some manufacturers also throw in diet and nutrition advice for the complete package.
Alone, these extras are not worth basing your decision on. However, they make a nice addition and add value to the package.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Multi Gym?
A multi gym combines a range of workout stations into one relatively compact unit. Imagine taking classic gym machines such as the chest press, low row, lat pulldown and leg extender, then shoving them all into one piece of equipment. This is a multi gym!
You don’t often see them in commercial gyms, as these gyms have the budget and space to warrant individual machines. Multi gyms are more common at home and places such as hotel fitness centers, where space is at a premium.
As you will read elsewhere on this page, multi gyms come in a wide range of forms and sizes, with features and resistance differing depending on the manufacturer and model.
Which Multi Gym is Best for the Home?
Truthfully, any of the multi gyms we have featured on this page – or on our sub-pages – will be ideal for use at home.
However, which one is ‘the best’ will completely depend on your goals and how much space you can dedicate to the gym.
For example, if you can only give up a corner of your garage, or need something that can be stored away in the closet after your workout, then a foldable Total Gym or Bowflex unit will be a good choice.
On the other side of the coin, if you have a bigger space and no set budget, you would benefit from the versatility a bigger multi gym can offer – perhaps one with a built-in squat rack and Olympic plate-loading system.
Browse both our top ten chart, and the individual subcategories, and you will quickly home in on what is best for you.
Is it Effective to Workout at Home?
It most certainly is! Of course, you need both dedication and the right equipment to make sure you are making the most of your time.
Other sections on this page cover how to find the right multi gym for you, but let’s discuss the dedication aspect.
Ultimately, you need to be able to both commit to your workout, then focus on it. This means having a workout plan and the drive to follow that plan regularly.
The main benefit of owning a home gym is the convenience of having access to weights when you need them. However, be aware that the home has more distractions than a gym. You go to a gym solely to work out. At home there are partners, kids, family, pets, TVs, laptops, fridges… you can easily become sidetracked.
The good news is that, if you have a strong home gym and plenty of focus, then you can reap the true benefits of working out at home instead of a commercial gym.
For example, you can avoid paying for a hefty gym membership. You don’t have to drive to and from the gym, nor do you have to wait for machines to become available when you are there. You can also listen to your own music as loud as you like, and workout in your underwear (if that’s what you want)!
Do Multi Gyms Build Muscle?
Multi gyms are a great way to build muscle at home. However, sitting on the bench and pumping out a few curls now and again probably won’t give you the muscle you are dreaming of.
Building muscle is both simple and very complex – and a full guide goes beyond the scope of this article (check out other articles on Fitness Verve for more on muscle-building).
However, in a nutshell, to build muscle you must constantly give them a fresh challenge. This means gradually increasing the weight, or the reps, or the sets, over several sessions.
For a multi gym to be effective, you will need one that provides you with enough of a challenge to progress.
For many beginners, any form of weightlifting will result in new muscle growth, so a decent multi gym will definitely help you build muscle – providing you work out regularly.
It’s for more experienced lifters that multi gyms can be less effective. For example, if you can already bench press 180lbs, buying a multi gym with a 160lb weight stack isn’t going to be beneficial if you want to build a bigger chest!
This is why we usually recommend heavy-duty multi gyms that take Olympic plates as the load – such as the Marcy MD-9010G or Body Solid GLGS100. This kind of home gym allows you to add big weight, then push and pull it to your heart’s content.
Of course, diet also comes into play, with a slight caloric surplus and higher protein intake proving beneficial if you want to build muscle.
In conclusion, yes you can build good muscle on a multi gym – providing it is offering you enough of a challenge and that you are working hard every session.
What Do You Need for a Home Gym?
The answer depends on how much you have to spend and how much space you have. It also depends on how much use you will get from each piece of equipment, because there’s no point us telling you to buy a set of medicine balls if you are going to let them gather dust in the corner!
However, a good home gym will usually offer means for you to do both resistance and cardio work.
Starting with resistance, the multi gyms we highlight on this page are an easy way to squeeze multiple stations into a small area. You may want to supplement a multi gym with a good pair of adjustable dumbbells to add free weight to your workouts and hit muscles your multi gym can’t.
If you have room, a good pull-up bar is another home gym staple. You can pump out both pull-ups and chin-ups, as well as leg raises and dips – depending on the model.
After this, it’s up to you. Think you will use a medicine ball for throws or slams? Grab one! Would a Swiss ball be worthwhile for balance exercises? They aren’t too expensive and a worthwhile addition to any gym.
As for cardio options, determine your favorite activity then go for a machine that helps you replicate it at home. This could be a good treadmill, a decent exercise bike, a rowing machine or an elliptical.
With this all in place, you will have an excellent way to work out at home daily. In fact, you may never need to go to a commercial gym again!
Years ago, multi gyms were extremely expensive and quite rare – usually reserved for hotel fitness clubs and small local gyms.
However, in 2019, it is easy to buy your own multi gym without having to spend large sums of money. Whether you are a serious strength builder, a complete beginner, or somewhere in between, there is a home gym out there for you!
Browse our top ten chart, read some reviews and then go shopping. Keep in mind the advice we have offered in this guide and you will end up with something that will allow you to get a serious pump on in the comfort of your own home!
The Best Fitness Equipment
Buying guides, reviews and more, straight to your inbox.