Four changes were made to our top ten chart, which helped bring this article up to date for 2021.
Some older gyms were removed and new additions included the excellent Bowflex PR3000, the Total Gym APEX G5, the innovative MAXPRO Portable Home Gym, and a timeless classic – the popular Bullworker Power Pack.
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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.
Resistance: Power Rods
Adjustable Resistance: Yes
Features: Sturdy steel frame, quick-change cable system, removable bench, nylon grip handles, leg developer, multiple pulleys, workout chart
The PR3000 may not be the most premium of Bowflex’s home gym offerings, yet it is a strong choice for its solid build, compact footprint and huge range of exercise options. In fact, this innovative multi-gym boasts over 50 exercises!
This is made possible due to high, low and middle pulleys, which connect to both hand grips and leg cuffs. There’s also a removable bench, on which you can perform a seated chest press or use the leg developer.
There are no weight stacks with Bowflex machines – instead you can rely on Power Rods to offer from 5lbs to 210lbs of resistance (upgradable to 310lbs with the purchase of extra rods). This resistance style has some drawbacks, but otherwise the PR3000 has a lot going for it.
Weight Capacity: 375lbs
Adjustable Resistance: 10 levels
Features: Steel frame, padded glideboard with pillow headrest, nylon strap handles, leg pull accessory, squat stand, wing attachment, dip bars, workout cards and holder, two stability mats, workout DVD, nutrition guide, one-year warranty
Truth be told, we could have added any Total Gym models to this list and our choice would have been justified. However, it was the APEX G5 that made the cut thanks to its marriage of strength, versatility and value.
The G5 features the classic design points you may expect from a Total Gym unit, with a strong frame, padded glideboard, cable and pulley system, and adjustable angle that alters the resistance.
It’s packed with attachments, such as the wing attachment, dip bars and squat stand. When combined with the regular handles and leg cuff, there is scope for more than 80 movements – not bad for a compact and affordable piece of gear. Throw in the bundle of workout guides and a DVD, and you have a very tempting home gym option.
Resistance: PowerClutch dial (300lbs)
Adjustable Resistance: Yes
Features: Patent pending PowerClutch design, aerospace-grade aluminium frame, ultra-high strength cords, non-slip footpads, non-scuff bottom pads, nylon grip handles, collapsible barbell, door bracket, Bluetooth connectivity
Every now and then, a fitness item is released that makes us sit up – the MAXPRO is one of these. It claims to be the most versatile portable cable fitness machine on the market, and we would be inclined to agree.
This versatility comes from two factors – the amount of exercises you can perform (which is pretty much everything you can do on a cable crossover machine), and the variety of weight. Thanks to the patent-pending PowerClutch element, you can add from 5lbs to 300lbs of resistance with a twist of the dial. Sounds far-fetched, but it actually works!
It sounds even more far-fetched when you consider how small the MAXPRO is in its folded state, while weighing less than 9lbs. It comes with the attachments and fixings you need, making this a great-value purchase.
Resistance: Power Rods
Adjustable Resistance: Yes
Features: Upper and lower pulley system, leg developer, squat bar, aerobic rower, instructional placard, triple-function hand-grip/ankle cuffs
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.
Resistance: Vinyl weight stack
Adjustable Resistance: Yes
Features: Upper and lower pulley system, multi-angle pulldown bar, removable preacher pad, dual-action press arms, padded leg extender, workout chart, lockable weight stack (includes padlock), ankle strap
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.
Resistance: Springs / Isometrics
Adjustable Resistance: Yes
Features: 36” Bow Classic, 20” Steel Bow, ISO-FLO, ISO-BOW, interchangeable resistance springs, non-slip rubber pads, carrying cases, instructional manual, five-year warranty
Perhaps you weren’t expecting to see a Bullworker on this chart, yet this legendary piece of home gym gear is worthy of your attention if you want something compact, portable and surprisingly comprehensive.
But the Power Pack is more than just the original Bullworker. It takes the brand’s best gear and bundles it together. You get the Bow Classic, the shorter Steel Bow, and two popular isometric tools – the ISO-FLO and ISO-BOW. Interchangeable resistance springs are also included, allowing you to alter the resistance of both the Bow Classic and Steel Bow.
You can hit your entire body in effective ways with these devices. You don’t have to guess your way through it either – the Power Pack comes with ample instructional material. The pack feels a little expensive, but overall you can’t fault the contents.
Motor: 2.25 HP
Speed: 0 to 10mph
Incline: Two positions (Manual)
Belt: 16” x 50”
Features: Backlit display screen, thumb heartrate monitor, iFit compatible, six preset programs, storage space, media shelf
The Weslo Cadence G 5.9i is certainly one of the most popular treadmills in the budget market and tops our list due to the impressive power and extra features not seen on many of its peers.
In fact, some of the listed features seem too good to be true, with a powerful 2.25 HP motor powering a 16” x 50” comfort-enhancing belt. While pretty narrow, this accommodates both runners with a longer stride and faster runners, with a top speed of 10mph.
Additional features include a folding design for easier storage and compatibility with the iFit system. While there are some flaws – highlighted in the full review of the Cadence G 5.9i – the pros outweigh the cons here.
Resistance: Resistance bands
Adjustable Resistance: Yes
Features: Steel frame construction (with padding), dynamic handles, adjustable ankle straps, printed workout guide, instructional DVD
Body by Jake is a familiar name in the fitness industry and their innovative Tower 200 is a popular home gym system – providing you have a suitable door!
This unit features two steel frames that slide onto the top and bottom of your door, with a pulley and tension band system providing the resistance. You can alter this resistance by mixing and matching resistance bands, allowing you to tailor the experience to meet your ability.
The Tower 200 is surprisingly versatile for the price, with a marketed 200 movements on offer. There’s also up to 200lbs of resistance to make use of, although this feels a bit lighter in action. Still, for an affordable price, this is a smart solution.
Resistance: Bodyweight plus resistance bands
Adjustable Resistance: Yes
Features: Cable and pulley system, nylon strap handles, removable base plate and handles, 50+ movements
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.
One unique feature is that this innovative multi gym includes additional tension cables at the base, as a way to increase the resistance (up to 50lbs). There’s more on the Weider Ultimate Body Works in the full review!
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.
Home gyms can span many price ranges – you’ll find budget gyms costing under $200, while high-end multi gyms can set you back thousands of dollars.
So, where do you start? We’ve tried to remove the guesswork by separating some of the most popular home gyms on the market into their own categories.
Compact Home Gyms
In general, home gyms are fairly large machines that don’t lend themselves well to tight spaces. This means, in most cases, unless you have a room to dedicate to this equipment, you might not be able to enjoy the benefit of a multi gym.
This is why we have categorized a selection of compact home gyms – those that don’t require a lot of space. The main purpose of a compact home gym is to deliver a similar core performance of a standard multi gym, but with a design that saves space.
In this section you will run into a variety of designs that get the job done. You’re looking at traditional multi gyms and Bowflex machines, Total Gym style units, and the modern ‘gym in a box’ solutions.
Cheap Home Gyms
While shopping in the past may have demanded that you spend a considerable chunk of money to end up with your own home multi gym, we live in the present – which is lucky, as you’ll run into several solid multi gyms at very affordable prices!
Modern manufacturing technologies and cheaper materials have allowed many manufacturers to reduce their production costs and deliver a line of home gyms that provide a good full-body workout, while remaining affordable – under $300 in this case.
This makes them great for beginners and intermediate users, as well as those shopping on a budget. When shopping, bear in mind that these simple gyms have their limitations. Keep your expectations realistic and you will find a machine that will really impress.
Home Gyms Under $500
If you are willing to stretch your budget a little to shop in the sub-$500 region, you will find some advanced features and more exercises available to you.
Designs don’t change too much from the cheaper category, with both traditional and Total Gym-style units still widely available, although the build quality improves a bit. The weights on offer will usually be a bit heavier and the range of movements will be more varied.
You will also begin to run into your first Bowflex models, which offer a slightly different twist on the design of a regular multi gym. Keep an eye out for machines that offer aerobic rowing functions in addition to muscle-building stations.
Home Gyms Under $1,000
Spending $1,000 is a considerable amount for many people, but the reward is a multi gym which will make you consider ripping up your gym membership once and for all.
In this range you will find traditional home gyms, Total Gym machines and Bowflex units, as well as some that incorporate plate-loading systems for real muscle and strength gains.
As you may expect, the quality of materials and components drastically improves compared to the budget ranges. Sure, we’re not in commercial gym-grade territory yet, but some of the units aren’t that far off.
Some of these higher-end multi gyms may be a bit too advanced for the beginner or average user, although they will prove a worthwhile investment if you are serious about home fitness.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)!
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.
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!