It was all-change in this article as we replaced four of our top five home gyms under $500.
New additions included the Total Gym APEX G5, the Bullworker Power Pack, the Weider XRS 50, and the Total Gym APEX G3.
Looking to build a little muscle at home? Or just want to keep moving when you can’t get to the gym? Home gyms can be an excellent solution if you are short on time or just hate commercial gyms!
Table of Contents
In this article we will be showing you some of the best home gyms you can buy for under $500, highlighting their features, pros and cons.
We will also discuss this price range in general, along with its strengths and limitations, as well as tackling a few frequently asked questions below.
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
The G5 is one of the most popular units in Total Gym’s APEX collection, offering more attachments and better overall performance compared to some of its lower-priced siblings.
It features the classic Total Gym cable and pulley system with a glideboard and an added headrest pillow. This makes it extra comfortable as you work your way through more than 80 exercises, made possible by the plethora of attachments.
Of course, there’s the nylon handles, leg pull accessory and wing attachment as found on most Total Gyms, as well as the dip bars and squat stand – these two widen the scope of potential movements. The G5 also comes bundled with plenty of instructional material to help you make the most of this popular home gym system.
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
No, you are not seeing things and, no, we have not travelled back to the 1960s! The legendary Bullworker has stood the test of time and is still used by many people as a key part of their home fitness routine.
The popular Power Pack is bursting with tools. Taking center-stage is the 36” Bow Classic – which will be the meat of your workouts – as well as the more portable Steel Bow (20”). Additionally, the Power Pack offers both the ISO-FLO and ISO-BOW for effective isometric work.
This bundle also comes with interchangeable resistance springs for each device to allow you to work to your ability, as well as a plethora of instructional material. While it may not be everybody’s idea of the perfect home gym, there’s a reason Bullworker gear has been around for so long.
Resistance: Vinyl weight stack (280lbs)
Adjustable Resistance: Yes
Features: Chest press and flye station, low pull station, padded leg developer, lat pulldown station, multipurpose nylon strap handle, padded vinyl seat, exercise chart, 300lb weight capacity
The XRS 50 from Weider is a traditional multi-gym that allows you to replicate many gym-based movements in the comfort of your own home.
There are multiple stations in this relatively compact unit (38” x 64” footprint), including a chest press and flye station, a low pulley station to target the muscles in your back, and a padded leg developer. The lat pulldown station is also useful for working your back and triceps.
This unit features a 112lb vinyl weight stack that produces up to 280lbs of resistance, which will be adequate for many muscle groups for both beginners and intermediate lifters. As long as you aren’t expecting gym-grade quality, you will be surprised at what you can do with this unit.
Weight Capacity: 300lbs
Adjustable Resistance: 8 levels
Features: Steel frame, padded glideboard, nylon strap handles, leg pull accessory, squat stand, dip bars, wing attachment, workout flip chart, DVD, nutrition guide, Total Gym TV access
If you don’t want to spend as much on the Total Gym G5, but feel the G1 is a bit too basic for you, then the popular G3 is a great compromise.
This unit – part of Total Gym’s refreshed APEX collection – borrows some of the features that make the G5 so popular. For example, in addition to the padded glideboard, nylon handles and wing attachment, you can make use of both the squat stand and dip bars.
This all adds up to more than 70 exercises in a compact and foldable unit. The G3 features eight levels of resistance (compared to the G5’s slightly better 10 levels) for decent progression options. Throw in some handy instructional material and you have yourself a home gym showing great value.
Resistance: Radial resistance (65lbs)
Adjustable Resistance: Yes
Features: Compact design, one-touch resistance selection dial, soft-grip handles, adjustable ankle straps, media shelf, personal trainer app
Teeter’s FitForm is a fresh new face on the home gym market, and slides straight into this chart due to its innovation, versatility and affordability.
Inside a compact unit is a high-quality cable resistance system that offers a smooth motion, similar to what you would expect from gym-grade cable machines. With the included soft-grip handles and ankle straps, you can perform movements to target your entire body, from presses to flyes to squats.
It’s also simple to adjust the challenge, using the one-touch dial to add up to 65lbs of resistance, with 1lb increments allowing for easy progressive overload. It’s a simple system, but one that’s very effective in shaping your body at home. The device holder and personal trainer app adds to the appeal.
When you look at $500 multi gyms and compare them directly to multi gyms under $300, you may not notice a huge difference. At least not until you take a closer look.
Even though the lack of obvious differences may put some people off spending more than $300, the subtle differences lead to a much better machine – easier to use, more movement options and other benefits.
Let’s take a look at what you can expect, and what you should look out for, when shopping in the $500 range:
Truth be told, there is no drastic changes in design when jumping two hundred bucks from the $300 to $500 category. You will still find that multi gyms in this range come in all shapes and sizes.
Some of these will be similar to the traditional resistance machines you may find in a commercial gym, with a pec deck, chest press, lat pull-down and leg extender all crammed into one unit.
Alternatively, you can still find the Total Gym-style bench-on-rails multi gyms (yeah, just like Chuck Norris endorses!). In this price range these systems will be similar to those in the budget category, but they will feature more attachments and more accessories, leading to more advanced workouts.
The prime benefits of this style of unit is that they are foldable and more compact when not in use, yet still deliver a surprisingly good full-body workout.
Your goals and living space will determine which home gym is best for you. If you feel a preacher pad is essential to help you carve your biceps, then you are unlikely to be sold on a Total Gym-style machine.
A plus, as you increase your budget to $500, is that the aesthetics and build quality of these units improves. They are far from perfect, but components such as the cable and pulley system, and the seat, will feel a little sturdier in use.
The multi gyms in this price range are pretty fruitful in the range of movements they deliver, with more on offer than budget units.
This means additional attachments and accessories to give you everything you need to target your entire body. You’ll find dual-action chest press arms to hit your chest; multi-angle lat bars to target your back and triceps; and leg developers and low pulleys for your legs.
A unit in this range will usually also give you a preacher pad for building your biceps and a row plate, so you can get off the bench and complete a low row. These features are not usually seen on budget models.
Another cool thing we start to see is a bit more innovation in design, as each brand competes for your attention.
For example, Bowflex’s PR1000 caters for the standard muscle-developing resistance movements, but also offers an aerobic rowing option by fixing the seat to rollers. Very smart and unique in this range.
You can usually expect a workout chart or guide to accompany your multi gym, with many providing DVDs to offer full workouts. Of course, if they don’t, YouTube is usually full of inspiration on how to squeeze the most from your machine.
What’s a multi gym without resistance? A big waste of space! Yes, the resistance a machine offers is just as important as the design and build.
The majority of home gyms under $500 will feature a sizable stack of weights, usually up to around 150lbs. You can select increments of weight (usually a manageable 10lbs) with a pin system.
In this price range, the weight stack will still be vinyl as opposed to the metal weight plates you may find in the $1,000 multi gym range and beyond.
However, you can also find alternative resistance to traditional weight stacks, such as Bowflex’s innovative Power Rods or simply your own bodyweight.
With these systems you can still alter the resistance – usually by selecting different rods or by adjusting the angle of something to make your bodyweight feel heavier or lighter than it is.
In most cases you will be able to find weight that allows you to build muscle and strength, although how effective this weight is will depend on the movements you are doing and your current level. It goes without saying that a beginner will find 150lbs of resistance a lot more effective than a seasoned lifter.
Before you click ‘Buy’, take a moment to consider what you are buying your multi gym for. While $500 isn’t a life changing amount, installing a multi gym in your home is not something you should do on a whim.
Chances are it will take up a considerable portion of whatever room you place it in, so make sure it is going to meet your needs before it turns into an expensive clothes horse!
Are you looking to build muscle? You may also want to buy a pair of adjustable dumbbells to do some movements that multi gyms may not allow you to do effectively, or simply to add a new dimension to your training.
Similarly, you may want to add in an ab roller, medicine ball or Swiss ball to allow you to focus on your core – something multi gyms in this range don’t always cater for.
Whatever unit you buy for under $500, be realistic with your expectations. These are certainly sturdier, more reliable and more advanced units than those entry-level models, but don’t expect the same smoothness or resistance you’d find on a machine at your local gym.
Manufacturers are trying to pack in as much as they can into a single unit for a relatively small price, so the overall performance can sometimes be a bit disappointing if you are expecting a gym-grade workout. Perhaps the cables may feel a bit flimsy, the seat may be a little shakey, or the range of motion isn’t complete.
At the end of the day, there’s a that reason gym memberships are so expensive – each machine costs thousands of dollars!
Don’t let this put you off. You can certainly achieve excellent total body workouts by using a home gym, providing you understand the limitations of these units, and put in the hard work.
Ever walked into a gym and seen the pec deck, chest press, lat pulldown, low row and leg extender and thought, ‘I’d love all those machines in my garage’? That’s pretty much exactly what a multi gym is.
Commercial gyms have big budgets and plenty of room, so they can dedicate permanent floor space to a single machine. Home users don’t have that luxury. This is why multi gyms exist.
Regardless of the style, multi gyms provide users with a way of performing several resistance exercises on one machine. Unless you can perform at least five movements on the machine it cannot be classed as a multi gym (at least, not a good one).
There are many advantages to having a gym in your home or garage – whether that’s a multi gym like the units on this page, or a full setup including a good treadmill, dumbbells and other accessories.
For starters, you don’t have to travel there and back every day. You don’t have to wait for a certain machine to be free, nor do you have to put up with others pressuring you to hurry up. You can wear whatever you feel comfortable in.
Of course, neither do you have to pay a large annual fee for using equipment that is not yours.
But is a home gym better?
Unless you have endless space and no spending limit, it’s unlikely you will be able to match the variety of exercises you can do at a commercial gym. Walk into any decent gym and you can run, cycle, row, step, squat, deadlift, press and curl as much or as little as you like.
With a home gym you are usually limited to one aerobic exercise machine (such as a treadmill or stationary bike) and whatever multi gym, rack and weight you have at hand.
So, while a home gym is certainly more convenient and can be more pleasant – with nobody pressuring you or judging you – it’s no better than a traditional gym.
Firstly, define your goals. Are you looking to lose weight? Develop strength? Or build muscle?
If weight loss is your target, then cardio machines are likely to be first on your list. Look for a good rowing machine, treadmill or elliptical – aim for the best one you can afford, and you will soon start to reap the rewards.
You shouldn’t shun resistance exercises though, as they are another means to burn calories and tone your body, so you have a nice figure to reveal after you strip away the fat. This is where multi gyms – like those we highlight on this page – come into play.
Of course, these are also good if you are a beginner looking to build some muscle and strength, or want to maintain the muscle you already have.
If you are a more experienced lifter and want to create a home gym, you may want to opt for free weights as opposed to a multi gym. A squat rack, bench, barbell, dumbbells, and – of course – some weight plates, can give you everything you need to perform squats, deadlifts, bench press and countless other movements.
If you have cash left over, accessories such as weighted vests, pullup bars, resistance bands, and even a couple of motivational posters are all worthy additions to your home gym.
Determine your budget, determine your goals and determine how much space you have – then go
Multi gyms have one job – to give you a platform on which to perform a good full-body workout, targeting your chest, back, arms, legs and shoulders.
When sitting on a traditional multi gym, the movements you can perform will be obvious. The butterfly arms will allow you to perform both chest press and flyes, while a multi-angle bar at the top will give you means to do lat pulldowns for your back, as well as standing triceps pulldowns.
You will also find preacher pads for bicep curls, leg developers for working your quads and hamstrings, and sometimes a low pulley to perform a low row.
When you actually get to grips with the machine, it’s surprising how many movements can be done on one.
Some multi gyms will offer multiple ways to target each muscle group. For example, the Total Gym-style units offer more than 50 to 60 different exercises, including chest flyes, dips, pullups, bicep curls, shoulder raises, and even scope for Pilates workouts.
Spending around $500 on a multi gym to add to your home gym setup is a good call. It’s not a life-changing amount of money, but the quality and choice you have when compared to the budget market makes the step up in investment worthwhile.
Ultimately, the decision is yours. Determine your goals, read some reviews and take some time to understand what kind of machine you need. Then prepare to get your sweat on!