Joe Weider is a name that should need no introduction to anyone with an interest in the history of muscle building. Rightly known as the ‘Father of Bodybuilding’, Weider made a huge mark on the world of muscle by promoting the art of bodybuilding, training future superstars, and designing his own fitness innovations.
While it’s unlikely the fitness icon would have used something like the Ultimate Body Works contraption to sculpt his own body, this affordable home gym is a popular choice for those taking their first steps in fitness.
Of course, coming in at under $300, it’s unlikely to be perfect – so what are the limitations of this multigym, and is it worth the cash compared to buying a few dumbbells? Let’s find out.
The first thing you may notice is that this unit doesn’t sport the traditional home multigym design – although it’s not entirely unique. If you’ve ever used a Total Gym, the look and performance of the Ultimate Body Works will be very familiar to you.
With a steel-tube frame, it features an angled padded bench that glides up and down on a set of rails. While the bench is on a fixed incline, it is fully adjustable so you can both increase and decrease the gradient to suit your desired level.
The top is fitted with a cable and pulley system allowing you to complete a range of movements using just your bodyweight as resistance – calisthenics at its finest!
Of course, you can also use the bench as a standard weights bench, providing you have a pair of dumbbells handy – although this really wouldn’t be tapping into the full potential of this unit.
As well as being designed to save money, the Ultimate Body Works has also been designed to save space. When ready to go, it measures a total of 71” x 26.5” x 49.5”. While its footprint is not as small as something like the BodyBoss Home Gym 2.0, it’s certainly not as large as many multigyms in this range.
The bonus is that, when you remove a few pieces and fold it down, the unit is much less intrusive, collapsing to a relatively flat profile. In practice, it will be easier to use if you can just leave it fully assembled all the time, but this design makes it a worthwhile choice for smaller spaces.
On the topic of attaching and removing pieces, the total time this unit takes to put together is considerably less than others in this price range. It’s a relatively easy process with decent instructions, meaning 20 minutes is all it should take.
Onto the features and we have already highlighted the cable and pully system that provides the main workout. These are attached to the top of the unit, in a convenient position for the majority of exercises this machine caters for.
These pulleys are flexible in their range of movement, so you can perform different exercises without being fixed in an uncomfortable position.
At the other end, you’ll find a set of four bungee cords at the bottom of the glide board. These can be attached to the base of the frame, which can create additional resistance of up to 50lbs, depending on how many bands you attach.
This is a feature not present on the more expensive Total Gym 1400 and is a big plus for the Ultimate Body Works.
This comes with a removable panel with both straight bars and padded bars that can be placed at the top or bottom of the frame, allowing you to change your body position to perform things like pullups (with the bars at the top) or overhead presses (at the bottom). The base panel is also removeable.
Of course, a pair of nylon strap handles do come with this unit. These are required for a vast majority of exercises, although they feel a little flimsy and are perhaps something you would want to upgrade down the line.
So, how does the Ultimate Body Works perform, and – more importantly – how do you perform on it?
The marketing literature promises that more than 50 movements can be done with this machine. This is probably true, although the majority of users are likely to end up sticking to just a handful.
For your upper body, you can lie on your back, grab hold of the handles and perform variations of a chest press. Turn around and you can perform straight arm pulldowns, upper back rows, and bicep curls.
The intensity of these movements – and many others – can be both increased and decreased depending on the gradient of the bench and whether or not the additional bungee cords are attached. There are seven bench positions and four cords, so there are plenty of options to suit your desired resistance.
More surprisingly, you can also perform pullups and chin ups, although – with your body supported and the forgiving angle of the bench – these aren’t as tough or effective as performing the same movement on a traditional pullup bar. Still, it’s a great system for beginners.
As for your legs, there are exercises you can do, such as squats and leg presses. However, this isn’t ideal on this unit. You can’t help feel you’d be better off standing up and doing bodyweight squats and their variations instead.
In operation, this multigym feels smooth to use and quite stable. Of course, being a budget unit, you can’t expect gym-grade stability. Yet, for such a small price, everything feels well-made. It won’t cater for the heaviest of users (275lbs is the max), but, for the majority of people, this proves very durable.