Finding the best home gym is difficult. Especially if you are a beginner, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of equipment available.
With hundreds of home gym reviews online these days it’s impossible to know which products are worth buying and which to avoid.
This guide will help you narrow down your search, so whatever your budget, you don’t end up wasting your money.
If you’re in a hurry, we’ve selected equipment for a range of budgets and requirements below:
Home Gym Reviews – At a Glance:
Best Home Gyms of 2018 – Top Picks
1. Marcy Diamond Elite Smith System: Best All in One
For this category we have chosen the equipment that can do a large range of exercises for a total body workout.
Our top pick is the Marcy Diamond Elite Smith System for an all in one home gym. The amount of possible exercises, combined with the free weights/cable system, made this machine our top choice.
We liked that this machine came with a price tag more inline with a ‘home’ gym and not a commercial multi gym, which can cost several thousand dollars (this machine was $999 at the time of writing).
You’ll be able to target every part of your body with this machine, from large compound leg exercises like squats, to isolated exercises like the preacher curl for biceps.
The only downside to this package is that the weights are not included, however the plus side of this is you can customize the amount you need.
With stack weight home gyms you end up paying for weights that never get used, so free weights are better in this regard.
Our second pick is the StrengthTech EXM2500S by Body-Solid. This machine comes with two workout stations, a single plate stack of 250lbs and a wide range of exercises.
For beginners the 250lbs capacity is probably going to be overkill, but if you plan on taking your fitness to the next level, or are an experienced user, you’ll need that extra weight.
The assembly (like most home gyms) can be tricky, with some of the instructions being unclear. Just be sure to double check everything as you go, it’ll save you time in the long run.
Coming in third place is the Marcy Smith Cage Machine with Workout Bench. Another Marcy machine makes our top 3 for all in one home gyms, but this model is better for people on a budget.
It’s quite similar to the Marcy Diamond Elite system above, but we feel that the intuitive design of these machines puts them ahead of the competition.
The main difference is the lack of preacher curl setup on this version, but with an attachment for the cable or just using the smith machine bar, you can still effectively target the same muscle group.
Again you’ll need to buy a set of weights to go with it, but in terms of value for money, this all in one home gym is difficult to beat.
2. Fitness Reality X-Class: Best for Bodybuilding
It’s widely regarded that the best equipment for bodybuilding use free weights, normally in combination with a lifting cage and bench.
Machines are great, but not ideal for a home gym, because you can be limited in what exercises you can do.
With that in mind here are our top 3 choices:
Our top pick has to be the Fitness Reality X-Class Light Commercial High Capacity Olympic Power Cage for this category. A power cage setup that can help you push your body to the limit.
We liked that fact that this power cage includes a cable system for lat pull downs and rows. Most power cages don’t have it, but it will allow you to target your back muscles (which isn’t always easy with standard power rack setups).
The build quality sets it apart from the competition, with a steel frame that supports up to 1500 lbs of weight. If you are looking to build muscle, especially from compound exercises, you’ll need to be lifting heavy, so the high weight capacity is a must-have.
Lifting heavy weights comes with the added risk of accidents, especially with exercises like bench press or squat.
So if you exercise solo, you’ll be able to use the heavy duty safety bars to push workouts to the next level, without compromising safety.
You’ll need a bench to go with this power rack and an Olympic bar with weights. Fitness Reality also have a range of benches, with the Fitness Reality X-Class 1500lb bench being a solid choice.
The Fitness Reality X-Class also featured in our power rack guide.
The Merax Athletics Fitness Power Rack makes our second pick for the best home gym for bodybuilding. This is a compact power rack, ideal for home gyms that are short on space.
In terms of exercises available, this setup is similar to the Fitness Reality power rack above, with another cable pull down/rower system.
This power rack has a weight capacity of between 500 – 800lbs, depending on which part you use (outer bar catchers have the lowest capacity). Although less than the cage above, it’s still plenty of weight for most people, unless you are a serious power lifter.
Our third pick is the Fitness Reality 810XLT Super Max Power Cage. Another cage by Fitness Reality, giving great value for money.
With a similar weight capacity to the Merax power rack, but without the cable system, this setup is perfect for users taking their first steps into the world of bodybuilding.
3. Weider Ultimate Body Works: Best Compact Gym
The top choice for a compact home gym has to be the Weider Ultimate Body Works. This machine is perfect for people who are short on space at home, it’s lightweight, folds up and can still give you a full body workout.
You may be wondering why this machine doesn’t have any weights, that’s because it uses your own body weight for resistance. You can also add an extra 50lbs of resistance with the cable system bands underneath.
This machine can normally be bought for under $200, and comes with a 90 days parts and labor warranty. Saying it provides value for money would be an understatement, but does it actually give a gym quality workout?
The answer to that depends on your current fitness level and goals; for beginners this home gym is ideal. However if you are an experienced gym goer then this machine won’t be able to replace your regular workouts.
It can provide a quick workout if you aren’t able to go the the gym, but a full weight stack multi gym would be better for advanced users (as long as you have the space).
Our second pick is the TRX Training – Suspension Trainer Basic Kit. Although this setup might not look like your typical home gym, it can still give you a decent workout. As the name suggests this kit uses your suspended body weight for resistance.
In terms of portability, I don’t think you could beat this, you could almost put it in your pocket. So for people who travel regularly this could be an ideal way to keep fit.
Our third pick is the Stamina 1690 Power Tower. Similar to the others, you’ll be relying on your body weight to provide the resistance for each exercise with this setup.
The good thing is you can still get to a high level of fitness from body weight exercises only.
The downside with this product is that you are limited to mostly upper body exercises such as pull ups, chin ups and dips.
4. Marcy 150-lb: Best Under $500
Disclaimer: prices can vary over time. However all of the home gyms listed have consistently been priced under $500 across multiple stores.
Our top pick is the Marcy 150-lb. Multifunctional Home Gym Station. A very popular home multi gym that usually be picked up for under $500.
Although the 150lb capacity may be on the low side for experienced users, this will easily be enough weight for new/intermediate users. Especially when you consider that the pulley system increases the actual output resistance you get.
Many of the early home gyms came with a separate mechanism for the chest press and chest fly exercises, but the newer models, like this one, have incorporated it all into one. Just remove the pin to switch from chest press to chest fly.
The build quality of this model compared to others in the same price range is good, especially for the moving parts like hinges and bearings. This should allow years of regular use without any faults with proper maintenance.
Overall if you are looking to get a home gym for under $500, you’ll struggle to beat this machine.
Coming in a close second place, is the XR 55 Home Exercise Gold’s Gym. A good model from Gold’s Gym with a slightly smaller weight stack of 125lbs.
You may be thinking that this machine is identical to the Marcy above, they are similar, but the overall quality of finish of this model is not quite as high in our opinion.
It does offer great value for money, and anyone with a $500 budget will be able to buy this machine, some attachments, rubber flooring and still have money left over.
Our third pick is the Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym. A different style of home gym that uses resistance bars instead of weight plates.
This is a popular model, and at times is often sold out online. But it does provide a great way to exercise without weight plates, especially if you live in an apartment your neighbors will appreciate the reduced noise/vibrations.
5. Marcy Diamond Smith Cage: Best Under $1000
For $1,000 you can get a wide range of home gyms, from multi-gyms and machines to free weights and power cages. Knowing this, we will try and select a variety of home gyms in this category to suit different users.
Our top pick has to be the Marcy Diamond Smith Cage Workout Machine. The winner of the ‘best all in one home gym’ tops this category again.
We feel that this machine fits the image of what most people think a home gym should look like, and it does a good job of living up to the expectation too.
With the ability to hit every major muscle group, with multiple exercises, this machine is ideal for anyone who wants to get serious about exercising at home.
The only downside is that you will need to buy free weights for it, so unless you already own some, staying under the $1,000 budget won’t quite be possible. But we like this machine enough to go for it as our top choice.
Our second choice is the Bowflex Blaze Home Gym. A machine that is near the top end of the range of machines from Bowflex, and one of their most popular models.
As with most home gyms, weight capacity is usually related to the overall price. The Bowflex Blaze is no different, costing a couple of hundred dollars more than lower models. And with over 100lbs more resistance than the P3000, it’s 410lbs of resistance is the one of the highest in the Bowflex range.
Our third pick is a weight stack machine – the Body-Solid G1S Selectorized Home Gym. More compact than our other picks in this category, but it still packs a lot into a small footprint.
Although you may have a few less exercises to choose from in this setup, the design of this machine is definitely quality over quantity. Body-Solid have a great reputation for good customer service and high quality equipment.
We think that this is a great pick for anyone who wants the peace of mind of a high quality machine from a good brand.
6. Body Solid SBL460P4: Best Under $2000
With a $2,000 budget, you’re starting to enter commercial equipment territory, so let’s take a look at the machines we think are worth considering:
Our favorite home gym for under $2,000 is the Body Solid SBL460P4 Freeweight Leverage Gym Package. Another machine from Body-Solid that has received some very good feedback from customers.
This is an exceptional machine, with three workout stations that provide a huge range of exercises to choose from, and a build quality we’ve come to expect from Body-Solid.
You have probably noticed that this isn’t a selectorized weight stack machine; it uses weight plates (like the ones you’ll find in your local gym) for resistance. The plus side of this is that it takes up slightly less space, the downside is you’ll need to buy some weight plates before you can start using it (if you don’t have some already).
This home gym takes up a large amount of space, and with so many workout stations you’ll need access from all sides, so bear this in mind.
Although assembly can take several hours, even with two people, the instructions are clear so you shouldn’t have any major issues putting this machine together.
As with most Body-Solid machines, it comes with a lifetime warranty on everything, even the moving parts, which is the most likely area for any home gym to pick up a fault.
Coming in second place for this category is the Bowflex Xtreme 2SE Home Gym. Another Bowflex machine, but with some extra features.
Compared to the cheaper models in the Bowflex range, this model has the advantage of extra cable points, about halfway up the machine. With more options for positioning the cables you’ll be able to do a wider range of exercises, around 70 in total for this machine.
Although this model is often priced closer to $1,000 than $2,000, once you have bought a couple of extra resistance rods (which we recommend you do), you should still have a few hundred bucks left over from a $2,000 budget.
The extra resistance rods will take the machine from 210lbs capacity to 410lbs, perfect for any experienced users looking to push their workouts to the next level.
This machine is much more compact than other Bowflex models, as the machine is designed to use a more upright position for exercising.
This would be a good choice if you are looking for a Bowflex but are short on space at home.
Our third pick is the BodyCraft Galena Pro Home Gym. A classic multi-gym for people who prefer the convenience of a weight stack type machine.
Similar to the Bowflex Xtreme 2SE above, this is a compact gym, however this setup is designed to be used in the corner of a room, and you won’t need to leave extra space for moving resistance rods.
The assembly instructions for this machine aren’t that great, so if you’ve not assembled anything like this before, we recommend you take your time and double check as you go.
7. Body-Solid EXM3000LPS: Best Under $3000
The Body-Solid EXM3000LPS Light Commercial Gym is our top choice. Another commercial quality home gym from Body-Solid.
As you can see it’s a large multi-station machine, and with two 210lb stacks available, so you could have two simultaneous users if you prefer to workout with a buddy. It’s definitely a beast of a machine.
In terms of exercises available, you can do pretty much everything you’d expect from your local commercial gym, targeting all major muscle groups with multiple exercises.
One feature that we really like about this machine is the dedicated leg press station, which isn’t something you see all too often on other home gyms.
The configuration of the cable system also means that you can get a massive 2 to 1 ratio from the 210lb stack, giving a possible 410lb leg press. Which is great for people who are serious about building strength in their legs.
Our second pick is the BodyCraft Xpress Pro Home Gym. A compact home gym compared to the previous model, but packed with exercise options.
This machine follows a classic home gym design, but takes the design to a new level with some innovative features like the adjustable arms cable station.
You will be able to customize the seat and mechanisms to suit each individual, and the
The downsides of this machine compared to the Body-Solid machine above are the lifetime warranty doesn’t cover normal wear and tear (only defects), and the machine doesn’t have as many options for leg exercises.
8. Bowflex PR1000: Best Value Home Gym
For this category we’ve selected the machines that can provide a full body workout, have a good build quality, are from a reputable brand, and are good value.
One of the best home gyms for the money in our opinion is this model. Taking top spot in this category, we think that for around $400 you’ll find it difficult to beat this machine.
If you read the home gym reviews from other customers, you’ll know that Bowflex has a good reputation for making quality home gyms, especially these patented resistance rod models.
With other types of home gyms, especially weight stack ones, a lot of the cost of the machine is taken up by the weights themselves. So for the same money you’ll get more bang for your buck with a resistance rod home gym.
The only downside with this model is that there is no option to upgrade the weight capacity, but 210lbs of resistance should be more than enough for beginners.
The Gold’s Gym XR 55 Home Gym is our second choice for this category. A great home gym that you can often find for under $400 brand new.
It comes with a 125lb weight stack that, depending on which part of the machine you use, can give up to 330lbs of resistance due to the cable pulley system.
We think this is a good home gym for anyone who prefers a weight stack type setup over the resistance rod machine above.
This gym does have the advantage of having a dedicated preacher pad, so working your biceps with this will be easier than on the previous Bowflex model.
Other home gym reviews on this machine suggest that the build quality can be hit or miss, so make sure you check all parts before assembling.
You’ll also want to buy some cable attachments for it as it only comes with a standard lat pull down bar; which could be used for rows on the lower pulley, but isn’t ideal.
The Marcy MWM-988 150lb Stack Home Gym completes our top 3. Another weight stack home gym that’s compact, and is great value for money.
Although this machine on average sells for about $50 more than the Gold’s Gym model above it does come with a 150lb weight stack instead of a 125lb.
It comes with a foot wrap cable attachment so you can use the lower pulley station for leg kickbacks, which are a great way to exercise your glutes.
The pulldown bar with this machine is a butterfly type so you can comfortably use it for a range of exercises without putting as much strain on your wrists compared to a standard straight pulldown bar.
Types of Home Gym
If you’ve never owned a home gym before, or seen one in person, you may think that they are the same machines you would find in your local commercial gym.
Whilst they are very similar they are generally designed to be more compact, cheaper, and use materials that aren’t expected to cope with hundreds of people using them each day.
There are also different types of home gyms that you are unlikely to find in a commercial gym regarding the way they generate resistance.
Lets take a look at the 4 main types:
Body weight Home Gyms
Body weight home gyms are quite diverse, ranging from simple suspension trainer setups, to glide board machines that use a cable system.
The benefit of suspension trainer setups (like the one in our compact home gym section above), is that they are portable and can be setup almost anywhere. So if you travel a lot, or don’t have any space for anything larger, this type of gym could be ideal for keeping you in shape.
They are also extremely cheap, with some suspension trainers available for less than $50.
Glide boards, although less compact than suspension trainers, can give you more options when it comes to resistance. You can increase or decrease the angle of the board to change the difficulty, and some models have bands that can add extra resistance to the cable system.
Some models are even designed to use weight plates if the body weight workouts become too easy.
Plate Loaded Home Gyms
As the name suggests, this type of gym uses weight plates (usually Olympic plates) which are loaded onto the machine to vary the resistance for each exercise.
Some machines in commercial gyms commonly use this setup, like the leg press machine and smith machine. Using plates means that you can load a large amount of weight onto the machine, which you will need for leg exercises and big compound exercises.
An added bonus with plate loaded home gyms is that you can use the plates for free weight exercises. This means there are lots of extra exercises that you will be able to do compared to a weight stack gym. Check out this plate free weight guide to see some of the exercises.
This is the main reason why we recommend plates over weight stack gyms for exercising at home. You can just do so much more.
Another thing we love about plate loaded home gyms is that you don’t need to worry about the resistance mechanism breaking.
Plates are made from cast iron, so won’t ever break, but other home gyms that use resistance rods or bands may need to be replaced at some point. It’s just one less thing to go wrong with this type of gym.
If you use any home gym for long enough you can outgrow it, where the weight no longer challenges you fully. This can happen with other machines like weight stack machines, where you often can’t add extra weight.
With a plate machine you won’t have this issue, you can simply buy more/heavier plates.
With some plate loaded machines you’ll need to consider whether you need a spotter, (a spotter is someone who can help you lift a weight if you get stuck) as some exercises such as squats can be dangerous with a lot of weight.
Also if you are thinking of getting a plate loaded machine, make sure you take the cost of the plates into consideration as they can be quite expensive if you go for a high quality rubber coated set.
Weight Stack Home Gyms
These are the types of machines you will probably be most familiar with. Most commercial gyms will have several of these for different exercises.
They use weight stacks, usually with a cable system, to generate resistance that can be easily altered by moving the sliding pin.
The benefit of using a weight stack gym is that you won’t need to spend time loading and unloading weight plates, like you would with one of the plate loaded gyms we mentioned above.
You’ll also find that compared to resistance rod or plate machines, a weight stack setup is more compact overall, so this is something to consider if you’re short on space.
Some plate stack machines can have their weight capacity upgraded, but this is not that common, and depending on the machine, you’ll need to disassemble part of the cable system to fit them.
Once these machines are assembled, they are very heavy, making them difficult to move.
If you plan on using it upstairs e.g. in an apartment, you’ll need to double check that the floor is strong enough and protected with rubber mats. 300lbs may not seem that much, but over time it can affect the floor.
Resistance Rod Home Gyms
This is the type of home gym that you are unlikely to have seen before if you’ve only used commercial gyms. They don’t use weights but instead use a set of resistance rods which create resistance when bending.
We recommend resistance rod home gyms to people who live in apartments because they are much lighter than weight stack or plate gyms, so moving and assembling is much easier.
Not only are they lighter but they are very quiet compared to other machines as there is no weight slamming back down.
You’ll also have the option to upgrade the resistance capacity easily with these machines, you can buy extra resistance rods that are fitted to the existing set of rods.
One thing to bear in mind is that you’ll need a bit of extra space either side of the machine so that the rods can bend without hitting anything.
One downside to resistance rod machines is that the rods may need to be replaced at some point, depending on how much you use the machine, as they can lose resistance over time or even break (which is rare).
Best Flooring for Home Gym
No matter what type of home gym you decide to get, we highly recommend that you invest in some protective flooring.
Even the smaller home multi-gyms can weigh over 250lbs, which over time will compress and damage your existing floor, including carpets, laminate and wood floors.
Even concrete floors can be damaged, purely from the movement and vibrations from when the gym is being used.
The gym flooring seen at most commercial gyms is normally very expensive, as it’s designed to be extremely durable for hundreds of users each day. However for most home gyms you won’t need such expensive flooring, you can buy enough to accommodate a piece of equipment for around $20.
Not only will the it protect the floor but it will help to stabilize any machine that is being used on hard floors that aren’t perfectly flat, which is sometimes the case for home gyms setup in garages or older buildings.
If you plan on doing a lot of free weight exercises, like deadlifts, make sure you get extra thick protective flooring for the spot where the plates will be in contact with the floor. As some of the thin gym flooring isn’t enough to protect from a fully loaded barbell landing on it.
Benefits of Home Gyms
Home gyms can be a better alternative to commercial gyms for a variety of reasons. We have listed what we think are the 4 main benefits of home gyms below for people who are thinking of getting one.
This is the biggest benefit in our opinion. Time is the most important asset we have, so if you find yourself wasting it driving to and from the gym, waiting for someone else to finish using a piece of equipment or having to get up extra early to avoid the peak time, you should consider getting a home gym.
This is something that many people overlook due to the high initial cost of a home gym. A $1000 budget will get you a good home gym, so if you consider that the average gym membership cost in the U.S. is around $60 per month, it will only take around 16 months before you are saving money.
If you also take into account the cost of getting to and from the gym, either in a car or public transport, then the initial cost of a home gym can be quickly regained.
Exercising at home has the added bonus of being able to workout looking like you’ve just crawled out of bed. So there won’t be any need to buy lots of expensive gym clothes when an old pair of shorts and t-shirt are more than enough.
This is a big factor for many people, especially those who are self-conscious about their body.
The vast majority of people at gyms are nonjudgmental and focusing on their own workouts, however if you are unfortunate enough to encounter the judgemental type it can really put you off going to the gym.
The great thing about home gyms is there’s nobody judging you except yourself, and you can really push yourself hard without other people disturbing your workout.
Having your own home gym means that you’ll be able to workout whenever it’s convenient for your schedule. So there’s no need to plan your workouts around peak times or opening hours.
There’s also the benefit of not having to worry about other users, like people who leave the weight plates scattered, or the chest fly machine covered in sweat without wiping it down afterwards.
You’ll also have the convenience of getting a home gym that is suited to your fitness goals, whether you want to build muscle, increase strength, or burn some calories.
Resistance training with a home gym will allow you to create your ideal body, unlike other fitness equipment like treadmills, treadclimbers or exercise bikes which you can’t build muscle.
You’ll also be able to burn even more calories over a longer period of time compared to a regular cardio workout if you focus on metabolic resistance training – listed as the #1 fat loss method in this guide.
Having a wide range of exercises to choose from also helps to keep workouts fresh, making it easier to stay motivated.
Things To Know Before You Buy a Home Gym
How Much Space do you Have?
It might seem obvious but many people start looking for a home gym without knowing the size of the space they plan to use. More often than not they’ll end up with a machine that is too big for the space they have allocated. Remember that you will need extra space around the gym to load weights etc.
So get out the tape measure before you start shopping, measure the area you have, and then find a home gym that can fit comfortably within those dimensions.
What are Your Fitness Goals?
You can build muscle, increase strength, improve cardiovascular fitness, burn fat and improve flexibility using home gyms; but not all home gyms are suited to each of these goals.
So which home gym setups are best for each fitness goal?
For building muscle and increasing strength, you can’t beat a power rack setup like the ones featured in our ‘best home gym for bodybuilding‘ section above. As we mentioned earlier, you’ll need a lot of weight so that you can stress your muscles to failure so they grow and become stronger (with proper nutrition).
As for improving cardio and burning fat, you can do that with all types of home gym, so if building muscle or strength isn’t your only goal then selectorized weight stack machines or resistance rod machines may be more suitable.
If your only fitness goal is to improve cardio then you may want to consider getting a rowing machine, which we believe is best type of cardio exercise equipment. Our rowing machine buyer’s guide is a good place to start.
Have you Set a Realistic Budget for your Requirements?
All of the information on this page up until now, especially our ‘best under 500/1000/2000’ sections above, should give you a good idea of home gyms you can get for different budget levels.
But it’s important that your expectations match the reality of your budget. If you have a $500 budget, you won’t be getting a commercial quality gym. Likewise if you spend $3000 on a multi station weight stack gym, and only use it to do bicep curls, you’ve wasted your money.
If you’ve got a workout plan, with a fitness goal and a set budget, you should end up with a home gym that you can get the most value from.
How Many Users?
This is pretty straightforward: if you plan on buying a home gym that will be used by multiple people, make sure you know what features they need, and consider their current fitness level.
A multi station home gym is also a great choice if you plan on working out at the same time.
What Does the Warranty Cover and for how Long?
Some manufacturers have great warranties, the best of them being Body Solid’s which provides lifetime cover for everything. This covers all the parts that other warranties usually don’t cover, like bearings, pulleys and upholstery.
Other brands will have different warranties, that usually range from 1 to 5 years on different parts of the machine. We highly recommend that you find out exactly what is covered on any home gym before you buy.
If you are buying from a third party store (like amazon) then double check the manufacturers website to see the terms of their warranty. It can save a lot of stress if you receive a defective product.