Finding the right home gym is a lot harder than trying to decide on a piece of cardio equipment.
My home gym guide will help you sort out the different gym types in short order, and show you which gym will be the perfect fit to help you reach your home workout goals.
Type of Home Gym
The blessing and the curse of the home gym shopper is the overwhelming variety of home gym models on the market:
- Weight Benches
- single stack home gyms
- leverage gyms
- resistance bands
- power rod gyms
- smith machines
- multistation gyms
- individual workout stations
- cable cross machines
- power racks
The list of seemingly endless as to the variety of machines currently on the market.
To help you understand what type of gym is right for your needs, you need to establish some basic parameters about what it is you need in a home gym, or you’ll never be able to make up your mind.
Resistance Type and Operation
All home gyms operate with a form of resistance. The primary types of resistance are:
- weight plates (either plate loaded like a Smith Machine or fixed stack machines like the Body Solid g4i)
- leverage plate loaded (see Powertec Workbench Gym)
- resistance bands (see Bodylastics Home Gym)
- power rods (see Bowlfex Reviews)
The type and amount of resistance type you need will vary according to your goals and budget.
The plate loaded machines like Smith Machines and Power racks are good for power lifting and Body Building. The advantage of plate loading is you can add or subtract weight easily, and the resistance amount isn’t fixed.
Fixed stack machines like the Body Solid Home Gyms are a good option for users who prefer a smaller gym that’s similar in function to the health club machines.
Leverage plate loaded gyms like the Powertec are a newer option and are similar to traditional plate loaded machines, but are much safer. Good for hard core training where a spotter is not needed.
Resistance bands like the Bodylastics gym are a good option for people with limited space, people who travel and as an add on to traditional home gyms. They have the advantage of free range of motion and compact size.
Power Rods like those found on the Bowflex Gyms are a good option for 90% of the population who need a compact gym with multiple exercises and don’t need to lift over 400 pounds.
Number of Exercises
Generally speaking, the more you spend on a home gym, the more exercise options you’ll have. For example a Smith machine with a gun rack and full weight stack has almost unlimited exercise variety, where a smaller fixed stack machine like the Bodycraft Xpress will have about 20 exercises that can be performed effectively.
No matter what some gyms claim as the number of exercises you can perform on them, nothing replaces free weights and dumbbells for the ultimate in variety and function.
Home Gym Ergonomics
Ergonomics of a home gym are often overlooked, as most people focus in on cost, number of exercises and size.
There’s an old saying, “You can’t be all things to all people.” That couldn’t ring more true with home gyms.
Remember, if a gym tries to be all things to all people, there will be sacrifices made on the execution for some exercises. That’s just the way it is.
Make sure the gym you’re getting lets you perform the core lifts (chest press, lat pull, curls, squats, tricep extensions) with no compromise in form. If it can’t pass mustard on the main lifts, forget it and move on.
Getting a good home gym can be a lot more affordable than buying a piece of cardio equipment.
For example, you can get a Bodylastics Resistance Bands for way under $100 bucks, I have one that I use in addition to my smith machine and think it’s a great value.
You can also get an exercise bench and good pair of dumbbells for a few hundred bucks that will blow the doors off a Weider Home Gym or similar model from Marcy and Impex.
If you’re looking for a full functioned single station gym with a built-in weight stack, expect to spend a minimum of $700 to get a machine that isn’t a total piece of junk.
For a gym like a Smith Machine, don’t even consider getting a unit that operates on bushings. Opt for a smith like the Body Solid Series 7 that glides on Thompson ball bearings and is built to last.
Home Gym Guide Bottom Line
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge you need to get a home gym, go see my picks for the best home gym here. Or go read the home gym reviews and see how the machines on your list stack up to the competition.