There’s a reason why home gyms are some of the most popular pieces of fitness equipment. Using them properly can give you a total body workout where you can burn calories, tone your body and build muscle. This is unlike what you can get with a treadmill, elliptical or even a power tower. You’ll definitely find them in club gyms but if you’re too busy to go to the gym regularly, it is worth the investment to find the best compact home gym so that it doesn’t take up too much room in the house while still being durable and versatile enough to keep you powering through long term.
First let’s sort out the different types of home gyms available. We’ll do a detailed guide later on, but for now, you should know that you can choose between power rod tension gyms, weight stack or plate gyms and body weight gyms. These are based on the type of resistance that they offer. Some models are better at offering upper body training than lower, and vice versa. However, whether you’re working the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, or the arm, back and shoulder muscles, the variety is pretty high. If you only want to build your upper body and don’t have space at home, you may as well consider just a pair of adjustable dumbbells.
Types of Home Gyms
Weight plate loading gyms are the best for body builders or anyone more concerned about building muscle mass that calorie burning or toning. Plates can be added to increase resistance and the only limit is the gym’s maximum capacity. However, this is not the most compact workout machine you can buy and they’re pretty expensive, so our list here does not include this type.
Weight stack home gyms can be compact depending on the design. They come with a fixed maximum resistance in the weight stack and are good enough for users looking for something similar to club gyms but compact enough for the home. Be aware that once you outgrow the included weight stack you have to buy another one and not all home gyms in this category allow you to upgrade. However, as a home gym, this is a very durable long term option. There is another similar type of machine that uses weight stacks and that is a cable crossover or functional trainer machine. It allows more freedom of movement than a regular home gym and is better for exercising core muscles and for improving specific movements in pro sports, like golf, baseball and tennis strokes. This type of machine is only recommended for experts, as there is a greater risk of injuring oneself with such freedom of movement using weights.
Resistance power rod and band gyms are the most compact for home users looking more at building endurance, calorie burning, losing weight and body toning. Movement is smooth and does not wear down your body like with the other types. Over time, the resistance rods and bands lose their elasticity, so they’ll need replacing but your initial investment is lower than that of weight-based systems.
Body weight home gyms rely on just that – the weight of your body on a bench that inclines to different degrees is what creates resistance. The higher the incline, the more the resistance. Many of these types comes with resistance bands to allow you to upgrade overall resistance. It is usually a very compact weight machine and is inexpensive compared to the other types. However, you may not be able to do as many exercises on it.
Once you know what kind of home gym you want to buy, check out the number of exercises the various models offer. Also ensure that the stated maximum weight resistance is enough for you and whether you can add more without breaking the bank.
Since you’re concerned about dimensions of the home gym, know that besides the overall measurements, the total workout area needed should also be accommodated. Lastly, if you’re heavier than average, ensure that the gym is rated to handle your weight. Some compact home exercise equipment may be designed only for average size and weight users.
The following compact home gym reviews should help you zero in on the perfect one for you, but if you just want to be able to lift barbell weights safely at home, then a power rack is a better choice.
Compare Compact Home Gyms
|Product||Rating (out of 5)||Resistance type||Workout area (inches)||Maximum resistance||Max weight capacity||Price|
|Bowflex PR1000||4.5||resistance rod||103"L x 80"W x 82"H||210 lbs||300 lbs||$$$|
|Bowflex Blaze||4.4||resistance rod||100"L x 78"W x 83"H||210 lbs (upgradable to 310 or 410)||300 lbs||$$$$|
|Body-Solid Powerline BSG10X||4.4||weight stack||70"L x 42"W x 80"H||160 lbs||unknown||$$$$|
|Weider Ultimate Body Works||4.4||body weight||71"L x 25.5"W x 49.5"H||50 lbs||250 lbs||$|
|Thane Total Flex||4.1||body weight||24"L x 11"W x 28"H||65 lbs||300 lbs||$$|
Best Value Home Gym
Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym
This is a fairly compact home workout machine, with a reasonable number of features. It has over 30 strength-building exercises, plus a rowing machine for aerobic conditioning. The instructions for using the machine to do the exercises are clear and easy to understand.
The Boxflex PR1000 uses flexible rods called Power Rods to give resistance to the exercises. They start at 5 pounds per side, and can graduate up in 5 pound increments to 105 pounds per side, for a total of 210 pounds for each exercise. Many Bowflex machines allow you to add more Power Rods, but that’s not a feature of this machine.
This is great for beginner to intermediate upper body exercises, but barely sufficient for moderate leg exercises. Getting up from a chair uses the resistance of your body weight for a leg extension, so unless you struggle to stand up from a sitting position, you’ll be able to start out near the top of the available range for leg exercises.
Of course, if you do enough repetitions, it’ll help some, but you’re not going to be able to do even moderate strength training for your legs on this machine. 210 pounds isn’t going to be enough for serious bodybuilding on the arms, either. If what you’re wanting to achieve with this is to firm up what muscles you already have and burn calories, this should be enough for most people. It is a very well made machine and is the best compact gym that includes a rower at such a low price point.
It’s quiet in operation, and doesn’t need a lot of space in use. The machine’s dimensions are 84″ L x 38″ W x 81″ H extended, but the flex rods at the back need 80″ width to flex, and you’ll want a space 103″ long to do the leg exercises. Stowed away, it’s 30″ L X 26″ wide by 82″ H. It is rated for people up to 300 pounds.
It requires assembly on arrival, and you’ll need a 1/2″ and a 9/16″ wrench. With a helper, it should take about an hour to put it together. The assembly instructions are pretty straightforward. It’s about 125 pounds, and awkward to move, so 2 people are recommended. It won’t go through doors easily assembled, so it’s recommended that you put it together where you intend to use it.
Note: This is a home gym that costs less than $500. If you want other options in the same price bracket, take a look at our under $500 home gym picks here.
Best Compact Home Gym for the Money
Bowflex Blaze Home Gym
This is a larger, more complex machine than the PR1000, so I’ll concentrate on the differences. It has over 60 exercises, with the manual showing 80, though some are similar enough that you won’t use them. There’s no effective difference between the chest fly, the incline fly, and the decline fly, for example. It does have a number of exercises that aren’t done on the PR1000, though. It has a wider lat tower and an included lat bar. and there are some additional leg exercises with this model.
The Blaze starts with the same 210 pound limit as the PR1000, but it is expandable. One kit will bring it up to 310 pounds, and another will take it from 310 to 410 pounds. Note that the expansion kits are not identical, if you go that far, you’ll want one of each.
It’s larger, at 90″ L x 38″ W x 84″ H **, folds down to a footprint of 52″ L x 38″ W, and in use it wants 102″ L x 78″ W of space.
** NOTE: During assembly, you will need more than 85″ of ceiling clearance, to slide parts down onto the upright assembly. Tipping it onto its side for that procedure may help.
Assembly is more complex – about 4 person hours should do it. This comes with wrenches, but you’ll be happier using your own wrenches.
The rowing machine function is upgraded, but only barely. You can use it for cardio, but it is not what you want for serious rowing training. If that’s what you’re looking for, then get a dedicated rowing machine.
Body-Solid Powerline Home Gym (BSG10X)
This selectorized weight stack machine is fairly versatile while reminding you why it can be much better than having lots of free weights sets. The focus on optimum biomechanics makes it a good buy for those who are not really used to body building. There are over 40 exercises that can be done at the 3 pulley heights, but many people have developed their own exercises. There are several accessories available to help in this, such as swivel grips, chin straps, etc.
There is a rowing exercise, but this won’t replace a rowing machine. The weight stack goes from 10 to 160 pounds in 10-pound increments and you can add a few more. However, beyond that is not possible without modification. The seat is adjustable.
In operation, it’s very similar to early Universal machines. You select the weight, insert a pin, and it’s ready to go. Included are a 48″ lat bar, low row bar, and an abdominal harness.
It’s pretty compact at 42″ W x 70″ L x 80″ H, can be set against a wall, and is usable in a 50″ wide space. The company does not publish any user weight limit, but the 11 gauge frame would make that limit pretty high. Users rate it as one of the best compact home gyms that utilize weight stacks.
Assembly is fairly easy, just 9 bolts,and anyone should be able to do it in less than an hour. Where is gets interesting is in the delivery. This weighs 344 pounds.
It arrives at the curb as freight. There is a lift gate fee if you want it unloaded and left at the curb, they expect you to get it off of the truck. It arrives boxed on a pallet, in 4 boxes that each weigh about 50 pounds. A brawny friend or two might be a good idea. 3 of the boxes are small, holding 50 pounds of weight plates each. The other box is big, but unpacking it and carrying the parts individually should be possible for 1 person.
Best Affordable Home Gym Options
Weider Ultimate Body Works
This is an incline bench with the angle adjustable to 7 positions that uses your body weight to provide resistance to the exercises. The steeper the incline, the more resistance you’ll feel. There are 4 resistance bands you can add in, for an additional 50 pounds of resistance. The cable and pulley system is unrestricted and gives you versatility and a wider range of movement.
The box has pictures of 12 exercises to do with this, but additional exercise guides are available. The user weight limit is 250 pounds. The maximum resistance is 55% of your body weight plus 50 pounds from the resistance bands. In use, the machine has a footprint of 71″ x 26.5″ x 49.5″. Folded, it’s 62″ x 19″ x 8″ and weighs 79 pounds.
It’s quick and easy to assemble, but you may need a friend to help you get it out of the box. 2-person carry of the box is recommended, as much for it being ungainly as being heavy. It is moderately noisy in use but is very inexpensive compared to the very similar Total Gym. If you find that the exercises that come with it are not enough, just get yourself a copy of the ones from Total Gym.
An alternative to this type of gym is a power gym and Pilates reformer in one, specifically the Pilates Power Gym Pro and the Vigorfit 3000XL. This combination machine is better for those who want to do less body building and more body sculpting and stretching.
Thane Total Flex Home Gym
The Thane Total Flex is the most compact home gym of the bunch. This device uses 3 power pods (bands) that can be combined to deliver 7 different resistance levels. It comes with padded hand grips, leg/ankle cuffs, a foot plate to stand on to brace the device on the floor as you work standing up. It also includes a training DVD that demonstrates 6 different workouts and an exercise chart with multiple tabs, each one showing different exercises for muscle groups.
It folds down easily to small suitcase size: 24″ H x 30″ L x 10″ D, and weighs 48 pounds, making this the best home gym for a small space. It seems to be better for working upper body than lower, though there is an accessory kit available with an attachment for leg extensions. It is rated for a user weight of up to 300 pounds.
It has been discontinued by the manufacturer but is still freely available online.