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Hey, we get it! It’s not always easy to hit the gym, but if you want to maintain those gains, you’ve got to get those workouts in. Enter the home gym. Not only will you save time and gas, but you’ll also never have to wait for that one dude who hogs the bench press, who always has one more superset.
But can one of these multifunctional strength machines really work as a substitute to the regular weight machines at the gym? We looked at dozens of machines before choosing our top 5 home gyms of 2021. After a lot of sweating, we picked the Bowflex PR3000 as the best home gym of 2021.
Whether you want a full-body workout or focus on specific muscle groups, or are a regular gym-goer or an exercise novice, there will be a machine on this list for you. With any of these home gyms, you’ll have no reason not to get all of your workouts in and no more excuses for skipping the dreaded leg day.
Don’t forget to check out our helpful buying guide to make sure you pick the right home gym for you.
1. Bowflex PR3000 Home Gym – Best Overall Home Gym
The Bowflex PR3000 Home Gym takes our top spot as it has everything you need to get an efficient and smooth full-body workout from home. The innovative no-change cable system, which uses a power rod resistance system, makes it super easy to switch between exercises, and there are over 50 to choose from.
Whether we were working on our lats, training our quads, or blasting our abs, we were supported by the stability of the heavy-duty steel frame. Plus, thanks to the padded roller cushions, leg curls and extensions were comfortable.
We were impressed with the versatility of the multi-use hand grips/ankle cuffs, and the integrated instructional placard made it easy to grasp the functionality of the machine. We also like that the home gym is suitable for all levels of abilities with a resistance range of 5 to 210 lbs.
The range of motion and resistance is probably not the same as what you get with traditional weight machines, but it is upgradeable from 210 lbs of power rod resistance to 310 lbs. However, you will have to pay extra for the power rod upgrades, which adds to the cost of an already fairly expensive piece of equipment.
What I Liked
- Offers over 50 different exercises for an effective full-body workout
- Integrated instructional placard for ease of use
- Durable construction from heavy-duty steel
- Suitable for all fitness levels
- Quick and easy to transition between exercises
What I Didn’t Like
- Lighter resistance options compared to some other home gyms.
- Power rod upgrades cost extra.
2. Total Gym APEX Home Gym – Best Versatile Home Gym
The Total Gym APEX home gym features an ergonomic glide board with 10 levels of resistance to strengthen and condition muscles in both your upper and lower body. The gym can be used for more than 80 exercises, which are easy to get to grips with thanks to the included exercise guide.
Through a range of exercises – including squats, rows, tricep kickbacks, biceps curls, squats, and calf raises – the glide board moved smoothly allowing for real ease of movement. It’s low impact and the board provides a good level of comfort thanks to a thick layer of padding and a soft headrest.
A bunch of accessories comes as standard, including dip bars, larger-squat stand, leg pull accessory, stability mats, and even Total TV Gym access, nutrition guide, and instructional DVD.
It doesn’t feel as sturdy as some other home gyms, but it is comfortable to workout on for long periods of time, and it supports a weight of up to 375 lbs.
What I Liked
- 10 different resistance levels
- Suitable for all fitness levels and ages
- Folds down for easy storage
- Accessories and guides (both for exercise and nutrition) are included
What I Didn’t Like
- Serious gym goers may need more resistance
- Not as sturdy as some other home gyms
3. BodyBoss 2.0 – Best Portable Home Gym
BodyBoss 2.0 is an innovative portable home gym system that simulates the action of more bulky gym equipment with resistance band technology. While not as sturdy as some other home gyms, it’s easy to take with you wherever you go, folding into a small suitcase weighing just 16 lbs. It’s also space-saving, being no larger than a yoga mat when it’s being used.
We were pleasantly surprised with the range of exercises that are possible with the BodyBoss 2.0. With over 300 exercises to choose from, it’s possible to get a really effective full-body workout, including both strength and cardio exercises.
We found the cloth-covered resistance bands and padded bars made for a comfortable workout, whether we were squatting, resistance boxing with the handgrip attachment, or mimicking the cable fly machine with the door anchor.
The resistance level was perfect for us, and it’s easy to adjust by simply shortening or lengthening the bands. If you’re less about the number of reps and more about repping close to your maximum, a multifunctional squat rack to use with your own weight plates may be a better option.
What I Liked
- Offers more than 300 exercises
- Its portability makes it ideal for traveling
- Versatile resistance-band based system
- Suitable for both strength and cardio exercises
What I Didn’t Like
- Resistance may be too limited for some
- Additional bands and attachments cost extra
4. Bowflex Xceed Home Gym – Best Home Gym for Small Spaces
The Xceed model of the home gym from Bowflex may be more compact than the PR3000, but that doesn’t mean you compromise on functionality. This home gym has all your bases covered with over 65 strength exercises for a full-body workout of your shoulders, chest, back, arms, abs, and legs.
Granted the pulley system isn’t as convenient as the no-change cable system of the PR3000 – it requires some unclipping and clipping between exercises – once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll find your workouts getting more fluid.
The machine itself feels sturdy and durable with its heavy-duty steel frame and we liked that the seat was adjustable so we could get the perfect workout position, and therefore a better range of motion.
While it was fine for us, the standard resistance of 210 lbs might be a little light for others, but you can upgrade to 310 lb or 410 lb power rods, but you need to pay extra for these.
What I Liked
- 65+ exercises including pull-ups, leg extensions, bicep curls, and more
- Adjustable seat and padded roller cushions for comfort
- No weight plates are needed thanks to resistance rods
- Durable heavy-duty steel frame
- Suitable for smaller spaces
What I Didn’t Like
- The pulley system takes some getting used to
- You don’t get quite the same range of motion as you would with weight machines at the gym
5. Whatafit Resistance Bands – Best Home Gym for Resistance Training
The Whatafit Resistance Bands are a low-cost and portable solution for a full-body workout. The multifunctional bands can be used for many different types of exercise, good for toning up your arms, chest, shoulders, legs, glutes, back, and more.
The resistance bands range from 10 lbs to 50 lbs, but you can stack them together easily for a combined equivalent of 150 lbs. The non-slip handles are cushioned for comfort and they feel sturdy, whether you’re doing bicep curls or lat pulldowns using the included door anchor.
We loved the quick-change clips for the bands, which allowed for smooth transitions between exercises. Plus, the ankle straps mean you can get an effective lower body workout too. It’s really useful that there is a pamphlet of suggested exercises included, plus you can make your own variations to get your best possible workout.
The length of the resistance bands was sufficient for us, but they may be slightly too short for taller people to get a full range of movement on certain exercises.
What I Liked
- Suitable for all budgets and fitness levels
- Resistance bands are stackable for a maximum of 150 lbs
- Good for toning a wide range of muscle groups
- Durable latex material that tolerates good stretch and tension
- Light and portable for exercising on the go
What I Didn’t Like
- Not a suitable substitute for heavyweight machines
- The range of movement may be restricted for taller people
What We Looked For in the Best Home Gyms
As workout enthusiasts we are no stranger to both our membership and home gyms, so we have experience of trying out a wide range of equipment and understanding the range of movement that is going to make the biggest impact.
As an at-home gym has to work as a substitute for several regular weight machines, we wanted to make sure that the machines we chose were versatile, targeting multiple muscle groups. Plus, we looked for home gyms that were suited to all abilities – from fitness beginners to fitness fanatics.
Each home gym had to meet our strict criteria:
- Safe and easy to use
- Solid construction
- The versatility of exercises and a good range of motion
- Simple to assemble
- Good value for money
- Suitable for a wide range of abilities, ages, and body types
How to Choose the Right Home Gym
The Bowflex PR3000 Home Gym is our number one home gym as it has all your bases covered when it comes to getting a full-body workout, without needing to visit your regular gym. However, we recognize that it’s not going to be the perfect gym system for everyone.
That’s why you need to investigate certain factors to make sure you pick the best home gym for your needs and circumstances, and to avoid machines that look good on the surface, but don’t match up when it comes to performance.
Below, I will outline some of the key factors to consider before deciding on a particular model of a home gym.
There are home gyms that can be used for a dozen different exercises and there are some that can perform over 100. Usually, the more versatile the machine the more expensive it will be, but this could be a worthwhile trade-off, as you’ll be able to work out all your muscle groups in several different ways.
Plus, to keep your muscles warm and working, and your heart rate up, make sure you choose a machine that allows for a smooth transition between exercises. However, if you’re a beginner, it’s probably worth choosing a machine that isn’t too complicated so you can work on your form and strength in a few important core exercises, like squats and lat pulldowns.
By using resistance, the home gyms on our list don’t require you to purchase individual weight plates or a weight bench. Choose a machine with a wide range of resistance and you can adjust it to match the varied strength levels of your different muscle groups.
The maximum resistance of most home gyms is probably more than enough for most people, but if you’re a powerlifter with a big maximum, check the max resistance and weight settings will give you a challenge.
Size & Space
You need to work with the space you have. If you have a spare room to work with, then you could go for one of the bigger rigs with all the extra add ons. But, if you just have a small corner of a space or nothing at all, a foldable or portable gym, or resistance bands are a good option, as they can be used virtually anywhere.
Yes, a home gym can be a big expense, particularly if you’re looking for a rig with all the bells and whistles. Before you invest in a home gym, work out what you can realistically afford and if you will need to keep your regular gym membership for additional training – such as cardio or maximum weight reps.
Of course, you don’t need to buy a comprehensive home gym all at once, you can do it in increments. You could start with an Olympic bar and a few weights, then upgrade that to include a squat rack with an integrated lat pull-down bar, and eventually add a bench and some resistance bands.
Speaking of resistance bands, if your budget is low, you can get excellent sets of resistance bands, which can mimic a lot of your favorite gym exercises for a low price. They have the added benefit of being portable, so you can work out anywhere at any time.
A good quality and versatile home gym can help you to get a full-body pump going at home Look for the machines that offer a wide range of exercises, a good level of resistance, and a robust build. You’ll get all this and more with our #1 home gym, the Bowflex PR3000.