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Best Home Gyms of 2018- A Buyer’s Guide

If you are looking to take your home workout to the next level, purchasing a home gym is a wise choice. If you are looking for the best home gyms of 2018, then you are in the right place! If you are like me, you don’t want to waste your time or money purchasing a sub-par product. Luckily, I put together a comprehensive buyer’s guide to help you along the way. Keep reading to learn about the finest home gyms on the market this year!

What To Look For In A Home Gym

First things first though. It’s important to know what you are really looking for in a home gym before you start throwing your money around. All home gyms are not the same. There are actually several different styles of home gym and the term itself can be a little confusing.

What Is A Home Gym?

Sounds like a silly question, but let’s answer it anyway. A home gym (or home gym machine as it’s also known) is a piece of equipment that is going to allow you to exercise at home. See, pretty vague right? Different equipment will allow you to do different types of exercise, but the general idea is that owning a ‘home gym’ will make going to a commercial unnecessary.the best home gyms of 2018

A home gym could also mean a collection of equipment, when put together allows you to exercise at home instead of going to a commercial gym. This is what I was referring to when I gave my website a name. My ‘home gym’ refers to the process of turning a space in your house into a working gym for you and your family.

Everyone has different needs based on what type of exercise they like to do and what their goals are. One person may be able to workout with a yoga mat and some resistance bands while another requires a Smith machine and loads of plates. It really depends on what YOUR needs are.

For this article, I am referring to more of a specific piece of equipment, a home gym machine. If you searched for home gym on Amazon, you would see all kinds of different pieces of equipment. Some you may recognize, some you may not. But basically, a home gym machine is a piece of equipment that is going to allow you to do many different exercises to strengthen the different parts of your body.

When thinking about my approach to this article, I wanted to be as inclusive as possible. I wanted to discuss several different types of equipment that all fall under the home gym machine category.

I think resistance type is a good place to start. If you know what type of resistance you are looking for, your search will be a lot easier.

Different Types of Home Gym

When comparing machines on their resistance type, we are going to see products fall into one of 4 categories:

  • Body weight machines: these gyms are using only your body weight as the resistance. These machines are great because they typically don’t take up much space and they are usually pretty affordable. If you are looking for serious weight lifting and strength building, these may not provide enough resistance. They are better for folks looking to stay flexible and tone (example- Total Gym, you know, Chuck Norris’s go to machine).
  • Free weight machines: these machines use plates. Often they include a barbell and some type of squat rack. These are great if you are into power lifting or just love the feel of good ol’ fashioned weight lifting. These bad boys take up a lot of real estate in your home and you have to buy all those plates separately.
  • Cable machines: these guys use cables and weight stacks to provide your resistance. Everyone has seen these types of machines in the local commercial gyms. They offer great resistance in a very safe to use manner. They can get pretty pricey, but are tough to beat if you have the money and space.
  • Power rod machines: I’m pretty sure Bowflex invented the power rod technology. If not, they are definitely the ones making it work the best. The resistance provided by these rods is a little different than the feel of a cable machine or a free weight. The resistance increases the more the rod is bent during the movement. This provides nice resistance that can be more fluid and comfortable than other types of resistance. They tend to take up less space and there are some nice affordable options.

There are also some combination machines out there that combine elements from these categories. There are some cool setups that combine free weight machines with cable machines to offer a little bit of everything for the user. We might see a couple of these in the list coming up…

Other Things To Consider Before Purchasing

  • Location- where are you going to be putting your new piece of equipment? Does it have to be portable or will it be staying in one spot permanently?
  • Size- this one goes along with location I guess, but how much floor space do you have to dedicate to your new home gym?
  • Price- this one should probably have been first on the list, but I guess it’s a pretty obvious one. We all have to purchase equipment that we can afford. But depending on your needs, you might be better off with something that is a little under your top budget…more expensive is not always better!
  • Multiple users- will you be the only one using this piece of equipment or will you be sharing? Are there kids in the house? Some of these home gyms may not be safe with little ones around and that is something that should be considered (I have 2 toddlers in my house and I know my wife wouldn’t let me get some of these simply for the fact that little hands and feet could get smooshed in the moving parts)
  • Fitness goals- are you looking to bulk up or get more tone? Are you more interested in cardio than strength training? If so, you should be looking into a nice piece of cardio equipment instead. These home gym machines are more focused on strength training.
  • Am I Actually Going To Use This Thing?- the answer better be yes! The nicest piece of equipment in the world isn’t going to do you any good if you don’t use it!! If you aren’t sure whether a home gym is for you or not, check out this article I found from the Chicago Tribune. It may help you decide.

Best Home Gyms of 2018

Body Weight Machines

#1 Total Gym XLS

 The Total Gym is the quintessential body weight home gym. The Total Gyms started out in rehab facilities (I used to use one back in my outpatient days) and made it’s way into homes all across the world. Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley are the company’s famous spokespersons and Chuck Norris apparently still uses his to this day…enough said.

The great thing about the Total Gym is that it is incredibly gentle on your joints. You will appreciate that if you have achy knees or shoulders, these machines are great for folks dealing with arthritis.

This system uses your body weight and gravity to provide the resistance. As you get stronger, you can change the incline setting to increase resistance.

The XLS is an upgraded version of the Total Gym. This model boasts a 400 lb max user weight capacity and an upgraded cable and pulley system to make your movements more fluid and comfortable. This pulley system allows for increased range of motion for your joints…more range of motion = greater strength and flexibility gains.

You will also appreciate the following:

  • Wing attachment, leg pull accessory, and squat stand included
  • Includes 5 workout DVDS, an exercise chart, AND a nutritional guide!
  • Portable and foldable for easy storage- this makes it great if you will have to move your equipment from room to room at times
  • 6 month warranty on parts, lifetime warranty on frame
  • Did I mention there is no assembly required?!? This gym is ready to go right out of the box!

As you can see, the total gym is a great piece of equipment for anyone looking to improve strength and flexibility. It offers a full body workout with loads of versatility to keep you from getting too bored with your workouts. It doesn’t take up much space and is completely storable when not in use.

If you would like to see some user reviews on the Total Gym XLS, click on above image!

 

#2 Weider Ultimate Body Works

 At first glance, this machine just looks like a cheaper version of the Total Gym. Not quite as sleek looking, no awesome paid spokespeople. But when you look a little closer you might just see something that ya like. This machine is a cheaper version of the Total Gym…much cheaper. And that is a good thing.

The Weider Ultimate Body Works machine uses the same principle of incline and body weight as the Total Gym, but they added the option of being able to increase resistance through the use of 4 resistance bands. Pretty clever really. If the highest incline isn’t cutting it for you, you can add the bands to increase resistance of roughly 50lb.

This system is also highly portable with roll away wheels and easily folds for storage.

With the ability to provide you with over 100 different exercises, you will have to opportunity to get in the best shape of your life without the fear of boredom.

The padded glide board will keep you comfortable while you workout. The cables and pulleys will allow you to exercise with unrestricted range of motion, great for reducing chance of injury and improving strength gains.

This product comes with squat stand, exercise chart, and 90 day warranty. Assembly is a breeze. This home gym is one of the most affordable and highly rated products on the market. The price really is hard to believe.

To learn more about the Weider Ultimate Body Works, click on above image!

 

#3 VigorFit 3000XL

I’ll admit I had never heard of this brand or this machine before researching for this article. When I started looking into it though, it kept sounding better and better. This is another bodyweight resistance gym like the two above, but this one differs in a few interesting ways.

 The VigorFit 3000XL, like the Weider, allows for the attachment of resistance bands to increase resistance. But, unlike the Weider, this machine also allows you to add free weights in the form of plates. I like this idea. The included strength kit gives you the opportunity to add up to 100 lb of additional resistance from plates!

You can also add up to 5 resistance bands for an additional max resistance of around 180 lb (according to the website, measured at the highest incline and on exercises without pulleys).

This machine gives you the opportunity to add some serious resistance, which would be great if you are trying to bulk up or do some more serious resistance work.

The other big difference I like about the VigorFit is that it also includes a Pilates kit…at no extra charge. This kit includes dual leg rope system, shoulder pads to keep you from sliding around, and a toe bar. If you enjoy Pilates, this gym will allow you to do all of your favorite exercises from the comfort of your home.

Like the Total Gym, it boasts the ability to provide over 100 exercises, offering a great total body workout with enough variety to keep you interested for years to come.

Some more features I think you will like are:

  • Free pull up and push up bars included
  • Free sit up station included
  • Squat board included
  • Thick, cushioned pad to keep you comfortable as you exercise
  • Heavy duty steel frame for added stability and durability
  • Lifetime warranty on everything!
  • Easily rolls away and folds for storage
  • Detailed workout manual included

Price wise, this gym fits between the Weider and the Total Gym. The biggest standouts for me are the Pilates kit and the strength kit- these really add variety and the ability to do some serious strength training. Like the other 2 above, this machine is great if you are looking for a portable piece of equipment that won’t take up too much space in your home.

The VigorFit 3000XL has gotten amazing reviews online, but don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.

Click on the image above to see what other users are saying about the VigorFit 3000XL!


Free Weight Machines

#1 Marcy Diamond Elite Smith System

The Marcy Diamond Elite Smith System is a comprehensive home gym machine that can handle any workout you can throw at it. This bad boy combines several pieces of commercial gym quality machinery into a single unit. Personally, when I think of a home gym machine, this is the kind of equipment that comes to mind.

This is a free weight machine and unfortunately, the free weights are not included. Just keep in mind that if you purchase this machine, you will also be responsible for purchasing your own plates separately. Make sure the plates fit into your overall budget. That said, the price for this product is really good considering everything your are getting.

As the title mentions, you are getting a Smith machine. A Smith machine will be awesome for you if you are working out alone- it’s like a built-in spotter. If you are doing squats or bench press, you can rest assured you will be safe because you can lock the bar in at different levels if you get stuck.

For more info on Smith machines, check out this post on wikipedia.

This system consists of the Smith machine, a cable routed pulley system, and an Olympic free weight rack. With these options, you will be able to perform any free weight exercise you can imagine.

Also included are a multi-function bench, leg developer (that also functions for preacher curls), lat pull down bar, triceps rope, shiver bar, ankle strap, single handles, and row bar.

This Smith system has “ultra-glide” bearings that will keep all bar movements as smooth as possible. You will appreciate this when you are knocking out those squat and bench reps- will make the movement more comfortable.

This is a large system, so make sure you have enough room in your home. Also, it can take a while to assemble.

To learn more about the Marcy Diamond Elite Smith System, click on above image!

 

#2 Marcy Olympic Strength Cage System

This is a great system if you are not interested in a Smith machine. Subtracting the Smith machine from this unit is also going to save you a nice chunk of change. This strength cage also has some advantages over it’s more expensive counter-parts.

What I really like about this unit, is that it includes a pull up bar with multiple grips. Pull ups are one of the all time greatest exercises for upper body development. With this unit, you won’t have to buy a separate pull up bar to install in your doorway. The multiple grips are great for adding variety to your pull up regimen…that is, if you like doing pull ups to begin with (if you don’t, no worries). Best home gyms 2018

This cage system also comes with dip handles, which I love. Dips are another one of the all time best strengthening exercises you can do for your chest and triceps. I do dips on my bench at home, but it’s not the same. I would love to have the ability to do real dips at a station like this.

Looking past the pull ups and dips, this cage will allow you to perform any strengthening exercises you would use a barbell for. However, the barbell is NOT INCLUDED. This package also does not include a bench, which would be nice, but a bench can be purchased separately without much added cost.

Another nice feature about this system is that it offers weight storage for dumbbells, plates, and kettle bells. The steel frame will hold up to any load you can apply.

It does come with a single pulley system, good for doing tricep press downs, bicep curls, or any of your other favorite pulley exercises.

As you can see, this is a no-thrills cage that is designed for folks that know exactly what they are looking for. This is great for good ol’ fashioned pumping iron. I think this cage system would be perfect for you if you are into weight lifting with barbells. Like all other cage systems, just make sure you have plenty of room for it and are willing to provide your own plates.

Click Here To Learn More About the Marcy Olympic Strength Cage! 

 

#3 Valor Fitness BD-7 Power Rack

This is another simple rack system designed for power lifting type movements. Perfect for squats, bench presses, shoulder presses, dead lifts- you know, the classics!

This is a classic example of a cage system. Basically, it’s just a square “cage” that you stand inside while lifting. The advantage is that it has 17 different positions for you to place the safety bars to keep you perfectly safe while exercising. The cage (or rack) basically spots you while you exercise.

The Valor Power Rack is nice because it also includes a pull up bar and a single pulley system. This will allow you to perform exercises like: lat pull down, low rows, tricep pull downs.

The entire cage is built out of 12-gauge steel, so you can rest assured this system will hold steady under any circumstances. The rack offers 4 plate storage pegs to store your plates when not in use. This rack uses commercial grade adjustable bar catches to allow you to place the bar in any position you need during your workout.

Like the above Marcy strength cage, this system does not include any barbells or benches, those must be purchased separately. Keep in mind this system is heavy (it is solid steel), you will most likely need some help with assembly.

All in all, this is a great, simple power rack system that is built to last. No fancy add ons, just real equipment that is designed to last. And at a great price. Did I mention that with over 300 reviews on Amazon, it boasts an average rating of 4.5/5?

If you would like to see what users are saying about the Valor Fitness BD-7 Power Rack, click on image above!


Cable Machines

#1 Body-Solid StrengthTech Home Gym

This Body-Solid home gym is a perfect example of a cable style home gym machine. You’ve got a nice weight rack in the middle, with plenty of attachments around offering the user several options for exercise. I’d like to take a second to mention that this is also just a gorgeous piece of equipment. Very elegant!

One of Consumer Magazine’s best buy home gyms, this machine will offer you a full body workout… and then some. It comes equipped with over 200lb of stacked weight. This is pretty impressive for a cable machine in this price range.

With all of the included attachments, you will be able to perform exercises such as: chest press, lat pull down, chest flys, leg extensions, leg curls, rows, ab crunches, tricep press downs, etc., etc., etc.

The frame is constructed out of 12-gauge steel and all seats are fitted with extra thick pads- a great combination of strength and comfort. The seats also have lumbar support which will help you prevent injury while exercising.

This Body-Solid home gym also comes with a lifetime warranty on everything. That really says a lot to me on the quality of this product. Manufacturers only provide a warranty like that when they trust the product they are producing. The fact that Body-Solid is that confident in their home gym is a great sign of this machines quality.

With the addition of this home gym machine, you are instantly turning your home into a usable gym. This one piece of equipment will provide you with a total body workout.

Cable machines tend to be a little more expensive than other types of home gym and this one is a little more than the other gyms mentioned above. However, this gym is coming with all of the resistance needed. No need to purchase dumbbells or barbells or benches. This is gym is ready to use as soon as it is assembled…which will take several hours fyi.

Overall, this is a great pick for anyone looking for a machine workout in their own home. Great price, great warranty, and an average user rating of 4.4/5 online.

To learn more about the Body-Solid StrengthTech Home Gym, click on above image!

 

#2 Marcy 150-lb Multifunctional Home Gym

Marcy is a very popular manufacturer of home gym machines, and for good reason. They make quality equipment and offer it at affordable prices. I actually just started working with a patient recently that has a Marcy home gym and it works wonderfully. This model is no exception.

This home gym is a smaller model than the one discussed above. But it still packs 150lb worth of resistance which is plenty for most of us. best home gyms of 2018

A cool feature of this model that I like is the dual-action of the chest press bar. You can easily convert from chest press to pec fly by removing a single pin- that will come in handy on chest days.

The frame is constructed of heavy duty steel tubing, this will ensure stability and durability over the years to come. You won’t have to worry about comfort with this machine, the seat is padded with nice thick foam for added comfort. This home gym will allow you to get a full body workout with all of the attachments that are included:

  • Upper pulley for lat pull downs, tricep extensions, ab crunches
  • Chest press/pec fly bar
  • Leg developer offers leg extensions and hamstring curls
  • Lower pulley for bicep curls, rows
  • Also includes removable curl pad that can be used for preacher curls (if you are unfamiliar with preacher curls, click here to learn how to do them correctly… a great exercise for biceps!)

This Marcy home gym is a great product for beginners. It’s priced very well and should last for years to come. If you are a serious weight lifter, this is probably not the gym for you. If you are a tall or heavy set individual, you may have some issues with reaching full range of motion on some exercises.

If you would like to learn more about the Marcy 150-lb Multifunctional Home Gym, click here!

 

#3 XMark Functional Trainer Cable Machine

Having this bad boy in your home gym would definitely make all of your friends jealous. This cable machine looks like it is right out of the local gym. Actually, almost all commercial gyms have this type of cable machine because they are so versatile and people love them.

The XMark cable trainer offers a commercial grade pulley workout station designed for your home. This system includes 2 200lb weight stacks and 2 easy to adjust pulleys with 19 different height settings…the possibilities are endless! You can easily work your entire body with this system, you imagination is your only limitation.

This home gym also offers a split grip, commercial grade pull up bar. I mentioned earlier that I love pull ups for upper body strengthening. Well, this system has a very nice pull up bar included.

Constructed entirely out of heavy-duty 11 gauge steel and high quality pulleys- this will ensure your workouts are smooth and stable at all times. If that’s not enough, you will also like all the attachments that are included with your purchase:

  • 2 8″ hand straps
  • 2 17″ long strap handles
  • A tricep rope
  • A short bar
  • A long bar
  • Leg strap
  • Workout poster

The XMark cable machine is a great addition to any home gym, but this thing is heavy and takes up some serious space, so you really need to make sure you have the room for it. Also, as you can imagine, assembly will take a while. Note that this home gym does not come with a bench- there really is no need for a bench with this type of equipment. Chest press/pec flys would be done standing.

This is the priciest piece of equipment discussed thus far, but it is also obviously the most involved piece. This gym isn’t going to work for everyone’s home, but if you have the money and space, you won’t be disappointed.

Click the above image to learn more about the XMark Functional Trainer Cable Machine!


Power Rod Machines

#1 Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym

I hope you’re not surprised that we are starting this category with a Bowflex product. I mean, come on, they invented this category! And they are still selling a ton of these machines because people love them. There are a bunch of different models produced by Bowflex, but the general idea is the same for all of them- resistance is provided by these “power rods” instead of free weights or a weight stack.

The result is a resistance that feels a little different, some would say a little more fluid, a little more dynamic. Kinda like a thera band, the resistance is higher as you stretch the rod out. Gentle on the joints, the movement tends to slow you down as you exercise, which is a good thing in itself because you are more likely to use correct form and less likely to injure yourself.

The Bowflex PR1000 is the most affordable home gym in their lineup, a great intro to the Bowflex family. This home gym provides over 30 strengthening exercises for the entire body. This should give you plenty of variety during your workout and enable you to hit all the major muscle groups.

Adjustable resistance ranges from 5 to 210 lb. This is plenty of weight for most of us, but if you have some serious strength and need more, you may be interested in a higher level model. Other models provide more exercise options and more resistance. Continue reading to learn about 2 other available models.

Something I like about the PR1000 is the fact that it offers a horizontal bench press. This is fairly unique because many of their home gyms only offer the vertical bench press (or chest press). The horizontal position gives you more of a traditional feel to the bench press, which I prefer.

You will also appreciate the cardio rowing attachment, which allows you to row like you would on a rowing machine. Give ya a little cardio workout!

With multiple pulley/cable positions available, you can easily change your resistance to achieve maximum results with your workouts.

With a 300 lb max user weight limit and comfortable pad cushioning, this home gym should accommodate most user sizes comfortably.

Overall, this is a great home gym for the price. If you do not want to worry about accumulating free weights, this power rod system may be a nice option for you. It’s reasonably priced and Bowflex is well known for their excellent customer service. The user reviews for this and all Bowflex models are over-whelming positive- the PR1000 boasts an average user rating of 4.4/5 over nearly 700 reviews! 

Want to learn more? Click on above image to see full product info!

 

#2 Bowflex Xtreme 2SE Home Gym

Yeah, you guessed it, another Bowflex gym. What can I say? The invented the technology so there really aren’t any other quality gyms in this category! That’s ok though, because Bowflex has designed and mastered a cool technology here with their power rod resistance.

The Xtreme is the nicest and most comprehensive model in Bowflex’s home gym catalog if you ask me (yea, they do have a more expensive “Revolution” model, but I don’t think it’s worth the extra money…over $1000 more). This model is a little more expensive than the PR1000 and I want to discuss why.

The technology is the same- same power rod resistance system we discussed earlier. This model, however, provides access to over 70 strengthening exercises (40 more than the PR1000) and can be upgraded to 410 lb of resistance.

Other significant difference you might like include:

  • Includes lat tower with lat pull-down bar
  • Ab crunch harness
  • No change cable pulley system- this is convenient because it allows you to switch between exercises without having to change cables. You will be able to workout faster and keep your heart rate up as you switch between exercises faster
  • Comfortable, ergonomic seat
  • Lifetime warranty on power rods

The Xtreme 2SE is arguably Bowflex’s most impressive home gym to date. The improvements over the PR1000 are fairly significant, but it’s up to you to determine whether it warrants the extra cost.

Reviews online are very positive, like all Bowflex products. The biggest complaints users had with this product were with assembly. Overall, a very impressive home gym unit that deserves it’s place with the best home gyms of 2018.

To learn more about the Bowflex Xtreme 2SE, click on above image!

 

#3 Bowflex Blaze Home Gym

We’re going to finish off this year’s list with one more Bowflex gym. When comparing these different models, sometimes the differences can be subtle. This is the case when comparing the Blaze to the Xtreme 2SE. Both gyms use power rods that are upgradeable to 410 lb. Both gyms have a lat pull down bar and leg developer.

The biggest differences between these two systems are:

  • Blaze offers 60 exercises instead of 70
  • Blaze has horizontal bench press
  • Blaze has sliding seat rail- this is a really nice feature, you will love this when rowing or performing leg presses
  • Price- this model is about half the cost of the Xtreme on Amazon

The Blaze is a great product. It falls somewhere between the PR1000 and the Xtreme 2SE with regards to exercise options and attachments. Price wise, it’s not going to cost you much more than the PR1000…something to consider if you are interested in a Bowflex gym.

The Xtreme looks a little more heavy-duty than the Blaze, maybe a little more comfortable. But, I prefer the horizontal bench the Blaze provides. Tough call, both are great home gyms from a great manufacturer.

Like the two models discussed before, this Bowflex gym is getting great reviews. It’s averaging 4.4/5 stars from the Amazon users, impressive.

Click on image to learn more about the Bowflex Blaze Home Gym!


Find A Gym That Works For You!

We just discussed 12 of the best home gyms on the market for 2018. All of these gyms are highly rated and well received by users. The key is to figure out which gym is going to meet your needs. Thinking back to the buyer’s guide at the beginning of the article, consider what your fitness goals are and what type of resistance you want.

Once you have that question answered, find a gym in your price range and you are good to go. I’m confident you will be happy with any of the gyms on this list.

There are some other highly rated gyms out there that were not discussed here. I chose these because I feel they are all doable and realistic for the average home gym. There are some really nice and expensive home gym machines out there that simply won’t fit in most homes. Most of us aren’t looking to drop 5 or 6k on a home gym either…

I hope you found this article helpful. As always, hit me up with a comment or question and I’ll get back to you soon.

 

Will

2 Comments

  1. For any athlete in a sport where strength is key, free weights are the way to go. But when strength is not THE overriding factor, machines are great and a much safer option. Great info, Will. Do you remember the GymPak cable/pulley system from back in the ’80s?

    • I agree Joseph, if you are trying to gain serious strength you can’t beat free weights. I wish I had room in my attic for one of the Smith machine systems or power racks. Ha, I think I know what you’re talking about with the GymPak system, but I was pretty young back in the ’80s.

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