The best portable exercise equipment needs to be able to deliver a solid workout while you’re away from home. Of course, it also needs to be compact enough to travel easily with. With so many of us working longer days and traveling for work and pleasure, it’s not always plausible to find time for the gym. Even with a home gym it can be difficult to find time.
With a high-quality portable home gym, you can exercise at work, in a hotel room, in an airport, or pretty much anywhere you find yourself.
As expected, with such high demand for this type of equipment, the market is pretty saturated with small exercise devices all claiming to be the best thing since sliced bread. With so many similar looking products it can get a little confusing trying to find the ones that actually work.
This guide will help you figure out which portable home gym is right for you. I also included a review of each of my favorite picks. I want to start with a few pointers on what to look for before making a decision.
Choosing A Portable Home Gym
Exercising on the road can be accomplished in several ways. Depending on where you are, you may have access to a gym or fitness facility. If so, then you’re all set. Then of course there’s running- you don’t need any equipment for that other than a decent pair of running shoes. Even strength training can be accomplished with body weight exercises like push ups and squats, both of which can be done anywhere.
But if you’re looking for resistance training, odds are you are going to need some type of device to provide that resistance.
Most portable home gyms utilize either resistance bands or some type of spring loaded resistance to give you something to push and pull against. Suspension trainers also fall into the category of portable home gyms and they are definitely in a category all their own- more on them down below.
Pick Your Poison
Right off the bat, if you know you what type of resistance system you want, it will instantly narrow down your search. Here are the most common types of portable gyms:
- Resistance band based- these portable gyms can be as simple as a decent resistance band set with handles. Resistance bands can work well for toning and strengthening. They provide a form of variable resistance, meaning the resistance increases as the band is stretched further. Some people like this, some don’t. Many band based portable gyms include some type of bar or handle for added variety and comfort.
- Spring loaded- these devices use springs of different resistances to provide the resistance. They usually consist of a bow-shaped apparatus that you can compress by pushing the ends together or by pulling the attached cables. These devices are convenient for travel because everything you need is provided in a single machine.
- Suspension trainers- these devices consist of a strap, a set of handles, and an anchor. These are the most versatile of the bunch as well as the most challenging. You can get a world class workout on a good suspension trainer and they are as portable as they come. Although you can always modify exercises to any fitness level, suspension trainers aren’t for everyone.
Must Be Portable
This sounds like a no-brainer, but a portable home gym needs to be portable. And being small doesn’t necessarily count. A set of dumbbells can be pretty small, but their weight makes them difficult to pack. To me, portable means that it could be packed in a carry-on bag if needed.
Dimension requirements will vary, of course, based on your travel needs, but I think a good portable fitness device should be no longer than 2 feet long and weigh no more than 15 lb.
This point goes hand-in-hand with the portability point just mentioned. Ask yourself: where do I plan on using this device? Do you plan on packing it with you when flying across country or tossing it in the back of your trunk when driving out of town?
The answer will probably help you decide on which device is a better fit. If you plan on flying with it, you should go with a smaller, lighter option (and something that TSA won’t confiscate). If it’s something you plan on packing in your car or carrying with you from time to time, the size limitations might not have to be as strict.
Keep in mind, portable home gyms come in handy for several reasons other than when traveling out of town for work. They can be used:
- At your office
- To help stay on track when on vacation
- If you want to workout outside on a nice day
- In between classes for college students
Also think about whether you want this portable gym for use solely when you are away from home or if you want to be able to use it at home as your primary gym too. Suspension trainers, for example, work very well as a primary home gym. Turns out they are super easy to travel with too.
Last, but certainly not least, is budget. Regardless of what type of resistance you want or what your travel needs are, whatever device you decide on has to fit your budget. If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford. End of discussion.
Luckily, most portable gyms are pretty affordable.
If you get a simple resistance band set, expect to pay $20-$50. Most of the portable gyms found on this guide run in the $150 – $200 range, but some of the more advanced strength training devices can be as steep as $500.
The 5 Best Pieces Of Portable Exercise Equipment
#1 TRX Home2 Suspension Trainer
This was an easy decision for me because suspension trainers are awesome. They can provide a full body workout almost anywhere, inside or out- all you need is a door or a sturdy anchoring spot. Suspension trainers are great for building strength, flexibility, and endurance and their portability can’t be beat.
Suspension training is so effective because of the inherent instability in the strap. Simply put, using one is hard because the strap moves. This forces you to use more muscles and more energy to stabilize as you perform your exercises.
And when it comes to suspension trainers, TRX is the gold standard.
TRX has been around for about 15 years or so and in that time they have come out with several different variations of their classic suspension trainer. The Home2 is their newest edition and it’s the one that should fit most people’s needs. They also offer a Pro version designed for trainers (multiple users) and a Tactical version designed to withstand the elements.
The Home2 package comes with everything you need to get started immediately. It’s a simple set up, consisting of the strap, the handles, and the anchor. This package comes with 2 anchors: the door and the suspension. The door anchor can be used in any door that closes firmly. The suspension anchor can be used to connect the TRX to anything you can wrap it around (and that’s sturdy enough to hold your body weight)- trees, fences, pull up bars, etc.
TRX is also the gold standard when it comes to portable. The Home2 only weighs about 2 lb and comes with a handy tote bag that can easily be tossed in a carry on or backpack.
The Home2 is backed by a 5 year warranty and also comes with a 1 year subscription to their fitness app that gives you access to professional trainer-led workouts.
If you’re looking for a portable gym that could easily act as your primary means of exercise, the TRX Home2 is a smart choice. With the endless variety of exercises and modifications, this is one home gym you’ll never outgrow.
#2 OYO Personal Gym
The OYO Personal Gym actually falls into a category all on its own based on its resistance type. This device uses SpiraFlex discs, a new technology that was created for NASA and the astronauts on the International Space Station. Working out in outer space, where gravity isn’t available, is harder than it seems. SpiraFlex was designed to solve this issue.
Each disc basically contains a series of resistance bands that are flexed as the disc spins. This provides a constant resistance, similar to the feel of lifting free weights, but without the weight. The discs come in different resistances and can attach to each other to provide the cumulative resistance, similar to adding plates to a barbell.
The creator of SpiraFlex created the OYO Personal Gym in order to use the same cool technology on a portable scale. The same technology was actually licensed for use on the Bowflex Revolution as well.
The OYO has a bow-shaped frame with 2 round handles at each end. The SpiraFlex discs connect in the middle and provide resistance as the frame is compressed or the handles (which are connect to cables) are pulled apart. This dual action, along with the included ankle straps, provide a good variety of exercise options.
The OYO website actually has video clips of 197 different exercises you can do with their personal gym.
This device comes with 25 lb worth of resistance in the form of 2×10 lb discs and 1×5 lb disc. This isn’t a lot of resistance, which is actually the most common complaint users have about the OYO. But it should be enough to help keep you on track when it isn’t possible to get to the gym.
The OYO gym scores high in portability. The frame folds in half for storage and the entire system only weighs about 3 lb, counting the discs.
There are a ton of OYO workouts online and they also have a free fitness app. They even designed a 10-week challenge program that leads you through progressive workouts to help you reach your fitness goals.
The OYO Personal Gym would work well in an office setting or as a travel companion, not so much as a primary home gym. I think it’s better suited for simple, isolating exercises like bicep curls and tricep extensions than more compound movements, but it can definitely help you stay tone on the go.
#3 BodyBoss Home Gym 2.0
The BodyBoss Home Gym 2.0 (great name by the way) is a resistance band based system. Unlike a typical set of resistance bands, the BodyBoss steps it up a notch and comes with a base and a few attachments that increase the versatility of the bands.
I think the base is the game changer here. Without it, the BodyBoss would really just be another resistance band set. The base lets you attach the bands directly to the floor, instead of having to step on them (which is the biggest downfall of using a typical band set- I usually workout barefoot and it hurts). The base has 5 different attachments on each side, giving you options.
Having 5 hooks on each side also lets you shorten the length of the bands for increased resistance- you can attach the band to one hook and snake it through a few others to make the band shorter.
Speaking of bands, the standard BodyBoss set only comes with 2 bands, each providing up to 30 lb of resistance when fully stretched. I think this is this home gym’s biggest flaw, it would be really nice if it came with a few more bands. It would be really nice if it came with bands of different resistances.
But, it is compatible with any resistance band that has carabiners, so you can use your own or purchase more separately.
The BodyBoss comes with 2 handles, 2 ankle straps a bar, and a door anchor. You can use the bar like you would a barbell, users love using it for squats- something that is hard to do with bands alone. The door anchor is a nice touch too because it increases the exercise variety significantly, letting you do moves like lat pull down and tricep extensions.
When it comes to portability, the BodyBoss is good, but it could be better. The base folds in half like a suitcase (dimensions: 19.75″ L x 17″W x 2″ H) so that’s not an issue. I just wish the attachments could fit inside the folded base so everything is self contained. But this isn’t the case, the attachments have to be carried separately in a little tote bag.
Overall, the BodyBoss would be a good choice if you like the idea of using a traditional band set. It might be a little big to fly with, but it would be really easy to toss in the car or take to work with you. This would actually work pretty well as a stand alone band set for your home too.
#4 Bullworker Steel Bow
Bullworker has been around for a long time, almost 60 years actually, and they’ve really only concentrated on making one device. They’ve redesigned and made improvements here and there, but their bows have remained pretty consistent over the years. The Steel Bow is their newest edition and has been designed to be more portable than their other models.
The Steel Bow is a smaller version of their Classic Bow- a spring loaded resistance device that gives you the option of either compressing the ends or pulling on the cables to load the spring. Similar to the OYO, the dual action gives you the ability to perform many different exercises.
All of the Bullworkers were designed with isometrics in mind because of the research the inventors did on the subject. The Steel Bow is also designed for isometric exercises, but you can do good old fashioned isotonic moves on it as well if you prefer.
The Steel Bow has 2 handles (one on each cable) to make your pulling exercises more comfortable on your hands. The ends are also contoured for extra comfort.
This device works well with upper body moves like bicep curls, chest press, and rows. Lower body exercises are possible, but not quite as comfortable. The longer, classic bow works better for leg exercises and moves like deadlift.
Speaking of exercises, Bullworker provides a 30 min seated workout to get you started. With some imagination and practice, you can perform a wide variety of moves with this machine.
This portable gym also comes with 3 interchangeable springs offering different resistance levels. It’s easy to switch them out and give yourself as much challenge as you need for each exercise. The different resistances allow the Steel Bow to challenge folks of any fitness level.
When it comes to portability, the Steel Bow also scores highly. The device is only 20 in long and weighs about 3 lb, making it suitable for flying, tossing in the car, or carrying to work. The Steel Bow is also backed by an impressive 5 year warranty and 90 day money back guarantee.
Overall, the Steel Bow is a durable little strengthening machine that can easily travel with you wherever you go. The adjustable resistance and exercise variety makes it a great travel companion, ensuring you don’t fall behind when you are away from the gym.
#5 X3 Complete Home Gym
Rounding out our list is the X3 Complete Home Gym, also known as the X3 Pro Bar. The X3 gym is another resistance band based system. Unlike most resistance bands though, the X3 comes with a heavy-duty steel bar, 4 heavy-duty bands, and a footplate.
The bar is designed to hold loads over 500 lb. It has a hook on each end with ball bearings to allow rotation- this ensures the bands are always oriented vertically with the floor (when doing exercises involving the footplate) and not kinking over.
The bar was designed to hold so much weight because of the type of bands the X3 uses. These are the most heavy duty bands I’ve come across, providing a lot more resistance than your average set. They range from super lightweight (up to 50 lb) all the way up to heavy weight (up to 150 lb).
You can double any of the bands up to basically double that resistance. You can also put more than one band on the bar at a time.
It’s obvious the X3 was designed with heavy weight lifters in mind. This bar and band system gives you the opportunity to lift the equivalent of hundred’s of pounds worth of weight- something few portable gyms can do.
When it comes to portability, the X3 doesn’t score as highly as some of the other devices on this list because it comes in multiple pieces and there isn’t a convenient tote or carrying case to hold everything together. I also doubt you’d be allowed to take a carry on bag on a plane with a steel bar inside it, so you’d definitely have to check your bag.
It would be easy enough to toss in the car though and take to work or drive out to the beach for a scenic workout. I would grab a little gym bag or something to keep it all contained together.
There’s a 12 week program that goes with the X3 bar as well as nutrition tips to help you get started. One thing that’s a little interesting about the workouts: they suggest doing only 1 set to failure for each exercise.
The biggest downside to this portable gym is the price- it’s expensive. The X3 is by far the most expensive system on this list. That and some of the exercises can be uncomfortable to do- the tricep push down with the band around your upper traps for example- not a good idea.
If you’re into power lifting and are looking for a portable way to workout when you can’t get to the gym, the X3 Home Gym might be a good solution- if your budget can handle the blow.
Busy work and family schedules can make getting to the gym a challenge. With a portable home gym system, you can exercise in your office, in your hotel room, or simply outside on a pretty day. When comparing portable exercise equipment, things to consider include: type of resistance, travel needs, and of course budget.
Overall, I think the TRX Home2 is the perfect example of what a portable home gym can offer. This suspension trainer is super portable and easy to travel with, but also capable of providing an intense, full body workout that can significantly increase core strength. This device works really well as a stand alone home gym too.
If you’re looking for more of a strength training device to help you stay tone on the go, you should check out the OYO or the Bullworker Steel Bow, both of which are better for isolating single muscle groups.
The BodyBoss 2.0 is a good choice if you are looking to do classic moves and love the feel of resistance bands. The foldable base makes a lot of the exercises more comfortable.
The X3, though expensive, is the best choice for power lifters or folks looking for heavy resistance.
Now it’s up to you. Regardless of where your daily life takes you, you know there are resources available to help you stay in shape. The “I don’t have time to exercise” excuse won’t work anymore. Get out there and get stronger.
If there are any questions or comments, leave them below and I’ll get right back to ya.