Adam holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Linguistics, and creative writing has always been his greatest passion. For more than 25 years he's been working for several well-known automobile and travel magazines as an editor and expert consultant, but when Adam started his writing path here, at WisePick, it turned out that he's capable of writing practically anything about everything.
Initially being an engineering specialist, Tom has never stopped learning and acquiring other knowledge and skills. Now he’s involved in technical support for a well-known household appliances manufacturer, so no wonder he knows everything about almost everything you buy for your home.
Last updated: May 23, 2021
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Is home gym as good as a commercial gym? Does compact home gym have the same impact as a standard gym equipment? If you struggle with finding place at home that will fit your training stand – you are not alone. Full body gyms for heavy muscle building are considered compact if they measure under 90 inches at the base, and smaller models have fewer training programs available, but they can be stored in a cupboard if needed.
We looked at all the types of models and features like dimensions, weight, weight capacity, supported exercise types, and product warranty. We compared these side by side for each product. Items are rated based on performance, ease of use, versatility, and results, if any. We focused on these features because they determine who can and can’t use the gym, what exercises you can do on the machine, where you can set up the gym, etc. We analyze each feature, tell you why it matters, and show you how to evaluate its relevance in the product.
An all-in-one home gym, the Bowflex PR3000 is designed to offer full body workouts. It provides up to 210 lbs. of power rod resistance, and this is upgradable to 310 lbs. at a cost, which means this is a machine you’ll grow with as your fitness needs change over the years. The manufacturer says you’ll get 50 exercises, but they are being modest. You’ll easily enjoy 80-plus exercises, a range so wide that it allows you to customize your gym sessions anew every time. Or replicate an exercise regimen you’d like to practice consistently.
It uses a no-change cable pulley system that makes it easy for you to swiftly and effortlessly switch from one exercise to another. Integrated into the machine are hand grips and ankle cuffs to add flexibility to your works, as well as a workout placard. The roller cushions are upholstered for comfort, so you can enjoy longer sessions and more reps without strain.
The PR3000 is built from heavy-duty steel for guaranteed durability, and you can expect it to last for well over a decade. While the manufacturer did a fine job getting all the equipment to fit into the slender, 72-inch-wide build, this machine has a height of 86 inches, so make sure you have enough clearance for it before placing your order. The good news is that the gym is foldable, and even more compact in that regard.
The Marcy MWM-990 is a total body workout machine, complete with arm and leg stations. It uses multi-position pulleys and cables which are connected to a 150 lbs. weight stack to facilitate a wide range of controlled body exercises. With this, you can customize your exercises to match your skill level and don’t need to load and unload different weight plates. A weight stack lock allows you to lock up the equipment once you’re done, which eliminates unauthorized access to your gym if living in a shared space and ensures safety if you have little ones in the house.
For the arm station, the machine uses dual-function press arms which you can use for chest press and butterfly exercises targeting the pecs, biceps, and triceps. The curl bicep pad is adjustable and removable and enables you to do isolated bicep exercises.
For the leg station, the machine has a dual-function leg developer that is designed to align with the knee joints and thus provide for effective leg workouts. Four foam rollers ensure you do your leg curls and extensions in comfort.
Use the adjustable preacher curl pad with the lower pulley to do curls and hammer curls without straining your back. Use the upper pulley with the lat bar for effective pulldowns and pull ups. For those of us taller than 5’11”, though, it doesn’t provide the full range of motion.
The GR8FLEX Total Performance Gym is made in a simple design, yet operates like a high performance gym. And with a weight limit of 450 lbs., it can be used by nearly anyone. It’s designed as a full body workout machine and supports a wide range of upper body and lower body exercises.
It comes with a ton of attachments to help improve the versatility of your exercises, and with which you can duplicate many of the exercises you’d do in a commercial gym. There is a crunch ab accessory, dip bars, wing bars, leg harness and pulley system, squat stand, EZ curl bar, resistance bands, soft grip handles, protective floor mats, and a cellphone stand. You get 15 incline levels and can get an extra 10-50 lbs of resistance using the bands. with the resistance bands.
Setting it up is easy since it does not require any assembly. You only need to add the attachments. Some are difficult to attach and remove though. You’ll fiddle with some of them quite a bit before you can work out how to fix them into place.
This gym does not come with a user manual. However, you’ll find plenty of exercise videos and a free exercise chart and workout log on the GR8FLEX website. All these are also available on the GR8FLEX app, and you can interact with the company and other users and find more resources on their social media pages; they’re currently on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
The Weider Ultimate Body Works fully body workout gym comes with an expandable bench that you can expand or collapse as needed for your height and for a wide variety of exercises. To help make the sliding motion smooth and comfortable, the manufacturer uses foam cushioning on the bench, so you will not have any strain on your chest or back. Likewise, the soft grip handles provide a comfortable grip for your hands.
It has a weight capacity of 250 lbs. Thanks to the pulleys on both ends of the machine, you can increase or lower resistance to match your body weight and skill level. It comes with SuperPack Additional Resistance tension cables that you can use to add an extra 50 lbs. of resistance and challenge your body even more.
This is a no-assembly machine, and you can have it all set up and ready to go in as little as half an hour. You only need to screw in a couple of bolts and add a few pins into place and it’s ready for use. This is a sturdy, stable gym that doesn’t wobble during use.
With a compact design that takes up only 59 by 27.5 inches in length and width, this is a machine that you can squeeze into a corner of, say, the bedroom if you don’t have a spare room that you can turn into an exercise room.
A full body workout gym with a weight capacity of 300 lbs, the ICON Fitness Gold’s Gym XRS 50 comes with a combination chest press and fyl station, leg developer, and high and low pulleys. The high pulley is ideal for working the lats and back muscle, while the low pulley works the glutes and leg muscles. The multi-grip lat bar allows you to vary resistance to your lat exercises. The seat is covered in vinyl and comfortable. And while you’ll be able to comfortably do a wide variety of exercises, users taller than 6′ may experience some discomfort and could possibly find it hard to do some exercises, like chest presses, for example. It comes with a 112 lbs. weight stack offering 280 lbs. of resistance., but there is a downside: the weight increments in this gym are massive. The weight increases by no less than 20 lbs. For a beginner, this presents a challenge that’s not only hard to maneuver but is also a health risk.
We have to warn you that you should only set it up in the room and spot where you intend to do your exercises. At 226 pounds, this is a heavy machine and you’ll have no way of moving it, unless you disassemble it first and repeat the assembly in the new location.
The Total Gym 1400 Deluxe is a full body workout gym with a weight limit of 250 lbs. It weighs 75 pounds and is among the lightest home gyms on the market. Enjoy more than 60 full body exercises and customize your exercise sessions with variations that target either the upper body or lower body. You can use it for cardio exercises, strength training, and stretching.
It comes as a complete gym, with attachments included. Also included is a comprehensive workout DVD that coaches you on basic exercises, how to do repetitions, and correctly change attachments. There is also an exercise chart with a workout plan for all skill levels and a nutrition guide. A beginner will definitely benefit from this well-rounded approach.
Our minor gripe is about the sliding seat. It’s rather slim and uncomfortable for a person with a wider build. It’s also quite short; even the not-so-tall will find the seat merely adequate.
This gym comes fully assembled. All you’ll do is extend it to its full size and mount the accessories. Setup instructions are included, although they are sketchy, but you should be able to figure out how to add each attachment without too much trouble. The machine is foldable and collapses to a mini size for easy storage. In its full size, it takes up 92.5 (length) by 16 (width) by 43.25 (height) inches.
What are our favorite features?
Comes fully assembled
Includes workout DVD, exercise chart, and nutrition guide
Another full-body workout gym is available in the form of the Gonex Portable Home Gym Workout System. However, this one is also portable and can be carried to the office, beach, park, and even on vacation. As such, you have no excuses for missing a workout if you decide this gym is for you.
The main component is a honeycomb structure base that we found to be stable, durable, and can take a lot of stress. For those who prefer empirical figures, the base can handle 300lbs of pressure and 250 lbs of tension. It’s also built to be anti-slip, thereby adding more stability to your workout sessions.
The accessories provided include push-up handlebars, Ab rollers, a 3-section bar, resistance bands, and more. When used correctly, these could take the place of any other piece of gym equipment you use. In fact, we tried all the 70 different movements and workouts and were very impressed.
Additionally, there’s no need for guesswork concerning how you use the device. There’s an instruction manual, and you can refer to the video for clarity as well. Notably, the Gonex Portable Home Gym also has workouts that target each of the five major muscle groups in your body.
Lastly, you get exercises to cater to the different workout levels, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or fitness enthusiast.
Why did it make our list?
Caters to different fitness levels
Easy to set up
What is not ideal about it?
The bands are too long for shorter people
Not enough resistance levels for this to be a long term fitness solution
Things to Consider
In this next section, we’ll dive deeper into the details that go into making a desirable compact home gym. We’ll look at the important features that determine how good a home gym is and what you should focus on when shopping for one. But first, let’s see the benefits of having a compact home gym and the safety precautions you ought to observe for the best experience when using a home gym.
Benefits of having a compact home gym
Choosing a compact home gym means you won’t stress about where to use it since it is designed to occupy as little space as possible. Even if you don’t have a dedicated exercise room in your home, you can create space for the equipment in your favorite room.
Second, many compact home gyms are multi-purpose. So instead of buying multiple equipment, you can choose just one item which you then use to achieve numerous fitness and body-shaping goals. A multi-purpose gym will work the upper body, the midsection, and the lower body, and you can choose to do full body workouts or do exercises that target specific muscle groups.
One of the most exciting perks of owning a home gym is that you’re in full control of when and how long you exercise. You’re not limited to specific times as is sometimes the case with paid-for gym sessions, where you have to wait in line because the users are more than the available equipment. Not even bad weather can interfere with your home gym exercise session.
After the initial cost of acquiring your home gym, you’ll have no additional expenses attached to using the equipment. With a gym membership, you have the membership fee to settle and renew as needed if you’re to continue using the gym services. You also have to deal with transport costs to and from the gym.
With a home gym, you say goodbye to being stuck in traffic on your way to or from the gym. You’ll be delighted with how much time you get to save.
A home gym allows you to exercise in privacy. For people who are self-conscious about their body, a commercial gym can be intimidating rather than inspiring. Exercising at home therefore provides a way for them to get into shape without the pressure of feeling like they’re the odd one out.
As in a commercial gym, you must observe some safety precautions when using your home gym, else accidents and injuries will occur. Here are a few crucial ones:
The first thing you want to do is warm up your body before diving into the exercises. This will prepare the body for the exertion that’s coming, thereby minimizing risk of injury and muscle soreness.
Make sure that you’re doing your exercises correctly. This means getting the form and movements right. Many manufacturers include workout DVDs to help with this, and even more have the workout routines posted on YouTube. So you never have to do it blindly. If it’s your first time doing a specific exercise, watch instructor videos to learn how to do it properly and then practice it one step at a time to get it right. Repeat as many times as you need until you’re confident you can do it right.
Add and remove weights and attachments correctly to avoid injury. While at it, watch where you place your fingers so they don’t get caught between the bar and the weight.
If lifting heavy weights, ensure you have a spotter on standby who can help you if you’re unable to get the weight back on the bar on your own.
Don’t forget to wind up with a cool down session after your routine to slowly get the body back to its pre-exercise state and normalize your heart rate and blood pressure.
Keep your gym and gym area clean. Left unattended, the combination of sweat, dust, and humidity can harbor untold disease-causing germs and bacteria. Have enough ventilation in the room, wipe down your gym after every use to get rid of sweat, and vacuum the room weekly to keep the air quality clean.
Home gyms don’t come cheap, and this applies to compact home gyms. Many cost thousands of dollars, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t find affordable compact home gyms. The more features the gym has, the pricier it’s likely to be. The more affordable models like Weider Ultimate Body Works and Gonex Portable Home Gym Workout System cost a couple of hundred dollars, with more expensive models going for as high as $1,500. Be on the lookout for discounts; if you’re lucky to get one, it can drastically bring down the cost of your gym.
Features to consider while buying the best compact home gym
Here are the specific features you need to pay attention to when buying a compact home gym.
These gyms may be space savers, but they still have some footprint demands. Some are more compact than others, so be sure that you know the exact dimensions of the gym before buying it, and cross-check with the space you have at home to see if it’s a good fit. Ensure that the room is spacious enough for you to go around the machine with ease. Check that you also have enough height clearance if buying a tall machine like the Bowflex PR3000.
The frame of your compact home gym should be sturdy and durable to support your weight and the pressure of exercising. Most home gyms are made from steel to guarantee this sturdiness. The seat and bench areas of the gym are mostly foam cushioned for comfort and covered in an easy to clean material like vinyl. Other materials may also be used.
The best compact home gyms are those that can be used with a wide range of weights because you can continue to use them over the years as your skill level grows and your weight shifts. Among top choices in this category are Bowflex PR3000, which has a 210 lbs. weight stack and ICON Fitness Gold’s Gym XRS 50, which has 280 lbs. of resistance. The Marcy MWM-990 is not so bad either with its 150 lbs. weight stack.
Your compact home gym should be stable during use. This shows that it is well built and balanced. If possible, choose a model where the edges of its base are covered in rubber so that in case you hit your foot on the metal, it doesn’t cause injury or hurt as bad. If you’re using an exercise board, ensure that it has anti-slip properties to keep it from moving during use and potentially cause you to fall. Choose a gym with soft grip handles that are comfortable for your hands. This also ensures your hands don’t get sore.
The more exercises your compact home gym supports, the more value you get out of it. You can customize your sessions to incorporate new exercises each time you use the gym or try different exercise combinations at every session. It’s also important to confirm that the gym offers a full body workout and how many full body workouts you can get. Some gyms may offer full body workouts, but their lower body exercises may be weaker than the upper body exercises, and vice versa. This might be hard to tell without trying out the gym, which is why you should opt for a model with a return policy where possible. If this is not an option, you can try finding out what others’ experiences using the gym have been like before you buy it.
For such technical equipment, most home gyms are guaranteed for surprisingly short durations. Very few manufacturers give lifetime warranties, the GR8FLEX Total Performance Gym being a good example of a compact home gym with a lifetime limited warranty. Many give a 1-year guarantee, examples being Bowflex PR3000 and Total Gym 1400 Deluxe. And a growing majority only guarantees the equipment for 90 days. As such, you must be certain of the gym’s quality before purchasing. Otherwise, you might end up with a faulty machine that you can neither return nor get replaced. Research about the model you’re interested in, and if it’s not a new product, check its popularity and user ratings over the years.
Most compact home gyms are durable and can be used for years without failure. This is what you want to hear when buying a home gym, unless you’re planning to use it temporarily, in which case durability wouldn’t be a priority. Some pointers to the gym’s durability are use of quality materials, excellent build, and a careful design that ensures stability and balance. Do your part to ensure that your gym’s durability is not compromised, including by using the gym properly and maintaining it as recommended.
Some compact home gyms come with accessories and attachments like resistance bands and bows, yoga mats, pull up bars, ab wheels, foam rollers, and foam tiles for your floor. These can help vary your exercises, introduce new challenges, and increase difficulty to help you push your body even more.
Follow the maintenance instructions issued by your seller or manufacturer. These may vary from model to model, so stick to what’s stipulated for your specific gym model. Clean your home gym regularly using the recommended gym cleaning products. There are special gym sprays you can use. Check whether your gym manufacturer or seller recommends specific products to clean the equipment and use these. Make it a habit to wipe the gym with a clean piece of cloth after every use to remove sweat. Clean it with a disinfectant solution occasionally just to make sure there are no germs breeding on the surfaces. Lubricate it regularly as you would any other equipment with moving parts. And most importantly, only use the gym as recommended. If it comes with a caveat against some exercises, do not attempt to do these as you could damage the machine, or worse, suffer injuries.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to assemble your compact home gym. Each model has a different way of assembling. Nearly all home gyms come with an instruction manual that has clear guidelines and illustrations on how to assemble and set up the gym. Many also have demo videos on their websites and on platforms like YouTube. When setting up your gym, leave enough space around the machine for safety; you should be able to access it from every angle. Do not place your gym against the wall. It needs to be isolated.
Your home gym will only harm you if you use it incorrectly. When used the right way, a home gym does not pose any threat to your health. But you should also take measures to ensure you’re exercising in a health-promoting environment. Make sure there’s adequate circulation of fresh air in the room where you’re exercising so your lungs are never deprived of oxygen. If working out in the garage, basement, or storage area, remove any chemicals or products that could emit dangerous compounds (like volatile organic compounds) that are harmful to your health. A good example is paint and cleaning products.
Our top choice is the Bowflex PR3000, a full-body workout machine offering more than 80 exercises. We like its sturdy steel construction and foldable design, the comfortable roller cushions, the many hand grips and ankle cuffs, and the no-change pulley cable. Plus, it comes with a 7-year guarantee on resistance.
Our second choice is the Marcy MWM-990. We like the versatility of the exercises you can do on this machine, how advanced the dedicated arm and leg stations are, and the adjustable, removable curl pad that adds to the possibilities of what you can do on the machine. We also like the weight stack lock which keeps unauthorized users from accessing your gym.
Our third best compact home gym is the Weider Ultimate Body Works. We like how sturdy and stable this gym is at all incline levels, how smoothly the rolling seat glides, and the tension cables set. It’s also affordably priced.