Short on time? Jump straight to our top choice, the Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym.
A compact home gym, or multi gym, is an all-in-one workout station. The idea is that you can do a whole gym session, targeting every muscle, using this one piece of equipment. Ideally, we would all have enough space for a fully equipped garage gym, with benches and racks galore. If you’re limited on space however, a compact home gym is a great alternative. To help you decide what to go for, we’ve reviewed the best compact home gyms available on the market right now.
Quick Comparison: Best Compact Home Gyms
- Our Top Choice: Bowflex PR1000
- Bowflex Xceed
- Marcy 150lb Stack
- Weider Ultimate Body Works
- Marcy Diamond Elite Smith Cage
Why Should I Buy a Compact Home Gym?
If you’re looking to do full-body strength training at home, with limited space, consider getting a compact home gym. We would all love to have a gym full of squat racks, benches and power towers. These are some of the best options out there for building muscle. The downside of these, however, is their size. They’re not exactly small objects that you can tuck away in the corner of your garage. Comparatively, a multi gym can provide you with a lot of the same benefits, whilst occupying a fraction of the space. There is a slight compromise, however. A compact home gym probably won’t be as effective at training your legs as a squat rack. Equally, if you have big aims for your chest, you may be better off on the bench press. You get the point. A multi gym isn’t necessarily the ‘best’ at training any one muscle group, but it’s advantage is that it can train all of the muscle groups.
That’s not to say that it’s one or the other. Plenty of workouts use compact gyms in combination with other pieces of equipment, such as free weights. This can be particularly useful is you like mixing compound moves with more isolated exercises. As always, the benefit you receive depends on how you use the equipment, rather than the equipment itself. A compact multi gym can still provide very effective strength training for your whole body. This is exactly why they have been so popular over the years.
If you’ve never used a multi gym before, this video gives a quick overview of how to use them and the different types of attachments they can come with.
How to Choose the Best Compact Home Gym
There are a lot of features to consider when it comes to compact home gyms (multi gyms). The number of different combinations is almost infinite, with each providing a unique set of benefits. There are a few key components you should be aware of before deciding which one to opt for. Let’s take a look.
The resistance provided by the cables and arms can be given in different ways. This is usually by either a stack of weight plates, or by resistance rods. In general, weight plates offer a much smoother resistance, similar to that of free weights or gym machines. In addition, weight plates often provide a higher resistance, and a larger capacity. This is more suited if you are looking to lift heavy and bulk up. Resistance rods still have their place though, and can provide you with a very good workout at a more affordable price.
Some systems have an adjustable bench, which can be used horizontally or at an incline. These can often be folded away, which is a bonus if you are short on space. Others can only be used vertically, which limits certain exercises. If you want the option of doing some cardio, some models also feature a ‘rolling seat’, allowing the bench to move for rowing exercises.
Size & Footprint
If you’re getting a compact home gym, it’s usually because you want efficiency in space. Although multi gyms can be quite large in size, they are providing you with many benefits in one place. This makes the trade-off worth it. Some will be bigger than others, so make sure it fits the space you have.
Most multi gyms have a cable system, and it’s a big bonus if this is adjustable. This means that you can change the angle and resistance of the movement, depending on what exercise you’re doing.
Range of exercises
Many multi gyms boast huge numbers of exercises that you can perform on them. Whilst this seems attractive, who really needs to be able to do 100 different exercises in one place? In reality, there are a handful of core exercises that people use more than any other. These are the ones you want to focus on. If you can target your chest, back, arms, shoulders and legs, then you’re sorted. Even if you can only target a few of these muscle groups, that’s still not bad going for one machine.
Compact Home Gym Reviews
Our Top Choice: Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym
The Bowflex PR1000 has the perfect balance between quality and affordability. This multi gym consists of ‘Power Rods’ which provide a resistance of up to 210lbs. The cable pulleys are adjustable to several different positions, allowing you to change the angle of resistance. This is great for doing chest exercises. The bench can be used in both a flat and incline position, opening up the possibility of even more exercises. In total, Bowflex claim you can perform over 25 exercises on the PR1000, meaning no part of your body is left out. There’s enough here for your chest, arms, back, shoulders and legs. The bench can also convert to a ‘rolling seat’ and be used for cardio purposes. In other words, the seat can move back and forth, allowing you to do things like aerobic rowing. The resistance on this machine is provided by rods, as opposed to actual weights. Whilst these provide a good level of resistance, they will never feel quite the same as lifting a weight stack. In addition, heavier lifters may find the resistance not challenging or consistent enough. That being said, for this price range, the benefits of this compact home gym are impressive. As a bonus, the bench section can be folded away, meaning the footprint is reduced even further. Lastly, the frame includes a holder for smart devices. This is great if, like me, you track your workout progress and control music from a tablet. We think this is a brilliant all-rounder, and the first multi gym we would recommend.
- Up to 210lbs resistance
- Perform 25+ exercises
- Adjustable cable pulley positions
- Can be used for rowing
- Foldable bench
- Both incline and flat bench press
- Leg curls
- Smart device holder
- Resistance provided by rods can be limited
This is another option from Bowflex, for those of you wanting a slightly higher spec. Similar to the PR1000, there are Power Rods providing up to 210lbs resistance. However, on the Bowflex Exceed, you have the option of upgrading these rods to either 310lbs or 410lbs. Whilst many of the other features are similar, this makes it more suitable for those of you wanting to do heavy lifting. The frame is constructed from heavy duty steel, which will ensure durability. The bench itself is not foldable, although this is not really an issue as the footprint is already quite small. It’s also not possible to do horizontal chest press, which may be a disappointment to some. It comes with both lat and squat bars included, which contribute the the whopping 65 exercises you can perform. If you have a slightly higher budget, there are plenty of features here to keep your attention.
- 210bs resistance, upgradable to 310/410lbs
- Perform 65+ exercises
- Heavy duty steel frame
- Lat and squat bars included
- Adjustable cable positions
- No horizontal chest press
This compact home gym from Marcy is the first on our list to use weights, rather than resistance rods. This model consists of a 150lb weight stack, which will feel more familiar to those of you who have used machines in a gym. The weight being provided can be altered easily with the insertion of a pin, which also includes a safety lock. It features a heavy duty steel construction, and the capacity for 30 plus exercises. A nice addition here is a preacher curl pad, which is perfect when you want to target your biceps. This pad is also removable, so not to hinder other movements. There are dual action arms for chest press and flys, which are also padded for extra comfort. One slight downside here is assembly, as several users have reported difficulty in doing so. Taller users, particularly men, have also mentioned the frame being slightly on the small side. However, this shouldn’t affect the majority of users. All in all, once things are up and running, this is a very impressive multi gym at a very reasonable price.
- 150lb weight stack with safety lock
- Perform 30+ exercises
- Weight easily adjusted with pin
- Heavy duty steel construction
- Removable pad for preacher curls
- Dual action arms for chest exercises
- Difficult to assemble
- On the small side for taller people
At first glance, this home gym from Weider is of a much simpler design when compared to our other choices. It effectively looks like a bench with a few cables. Don’t be fooled, however, as there is a lot to be gained here. The bench is adjustable to 8 different levels of incline, and can be used for squats, crunches and chest press. The seat itself is rolling, allowing you to perform exercises with a rowing motion. As you can see, it’s small in size, making it very unobtrusive in any setting. The unit is also foldable, reducing its size even further, which means it could be stored under a bed. The functionality is much more limited than other home gyms, and the resistance is certainly at the lower end of the spectrum. Nevertheless, it’s perfect for assistance in doing bodyweight exercises, building core strength and toning. If you are trying to bulk up, and build muscle mass, this is not the one for you. On the other hand, this is a great choice if you are new to strength training, or focusing more on core strength and lighter lifting. Last but not least, it comes in at an incredible price. Although not right for everybody, this very affordable multi gym might just be right for you.
- Very affordable price
- Incline adjustable to 8 levels
- Small footprint and size
- Foldable for storage
- Excellent for core strength and beginners
- Limited functionality
- Low resistance for heavier lifters
You can think of this as a Smith machine combined with a multi gym. The result is almost everything you could possibly need, all in one place. There is an Olympic free-weight rack, with both storage and a bar (if you’re looking to get a barbell separately, check out our guide). This can be used for assisted squats, bench press and much more. It’s all held together by a high quality steel frame with a durable powder coated finish. The rack includes safety catches, which is perfect if you don’t have a spotting partner. The cables feature linear bearings, which provide a smooth movement. There are also a multitude of cable attachments included, similar to the assortment seen in most gyms. To save me from boring you, I won’t list all of the exercises you can perform here. But if you name a strength training exercise, it’s safe to assume it can do it. As you’d expect, this comes at a price. This product is at the high end of the price range, and may be out of budget for a lot of readers. It also includes a lot of features which many of you probably don’t need. The footprint is on the larger side, and many have complained of difficulty in putting it together. However, if you’re spending this much, we think it’s worth paying the little extra for assembly. Overall, this is a solid option for those of you with a higher budget who want to lift heavy.
- Olympic free-weight rack, storage and bar
- Heavy duty high quality steel frame
- Linear bearings provide smooth cable movement
- Large number of cable attachments included
- All-in-one workout station
- High end of price range
- Large footprint
There’s a lot on offer when it comes to compact home gyms, and we think that the Bowflex PR1000 is one of the best. Offering a wide range of exercises, and a solid level of resistance, it will only improve your workouts. The cables and bench are both adjustable, and all of this is provided at a reasonable price. The foldable structure makes it compact in size, which is exactly what a multi gym should be. There are other options worth considering, for both higher and lower budgets, but overall we think this is the best all-rounder there is when it comes to compact home gyms.