Best Compact Home Gym – 6 Top Picks in 2021

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In this review article I share my evaluations after product testing several popular all-in-one home gym machines over a wide range of prices ($350 – $5,000).

Owning a compact home gym that provides a full body workout is a convenient and effective tool for building muscle, gaining strength, & burning away fat.

 

The benefits of a home gym

The whole point of this category of home gym equipment is so you can get quality workouts for your entire body in your own home. This saves you gym membership fees and all that time required going to & from commercial gyms.

A compact home gym makes sense if one of your fitness goals is to build muscle at home, but you have very little space or no room for racks of free weights.

 

Best Compact Home Gym – 6 Top Picks for 2021

Here are summaries of the compact home gym machines featured in this article.

Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional Trainer and Smith Station | With Bench
  • Your purchase includes One Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional Trainer | Bench, Triceps Rope, 2 Rubber D Handles, Dual Hook Straight Bar, EZ Curl Bar,...
  • Overall dimensions – 58” L x 61” W x 83-88” H | With optional Bench – 89” L x 61” W x 83-88” H | Weight – 825 lbs. | Resistance...
  • Heavy-duty round & rectangular steel frame | Adjustable seat height & 3-point back tilt
  • Two 165lb. commercial weight stacks with center drilled holes and magnetic weight pin for safety
  • Additional attachments (Not included): 2 x 50 lbs. | 2 x 5 lbs. (107.5 lbs max per pully, 460 lbs max on smith bar) | Preacher Curl Attachment | Leg...
Body-Solid StrengthTech EXM2500S Home Gym
  • Consumer Magazine's Best Buy Home Gym!
  • 210lb. Selectorized Iron Weight Stack in 10lb. Plates
  • Heavy Duty Construction, DuraFirm pads, Powder Coat Finish
  • Pec Station, Press Arm, Leg Developer, High, Mid, and Low Pulleys
  • Lifetime Warranty on Everything Forever
Bodycraft Galena Pro Home Gym
  • Compact home gym offers chest press, dual-function pecdeck, leg extension, leg curl, lat pull and more.
  • Low pulley station is easy to access and provides plenty of room for exercises such as leg kicks and more.
  • 150 lb. Weight stack included. Weight Stack Shrouds and Leg Press sold separately.
  • Maximum comfort provides up to 300 pounds of resistance, foot plate adjusts to fit any size user.
Sale
Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym
  • 25plus exercises that cover the entire body
  • Over 200 lb. Power Rod resistance
  • Multiple cable pulley position allows you to easily change the angle of resistance and increase effectiveness of many exercises
  • Bench converts to a rolling seat for aerobic rowing
  • Maximize your gym space with vertical folding bench
Sale
Total Gym APEX G5 Versatile Indoor Home Workout Total Body Strength...
  • VARIETY OF WORKOUTS: Start your own workout program right at home with 10 levels of resistance and 80+ exercises with Total Gym; Low impact, fluid...
  • QUICK WORKOUTS: Just 15 to 20 minutes a day, 3 to 4 days a week on your home gym will make a difference; For all fitness levels ages 8-80; Supports a...
  • TOTAL BODY METHOD: Tones, strengthens, and conditions muscles in the upper and lower body for a total body exercise experience; Assists with body...
  • ACCESSORIES INCLUDED: Includes wing attachment, larger squat stand, leg pull accessory, dip bars, training deck with holder, 2 stability mats, Total...
  • PRODUCT INFO: Padded, ergonomic glide board with pillow headrest; Quality steel frame with auto-lock height adjustment; Folds easy for storage; When...
Weider Ultimate Body Works Black/Red, Standard
  • Dimensions: 59" L x 27.5" W x 48" H
  • Max. Weight capacity: 250 pounds
  • Cushion material: Foam
  • Cable-and-pulley system allows for greater versatility and an expanded range of motion
  • This item benefits from an Extended 90 Day Return Window

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

Buyer ratings & comments

Here are quotes from owners of these all-in-one home gyms. To read more owner feedback or check current price on Amazon, you can click on their name or the pics.

My star rating is based on the average of all online owner reviews I could find at the time I wrote this article.

 

Best compact home gym over $1000 – top picks

Inspire Fitness FT2       4.7 ⭐

“I’ve been bodybuilding for about 12 years religiously, and this machine can replace almost everything. The quality is top notch, nicer than a gym equipment in every aspect. Very easy to use and it comes with a pretty decent workout manual for beginners that would be easy to follow…” – T

 

 

Body-Solid EXM2500S       4.5 ⭐

“Fantastic home gym, it exceeds expectations in quality and function. Retiring from 30 years Navy service, I am spoiled to have had top of the line gyms to keep fit in. I am achieving complete workouts comparable to those in the base gym. ” – FHG

Body-Solid EXM2500S  - heydayDo image

BodyCraft Galena       4.5 ⭐

“Everything I expected it to be. As well built as any I’ve ever used. I’m 6’2″ and 240 pounds and was tired of buying home gym equipment that didn’t fit and hurt to use. This machine is very comfortable. Very good purchase.” – TB

BodyCraft Galena  - heydayDo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best compact home gym under $1000

Bowflex PR1000    4.6 ⭐

“Versatile, durable and fun to use. I’d never used a bowflex before, but have found this to be one of the most enjoyable ways to get a strength training workout of any method I’ve tried.” – BTC

 

Best compact home gym under $500 – top picks

Total Gym Apex    4.7 ⭐

This Total Gym is the single most effective piece of home gym equipment that you will ever need to purchase. You can do a multitude of exercises which can be customized to your own fitness level. This is my second one…my previous I had for 15 years!” – P

 

Weider Ultimate Body Works     4.5 ⭐

“Great home machine, does everything it says. Sturdy enough for me at 250 lb. Challenges you, no matter how strong you are. You utilize all your muscles including stabilizer muscles for each workout.” – KB

Weider Ultimate Body Works  - heydayDo image

 

 

 

 

 

6 Compact Home Gyms Reviewed

Best All In One Gym Reviews - heydayDo - in article image1

 

Inspire Fitness FT2

A top of the line, very well-engineered “weight stack” home gym more than capable of helping you reach your fitness goals, even if your workout space isn’t huge.

The FT stands for functional trainer and this surprisingly compact home gym includes a Smith machine, multiple cable crossover possibilities, and 330 lb. of weight resistance.

Inspire Fitness FT2 - heydayDo image

What I like

* Excellent owner satisfaction rating of 95% 5 & 4-stars.

* Excellent lifetime warranty.

* Excellent customer support per Inspire FT2 owners’ comments.

* Easy to adjust – I found it very easy to adjust cable heights, and a nifty locking system turns the pulleys into safety catches for the Smith machine.

* Nice workout booklet is attached inside the Inspire FT2. It provides good suggestions to anyone unfamiliar with using a multi-exercise machine, the Smith, or cable/pulley workout stations.

 

Any issues?

None with the Inspire FT2 or the company. The only thing is that this durable and finely-crafted all in one home gym is priced beyond the home gym budget of many people, unfortunately.

A minor quibble is that there’s no bench included.

 

 

Specs & other stuff

Resistance type:  weight stack home gym

Weight included: 2 x 165 lb. weight stacks

Size/Space required:  61”W x 58”L x 89”H

# of possible exercises: several dozen

Warranty: Lifetime

User weight capacity: none given

Add’l material included: Workout booklet attached

 

Summing up

Excellent build, lots of weight, a Smith machine, 8 pulley angles, and all sorts of user-friendly engineering here.

The Inspire FT2 is simply a top of the line functional trainer & one of the best all-in-one machines available.

 

 

Body-Solid EXM2500S

The cheapest weight stack home gym in this review is another well-built & durable home gym.

Made with high tensile strength 12 gauge steel, it comes with a lifetime warranty, two workout stations, and 210 lb. of weight.

Body-Solid EXM2500S  - heydayDo image

What I like

* Very good owner satisfaction rating of 92% 5 & 4-stars.

* Great warranty – The EXM2500S has a lifetime warranty “on everything, forever”.

* Lots of exercises – 2 workout stations & 3 sets of pulleys.

* Lots of accessories – Comes with a few handy handles, and they sell add-on triceps rope, stirrup, & weight bars too.

* Workout guide – Comes with an exercise poster that would be helpful to people new to working out on a home gym that uses weight stacks.

 

Any issues?

Assembly is several hours long and may be tough for people whose building skills end at IKEA level (like mine).

 

Specs & other stuff

Resistance type: weight stack home gym

Weight included: 210 lb.

Size/Space required: 53”W x 83”L x 83”H

# of exercises possible: best guess is 20-25

Warranty: Lifetime

User weight capacity: none provided

Add’l material included: workout poster, handles & straps for use with the pulley attachments

 

Summing up

The Body-Solid EXM2500S is a well-built home gym backed by a lifetime warranty.

It has good ergonomics and is comfortable to use. 

I consider it the best all in one exercise exercise machine in the under $2000 price range.

On the down side, assembly isn’t super easy.

 

 

BodyCraft Galena Pro

Great bang for the buck with this tough piece of weight lifting equipment that has many available exercises, including:

  • leg curl
  • leg extension
  • chest press
  • pec-deck
  • lat pulldown
  • low pulley rows
  • ab crunches

Lifetime warranty and excellent company back this home gym 110%.

BodyCraft Galena  - heydayDo image

What I like

* Excellent lifetime warranty and the company provides excellent customer service too.

* Very rugged and sturdy built using aircraft grade materials & a 2” steel frame.

* Easy to use – Single stack of weight plates is used for all exercises on both stations – so no time needed for switching things around.

* 225 lb. true resistance – The BodyCraft Galena ships with 150 lb. of weight at a 1.5x ratio, yielding 225 lb. of resistance. Add-on available of additional 50 lb. to yield 300 lb. of resistance.

* Compact – only needs about 6’ x 6’ of floor footprint.

 

Any issues?

Assembly took a number of hours, according to the owners who did it themselves and provided feedback on it.

(Since it proved difficult in some spots for a few people, paying the Amazon Pro Assembly fee (I’m guessing $150 or so?) might be a good idea for the not-so-mechanically inclined.)

 

Specs & other stuff

Resistance type: weight stack home gym

Weight included: 150 lb. @ 1.5x ratio for 225 lb. total

Size/Space required: 72”W x 58”L x 82”H (6′ x 6′ -ish)

# of possible exercises: like the Inspire FT2, dozens

Warranty: Lifetime

User weight capacity: none provided

Add’l material included: Nice workout poster to help anyone new to using all in one exercise equipment. 50 lb. of add-on weight is available for purchase, as is a leg press.

 

Summing up

The build quality, lifetime warranty, and top-notch company support make the BodyCraft Galena a real good deal (IMHO) at a price around 2 grand. 

 

 

Bowflex PR1000 Review

This is one of Bowflex’s cheapest home gyms.

It uses a pulley system in conjunction with their patented “Power Rod Resistance” setup which provides a little over 200 lb. of resistance for 25+ exercises.

Note that it needs more floor space than even the weight stack home gyms I just reviewed earlier: the Inspire FT2, the Body-Craft Galena Pro, & the Body-Solid EXM2500S, all of which are superior home gyms to this one. (They do cost a lot more too, o’ course…)

Bowflex PR1000  - heydayDo image

What I like

* The PR1000 has a very good owner rating of 88% with a couple thousand owner reviews online.

* Decent resistance & close to 30 possible exercises.

Any issues?

The PR 1000 is not a real compact compact home gym; it requires a decent amount of floor space when in use. The Bowflex manual says you should allow for 10.5’ x 7’ of room. And it doesn’t fold down very small either, only to 80”W x 45”L x 82”H.

Unlike other Bowflex power rod models, you can’t add more resistance to the PR1000; the 210 lb. it comes with is all you get.

 

Specs & other stuff

Resistance type: resistance rods

Weight included: none

Size/Space required: 80″W x 103″L x 82″H

# of exercises performed: 25+

Warranty: 1 year frame, 60 days parts, & 5 years on the resistance rods

User weight capacity: none provided

Add’l material included: comes with a media tray, but no workout booklet or poster like other Bowflex models

 

Summing up

It’s a nice compact home gym for a low price and a Bowflex style that uses their power rod resistance.

Keep in mind the size & space it requires when in use; its footprint is greater than the other compact home gym models I tested for this article.

Its folded size doesn’t reduce the footprint all that much either.

So some budget-minded people might be tempted to buy the Total Gym Apex or the Weider Ultimate Body Works instead, since both of those can slide under most beds or be easily rolled off somewhere.

 

 

Best home gym under $500

Total Gym Apex

 

What I like

* Great owner satisfaction rating of 94% with close to 4,000 owner reviews online.

* Longevity potential: A number of owners over the years have reported that their Total Gyms lasted upwards of 10-15 years with regular use.

* Easy – It’s a breeze to use, comes with over 80 possible exercises, and arrives almost completely assembled.

* Best customer service – Total Gym has well-known excellent customer support and has been known for that quality for 20+ years.

* Excellent customer perks: Total Gym’s owner portal is a great resource for new & veteran customers alike.

 

Any issues?

Not a piece of hardcore weightlifting equipment, the Apex is meant for moderate strength training & muscle toning.

 

Specs & other stuff

Resistance type: bodyweight, 8 levels possible due to changing the angle of the gliding board.

Weight included: None

Size/Space required: 16”W x 93”L x 43”H when in use. Folds down to 8 1/2″ thick and can slide under many beds.

# of possible exercises: 80+cardio, strength training, & stretching exercises.

User weight capacity: 375 lb.

Warranty: 1 year.

Add’l material included: Access to site portal for workouts, diet advice, all sorts of helpful things.

 

Summing up

An excellent choice for beginner workout enthusiasts or older people looking to jumpstart a strength building routine in their lives.

The motivating workout & nutrition material that the company provides when you purchase a compact home gym of theirs is unmatched by any other manufacturer of a gliding board style compact home gym. 

 

If you’d like to consider a Total Gym model with a much better warranty, you can read my comparison of the Total Gym XLS & their Fit models here. Both models are usually cheaper on Total Gym’s website than on Amazon.

 

 

Weider Ultimate Body Works

This is the cheapest home gym in my review and the most compact one too.

I couldn’t find another compact home gym in the same price range that was worth even mentioning in this article.

(Remember I skipped any plastic portable gym for this review, as well as all the knockoff sliding board models marketed on Amazon these days.)

 

The Ultimate Body Works has been a big seller over the years, thanks to its low low price and decent workout possibilities. Unfortunately, that “low low price” has gone, so my enthusiasm for it has waned some.

 

There are wide variety of exercises possible (I remember when they used to ship it it with a poster showing all of the exercises.)

Longevity might be an issue due to the cheap materials used in its construction and the really skimpy 90 day manufacturer warranty.

Also keep in mind that the user weight limit on this home gym is 250 lb.

 

 

What I like

Good owner satisfaction rating of 87% with 2,500+ online owner reviews.

There are over 50 possible exercises with the Ultimate Body Works home gym.

You can boost the resistance with the enclosed resistance bands.

It has a very compact home gym footprint while in use.

 

Any issues?

Very short warranty, it’s only 90 days. That’s too short for me, but I’m particular that way.

Its price has nearly tripled in the past couple of years. It was a bargain of a home gym when it was less than 150 bucks, now I’m not so sure.

It used to ship with an exercise chart, although I’ve heard from several buyers recently who didn’t get one. Amazon has other sellers who’ve created workout posters to fill the void, & here’s a link to the most popular sliding board exercise chart.

 

Specs & other stuff

Resistance type: bodyweight + additional resistance bands

Weight included: none

Size/Space required: 28”W x 59”L x 48”H

# of possible exercises: 50+

Warranty: 90 days

User weight capacity: 250 lb.

Add’l material included: resistance bands & a pulley system

 

Summing up

The Ultimate Body Works is a good all in one gym choice if you absolutely can’t spend a little more in order to own some quality. It also might make sense if you want a piece of full body exercise equipment but don’t have the space required of the better built home gyms mentioned in this review. If you’re a big person, note its 250 lb. user weight limit.

 

 

Buyer’s guide to the best compact home gyms

Woman using her compact home gym's pec deck

In this section, I’ll provide a few factors you may want to consider when deciding on which compact home gym is a good fit for you & your home.

 

Does it provide a full body workout?

Spending the money on a compact home gym instead of on a gym membership demands that the home gym you buy had better provide you the means to get a full body workout.

So one thing to check out when shopping around is the set of exercises you can do on each machine.

You want a machine that targets all your major muscle groups (more on that below) so you can have a comprehensive workout without the need for another machine.

 

Amount & type of resistance you’re looking for

This factor is more or less important depending on the training you want to do — be it to lose weight, build muscle, or both — as well as the level of intensity you intend to bring to your workouts.

And what kind of body transformation goals you’ve set for yourself.

All-in-one home gyms like Total Gym & the similar Weider Body Works rely on your body weight to supply the resistance, while others use weight plates, resistance bands, or something like Bowflex’s power rod resistance system to get the job done.

The higher-end home gyms with the weight stacks have more resistance than the sliding board machines like the Weider or the Total Gym, or the Bowflex PR1000.

You want to take note of how much resistance is offered by each machine, and match that to your personal fitness goals.

Understand that heavier weights mean a heavier (and heavy-duty) machine, and therefore a more expensive machine. It might not be worth shelling out that much more money if you never intend on lifting that much weight.

 

Ease of Use

Because a compact gym has to perform a variety of exercises, it’s a major advantage if you can easily switch between each task. It’s a real pain if it takes 5 minutes each time you want to set up the machine for a different exercise.

(All of the compact home gyms in this review are very easy to switch exercises with.)

 

How much space

Check the machine’s “footprint”, which indicates how much space it occupies on the ground, and compare it against the floor area you have in your room.

It’s important that your workout room is much bigger than your machine’s footprint, so you’ll have room leftover for other exercise activities (stretching, weightlifting, cardio, etc.).

 

 

Guide to muscle groups for workout splits

Young man doing lat pulldown on his compact home gym

 

(If you’re an experienced or advanced lifter, the info I’m passing along in this section you may already know. This guide is for people new to creating their own progressive strength training programs & workout schedules.)

 

Part 1 – Know Your Major Muscle Groups

In the 39 years since I started fitness training & later fitness training others, the world has changed dramatically.

Something that hasn’t: many strength training ideas from back then are still considered important fundamentals worth having under your belt.

One of these is knowing the major muscle groups that we’re working when we’re doing all these different resistance training exercises.

Another fundamental to have is knowing which muscle groups to work out together on certain days for the best muscle building results, so let’s get into this for just a bit.

 

How Many Major Muscle Groups?

Per the Research Center at our Library of Congress, there are between 650 & 840 muscles in our skeletal system, depending on which medical scientist you’re talking to.

Luckily for those of us who’re strength training — whether to get stronger and build muscle, lose weight and get rid of fat, or all of the above — we only need to know 7 broad muscle groups to get crackin’:

*Legs upper (hamstrings & quadriceps) & lower (calf muscles)

*Back upper (AKA traps & lats) & lower (spinal erectors & glutes)

*Chest AKA pecs, pectorals

*Shoulders AKA your delts, deltoids

*Triceps the larger muscle group on the back of your upper arm

*Biceps the smaller muscle group on the front of your upper arm

*Core Abs & obliques are the main ones you’ll be working

 

Beginner’s overview on workout splits

I’ve written a guide here on heydayDo going over all of the most popular workout schedules used by weightlifters of all levels, here ’tis:

What Muscle Groups To Workout Together

And here are a couple of quick ideas from that article, but do check it out for specific routines & scheduling for best results.

 

Total body workout to start

* Most beginners do well starting off with working out their entire body in one day (all seven of those muscle groups listed above) 2-3 times per week with rest days in between.

  • Start slow – 1-2 sets per muscle group for a few weeks;
  • keep rep count high at this stage, á la 12-15 per set;
  • add another set after a month or so;
  • increase weight on 2nd & 3rd set so reps are down in the 8-12 range.

* A total body workout like this gets your muscles acclimated to weightlifting, whether with free weights or with a home gym machine.

 

Then onto workout splits

* As you progress you’ll need more time to work on each muscle group, so it makes sense to split up your body parts into different workout days throughout the week.

* For example, you could do your upper body one day, your lower body the next, take a day or two off — then rinse & repeat.

* Or you could do your lower body & abs twice a week, and split up your upper body muscles across two different days, & so on.

Again, that article I mentioned above goes into all of the most-used strength training schedules in detail.

 

 

dumbbell red - heydayDo icon

 

Wrapping Up

The best compact home gyms for your space are those that offer a variety of exercises, don’t take up too much floor space in your apartment or house, and come with a price that’s affordable to you.

I hope this compact home gym review was useful to you, and I wish you well on your fitness journey.

 

– greg

July 2021

 


About heydayDo

heydayDo author Greg Simon
Hi I’m Greg Simon. Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. Organic food & wine grower. Surfer. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far). Read more…
heydayDo is my “fitness after 50” website that’s about embracing the physically active lifestyle as we get older.
 
I write about the fitness and health research I’ve found concerning the quality of life benefits that exercise and good nutrition provide.
 
When I get curious about something, I’ll dig into whatever sports science & medical facts there are on the topic to learn what’s real & what’s only hype. I also post my experiences product-testing & evaluating home gym equipment & fitness supplements.
 
 It’s an information-sharing, personal opinion blog of mine.
 
So if you’re looking for medical or nutritional advice, please consult with your doctor or health professional for that, since heydayDo does not provide medical advice.