Hardly anyone has time to make it to the gym anymore. Maybe you’ve moved far away from your gym, and what was a 10-minute drive now takes half an hour. Maybe life changes, whether it’s a stressful new job or a baby on the way, seem to leave you with absolutely no time for the gym. Maybe you haven’t worked out for a while and are deciding whether you want to take up a gym membership or just set up a small exercise area in your home to improve your fitness.
At the end of the day, having a gym at home work well for some people who just can’t seem to make a commercial gym membership worthwhile. If you decide you’d like your own exercise equipment, we’ll take you through the best compact home gyms available.
Top 5 Best Compact Home Gyms
Bowflex Blaze Home Gym
People who are looking for a comprehensive home gym will find the Bowflex Blaze ideal. It is the only exercise equipment you will need for a complete workout.
What We Love
What’s Not So Great
Body-Solid StrengthTech EXM2500S Home Gym
This model is ideal for people who are really particular about having quality equipment. This brand is known for its top-notch quality and gym-like feel.
What We Love
What’s Not So Great
Gold’s Gym XR 55 Home Exercise
It’s ideal for people on a budget who want a home gym that is basic yet functional.
What We Love
What’s Not So Great
Thane Total Flex Home Gym
This system is ideal for people who have major space constraints and need a home gym that occupies very little space. It’s also suited to beginners who are looking for a quick workout or to people who want to supplement their gym time with occasional workouts at home.
What We Love
What’s Not So Great
Powerline Body- Solid Home Gym
The Powerline is ideal for people who are looking for an advanced home gym that’s good for building muscles. It offers advanced workouts while still fitting into a small space.
What We Love
What’s Not So Great
Home Gym vs Gym Subscription
A home gym is a decent sized investment, so it’s always good to make sure that it will help you achieve your personal fitness goals more effectively than getting that gym subscription.
Flexibility of Use
This is probably one of the top reasons people choose to set up a gym at home. Even a fifteen-minute commute to the gym in the midst of a very hectic workday may mean that regular exercise ends up getting neglected. This flexibility is more important to some people than others.
Most people thrive on the routine that a gym provides, but for others flexibility is the key to their fitness regime. For instance, if your gym is on the way to work, and you have a relatively regular work schedule, a gym subscription probably works for you. But if you have a home office in a remote location or three kids you need to take care of or work hours that are erratic, then a home gym will probably suit you better.
Freedom to Customize Your Workout
A home gym allows you to play your kind of music at any volume you want. The equipment you need to use is always available whenever you want it, which means no waiting for hours for a popular machine. The fact that your kids can watch you train could even inculcate healthy workout habits in them from a young age.
Your Fitness Goals
A home gym can sometimes be limiting, so deciding whether it is for you will depend a lot on why you want to get fit. People have fitness goals ranging from losing weight to getting toned and building some muscle.
If you want to get in shape for a sport, say running or rowing or tennis, you may require a variety of equipment for cross training. In this case, a regular gym makes more sense, since few people have the money or space for all those machines. However, if your fitness goal is to tone your body and build muscle strength in a general sense, then a home gym is fine.
A home gym means you will be all by yourself while working out every day. This is especially good for those who haven’t been working out for a while and may feel conscious about their body at a regular gym. It also works well for people who prefer to work out in isolation and don’t need to socialize while working out. Best of all, you will be the only person who uses the equipment, so this is great for those people who hate the thought of other people’s sweat on the equipment they use at a commercial gym.
However, some people find that a small price to pay for exercising with friends and having professional trainers available at the ready. For people who prefer bright lights, open spaces and company, a membership subscription may be a better option.
While the initial investment in a home gym will be much larger than the cost of a monthly gym membership, it works out much cheaper in the long run. If you’re sure that it is right for you, you can make it more cost effective by using it regularly.
Most experts have found that people who set up home gyms are more likely to stick to their fitness regime over a long period of time. Of course, you can always choose to mix it up as well by setting up a home gym for daily use also subscribing to a membership for more variety from time to time.
So You’ve Decided a Home Gym is for You…
If you decide that a home gym is indeed the right choice for you, then the next question you need to ask yourself is whether you’d be better off purchasing a compact home gym or buying individual machines and customizing your workout accordingly. Here’s what you need to consider when you make this choice.
If you find yourself attracted to the idea of a home gym but barely have half a garage in which to set it up, a compact home gym may be the answer. Most have features that can make storage very easy; a number of them are even foldable.
Setting up a home gym with a bunch of individual pieces of equipment will definitely take up more space. Of course, based on your needs and if you’re smart about the equipment you buy, you can also go with this method and fit your equipment in a small space.
A good compact home gym will not be cheap, especially as you don’t want to compromise on quality. On the other hand, you can buy the right individual equipment for as little as $100 and set up your home gym.
Of course, if you feel like going all out, a good option is to buy the best compact home gym equipment to meet your primary requirements and then supplement it with some individual machines that will help you work out those body parts that the compact unit doesn’t cover effectively.
How to Decide Which Compact Home Gym to Buy
Since this is a relatively high investment and impacts something as important as your health, it’s best to make your research as thorough as possible. Here are some of the factors you need to keep in mind while deciding which equipment to buy.
Number of Exercises
This is important since you’d probably like to have as much variety in your daily home workout as possible. A number of home gyms can also be converted so that you can do other exercises. Some machines offer the possibility of 50 or more individual options, but those are at the high end of the cost spectrum.
When it comes to improving your strength, there are two types of resistance: bands and free weights. Bands help supplement workouts that are cardio intensive and work on overall strengthening. Free weights are better if you want to build muscle.
The more resistance there is on the machine, the harder your muscles have to work to overcome it. The resistance level of your home gym will depend on whether you just want a toned body or you really want to bulk up your muscles.
Maximum Weight the Machine Can Take
This includes both your weight and the weights you will use. If you want to do an intense workout using heavy weights or want to eventually progress to this, then getting a machine with a higher weight capacity makes sense.
If space is a factor, then the dimensions of the machine are critical. A number of gyms are foldable, too. In most cases, the more compact the home gym, the better it will fit in your space.
Getting a machine with a decent warranty period is very important. You need to make sure that if the product is defective in any way, you have the option of returning it and getting a replacement.
How to Decide What Individual Equipment to Buy For a Home Gym
You can get some individual exercise equipment in addition to a compact home gym to supplement your workout. Another option, if budget is a constraint, is to purchase individual pieces of equipment for specific types of exercise.
For less than $100, you can buy some equipment that can allow you to get a decent workout. Small individual items are also great if space is a big constraint for you, and you find it hard to accommodate even the smallest home gym. As long as you pick your equipment wisely, you can design a work out around products that fit on one shelf in your wardrobe.
Top Ten Workout Equipment for Your Home Gym
Dumbbells are the best work out equipment when it comes to versatility. They can increase the intensity of your cardio routine and are obviously great for muscle building.
Adjustable dumbbells have two advantages over traditional dumbbells when it comes to a home gym. The first is that you can increase or reduce the weights as required depending on the exercise and how much progress you’ve made. The other is that having adjustable dumbbells means you only need to buy the one pair, saving you time and storage space.
This gets installed on the top of your doorframe, so space is not an issue unless you have very low ceilings and doors. It’s great for your shoulders, back, and abs. Having the pull-up bar on your doorframe makes sure you get some exercise even when you’re on the run and don’t have too much time.
A fitness ball forces your body to keep stabilizing itself, which makes every exercise harder if it’s added to the mix. It forces a lot of muscles to work together to keep your balance. This makes it a great strength building tool, especially for your core and lower back.
While fitness balls are bulky and will, therefore, tend to occupy space, they can be deflated when not being used. Plus, they don’t cost too much, often starting at just $10.
These add intensity to your cardio workout and are great for aerobic training. They are mostly used for mobility training but can even be used for strength training with the right resistance. They work the muscles not just while pulling them but also as they revert back to the starting position.
The best part about resistance bands is that they can be stuffed anywhere and so take up no space at all. They are also very cheap, starting at a few dollars apiece.
Another dirt-cheap piece of workout equipment that’s ideal for High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the humble jump rope. A great substitute for expensive cardio machines like treadmills, the jump rope is perfect for building stability and endurance, too. Short bursts of exercise with the jump rope also end up burning a lot of calories.
One versatile piece of equipment that is a must-have in a home gym, kettlebells are great for strength training and muscle building. Since their weight is distributed unevenly (the ball is heavier than the handle), their center of gravity keeps shifting, which makes the workout more challenging. They are also fairly small and won’t occupy too much space.
The only issue is that, compared to dumbbells, kettlebells don’t come in adjustable form so you’ll need to purchase separate ones for different weights. However, they are relatively inexpensive and make a great addition to your home gym.
An Ab Wheel
As the name suggests, this is a piece of equipment that is great for a workout focused on your abs. It adds a great variation to a regular sit up routine, reaching every part of your abs, strengthening your core, and working on your arms, chest, and shoulders as well. Best of all, it’s relatively compact and can be pushed to a corner of your wardrobe or under your bed.
A yoga mat is a must-have for all body weight exercises. It provides added cushioning and prevents you from sliding too much on the carpet. Whether it's your burpees, push-ups, sit-ups or any other body weight exercises, using a yoga mat will help you avoid injuries. You can find a good yoga mat for a relatively low price, and when you’re not using it, it can easily be rolled up and put in a corner.
Push-up bars help add intensity to your push-ups. With the bars, you can go down deeper, past the plane of the “floor,” which requires more effort to come back up. This tones your upper body and also helps in strength training and muscle building. You can also use push-up bars for exercises like L-sits and supported handstands, which are both great for your core.
A barbell is a steel bar that is usually between 5 to 7 feet long and about 1 inch in diameter. The surface has crosshatch pattern so that lifters can maintain their grip well. Weight plates are added on either side until the user gets the desired weight.
This is a great tool if you want to do heavy weight training. It is easy to learn the basic lifts on a barbell and it’s great for exercises like front squats, deadlifts, sumo-stance deadlifts, and bent-over rows. However, it is for those looking to lift some serious weight, so it needs to be used with caution, especially if you’re a beginner.
If you are looking for flexibility in your workout routine and are the type of person who prefers working out alone in their comfort zone, then a home gym can be an ideal solution. You can either go all out and get a compact home gym or start with some individual equipment and take it from there.
You don’t even need to quit your gym membership just yet; a home gym can be a useful complement to your regular gym routine. Either way, a compact home gym that doesn’t take up too much space in your house can actually be the first step to a dramatic transformation in your lifestyle and fitness level.