fbpx

The Unwinder is reader-supported, meaning we may earn an affiliate commission if you buy through a link from our site.

BodyReviews

Best Compact Home Gym: Home Gym Essentials And Best Home Gym Package

Best Compact Home Gym At A Glance

Best Overall Compact Gym

Marcy Home Gym

The Marcy Home Gym is an all-in-one home gym machine that combines a variety of cable machine functions with several barbell stations to effectively act as a “gym in a box.”

Most Affordable Home Gym

Weider Home Gym

A simple low-end option, the Weider Home Gym combines the functionality of an adjustable bench, squat rack, and preacher curl station.

Best Cable Home Gym

Bowflex Home Gym

This is the best low-cost option for people who want an all-in-one machine without the hassle of buying several different things to put together their own home gym.

Best Multi-Station Home Gym

Body-Solid Home Gym

All in all, this is the best option for people who have a high budget and want an easy-to-use all-in-one home gym, and don’t care about free weight exercises.  

Best Power Cage

Fitness Reality 810XLT Super Max Power Cage

Simply put, this is a powerlifting cage.  It includes racks for squats, bench presses, military presses, and rack deadlifts, a lat pull-down cable, and space to insert a bench.

Why go to the gym when you can have one right there in your home?

Home gyms are a great alternative to attending a commercial gym, especially now that gyms represent a significant COVID risk and require you to wear a mask.  

They offer the convenience of being right there in your home– no commute required.  On the downside, you need to be able to get “in the zone” while being at home– that’s easy for some people, hard for others.  And of course, they take up space, though how much varies considerably.

For people who have the space and motivation though, a home gym is a great alternative to going to a commercial gym every day.  Here’s how to put one together for yourself, and what you’ll need to buy.

What Is A Compact Home Gym?

A compact home gym is, simply put, a multifunctional piece of equipment that aims to combine the functions of as many different exercise machines as possible, in the smallest space possible. 

This can be accomplished in one of two ways.  First, a compact home gym can act as an exercise machine– effectively, a small universal cable machine.

Second, a compact home gym can act more like an exercise rack or bench– something you sit on, but use in combination with barbells or dumbbells.  

Many compact home gyms also combine these two functions, providing cable machines for some exercises and acting as a bench or rack for others, such as the bench press or squat.

How big should a home gym be?  The size of compact home gyms varies a lot.  The smallest is about the size of a bench, and some get a bit bigger when in use but can be folded up or pushed together to save space when not in use.  On the high end, they can be like a gym universal cable machine, not compact at all.

Pricing: How Much For A Home Gym?

The cost of a home gym can vary widely depending on how capable you want it to be, and the quality of the equipment.  That said, prices can be a bit deceptive.

Remember the two types of home gyms in the last section?  The first, cable-based home gyms, give you everything you need.  These typically cost anywhere from one to five thousand dollars.  

The second type, which acts as a rack for barbell and dumbbell (and sometimes bodyweight) exercises, tends to be cheaper, anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand dollars, depending on size and quality.  However, using one of these requires also buying a barbell and plates and/or a set of dumbbells.  You’ll often want a few resistance bands as well.  All of this stuff costs at least a few hundred dollars, and possibly over five hundred if you want to have a full set of weights that go up to a pretty large size.

So how much does it cost to build a home gym?  You should plan on spending at least a thousand dollars on a small compact home gym.  You may even spend as much as five thousand, but at that level, you’re looking at a very large home gym that has a full set of heavy dumbbells and barbell plates, combines all of the functions of a universal cable machine, squat rack, bench, and more– it’s fairly redundant, and most people can meet their needs by spending one or two thousand dollars.  

How To Build A Home Gym

First off, figure out where your home gym will go and how much space you can spare for it.  You need to know what the upper size limit is on your gym– and remember you’ll need space around the home gym to access all of its functions.

Second, look at your flooring– is it carpet, tile, concrete?  Do you have downstairs neighbors who could hear heavy objects being dropped?  You may need to put a mat under your home gym to both protect your floor and limit noise.

Third, figure out your budget.  Bear in mind that this is an investment– you could use your home gym for years, so you should amortize the price over that time and consider the money you’ll save by not going to a commercial gym.  

Fourth, decide which exercises you want to be able to do.  Do you want to be able to perform barbell squats?  Do you want to do free weight bench presses, or are cable chest presses more up your alley?  

Fifth, pick out a compact home gym– we’ll cover those at the end of this article.

Sixth, buy anything else you’ll need to go with the home gym– barbells, plates, dumbbells, and probably a few resistance bands.

Finally, set everything up and you’re good to go!  

Home Gym Essentials

The centerpiece of your home gym is going to be some kind of universal (or at least highly flexible) exercise machine– again, we’ll cover specific recommendations for those at the end of the article.  

You’ll probably need a mat to put your home gym on.  That means something like this exercise mat, but the exact size you’ll want will depend on the home gym you got.  Remember that in addition to the compact home gym, your floor mat will need to have space for you to set all of your free weights on it.

You may also want a second floor mat to do floor exercises on.  

Unless you decide to go with an entirely cable-based setup, you’ll need a barbell and plates, and a set of dumbbells.  This can get very expensive, especially if you want a full set of dumbbells that go from 2.5 pounds all the way up to 80-120 pounds.  Fortunately, there is a more efficient solution here.

First, I highly recommend using adjustable weight dumbbells rather than a set of non-adjustable dumbbells.  They simply save you a lot of money.  That said, adjustable weight dumbbells rarely get heavier than 65 pounds, so you may need traditional dumbbells if you want to go heavier.  

Second, there are adjustable weight dumbbells that come with a connecting bar to transform them into a barbell.  These typically go up to 110 pounds total, so they still may not be heavy enough for many people.  That said, the plates are usually compatible with regular barbells, as with this adjustable dumbbell/barbell set, which has room to add more plates beyond the ones it comes with.

On the other hand, you may just want a regular barbell and plates, especially if you want to squat or deadlift, which usually requires hundreds of pounds of weight.

Clutch Accessories For Your Home Gym

While you can get by with just weights, you may also want resistance bands to modify your exercises and/or expand the variety of movements available to you.

A set of fit loop bands can be used for a variety of standalone exercises as well as providing assistance for exercises like pull-ups or accommodating resistance (effectively adding weight which gets heavier as the bar goes up) to squats and bench presses.  

Note that for that last use, accommodating resistance, you’ll need a matched pair of long bands.  I recommend this set, which you’ll need two of if you plan on using the bands to modify bench presses, squats, or other barbell exercises.  

You may also want a set of tube resistance bands with handles, which are used standalone.  These may be unnecessary when you have all the other equipment, but they’re a useful substitute for your home gym when traveling.

If you have sensitive or sweaty hands you may want a pair of lifting gloves. Finally, you may want a yoga mat for stretching if you don’t have room for that on your floor mat already.

Best Compact Home Gym Reviews

Marcy Home Gym

Best Compact Home Gym

Marcy Home Gym

The Marcy Home Gym is an all-in-one home gym machine that combines a variety of cable machine functions with several barbell stations to effectively act as a “gym in a box.”

The cable stations allow for exercises such as rows, pull-downs, curls, tricep extensions, and leg kickbacks.  They’re loaded with barbell plates, rather than a separate weight stack.

The barbell stations allow for squats, bench presses, landmines, and preacher curls, and incorporate a smith machine for more controlled bench presses, squats, and military presses.

The machine also includes butterfly chest press pads and a set of pull-up and chin-up bars.  Overall, it has everything you need for a full-body workout, although the barbell and plates do need to be purchased separately.


Weider Home Gym

Most Affordable Home Gym

Weider Home Gym

A simple low-end option, the Weider Home Gym combines the functionality of an adjustable bench, squat rack, and preacher curl station.  That allows for front and back squats, regular, incline, and decline bench presses, preacher curls, seated military presses, sit-ups, and rack deadlifts.  

You’ll need to buy a barbell and plates separately.  Overall, this is a great option if you’re limited on space and only want to spend a thousand dollars or so.


Bowflex Home Gym

Best Cable Home Gym

Bowflex Home Gym

Another compact design, the Bowflex Home Gym takes the all-cable approach, so you don’t need to buy anything else (other than maybe a floor mat) to use it.  

The various cables, seats, and bars allow performing squats, pull-downs, heavy and aerobic rowing, bicep curls, triceps extensions, cable curls and extensions, lat prayers and crossovers, and more.  In fact, the instruction manual details over 65 exercises that can be performed, as well as 7 different sets of full-body workouts.

This is the best low-cost option for people who want an all-in-one machine without the hassle of buying several different things to put together their own home gym.


Body-Solid Home Gym

Best Multi-Station Home Gym

Body-Solid Home Gym

The ultimate in all-in-one deluxe home gyms, the Body-Solid Home Gym combines a complete set of cable and lever-operated machines.  It has stations for chest, back, arms, legs, calves, abs, shoulders, lats, traps– the whole body, in other words.

All machines are loaded with a pair of 210-pound weight stacks– no barbells or plates involved, so it’s very easy to navigate and use, and won’t create a lot of clutter, once it’s set up.

All in all, this is the best option for people who have a high budget and want an easy-to-use all-in-one home gym, and don’t care about free weight exercises.  


Fitness Reality 810XLT Super Max Power Cage

Best Power Cage

Fitness Reality 810XLT Super Max Power Cage

Simply put, this is a powerlifting cage.  It includes racks for squats, bench presses, military presses, and rack deadlifts, a lat pull-down cable, and space to insert a bench for bench pressing (not included).  

Note that unlike the Weider home gym, it has safety pins for squatting heavy, safely, without spotters. 

You’ll need a barbell, plates, and bench to fully utilize this, putting the total cost somewhere in the $1500 range.  Overall, this is an ideal option for powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters, or anyone who favors barbell exercises.


Editor’s note: we are regularly updating this review. If you see any problems, weird interpretations of the data, or just want to say hi, please reach out to hello@the-unwinder.com.

Photo by Jelmer Assink on Unsplash

About the author

John Fawkes is the Managing Editor of The Unwinder. John is an NSCA-certified personal trainer and Precision Nutrition-certified nutritional counselor who has been featured on over two dozen websites and podcasts. He works with clients in Los Angeles and online, and can be reached on Instagram and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *