Home Gym Buying Guide
Home Gym Design StylesThere are a number of different types of home gyms. Here is a brief look at some of the most popular styles.
Weight Stack StyleWeight stack based home gyms are a traditional style that take up very little floor space, offer a wide variety of workout types, and generally last a long time. This type of design is commonly used in fitness clubs. Most weight stack style home gyms utilize one central weight stack that each different workout operates off of. These systems tend to be very safe and usually allow for a range of exercises across the chest, shoulders, back, arms, abs, and legs. These machines use a pulley system to hook the weight stack into the exercise bars. Weight stack style home gyms are considered the best value by most experts due to their versatlity, ease of use, and durability.
Free Weight - Plate Loaded StyleFree weight home gyms act as one integrated free weight system, these are also called multi-gyms. Instead of having multiple benches and units, there are several stations incorporated into one large frame system that requires manually loading weight plates at each station. These machines are very robust and offer a nice workout experience. Plate loaded gyms handle large weight capacities and offer added support for free weight exercises. This type of home gym normally has no pulleys or cables. These systems are designed to simulate a free weight workout; therefore, you lift the weight directly but with assistance from a series of plate loaded armatures that ensure proper technique and a safe workout.
Resistance Rod StyleSome gym systems use different tensile strength rods in order to simulate the same resistance found in lifting weights. These systems are very compact, but do have some major drawbacks. Most of these systems lose resistance over time and the range of motion can often be uncomfortable. Several recalls on units in this category are indicative of the inherent problems with this style of home gym.
Construction QualityAny form of weight lifting has a level of risk involved, therefore, it is very important that you can count on your machine to withstand years of use without letting you down. Weight systems can be dangerous, and you never want to have to worry about part of your machine giving out due to a bad design or poor quality components. It is important to routinely inspect your home gym for problems, and contact the manufacturer for service if a problem is found.
When making a home gym purchase, look for some of the following key traits; 12 gauge steel frame or better, 2500lbs+ tensile strength cables, composite pulleys, and a rubberized weight stack to improve noise and impact suppresion. Also, inspect the device for sturdiness, weld quality, and bushing quality. Beyond these traits, keep on the lookout for comfort and safety features such as padded seats and free weight safety catches.
Just remember, a bigger machine is not always a stronger one. Conceptually, home gyms are very simple machines, so units that incorporate simplicity in their design will usually last the longest and perform the best. Poorly engineered and over complicated designs usually are more prone to failure and if not designed correctly, can lead to injury.
Features and Exercise OptionsThe primary feature set on any home gym is the number of workouts the gym offers. A standard gym should allow for about 3-5 workouts in the chest, shoulders, back, arms, abs, and legs. Expect to be able to accomplish anywhere from 30-40 total workouts on a nice home gym. This is normally more than enough for any individual. In order to get more workout options units tend to ramp up in size and price. Expect to pay more for a larger weight stack based unit. Weight stack units offer the most workouts for the least amount of floor-space. Plate loaded free weight home gyms take up a lot of space, offer fewer workouts, but have fewer moving parts.
Beyond number of workouts, be sure to find a machine that offers sufficient padding and seat covers that are easy to clean. It is important that the machine is comfortable, as finding motivation to work out on an uncomfortable home gym is difficult. Some home gyms include additional safety features such as a shrouded weight stacks or safety catches for exercises such as the bench press and squat.