It’s getting increasingly difficult to stay on top of your fitness game in today’s fast-paced world. Trying to fit work, family time, downtime and various chores into a single 24-hour day (less if you take out sleep) leaves little to no room for exercise.
Fortunately for everyone, the range of good quality home exercise equipment means you can bring the gym to you! Home gyms (also known as ‘multi-gyms’) are an effective means of strength training at home. The problem is, however, many home gyms have large footprints, and not everyone has the necessary room for this type of equipment in their homes. Luckily, the market is big and there are plenty of compact options that will suit people with limited space.
In this article we’ll show you our picks for the best compact home gym for those with limited space. Choosing the right type and size machine can be confusing if you’ve never dealt with them but don’t worry, we’re here to help.
First, we’ll go over our picks in detail and take a close look at the features, materials and other relevant information. Later, we’ll dive into the basics of compact home gyms. You’ve gotta know what to look for if you want a solid piece of fitness equipment that’s suitable for small spaces. By the time you’re done with this guide, you should have all the info necessary to pick the right machine for you.
Best Compact Home Gym At a Glance
Best Compact Home Gym Overall
The G1S home gym is a good option if you’re looking for a good quality and familiar multi-gym. It features all the core workout stations you’d expect in a home gym, but will fit in smaller spaces without too much issue.
Best Value Compact Home Gym
If you’re looking for something that provides a little more bang for your buck, then this home gym from Marcy may be right up your alley. It’s a little lower in the quality construction area, but still a great buy.
Best Budget Compact Home Gym
Over 50 different strength training and muscle toning exercises are possible on this innovative little number from Weider. It’s inexpensive, lightweight, and very portable. Perfect for those wanting to truly stretch their investment.
The Best Compact Home Gym
|Body-Solid G1S Selectorized Home Gym||
|Marcy Multifunction Steel Home Gym||
|Weider Ultimate Body Works||
|Bowflex Xceed Home Gym||
|Body-Solid GLGS100 Corner Leverage Gym||
|Body-Solid G1S Selectorized Home Gym|
|Marcy Multifunction Steel Home Gym|
|Weider Ultimate Body Works|
|Bowflex Xceed Home Gym|
|Body-Solid GLGS100 Corner Leverage Gym|
If you want to get a quality compact home gym without doing tons of research, Body-Solid is the brand for you. Their G1S Selectorized model represents the second evolution of their most popular offering (The G1 home gym). With the G1S, they’ve ironed out all the kinks and flaws the users found on the old model.
It’s the same machine at its core, but lighter and better optimized for home use. Its footprint is also smaller, coming in at 49″ x 36″. The list of stations you get on this model is relatively short. Body-Solid focused on a few core exercises you can use to do a full body workout at home (e.g., lat pull-down machine, bench press, and leg extension). Everything revolves around a system of interlinked pulleys. At the other end of this setup is a 160 lbs. weight stack which is plenty enough for most users.
The available stations include a high, mid and low pulleys, a chest press bar and leg extension. One massive benefit the G1S brings to the table is low maintenance. This is a borderline commercial home gym. In other words, it was designed to endure sustained use for prolonged periods of time. Body Solid used all kinds of quality components including self-lubricating bushings, heavy duty cables and more. As a result, you have very little maintenance to worry about.
- A compact and lightweight system that doesn’t take too much space
- Features all of the core workout stations
- Commercial grade build quality
- Lifetime warranty on all parts (for in-home use only)
The Not So Good
- Not the easiest model to assemble
- Not suitable for heavy strength training
Marcy is a well-known name in the world of fitness. Their specialty is equipment that nails the ‘bang for your buck’ segment of the market. Loved by the budget crowd, this brand is a rock-solid choice for beginners and those who don’t want to invest large amounts of money. Their Multifunction Steel Home Gym system perfectly matches their reputation.
This is what counts as reasonably affordable in the world of compact home gyms. Is it the flashiest one on the market? Not by a long shot. Does it have all the bells and whistles? Nope. What it does have is good build quality, all of the relevant core workout stations and a good-quality weight stack. You can’t really ask for more from an inexpensive and compact home gym.
The first thing you’ll notice about this machine is the frame. It has a very small footprint that measures 67.5″ in length and 42″ in width. Going front to back you’ve got the leg extension station, a removable biceps pad, a top mounted lat bar and a dual function arm/chest press. All of that is linked to a 150 lbs. vinyl stack. Another cool little detail is the instruction graph that tells you everything you need to know about this machine. It’s a typical Marcy feature.
- Probably the best bang for your buck option at the moment
- Quality steel construction
- Comes with the essential workout stations and a bit extra
The Not So Good
- It’s a relatively crude machine compared to flagship models
- 150 lbs is relatively little weight
When thinking of a home gym with a small footprint, most people’s minds will generally go to the kinds of home gyms represented above. But what if we could go even smaller? What if you could have a home gym that fits in your closet? Weider Ultimate Body Works offers exactly that. This thing redefines the meaning of compact with its 71″ x 25″ footprint when fully assembled and extended.
You’re probably looking at this thing and wondering where the weights are at this point. There are none. Weider’s Ultimate Body Works uses your own weight in combination with a cable and pulley system to create resistance. The lack of weights isn’t only affecting the overall size of this package, but also its price. Those operating on a limited budget will love Weider’s best selling home gym – you should be able to pick one up for at or below $180.
Here’s how it works. The whole thing consists of a sub-frame and a seat. The seat is mounted on rails and slides along the frame. Those pulleys and cables allow you to move your body’s weight and use that as a source of resistance during various exercises. You can do about 50 different workouts on this thing. These range from isolation exercises like biceps curls to whole body routines. If you ever feel like things are getting easy, there is a set of resistance bands you can incorporate that up the resistance.
- Extremely affordable for what it offers
- Great build quality
- Ridiculously small footprint
- Huge range of exercises for a full-body workout
The Not So Good
- It takes some getting used to
Despite fitness being a very old industry, not much has changed since men first started pumping iron. With that said, there are a few bright ideas that have disrupted the industry. Bowflex’s power rod system is one of them. Using flexible rods instead of weight stacks creates ‘inertia-less’ resistance. This means that the amount of resistance remains even all the way through the full range of exercise motions.
This differs from weight stacks whereby the resistance is greatest at the beginning of start of your range of motion, and easiest at the end once you’ve overcome the force of gravity and got the weights moving (thus creating inertia).
The Bowflex Xceed Home Gym is one of the latest models from this innovative brand. It was designed to meet the needs of home gym buyers who want a new take on a traditional device. Because of that, Xceed features a familiar looking frame. The overall footprint for this model measures 53″ in length by 49″ in width. That’s much smaller than most standard weight stack machines.
The thing that makes Bowflex Xceed a solid choice is the number of exercises it can facilitate. If you take a closer look, you’ll see that it packs a few standard workout stations as well as a free-floating pulley system. In other words, you can do your leg extensions and spend hours on the lat bar. However, you can also do any of the 65 available exercises that utilize the pulley system. Here’s the kicker – the stock 210 lbs Power Rod package can be upgraded to 310 lbs or 410 lbs package.
- Highly versatile and efficient system
- Lighter, smaller and safer than standard weight stack machines
- Low maintenance
- A lot of resistance for a home gym, and can be upgraded to 410 lbs.
The Not So Good
- Can be complicated to use
- Power rods may eventually need ‘rejuvenating’ with a seperate device or replacing altogether
Last but not least we have a truly interesting model to show you. Body Solid’s GLGS100 Corner Leverage Gym was designed for a niche group of users. It’s a simple system that relies on a set of pulleys and mechanical joints. Here’s where things get interesting – there are no factory weights included. Instead, Body Solid added a number of mounting points compatible with Olympic plates. Essentially, the idea is that you already have an Olympic barbell and plates in your possession.
At that point, all you had to do was mount as many plates as you need on the GLGS100 and get your pump on. The fact that it comes with no weights is both a pro and a con. It requires an additional investment for sure. It also means that Body Solid could use the extra resources to bolster up the quality of this home gym. The frame inspires confidence with its massive tubing and heavy duty joints. Where ever you look, you’ll see the quality. That much is obvious. As it turns out, GSGS100 is a modular system. It doesn’t arrive with a bench, but you can get a good weight bench after the fact. In terms of workouts you can do, this device offers a lat station, bench press, and a low pulley station.
- Commercial grade build quality
- Highly compact design
- Perfect for people who already have or are planning to get Olympic weight plates
The Not So Good
- No weights included increases the total cost
Should I Get a Compact Home Gym If I have Limited Space?
Thanks to the home fitness craze of the late ’80s and early ’90s, people became wary of home gyms and all-in-one machines. As a result, there’s a whole niche full of users who can benefit from compact home gyms without even knowing it.
Compact home gyms were designed to meet the needs of a specific type of user. We’re talking about a person who doesn’t have too much space to spare but still wants to be fit. Going to the gym is usually not an option for that person. They might live too far away from one, or they just can’t find the time to go. Whatever the case may be, home gyms are a decent solution.
You can put them in a corner somewhere and do a whole body workout without ever leaving your home. The only limitations these machines have are fixed weight stacks. There will come a time when those 150 lbs. of weights won’t be enough. Then again, by the time you get there, you’ll be a whole different person fitness wise.
The best way to know if a home gym is something you can benefit from is to do a simple cost-benefit analysis. Write everything down on paper and see where you stand. Is the gym membership combined with fuel costs and travel time worth it? Or are you better off with a higher initial investment that is a home gym? All of this is even more important if you’re just starting out your fitness journey. In that case, whatever choice you make is going to a good one as long as you’re working out.
So to answer the question from the title – yes, a good compact home gym is the perfect choice if you have limited space at home.
Choosing the Right Compact Home Gym
Figuring out which model works best for your needs is easy, but also a necessary task. Not every compact home gym is created equal. Just one look at our list should tell you that much alone. In this segment, we’ll talk about a few things you should look for in a compact home gym.
Choosing a Resistance System
Compact home gyms feature different resistance systems. The most basic one includes weight stacks which are linked to the controls via a set of pulleys and cables. Then there are models such as the Bowflex range of home gyms that use flexible rods (known as Power Rods) to create resistance. Lastly, you have the whole category of models that utilize your own body’s weight as the source of resistance. Here are the pros and cons of each system:
Weight Stacks: These are often the most affordable choice and are simple to assemble. They appear on everything from the premium model home gyms right down to budget home gyms. While they are relatively straight forward in terms of operation, they are also among the largest systems on the market and they tend not to be upgradeable except on top-of-the-line models.
Bowflex Power Rods: Bowflex offers a smaller footprint than the weight stack machines and more versatility. Power rods create inertia-less resistance, meaning your muscles work against the same level of resistance through the entire range of motion. This is different to all other types of resistance in which your muscles work hardest at the beginning of the movement, and less hard at the end of the movement due to the inertia of the weight. Bowflex’s patented resistance system can be upgraded on a lot of models, however the rods need to be ‘rejuvenated’ after a period of time and are anything but affordable.
Bodyweight Machines: These are the most compact and affordable options. Due to their design, they often allow for huge ranges of exercises, meaning you can target every major muscle group with both compound and isolation exercises. The downside is that they’re necessarily limited by your bodyweight and thus progressive overload is harder to achieve and you generally can’t ‘lift’ particularly heavy.
Plate-Loaded Machines: These aren’t common in the multi-gym market – the GLGS100 is one of the few good quality ones you can get. That said, weight plates offer a good alternative form of resistance to weight stacks and power rods, and generally allow you to go heavier than either of those two. Just make sure to check what type of weight plates the machine accepts: Olympic or standard. Most machines take the 2″ Olympic plates, but failure to check could be a costly mistake. On that note, plate loaded machines rarely come with the plates included, and so this is an additional (and often significant) expense.
Height of the Machine
Most users get hung up on two out of three dimensions when looking at these devices. As it turns out, height is also an important factor. Taller frames aren’t attractive from the space-saving point of view, but they are essential if you want the absolute best results. The whole argument comes down to accessing the full range of motion.
If a home gym has a shorter frame, you’ll get a limited range of motion with certain exercises. That might limit your progress depending on how tall you are. In all honesty, this is an issue that mostly plagues weight stack machines since their guide rods are the limiting factor.
Frequently Asked Questions About Compact Home Gyms
Getting into compact home gyms can be overwhelming at times. There is a lot of information out there and it’s easy to get confused. In order to help you out, we’ve put together the list of most frequently asked questions along with the answers. Let’s get cracking.
Are compact gyms still effective For building muscle?
The short answer is a solid Yes. Compact home gyms are perfectly effective at building muscle, especially if you are a beginner. They are often times the safest way to build muscle as well. Most of the workout stations on an average home gym are guided. In other words, your chances of injuring yourself while using them is very low.
That being said, compact home gyms will almost never have a leg press station, or the option to attach one (for obvious reasons). Unfortunatley, this means you’re deprived of one of the best muscle building exercises you can do for your legs. If you want a home gym with a leg press station, you’re going to need a good deal of space in which to fit it.
Is the footprint all I need to worry about when choosing a compact home gym?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is a strong ‘no’. It’s tempting to get caught up in frame dimensions when looking over different models. What most don’t realize is that every home gym (not just compact models) has a much larger ‘functional’ footprint than what’s advertised. We are talking about the area you need in order to properly use the machine.
Here’s a simple example. Let’s say your machine has a side mounted mid pulley system. If you want to use that feature, you’ll have to stand at least a couple of feet away from the home gym. Additionally, your arms might have to go even further back depending on what exercises you’re performing. Bottom line is that you have to add a few more feet to the estimated square footage of a compact home gym.
Is there a difference in the exercises I can do with a compact home gym vs a larger model?
There is. Compact home gyms are great, but they have their limitations. Put yourself in the shoes of people who design these things. You’re trying to make a home gym system that is effective, relatively affordable and most importantly, compact. Chances are that you won’t add every single bell and whistle that you can, otherwise, you’ll end up with a massive piece of equipment.
Most if not all compact home gyms are limited to a few mechanical workout stations. On top of those, you’ll see a few pulley systems that might offer additional functionality. Full bore home gyms are much more complex.
Well, there you have it: The Best Compact Home Gyms for Limited Space. We did our best to find models that offer the optimal balance of price, performance and overall functionality. The important thing is that each and every one will give you decent results.
All you have to do is put in the effort and you will see improvements. Later on, if you decide that your home gym is just not cutting it anymore, you won’t have much trouble transitioning onto new platforms.
If you found this article useful, why not share with your friends and family on social media? If you have any questions or comments, please share them below as we’d love to hear from you.
As always, best of luck with your home workouts. Remember: When it comes to our health and fitness, we can either make the effort or we can make excuses, but we can’t make both.
THFF (The Home Fit Freak)