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How to Choose Your Best Home Gym Equipment

How to Set Up a Home Gym

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Updated April 04, 2007

Body Solid G41 Multi Gym

Body Solid G41 Multi Gym

Image courtesy of Body Solid
Updated April 04, 2007

Exercising at home as many advantages, as discussed in our article Where to Weight Train: Home or Gym. If you do decide home is the best place for you, the next step is to decide what equipment you need. Before you head out to the nearest shop, here are a few things to consider first. All prices mentioned are in US dollars.

A 'home gym' can be a place where you exercise and lift weights, and a home gym is also a compact unit of equipment designed to allow you to perform many exercises at the one station. These are also called 'multi-gyms' -- workstations designed to fit into a spare room, basement or garage so that you can do weight training at home. I’ll mostly use the term multi-gyms or ‘multis’ in this article.

The most-popular, mid-range multi-gyms usually include the following:

-- adjustable bench for sitting or reclining
-- stacked metal weights with pin selection for load
-- pulldown bars mainly for the lat pulldown back exercise
-- press bars for pushing and pulling, for shoulders, arms and back
-- leg extension system for quadricep muscles of the thigh
-- leg curl system for exercising the hamstrings at back of the thigh
-- seated cable row system for back and arms exercise.

Types of Home Gym Setups

You have many options in setting up a home gym, but the choices for weight training mostly fall into the categories below. Aerobic exercise equipment such as treadmills, rowers and stationary bikes are always options; but for now I’ll concentrate on strength training equipment.

  1. Combinations of portable equipment. Dumbbells, bench, balls, steps, bands, mats, ab workers etc. Nothing too complex here, just basic but extensible equipment. The Reebok Weight Bench with included dumbbell set is a popular starter.
  2. ‘Free weight’ stations. Adjustable benches, power racks for holding barbells, dumbbells, barbells and plates (round weights). Mostly movable equipment for more heavy duty use.
  3. Multi-gyms based on steel or composite bands and cords. The flexing band creates the resistance. Bowflex brand is best known, Weider Advantage is an example.
  4. Total Gym concept. This idea uses an adjustable height, inclined bench and sliding seat platform that uses your own body weight to increase resistance. Example: Total Gym 1500.
  5. Multi-gyms based on stacked weights. This most popular configuration uses a cable and pulley mechanism with stacked weights. You move the peg to select the weight. Example: Body Solid EXM series.
  6. Multi-gyms with provision for free weight plates. The round weights are manually fitted to the barbell extensions. Example: Powertec Workbench. (Note: weights are extra.)
  7. Smith machine multi combinations. The standard Smith machine uses a mechanism that constrains the bar in one vertical plane, unlike free-weight benches and racks. These home gym multis add additional attachments to achieve a versatile workstation. Example: Mega Smith System.

What Do I Want to Achieve?

To help you decide which way to go with gym equipment, you should consider what your goals and commitment are. If you're starting out with weight training, unless you're really sure of your requirements and commitment, I would recommend you try option '1' in the gym type list because there's a lot of unused, expensive equipment languishing in spare rooms because people got bored with it and went down to the gym instead. Now I didn't say 'because people gave up' -- that's not going to be you, right?

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