Home gym equipment used to be consigned to the dark, unused corners of basements. Spaces that required uncommon motivation simply to get there to actually attempt a workout. But in 2021, accelerated by the pandemic, home gym equipment is anything but dingy and boring.
These days, it falls into two categories: traditional and connected/smart fitness machines. Traditional includes the good old-fashioned, suns-out-guns-out, iron-pumping machines like dumbbells, squat racks and cable machines. These will never go out of style. They usually have a large footprint, look like a torture device, and require multiple bars, weights and attachments.
However, since the launch of Peloton in 2012, a new interactive form of home fitness has exploded onto the scene. Connected (or "smart") machines take a mix of new and traditional fitness equipment, hook it up to the internet, and link you to a world of fun, interactive live and on-demand workout classes through an HD screen. Brands like Tonal and Tempo are going beyond streaming fitness, adding in artificial intelligence that adjusts the resistance automatically to your optimal zone. These devices are sleek and elegant, almost like a piece of art for your living room.
Is a quality home gym pricey? Yes and no. Be prepared to spend between $1,000 and $3,000. To ease the initial blow to your wallet, most equipment can be financed monthly for around the price of a gym membership. So, if you crunch the numbers long term, you could end up saving money with the home gym route. It’s worth noting that with connected fitness equipment, you’ll have to pay an additional monthly fee for access to live and on-demand classes. These fees typically range from $39 per month to $69 per month.
Purchasing a home gym – even the massive machines – is as simple and easy as ordering any other item from Amazon. Just click and buy. Most companies will charge for shipping and offer a setup service for a couple hundred dollars, which I highly recommend — you want muscle aches, not headaches.
If buying the perfect home gym still seems like a daunting task, we can help. First, decide if you want to go the traditional heavy metal route or the more interactive path of classes with connected fitness. Then check out our picks for the best home fitness equipment you can buy.
Best Overall Home Gym Machine
The best home gym machines are compact, easy to use and have the ability to hit every muscle group through a variety of exercises. No other piece of traditional home gym equipment checks all those boxes better than the Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE. With over 70 exercises to choose from, this bestseller uses Bowflex’s proprietary Power Rod system to produce up to 210 pounds of resistance, with optional upgrades of 310 pounds and 410 pounds.
How do the Power Rods compare to real weights? Most agree they’re better and safer. The Rods deliver smooth resistance that increases during the lifting motion. This type of action is easier on joints than traditional free weights. Assembly can be arduous, so consider investing in the in-home assembly add-on ($299).
Best Upgrade Home Gym Machine
What do you get when you take your full-service fitness gym, including instructor-led classes, and pack it into a compact freestanding mirror? The NordicTrack Vault: Complete. Tucked inside this attractive, rotating reflective surface is everything you need for a full-body strength and cardio workout. The Vault: Complete comes standard with six sets of dumbbells (ranging from 5 pounds to 30 pounds), a 20-pound and 30-pound kettlebell, resistance bands, two yoga blocks and an exercise mat.
You’ll have access to NordicTrack’s iFit library of on demand and live classes and personal trainers, which is free for the first year, then $39 per month. After your workout is over, the Vault neatly stores all the equipment. Bottom line: The Vault is the best of both worlds. It takes traditional weight-based strength training and combines it with a connected fitness experience for a home gym routine that will never be boring.
Note: If you already have a fair amount of equipment and are looking to save, check out the NordicTrack Vault: Standalone. This unit is identical — minus the Complete's included exercise mat, yoga blocks, resistance bands, dumbbells and kettlebells — and costs $1,000 less.
Best Value Home Gym
On a shoe string budget — or short on space? No matter your fitness level, TRX remains the best dollar-for-dollar full-body fitness equipment you can purchase. With nothing more than your bodyweight there’s not a muscle group you can’t hit. The best part: Suspension training requires you to engage your core more than any other piece of equipment, meaning you might finally get that rock-solid midsection you've always wanted.
Inspired by a Navy SEAL's mistakenly packed jiu-jitsu belt, TRX boasts lightweight and compact packaging that makes it super easy to take anywhere. If there were ever one piece of fitness equipment every person should own, this is it.
Smartest Home Gym Machine
Tonal takes the traditional cable trainer, adds digitally controlled resistance, and tops it off with artificial intelligence learning and a progress tracking app. Using a six-axis gyroscope, Tonal’s cable arms adjust vertically and horizontally to accommodate upper and lower body exercises. Tap the screen to access hundreds of instructor-led fitness classes or program custom workouts. With each workout, Tonal’s computer performs a full-body strength assessment. The result? No more guessing how much weight to lift. Tonal’s AI will automatically set and adjust your weight in the optimal training zone for each exercise. It doesn’t stop there – it also monitors your form using sensors and recommends tweaks.
Best All-in-One Garage Home Gym Machine
Fair warning: you may want to keep your garage door shut, or you’ll quickly become the neighborhood CrossFit gym. Instead of piece-mealing a rack, bench, bars, plyo boxes and weights, the PRx Couple’s Elite is a one-stop shop, click-and-buy gym. The standard package comes with everything you need for just about any WOD, including his and hers Olympic bars with 260 pounds of rubber plates, flat folding bench, dip bar, medicine balls, 24-inch soft-side plyo box and more. It’s certainly not cheap, but if you go this route you will truly never have to visit a gym again.
Best Home Gym Machine for Minimalists
Sleek and elegant, Mirror is perhaps the only piece of fitness equipment type A personalities won’t mind hanging in their living room. Measuring 52 inches tall and 22 inches inches wide, it will not only fit in the smallest of NYC apartments, but it can also double as a full-length mirror. Like all connected fitness equipment, Mirror offers a wide range of live and on-demand classes for a $39 monthly fee, including yoga, boxing, barre, Pilates and one-on-one personal training. Heads up: while it does offer traditional strength training, the classes are more focused on bodyweight and equipment-free exercises.
Best Personal Trainer Substitute
There’s something about having a personal trainer by your side that makes working out much easier and more enjoyable. There’s the accountability and external motivation to get you through those hard reps with the added bonus of form adjustments. Tempo takes all those personal trainer perks and packs them into a connected fitness experience via an attractive freestanding easel. Through pulses of infrared light and 3D modeling, Tempo captures every little nuance of your movement, allowing your digital trainer to offer real-time form corrections. Plus, Tempo tracks your reps and makes personalized weight increase suggestions based on your progress.
Most Ambitious Home Gym Machine
This smart home gym system introduces an innovative approach to real-time feedback. Using wireless sensors and AI 3D motion tracking, Carbon tracks deep training details such as weight lifted and explosiveness, then uses that data to actively coach you, account for recovery and tailor future workouts for maximum results. The base model comes with six sensors you can attach to your own dumbbells and kettlebells, while upgraded packages include Carbon’s own weights with integrated sensors. Live and on-demand classes are accessible through a 43-inch 4K LCD touchscreen, enabling you to tackle everything from strength training to CrossFit to cardio to yoga — and come back harder (and smarter) the next time.
Best Smith Machine
Make canceling that gym membership a no-brainer. The Marcy Pro takes the most popular piece of commercial gym equipment and packs it into a compact footprint that’s less than 50 square feet. It combines a Smith machine, cable machine and Olympic weight rack into a freestanding power cage. There’s not a fundamental exercise you can’t do on this thing: dips, bench presses, lat pulldowns, squats and more. Working out solo? The Smith machine allows you to lift weights at your max without having to worry about pinning yourself down when reaching past your limits. One major note: the weights are sold separately, so be prepared to spend another $500 to $800 to get started. Additionally, assembly is somewhat tedious.
Best Home Gym Machine for Novices
Besides being intimidating, lifting heavy weight can be a risky endeavor for someone new to strength training. One minor flaw in your form can easily lead to a pulled muscle or a thrown-out back. Enter the cable machine: a safe way to build full-body strength without having to rely on heavy weights. And there’s no better cable machine than the NordicTrack Fusion CST. This compact tower offers six different magnetic cable attachment points to cover just about every upper and lower body exercise. Beginners won’t have to worry about how many or what exercises to do with iFit, either. Stream live and on-demand personal training sessions while the machine adjusts to the perfect resistance for you.
Best Home Gym Machine for Boxing Enthusiasts
For the ultimate HIIT workout, there’s no better activity than boxing. But unless you’re taking a boxing class, punching a bag solo isn’t much fun. Look no further than FightCamp, an interactive connected boxing experience that brings the excitement and vibes of a boxing class to your living room. With FightCamp Personal you get a freestanding punching bag, a pair of gloves and digital trackers. All you need to do is connect through their companion app and jab away with elite boxing trainer-led classes.
Best Cardio/Gym Combo
When Peloton was released, it redefined fitness. It took a rather boring piece of cardio equipment and turned it into a digitally interactive community with live and on demand classes from some of the best instructors in the country. The latest iteration, Peloton Bike+, offers all that and so much more. Hop off the bike and you can access hundreds of strength, yoga, bootcamp, Pilates, barre and stretching classes through a rotating 23-inch HD touchscreen.
Best Home Gym Dumbbells
If you prefer throwing around good old-fashioned iron and don’t have the space or budget for a full dumbbell set, Bowflex’s SelectTech 552 Dumbbells are hands down the best setup you can buy. With a simple twist of a dial, you can easily access 15 different weights ranging from 5 to 52.5 pounds, all in one dumbbell. This approach saves you hundreds of dollars compared to buying single-weight dumbbells. Sized slightly larger than a football, they are remarkably compact, sturdy and attractive. In terms of traditional gym equipment, there’s not a better buy out there. Pair it with the Bowflex 2080 Barbell and a bench for a complete weight training setup.