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Best Home Gym Equipment 2023

For the Pro Level Home Gym

Multi-stations

Equipping a fully functional pro level home gym and making the most out of a limited amount of space takes a lot of planning. Since most of us don’t have a warehouse sitting in our back yard, the best we can do is create the ultimate garage space gym, usually 20’ x 20’. That means we must make the most out of every inch of space. Multi-purpose equipment is the key. A good multi-station unit that allows for a wide variety of exercises is ideal for creating a pro level home gym and being able to work every body part effectively. This “Best Home Gym Equipment” list is a guide for the ultimate in multi-gyms.

Covid really ramped up most avid fitness enthusiasts’ (and hard-core gym rats) efforts to create a lockout-free workout zone at home. In many states, gyms were shut down for nearly 2 years. In some areas it has been a slow process of people returning to community space. The price of gas has motivated people to drive less. Besides it can sometimes be way more appealing to just work out at home whenever you want, instead of working around commute times, opening hours, and crowds. But to do that and keep up the progress, the serious lifter needs a well-equipped home gym. Any of the units on my “Best Home Gym Equipment” review for multi-station gyms would fit the bill.

I’ve spent years researching equipment for clients, and for my own personal home gym. This has brought me to my list of favorite home gym equipment. This selection highlights multi-station gym equipment, including Smith Press-type machines that also feature a weight stack or 2, and other stations other than just the Smith Press bar. When I researched equipment for myself, I found that all the equipment I found on other sites’ “Best Home Gym Equipment” lists were really not good at all. Any real gym rat would hate the function of these pieces, especially when being accustomed to commercial quality equipment.

Why some multi-gyms miss the mark:

Common issues and concerns to consider:

I purchased a top-of-the-line Marcy Smith Press for $2500 that came with a double adjustable cable, pec butterfly, dip attachment, and landmine attachment. I purchased this because it was the only thing I could find when gym equipment was almost impossible to get when everyone was shut down. And I thought it would be good since it was recommended on every “Best” list I found, Well, it did serve its purpose, but it is not something I would buy again.

My issues? Well, it is plate-loading, and the cable does not move smoothly. For someone who needs to use a light weight on the cable, the weight drags down the guide rods in the negative part of the motion, no matter how much lubricant you spray on the rods. This causes the cable to bunch up. In fact, the cable has a drag on it for everything you do, including the butterfly attachment. Very annoying, and not good for your tendons. The complex cable that runs through the many pulleys encircling the machine twists constantly and is very difficult to straighten out without taking the pulleys off and restringing the cable.

The bar wobbles and is not counter-balanced. In fact, if you are not perfectly level when you try to re-hook the bar on the guides, it will get stuck. My son got stuck trying to rack it, as it hooked on one side but not the other. Because the bar was uneven it jammed and wouldn’t move. I did the same thing on a squat; couldn’t rack the bar when I was done.

The cheap upholstery on the pec deck tore the first week (I sewed it back together), and every plastic cap used to shield the ends popped off and wouldn’t go back on. Obviously, you get what you pay for. If a real commercial or light commercial system had been available or financially attainable, it would have served me much better.

There are some other features on many home gyms that often make the piece nearly unusable. Leg Extension/Leg Curls combos on many machines are junk. The pads that go under your legs and at your ankles are often poorly and oddly placed, and lack any real cushioning, making it very painful and awkward to use anything other than very light weight. For those systems that only come with a standing leg curl, take note that they often don’t function well. A standing leg curl is performed one leg at a time and often if you put it on the lightest weight, the weight won’t smoothly slide back down the rod on the negative. If you put another plate on, it is often too heavy for someone who doesn’t have strong hamstrings. I have a client with a two-weight stack 5-station Body Solid system that does this. There is very little on the system other than the Chest Fly/rear delt station that I find usable, and the system retailed at the time for over $6000.

The lever-style leg press attachments offered on most home gym multi-stations are not good. Often the leg press is made for tall people. The adjustment won’t allow a user to move the back close enough to get adequate range of motion in the press. I am 5’3”. Every one of these lever leg presses I’ve tried as a part of a home multi-station gym only allows me about ½ my range of motion. Plus, the foot plate is usually low and very narrow, not great for a tall person lacking flexibility. On all that I have tested, even placing your feet at the top of the foot plate with your toes hanging off the top, is still too low for someone trying to alleviate excess stress on the knees.

Another pet peeve is the low pulley row. There is often no way to brace your feet, plus if you are short… again, you can’t stretch forward at all. It is just awkward sitting on the floor, having no foot brace, and pulling a cable that is floor level. Leverage is important if you want to lift any serious weight. Hard to have leverage if you can’t brace your feet and your butt slides across the floor when you pull.

Cable issues are big on most home gyms. Often the cables run through many mutiples of plastic pulleys that wobble and bang around. The cable action is jerky, uneven, and often feels like it is dragging or scraping, this is especially true in plate-loading cable systems. This leads to pain in your tendons and injuries.

What are my top 7 best home multi-gyms?

The following “Best Home Gym Equipment” pieces are my favorites when it comes to function and features, with consideration of value for the money. Keep in mind, these are for the people who want to set up a fully functional home gym. They aren’t cheap, but they are also designed to last for many years. There really isn’t a multi-station that completely eliminates the need to buy anything else. For a fully functional space, you still need free weights (dumbbells and plates), bars, squat or Smith rack, and a bench or two. I turned my detached garage into a very functional gym with a multi-station, Smith Press, Leg Press, Ab/Pullup Station, and full dumbbell rack. There are things I would do differently (different Smith Press) but I think I made the most I could out of a 20 x 20 garage, and I’m fully prepared for the next emergency.

  1. 1. Jacked Up Fitness Power Rack PRO All-in-One Functional Trainer Cable Crossover Cage Home Gym w/Smith Machine Suggested retail: $5995 (Add-ons extra)

  2. 2. Muscle D – The Compact (4 stack) Suggested retail: $9995.

  3. 3. Life Fitness – Fit 3 Suggested retail: $5929

  4. 4. Body Kore Universal Trainer – MX1162 Suggested retail: $5800 (Dynamic Trainer MX1161EX $4200)

  5. 5. French Fitness FSR90 Functional Trainer Smith & Squat Rack Machine Suggested retail: $4799 (Add-ons extra)

  6. 6. French Fitness X8 XL Multi-station gym system Suggested retail: $2499 and up.

  7. 7. Inspire M5 Suggested retail: $4999 (Leg Press option extra)

Jacked Up Fitness Power Rack PRO All-in-One Functional Trainer Cable Crossover Cage Home Gym w/Smith Machine

Well, that’s a really long name. This is just as it says it is, a pro level Smith Machine Power Rack with two 200 lb. weight stacks, 2 fully adjustable cables. This Smith has a 550 lb. capacity, counterbalanced smith bar, and aluminum pulleys. It features 6 plate holders, two bar cradles, and resistance band attachments for the Smith. This is a heavy-duty rack with 3” x 3” upright supports. The unit comes with dip bars, a leg exercise bar with pads, lat bar, curl bar, tricep rope, Y-handles, seated row bar, short pull bar, and ankle strap. There are several options to add to the functionality of the rack. Leg Press Attachment ($145), lat seat attachment ($195), jammer arm attachment ($345), adjustable bench with leg extension/curl/preacher curl ($695) The Pro version retails for $5995. This version with every add on listed above would add up to $7375. However, when I last checked their website, you could get it all for $5625 with free delivery. For about a thousand less, you can get the PLUS version that has 2”x 2” supports, plastic pulleys, one bar cradle, and 4 plate holders. The lesser version has a Smith capacity of 440 lbs. In the lesser version, the bar is not counterbalanced, and there are no resistance band attachments.

This is just a fantastic rack for the serious lifter. Add an Olympic bar and plates, a rack of dumbbells, and possibly a leg press on the side and you have a fully functional training gym. The Pro version is 78” wide x 66” deep x 90.5” high. The lesser PLUS version is 4.5” shorter.

Muscle D – The Compact

This is the system I purchased, and I absolutely love it. I was looking for the Fit3 by Life Fitness when I stumbled upon this system. It is listed for $9995, but I got for a much better price (-$2000) with white glove service set up. This is a 4-stack system with three 180 lb. stacks and one 150-lb stack. There is an option to increase the weight by purchasing 15 lb. selectorized plates instead of 10 lb. plates.

One station features the lat pulldown and the low cable row. For the low cable row, you get a foot brace and a commercial-style bench to sit on, instead of having to sit on the floor. The second station is a multi-press that allows you to do Flat Bench Press, incline, and vertical shoulder presses. Station #3 has the 150 lb. stack and is an adjustable high-mid-low cable giving you the ability to do a wide variety of cable work from any angle. Station #4 is a Leg Extension/Seated Leg Curl Combo.

This is a fully upholstered commercial style combo, very smooth and comfortable. This is the most functional space-saving system I’ve found. In my 20 x 20 garage with this system, I still have room for a full-size Smith Press, Leg press, 9’ dumbbell rack, ab/pullup station, and 3 benches. This system has great value, considering how functional it is and the fact that it feels like a commercial piece of gym equipment meant to last decades. My system came with a variety of bars and straps for the cables. Of course, to set up a full gym this system alone does not give you a squat rack, Olympic bar, plates, leg press, dumbbells, or an adjustable bench. I already had those things, so this system is just what I needed. What I wanted was a unit that had a sturdy commercial feel, and that is what I received. The only issue I have with this system is the multi-press when in the shoulder press system. For a small person like me, I need to place a thick pad behind my back to bump my body forward a couple of inches. Otherwise, the pressing handles are too far in front of me to achieve proper form. Dimensions listed are 120” x 112” x 88”.

LifeFitness Fit3

This is a great system. Fits well in a corner. It lacks the adjustable cable that the Muscle D system has. I used this system for about 8 years before I set up my home gym. It was remarkably smooth, and sturdy, but not as sturdy as the Muscle D.

There are 3 weight stacks. One station has the Leg Extension/Lying Leg Curl Combo. The upholstery is a little lacking on the leg pads, so can be a bit uncomfortable for Leg Extension. The Lying Leg Curl is smooth and actually very hard. Puts your body at a really optimal position to get a great hamstring contraction. The only issue I had with this station is that the back support for the leg extension does not move far enough forward for a shorter individual.

Station #2 is a lat pulldown and low row station. The lat pulldown seat flips down to accommodate seating for the low cable row, where you don’t have to sit on the floor. The only issue I have with this station is the top cable set up allows for the cable to only be pulled straight down, very little tilt outward. For example, you can’t really face the opposite direction and do an overhead tricep extension while leaning forward. The cable scrapes the metal guide at the top and shaves the coating off the cable destroying the cable.

Station #3 is a multi-press that allows for flat, incline, and vertical press motions. For a shorter person like myself, in the incline bench press position, I found the handle position to not be at the ideal level on my chest. The seat section is not fully adjustable, only flipping from flat to tilted.

I found I needed to push against the floor to lift my body up the bench a couple of inches to be in the right place for my height. A little annoying, but still a very good press and very functional. I even managed to stand on the bench in the flat position and use the handles for a bent over row when I had nothing else to use. The price of this system is listed for $5929.

Finding the Fit3 is where I had problems. The Life Fitness website doesn’t give you a price, but has you request a quote. You will get a different price if you have a commercial account than you will if you are just a person trying to get equipment for your home. Having this piece delivered seems to be an issue also as to whether you can have it delivered to a non-commercial location or not.

During Covid, when I was searching out this system, I found used ones across the country from me listed for $3500 but about the same amount to ship, and other websites wanting over $10,000. Mostly it was just hard to find or not available. I think availability is better now as I easily found one listed for the $5929. To complete your gym, just add free weights, a rack, and bench. Dimensions are listed as 102” x 102” x 85”.

BodyKore Universal Trainer MX1162

The Universal Trainer is a counter-balanced smith press-based system. It features a dual adjustable pulley system with two 220 lb. steel weight stacks, multi-grip pull up bars, weight pegs and bar storage, a dip attachment, and an inverted leg press add on option. Add a weight bench that adjusts from decline to vertical that accommodates a leg extension/curl attachment, and you will complete this system.

This allows for a wide variety of exercises with the Smith Press Bar from squats, lunges, bent over rows, bench press, shoulder press, upright row, etc. You can also free weight bench on the rack. The dual cable allows for lat pulldowns, cable rows and a wide variety of cable exercises.

Take note that you will need to buy plates in a variety of increments to use with either the smith or a free weight bar if you have one. This system is listed for $5800 without the add-ons or bench. Dimensions are listed as 64.5” x 90.3” x 90.4”. For a complete gym, you need the adjustable bench with leg extension/curl attachment, the inverted leg press add on, an Olympic bar and plates, dumbbells, and possibly a separate leg press.

French Fitness FSR90

This unit is another Smith press multi-gym that features removable dip handles, heavy duty cables and pulleys, multi-grip chin up bar, weight plate and Olympic bar storage, landmine, lat pulldown, jammer arm, leg press platform, and what they call the extreme core trainer accessory. There is an optional adjustable bench offered that can accommodate an optional preacher curl attachment and leg extension/leg curl attachment. Maximum load on smith bar is 600 lbs. It has two 220 lb weight stacks with 2:1 ratio. Tech specs state weight stack consists of 20 – 11 lb.

Increment weights that feel like 5.5 lb. due to the 2:1 ratio. There is also a note that most Olympic bars will not fit, but their FSR90/FSR80 Chrome Olympic bar (optional $249) fits. Workout area needs to be 132” depth x 108” wide (11ft x 9 ft). This unit comes with a variety of accessories including the landmine, straight bar, lat bar, vertical leg press plate, platform (for leverage squats and calf raises, jammer arms, stirrup handles, etc. The suggested retail is $4799. However, I saw it listed for $3699.

They offer a variety of plate sets, either iron or bumper as an option. Benches offered range from $299-$899. Aluminum pulley upgrade $349. For fun, I added the Olympic bar that fits, aluminum pulleys, $699 mid-line bench, 470 lbs. of bumper plates (I hate when my machine gets scratched up), a tricep rope, close grip handle, ab crunch harness, and ankle strap. The whole deal added up to $6111.84.

Again, full assembly is $599 and a floor mat 78” x 78” is $176. I love that at the time of this writing they offered 0% financing for 24 months. For a complete gym experience, add a full dumbbell rack. Since this system comes with a vertical leg press plate, you might not need a separate leg press.

French Fitness X8 XL

French Fitness makes a few very interesting and complete systems that are reasonably priced in comparison to other units. They receive reasonable reviews and may be worth looking at. The X8 XL comes with a lat pulldown, mid-level cable for abs or triceps, low cable row (floor sitting), chest press (reverse to do wide grip rows), leg extension, standing leg curl, adjustable preacher bench attachment, X8-BF Butterfly (also allows for rear delt movement), the X8-LP leg press.

They offer add-ons like the Powertower, adjustable ab bench, and pullup/dip station. The two 165 lb. weight stacks that come standard are cement filled plastic which is maybe why the system is cheaper. A weight stack upgrade is offered which would give you two 265 lb. iron weight stacks. It also explains that you can choose whether you have 1:1 weight ratio (165 lbs. feels like 165) or 2:1 ratio (165 feels like 330 or 265 feels like 530) Tech specs state that maximum user weight is 300 lbs.

From viewing the system, it seems to be more “home gym” style with less upholstery thickness and more pulleys to rattle, plus that sit on the floor seated row position. The price however is very good with the standard plastic weights. Total workout area needed for the whole shebang including the Powertower option + Ab bench is 200” Depth x 147” Width. Price without options is $2499. Upgrading to two iron stacks adds $699. Aluminum Pulley upgrade $299. Powertower adds $399. Ab bench adds $399 and so on….

Accessories are also extra. For fun I added a multi-purpose bar, pro grip lat bar, close-grip handle, tricep rope, pressdown bar, revolving curl bar, revolving straight bar, strap handle, tricep strap, ankle strap, and ab crunch harness. With most of the upgrades and accessory bars it brought the price to $4729.77 without delivery. French Fitness offers full assembly for $549 and 118” x 118” rubber flooring for $396. To complete your gym, you would need free weight plates and dumbbells, Olympic bar, squat rack or smith, and adjustable bench.

The Inspire M5

Inspire has become a popular brand. It came highly recommended to me from several equipment suppliers I use, edging out similar Life Fitness and Tuff Stuff brands. They expressed the opinion that this brand gave you more value for the money. The M5 is a dual 215 lb. weight stack system with a relatively small footprint. There is an optional leg press add-on available. Dimensions: Length 100” x Width 88” x Height 83.5” – 85”. The Leg Extension/Leg Curl and Chest Press are on the same station. The Chest Station features a fixed press as well as free motion dual handles. I didn’t really find this quite as ideal as having a mutli-press that also gives you a supported Shoulder Press, so that was a downside for me. The upholstery and cushion on the leg extension/curl is also a bit sparse. Station #2 features the lat pulldown and seated row. This station also features a preacher bench attachment and lower cable to allow for bicep cable exercises. The attachment removes to accommodate using the seated row. Some cable accessories come with this system like the lat pulldown bar, low row handle, curl bar, and rubber handles. Amazon lists this unit without the leg press for $4999. The leg press attachment adds another $1099. With leg press attachment, dimensions are 88” x 124” x 85” height. For a complete gym experience, you would need to add all your free weights, rack, and bench. My preference would be to skip the lever leg press attachment and purchase a regular leg press on the side.

In Summary

There are many other equipment companies out there, but I found that the systems I reviewed are obtainable and deliverable for the most part, while others are not. I love some of the multi-stations Promaxima manufactures in Texas. In fact, I purchased my leg press from them with custom upholstery and received it in Los Angeles in a little over a week, and this was at the beginning of the Covid lockdown. It cost me less to buy from Promaxima and pay for a private trucker, than buy in California where availability was doubtful at best. I’ve also bought other pieces of equipment from them for a very good price for clients, and had the pieces delivered to their homes. However, when I went to them to purchase a multi-station I received a quote, but now there was apparently an issue that they didn’t want to deliver to a non-commercial address. They suggested dropping it off on the sidewalk near a commercial gym, then I would have to somehow get another delivery service to pick it up and bring it to me and assemble. Secondly, an equipment broker I had spoken to about a different piece of equipment (from a Facebook ad) called Promaxima when I told him not to. I already had a business relationship with them and didn’t need him to intervene. Well, the company informed me I would now have to get my quote through the broker, which of course was thousands higher than before. That ended my relationship with this company which was a shame, because I really liked their equipment. I hope this “Best Home Gym Equipment” for 2022/2023 has given you a little insight into setting up that perfect home gym. And I mean real home gym…not a rubber ball, yoga mat, and stationary bike. Take care and stay strong.

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