The best multi-gym – known as the best home gym by American folks – is a self-contained workout unit. This type of fitness equipment can be rather sizeable, but it can also provide a full-body workout in the comfort of your home, and they are surprisingly popular.
The multi-gym could be the answer if you've got limited space at home but would still like to see some muscular development and strength gains. Plus, if you speak to any fitness expert worth their salt, they will almost unanimously agree that targeted strength training (when performed correctly) is one of the greatest weapons in the war against flab.
These compact lever and pulley systems (and the more great Bowflex alternative) pack many features into comparatively small home gym equipment, with the ability to adjust various sliders to work a multitude of body parts.
Granted, the spread of weights in the more affordable models might be a limiting factor for some, but it's incredible the progress that can be made with a multi-gym rig, some well-planned workouts and good form. It could be all you need if you're looking to assemble the best home gym setup.
The best multi-gyms to buy right now
One way to ensure you receive a gym-quality workout is to purchase the sort of equipment that resides in your local fitness centre and slap it in a spare room at home. The Life Fitness G7 multi-gym (opens in new tab)(retailer link) is a professional-grade setup for private use, featuring hefty dual weight stacks, fully adjustable twin pulleys and the option of a malleable bench that hits several incline and decline settings.
Throw in the chin-up bar, and you have an all-encompassing system that has the ability to work out almost every conceivable muscle group in the body. To do so, it measures over two metres tall, around two metres wide and the same depth, which is quite a lot of floor space to take up. It's not cheap either.
However, the US-built contraption is designed and constructed to last for many years, and that hefty initial outlay does include free installation, a training DVD with two workout routines, an exercise book with over 60 exercises and a bunch of pulley attachments to ensure you hit every muscle that counts. Also, it removes the need to work out near people. Money well spent, then.
The Bowflex PR1000 is a multi-gym that's equally as capable as it's weird (at first, anyway). Unlike traditional home gyms that use a weight stack, the PR1000 uses Bowflex's Power Rod system, which is essentially an arrangement of bendy metal rods that provide resistance as you try to bend them. The more rods you're trying to bend at the same time, the harder it gets, simple.
The idea might be simple, but the execution is anything but. Operating the rods is only marginally more difficult than using a pin on a weight stack: you just need to clip the carabiner to the desired rod, and off you go.
One thing worth mentioning is that although the maximum resistance of the PR1000 multi gym is 95 kg (standard multi gym weight stack is around 70 kilo), due to the bendy nature of the rods, the resistance is expressed gradually. It's like doing curls with resistance bands: it'll be easier to pull them at the beginning than it's at the end of the motion.
Don't let this put you off, though. The resistance might not be constant, but the muscles are worked nevertheless, and as I mentioned above, the Power Rod system is way better for a home gym environment than a traditional multi-gym, not to mention, you will be able to perform over 26 exercises, including bench press, lat pulldown and more using the Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym.
The MuscleSquad Phase 2 Quarter Rack with Pulley is a bit different from the multi gyms above as this one is more of a started pack as opposed to a complete setup. Here, you have a heavy-duty freestanding rack that can hold up to 286 kg of weight but said weight is not included in the price, nor is a weight bench.
That said, this rack can provide a lot of versatility for your workouts, especially if you like heavy compound exercises such as bench presses or squats. This bad boy also has a high and low pulley system, a landmine attachment and a pull-up bar with various regular and cannonball grips. Sweet.
Included in the price is a plate-loaded cable pulley system (rated at 70 kg), a cannonball grip chin-up attachment (rated at 120 kg), bar storage, two weight plate storage poles, two monolift attachments, two J hooks (rated at 286 kg in total), two spotter arms (also rated to 286 kg), a lat pulldown bar attachment and a curl bar attachment.
Although not a traditional multi-gym, this futuristic number from NordicTrack (opens in new tab) cleverly blends strength-focussed activities, HIIT workouts and other forms of cardiovascular fitness. Complete with a 10-inch Android tablet, the brushed silver system also features high-energy LiveCast pre-recorded studio workouts.
The personal iFit robo-trainer will automatically adjust the resistance of the machine, ensuring you receive the best workout for you and your goals. A sleek, versatile design that doesn't take up too much space and looks badass. What's not to like? You can even save on your order with one of our NordicTrack discount codes.
Read more about the Fusion CST here: Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE vs NordicTrack Fusion CST
With a 57 kg weight stack and a pulley system that equates to a maximum resistance of 150kg on the leg developer pads, this beast from Weider offers great bang for the buck and is great for anyone looking to pile on the mass. A chunky construction and comfortable pads make up for the fact that the amount of adjustability on the back pad is limited (no flat press here), but it's still possible to conduct all manner of exercises without the space typically required by free weights and barbells.
Rather than relying on a heavy and noisy weight stack, this clever home gym utilises a bespoke Bowflex Power Rod system that sees a pulley mechanism flex a series of metal rods. The thicker the rod, the higher the resistance. This puppy can deliver the equivalent resistance of a 95kg weight stack without the jerky inertia or risk of joint pain usually associated with free weights. However, the Bowflex technology doesn't limit the spread of exercises on offer, with numerous attachments and harnesses allowing for several motions to be carried out.
New to the system is an abdominal crunch shoulder harness, which allows the user to physically wear a harness that loads up the resistance for powerful six-pack toning. Other notable features include the three-position lower pulley and squat station that can enable users to carry out natural feeling squats for mega glutes, hamstrings and quad muscles. Also, those used to a classic, thumping and clunking weight stack will likely find the 'feel' of this system a little weedy, but if shaping up, as opposed to bulking up, is your priority, it could be ideal for you.
How to buy the best multi-gym
Multi-gyms cover several muscle-sculpting bases, with numerous levers, handles and pulley things used to tone and bulk up. As a result, they tend to take up a fair amount of room.
They are also heavy, difficult to set up and can err on the really bloody expensive side, but for those with the space, patience and budget, they can literally be all you need to obtain that dream body.
Part with upwards of £10k and you will receive a multi-gym that wouldn't look out of place in a professional establishment.
A still-very-good compact home multi-gym (the kind that works both upper and lower body) can be found from around £600 at the entry-but-not-rubbish level to more complex and sturdier versions at about £1,500.
The main considerations you must make are how much space you have to spare at home, how much time you have to assemble the thing, how heavy the weight stack should be to achieve your fitness goals, and how many different muscle groups you want the machine to cater for. Oh, and how fussy you are about the smoothness of the workout.
Insider tip: the more affordable units tend to use cheaper pulley systems, and, as a result, the resistance movement can sometimes feel a little jerky and unnatural.
However, the best multi-gyms will offer everything from a lateral pull down to a weighted leg press and pretty much all in between, negating the need to visit a dank and sweaty gym ever again. Bonus.
Second insider tip: make sure your floors can cope with the amount of mass contained within some of the heavier multi-gyms. Repeatedly slamming a weights rack could lead to unexpected falls through the ceiling.
How we test the best multi gyms
Multi gyms are not small but we aim to test them in a home gym (or garage gym) environment where possible. We'll try all the different ways the machines let us work out; even if means we have to spend weeks using the products.
Click on the link to find out how we test at T3.