I never thought I’d say this as a fitness trainer, but sometimes I don't feel like going to the gym at all. And I’m sure many of you would echo the same sentiment.
Thankfully, there are now countless options for home gym setups that feature different designs, components, and functionalities.
Finding the best compact home gym can be tough, so our team spent the last few weeks testing some of the most highly recommended equipment on the market.
We list our top picks below.
The Best Compact Home Gym Machines
- Best Overall Compact Home Gym Machine: Total Gym XLS
- Cheapest Home Gym Fixed System: Marcy MWM-988 Home Gym
- Cheapest Portable Home Gym Kit: Fusion Motion
- Best Versatile Compact Machine for Home Gym: Total Gym XLS
- Best Cable Machine for Home Gym: Bowflex PR3000
- Best Body-Building Machine for Home Gym: BodyBoss
- Best Durable Home Gym Machine: Body by Jake Tower
- Best Home Gym Machine With Accessories: GR8FLEX Military Gym
- Best No-Assembly Machine for Home Gym: Total Gym XLS
- Best Home Gym All-in-One Machine: Fusion Motion
- Best Home Gym Machine With Warranty: GR8FLEX Military Gym
- Best Home Gym Compact System for Beginners: Icon Fitness Gold's Gym XRS 50
Our Picks for the Best Compact Exercise Equipment (December 2023)
1 - Total Gym XLS (Best Overall & Most Versatile)
This exercise equipment boasts a slew of features, including a cable and pulley system, a squat stand, flexible nylon strap handles, a padded glide board with head support, a chrome package, a wing attachment, a leg pull accessory, and a Pilates kit.
After personally trying out this all-in-one machine, I can confidently vouch for its versatility. It opens up the possibility of 80 different exercises, effectively targeting all muscle groups.
Related: Total Gym XLS Review 2023
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 90 x 19 x 43 inches
- No assembly required
- Comes with an armful of easy-to-follow instructional videos
- Folds for easier storage
- Provides a wide range of exercise options and workout items
- Might be too heavy to haul around and difficult to fold/unfold
This compact home gym has a maximum user weight capacity of 400 pounds.
2 - Bowflex PR3000 Compact Home Gym (Best Cable Machine)
What truly impressed me about this machine was its quick change Power Rod System. Having tested it myself, I found that this feature eliminated the need for time-consuming cable changes between sets, allowing for a smoother transition between exercises.
This compact Bowflex home gym machine will have your muscles fired up with its power rod resistance system that provides up to 210 pounds of resistance (upgradable to 310 pounds).
The entire unit can hold a maximum of 300 pounds.
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 63 x 78 x 82 inches
- No cable changes needed in between sets
- Power rods provide constant tension
- Offers a wide range of exercise options that targets all major muscle groups
- Might work better for users looking to strengthen and tone muscles; not for serious bodybuilders
It comes with other useful accessories such as an instructional workout placard, multi-use hand grip/ankle cuffs, and upholstered roller cushions for maximized comfort during leg extensions and curls.
3 - Body by Jake Tower (Most Durable)
With its slim built that can slide onto any home, office or dorm door within seconds, the Body by Jake Tower is a full-body home gym ideal for users with limited space.
While exploring various home gyms, I encountered models with larger weight capacities. However, this one made it onto our list because I found that its single pair of hand grips and ankle straps allowed me to effectively engage my arms, chest, shoulders, back, abs, and legs during my personal testing.
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 22 x 7 x 79 inches
- Straightforward set up; no assembly and tools required
- Solid and sturdy construction
- Doesn’t take up much space
- Pulleys are made of plastic that have the tendency to wear out over time
The package comes with a Starter Guide, a Tower 200 DVD, and a Two-Sided Tower Exercise Chart.
4 - Marcy MWM-988 Home Gym (Cheapest)
Marcy certainly didn’t skimp on safety features and nifty additions with this machine, and that’s what I love best about it.
This compact gym equipment is made of a heavy-duty 14 gauge steel tube frame and features a 150-pound vinyl-coated weight stack that provides resistance for the whole machine.
It has an adjustable preacher curl pad where I performed barbell curls and hammer curls without straining my back too much.
Related Article: How To Disassemble A Marcy Home Gym
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 68 x 36 x 79 inches
- Compact enough to fit small spaces
- Easy to assemble
- Offers a great range of motion
- Machine can hold up to 300 pounds
- Many customers said the weight stack came covered with dents
The upper pulley system will let you do a lat pulldown, which is a great way to work towards doing pull-ups.
5 - Total Gym APEX G1
Whether you’re looking to burn calories, improve flexibility, or build muscle, the APEX G1 can help you achieve all that.
With a design that caters to over 60 different workouts, spanning cardio, stretching, and strength training, it offered a well-rounded fitness experience during my personal test.
It has six levels of resistance, and the manufacturer claims it’s suitable for individuals of all ages and fitness levels.
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 93 x 15.5 x 43.25 inches
- Folds for easier storage
- Easy to assemble and use
- Provides many workout options and ample resistance
- Ideal for beginners only; advanced users will find the resistance a bit too light
The package comes with accessories such as a wing attachment, a leg pull accessory, an exercise wall chart, a Total Gym TV access, exercise & nutrition guides, an owner’s manual, and a DVD.
6 - BodyBoss Portable Home Gym (Best for Bodybuilding)
If you’re not a fan of heavy weight plates, the BodyBoss Portable Home Gym is the ideal workout equipment for you.
It works as simple as it looks. Just clip on the cloth-covered resistance bands to the VectorFit Platform to replicate the functions of the equipment and machines you’d find at a regular gym.
During my testing, I also attached the door anchor to a door frame to simulate lat pulldowns, chest flies, and tricep extensions.
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 20.1 x 15.9 x 2.8 inches
- Compact, lightweight, and portable
- Provides a truly complete workout that targets all muscle groups
- Bands offer great resistance
- The collapsible workout bar is made of weak material
Each resistance band simulates between 0-30 pounds.
True to its word, this exercise tool by BodyBoss will bring the gym to you.
7 - GR8FLEX Military Gym (Best With Accessories & Warranty)
This gym equipment comes with a wing bar, dip bars, a leg harness/pulley system, a cell phone holder/stand, an EZ Curl Bar, a crunch ab accessory, soft-grip handles, and 50 pounds of bands for resistance.
Thanks to its extensive range of attachments, I was able to perform numerous lower and upper body exercises with this machine during my testing.
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 52 x 20 x 10 inches
- Comes with a lifetime warranty on the entire machine and accessories (must register through the website within 10 days to activate)
- Great value for money
- Comes with plenty of attachments
- Heavy and might be too large for most apartments
With 15 levels of resistance, the GR8FLEX ranks as the compact home gym machines with the highest resistance tower among the home gyms in this guide.
Able to handle up to 450 pounds, this beast also has the best weight capacity among the best compact home gyms on this list.
8 - Fusion Motion Portable Gym (Best All-in-One)
This all-in-one home gym folds up and weighs just 17.3 pounds, which means it’s something you can practically carry around with you and use anywhere.
One aspect I truly appreciated about The Fusion Motion Portable Home Gym is its versatility.
It comes with the main base to accommodate the attachments, two ergonomic handlebars for push-ups, an ab roller wheel to stimulate your core, and a bar to work out your triceps.
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 34 x 20 x 2 inches
- Comes with many high-quality accessories
- A portable home gym that doesn’t take up much workout space
- Comes with a beginner-friendly training guide
- The platform is too light and kept coming up during workouts
This compact home gym is reinforced with steel and built to handle even the most intense workouts.
It has a maximum weight capacity of 290 pounds.
9 - Icon Fitness Gold's Gym XRS 50 (Best for Beginners)
This home gym has a built-in 112-pound vinyl weight stack that offers 280 pounds of resistance.
I particularly like that It’s equipped with various functions, such as a chest press/fly station, a four-roll leg developer, a high pulley system for sculpting your lats and back muscles, and a low pulley for toning your glutes and leg muscles.
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 47.5 x 21.75 x 12.25 inches
- Good for beginners
- Has a built-in 112-lb weight stack
- Offers a wide range of exercises
- Great value for money
- Taller people might find this a bit awkward to use
This home exercise machine can hold up to 300 pounds
10 - Weider Ultimate Body Works
This home gym has an inclined platform with wheels and comes with four resistance bands that can provide an additional 50 pounds of resistance beyond your own body weight.
I was able to perform chest presses, crunches, squats, lateral pull-downs, rows, planks, squats, calf raises, lunges, and even Pilates testing this machine.
This home gym has a rolling bench with seven incline levels that can help enhance your flexibility and mobility.
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 59 x 27.5 x 48 inches
- Folds up easily so you won't have to worry on how much space you have
- Offers a wide range of workout options, including Pilates
- Great piece of exercise gear at an affordable price
- Can only hold up to 250 pounds
This simple yet versatile home gym can support over 70 different lower and upper body exercises.
As great as it is, the Weider Ultimate Body Works falls short when it comes to weight capacity. It can handle only a maximum of 250 pounds.
How We Tested Best Compact Home Gyms
As a certified personal trainer with years of experience in fitness and wellness, I understand the importance of having reliable and effective workout equipment, especially in a home setting.
In evaluating the best compact home gyms, I focused on a range of criteria that are crucial for ensuring these gyms meet the diverse needs of users while providing value and quality.
The longevity of the equipment is paramount. I thoroughly examined the build quality, materials used, and design of each compact home gym to ensure they can withstand regular use and last for years.
Affordability is a key consideration for most home gym buyers. I compared the cost of various models, balancing the price with the features and quality offered, to determine the best value for money.
Weight Capacity and Range
It's essential that the equipment can accommodate a wide range of weights to cater to different strength levels. I assessed the maximum weight capacity and the versatility of weight adjustments in each model.
Size and Space Efficiency
Since we're focusing on compact home gyms, the size and how efficiently they use space were critical factors. I evaluated how well each gym fits into a limited space while still offering a range of exercise options.
Versatility of Exercises
The ability to perform a variety of workouts is crucial for a comprehensive fitness routine. I tested the range of exercises that can be performed in each gym, looking for versatility in targeting different muscle groups.
Ease of Assembly and Use
User-friendliness is important, especially for those new to home gyms. I considered how easy it is to assemble each gym and the simplicity of switching between different exercises or weight settings.
Adjustability and Customization
The ability to adjust and customize the gym to fit individual needs and preferences is a significant advantage. I looked at how easily each gym can be adjusted for different heights, weights, and exercise types.
Safety can't be overlooked. I examined the safety mechanisms in place, such as stable bases, secure weight locks, and ergonomic designs to minimize the risk of injury.
In compact exercise equipment, I suggest looking for space compatibility, weight handling capacity, portability, exercise options, and a resistance system that aligns with your fitness goals.
1. Space and Size
While these home gyms are labeled “compact,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will fit into any space.
Before shopping for a home gym in-store and online, make sure you do your homework by first measuring your available floor space.
That means taking the length and width of your intended workout area at home. If you have low ceilings, it would be best to account for the height as well.
"It’s not about being the best. It’s about being better than you were yesterday."
- Stephanie Chappa, Fitness Competitor
If you’re in a living situation where you need to put your home gym away after every sweat session, foldable and quality portable home gyms like the Weider Ultimate Body Works would be the most suitable piece of fitness equipment for you.
Related: Best Sissy Squat Equipment
The most common resistance types you’ll find on compact home gyms are weight stacks, resistance bands, and body weight.
The resistance system you should choose will largely depend on your fitness goals, so you should first determine what they are before shopping for one.
Here are the pros and cons of each system.
Compact home gyms using weight stacks offer several advantages, especially for muscle-building exercises.
This resistance-type home gym will fit those who are building muscle through strength training.
The downside to a home gym that uses weight plates is that you can’t upgrade them.
These machines also tend to take up a lot more space compared to other kinds.
Unlike weight stacks, this type offers variable resistance, which means it changes throughout the arc of your movement.
The resistance you feel increases as you stretch the band further.
You also have the liberty to move the band however you like, giving you more control over your movements.
Another benefit of bands is that they don’t rely on gravity for resistance, which means you can perform a wider range of lower and upper body exercises with them.
Compact home gyms that utilize body weight are usually space-saving, making them the best choice for users with small spaces.
To change the resistance, you simply have to adjust the gliding board’s angle. The steeper the incline, the tougher it is to perform movements.
Some of these machines also allow for the addition of more resistance with the use of bands.
3. Exercise Options
Some people are content with sticking to tried-and-tested methods of building muscle and burning fat, while others prefer exploring different types of exercises.
If you classify as the former, a compact gym setup with basic functions such as lat pulldowns, chest presses, bicep curls, leg curls, triceps pushdowns, and so on should be the best option for you.
“You have to think it before you can do it. The mind is what makes it all possible.”
– Kai Greene, Pro Bodybuilder
But if you like to switch up your workout routine—a recommended practice that can prevent plateauing and muscle imbalances—then you should go for compact home gyms that you can use to perform varied whole-body workout routines.
Why Compact Home Gyms are a Game-Changer for Apartment Dwellers
Living in an apartment often means making the most of limited space. Compact home gyms are a boon for fitness enthusiasts who don't have the luxury of a dedicated workout room.
They're designed to be space-efficient, ensuring you don't have to compromise on your fitness goals.
Incorporating Cardio into Compact Home Gym Workouts
While resistance training is a significant component of most compact home gyms, it's essential not to neglect cardiovascular exercises.
Even with limited space, you can incorporate effective cardio workouts. Consider routines like jump ropes, high knees, or even quick high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions.
These exercises elevate your heart rate, improve cardiovascular health, and aid in fat burning.
Our Verdict on Best Compact Home Gyms
Out of all the best compact home gyms I reviewed, the Total Gym XLS was the definite standout.
Some of the things I liked the most about this machine were that it requires no assembly, folds for easier storage, offers a wide variety of exercise options—including Pilates—and comes with plenty of instructional videos that make it the perfect exercise tool for advanced users and beginners.
Add to that its considerable weight capacity of 400 pounds, and the deal is already sealed.
Speaking from my point of view, this machine ticks all the boxes when it comes to convenience, functionality, and portability, and I believe that’s what makes the Total Gym XLS the best compact home gym.
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