How To Choose The Best Home Gym Equipment For You

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If you are tired of spending hundreds of dollars each year in gym memberships, maybe a home gym is the better solution. A personal home gym is always open, never crowded, and is a great time-saver. And, if you are committed to strength training and building muscle, a home gym may be the way to go.

Installing a home gym may seem daunting at first. But, breaking the decisions down into several considerations can lead you to the right equipment that will fit your budget, space, and lifestyle.

1. Gyms that fit your space

If you don't have a lot of money and you don't have a lot of space, several experts advise building your home gym around individual pieces of equipment. Several pairs of dumbbells, horizontal bench, resistance bands, and pull-up bar may be a safer way to go than buying a cheap infomercial promoted gym.

If price and space is less of a consideration, you can choose a free standing machine that combines a wide variety of strength exercises and features such as; weight stacks, inclines and presses all within one exercise machine.

A session or two with a personal trainer can ensure safe and effective home gym workouts with your new equipment.

2. Low cost vs. high end

At the low end, fixed weight dumbbells start at about a dollar per pound. Adjustable dumbbells are slightly more expensive. Barbell sets begin at about a dollar and a half a pound. Horizontal benches for lifting start at about $140 and go up from there. Determine how much weight you will need for your workout and start there.

High quality, free standing, strength machines range from slightly less than $1,000 to $5,000 or more depending on how many features are built-in. If you are buying a mid-range or high-end machine, research objective reviews carefully and avoid the infomercial products.

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3. Weight plate machines

Serious weight lifters interested in adding muscle and bulk will want to choose gym equipment with weight plates. Weight plates can provide more resistance and a similar workout to a commercial gym. Machines made for home gyms usually come with several weight stacks attached to various workout stations. Exercises include a leg station for extensions and curls, a chest station for presses, and an abdominal station. Weight plates are usually attached to a cable/pulley system and may additionally offer exercises like triceps pull-downs and shoulder exercises.

In most cases, home gyms with weight plates offer more weight for advanced lifters and a more consistent range of resistance.

4. Resistance machines

The second type of exercise machines avoids weight plates in favor of rods or bands to provide resistance. Bowflex exercise machines, for example, use fiberglass rods that provide resistance when bent under pressure. Another technology is Bio Force's exercise machines, which use nitrogen charged cylinders to provide needed resistance.

Several low-cost machines such as the TRX Suspension Trainer use resistance bands assisted by gravity to provide a workout at home. But, many reviewers have complained that resistance machines or devices seem less effective than gyms with weight plates and fail to provide a consistent range of motion throughout the exercises.

5. Cardio machines

If overall fitness is your goal, cardio will play an important part or your exercise regimen. Cardio can provide increased heart health, overall body fitness, cardiovascular conditioning, muscle toning, and weight loss.

There are several categories of cardio machines for the home gym: elliptical trainers, exercise bikes, stair steppers and treadmills. Any of these machines can provide smooth and continuous movement and an elevated heart rate for the minimum 20 minutes required for a good cardio workout.

Elliptical trainers start at $675 and go up to $3,000 for the more durable machines. Exercise bikes are even less expensive, available for as little as $150 up to $650 for the higher end models. Stair steppers can be as inexpensive as $130 or as sophisticated as the LCD TV commercial gym models at about $4,300. Treadmills start at less than $1,000 and quickly increase to $3,500 for sport trainer models targeted to serious cardio enthusiasts.

Whatever equipment you choose, you'll be better informed if you carefully research consumer reviews. Actual owners of the individual equipment will write the more trustworthy reviews. Avoid the breathless enthusiasm of fake reviewers.

A final word of advice is to check the Consumer Product Safety website for the latest product recall information. Manufacturers' websites are another good place to find product information, specifications, and recall information before you purchase your home gym equipment.

Last Updated: October 20, 2011
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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