A spoon or a fork? Chips or rice? Upper body or lower body? Decisions like this can be tough, which is why the all-in-one was created. If you are beginning your fitness journey and want to buy a piece of equipment that will give you more than one workout option, then you might start to think about all-in-ones.
In this post, we are going to look at some all-in-one machines and pieces of equipment that will provide you with multiple ways to work out all rolled into one. We are purposefully choosing things that will be suitable for people who want to generally tone up and get fitter, more so than for people who are already well used to training.
Multi-gyms have to be the best thing for toning up, right?
If you have space and the cash, investing in a purposefully built all-in-one machine can be a great idea. Typically, these machines will have a combo of cables and handles that will allow you to work out from different angles and target multiple muscle groups.
They will also include a set of adjustable weights that have a large range, say 10kg-150kg. A good machine will also have an in-built seat and knee rests.
There is no doubt that these machines can deliver great returns if they are used regularly. However, they are a big financial commitment and take up a lot of space, so you need to be sure before you buy. Think about the machines you use at the gym and whether these (or similar) are included in the all-in-one.
- They’re never boring – loads of different exercises
- Isolate and train each muscle group
- Resistance training is one of the best ways to build muscles
- Good use of space for the amount of options
- Can be really expensive
- One of the hardest bits of gym equipment to assemble
- Doesn’t do much for cardio
Stair climbers & steppers; just legs and thighs?
A stair climber or step climber is a machine that simulates walking upstairs. This is a great cardio exercise that burns 180, 216, or 252 calories in a 30-minute session, based on a 125lb, 155lb, or 185lb person. It also engages the abdominal muscles, delivers a core workout, and tones the thighs and calves.
If you want to shed some fat and tone up, then this can be a good option. Another advantage of a stair climber is that they are relatively compact and a good option for people who do not have a lot of space.
- Hard to beat if you want to tone your glutes
- pro 2
- Not great for biceps, shoulders and toning upper body
- Limited to one exercise
Cross-trainers: a brilliant and easy way to tone (most of) your muscles
A cross-trainer, also known as an elliptical machine, delivers a low-impact full-body workout. The upper body (biceps, triceps, abdominals, pectorals), has handles that are pushed and pulled in turn. For the lower body (legs, thighs, and bum), the force required to pedal (forwards or backward!) engages your muscles and helps to tone them.
The resistance levels on the cross-trainer can be adjusted to create a more challenging workout that progresses alongside your fitness levels. This provides you with the growing room as you start to see your muscles take shape.
The calories burned on a cross-trainer are impressive too. During a 30-minute session, a 125lb person burns around 270 calories, a 155lb person burns around 324 calories, and a 185lb person burns around 378 calories. This makes it a great option for anyone who wants a full-body toning session that will also significantly help with fat loss goals.
- Super smooth and easy to use
- Perfect for any age
- Low-to-zero impact
- Lots of fun
- Can get a great, sweaty workout
- Does a great job of working upper body as well as legs
- Can get repetitive
- Doesn’t tone all muscle groups
Are dumbbells good for toning your whole body?
Dumbbells are the first piece of equipment that most of us buy when we are starting to work out at home. Too often, they are forgotten about as we start to look up bigger, flashier pieces of kit. However, dumbbells are the OG of all-in-one training. Use them to train the upper body by performing bicep curls, overhead presses, bent-over rows, lying arm raises…the list goes on. Use them to train the lower body by performing weighted squats, sumo squats, and lunges.
And use them to train the core by performing seated Russian twists, lying arm and leg raises, dumbbell side bends, and weighted crunches, etc. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring one piece of equipment, we would recommend dumbbells.
- Almost infinite number of exercises
- Never boring
- Comparatively cheap bit of gym gear
- Isolate and train any muscle group easily
- Tone legs, arms, back with one set of dumbbells
- More scope for injury
- Not as easy to use as a multi-gym
- Misses out things like leg extension, lat pull-down you get on multi-gym
Rowing machines: do they really tone your muscles?
If you’ve ever had a go on a rowing machine, you’ll likely be able to relate to how easy those first few strokes feel, and how quickly it becomes bloody hard work. There’s no doubt about it; rowing is one heck of a cardio workout and is great for burning calories and getting in shape.
Read pretty much any article on the web and they’ll rattle off how it works your upper and lower body, and you’ll tone 85% of your muscles.
But what’s really going on? Do rowing machines work effectively at toning muscles? There have been a number of studies into rowing machines, such as this one, which shows that, as you might assume with a rowing machine, it is beneficial to muscle activation and toning. (As well as working out your heart and lungs).
- Great combined cardio and toning exercise
- Doesn’t need much space and is easy to store
- Good option to share with partner of family
- Get a good workout in a short space of time
- Can be expensive for a good one like the Concept 2
- Repetitive (although you can use various apps to make it more interesting!)
Getting good muscle tone without any equipment
Of course, it wouldn’t be a complete guide to getting toned without mentioning the weight we all have to work with – bodyweight. There aren’t any muscle group you can’t work out using plan old gravity and a bit of know-how.
There are plenty of free videos on youtube you can use as a starting point.
- Plenty of variation
- Can do it anywhere – even in a hotel room on holiday
- Doesn’t need a great time (30 minutes can achieve a lot)
- Work your cardio too
- Not as effective as resistance training
- Not ideal for increasing muscle size
- Risk of injury on some exercises (don’t start off with one-leg squats!)
What is right for you?
When choosing an all-in-one machine or piece of equipment, the most important question to ask is whether the features it has are suitable for you, your training needs, and your fitness goals. We have purposefully laid out a full range of options in this post to encourage you to think about what is right for your home gym.
And don’t forget, you can have the best, most expensive machine in the world but it will be worthless if it sits unused. Get a plan and stick to it, even on the days you don’t feel like it. Any of the above methods for getting a more toned body will work, given time and persistence.
References & further reading
- BritishRowing.org – Rowing training: how to maximise your gains
- ScienceDirect – Eccentric training with a powered rowing machine
- Journal of Strength and conditioning – Effects of Training With Free Weights Versus Machines on Muscle Mass, Strength, Free Testosterone, and Free Cortisol Levels
- NCBI – Muscle Activity in Upper-Body Single-Joint Resistance Exercises with Elastic Resistance Bands vs. Free Weights
- Muscle Tone: An Overview