One of the most popular options for home gyms are multi-gyms, for good reason.
In this guide, we’re diving into the world of home multi-gyms and arming you with everything you need to pick the best multi-purpose machine for your home.
What is a multi-gym?
A multi-gym, like the name suggests, is a piece of equipment that lets you perform multiple types of exercise with one bit of fitness equipment. They’re specifically designed to let you work out all of the major muscle groups of your body on one compact piece of kit.
Why are all-in-one gyms so popular?
- Effective – The biggest reason to pick a multi-gym over cardio options. The fact that you can train your entire body is a big deal, and strength training is far more effective at burning fat than cardio. No matter your goals, a multi-gym is almost certainly a solid investment.
- Safe – Multi-gyms lock you into a range of motion, so you’re less likely to hurt yourself with bad form. Unlike say dumbbells, where there’s a greater range of movement that’s possible, doing a bench press on your home multi-gym has far less room to get it wrong.
- Space saving – There’s multi-gyms of all shapes and sizes out there – from compact appartment-friendly machines, up to whopping multi statin, multi-user mega-gyms. Whatever size space you have – garage, spare room or appartment corner, there’s a gym you can get to make the most of the space.
- Variable – Because multi-gyms give you multiple options for exercise, you can hit every muscle group and get a complete, full body workout. Some gyms will have up to 50 different possible exercises that you can do from one piece of equipment.
- Easy – Even absolute beginners can sit down at a multi-gym and run through a workout, because they’re so simple to use and self-explanatory. While it’s worth grabbing a book on strength training, or spending some time watching a youtube video or two on how to use say the bench press, they’re a super-easy way to get started in strength training.
- For everyone – Whether you’re older but in shape, looking to lose a little weight, or just starting out, a multi-gym is perfect for you. The adjustable weight stack means users of all levels can start training safely and begin the journey to being stronger and fitter.
- Affordable – With multi-gyms starting at under the £500 mark, a decent multi gym doesn’t have to cost the earth. If your budget can stretch to £1000 or beyond, there’s some seriously good bits of home gear you can pick up. Check out our guide on the best cheap multi-gyms for some great examples.
How heavy should my weight stack be?
If you’re just starting out, or looking to use your multi-gym to tone and get fit, you don’t need a colossal amount of weight.
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Not all multi-gyms are created equal
One of the big things you’ll want to check with your new multi-gym is the weight stack – the adjustable stack of weights that each exercise uses.
Entry level machines might only have a weight stack of around 30 to 40kg (66 to 88llbs) with heavier systems having a potential weight upwards of 90kg (200lbs.)
More weight is generally a good thing, because it lets you continue to grow and improve as you get stronger. But it’s also worth noting that multi-gyms don’t need an enormous amount of weight. Depending on your goals and fitness level, a HUGE weight stack might be overkill and a waste of money.
The difference in effective load means that you might only need around 50% of the weight you would lift when performing a similar exercise using free weights.
If you’re just starting out, or looking to use your multi-gym to tone and get fit, you don’t need a colossal amount of weight. If you’re looking to max out on mass and gain huge amounts of strength, on the other hand, look for the biggest weight stack possible.
What exercises should my multi-gym have?
The variety of different exercises possible on each all-in-one home gym varies a a HUGE deal from one machine to the next. So what are some major ones you should be on the look-out for?
The most common multi-gym stations are:
Lat pull down
At the top of every multi-gym, you’ll see a large horizontal bar connected to the pulleys.
This is a lat pulldown machine, and it’s designed to be pulled straight down to work your back, shoulders and arms.
The chest press takes the place of the popular bench press exercise. The motion is almost exactly the same, except it’s performed whilst sitting up vertically and pushing forwards instead.
Another chest targeting exercise, the pec deck lets you perform ‘flys’, where your arms move in an arc from out at your sides to straight in front. This is a great isolation exercise to build your chest muscles.
Almost all home multi-gyms come with some form of leg developer, which lets you perform leg curls and leg extensions. Both exercises are popular and simple, and a great alternative for squats.
Set at the bottom, the weighted row station is used like a rowing machine, and works the arms and back, as well as being a fantastic stamina workout. This is one of the exercises where it’s worth learning proper form however, as it’s easy to get wrong and you don’t want to injure your back when you start training in your home gym.
Some machines might not have a preacher curl station, but for the ones that do, it’s a really useful addition to blast arms and get big biceps. Unlike the rest, it’s not pulley driven.
Instead, you lock yourself against the station and use it to perform fixed movement curls with free weights.
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How much space does a multigym take up?
When you’re sizing up for a home multi-gym there’s two things you need to consider:
Unless you’re buying an advanced model that’s packed with different stations and a massive weight stack, expect the footprint of your multi-gym to be relatively small.
On average, expect a width and depth of around 2m each, meaning that you need about 4sq.m to site it. You’re also going to need a little space around it, to make workouts more comfortable and make sure that you’re not going to accidentally slam into something while you’re working out.
The bigger consideration is height. Most multi-gyms are around 2m tall at the highest point. This means they can be too large for smaller rooms. Again, you’re going to want a little extra room over the maximum, but it’s not as important as it is with width and depth.
Are multi-gyms hard to build from home?
…putting together a home gym can be a daunting task.
Like any bit of home gym gear, you’re going to have to assemble your multi-gym yourself. Depending on the product you get, this can involve a number of hours of work. So, are you in for a hard slog?
Yes and no.
If you’ve never built anything from home before, or you’re terrible at DIY, then putting together a home gym can be a daunting task.
But as long as you follow the instructions and take everything slow, putting together a multi-gym is actually surprisingly simple.
The best thing to do is check out how hard it’s going to be before you buy. Most gym equipment has instructions available as PDFs online. If they don’t, a quick email to the manufacturer is normally all that’s needed to get them to send you a copy.
It’s normally useful to have a second pair of hands (and eyes) around when you’re building your multi-gym. Someone to help with the weight and double check instructions is a great help.
You might also consider paying for installation services. In our experience, this isn’t worth the price. You’re better off either doing it yourself and taking it slow, or paying someone from local personals or Facebook to assemble it for you.
Definitely take your time un-packing your new multi-gym. Being super-organised will also alleviate some of the headache. Laying out all of the parts, as boring as that sounds, can also seriously make life easier as you build your own gym!
Comfort, adjust-ability and capacity
If you’re going to be working out on your multi-gym, you want it to be comfortable. The biggest factor here is how thick and dense the upholstery is.
There’s a big difference between some cheap foam padding on a board acting as a seat and backrest, and a deep, thick seat is going to be something you appreciate after a couple of sessions.
Aim for at least 2 inch thick foam for decent comfort.
Another huge factor is how adjustable a machine is. Because multi-gyms are designed to be put through a single, fixed range of motion, if you can’t adjust your height and sitting position you could find it difficult or even impossible to perform certain exercises.
If you’re average sized, this isn’t a consideration, but if you’re particularly large or small, check if your machine is easy to adjust, and how far it goes.
Finally, there’s weight capacity. This is obviously something that heavier people are going to be interested in, but it’s also something that every buyer should look at. The reason is simple. A higher weight capacity suggests higher quality materials, a heavier frame, and a better build all round, so your purchase is likely to last much longer.
Always check the warranty
Like anything that’s in near constant use, no multi-gym lasts forever. You’re going to be putting it under a lot of force, several times a week. That adds up.
All good brands come with decent warranties, but it’s worth double checking exactly what’s covered. The most important part of the warranty to be concerned with are:
- the working parts
- cables and pulleys
- the frame
We’d recommend focusing around those first. It’s also not exactly easy to send back a large multi-gym if there’s a problem, so check if the warranty has any on-site repair in the warranty, or how spare parts are to be sent out.
Speaking of spare parts
One of the things we get asked a lot on Home Gym Experts is where you can get replacement parts for your multi-gym. It’s definitely worth checking the manufacturer’s website, and even emailing support, to find out about how to get replacement parts – especially if your gym has several pulleys or lots of moving parts.
If you’re serious about buying a multi-gym, you should consider investing purchasing some gym flooring to go with it. See our guide on Garage Gym Flooring for more info on how to get this part right.
It’s a tiny investment, but a tiny cost and a few minutes work will protect your shiny new machine, as well as your floor, from all the forces involved when you’re working out.
Simple, easy to set up, and cheap, you can learn everything you need to know about gym flooring in our article here.
The last word
Multi-gym purchases have skyrocketed over the past few months, and they’re only going to keep spiking. If you’re serious about your fitness, you should consider getting in early, before shops sell out again.
Look for high quality brands like Marcy’s or Bowflex. Better yet, click here to check out our guide to the best multi-gyms on the market right now, so you know you’re making the right choice.