Fitness Gear Pro Half Rack / Full Rack – In Depth Look
If you can invest in a home gym, but don't have the space for a whole gym floor's worth of benches, racks, cardio machines, and weight plates, a nice multi gym may be the best choice.
Multi gyms are metal or steel framed units that serve as a platform to work all or most of your major muscle groups. Our number one choice, the Marcy Home Gym system, lets you build all over body strength and even includes a rower for cardio fitness.
We also included some Total Gym offerings. The Total Gym will not blast your core, but it will gently reshape your muscle tone while improving balance, giving you more energy, and helping you stay injury free. There are also tower units that will let you build ab strength.
No matter what your goals are, we are confident you can find something here to interest you.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 20 hours of research
Can use as a squat rack
High and low cables with pulleys
Doubles as a weight storage rack
Top 10 Picks
1. Marcy Home Gym Cage System
Can use as a squat rack
High and low cables with pulleys
Doubles as a weight storage rack
Some lifters may need more resistance capacity
Although not as big a name as Weider or Total Gym, Marcy makes a versatile range of home fitness equipment at affordable prices. This one wowed us with its stability and features.Read more
The steel frame will last forever and won't buckle under your most intense workouts. Powder coating adds to the frame's integrity and also keeps everything looking fresh and clean. Resistance is from free weights, with up to 220 pounds. You can also store up to 675 pounds of free weights, dumbbells, and kettlebells in trays and on pegs attached to the cage. Typically, home gym pulley cages use weight stacks with plates and pins. The Marcy will appeal to those of us who prefer the more traditional feel of iron.
Pulleys located in low and high spots let you work out your back, shoulders, arms, core, and legs--an entire gym worth of whole body benefits. Squats are simple, and you can use your favorite barbell when you perform them. The cage is nice and roomy, so you get the freedom of movement to promote functional training.
Marcy offers an incredible 2-year limited warranty on the home gym cage when you buy from them.
2. Powerline By Body Solid
Easy to adjust weight stack
Heavy duty cables with swivel ends
Comes almost assembled, just need to tighten 9 bolts
Can do seated bench presses/flys etc.
Leg curls are a bit awkward because of positioning
This is a higher end multipurpose station with an actual leg extension/curl bench built right in. The steel pulley cables are tough enough to give you kink free movement every time.Read more
Another point of difference is the easy assembly. Most reviewers agree they were able to set the machine up quickly once it shipped. Pro tip: Plan on unboxing the unit before you try to get it through your door. You will need help from friends, if not professional movers, to get the Powerline into position before assembly. The unit weighs 344 pounds.
Aviation quality cables are rated to 2200 pounds tension. The ends swivel to adapt to your wrist and body movements, instead of making you adapt to the cables. The cage is 80 inches high; we did the math, and that's a little over six and a half feet. It is suitable for all but the very tallest lifters, and the standard 8-foot ceiling in most homes is more than adequate.
If it weren't for the expense, this would have been our number one pick. The Powerline will run you about a thousand dollars, though it does come with a generous 10-year warranty.
3. Total Gym 1900
No assembly required
Compact and lightweight
Ideal for children, beginners, and the elderly
Can do cardio and strength with one unit
No weight stack or plates
Total Gym promises a rewarding full body workout when you sit, lie, or kneel on their bench chair and let the cables pull you along a track. Resistance is provided by your own body weight.Read more
The big advantage here is that nearly every exercise will target several muscle groups at once. This saves you time and adds to all over toning and strengthening. In fact, the Total Gym brand specifically promotes effective daily workouts of 20 minutes or less. This is a machine for parents, working people, and anyone who needs to maintain strength and balance in a limited amount of time.
You get muscle building, cardio health, and the ability to stretch, all with this one machine. The 1900 offers more than 60 exercises, with detailed illustrated directions to get you started. You can adjust the resistance, similar to Bowflex increments, so you are pushing as little as 3 percent of your body weight up to 45 percent.
No assembly is required. The unit folds so you can keep it out of the way when you need to. A 350-pound max user weight will accommodate many different body types, and almost anyone can learn this machine; this makes it an ideal first workout for children.
4. Oyo Personal Gym
Remarkably portable and light
Few moving parts to break down
Comes with detailed instructions
All body strength and cardio
No upgrades or add ons currently
This ultra portable strength trainer may look like a compound bow, but that unusual package lets you unlock a full body workout no matter where you are. NASA even approves it for use by space personnel in cramped quarters.Read more
In addition to the strength training via the patented resistance clamp and cable action resistance, the Oyo helps you burn fat and become more flexible. The resistance system lets you feel like you are lifting free weights and, of course, you can make the Oyo the centerpiece of cardio stepping movements.
You will definitely need the wall chart with instructions for all the exercises, and the video content you can download after purchase. The Oyo looks like nothing you have ever used, so there is a learning curve at first. You can get further coaching and guidance from a free app, but as of this writing, it only works with the iPhone.
The effectiveness of the Oyo is proven by a study that NASA conducted. You get all the positive effects you would get from dumbbell and barbell lifting, all in a nearly impossibly compact package.
5. Marcy Stack Dual Function Home Gym
Has a built in rowing machine
Pecs tower lets you do flies or presses
Padded rollers for comfort and safety
No horizontal bench presses
Here is another offering from Marcy, with a multigym design for seated presses, leg curls, lat pulldowns and more.Read more
With a resistance of up to 200 pounds comes from a weight stack, you can quickly adjust your level of resistance with the pin. Marcy had safety in mind when it designed this stack gym. You get padded vinyl on all seats, pads, and rollers. Those pads include comfortable stability for your hands, arms, knees, and ankles. The pec deck tower lets you work different muscle groups by facing different directions, just like the pec units at a commercial gym.
There is even a metal cover on the weight stack and a lock to secure the stack in place, all for added safety. Construction is 14 gauge steel tubing, with industry standard powder coating. Weight plates are covered in vinyl, protecting both your hands and their own structural integrity in case you somehow get into trouble while adjusting the weights. The redundant safeties and ability to use very little weight make the stack suitable for kids and anyone who is new to strength training.
Rounding out the bonus features, you can adjust the curl piece for any arm size, work your whole lower body with the leg attachment, and row to your heart's content with your hands in almost any position.
6. Total Gym 1400 Deluxe
Instructional booklet and DVD
Seat handles for stability, variety
Also folds for storage
Flip chart is inconvenient and hard to read for seniors (wall chart is available)
This companion piece to our beloved Total Gym 1900 offers you a couple of advanced features, adding variety to your workout while letting you hit everything you need to in just 20 or 30 minutes.Read more
Like other Total Gym products, this one lets you strengthen and stretch several large muscles groups at the same time. The 60+ available exercises include resistance training, stretching, and dynamic cardio. The resistance is expansive enough for anyone from children to seniors to use the 1400. You also get an instructional DVD with purchase.
Like its sibling, the 1900, the 1400 folds neatly for storage. Unlike almost any other home gym, too, the 1400 comes assembled. When it ships to your home, all you have to do is set it up where you want it and get started learning how to use. Reminder--if you haven't used Total Gym equipment before, it takes some getting used to. Be ready for a learning curve, with a reward at the end when your notice your body getting stronger.
Extra add ons include bench handles, a flip chart that mount on the unit, and a fixed, padded foot plate so you can simulate leg presses.
7. Tension Toner
Can be put to use anywhere
Unique lateral resistance
Works out your whole body
Effectiveness for muscle imbalances is not known
This little powerhouse is not as compact as the Oyo personal gym, but you can still get some serious strength benefits and maintain your health when you are away from home.Read more
This is a patented elastic cable device, with sturdy fixed handles, that gives you access to more than 70 resistance moves for your entire body. You meet resistance by pulling the cable towards you, like with a traditional resistance band set. But the Tension Toner hits more muscle groups, even ones you forgot about, by letting you pull the handle apart laterally as well.
Fitness buffs who travel for work will love the Tension Toner. It attaches to any door, and you can also immobilize it on the ground if you want to go outside. The Tension Toner makes a pretty unusual claim--according to the maker, the unit will overcome imbalances in your muscles.
It is true that imbalances often come from working the same muscle groups over time while neglecting other ones. Tension Toner aims to address this by naturally working all those extra muscle groups. We could not find scientific evidence of this, but the Toner enjoys mostly favorable reviews and, at the time of this writing, it is number 212 in Amazon's Fitness and Home Gyms category.
Thought you may prefer not to use the tension toner as your only strength training device, we are still confident that you can get some mileage out of it and keep from losing muscle gains during times away from your home gym.
8. LX Free Power Tower
Six helpful accessory attachments
Padded nonslip safety grips/pads
Has a pushup assist attachment
Little information about the company is available
Back pad is smaller than the average lower back
A rigid fixed frame lets you do pull ups, dips, and a few other core moves using your own bodyweight and three sets of height adjustable bars.Read more
Safety and stability come first, with thick steel tubing for the frame. The foam rubber handles are tightly compacted, nice and firm with just the right amount of give when you place your hand on them. All the grips have nonslip material, too, so you can focus on your strength training without having to worry about balancing.
The upper chin up and middle dip bars move up and down the sides of the frame on this power tower. That means more versatility, and also accessibility for people of different heights. The push up assist handles, close to floor level, are fixed but also feature grips and padding. A small back cushion lets you push in and do leg raises with your chest and abs doing all the work.
The rubberized feet on the ends of the parallel bottom braces will protect your floor, but you still may want a pad under the Power Tower since your whole body weight rests on it during use.
9. Gold's Gym System
U shaped pec handles
Preacher curl attachment
Variety of leg exercises
Only 125 pounds of resistance
A fairly businesslike weight stack machine from a trusted manufacturer. If you've owned any Gold's Gym products before, you know what to expect and we think you will be satisfied.Read more
First of all, if you buy the system online, you will probably receive more than one box, and not on the same day. It's a little inconvenient, but not necessarily a deal breaker if you don't mind waiting. Reviewers advise that assembly takes up to four hours, though it will go faster if you are used to putting equipment together.
The weight stack is made of safe vinyl and provides 125 pounds of resistance. You get a comfy padded pec deck, with fly and press capability. The chest station handles have a sideways U-shape, unlike the protruding front handles you usually see. The padded arm pieces are still there.
High and low pulleys provide variable grip lat pulldowns as well as a generously padded leg unit. There are several standard accessories, including a plate for doing rows and a comfortable preacher curl stand. The Gold's Gym home system can handle user weights of up to 300 pounds.
10. Valor Fitness Wall Mount Cable Station
Saves a lot of space
Light weight, for a cable machine
Full range of motion
Cannot be used without being mounted to wall
One of our favorite newer brands, Valor Fitness offers this space saver that stands vertically and attaches to a wall. This gives you stability and also frees up a substantial amount of space in your home gym.Read more
Resistance comes from cables, letting you practice a full range of motion with no restrictions. Instead of a weight stack, Valor provides uses either Olympic or standard weights but still quite effective. You can work your entire body through 16 possible adjustments. One arm and double arm exercises are possible.
Wall attachments are at the top and bottom. Valor recommends not using the BD-62 if you do not want something permanently installed. The BD-61 is a nearly identical alternative that does not need to be attached. The BD-62 is designed for some limited commercial use as well as for home gyms.
The unit stands about six and a half feet. Valor, known for its customer service, offers a three year frame warranty. The cables carry a one year warranty.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
A machine that can't accommodate everyone is seriously limited.
Nowadays, with every company under the sun offering health and fitness products, it is hard to think of any gear that you can't adjust for yourself. Yoga mats? Maybe. Even a fixed aerobic step comes with blocks you can put under it for a more intense cardio workout.
So, to earn our respect and the highest rating, any given piece of equipment had to distinguish itself with an extra dimension of adjustability. Even though it's unconventional, we really liked the Tension Toner because literally anyone can set it up and start using it. The handle comes apart for lateral movement, and it is up to you how far you want to take those handles in opposite directions.
As far as individual freedom of movement goes, it is tough to beat a cable machine. Every cable machine, even a lower end model, lets you experience as many planes of motion as you want. The only problem is that some cable machines won't adjust for extra tall or shorter than average users. Since we believe everyone deserves a chance to get fit, this was something we took into account.
Just like when you paint using a ladder, you don't want to sit or stand on a workout machine unless you're confident it can support you.
Humans come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of fitness. And that's okay. It is the fitness industry's job to meet us at whatever starting point we choose. It isn't the other way around. You should never have to contort or compress your body into weird angles just to get a leg workout, or whatever.
We prioritized machines that can support 300+ pounds of user weight in this buying guide. That was more important, for us than even the level of resistance. Those of us who need progressively more weight can look for machines with greater than 200 pounds of available resistance. Or, many of the best home gyms come with upgrade ability. If you are going to give s piece of equipment a hard pass, it should be because it doesn't meet you halfway. You have the ability to shop around and find something that will fit you like a new sneaker.
Depending on your goals, an abundance of features may not be for the best.
That's because, after a certain point, extra features add cost without adding value.
What good is a four-way leg station if you get all the leg strength you want from bodyweight squats or dumbbell lunges? Is it worth it to invest in six different attachments, each with its own price tag, if you never actually use them.? We don't think it is. The best pieces of equipment are the ones that place options over excess features. If you want to do more chin-ups than anyone on your block, you may be able to use a simple sturdy tree limb. You probably wouldn't want to, but you could. So when we look for our next piece of gear, we can swipe past those luxury models that can do more than the average user will ever possibly need.
A good bench will support you so you don't have to work harder than necessary to lift the weight.
A bench that doesn't do that will set you up for injury and burnout. So will a pec deck, rowing machine, ab tower, or virtually any other structure that provides resistance training.
Even body weight machines, like the Power Tower, have to be supportive. You need those handles and bars to hold yourself up, so your arms and core muscles grow. In this buying guide, we looked for equipment that can work in partnership with you. We all need something that will work with us, not make the work of getting fit even harder than it often is.
Functional fitness is the new norm.
What we mean by that is that single muscle group exercises are falling by the wayside. Why do arm curls, dumbbell rows, and lunges, all in one workout, when you can hit all those muscle groups at almost the same time using a multi-gym?
Functional fitness also has to do with the movements and resistance you move. For example, no human will ever need to lift 400 pounds from a seated position with their knees. We aren't saying leg curls and extensions have no value, just that a little restraint is in order.
So the machines on our list, the ones that made the cut, are the ones that are versatile enough to keep you interested without giving you a lot of unnecessary or potentially harmful exercises.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Plenty of die-hard gym lovers swear they will never give up their free weights. It's a respectable position, not something we would argue about. But we would like to push back against the idea that free weights are superior to weight stacks, simply because it encourages the belief that weight stacks aren't real weight training.
Weight stacks can do a better job of targeting specific muscle groups. You may need strong biceps for hitting softballs. A weight stack lets you do that, and it is easier making adjustments than it would be with a dumbbell.
Perhaps the greatest advantage to weight stacks, especially for beginners, is that you are not as likely to get injured. Weight stacks discourage hyperextension and encourage proper form, just by design, in a way dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells don't.
Finally, we say weight stacks are an appropriate replacement for free weights, if you want to switch, because you can change the resistance more easily and can learn to use new weight stacks faster.
Since so many of the machines on our list offer core strengthening benefits, it is a good time to talk about how not to work those abs.
Basically, the less your spine moves, the better. We are big fans of planks because the strength comes from immobilization. Side planks are good, too, but not always necessary if you just want to ward off illness and injury.
Sometimes, at the gym, we see people twisting their legs and trunks around, doing all sorts of crunch variations. Those moves are extraneous. There is really no functional benefit to moving in a way you never would in daily life. For example, if you need to change a tire, you aren't going to remove the old tire by lying on the ground, sliding the tire onto your belly, and shimmying your spine around until the tire comes off the wheel well. We are functional fitness devotees here and, more than that, proponents of healthy spines. So stay away from ab exercises that force you into unnatural positions. The humble dip, plank, and sit up regimen is as much as most of us need.
Other Factors to Consider
Hard work comes with the territory if we want to increase and maintain our level of fitness. There is a fine balance in pushing out that next bench press (with a spotter) to reach a new level, but doing it in such a way that you know you won't be injured.
Uncomfortable equipment encourages injury. That's because, if you are focused on holding your body in a way that you hope will lessen the discomfort, you aren't focused on making each rep count. So we always prioritize comfort. Even a World's Strongest Man competitor is allowed to wrap his hands before he deadlifts a truck body.
We talk about range of motion quite a bit. It is important because a limited range of motion at the gym only leads to problems outside the gym.
Just as important as moving through the whole plane, though, is stopping when you need to stop. As we have said before, multi gyms and similar machines are good at preventing hyperextension. Even a pulley or cable, which gives you total freedom, will have limits and will prevent you from moving it in a way that could hurt you or damage the equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Can the pulley cables get twisted?
Yes. This is possible on even high-end machines with aviation level cables. It is usually because the pulleys are not able to spin as they should. You should check the pulleys periodically, when the machine is not in use, to make sure they spin properly.
If they don't, you may be able to put a thin coat of multi-purpose oil on them. Don't do that without checking the user manual, though. Not all pulleys are designed to be lubricated.
In the case of a completely twisted and unusable cable, you can remove the cable from the assembly and let it lie on the floor overnight so it can straighten itself.
If you have a problem with the cables, pulleys, or weight stack, and aren't sure how to fix it, call either the manufacturer or a reputable service company. If you have to pay for a repair, past the warranty period, that is still better than having a machine you can't use.
q: Is something like the Power Tower superior to body weight exercises?
We think so, simply because it gives you several core exercises to choose from, without you having to get down on the floor. Getting up from the floor can be a workout in itself, especially if you have any back or knee issues. Also, just knowing you can do an array of exercises can be enough to keep you motivated.
This is not to say that a Power Tower or similar unit it indispensable. You can make significant strength progress from old fashioned planks and other simple moves alone.
q: Can resistance band units take the place of actual machines?
Maybe, but it depends on the resistance bands. A low priced set of cords and straps is not going to give you the results of a multi-gym, but it isn't supposed to. The resistance bands that attach to doors, or whatever, are there to bridge the gap between more strenuous workouts, or to keep you active when you are out of your routine.
On the other hand, a properly used TRX suspension system, which is just a technologically advanced resistance band set, can give you amazing results without the use of any benched or weight stacks. We think, as usual, that the best set of resistance bands is the one that fits your needs and helps you get from where you are to where you need to be.
q: Why do we call cable machines functional fitness gear?
Because doing cable exercises favors those muscles we use the most in our daily lives, and also provides a natural and unobstructed range of motion, as opposed to some machines that can lock you in. It isn't that weight stack machines are wrong and cables are right, just that they exercise your body in different ways. We think a mixture of time on multi gyms, cable machines, free weights, and body weights are the best bet for overall functional fitness, in most cases.
q: Do I need all the extra attachments for my new multi gym?
It's always up to you, but our gut feeling is to say no. If you are looking to build upper body strength, you will probably purchase something that can target those muscle groups in the first place. Thinks like preacher curl attachments are great for athletes in certain sports, but not always for the general fitness oriented user. And don't forget, if you decide you need more options, the attachments will be there later for you to buy.
- Cable Machines Compared to Free Weights, Health and Wellness Website ,
- Functional fitness training: Is it right for you?, Consumer Medical Info SIte ,
- 8 Tough Exercises for Your Abs That Won’t Hurt Your Back, Fitness Magazine ,