Best Home Gyms Under $500 | Top 5 Picks for 2020 (Full Reviews)

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With everybody looking to work out at home nowadays, home gyms are as popular as ever.

The good news is that you don’t have to spend much at all. These machines have become better and more affordable.

Yet, with so many brands and models out there, picking the best home gyms for under $500 wasn’t easy for us.

We’ve looked in great detail into every important aspect of the home gyms that we reviewed. How comfortable is the multi gym, how many exercises can we do with it, could we really get a full-body workout? We highlighted every machine’s pros but also its potential cons.

For simplicity we refer to these machines simply as Home Gyms, but you they are also called all-in-one gyms, or if you live in the UK they are commonly known as multi-gyms.

THE 5 BEST HOME GYMS FOR UNDER $500

Editor’s Note: At the time of this review, you could get some of these home gyms even for significantly less than $500. But prices for exercise equipment can change daily when there’s high demand and low supply.

With the quarantine and social distancing, people are buying home gyms and trying to get their hands on every piece of home exercise equipment they can find. Online retailers list a lot of workout equipment as out of stock.

You may need to compromise a bit, perhaps spending a little bit more on a higher-end model. That said, we still think you could find excellent options for about $500 or less.

OUR TOP PICKS AT A GLANCE

Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym
  • More than 25 exercises
  • Real rowing exercise feature
  • Most features for price
Marcy MWM-988 Multifunction Steel Home Gym 150lb Weight Stack Machine
  • Smooth movement
  • Very quick to switch exercises
  • Feels sturdy
XR 55 Home Exercise Gold's Gym, weight stack, padded seat, preacher pad, chart
  • 125 lbs weight stack gives 330 lb of resistance
  • Decent feel for a low budget all-in-one gym
  • Basic exercise options but at a lower cost
Total Gym 1900
  • Full body workout with 60 exercise options
  • Low impact uses your own bodyweight
  • Great for high-reps and cardio
Home Gym Weider 214 lb Stack, 300 lbs, exercise chart, ankle strap, vinyl seats
  • Most compact weight stack home gym
  • About 20 exercises
  • Smooth motion like more expensive machines

Bowflex PR1000

The Bowflex PR1000 is one of the best home gym machines, especially if you can get it for around $500*

* Keep mind that prices fluctuate, particularly due to the current high demand for home gym equipment. We think this Bowflex is still worth it even at a slightly higher cost.

Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym

Instead of using weights, the Bowflex PR1000 gets its resistance from a system of flexible rods. The rods are semi-stiff, like the limb of a bow, bending when you put enough pressure on them. The PR1000 provides 210 pounds of resistance (The PR3000 and Bowflex Blaze can go higher).

Bowflex’s pulley systems give you plenty of angles to work with. You can do more than 25 different exercises total, both upper and lower body. Using different grips and variations, you can do a dozen more.

The PR1000 is not just a fantastic all-in-one multi gym, but it is also a great rowing machine.

If you’re addicted to Frank Underwood-style rowing, this is the best machine on our list for that particular exercise. With a few adjustments, the bench converts into a rowing seat that many people love for its smooth gliding motion. The PR1000 is also the only machine here that allows you to add resistance to your rowing. The other machines in this review only let you row with the resistance of your own body weight.

PROS & CONS

  • This Bowflex is one of the best affordable home gym machines for tall people. The machine feels comfortable standing up even if you’re tall.
  • Although the setup looks complicated, it’s easy to switch between exercises. Increasing or lowering resistance takes only a few seconds. Switching from a standing, upper body exercise to a sitting, lower body position will take about a minute.
  • The Bowflex PR1000 is a sturdy machine, even if you plan to work out every day. For reliability, we turned to longer-term power users who said that they’ve never heard the machine groan, no matter how hard they worked it. Still, we advise that you tighten the bolts every few hundred hours to make sure they don’t get too loose, which only takes a couple of minutes.
  • The resistance rods themselves are quite durable. We recommend you unhook them between workouts. This will prolong their life and keep you safe. If anything does happen to one of your rods, it can be replaced easily.
  • If you are a serious lifter, you may feel that the 210 lb of resistance that the rods give you isn’t enough fo some exercises.
  • Already very strong? Bowflex’s PR3000 is a more advanced model with up to 310 lbs of resistance. If that is not enough for you, the Bowflex Blaze Home Gym can go up to 410 lbs of resistance.
  • The rowing function may feel difficult without the use of supports or straps to keep your legs in place. You can put your feet on the support bar which gives more stability, or you could buy leg straps separately.

UPPER BODY EXERCISES

  • Rowing exercises
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep pulldowns
  • Chest flies with various inclines
  • Ab crunches
  • Shoulder flies
  • Shoulder presses
  • Vertical and inclined overhead shoulder pulldowns
  • Horizontal chest presses – The Bowflex is the only machine on the list that lets you true horizontal presses that is as close to as doing real bench presses.

LOWER BODY EXERCISES

  • Leg presses
  • Leg curls
  • Calf raises

The Bowflex also comes with an ankle strap that lets you do calf extensions.

SPECS

Dimensions: The Bowflex PR1000 is 95 inches long and 38 inches wide. The real height is about 86 inches. The machine weighs 144 pounds.

Maximum User Weight: 300 pounds.

Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym

Bowflex PR1000

  • More than 25 exercises
  • Real rowing exercise feature
  • Most features for price

Marcy Home Gym MWM-988 and MWM-990

If you prefer actual weights to other resistance system types, the Marcy Multifunction Home Gym comes with a whole stack of them. The stack has 150 pounds of weights, but the Marcy’s pulley system makes the weights feel slightly heavier than they are. You’ll get a total resistance of about  200 lbs.

The Marcy MWM-988 and MWM-990 are identical, except for the color.

Marcy MWM-988 Multifunction Steel Home Gym 150lb Weight Stack Machine

The Marcy Home Gym comes with a bunch of different accessories for different exercise positions. If you’re creative and like changing up your routine, you’ll be able to do about 30 different upper and lower body exercises.

The frame is made from 14-gauge, heavy-duty steel tubing. That makes it the most durable multi-gym on our list. The steel frame is also coated in vinyl, so it won’t hurt too much if you bang into it.

It’s one of the top home gyms you can get for under $500 (* At the time of review its price was $399, but prices are subject to change)

PROS & CONS

  • The Marcy Home Gym is exceptionally well built. It’s not just the body of the machine, but also the quality of the pulleys, cables, and fasteners. When you work out on the Marcy MWM-988 the movement feels smooth, with no mid-movement break-points. It’s also one of the more quiet home gyms that use a weight stack.
  • Where some of the other affordable home gyms here have complex frames or resistance systems, the Marcy is mostly just a basic weight training system. That is actually an advantage, there’s almost no learning curve involved. It’s one of the easiest home gyms to use. It’s also pretty easy to switch exercises, as there is no need to hook or unhook various pulleys, as is the case with more complex equipment.
  • Some big people may find a slightly limited range of motion in some exercises. You could solve this issue creatively by folding the chain for the pulldown bar in half. This will make the chain tenser and will allow you to do a full range of movement.
  • The Marcy Home Gym comes with a Velcro strap you can put around your ankle for some extra leg exercises. Apparently, the ankle strap pulley system isn’t the smoothest. However, we don’t think it’s a deal-breaker in our book, especially that all the other pulleys work very well.

UPPER BODY EXERCISES

The Marcy Home Gym comes with a chart that shows you how to use the machine to do 15 different exercises, nice for novices. Even if you know all the exercises, a quick glance helps to remind you of all exercise variations that you could otherwise forget in the heat of the moment.

It has a dual function press arm that lets you do chest presses and vertical butterflies. Each side of the arm moves independently.

It has two pulley stations and two lateral bars that you can use for pull-ups, pulldowns, pullovers, and pulley rows.

It also has an adjustable bicep pad that you can use for reacher curls, hammer curls, and barbell curls.

LOWER BODY EXERCISES

The leg developer comes with thick padding for extra comfort and a detachable ankle strap. These let you do:

  • Leg curls
  • Outer leg kicks
  • Inner leg kicks
  • Back kicks

SPECS

Dimensions: When completely assembled, the Marcy Multifunction Steel Home Gym is 68 inches long, 36 inches wide and 79 inches tall.

The machine weighs 125 pounds without the weights or 275 pounds total.

Maximum User Weight: 300 lbs.

Marcy MWM-988 Multifunction Steel Home Gym 150lb Weight Stack Machine

Marcy Home Gym MWM

  • Smooth movement
  • Very quick to switch exercises
  • Feels sturdy

Gold's Gym XR 55

The Gold’s Gym XR 55 has the most weight resistance of any of the low-cost home gyms that we have reviewed here. If you’re interested in building mass at home, we think this one will be your best bet.

XR 55 Home Exercise Gold's Gym, weight stack, padded seat, preacher pad, chart

Where the previous two home gyms we reviewed here were either mostly weights or mostly alternative resistance, the Gold’s Gym XR 55 is about half and half.

It comes with 125 pounds of vinyl-covered cement weights. It also has a system of high and low pulleys that more than doubles the effectiveness of the weights to a total of 330 pounds of resistance.

PROS & CONS

  • The XR 55 feels heavy and well-built despite its price. If you want a budget home gym that punches above its weight, this machine is both low-priced and solid.
  • You can add to its longevity by greasing the XR 55’s moving parts during assembly. We recommend that you continue greasing the bushings at least a couple times a year. It only takes a minute and grease is included in the package.
  • If the weight stacks are not lubricated, the weights might get stuck at the top of the motion. If this happens to you, try lubricating the bar on which the weights slide up and down on.
  • The Gold’s Gym XR 55 packs of a lot of resistance, but its exercise motion isn’t the smoothest. You may feel kind of like break-points in the motion where design flaws cause sudden changes in resistance. This doesn’t always happen, but if it does, we’ve heard you may be able to fix it by shortening the chain to eliminate the beginning of the movement.

UPPER BODY EXERCISES

The XR 55 has a set of arms that double as both a chest press and butterfly arms. The high and low pulleys let you hit your biceps, triceps, back, and shoulders the same as if you were at the gym.

LOWER BODY EXERCISES

The leg developer comes with four foam rolls to keep you from bruising your shins. You can do leg curls and leg extensions. There is no ankle strap included, but you can one to do leg kicks.

SPECS

Dimensions: Assembled, the XR 55 is approximately 79 inches high, 65 inches long and 39 inches wide. The frame weighs 132 pounds plus 125 pounds in weights, making for a total of 157 pounds.

Maximum User Weight: 300 lbs.

XR 55 Home Exercise Gold's Gym, weight stack, padded seat, preacher pad, chart

Gold’s Gym XR 55

  • 125 lbs weight stack gives 330 lb of resistance
  • Decent feel for a low budget all-in-one gym
  • Basic exercise options but at a lower cost

Total Gym 1900

It seems as if the Total Gym brand has been forever. If you’re old enough, you must have come across its TV infomercials featuring Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley.

Though the company may have somewhat aggressive marketing, in Total Gym defense, we would say it’s not just a hype, they do make some good home exercise equipment.

Total Gym 1900

The Total Gym 1900 is a completely different concept than the other budget multi gyms in this review. Instead of a system a weight stack or resistance rods, this one uses pulleys to let you lift your own body weight.

The pulley system is adjustable. You can choose what percentage of your bodyweight you want to use at any time. At its steepest angle, it allows you to lift about 45% of your weight.

This machine is proud of its variety. It allows you to do around 60 different exercises, including stretching, cardio, and strength training.

If you’re interested in packing on muscle by the pound, this machine won’t be right for you.

This isn’t the home gym for heavy lifters or bodybuilders. Still, it’s one of the best full-body workout machines for people into fitness, looking for an inexpensive solution to work out at home.

Using the Total Body machine is not the same as doing bodyweight-only exercises (without equipment).

The Total Body 1900 leverages your own body weight to use it as resistance, and it does that in a smart way. It’s definitely a step up if you are used to only doing bodyweight exercises like burpees, push-ups, and other bodyweight exercises.

PROS & CONS

  • Lowest impact of home gym machines. The absence of clunky weights and the sloping glide board means fewer jolts at the beginning and end of each motion. The Total Gym 1900’s is as low-impact as it gets.
  • Despite weighing only 75 pounds, and being one of the lightest home gyms, it feels very solid and doesn’t creak or rock.
  • It can support a person who weighs up to 350 lbs, a higher maximum user weight than the other machines. If you’re on the heavy side and looking to lose a few pounds, the total Gym 1900′ is one of the best options you can get.
  • The Total Body comes with two floor mats, one for each end of the machine. This helps a lot both for stability as well as surface protection.
  • Truly all in one gym machine. You don’t have to buy any extra attachments or accessories. Like the included floor mats, everything you need to start working out right away is included in the package.
  • If you have limited space, you’ll be happy to know that this home gym is foldable. It’s easy to fold up the Total Gym and tuck it behind a door or under a bed. Simply slide the two opposite ends together, folding it upward vertically, then fold the top half down over itself.
  • The only downside of the Total Gym 1900 that we can think of is that it’s not the machine for the hardcore fitness enthusiasts. If you run marathons or kill it at CrossFit every day, you might feel underwhelmed by the Total Gym 1900. However, even if that is the case, we would still recommend this machine for variety.

UPPER & LOWER BODY EXERCISES

The 1900 gives you a true full body workout at home. This home gym is a little unconventional, so it comes with a DVD (and videos you can watch online) to help you get the exercises right.

Its particular exercises are a little hard to describe, but that doesn’t mean they are not great, they are. Many of them train various muscle groups at the same time. A lot of the 1900’s exercises work out the upper and lower body together. All major muscle groups are included.

There are six different attachments in total including:

  • Regular hand bar
  • 90-degree hand bar
  • Hand bar with an armrest
  • Hand bar with foot pads
  • Leg harness

SPECS

Dimensions: The Total Gym 1900 measures 93 inches long, 16 inches wide and 43 inches tall. It folds up vertically to about 51 inches tall and only 7 inches long. It weighs 75 pounds.

Maximum User Weight: Up to 350 lbs person.

If you want a more advanced machine look for the Total Gym XLS. It’s a more expensive model, but it has more exercise options, better padding, and a user max capacity of 400 lb. 

Total Gym 1900

Total Gym 1900

  • Full body workout with 60 exercise options
  • Low impact uses your own bodyweight
  • Great for high-reps and cardio

Weider Home Gym

The Weider is smaller than the other multi-gym machines here. If you’re worried about your limited space, the Home Gym Weider is the most compact machine that uses a weight stack for under $500 (* Price when reviewed was $339, but prices are subject to change)

Home Gym Weider 214 lb Stack, 300 lbs, exercise chart, ankle strap, vinyl seats

The Home Gym Weider comes with an oddly-specific 81 pounds of actual weights. The pulley resistance system turns this into an oddly-specific 214 pounds of total resistance. That’s about the same as most of the other budget home gyms we’re reviewing here.

The Weider has six different pulley positions, which you can turn into about 20 different exercises, or even more if you are creative. You’ll be able to hit all muscle groups.

The small size of this machine doesn’t take away from its strength. It’s constructed from quality steel tubing and made for long-term heavy use.

PROS & CONS

  • The Weider home gym does only a few things, but it does them well. It may have slightly less variety than other budget home gyms, but it gets the job done.
  • The weight stack is standard, and though not an official manufacturer statement, we’ve heard of people who’ve managed to add more plates to the weight stack to increase resistance.
  • The bench is fixed into one position, no adjustments are possible. This is probably the reason why this home gym has fewer exercise options vs. the other low-cost home gyms we reviewed here.

UPPER BODY EXERCISES

The high pulley comes with a lat bar that lets you hit your back, triceps, and lats. The low pulley lets you hit your biceps, forearms, rhomboids, deltoids, and traps.

There is also a chest station for doing chest presses and chest fly. The preacher curls station gives you a different way to work out your biceps.

LOWER BODY EXERCISES

The leg developer station lets you do the usual leg curls and extensions. It comes with foam for your protection and an included ankle strap.

SPECS

Dimensions: The Weider Home Gym is 65 inches long, 37 inches wide and 76 inches tall. It weighs 175 pounds.

Maximum User Weight: 300 lbs.

Home Gym Weider 214 lb Stack, 300 lbs, exercise chart, ankle strap, vinyl seats

Weider Home Gym

  • Most compact weight stack home gym
  • About 20 exercises
  • Smooth motion like more expensive machines

How to Pick the Right Home Gym (All-in-one Multi-Gym)

Resistance Types

There are three types of resistance in the top budget home gyms we’ve reviewed:

  • The Bowflex resistance rods
  • The Total Gym 1900 bodyweight resistance
  • The weight stack augmented by pulley resistance.

The Bowflex rods are made of a composite poly-material that allows them to bend without breaking. With years of use, they may end up bowing down slightly, but they have a lifetime warranty.

The resistance on the Bowflex feels different than machines that use plates or a weight stack. Most people don’t have any issue with it, but others might need to get used to it.

The Total Gym uses an inclined sliding bench paired with a system of elastic bands and pulleys to let you lift your own weight.

If you want a low-impact machine that is very compact, there is no better machine than the Total Gym 1900. However, since it uses your own bodyweight for resistance, you are limited by the level of intensity and can’t go super heavy or do low-reps.

The other machines, the Marcy MWM-988, Gold’s Gym XR-55, Weider, and most other all in one home gyms, use the classic weight stack. The pulley system adds some of its own resistance and makes the weight feel a bit heavier than the total weight of the stack. If you want that same feeling of resistance as you get with most gym equipment, you may want to pick one of these machines.

Space Considerations

The best option is to designate an entire room for your home gym, but let’s face it, we don’t all have this luxury. If you don’t have a spare room, you can invest in a folding machine or but a set of weights. You may be able to store your exercise machine outside if you have a tarp to protect it from sun and rain damage.

The biggest machine on our list is almost eight feet long and more than seven feet tall. The smallest one (Total Gym 1900) folds up to fit in a closet.

What's a Home Gym and is it Right for You?

What's a home gym?

The term home gym is a bit vague has it has a double meaning.

First, it’s commonly referred to describe an all-in-one exercise machine on which you can do many exercises. It’s essentially like having a whole gym in just one machine. That why it’s often called “all-in-one gym”. In the U.K, it’s generally known as a multi-gym, but all of these terms mean the same thing.

Second, a Home Gym is also used as a general term to describe setting up space at home for working out.

Your home gym can be in your basement, your garage, or any part of your home. Your home gym can be a couple of dumbbells and a towel behind your living room couch. If you are lucky, you’ll have a dedicated area or a room full of exercise equipment. The perfect fully-equipped home gym would probably include cardio equipment such as a treadmill or an exercise bike, an all-in-one gym machine, dumbbells, weight bench, and a weight cage.

If you have no machines and no weights, you can turn household items into makeshift homemade weights. Finally, don’t forget good old bodyweight exercises like burpees, push-ups, wall handstands, or planks.

Who Is a Home Gym Good for?

Home gyms are best for people with self-discipline. If you know how to set your own goals and avoid distractions, your home gym will see plenty of use.

If you’re a social person, you may miss the background noise of other people working out. If you like your privacy, you’ll probably love working out alone.

Home gyms are also great for people with weird schedules. If you love working out early in the morning or late at night, you won’t have to worry about your home gym being closed.

Home gyms are also ideal for people in quarantine.

Lastly, some people work out at home yet still have a gym membership. When you have a tight schedule, you can always sneak in a quick workout at home. Still, when you have more free time, you might go to the gym and enjoy the diversity of cardio and strength training equipment.

The Pros & Cons of Home Gyms

The money-saving is obvious, instead of spending money on a gym membership, you can invest in your own equipment.

The best part of having your own gym at home is the control it gives you over your workout. You can wear whatever you want, put on all your favorite songs, grunt as loud as you want to, and sweat all over the equipment.

Your home gym is never closed, it’s 24/7 so you can work out whenever you feel like it.

One of the most significant advantages of working out at your home gym is that you are less likely to skip workouts. There is simply very little preparation required. There is no commute to the gym, no locker to use, and what about the unproductive waste of time it takes to get into the gym and out of the gym.

The main disadvantage of having a home gym is the immediate cost. You’ll have to sink a bit of money into buying your initial machine or weights.

You also won’t have much variety, at least at the beginning. Over time, you may add more work out options, but you’ll probably never have as much variety as a professional gym.

If you are a bodybuilder or a powerlifter, you’ll probably want to equip your home gym adequately. You’ll want to look into buying a power weight cage with bench, an Olympic bar, and lots of weights.

All-in-one Home Gym Machines Vs. Free Weights

Home gyms that use resistance will put less wear and tear on your body than weights. If you need low impact exercise or have strict physical limitations, a home gym (multi-gym) will allow you to stay in shape without hurting yourself.

The advantage of an all in one gym machines are convenience and ease of use, particularly for people just starting out.

With free weights, you really have to know what you’re doing. Though that is also the case with machines, it’s to a much lesser extent. It is harder to mess up your form using a home gym than it is with free weights.

We love free weights, and they have their unique advantages. There is no right or wrong. You might feel uncomfortable and insecure doing free weights exercises with good form. In that case, using a home gym all-in-one machine can be the perfect solution for you, at least when starting out.

If you have experience working out with an Olympic barbell and some dumbbells, you might prefer focusing on doing compound free weights exercises like bench presses, squats, and deadlifts.

Lastly, we would say that one does not necessarily replace the other. If you have the required space and budget, your home gym setup can include an all-in-one gym machine, as well as some free weights and workout bench.