What to look for in a home gym

How you invest in fitness equipment can really dictate how you use it: to help you meet your fitness goals, or as a place to hang your clothes. Here are the key things to look for when purchasing a multi-gym for your home.

A multi-gym should help you maintain proper form and body alignment when you exercise. If the gym’s movement patterns are not biomechanically correct, it can not help you maintain proper alignment throughout the exercise movements, and may even force you into unnatural positions, possibly causing injury to your body. At the same time, the gym should not completely restrict your movements, limiting your range of motion (unless you want it to), as this will not allow for your body to adjust into natural ranges of motion.

Keep in mind, if the home-gym only utilizes fixed planes of motion, then you aren’t getting the benefit of using your stabilizing muscles. Recall, stabilizing muscles are the smaller muscle groups responsible for keeping your spine and back in check.  When you strengthen your major muscles without also strengthening the surrounding stabilizing muscles, it’s only a matter of time before an injury will occur.

Relating to biomechanics, a multi-gym should be designed to fit every user comfortably. One size does not fit all. Imagine a really big person driving a tiny car, or conversely, a tiny person driving a huge truck; will they be comfortable? Will they have proper posture? Will they drive safely and proficiently? Not likely. A gym that does not adjust to fit the user will, at some point, put the user’s body (joints in particular) in a position that is biomechanically incorrect.

A multi-gym should have at least two exercises for every muscle group in the body. This is very important. Working out the whole body is a must. Neglecting any muscle groups in favor of others will lead to imbalances, and ultimately to injury. How many people do you know with bad backs? This is a classic imbalance, one that leads to lower back pain, poor posture and eventual immobility.

Variety is also very important. The human body adapts very quickly and will soon “plateau”, a point where, regardless of how hard you work out, you make minimal progress. By changing your exercise routine on a regular basis (once a month is a good rule of thumb), you force the body to continually adapt and progress. A multi-gym that gives you a variety of exercises for the same muscle group allows you to change up your workout routine efficiently and conveniently.

Inconvenience is the number one roadblock to maintaining a consistent fitness lifestyle. A multi-gym must be easy to use, in many ways. First, the gym should be easy to learn how to use, preferably accessorized with thorough manuals, posters, DVD’s and/or online training; It should be quick to set-up and adjust for all users and all exercises; It should provide maximum benefit in the smallest space; and it should be accessible for most sizes, ages and experience levels.

Strength equipment in general needs to be pretty tough. Multi-gyms in particular have many moving parts, and they take a beating; bearings, pulleys, cables, handles, rollers, weight stack rods, etc. These parts need to be strong enough to handle day-to-day use for many years, and should be backed up by a strong warranty. The frame also needs to be strong enough to handle the forces placed upon it. The frame should come with a lifetime guarantee, no less. Look for a minimum 14 gauge steel frame with solid, clean welds, and mostly grade 5 bolts (check the exposed head of the bolt for 3 lines radiating out from the middle). Overall, a high quality home multi-gym will be more metal than plastic, more “beef” than “hype”.

When you buy a home multi-gym, it should be the last one you buy. It should be able to maintain the above criteria for your lifetime. Avoid fancy and gimmicky, go with sturdy and comfortable. Look for equipment that works simple, with options that add value. Even the highest of quality home gyms are not designed just for the pro body builder or Olympic weight lifter; they are for anyone who wants (and expects) results.

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