With so many different gym machines out there, it can get really overwhelming.
In this guide, I’ll walk through all the gym equipment with great detail including machine names, pictures and even videos showing you how to use each machine. See what muscle group each machine targets and all exercises that you can perform.
See recommendations for the best equipment, machine prices and our rating on their effectiveness level
GOING TO THE GYM – You want to know what kind of exercises you can do with each piece of equipment. If the machine is taken and you don’t want to wait in line as can happen in rush hour, I’ll give you an alternative machine or exercise you can do instead.
BUILDING YOUR HOME GYM – I’ll tell you which machines are absolutely essential and which are a total waste of money, all based on ratings of versatility and cost-effectiveness. See what machines are home gym friendly and what machines are more suited for commercial purposes.
Either way, working out in a commercial gym or wishing to equip your very own home gym, I’ll try to make the choices much easier for you.
You can also read below about:
Home Gym Equipment vs. Commercial Grade and explanation about our Versatility and Essential rating
Click on any Equipment below to go directly to it
The biggest difference between the equipment you see in a commercial facility and what is typically considered home fitness gear is durability and flexibility.
In a commercial gym, the various machines and weights are built to withstand endless hours of use by many different people. Since most gyms have no lack of space each device will typically serve only one function.
A home gym set-up is very different. Space is limited, so any machines you buy should offer more than one exercise. Usually, only one or two people will be using the equipment a few hours a week, so you won’t need the level of durability found in commercial gym equipment.
If you train at the commercial gym good for you, you got everything you need and much more (but you still want to make sure you are using the right machine for the right purpose. So it’s highly recommended you check out all the equipment in this article.
If you are trying to build your own home gym you want to make sure you pick the right stuff. In that case, I use a handy grading system to separate must-haves from should-have and “do without it” items.
3 IMPORTANT FACTORS TO CONSIDER
For each equipment we give ratings for:
VERSATILITY – How many different exercises can you use it for
From a scale of 1 to 5, a machine graded 5 means you’ll have lots of great training options.
The closer the grade to 1 the fewer exercises you can do with the machine, meaning it’s more like a dedicated machine for a specific exercise.
ESSENTIAL – How vital is the item for a home gym setup.
From a scale of 1 to 5, a machine graded 5 is absolutely essential for your home gym.
Anything graded 1 is basically just nice to have but you’ll be fine without it.
PRICE – Is it a good value for money or not
I will rate a piece of equipment essential to a home gym setup based not only how versatile it is, but also by how much it costs.
HOW IT LOOKS
They are extremely versatile (versatility level 5) and are absolutely must-have for a home gym (essential level 5), and very cheap (price level of 1) or to put in another way I highly recommend them.
So let’s dive in!
Home Gym (all-in-one machines)
Machine Name: Home Gym, All-In-One Gym, Multi-Gyms, Multi-Station Machines, Universal Machine
The Home Gym All-In-One machine also called a multi-gym is a multi-station workout machine that combines several exercises into one piece of equipment. It’s especially good for circuit training because you can quickly move from one exercise to another.
The multi-gym has stations for all the major, multi-joint exercises; bench press, lat pull-down, leg press or squat, depending on the design of the multi-gym. An all-in-one home gym machine allows you to effectively train every muscle.
These are generally expensive and large machines but this one is ideal for home use:
Powertec Fitness Workbench Lever Gym is heavy-duty with a maximum 500lb weight-bearing capacity, 300lb capacity cables, and space-efficient footprint. Powertec machines are favored by many bodybuilders because they are very sturdy and their movement just feels right.
Notes: The multi-gym is an impressive piece of equipment that can make your home gym a high-tech muscle-building space. If you want one purchase that will handle most of your fitness needs, and you have the floor space and money to spare; a multi-gym could be the right choice for you.
Check to see our list of the Top 10 Home Gyms for Every Budget.
Machine Name: Barbell
The barbell bar is one of the most basic pieces of equipment for any gym. You can find several different varieties of barbell bar, some pretty unusual looking for specialized training. There isn’t a muscle you can’t train with it.
You can work every muscle
You can do dozens of different exercises with barbells, whether standing or seated. Especially if you have a bench and a power rack.
Dumbbells, E-Z Bar, Smith Machine
Avg. Price Range: $150-$250
The CAP Barbell Olympic Bar is 2-inches wide and has a 1000-pound capacity. This is the beast! 7 feet of solid steel that can carry a half-ton of plates. Use it to perform the basic lifts that have packed muscle onto generations of lifters.
Notes: It’s important to differentiate between a Standard Barbell and an Olympic Barbell. I always recommend using the Olympic bar such as the CAP Olympic Barbell. A standard barbell shaft is sometimes thinner and would also accept weights with 1″ diameter holes. An Olympic bar is sturdier and thicker which allows for a better grip.
Dumbbells (Free Weights)
Machine Name: Dumbbells (Free Weights)
One of the most ancient pieces of training equipment, the classic dumbbell is a short bar with a fixed amount of iron weights attached to its sides, that’s what you will find in all gyms. There are modern adjustable design dumbbells that allow for plates to be exchanged for greater versatility. The humble dumbbell can be used to perform exercises that effectively work every muscle and it is an essential component of any gym.
You can work every muscle with dumbbells
You can perform dozens of exercises
You would need several different exercise machines as an alternative to dumbbells.
Avg. Price Range: $80-$350
The Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbell is plate adjustable dumbbells. You can load up from 8 lbs up to 200 lbs for every phase of your strength development. Comes with secure threaded collars to hold plates securely. This is a good budget option.
The Starring 65 105lbs dumbbell set made of solid cast-iron and including rest trays to protect floors from damage which is a nice touch, they are also inexpensive.
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells are an innovation on the dumbbell concept. Changing weight is made super easy by a unique dial system. You don’t need to spend time loading and unloading plates like you would with conventional dumbbells, that’s a huge plus. I strongly recommend the Bowflex, if you have the budget, that’s likely the first thing I would buy for a home gym. You can work every much with a set of dumbbells and an adjustable bench.
Notes: Dumbbells are the most productive and versatile piece of equipment you can buy for any gym, they are a must-have. For home gyms, adjustable weight dumbbells are more recommended because one pair can replace more than a dozen of regular dumbbells.
Machine Names: Kettlebells
The kettlebell is one of the oldest forms of weight used for strength training. It’s a Russian invention from some 300 years ago! It was largely popularized in the U.S. by Pavel Tsatsouline.
It’s a large iron ball with a handle, but in spite of its simplicity, it is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can buy. Training with kettlebells requires learning very specific skills and a lot of practice. An experienced kettlebell lifter can train every muscle, build cardiovascular conditioning and develop incredible agility.
Kettle exercises involve almost every muscle of the body mainly due to the ballistic nature of the exercises performed with kettlebells.
Cleans, Snatches, Presses, Get-ups, Windmill, Clean and Press, Swings.
Dumbbells, Barbells, all exercise machines
Avg. Price Range :
From $8 up to $170 depending on the weight you choose.
Yes4All Solid Cast Iron Kettlebell is a well-made kettlebell that can take a lot of punishment.
CAP Barbell Cast Iron Kettlebell is another rugged, durable kettlebell.
The Fitness Solutions Kettlebells are fancy looking.
Notes: If you are or a tight budget you can make your own kettlebell very cheap.
Machine Name: EZ curl bar
The E-Z bar is a standard barbell bar bent at an around shoulder-width grip. The E-Z bar is much better for biceps curls than the standard barbell because it puts your wrists in a more natural grip position. I have injured my wrists about two decades ago from doing biceps curls with barbells. Never again. Always E-Z bar for me.
The two most famous exercises you could do with an E-Z Bar are the E-Z biceps curls and the French Presses for working the triceps.
Can work most muscles depending on the exercise. Especially arms and back.
Biceps Curl, French Press, barbell pull-over
Straight barbell, dumbbells
Avg. Price Range: $20-$45
The Champion Barbell E-Z Curl Bar is rock solid, accepts standard plates, and will last a lifetime of muscle-building use.
Resistance bands are known under many names:
Exercise bands, Rubber bands, Elastic bands, and Resistance tubing
Resistance bands are lengths of elastic tubing with a handle on each end and simulate weighted resistance to exercise the muscles. Resistance bands can be used to train all the same muscles as dumbbells and barbells.
Some commercial gym has resistance bands for variety despite having other weights. Due to their versatility, and a wide range of uses no home gym is complete without them.
Works every muscle you want.
You can perform dozens of exercises to train the whole body.
Dumbbells, Barbells and Machine exercises
Avg. Price Range: $20-$70
Black Mountain Products Resistance Band Set comes with Door Anchor, Ankle Strap, Exercise Chart, and Carrying Case. It is a comprehensive kit that includes all accessories you need to get the most out of resistance band training. It’s cheap and highly recommends.
Fitness Master Resistance Band Set also comes with Door Anchor Attachment, Legs Ankle Straps, and Case.
Notes: Resistance band training provides the ultimate combination of results, portability, and convenience. There isn’t any other piece of exercise workout equipment that gives you so much versatility for such a low price.
Recommended read: Ultimate Guide to Resistance Bands (And Which One You Need)
Machine Names: Barbell Bench Press
This is the number one exercise for chest, and definitely the most famous one. This is the exercise by which many people measure their overall strength. Ever heard someone say: “How much you bench?”
Pectorals (chest), Deltoids (shoulders), Triceps
Bench Press (Chest), Close Grip Bench Press (Triceps)
Machine Bench Press, Dumbbell Bench Press, Vertical Machine Presses, Smith Machine Presses
Avg. Price Range: $80-$400
The classic bench press has a flat fixed angle. Some benches have an adjustable angle, allowing you to do also Incline Bench Presses and Decline Bench Presses. Varying the bench angle allows you to concentrate slightly more on the upper pecs and lower pecs respectively. The former hits more of your upper pecs and the later more of your lower pecs.
Valor Olympic Bench Pro with Spotter (fixed angle but sturdy)
You can also work out chest without a bench doing dumbbell floor presses.
Here’s also a list of chest exercises that can be done without equipment.
Pec Deck Machine
Machine Names: Pec Deck, Fly Machine
One of the most used machines in any gym, the pec deck machine allows you to isolate your pectoral muscles without having to lug heavy dumbbells into position first. It’s a fantastic machine for isolating the pecs, but less for building mass. It’s also a favorite of beginners since it’s hard to use it the wrong way.
Avg. Price Range: $400-$500
The Body-Solid GPM65 Plate Loaded Pec Machine is sturdy and economical. It features dual, variable resistance cams so each arm moves independently, which is preferable to single-cam machines.
Notes: Pec deck machines are great, but I only recommend buying one, if you have the space for it and have already purchased other more essential equipment first. A good substitution for this machine is the dumbbell flyes.
Bench Press Machine
Machine Names: Bench Press Machine
Unlike the classic barbell bench press, the bench press machine has two advantages, it has a fixed axis of movement and allows you to train without a spotter.
The fixed axis of movement can also be seen as a disadvantage as less balancing is required and thus it may involve less secondary muscles. The advantage of using this machine is that you can concentrate more on blasting your pecs and less on technique which is great for variation sake.
Pectorals (chest), Deltoids (shoulders), Triceps
Bench Press with a machine
Smith Machine Bench Presses, Olympic Bench Press, Dumbbell Bench Press, Vertical Machine Presses
Avg. Price Range: $500-$800
The Powertec Fitness Workbench Multi Press with Isolateral Arm is a fantastic, safe way to bench alone. The plates are on sturdy movement arms, so there is no dangerous heavy loaded bar across your chest. It’s a durable piece of equipment and valuable addition to any home gym.
Notes: By the way, I lift for over 20 years, did a lot of classic bench presses, yet I still like this Powertech machine a lot. I didn’t know this machine and quite frankly preferred the good ole’ barbell bench presses. That is, until one day I came across this machine, and I fell in love with it.
I can really load a lot of plates on it and something about the angle and the mechanics of this particular machine works very well for me and makes my pecs muscles really scream when I do bench presses on it, plus you can do flat bench, inclines, and declines on it.
Seated Chest Press
Machine Names: Seated Chest Press, Vertical Chest Press
The vertical chest press is a machine bench press that saves floor space by being set up vertically as opposed to horizontally on a bench. It’s a very popular machine that almost every gym has. It frequently comes in an incline version that works more of the upper pecs.
Pectorals, Deltoids, Triceps
Chest Press (but the home version of this machine can usually do many other exercises)
Lying machine presses, barbell bench presses, and dumbbell presses
Avg. Price Range : $1500-$2,000
The Body-Solid DPLSS Pro Dual Vertical Press and Lat Component is a commercial-grade well-built machine that comes with a 200lb weight stack which is decent resistance. A good bonus is the lat pull down option built-in; it increases the machine’s versatility wonderfully.
Notes: The vertical chest press machine is a powerful device for upper body strength development. It is a safe and convenient alternative to barbell/dumbbell bench press. The number of alternative exercises makes it a luxury acquisition for a home gym.
You would be better off buying a multi-gym, an all-in-one machine that can do seated chest presses among other exercises. The Powertec Levergym have chest press either seated or lying and many more exercises you can do.
The Power Rack
Machine Names: Power Rack, Squat Rack, Power Cage
This is one of the most versatile and important pieces of equipment for developing strength. A power rack will allow to safely train with maximum effort in a range of multi-joint movements.
You can work all the muscles!
You can do so many exercises with a power rack. Including of course Squats, Deadlifts, Shoulder Presses, Bench Presses, etc..
Avg. Price Range: $350-$700
Medium Level: Valor Fitness BD-7 Power Rack with Lat Pull Attachment
Leg Press Machine
Machine Name: Leg Press
The leg press exercise is one of the most popular leg exercises. Perhaps the biggest advantage of the leg press machine is safe as you can perform the exercise without a need for a spotter.
This machine is a staple among bodybuilders for building leg muscle mass and strength. While it goes without saying that free-standing squats are the best exercise for legs, there’s a significant advantage to complement or alternate them with leg presses. The later allows for more concentration on the quadriceps with a lesser chance of doing it wrong and being able to go all-out with less risk of an injury.
Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves
Leg Presses, Calf Presses
Avg. Price Range : $100-$1,200
The Body-Solid Leg Press & Hack Squat is a more versatile take on the traditional leg press. It comes with hack-squat attachments that allow for two great leg exercises in one machine which is a huge plus. The Body-Solid is a good and sturdy machine.
The Powerline PVLP156X Vertical Leg Press is a lying leg press machine; your back is resting on the floor as you perform the movement. It is one of the classic leg press designs available. A powerline is a budget option, but some people (me included) find lying leg press movement a bit awkward and prefer the 45 degrees angle of the body-solid.
Machine Name: Hack Squat Machine
The hack squat machine could have been called the incline squat machine. The machine is designed to isolate the quadriceps muscles by angling your body backward as you perform the squat movement. Besides an intense focus on the quadriceps, the hack squat will also effectively train glutes, hamstring, and to lesser degree calves. Some hack squat machines can also be adjusted into a leg press machine.
Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteus
Hack squat and leg press
Barbell hack squat, barbell squat.
Avg. Price Range : $1,300
The Body-Solid Leg Press & Hack Squat is a commercial-grade hack squat machine that doubles as a well-designed leg press machine. In either configuration, the maximum capacity is 1000 lbs. It’s a tank.
Notes: It’s a great piece of equipment but there are other exercises that are equally effective for building legs such as squats and deadlifts.
Machine Name: Smith Machine, Weight Cage
The smith machine is a barbell fixed on steel rails with a stabilizing base. The only movement is up or down the rails.
The major advantage of the smith machine is that you can perform many exercises without a spotter.
It’s a very versatile piece of equipment that is found in almost every gym. It’s used mainly as a substitute for barbell squats, barbell shoulder presses, etc… The fixed movement allows you to concentrate more on the target muscle and less on balance.
Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Pectorals, Deltoids, Triceps, Lats
It’s used for many movements that can be performed in a vertical range such as squats, bench press variations, shoulder press, bent-over row, deadlift variations, high pulls, lying triceps extensions, and squat variations.
You can even perform leg presses with the Smith Machine by lying on the floor and pushing the bar up with your legs.
Barbell exercises such as; bench press, bent over row, deadlift, lying triceps extension, squats, shoulder press, and high pulls.
Avg. Price Range: $900-$1000
The Valor Athletics Smith Machine is a sturdy, well-constructed machine that has a 1000lb weight capacity.
Notes: The Smith Machine is a great piece of equipment for working out by yourself because you can get away without having a spotter to help out. That said, good smooth-moving Smith Machines aren’t cheap.
It’s not like a Smith Machine is a super essential piece of equipment, it’s not. But I really like these machines because they hit the muscle in a slightly different way and allows you to concentrate more on the muscle and less on balancing your body.
It’s not a machine you should work on exclusively, because you definitely to perform compound exercises such as barbell squats, deadlifts and dumbbell exercises in order to build overall strength, have good balance and develop good core strength. It is only after you covered these that you can alternate work with a smith machine.
So bottom line I highly recommend the Smith Machine only if:
A) You already have more basic must-have equipment like free weights and a bench.
B) You have mastered compound exercises with free weights such as dumbbell/barbell bench press, squats, deadlifts.
C) You have your budget problem and have plenty of space available.
Leg Extension Machine
Machine Name: Leg Extension
The leg extension is one of the oldest and best ways to isolate the quadriceps muscles.
The machine consists of a padded lever attached by a hinge to a seat or bench and loaded with the weight directly or by cable to a weight stack.
(Most machines are dual Extensions and Curls in one so you can also do Leg Curls)
Squats, Lunges, Stair Climbing
Avg. Price Range: $100-$400
The Marcy Utility Bench is a great many-in-one machine. It isn’t the classic Leg Extension machine you would find at the gym. It is actually an adjustable bench that can quickly be configured to be used also for leg extensions and leg curls. When flat, the bench is ideal for many other exercises, so you get much more than just a leg extension machine. It’s what makes the Marcy Utility Bench highly recommended for home gym setups when you want to make smart use of your limited space. Plus the Marcy is very affordable.
(versatility:5, essential:5, cost:2)
The Body-Solid GCEC340 is a great leg extension machine that doubles as a leg curl machine. It’s only for leg training, so it’s not as versatile as the March Utility Bench, and it’s also more expensive.
The upside is that the body-solid is a sturdy piece of equipment and because its design is optimized for leg exercises, the motion may feel a bit more comfortable than a do-it-all machine. This machine recommended, only if you don’t have plenty of free space in your home gym.
(versatility:2, essential:2, cost:3)
Leg Curl Machine
Machine Names: Leg Curl Machine
This has been the go-to machine for isolating the hamstrings. This machine comes in two versions, lying and seated leg curls.
Stiff-Legged Deadlifts, Squats
Avg. Price Range: $350-$700
Body-Solid GCEC340 Cam Series Machine has fully padded and has one of the smallest footprints you can find in leg training equipment. It’s two machines in one, you can do leg curls for your hamstrings and leg extensions for your quadriceps.
(versatility:2, essential:2, cost:3)
Leg Adduction / Abduction Machine
Machine Name : Adduction / Abduction Machine
The leg adduction and abduction machine is a seated exercise machine that provides resistance when opening (abduction) and closing (adduction) the legs. It’s effective for isolating the gluteus muscles (opening the legs) and the tensor fasciae latae (inner thigh muscles) when closing the legs.
This machine is one of the most controversial machines. It’s great in isolating the muscles, but there is hardly ever any needs to isolate these muscles, as you can work them as part of compound exercises like squats, lunges and, deadlifts.
Hip adductors and abductors (including gluteus medius and gluteus minimus)
Leg abduction and adduction
Squats, resistance band abduction/adduction, lunges, step-ups, one-legged deadlift, side leg raises, scissors leg raises.
Avg. Price Range : $2,000-$3,500
(dedicated machines are extremely expensive)
This machine has no place in a home gym, it takes a great deal of space and is very expensive. The muscles it works can easily be trained with a variety of other exercises using more portable equipment such as; barbells, dumbbells and even resistance bands.
If you absolutely insist and have a high budget, the Body-Solid Inner & Outer Thigh Machine is a great option.
Seated Calf Machine
Machine Name: Calf Machine, Seated Calf Raise
The seated calf machine isolates the soleus muscles of the calves from a seated position using a weight loaded lever moved by raising your toes and pushing the attached knee pads.
This is somewhat of a controversial machine. The soleus is positioned underneath the Gastrocnemius muscle and some experts believe it’s a waste of time to isolate it, at least for the size that is.
The notion is that by doing straight leg barbell/dumbbell calf raises or calf presses (on a leg press machine) you can work both the Gastrocnemius and Soleus that’s underneath it.
Others believe the Soleus can ‘push’ the Gastrocnemius muscle, making for an overall more muscular appearance to the calves.
Seated Calf Raises
Donkey calf raises with a partner, Standing barbell calf raise, Smith machine calf raises
Avg. Price Range: $140-$300
The Powerline PSC43X Seated Calf Machine is a reliable and budget calf machine.
If you need something more adjustable to try the XMark Seated Calf Raise Machine XM-7613, a commercial gym seated calf trainer.
Note: That’s a machine that’s a nice to have. I don’t see a special reason to buy it for a home gym unless you are into special heavy calf isolation. If you do get it, I think the budget Powerline will do just fine.
Standing Calf Machine
Machine Name: Standing Calf Machine
The standing calf raises machine uses to heavily cushioned pads attached to a weight stack loaded lever to provide resistance to toe raises performed off a narrow step.
Entire calf area (Gastrocnemius and Soleus)
Standing Calf Raise
Smith Machine Calf Raise, Calf presses on a Leg Press machine, Donkey calf raises, Barbell calf raises and one-legged calf raise
Avg. Price Range: $300-$600
The Body-Solid GSCL360 Leverage Squat Calf Machine is a machine that combines a serious squat machine with a standing calf machine, so that’s a much better option than buying a dedicated calf machine.
Notes: While standing calf raises are a good way to stimulate calf development, a dedicated machine just for doing calf raises is absolutely not an essential item for a home gym.
You can just use plastic or a wood platform and do barbell or one-legged calf raises while holding a dumbbell in one hand, alternating between legs.
Lat Pulldown Machine
Machine Names: Lat Pull Down, Pulldown Machine
The lat pulldown is a multi-joint movement that mainly trains the back, shoulders and biceps muscles by simulating a pull/chin-up using a bar connected to a weight-stack by cable and pulleys.
The most versatile designs include an option for seated rows. Using different hand grips, you can isolate certain pulling muscles more than others. The lat pulldown can also be used from various positions to train triceps and abs.
Latissimus dorsi (Lats), Trapezius (Traps), Biceps, Delts (under grip works more biceps)
Lat pulldown movement, cable ab crunches, triceps press, and biceps curl
Pullups and Chin-ups (with chinning Bar), Dumbbells, Barbells
Avg. Price Range: $170-$700
Powerline PLM180X Lat Machine is a great choice that includes a built-in seated row pulley that allows for biceps curls as well as back training. It’s very affordable, the downside is that in order to work biceps you have to rerun the cable to the low pulley.
XMark Lat Pulldown and Low Row Cable Machine XM-7618 is more heavy-duty and a sturdier commercial quality, it’s a better option if you have the budget.
Pull Up Bar
Machine Name: Pull Up Bar. Chin Up Bar
The chin-up bar is a centuries-old, classic piece of equipment. Originally it was any reasonably straight branch, stick or piece of rock you could hang from. It has evolved into the brilliantly designed aluminum and steel doorway pull up bars that have built powerful arms and backs for millions of people today.
All variations of pull-ups and chin-ups
Lat pulldown machine, Dumbbell, and barbell bent-over rows,
Avg. Price Range: $20-$50
The Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar is a portable powerhouse that will let you train your back (lats), biceps, and forearms wherever you have access to a doorway. Though there aren’t many exercises you can do with a pull-up bar, it’s so cheap that there’s no reason not to get it.
(versatility:2, essential:5, cost:1)
Don’t want to buy a pull-up bar up? You can easily make your own pull-up bar and save money.
Machine Name: T-Bar Row
The T-bar row is a bent-over row performed using the far end of a barbell. Jam one end of the barbell in a corner and load the other end with weight, now grab the heavy end and pull; that’s a T-bar row.
The t-barrow has evolved somewhat since its beginnings. Now there is a crossbar acting as a handle, and the unloaded end of the barbell is anchored and hinged. But it’s still the same highly effective mass builder.
There are very few exercises that are as effective for adding strength and mass to the back and arms while developing a powerful grip. For lats, biceps, and forearms, the T-bar row is one of the best exercises.
Back muscles, Lats, Traps, Biceps
Barbell bent-over row, one-arm dumbbell row, close-grip chin-ups.
Avg. Price Range: $25-$45
The Yes4All T-Bar Row Platform swivels 360 degrees and can accommodate Olympic or standard width bars. This isn’t normally something that you must use at all. But it’s so cheap, that it’s good to have for variety in a home gym setup.
Seated Row Machine
Machine Name: Seated Row Machine, Chest Pull
The seated row machine is a weighted rowing movement done from a fixed seat position. Weights are typically loaded onto bars attached by a lever to handles, a padded cushion supports the chest during the movement.
Back, Lats, Middle Back. Forearms, Biceps, medial/rear Deltoids, Traps
Seated rows using different hand positions.
Barbell bent-over row, dumbbell bent-over row, seated cable rows and pull/chin-ups.
Avg. Price Range: $250-$450
The Body-Solid GSRM40 Seated Row Machine is a recommended machine for back training.
For more flexible gripping options check out the Valor Fitness Exercise Equipment Seated Row.
Back Extension (Hyperextension) Machine
Machine Name: Hyperextension machine, Roman Chair, Roman Bench, Hyper Bench
The back extension machine is a specially designed bench that uses padded shelves and ankle supports to allow lower back training by waist bending. Many designs allow for incline sit-ups/crunches as well.
Lower Back and Abdominals
erector spinae, Hyper-extension, incline sit-up
Barbell/dumbbell stiff-legged deadlift and the Good Morning exercise.
Avg. Price Range: $55-$80
For a home gym, the Marcy Roman Chair is great for lower back and abdominal training.
For a sturdy machine with a weight adding option look at the Valor Fitness DE-5 Plate Loaded Ab / Back Machine.
Note: The lower back machine/hyperextension is an efficient way to train lower back, and abs, if it’s designed with that option. If you are short of space, or money there are other, equally effective options.
Preacher Curl Bench
Machine Names: Preacher Curl, Preacher Bench
Popularized by Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia, the preacher curl bench is a padded podium where you can balance the elbows during curls to focus extra stimulation to the biceps. The preacher bench is pure biceps isolation work. It’s not considered a mass building exercise. Compound exercises like dumbbell curls or E-Z biceps curls are more effective for building mass.
Biceps, Brachialis and Forearm Muscles
Preacher Curls, Spider Curls
Dumbbell curls, Barbell curls, Concentration curls
Avg. Price Range: $150-$200
Valor Fitness CB-6 Adjustable Arm Curl Bench is a sturdy version of the classic preacher bench.
Pure Fitness Preacher Curl is a good option as it’s very compact and has a very small footprint.
Notes: I don’t recommend the preacher bench for home gyms for beginners. If you are a more advanced bodybuilder and have enough space at your home or garage gym, then sure buy a preacher bench. But beginners would spend their money better on other more versatile equipment first.
Arm Curl Machine
Machine Name: Arm curl machine, Preacher curl machine, Biceps Machine
The arm curl machine is superficially similar to the preacher bench. The difference is that the arm curl machine has a built-in bar attached by cable or lever to weights.
The main advantage of the machine is the constant resistance on the biceps throughout the whole range of motion. When using dumbbells, due to the law of gravity, the resistance lessens as you go past the vertical plane.
Some arm curl machines can be used for triceps extensions, increasing the machine’s versatility.
Biceps, Brachialis, Forearms, Brachioradialis
Machine Biceps Curls
Preacher bench curls, dumbbell curls, barbell curls, close grip chin-ups
Avg. Price Range: $350-$400
Use the Body-Solid GCBT380 Cam Series Biceps / Triceps Machine for both biceps curls and triceps extensions.
Notes: The arm curl machine increases the safety of the biceps curl movement while effectively isolating the biceps for increased stimulation. The built-in triceps extension option creates a powerful muscle-building combination in one machine. Even so, there are so many exercises you can do for biceps with dumbbells that this machine is only worth it if you have space and need the variety.
Arm Extension Machine
Machine Name: Arm Extension Machine, Triceps Extension
This machine allows you to work isolate the triceps muscle and work it through a constant resistance through the whole range of motion. For increased versatility, some machines allow for biceps use as well.
Behind neck triceps extensions, French press
Avg. Price Range: $250
The Valor Fitness CB-31 Arm and Triceps Machine is a great option since it’s an arm extension machine (Triceps) that doubles as an arm curl machine (for Biceps).
Notes: An arm machine is fine for occasional use at the gym. But as a piece of home equipment, most people will prefer to stick to free weights or buy a multipurpose home gym (multi-gym) machines, these machines can be used to work many muscles in the same machine.
Machine Name: Overhead Presses, Shoulder Press Machine
The overhead press machine is the most common shoulder machine. A straight bar or separate handles are connected to plates/weight stack either by lever or cable so you can lift weight overhead without the dangers of barbell or dumbbell shoulder presses. The machine also takes away the need to maintaining balance as required with free weights.
Barbell shoulder presses, dumbbell shoulder presses, handstand push-ups.
Avg. Price Range : $750 – $800
The Body-Solid LVSP Leverage Shoulder Press Bench has a range of grip options that will vary the stress on your deltoids for greater stimulation.
Notes: For use at a commercial gym setup, a shoulder press machine is a good variety to dumbbells or barbell military presses. But for a home gym, due to the many shoulder training alternatives available this machine just isn’t mandatory. Besides free weights, many all-in-one home gym machines will let you work shoulders.
Lateral Raises Machine
Machine Name: Lateral Raise Machine, Giant Shoulder Machine
The lateral raise machine uses handles and pads on a rotating cam to develop shoulder strength by transferring weighted resistance through a cable or lever to the shoulders as they move upward and outward in a lateral motion. This is a machine for isolating the delts, in particular, the side deltoids also called the middle or medial deltoids.
It’s not considered a machine for building mass and isn’t as popular as the shoulder presses machine or free weights.
Middle Deltoids, Front Deltoids (Deltoid anterior)
Dumbbell lateral raises (seated or standing)
Avg. Price Range: $400-$500
The Giant Shoulder Machine by Yukon is the most popular lateral raises machine for home use.
It’s not a popular machine. Neither for commercial gyms nor home gyms. The lateral raise can safely and effectively be performed using free weights, cable pulley or resistance bands. You can give it a pass.
Ab Crunch Machine
Machine Name: Ab Machine
The ab machine differs from regular crunches in that it allows you to add substantial weight and resistance. You can even exhaust your abdominal muscles with a low-mid repetition range.
Abdominal Muscles (Rectus Abdominis)
Floor crunches, sit-ups and leg raise.
Avg. Price Range: $100-$900
Commercial grade machines are extremely expensive
A good budget option that is not exactly a traditional ab crunch machine but more of an ab bench is the PowerLine PAB21X Ab Bench, It’s a piece of simple equipment that gets the job done.
For a lying ab crunch machine option, the Inspire Fitness Ab Bench is a reliably built machine for weighted ab crunches.
Notes: Most people don’t need to bother with buying an ab crunch machine. There are too many ab training options to worry about acquiring one of these for your home gym.
It’s still an effective way to isolate the abs and one of the few options you have if you want to work for low-mid range reps. I personally like these machines because sometimes I like to work out the abs with just 10-15 reps, but for most folks, that’s probably not needed.
Machine Name: Ab Roller
Deceptively simple in design this is one of the most effective ab/upper body training devices on the market, especially for its small size and cheap price. It is a handle with a rotating wheel in the middle. Just grasp each end of the handle while kneeling and roll out until your chest is parallel to the floor- then come back up.
Abdominals, erectors spinae, deltoids, triceps, serratus, lats, hamstrings
Ab wheel roll-outs
Straight arm cable pull downs, barbell or dumbbell bench pull-over.
Avg. Price Range : $15 – $40
There are many quality ab wheels available at low prices from many companies but the Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro is highly recommended. It’s a high-tech version of this classic piece of equipment.
For a more traditional version of this incredibly useful training device look at the AB WHEEL by Valeo.
Notes: An ab roller is one of the most useful training tools for core strength. It is true that an ab roller won’t allow you to perform 30 exercises, but for core strength that’s pretty much all, you may need. Considering that an ab roller is a dirt cheap to buy, it’s definitely recommended for people who train at home.
Machine Name: Medicine Ball, Med Ball. Slam Ball
The medicine ball is an ancient piece of fitness kit that was used as far back as ancient Greece. It is a weighted ball that can be tossed, caught, slammed and carried. The medicine ball is used for both strength and endurance training. It is both versatile and fun.
The medicine ball can be used to train any muscle but is most commonly used to perform multi-joint and whole-body exercises rather than specific ones.
Wall slams, high throws, floor slams, tossing/catching, add weight to the abdominal, leg or lower back exercises.
Sandbags, DIY balls
Avg. Price Range : $8 – $140
the price depends on ball size and weight
The Cap Barbell Medicine Ball is a good choice for a basic and tough medicine ball.
For a twist on the basic design try the SPRI Dual Grip Xerball medicine ball with built-in handles for easier handling during non-throwing exercises. This item also comes with a handy exercise chart.
A traditionalist will enjoy the Champion Sports Leather Medicine Ball, it’s just like the old, leather-covered high school gym medicine balls of the ’50s.
Notes: A medicine ball is an inexpensive equipment that you can take advantage of in a home gym/garage gym setup. It takes little space and adds good variation to using traditional weights. In a home gym setup, you always want to have the most options at your disposal for the least amount of space and money, that’s why items such as the medicine ball or the ab roller (also mentioned above) are great options for guys & gals working out at home.
Exercise Stability Ball
Alternative Names: Exercise ball, Swiss ball, Body ball, Balance ball, Fitness ball, Gym ball, Physioball, Pilates ball
Stability balls are giant inflatable rubber balls and are used for balance training exercises, as a platform for abdominal and plank exercises and as a back-friendly seating option. The balance ball is excellent for isolating the core and practicing bench based exercise with balance training.
Core, Abs, Back
Plank and core exercises on an unstable platform; abdominal crunch, hyperextensions, planks, push-ups, wall-squats
Half ball like Bosu Balance Trainer
Avg. Price Range : $8 – $15
It’s important to find a durable one that is not easily punctured, burst or deflated; here’s one of the toughest:
The 2000lbs Static Strength Exercise Stability Ball with Pump is a hardcore swiss ball that can last years without leaking or bursting.
Note: The stability ball is portable, extremely versatile and very inexpensive. The number of exercises that you can improvise with it makes it a fantastic addition to your home gym.
Machine Names: Foam Roller
The foam roller is a cylinder of mildly yielding material between 12 and 36 inches long. It’s used by athletes and physical therapists to relax overactive muscles and promote recovery. A foam roller is a way to enjoy the benefits of massage without needing a masseuse. Foam Rollers are also great for the back.
Any muscle you want to massage
Self-myofascial release by rolling over almost any muscle group.
Firm ball, stick
Avg. Price Range : $8 – $60
depending on size
The LuxFit Premium High-Density Foam Roller is an extra firm to provide a deep massage.
AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller is another durable roller.
Machine Name: Rowing Machine, Indoor Rower
The rowing machine is designed to simulate rowing a boat using oars. The rower has a short handle and rope/cable connected to a flywheel assembly to create resistance while a sliding seat allows the use of the legs. The indoor rowing machine is a whole-body cardiovascular conditioning machine that torches body fat.
Lats, Biceps, Forearms, Deltoids, Traps, Quads, Calves, Gluts. It’s also a great machine for training the cardiovascular system.
Avg. Price Range: Budget machines begin at under $100. More advanced designs can cost around $1,000 or slightly more.
The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine is the crème de la crème, the perfect rowing machine around. Conecept2 the maker of it is an extremely popular brand with the CrossFit crowd. The machine is more expensive than others but serious users will appreciate its rigidness and great design.
The Sunny Health & Fitness Rowing Machine is a very low-cost budget rowing machine, yet reliable. It has a very basic minimalistic design and is one of the most recommended budget rowing options around.
The Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine is another great cheap machine that has a bit more authentic design.
Machine Name: Treadmill
Treadmills come in many designs, but all consist of a platform with a rolling sheet of rubber on a platform. Use a treadmill for stationary running or walking. A treadmill allows you to run or walk in the safety of your own home, away from the weather.
It exercises your legs and cardiovascular system in the same way as outdoor running.
Running and walking, for time or distance
Other cardiovascular exercises like running or walking outdoors, exercise bikes and elliptical trainers
Avg. Price Range : $250-$1,500
Good treadmills can cost under $1,000. Commercial Gym treadmills can reach thousands.
A reliable treadmill is the Weslo Cadence G 5.9 Treadmill it is space-efficient, well-made, yet very low-cost option.
Notes: A treadmill is great when you want to run without worrying about the weather, cars or the neighbor’s dog. While not a necessity for a home gym; it is a great piece of equipment to have for convenient cardio training. Ellipticals and exercise bikes are good alternatives.
Machine Names: Elliptical, Cross Trainer
The elliptical machine is a piece of treadmill-like stationary equipment that simulates the motion of stair climbing, walking and running without high impact stress on the knees and hips, while exercising the upper body with moving handles. Elliptical machines are excellent for cardiovascular training that works both upper and lower body muscles
The Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine has two LCD screens that allow you to monitor 13 different display feedbacks and its built like a tank. This elliptical is great but only if you got the space for it as it does consume quite a bit of space.
The Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Trainer is a great alternative to a full-sized elliptical trainer. Even though there are no handles or fancy displays, it can develop great conditioning while using very little floor space. Equipping a complete home gym with limited space involves trade-offs, but a good elliptical trainer like the Stamina In-Motion is more than worth it for portable cardio training.
Advanced Elliptical Trainers
There’s a new breed of elliptical trainers that combine the movements of a typical elliptical, a stepper and a treadmill in the same machine. Check our review of the Bowflex Max Trainer, Bowflex TreadClimber and ProForm HIIT Cardio Elliptical Trainer and how they compare to regular ellipticals in this article.
Upright Exercise Bike
Machine Name: Upright exercise bike, stationary bike.
The upright exercise bike is one of the most popular cardio machines for home workouts. By design, upright stationary bikes are more compact than other types of exercise bikes, such as recumbent exercise bikes and spin bikes. On an upright bike, your legs are positioned closer to your body, which makes the machine shorter in length than other bikes.
Some upright exercise bikes are foldable, taking even less space. However, even the non-folding bikes have a small footprint, which makes them ideal for small homes and confined places.
There are two main types of upright exercise bikes. Bikes that use magnetic resistance, and bikes that use fan resistance (also called fan bikes or air bikes). Fan bikes have a big flywheel, that looks like a huge fan which produces resistance as you pedal. The faster you pedal the more resistance is created, and the harder the exercise gets. Learn more about upright bikes upright here.
You can get a budget magnetic exercise bike for under $200. Fan bikes usually cost more due to their more advanced mechanics. If you are interested in getting an upright bike, make sure to check the upright bikes we recommend.
Recumbent Exercise Bike
Machine Name: Recumbent exercise bike, recumbent stationary bike.
Unlike a regular exercise bike, the recumbent bike allows a rider to sit back and pedal with his legs in front of him. Recumbent cycling is easier on the lower back and trains the legs from a different angle. Recumbent bikes are just as effective as standard bikes for cardio and leg training.
Cardiovascular, Calves, Quadriceps, Glutes and Hamstrings
Indoor recumbent biking and intervals
Standard or recumbent wheeled bike or other cardio equipment
Avg. Price Range : $200 – $700
Want to buy a recumbent bike?
Read our reviews of the 7 best recumbent exercise bikes for the money.
Notes: Recumbent exercise bike is one of the cheapest cardio options for the home.
If indoor cardiovascular conditioning is important to your fitness regime, then you would want of the three most popular home cardio options: exercise bike, treadmill or an elliptical.
Some people prefer recumbent stationary bikes over other cardio equipment because you can easily read a book or your favorite magazine while burning calories at the same time.
Although a spin bike workout may burn slightly more calories than a recumbent bike workout, most people are more likely to complete a recumbent bike workout than they are a spinning workout. The comfort of the seat with its backrest seem more “inviting” to use than other stationary bikes.
Learn about the difference between recumbent exercise bikes, upright bikes and another equipment click here.
Whole Body Vibration Platform Machines (WBV)
Machine Name: Whole Body Vibration Plate, Vibration Machine, WBV, Power Plate
Most whole-body vibration platforms vibrate at frequencies of 5 to 60 times per second (5-60Hz). Some users just stand on them while others perform exercises while the platform is vibrating. Some people perform yoga poses on them while standing or sitting. Performing any exercise on a vibration machine is more challenging as balancing your body becomes harder.
Some studies suggest whole-body vibration can promote weight loss, relieve lower back pain, increase bone density, reduce stress and may even be beneficial for some medical conditions. Their use is controversial though recent studies do show many potential benefits for a wide variety of conditions.
There are two types of vibration platforms, ones with a bar you can hold while standing (vibration machine with a column) and ones without any bar which are just vibration plates.
Under Desk Bike (Pedal Exerciser)
Machine Name: Under Desk Pedal Exerciser, Mini Exercise Bike, Exercise Peddler, Under Desk Bike
Think of an under desk bike as being just the pedaling part of a stationary exercise bike. A pedal exerciser doesn’t have a seat as stationary exercise bikes do, instead, you use your own chair. This makes pedal exercisers very small, light and portable.
Pedal exercisers or under desk bikes are much more affordable than recumbent exercise bikes because they are cheaper to manufacture and lack all the other parts that stationary exercise bikes have. You can also work out your arms by placing the pedal exerciser on a table and pedal with your arms.
With pedal exercisers, you can workout at your own comfort even while watching TV or doing other stuff at home. They are also used for rehab work, the elderly and people with physical limitations.
Pedal exercisers are ideal for people with office jobs who tend to spend many hours sitting at their desk. The DeskCycle is the best pedal exerciser for under the desk. Place it under your desk and pedal while you work on your computer, read or doing any other work. Light pedaling while working also improves mental focus and concentration.