Uses an adjustable cable-tension resistance system to simulate free weights. Has optional accessories to attach it to door frame to increase versatility and range of motion. Weighs only 2 pounds and fits in a suitcase for easy portability.
Maxes out at 25 pounds of resistance, and can be awkward to use at first.
Uses a simple design with one grip bar and one resistance band. Very lightweight and portable. Packaged for beginners, with workout tips visible right on the bar, instructional DVDs and measuring tape for progressive body fat measurements.
Resistance band tends to wear at the attachment point, and may break after a few months of use.
One of the oldest isometric training devices on the market. Includes 5 interchangeable springs to adjust resistance from 0 pounds upward. Outstanding for targeting obliques. One-piece training device that can be stowed in a suitcase.
Not long enough for most leg exercises and has limited pulling exercises.
A padded cushion provides a little comfort, while sturdy steel support bars make sure users are safe and stable while exercising. Multiple core exercises can be done with or without the tension-loaded assistance bars. 2 included resistance bands allow for upper body exercises like curls, flys, and presses.
Hinges are a weak point for this trainer and may snap after a few months of use.
Provides 5 sturdy resistance bands of varying tension. When stacked, can provide up to 150 pounds of tension. Can be configured to work almost any muscle group. Anchoring clips are sturdy metal. Fits into included storage pouch. Workout guide and poster included; online instructions are available.
Bands will gradually lose tension over several months of use.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Going to the gym isn’t for everyone. Cost, travel time, and social settings may not be compatible with your life, and for those who travel often, a gym membership may not be convenient. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get an intense, diverse workout at home — or wherever you are.
With the right portable home gym, you can get the personalized workout you want while saving space and time. The term “portable home gym” is an umbrella term that encompasses resistance training devices and apparatuses that are small and lightweight while still offering a complete workout. Most consist of a central component and resistance bands that you can use to perform a host of effective exercises.
In this guide, we outline what to look for and expect from various portable home gyms on the market. In addition, we offer tips on how to maximize your workout so you can stay fit and healthy, no matter where you are.
Portable home gyms forgo weights and heavy machinery, focusing instead on resistance training with bands, springs, and other simple devices. Resistance training forces your muscles to work against a weight, which in turn tones and strengthens the muscles. While the resistance you use at the gym might be a bulky, heavy machine, it might be a wall, door frame, or even your own body weight at home.
A common resistance band exercise involves doing curls by attaching one end securely to a doorknob and holding the other end in your hand, securing it to your feet, or wrapping it around your forearm or ankle. Resistance bands come in different levels of tension, too. Some are more forgiving, while others are more demanding.
In addition to resistance bands or straps, many portable home gyms have a platform or bar.
Platform: Some portable home gyms have an exercise platform to which you connect the bands. On this platform, you may also perform curls, squats, or step exercises. Often, the platform is foldable.
Bar: A portable home gym may include a bar to which the straps connect. This durable bar may be collapsible or telescopic to allow for easy storage and travel. In conjunction with straps, the bar can be used for a variety of exercises. It may have a toggle to increase or decrease resistance.
More complex portable home gyms include a platform and a bar to allow for a greater number of possible exercises.
Fitness: Resistance training offers a chance to improve strength, enhance muscle definition, and strengthen bone. A person’s flexibility and balance also benefit. Because extra control is required when using bands at home (as opposed to using a machine at the gym), stabilizing muscles are also engaged.
Convenience: Portable home gyms and bands are relatively small and easy to store and pack for travel. With a portable home gym, you can formulate a workout schedule that fits your life.
Learning curve: Learning how to perform an effective and safe workout with a portable home gym may take time. Using resistance bands forces you to focus on your motion more than you would with a gym weight machine.
Plateaus: Some portable gym users may encounter a workout plateau, where the body has adapted to the stress of the workout. At this point, you may need to diversify and intensify your workout to notice a difference.
Quality matters: It’s important to seek out high-quality resistance bands that maintain durability. A cheaper product could wear down over time.
Portable home gyms offer a seemingly endless variety of exercises. The placement, grip, and motion of the resistance can be slightly altered to achieve different results. Curls, pull-downs, pull-ups, and flexes are among the many options.
There are also exercises you can incorporate into your workout that don’t require any accessories, like push-ups, sit-ups, and planks.
With so many possible exercises, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with a home gym. Start simple, and move to more complex motions and exercises only when ready.
With an emphasis on portability, some companies include a travel bag with the purchase of a portable home gym. This is useful for when you’re on the go, and it can also help you keep your fitness gear in one spot.
A portable home gym may come with any number of bands, depending on the exercises promoted. While extra bands may offer more variety in your fitness journey, it may become tedious to regularly switch out bands for specific exercises, especially when alternating between upper- and lower-body workouts. Note that with some home gyms, you can toggle the resistance of the bands on a bar or other part of the device instead of switching out bands.
A portable home gym set may include a door anchor, which makes connecting to a door frame simple and safe. A stable connection is highly important when attaching to a fixture.
Many portable home gyms come with a training guide or exercise manual to help you get acquainted with all the potential workouts. While understanding the possibilities is important, some of the workouts may not be tailored to your lifestyle or goals.
Make sure you take time to rest and recover. Allowing your body to restore and rejuvenate is just as important as exercising.
Yoga mat: Manduka Pro Yoga Mat
A quality yoga mat is a great place to stretch and perform resistance exercises. We recommend this quality mat from Manduka that you can also use for meditation and core exercises.
Water bottle: Thermos Nissan Intak Hydration Bottle
Always stay hydrated, especially after working out. This ergonomically designed bottle from Thermos is easy to use, features capacity markings, and comes in a variety of colors.
Balance ball: Black Mountain Stability Ball
A balance, yoga, or stability ball is a useful device to incorporate into your home workout routine that targets core strength, balance, and flexibility. We like this durable and comfortable option from Black Mountain.
Gym bag: Under Armour Undeniable Duffle
A gym bag is a savvy investment when you’re on the go, especially when you need to carry your bands, sneakers, towels, and other accessories. This durable option from Under Armour is spacious and boasts a comfortable shoulder strap.
Store your home gym in a cool, dry place, preferably in a durable bag for protection.
Inexpensive: Portable home gyms under $50 consist of various resistance bands and likely a simple bar to use in conjunction with the exercises.
Mid-range: For between $50 and $100, you’ll find a wide range of portable gyms that use a variety of resistance bands in tandem with a bar or platform.
Expensive: For over $100, you’ll find the most durable and elaborate portable home gym devices. These heavier-duty devices are designed for variety and usually feature a complex bar, platform, or both.
Be sure to stretch. It’s imperative to stretch before and after your workout to avoid injury and keep your muscles in good working condition.
Practice motions. Home gyms don’t control your movements to target specific muscles like weight machines do. Make sure you perform every exercise correctly and gently to avoid injury.
Keep your workout diverse. You don’t want to focus too much on a specific muscle to the exclusion of others. Diversifying your workout keeps your entire body involved and also makes the exercise more interesting and exciting.
Wipe down regularly. Sweat and bacteria can build up on your equipment, so wipe down and clean your gear regularly.
Q. What’s the best workout?
A. The best workout is one that is balanced, progressive, and moderated. There is no specific workout or activity that is demonstrably better than another. However, we offer a few tips to keep in mind.
It’s wise to exercise both sides or your body as well as opposing muscles so strength develops equally. For example, pair a triceps exercise with a biceps exercise to stay even.
Exercise is not just good for your physical health; working out can be mentally and emotionally stimulating as well, offering you a sense of accomplishment and exhilaration.
Exercise can be scheduled to help you get up in the morning, break up your work day, or calm you at night. The best workout is the one that caters to your lifestyle and brings you joy and health.
Q. Are portable home gyms safe?
A. Portable home gyms may not be as intuitive as weight machines, which directly guide you on how to perform certain exercises. As such, it’s important to read the instructions on how to use your home gym.
Resistance training bands do not offer the same stabilization that machines do. The bands can offer a more comprehensive workout, but they can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Use caution, and take care to perform the exercise safely and deliberately for maximum effectiveness. Sprains, strains, and other injuries can be common if you fail to focus on form.
Q. How often should I work out, and at what intensity?
A. Most fitness enthusiasts subscribe to the idea of progressive overload, where users gradually increase frequency and intensity during workouts. That means slowly upping reps, sets, and resistances, as well as the duration of time you hold certain positions. Consider using a fitness tracker so you can monitor your progress over time and adjust your workout accordingly.
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