As I’m working towards putting together my plan for my new health and fitness program, this weekend I bought a new gym for strength training.
Over the years I’ve had many different gyms and each of them had their strengths and their weaknesses.
When I was deciding what kind of gym to get I took into account all the things I learned from all the different gyms I had.
Here’s a quick rundown of the types of gyms I’ve used at home before and what I liked about them, and what I didn’t like about them.
#1 – The Oldschool Bench
The very first gym I ever used was my older brother’s old-school free weight bench / gym similar to the one pictured above.
It was a very simple bench with a barbell which I used to use back in high-school, mostly to do bench press.
Here’s the good and the bad I found about this type of gym.
- The bench is usually pretty inexpensive
- Pretty decent for doing bench press and a few other simple bench exercises
- I remember getting some pretty fast muscle size and strength gains in my chest when using this gym
- It never did feel very stable with more than 150 lbs on the barbell
- Padding on the bench was pretty weak
- I found the preacher curl attachment and the leg extension attachments very clunky and uncomfortable
- To switch between various barbell exercises I kept having to take the plates off and on
- Somewhat limited as to what you can do
- With higher weights it can be dangerous to do free weight exercises without a spotter
For me, the two biggest factors that ruled out this type of gym for me is the fact that I want to be able to do something like Bench Press and Squat without having to be constantly moving plates on and off the bar, and also the fact that without a spotter this gym can be pretty dangerous with heavier weights.
What I ended up always doing when I used this type of gym is I would only do a rep if I knew 100% for sure that I could lift it back up, because I didn’t have a spotter and didn’t want to get stuck with a weight on my chest – lol.
Even then, I had a few incidents when this did happen, but luckily the weight wasn’t that much so I was able to kind of just ease one end of the bar to the floor and then slide out from under the bar.
I definitely didn’t want to be stuck with something like that, so that ruled out these types of free weight gyms…
#2 – The Bowflex
The next gym I had, for quite a while actually was a Bowflex.
The Bowflex was actually a pretty decent gym, which solved a lot of the challenges I had with the previous type of gym.
Here’s the good and bad on this gym.
- No need for spotter. I could stack any amount of weight ( resistance ), and not worry about not being able to finish a rep
- Pretty easy to change from one exercise to another, although the squat attachment was pretty clunky to put on
- Tonnes of different exercises I could do
- Good quality bench and construction felt very stable
- I never felt the same muscle fiber “teardown” and “rebuild” as from free weights
- The resistance level wasn’t uniform throughout the range of motion on the bows
- The squat attachment was a bit cumbersome to put on and take off
- I didn’t like how I had the metal bar between my legs on the squat and how hard it was to get underneath the bar
- The cable pulley system felt like 80% of the difficulty was trying to keep the cable stabilized throughout the motion
- Even though the Bowflex supposedly offered me the ability to do hundreds of exercises, it didn’t do any of them really well
The biggest negative factor to the Bowflex for me was just the way that the bow and cable / pulley system felt…
… I just never felt like I was getting the same level of workout as when I used free-weights.
I do understand that it’s important for us to also develop the stabilizer muscles, but it just felt like with the cables I was putting so much focus on the stabilizers that the main muscle groups weren’t getting enough of a workout.
Maybe it was just me, but I didn’t like the way it felt. It felt like I was going through the motions but not producing a result.
Having said that I will say that I didn’t actually give the Bowflex a long term try. I owned one for a number of years but I never used it for more than a few weeks at one time.
I really liked the fact that I could do something like Bench Press without a spotter, since I like to work out at home, but the other negative factors turned me off from Bowflex.
#3 – The Going to the Gym Plan
Yeah…. that didn’t work.
Joined a gym. Went there a few times, and then I realized that I don’t really like going to a gym at 11 pm at night to do a workout.
I like working out at night, but I don’t like working out at a gym by myself at night.
- Pretty inexpensive to get started
- If you do hire a personal trainer they’ll usually be cheaper to work with at the gym then at your home
- No need to buy any equipment
- High quality equipment that FEELS like it’s making your muscles WORK
- Added an extra 30-40 mins total travel time to the process. I could be working out in that time
- Sometimes you have to wait for people to finish with a machine so you can use it, which causes more delays
- Each machine is reset and re-calibrated to another person, not you, so you spend a lot of time adjusting seats, levers, etc. to get everything setup the way you like it. At your home gym, if you’re the only one using it, all the calibrations are already preset to your liking
- Most of the people at the gym I joined seemed nice, but one or two seemed kinda weird 🙂
- As someone who is pretty overweight I felt a bit self-conscious around the other people there who were pretty much all in great shape
I just prefer the convenience of a home gym too much. 🙂
Plus, if I wanted to work out for 20-30 mins / day to start…7 days a week… to accomplish that at a gym would take me about 1 – 1.5 hours due to the extra delays of traveling to / from gym etc.
So instead of my workout regime “costing” me 3-4 hours/week to complete at home, going to the gym would cost me 7 – 10 hours/week.
#4 – My New Gym
So basically when I decided I wanted to invest in a new gym, I wanted to get as many of the benefits of all the gyms I’ve had before with as few drawbacks as possible, and within a reasonable budget.
After a lot of research I found a gym that I believe will allow me to have the following benefits:
- The benefit of lifting free weights for the most real and raw muscle building
- The safety benefit of being able to lift heavy weights without the need for a spotter
- Sturdy, solid construction, that will last a long time
- Ability to do the most important CORE exercises very well, such as Bench Press, Squat, Shoulder Press, Lat Pull Down, Dips, etc.
- Ability to have one weight “set” for bench press, and another for squat, without having to change plates all the time
- Very unlikely I would ever outgrow this gym, as it handles the weight lifting requirements of some of the top bodybuilders in the world…so…. yeah… I’m good. 🙂
From the research I’ve done, it’s pretty much exactly what I would ever need and a lot more.
So what gym did I get?
It’s called the Powertec Workbench Multi-System and here is what it looks like:
For a beginner like me, this thing is pretty much total overkill, but I wanted to get something that would handle all of my needs so that I don’t outgrow it in 6 months and have to buy another gym.
The two main drawbacks of this gym are the price tag and the sheer size of this beast… it’s HUGE!
The price tag on this gym is anywhere from $1750 – $2500 depending on which attachments you get, plus the cost of the weight plates which can be another $500 – $800 or so.
However, I didn’t pay anywhere near that.
I managed to find a great deal on Craig’s list for about half of that, getting the gym and about 210 lbs of free weight plates for just $1300 – and the gym is almost brand new.
I looked at some other cheapy home gyms out there and they’re all around the $600 – $1500 price range and most of them are constructed very poorly and don’t offer nearly as many options as this thing.
As for the large size of this gym, I actually took a look at the footprint requirements for a bunch of similar gyms, including the new Bowflex Revolution gym and the interesting thing is that most of these other gyms have very similar footprint requirements…
… meaning, even though they LOOK smaller and more compact, when you actually look at how much room they need, it’s a lot more than you’d expect.
For example, when I had my Bowflex, it looked like it could fit nicely tucked into a corner, but then when you realize that the bows need room to flex outwards on the sides, all of a sudden the amount of room needed is a lot more than you would originally think.
At the end of the day I took the size of this gym into consideration, but the many benefits of it far outweighed the slightly bigger footprint I need in my new exercise room to fit this thing.
I already have the gym at my house as the people I bought it from on Craig’s List were nice enough to deliver it for free and I’ve already assembled it as well.
Now I just have to finish tightening all of the nuts and bolts and to move a few things around in the room to make the space where this gym is going to be available.
Once I have the room setup I’ll probably shoot a video and show you guys my setup, but for now if you’d like to see what this thing is capable of check out this video from Powertec showing what this thing can do: