Multi-gym purchasing advice: how to choose the right product
- The most important facts in a nutshell
- Multi gyms combine many pieces of exercise equipment in one and are therefore ideal for the home gym. Most of them can be used to train the whole body.
- There are different types of multi-gym that focus on specific training areas, such as your own body weight, free weights or machines.
- Multi-gym machines are large and heavy. So you need a suitable place for them.
- They can cost anywhere from 150 euros to several thousand euros.
A gym in your own four walls
Multi gyms are used for strength training and muscle building. The large, multifunctional machines are designed so that different exercises can be performed with adjustable weights. This means that they can be used for a whole-body workout. Often, the equipment also allows you to train with your own body weight or free weights.
The equipment is not only for professionals and enthusiasts. Casual athletes can also benefit from training on multi-gyms. Strength training is very important for the joints and muscles. Among other things, you can prevent back pain. This often results from inactivity and weak muscles.
The disadvantage of gyms
It is true that multi-gym equipment is also available in gyms. However, public training is not right for everyone. Some people feel watched and uncomfortable there. On a first visit, both the numerous machines and the sometimes well-trained members can intimidate and distract newcomers. Others simply don’t have time to fit a gym visit into their daily routine, as getting there as well as changing and, if necessary, showering can cost between half an hour and a whole hour. Those who work out during rush hour after work even often have to queue to even get to certain equipment. So exercising at home saves time and is more convenient. Moreover, you are not bound to any opening hours there.
Last but not least, multi-gym owners save money in the long run. The purchase costs may be three or even four figures – expensive, but durable. If an average gym membership costs 20 to 40 euros a month, the purchase costs will have paid for themselves in a few years.
Showing off is useless
There are enough ego lifters in the gym. These are recreational athletes who want to show off and therefore lift weights that are far too heavy. Correct form and execution are also neglected. This is not only dangerous, but it also does not help build muscle. In fact, with poor form, some of the weight is distributed to the wrong muscle groups. If you have enough strength for a weight, you should be able to lift it with correct form. Lifting at home for show makes little sense.
The different types
Training to build muscle and strength is often divided into types of training: In machine training, a certain sequence of movements is usually prescribed. The risk of injury is very low. However, the whole body does not work together, but the muscles are used in isolation. Another type of training is bodyweight training. In addition to building up strength, this also helps with body control and balance. Last but not least, free weight training is very popular with bodybuilders and strength athletes because it allows you to train maximum strength, i.e. the most weight you are able to lift. Depending on the multi-gym, several types of training are usually possible. By and large, however, they are designed for one of the three types of training.
These are multi-gym machines without additional weights or mechanical components. They are mainly used for bodyweight training. The basic equipment includes a pull-up bar and a dip station. Since the equipment is uncomplicated and small compared to the other types, they cost less. However, their range of performance is limited. Especially users who have not yet mastered the classic exercises with their own body weight are not recommended to use such multi-gyms. On the other hand, calisthenics enthusiasts can have a lot of fun with them and train effectively.
The power rack is the be-all and end-all for powerlifters. It is mainly used for free weight training. It is a frame with holders for barbells and weight plates. If a bench is added, all the main lifts can be trained there: Deadlifts, squats, bench presses and shoulder presses. It always includes safety braces that protect the exerciser or the floor in case of a failed lift, depending on the exercise. Power racks often also have a pull-up bar.
Multi-stations are characterised by a wide variety of exercises. They allow users not only to train on the equipment, but also other types of training. They usually have a traction rope with which weight blocks are moved. Depending on the design, different muscle groups can be trained. However, these machines are usually the most expensive. A shortcoming of multistations is that they often do not offer the possibility of direct leg training. Only rarely is a leg press or leg extension included.
What should a multi-gym be able to do?
The biggest advantage of multi-gym is that they combine several fitness machines and applications in one. This eliminates the need for many machines that are expensive and take up a lot of space. A comprehensive multi-gym allows the user to perform a full-body workout. At the very least, it should be possible to train the upper body extensively. Since leg presses drive up the price and come with larger dimensions, they are out of the question for many. To get access to the basics of muscle building, it should be possible to perform at least two standard exercises per muscle group at the station.
The shoulders like to work together with the traction rope or cable. It allows one of the most important shoulder exercises to be the lateral raise.
You can hold onto the multi-gym with your free hand to stabilise your body and ensure a clean execution. In addition to side raises, you can also do face pulls on the cable or reverse butterflies on the machine. The exercises train the often neglected rear deltoid muscle. Among other things, this muscle ensures an upright posture and should be trained especially by people who regularly sit for long periods of time.
There should also be at least two classics for the chest muscles. These include a type of chest press and a type of butterfly. Depending on the model, these can take the form of special equipment such as the chest press and the peck deck, or they can be performed using a pull rope. The important thing is that you can train the two mechanical movements that the chest is responsible for.
If the multi-gym has a pull cable system, there are usually two main exercises you can do for the back: usually you can do the lat pull (latissimus pull) by vertical cable pull towards your own body. If this is not possible, there should at least be a pull-up bar. Pull-ups also train the “latissimus dorsi”. If a lat pull-down is feasible, cable rowing should usually be feasible as well. Depending on the equipment, you sit on the padded bench or the floor and pull the handle horizontally towards your body.
You can also train your abdomen with a pull-up bar and pull rope. The hanging leg raise is one of the most effective abdominal exercises. You can train the side abdominal muscles with the help of the pull rope. This exercise is called the lateral cable pull.
Many multi-gym machines have a padded area in front of the seat. This is usually used to train preacher curls, which work the biceps in isolation. If this is not available, you can perform different variations of the biceps curl depending on the type of grip on the cable.
To train the triceps, simply press down on the cable. This is possible with different grips. There is also the triceps cable extension. In this exercise you turn your back to the station and extend the cable overhead to the front.
If you want to train your legs on one piece of equipment, you should choose a multi-gym with a leg press. Depending on how you place your legs on the pressing surface, you will mainly work the quadriceps or the rear thigh muscles including the buttocks when pressing. At a power station you can perform squats, considered by many experts to be the best leg exercise.
Never skip Leg-Day!
Men in particular often neglect their legs when training. Instead, many like to chisel the chest and biceps to achieve the Hollywood look. However, such training leads to muscle imbalances, which can lead to injury. The legs comprise about half of the body. So train them sufficiently as well. After all, it looks disproportionate if the legs are significantly under-trained compared to the upper body – also known as chicken leg syndrome.
The most important purchase criteria
The differences between multi-gyms are often very great. In addition to the different types, other features of the equipment should also be considered before buying. For example, you should make sure that the multi-gym suits your anatomical characteristics and strength level.
Every body is anatomically different. When training with free weights or your own body weight, this is usually not a problem, as you can perform the exercises as your anatomy allows. With machines, however, you have to make sure that they fit your body so that the exercises can be performed correctly. That’s why the multi-gym’s seat should be adjustable to fit your measurements. Also, some people are too tall or too short for some machines. Ask the manufacturer in advance what sizes the machine is designed for and whether the seat is adjustable. If you buy your multi-gym from a specialist shop, you can of course try it out yourself.
Materials, workmanship and comfort
The frame of multi-gym machines is usually made of sturdy steel tubing. After all, the equipment has to bear a lot of weight and remain stable at the same time. Most stations also have a seat or bench and other padding. These are filled with foam. Their surface is made of plastic, often imitation leather. Pull ropes are made of steel and are sometimes encased in plastic.
In addition to the right material, the quality of workmanship must also be high. Take special care that the welds of the metal tubes are properly finished. In addition, the mechanical components of the equipment should be easy to operate. Multi-gyms in which the joints or the pull cable creak and squeak should be avoided. Test seals, for example from TÜV, are a good indication of high-quality workmanship.
Where padding is present, a certain level of comfort should be ensured, especially when it comes to seating. Of course, exercising is not about being comfortable. Nevertheless, the padding, which ultimately protects your body, should make it easier to handle the equipment and perform the exercises.
The maximum training weight
An important feature of multi-gyms is the maximum weight that users can train with. Stations for beginners can often only support around 60 kilograms. It is better to opt for a model for advanced users, even if you are not yet that advanced. In this case, you can train for many years and increase your strength without reaching the limits of the station. In this way, you will benefit from the expensive equipment for a very long time. Such stations are not overloaded by 120 to 135 kilograms.
It is also important that the machine allows for the smallest possible weight jumps. In the beginning you will get stronger quickly, but over the years it will become more and more difficult to increase the weights. A jump of 10.0 kilograms is too big. Ideally, jumps of 2.5 kilograms are possible, but with most machines it is more like 5.0 kilograms.
In multi-gyms, the resistance that works the muscles is generated in different ways. In addition to weights, some machines work with hydraulics.
The pin system
When looking for the right multi-gym, you will most likely come across the pin system the most. The weight blocks provide the weight for the exercises. These have a round opening in the middle where the pin is inserted to adjust the weight. The deeper the weight block, the heavier the weight. The pin system is mostly used on equipment and pull-rope equipment.
Weight regulation with weight plates
Weight plates are used for other multi-gyms. However, these are not always included in the delivery. The equipment has holders to place the weight plates on or hang them from. The advantage of this system is that you can determine the weight jumps yourself. There are weight plates that weigh only one kilogram or even less, as is the case with micro plates. However, new weight plates are expensive
The hydraulic system
Some multi-gyms do not use weights, but are based on a hydraulic system – more precisely, hydraulic cylinders that contain nitrogen. A mechanism is thus used to regulate the resistance in kilograms. The advantages of these machines include the fact that they often allow small jumps in weight, are quieter and lighter than other systems. However, hydraulic systems are often not as versatile as free weights, for example.
The disc-lock system plus TNT
This is the latest in resistance systems for multi-gyms. TNT means “Total Nitrocell Technology”. This system also works with nitrogen-filled cylinders. The cylinders can be adjusted independently. This allows for a precise workout where each side can be trained separately if necessary. Especially if you suspect that one side is stronger than the other, you can use this to compensate for your weaknesses.
Whether and how many accessories need to be purchased with a multi-gym depends on the type of station and its equipment. Manufacturers often have special offers that include not only the station but also a set of handles or weight plates.
Many multi-gym units already come with a seat or weight bench. If you decide to buy a power rack, it is recommended that you also buy a weight bench. Then you can do exercises like bench presses or rowing. If users have dumbbells, the functionality of a weight bench increases considerably.
If there is a pull cord, the handles to which the cord is attached are interchangeable. For example, there are handles for only one hand or both hands. Some handles are ergonomically shaped. Depending on the exercise and execution, a wide range of handles can enrich your training and ensure exercise variety. Often different grips are included with the purchase. However, you can always upgrade as needed.
TRX and bands
TRX trainers (Total Body Resistance Exercise) or sports bands are versatile training companions. The different resistance levels allow you to adapt the trainers and bands to your level and exercise. Especially if you choose a Power Tower, which mainly involves working with your own body weight, TRX trainers can provide many new exercise possibilities.
Gloves are not a necessity. However, some recreational exercisers prefer to train with gloves. They provide a better grip, which can be an advantage when working with heavy weights. They can also prevent blisters from forming on the hands. Blisters occur very quickly with regular training.
Even with a multi-gym, users have to lie, sit or kneel on the floor for some exercises. On the pull rope, for example, they can row while sitting or do cable crunches. In such cases, a mat provides an undersurface that is soft and does not slip.
Some multi-gym sets require weight plates. They often come with a set of weight plates, but you will usually need to buy some more, especially if you get stronger and need more weight. If you choose a power rack, you will also need weight plates to load the barbell with weight.
Barbells are essential for a power rack. After all, it is primarily designed for barbell training. However, barbells are expensive pieces of sports equipment that often cost several hundred euros. That is why they are rarely included in the purchase of a power rack.
Prices and manufacturers
The price differences between multi-gyms can be considerable. Inexpensive models are available for as little as 150 euros, while expensive models can cost several thousand euros. Power towers are usually the cheapest. High-quality multi-stations with many installations are the most expensive. The best-known manufacturers include Hammer, Kettler and Nautilus. Since multi-gyms are an expensive investment that you should enjoy for as long as possible, it is recommended to buy a model with a warranty. A guarantee is an indication of high quality. Manufacturers are more willing to offer it if you are confident that your equipment will last a long time.
For assembly: where to put the multi-gym?
Although a multi-gym combines many machines in one, it still requires a certain amount of space. If you want to buy such a piece of training equipment, you have to have the space available. Depending on the multi-gym, you should plan three to five square metres for the equipment. In addition, some exercises, for example on the pull-rope, require a little more space. So there must also be some space around the equipment, at least 1.5 to 2.0 metres. Last but not least, some multi-gyms need to be bolted to the floor. Since remounting is extremely time-consuming in this case, you should be very sure about the location. Multi-gyms that have to be screwed down are not suitable for tenants, as they make moving more difficult. If you leave holes in the floor, you can quickly say goodbye to your deposit.
Most stations are not suitable for low ceilings. They are usually higher than two metres. Especially for exercises such as pull-ups, there must be enough room at the top so that you don’t hit your head against the ceiling.
The weight of multi-gyms
In addition to size, the weight of the station also plays a role. Most multi-gyms weigh between 100 and 300 kilograms. Then there are the weights. So the entire installation can weigh about half a ton. Not every floor is designed for such a load. If you have neighbours, you also have to consider that the weights will crash loudly if you lower them less gently. For a flat on a higher floor, multi-gym with a hydraulic system are recommended. These weigh less and are much quieter.
Apart from the type and model, you should get a suitable stand for the station. Ideally, this will provide better support, insulate a little if necessary and protect your floor from scratches. For example, there are mats made of rubber or caoutchouc that are intended as bases for fitness equipment. You usually have to buy these separately. Standard yoga or iso mats are usually not thick enough for this purpose.
Maintenance and cleaning
The maintenance of multi-gyms does not require any special expertise. If the steel tubes are attached with screws, you should check every now and then to make sure everything is tight. You also need to ensure that the machine operates smoothly. To do this, inspect the joints and the pull cable. You may need to lubricate them. There is a special lubricant for exercise equipment. If you are unsure, check the instructions for use or ask the manufacturer what to use for lubrication.
Multi-gyms do not need to be cleaned often. If you use them infrequently, it is sufficient to dust them every now and then. Apart from that, only one thing is important: always wipe down the upholstery you come into contact with after your workout.
Some cleaning agents may attack the material of the upholstery surface. It is better to find out in advance from the manufacturer which product is most suitable. On the one hand, this is good for hygiene, especially if you share the equipment. On the other hand, sweat contains salt. This can damage the outer shell of the upholstery, as it causes cracks and fissures.