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The Best Big-ticket Home-Gym Equipment, According to Workout Professionals

Photo: Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Remember that creaky stationary bike your grandma used to have in her basement? Well, forget about it. Today’s big-ticket home-gym equipment is nothing like that. The treadmills, bikes, and rowing machines listed below are so advanced, you can join live classes or work out with a virtual personal trainer right from the comfort of your own living room. It’s 2019, people, there’s no need to schlep all the way to the gym to have someone yell at you to work harder and run faster. And if you’d like to add some smaller items to round out your gym, we’ve written about a variety of those and gone deep on foam rollers before.

Best treadmills

NordicTrack X22i Incline Trainer

If you’re training for a hilly race but live nowhere near any hills, or if you’re just looking for an intense running workout, Steve Uria, founder of Switch Playground, likes that this treadmill “goes up to a 40 percent incline where most treadmills stop at 15.” Plus, it includes access to workouts from NordicTrack’s iFit pro trainers, like runs featuring video from scenic locations around the world. “It also automatically increases speed and incline for you as the trainer leading your workout accelerates or climbs,” says Uria. “All stats are saved so you can monitor your results and gauge progress.”

Technogym Skillmill Connect

Running on a traditional treadmill burns fewer calories than running outdoors, because the moving belt helps propel you forward. But this nonmotorized treadmill, recommended by David Juhn, personal training manager at Life Time Athletic Sky gym, forces you to do all of that work yourself. “You can also adjust the resistance for power-development workouts to add variety to your workout routine,” he says. “You can achieve advanced cardiovascular and strength workouts in a short period of time while only needing minimal space for the machine itself.”

Assault Fitness AirRunner

A similar nonmotorized treadmill at a fraction of the cost.

Life Fitness F3 Folding Treadmill

When space is at a premium in your home gym, look for machines that fold away when not in use, like this treadmill recommended by Aaptiv master trainer John Thornhill. “[It] offers high-tech accessibility for heart rate monitoring and workout customization,” he says, and it’s also made of durable, long-lasting materials so you’ll get plenty of years of use out of it. Dr. Michele Olson, a senior clinical professor in the department of sport science and physical education at Huntingdon College, also uses a folding treadmill at home. “Even though the belt length is shorter than that in gyms, it can be used by someone as tall as six-foot-two,” she says. “It takes up less space but it functions exactly like any gym-quality treadmill.”

Best exercise bikes

Peloton Bike

Bringing the energy of a group workout class to the comfort of one’s home, it’s not surprising that the Peloton bike is hugely popular. According to Recode, Peloton finished 2018 with more customers than SoulCycle. Personal trainer Harry Hanson, founder of Hanson Fitness, loves it for helping clients get in shape fast, on their own schedules. “Users can go in a live or taped stream and they’ll be in a workout-class setting. This increases the motivation they need to get the workout done. It’s a great way to burn fat, release endorphins, and feel fabulous overall,” he says.

Keiser M3i Indoor Cycle

Olson also recommends equipping your home gym with a spin bike. “Cycles are so excellent for cardiovascular systems, have no impact, and are knee-, hip-, and spine-friendly.” This bike’s compact design also takes up less space than a treadmill or elliptical.

Schwinn IC3 Indoor Cycling Bike

Thornhill calls Schwinn bikes “the gold standard for indoor cycling.” He says, “The frame and flywheel are heavy, which means it’s built to last, [and] it also boasts a monitor to track your RPMs and heart rate, and a smooth, low-impact ride.” The pedals have clips to accommodate cycling shoes as well as toe cages for your regular sneakers.

Schwinn AD6 Airdyne Exercise Bike

Old-school, wind-powered air bikes with handles, which were originally popular in the 1970s and ’80s, are having a comeback, according to Nick Clayton, personal training program manager at the National Strength and Conditioning Association. “You’re biking and pushing and pulling at the same time, so it’s low-impact, but as far as working muscles and getting the most out of any kind of interval session, [it’s] probably the best bang for your buck,” he says. Simple to use, easy to set up, and with no motor to potentially break down, it’s a valuable addition to any home gym.

Best cardio machines

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine With PM5

Compared to a bike or treadmill, Clayton says a rowing machine requires less maintenance and is lower-impact. Eric Salvador, head trainer at Fhitting Room and certified indoor-rowing instructor, agrees: “A rower is hands-down the best bang for your buck when it comes to investing in a big-ticket home-workout machine. Rowing is truly a full-body workout that uses almost every major muscle group in your body. Engaging so many muscles simultaneously elevates your heart rate and burns a lot of calories.”

VersaClimber H/HP Model

Instead of an elliptical machine, Will Ahmed, founder and CEO of WHOOP, prefers the VersaClimber, because “it’s more of a full-body workout and you’re also working against gravity.” Athletes like LeBron James love it as well, and Ahmed says you can get a “full-blown, high-intensity workout” in as little as 10 to 15 minutes.

best home gym equipment
Photo: Michael Neveux
CardioGym CG6

With options for both cardio and strength workouts, the CardioGym “is everything you could ever need for an at-home workout,” according to personal trainer Bec Donlan, curator of Hotel Americano’s #FitnessAmericano program. A built-in virtual trainer guides you through a series of workouts that combine high-intensity pedaling and full-body resistance training.

Best weight machine

BodyCraft X2 Dual Stack Gym

While it’s a big one-time investment, this weight machine’s high price tag makes sense when you consider that it incorporates nearly all the exercises you’d be able to do at a commercial gym. There’s a press station for bench and shoulder presses, pulleys for arm and leg work, and cables that can be used like free weights. “The BodyCraft allows you to work every muscle group in a variety of ways,” says Radan Sturm, founder of Liftonic, “and its exercises are strength-based to help you build muscle, boost metabolism, and burn fat.” There’s also space for two people to work out at once, so exercising at home doesn’t have to be a solitary affair.

Best free weights

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells

“If someone is looking to improve their strength, they have to progressively increase the weight they are using,” says Clayton. “Five-pound dumbbells just don’t cut it.” To get a wide range of weights without taking up a huge amount of space — or spending a fortune — he likes these dumbbells, which can be adjusted to weigh anywhere between five and 52.5 pounds. They’re also a favorite of Thornhill’s, who says the “ability to change small [2.5-pound] increments in weight every step of the way” gives users the flexibility to do a variety of exercises and increase the difficulty as they progress.

Bandbell Barbell

Unlike the typical barbell you’d find at the gym, the Bandbell doesn’t use weight plates but rather kettlebells that hang from bands at each end, engaging more muscles in each exercise. “The Bandbell is a unique bar that’s unlike any other for injury-prevention, strength training and rehab, or pre-hab,” says Kirk Myers, founder of Dogpound. “It also challenges your core since it forces you to stabilize.”