How to replace all the popular gym machines at home: 4 Options


When you’re used to working out with machines in a large gym but want to do the same things at home, you’ve got a problem. All those machines are too big and expensive to fit in a home gym. So what kind of equipment can you get to replace them? Let’s find out.

There are a few home gym setups that are just as flexible and effective as a gym with separate machines. A multi-gym or functional trainer are the closest alternative to gym machines. For people that don’t mind free weights, a barbell and/or dumbbell setup combined with resistance bands is great.

What do those setups look like and what can you do with them? Find out below.

Which machines do you want to replace at home?

Most large gyms have a ton of different machines that are all used to work out a different muscle. In a home gym a similar setup is not really an option. It just costs too much money and space to get all those different machines in a home gym. Luckily there are some good options for home gym equipment that are much more space and money efficient.

But before we get to that, we have to know what that equipment has to do. What kind of alternatives are we looking for? Let’s think about what the most popular machines and exercises are in the gym and how we can do the same or at least similar things with less equipment at home.

Here are the most popular gym machines and what they are used to train;

  • (Incline) Chest press: Chest, triceps, front shoulder
  • Lat pulldown: Latissimus dorsi, biceps
  • Leg press: Legs
  • Leg extension: Quadriceps
  • Leg curl: Hamstrings/glutes
  • Glute raise: Glutes
  • Overhead press: Shoulders and triceps
  • Crunch Machine: Abdominals
  • Back extension: Lower back
  • Seated row: Mid/upper back and biceps
  • Chest/reverse fly: Chest or rear delts and back
  • Preacher curl: Biceps
  • Tricep pushdown: Triceps
  • Calf raise: Calves

Most of the machines are just named after the movement or muscles they use so it’s pretty easy to figure out what we have to replace. So let’s take a look at some popular and efficient home gym setups that can train all the same things as listed above.

Option 1: Barbell setup

To build a complete physique and train almost all possible muscles, the best way to do it is to get a barbell setup. You need a bit more than just a barbell though;

Those four things will allow you to do many exercises. Some examples;

  • Squat: Lower body, back
  • Deadlift: Lower body, back
  • Overhead press: Shoulders, triceps
  • Lunges: Lower body
  • Curls: Biceps
  • (Incline) Bench press: Chest, triceps, shoulders
  • Pull up: Back, biceps
  • Triceps extensions: Triceps
  • Standing calf raises: calves
  • Barbell pullover: Back, chest
  • Bent over row: Back, biceps

Those are the most popular barbell exercises but it’s not an exhaustive list. There are more exercises and almost countless variations on the ones listed.

Barbell exercises are more technical and require a bit more attention than using a gym machine. You have to know what you’re doing otherwise it’s easy to hurt yourself. Luckily there are plenty of videos online to exactly see how to do a certain exercise and even online coaching is available.

For some extra flexibility and the option to isolate smaller muscles that are difficult to reach with a barbell, combining this setup with the next option is best. That way you have the best of both worlds. Barbells are best for the big movements and big muscles. Dumbbells and resistance bands are better for the smaller exercises and muscles.

Option 2: Dumbbells + Resistance bands

A set of dumbbells and a set of resistance bands are a great combination. By itself you can do plenty of exercises to work out your whole body but it also works very well with a barbell setup. Barbells allow you to lift more weight and therefore build more muscle and strength. Dumbbells can be used for pretty much all the same exercises as with a barbell but you can also do more muscle isolation.

Suggested: Which type of dumbbells do you need for at home?

Option 3: Multi-gym

A multi-gym is a piece of home gym equipment that combines a lot of different types of gym machine into one piece. Since you will probably be working out alone at home anyways, having just one seat where you do every exercise is not a problem. In a commercial gym you want the extra seats so your gym can serve more people.

This is the closest you’re going to get to the separate machines that target specific muscles. Just grab a different handle to do a different exercise. Pretty easy. However, most multi-gyms don’t have all the exercise options. While many multi-gyms can do the vast majority of exercises, there are a few that are commonly missing.

Only a few multi-gyms offer the leg press as an option and often it’s an add-on. Calf raises are often also missing although those are pretty easy to do in another way.

Common exercise options for multi-gyms are;

  • (Incline/Decline/Straight) Chest press: Chest, triceps
  • Leg extensions: Quadriceps
  • Leg curl: Hamstrings, glutes
  • Chest fly: Chest
  • Ab crunch: Abdominals
  • Bicep curls: Biceps
  • Triceps extensions: Triceps
  • Lat pulldown: Latissimus dorsi, biceps
  • Low row: Back
  • Lateral raise: Shoulders
  • Back extension: Lower back
  • Bent over row: Upper/mid back

These are the exercises often possible on even the simpler multi-gyms. Better multi-gyms often have many more exercise options although many of them are smaller variations of the exercises listed above. If you’re shopping for a multi-gym, it’s definitely worth it to take a look at the owner’s manual. Usually the owner’s manual will have a list of exercise options. Comparing them and seeing which exercises different models have is a good idea. This way you can exactly see if your preferred exercise is possible.

Option 4: Functional trainer

If you like something that builds a bit more real world muscle than a multi-gym, a functional trainer is a great option. Instead of having all the different movement patterns that are set, you’ve got two cables.

A functional trainer is a very flexible cable trainer that’s also relatively compact so it fits well in a home gym. There are two pulleys that are fully adjustable in height. The two pulleys are far enough apart to stand in between and do exercises. You can use one or two cables at the same time and there are a ton of different cable attachments available. This means a functional trainer can be used for a very wide range of exercises.

Most exercises can be done on your feet which is a great way to train because you build a very usable strength. Standing on your feet is how you do most things in life after all. But, with adding a bench it’s possible to also isolate some muscles.

Here is just a small selection of exercises you can do on a functional trainer that create full body workout;

  • Cable crossover: Chest, triceps
  • Standing cable press: Chest, triceps
  • Cable curl: Biceps
  • Cable pushdown: Triceps
  • Wood chop: Obliques, abdominals
  • Cable crunches: Abdominals
  • Cable flyes: Chest, back
  • Lat pulldowns: Back, biceps
  • Seated row: Back, biceps
  • Cable overhead press: Shoulders, triceps
  • Cable calf raises: Calves
  • Cable squat: Legs
  • Cable lunges: Legs, glutes
  • Face pull: Back, biceps
  • Single arm cable rows: Back, bicep
  • Cable kickback: Glutes

Yes, that’s just a selection of the possible exercises. You can see that a functional trainer is very versatile and creating a full body workout is very easy. On top of that cable exercises are a sort of bridge between machines with a fixed pattern and free weights. Because cables don’t have a set movement pattern you have to use the stabilizing muscles a bit more which means you build a more complete muscular system and don’t only train the big muscles.

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