Best Portable Home Gym of 2021
If you're searching for a compact set of home exercise equipment that still lets you get full-body workouts, the Gonex Portable Home Gym is our top choice. This kit includes tons of components to maximize the number and types of movements available, including some less-frequently included bits like a post landmine sleeve and an extra segment to elongate the bar for wider stance exercises like squats. The large, solidly build board has all its anchor points on the top for easy swapping between components. Fabric-covered resistance bands add extra protection and a detailed booklet helps you choose what muscles to push and gives useful pointers on proper form.
On the other hand, if you're hoping to travel with your new gym in tow, the Gonex is the largest and heaviest model we tested. The base board folds in half but doesn't fit into the bulky carrying case that contains the other pieces that make this gym so versatile. And if you're hoping to find a progression of resistance bands that let you add more as you gain strength, you'll have to find third-party options, as Gonex doesn't currently make any add-ons for this gym. This is a bit on the expensive side among models we tested, but we're huge fans of the wide variety of exercises people of many sizes can perform and think it's worth the price for frequent users.Total Weight: 17.1 lbs
Bar Length: 39.5" or 47.2"
Base Board Dimensions: 34" x 19.5" x 1" (packed: 18" x 19.5" x 1.7")
Equipment and Components: 9 — base board, bar, resistance bands (2 pairs, 30 and 50 lbs), push up handles, handles, ab rollers, ankle straps, door anchor, post landmine sleeve
If you're willing to forego a base board and instead use your feet and ankles to anchor your bands, the Gymwell Portable Home Gym is not only an excellent price but also our favorite kit of this type. It includes numerous components that offer multiple uses, making this setup far more convenient to use than many. The ankle/foot straps are one of our favorites, combining the convenience and comfort of padded ankle straps with the security of under-foot stirrup, as well as multiple anchor points to allow you to perform tons of exercises without having to switch pieces as often. It has one of the longer bars among our contenders, making it a better fit for wide-stance movements. This set also includes posters of exercises as well as two thick stacks of exercise cards on rings, helping you find the perfect movements — and proper form, described in detail on the back of each card — for whatever muscle group you're working on. The entire set also packs up easily into an impressively compact bag, making it more portable than most.
Though the set comes with two lengths and two options for resistance levels, Gymwell doesn't currently make any extra bands. So if you're seeking an incremental step program rather than a consistent level, you'll need to look into bands from other manufacturers. Oddly, though it includes both long and short bands, only the long ones come in two possible resistance strengths. These minor inconveniences aside, we love the versatility, included ideas and instructions, and portability of this less expensive home gym.Total Weight: 8.3 lbs
Bar Length: 43"
Equipment and Components: 6 — bar, resistance bands (3 sets: one short 30-35 lbs, one long 30-35 lbs, one long 45-50 lbs), ankle/foot straps, handles, door anchor, anchor strap
If your heart is set on having a base board to anchor straps and push-up handles, but you don't want to spend so much of your hard-earned money, the Fusion Motion is a pretty good compromise. Though it doesn't have quite as many components as the super-versatile Gonex, it still has a lot to offer in a lighter, slightly more compact package. A detailed instruction booklet helps inspire new ideas and offers pointers on form. By winding the resistance bands in different configurations through the maze underneath, you can achieve a broader range of lengths and resistance levels than many other models with singular anchor points. The bands are covered with a protective fabric exterior, and this gym kit comes with some of the best quality carabiners of any set we tested.
However, the Fusion Motion includes just three carabiners, making switching between components all the more time-consuming as you have to move the carabiners around. Additionally, while we like the added versatility of winding resistance bands to exactly the right length and strength, it takes significant time to get it right and requires you to flip the board over repeatedly to perform this tedious task in the middle of your sweat session. When it comes to bar exercises, this is one of the shortest we tested, which we found to be rather restrictive both for wide-set motions (i.e., squats) and even regular motions by broad-shouldered individuals. There is also no indication of how much resistance the bands have to offer, and no additional components are available to add on. All in all, though it's a bit more time-consuming to adjust, and on the narrow side, the Fusion Motion is still a pretty solid deal for what you get.Total Weight: 12.9 lbs
Bar Length: 32.1"
Base Board Dimensions: 34.5" x 19.5" x 1.7" (packed: 18.5" x 20" x 3.2")
Equipment and Components: 8 — base board, bar, resistance bands (2 sets of unspecified resistance), push up handles, handles, ab roller, ankle straps, door anchor
Hate the uneven feeling of working out with giant rubber bands, aka resistance bands? If so, then the OYO Personal Gym may be precisely what you need. Made using the same technology popularized by Bowflex, the OYO is smooth and consistent due to the crisscrossing cables and pulley systems. These cables are also more durable than any latex band, and because they are never under massive tension, they can be counted on not to snap back at your face during a workout. This futuristic-looking unit is also impressively compact and portable, requiring far less setup and component changing during use than just about any other model we tested. We also found OYO's website to be filled with tons of extra information, exercise videos, and multi-week plans available for free.
After the learning curve of figuring out how to use this unique piece of gear, we found it relatively straightforward to use. The only complaint we have about this unusual portable gym is that the cables are rather short, limiting its range of motion even among our smaller testers. Compact resistance packs snap on and off for quick changing between motions yet offer very little range and no way to extend it. In fact, the unit tops out at just 25 pounds of resistance, making this model better for users who prefer more reps at a lower weight. One tester mused that her senior citizen-aged relatives would love the OYO, while another suggested it as a great option to take to the office and do small workouts during short breaks.Total Weight: 2.5 lbs
Equipment and Components: 4 — unit, resistance packs (two 10 lbs, one 5 lb), ankle straps, door anchor
While we were excited to test some exercise bows alongside more traditional home gym models, in comparison, we're not convinced they're worth the hype. However, if you're sold on the interesting and surprisingly versatile usage of an exercise bow, the Gorilla Bow is our favorite model. It's one of the very few gym kits we tested that comes with a good range of resistance bands and has plenty of extra options that allow for incremental increases if you're working on progression in your strength and movements. You can purchase additional bands separately to increase resistance considerably — Gorilla Bow sells kits that go up to 340 pounds. The bow itself is extremely durable, and even the simple, uncovered resistance bands are stronger than most others we tested. The Gorilla Bow is also extremely simple to set up, thereby cutting down the time spent swapping various pieces in the middle of your routine.
Of course, with limited components comes a somewhat limited range of possible exercises. The bent "bar" of the bow adds a layer of awkwardness to smaller motions like chest presses and is a bit too heavy and long for many single-handed motions. There are still plenty of things you can do with the Gorilla Bow, though they're quick to provide contradictory instructions and safety guidelines to eliminate their liability. Of the two small pieces of paper included with our Gorilla Bow, one was full of safety guidelines, schooling us to never stand on the resistance bands, as they can easily slip out from under your feet and snap back at you, causing potential injury. The other paper showed six different exercises they recommend performing with the Gorilla Bow, five of which require holding the resistance bands under your feet, as they just instructed us never to do. So, while we're not convinced that an exercise bow is the way to go, if you love the concept, perhaps the Gorilla Bow is right for you.Total Weight: 5.6 lbs
Bow Length: 55.5"
Equipment and Components: Bow and 4 bands (10, 20, 30, and 50 lbs) — can also purchase the travel version that breaks into three pieces
Though it didn't win any awards this time around, the Body Boss 2.0 scored highly in our testing and is a versatile, easy-to-use home gym with a base board. It includes all the basic components you want, and extras — like an ab roller and additional resistance bands — are easy to add on. The base board is sturdy and stays in place well, even on slick hardwood floors. Grippy material on top holds your shoes in place as well, giving you a solid foundation for squats or one-legged motions. The 41.5" bar is long enough for most exercises and has permanently affixed padding in all the right places. Though you're unlikely to fit this sizeable baseboard into your suitcase, it's lighter and more compact than many similar models if you do decide to travel with it.
However, if you're after a portable home gym with all the bells and whistles included, you may be slightly disappointed by this simplistic setup. An ab roller and second set of resistance bands will cost extra, and you still can't fit push-up handles into the base board. The fabric-covered resistance bands are long and work well enough but are constructed somewhat awkwardly, impeding easy threading. The carabiners attach to the bands a couple of inches from the end, easily catching as you attempt to thread the bands through appropriate metal loops to achieve your perfect length and resistance. This inconvenience aside, if you're after a solid, straightforward home gym that's easy to adjust and simple to use, the Body Boss 2.0 is a solid choice.Total Weight: 13 lbs
Bar Length: 41.5"
Base Board Dimensions: 33.75" x 19.75" x 1.25" (packed: 18" x 19.75" x 2")
Equipment and Components: 6 — base board, bar, single set of resistance bands, handles, ankle straps, door anchor
Though shipping time isn't something that is incorporated into our scoring methods, we feel compelled to mention the particular struggles we had getting our hands on the Body Boss 2.0. It took over six weeks of emailing, waiting, and checking up to receive this gym. We were told it was shipped three separate times before one finally showed up - and this type of incident isn't unique to us. Many other users report having similar difficulties getting ahold of this exercise set. However, once it did finally arrive, we're happy to report it turned out to be worth the (very long) wait. And, to be fair, this may have been a COVID-related inconvenience that won't continue in the future - after all, working out at home is, understandably, very popular right now!
The INNSTAR Portable Gym 3.0 has some interesting additions and omissions from the "standard" portable gym setup. Including most of the same components as many of its competitors, the INNSTAR 3.0 also includes a thick band with multiple, short resistance bands meant primarily for chest exercises (though, like most resistance band sets, its uses are many and variable). And while many home gyms claim to be "built tough" and "made to last," the INNSTAR actually feels like a step or two above the rest. Durable carabiners help keep time spent swapping out components to a minimum. For extra convenience, everything fits into an impressively small, reasonably lightweight bag that's one of the more portable options we tested.
This not-inexpensive set comes with just one level of resistance bands. If you seek progression, INNSTAR offers a handful of other resistance bands, but this will greatly increase the total cost of your set. And while we think the "bench press band" offers some unique exercises that competitors don't, it's also somewhat awkward to set up and actually use because of its short length — though practice does help. Botton line, if you're after exercise variety at a consistent resistance level, this robust set is a pretty solid choice.Total Weight: 7.8 lbs
Bar Length: 38"
Equipment and Components: 7 — bar, bench press band, long bands, foot straps, door anchors, ankle cuffs
If you're searching for an exercise bow on a smaller budget, the NYPOT Bow could be a good choice. Breaking down into three pieces, this bow conveniently fits into a small bag and sets up in seconds. Comparing this bow to the single-piece version of the Gorilla Bow, we found very few obvious differences, other than the much larger and more comfortable padding in the middle of this one. All other possible uses and measurements proved to be either the same or very similar. Additional resistance bands up to 70 pounds are available to purchase from NYPOT or other compatible bow manufacturers. The NYPOT also comes with a pair of fingerless mesh gloves that are an acceptable fit for average to large hands.
In direct comparison with other bows we tested, the resistance bands that come with the NYPOT feel easier to stretch with lower resistance than claimed. And, in the shadow of much more versatile home gym sets, we're not sold on the functionality of any exercise bow. But if your heart is set on a bow that fits within a budget, the NYPOT offers pretty good functionality and portability for what it is.Total Weight: 6.5 lbs
Bow Length: 55.5"
Equipment and Components: Bow, 4 resistance bands (10, 30, 40, 60 lbs), and a pair of fingerless gloves
If you want to add a little something extra to your workouts without getting too complicated, the Bodygym Core System may be for you. A single, long resistance band attaches to a super lightweight plastic bar for assembly in seconds. A padded foam section and a pair of foot loops adorn the middle of the band, offering a bit more than what plain resistance band brings to the table. With illustrated stickers of suggested exercises located right on the bar, it's easier than ever to do your workout and get on with your day. For a little bit extra, this set comes with two DVDs filled with more workouts and exercises. This is the smallest and lightest home gym in our line-up, making it one of the few we would actually consider bringing on a vacation or a work trip.
However, this level of simplicity is limiting when it comes to exercises — not that there still aren't plenty of things you can do with it. The single long band can be wound around the bar to increase resistance, though we're not inspired by its below-average strength and unimpressive construction and worry that it won't last as long as other options. In general, every piece of this home gym is far lighter and less robust than just about every other model we tested. But if you appreciate simplicity in your equipment, the price of this basic piece may make it a worthwhile purchase.Total Weight: 1.3 lbs
Bar Length: 30"
Equipment and Components: 3 — bar, single resistance band, attached foot loops
Upon first glance, there's much to like about the Megoal Portable Home Gym. It's surprisingly lightweight and compact — especially for a gym with a base board — and fits entirely into a single, very portable bag. With clever components to maximize possible uses, the Megoal offers plenty of variation, including pop-out ab rollers, movable push up handles, and customizable resistance band length and strength by winding it within a maze of pegs underneath. It's also one of the least expensive options we tested, adding to its appeal.
Yet, in practice, we're disappointed by the performance and construction of the Megoal. All the pieces, from the 3-part bar and plastic base board to the thin, bare resistance bands and brittle wheels on the ab roller, fall far short of the competition. This system is also quite small, further limiting available options of exercises. We had a very hard time getting the bar to snap together, as the pegs are located in not quite the right spot to easily snap into their matching holes. The single pair of resistance bands are also quite weak, and winding one through the base board takes extra time — doubly so, as the process frequently pulls off the small rubber caps that close the ends of each plastic peg underneath. If you have a strong need to stick to a very limited budget and are willing to treat your equipment with far more care and patience than average, the Megoal may work for you, but otherwise, we think there are better options.Total Weight: 6.1 lbs
Bar Length: 36"
Base Board Dimensions: 25.1" x 8.1" x 1.5"
Equipment and Components: 7 — base board, bar, single set of resistance bands, push up handles, knee pads, ab rollers, handles
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is lead by Senior Review Editor, Maggie Brandenburg. Even before the restrictions of the COVID pandemic set in, Maggie was an at-home fitness enthusiast. She has made it a priority to incorporate a wide variety of exercises into her routine — none of which involve a gym membership. From running several days a week and practicing yoga in her office to lifting free weights and doing calisthenics in her garage, she's always on the move. For this review, she also enlisted the help of several of her friends and family members to test the range and options of each model. Maggie has been testing gear and home goods for GearLab since 2017.
We began the testing process with hours of research to find the most promising portable home gyms options. After selecting our contenders, we purchased them all for side-by-side comparison and testing. We then spent weeks trying out their myriad of uses, configurations, and available ranges. We performed hundreds of exercises to test door anchors, ankle straps, and resistance bands. Our testing team included both men and women, ranging in height from 5'4" to 6'1" and representing various fitness goals and strategies. We're not here to tell you how to exercise, but we can help you find the right tools for your home workout regimen, whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out.
Analysis and Test Results
Not everyone wants the same thing from their workout — some of us want to get stronger, to maintain overall health, or to challenge ourselves. When it comes to your personal fitness, as long as safety is your number one concern, any goal can be a good goal for you. With this wide variety of possible reasons for purchasing a portable home gym in mind, we set out to test each of these in their full capacity so that you understand which is best for your unique goals. We divided our testing into four overarching metrics that, when combined, give an overall picture of each portable gym. To learn more about our testing process and which models perform best in specific areas, read on.
One of the most important aspects of any portable home gym is the number of exercises you can actually do with it. To evaluate this, we considered many factors, including the number of different components each model has and their versatility for different uses targeting various muscles and muscle groups. We evaluated the range of resistance these gyms have to offer, the increments at which they're able to be changed, and additional pieces that can expand that range. We also considered extras and add-ons, including online videos (from the manufacturer, not just other customers creating videos), subscription services, and additional items to expand your gym.
As with any exercise, whether it's a new routine or one you've been doing for years, be sure to do it safely. Read the directions that come with your home gym and consult the manufacturer's website — and ideally your doctor as well — before beginning to use any new equipment. Ensure that you follow included safety directions and listen to your body's limits to avoid serious injury.
In terms of the sheer numbers of components and the possible exercises they enable, it's tough to beat the Gonex Home Gym. Not only does this gym include a wide base board and the typical assortment of ankle straps, foot stirrups, handles, and door anchors, it also features two ab roller wheels, a post landmine sleeve, and an additional segment to elongate and pad the bar for wider-set exercises. They don't stop by just sending you all the gear either, but also include an in-depth booklet full of ideas and instructions to help you tailor your workout to your goals.
Similarly, the Fusion Motion has many of the same components to accompany its slightly narrower base board, but lacks the second ab roller, post landmine sleeve, and ability to lengthen its bar. However, an intricate system of pegs on the bottom of the board allows minute customizations of the resistance band length and strength by winding it in various patterns. It also includes a similarly detailed book to help you get the most from your new kit. Though it lacks a footboard or ab rollers, the Gymwell system is also impressive in its diversity of offerings. It includes two different strengths of resistance bands, a tree/post anchor, and ankle/foot combination anchors to add options while cutting down the time spent swapping out different components. The Gymwell also comes with our favorite on-paper workout instructions — a set of posters as well as two decks of cards (connected on a ring, for easy flipping) that include very detailed directions to keep your form sharp and your training targeted.
Another crucial part of any exercise equipment is its usability. To test this, we assessed numerous facets during use. When working out, we checked smoothness, grip comfort, stability, and overall feel. Between exercises, we evaluated the ease of changing and adjusting equipment to various positions and resistance levels. Before and after our sessions, we noted how easy each gym is to set up and put away. And we took note of how intuitive each model is — i.e., do you need the booklet or website every time, or are the exercise options intuitive and straightforward?
In order to make your workouts both safe and effective, take some time to learn about proper techniques for using your equipment. By practicing consistent, appropriate techniques for every exercise you perform, you'll help yourself twice, both in gains from the movement itself and avoiding injuries often sustained from improper exercise form.
Once again, the Gonex proves itself a step above the rest in terms of usability and adaptability. It's the only model we tested that includes an extra segment to lengthen the bar and a padded sleeve that is exceptionally comfortable to use during squats. With metal anchors on the top of the base board, it's quick and easy to change between components without losing your workout momentum. And while it comes with a thorough instruction booklet, we found its components to be quite intuitive to set up and use. The Gymwell system is also impressively useful and versatile, with a longer-than-average bar with firmly attached padded sections that add noticeable comfort. The Body Boss 2.0 also comes with a longer-than-average bar that's comfortably padded and a very sturdy base board with easy-to-use anchors and grips for solid foot placement.
The INNSTAR 3.0 kit is rather easy to use in most respects as well. Its thick, sturdy bands and solid attachments provide clean, smooth movements. The Gorilla Bow is very easy to set up, and its simple design means you don't have to switch out components between routines, and swapping resistance bands when needed is a cinch. It also offers one of the smallest increments of change of any model we tested. The OYO Personal Gym is another that's quite usable in many ways. While at first appearing complicated, the system itself is surprisingly simple, allowing you to perform a wide variety of exercises without having to change anything about the unit's set up. When you do need to change resistance levels, simple round packs can be quickly snapped on or off the center of the frame.
Testing the portability of each gym involved a combination of measurements and perceived exercise value. We weighed and measured every packed up portable gym and evaluated their compactness when considering travel restrictions. We then assessed the likelihood that we would actually travel with such a thing — whether to the park down the street or on a work trip for a week.
By their very nature, every one of these gym systems is more portable than even the slimmest exercise bike or the most compact free weight set. If your goal in the search for portability is to save space at home and be able to keep your equipment in the closet when not in use, every one of the models we tested fits the bill. On the other hand, if you're hoping to take some fitness gear to use discretely during work breaks or maintain health goals while traveling, some are more conducive to being stuck in a suitcase or duffel bag.
The Bodygym Core System is shockingly lightweight and extremely simple, easily folding into your carry-on luggage while adding just over a pound of extra weight. The OYO Personal Gym is also fairly compact and could easily be brought along on your vacation. Though a bit bulkier and heavier, the Gymwell, INNSTAR 3.0, and Megoal could all arguably be carted to work or your neighborhood park without too much inconvenience.
Durability & Safety
This metric combines our own observations of the quality of materials and build of every unit with the relative safety of using each one. We scrutinized and compared every component, using our longtime experience in the field to gauge relative toughness. We then scoured the internet for other outstanding user complaints of equipment failure and considered the safety information that came with each gym (if applicable). From the obvious advice to consult your physician, to specific directions on proper form during individual exercises, all the way to contradictory commands telling you not to use the equipment a certain way and then directing you to do exactly that (we're looking at you, Gorilla Bow), no element went unobserved.
Many portable home gyms use some form of latex, rubber, or other stretchy bands to create the resistance used in workouts. These bands will degrade over time, offering decreased resistance and potentially cracking, ripping, or even snapping during a workout. It's important that you read the directions for care included with your home gym and follow them to extend the lifespan of your equipment. If you're worried about being snapped by a broken latex strap, consider purchasing a model with fabric-enclosed bands that offer protection in the event of a break.
The OYO Personal Gym is the only system we tested that doesn't rely on breakable resistance bands, opting instead for sturdy cables and a pulley system to minimize stress to the unit during use. It also has fewer pieces to snap on and off, further lowering potential breakable components over prolonged use.
When it comes to resistance band units, the INNSTAR bands are among the sturdiest we tested, further supported by protective fabric sheaths. The Gonex and Body Boss 2.0 are also both quite durable, with numerous components of metal and thick plastic, and both boasting tough resistance bands covered with protective fabric.
The Gorilla Bow is quite durable, with an exceptionally thick metal bow that's mirrored by the NYPOT 3-piece portable bow system. However, we're far more impressed by the Gorilla Bow's latex bands than we are by the weaker NYPOT bands that seemed to attract every stray dog hair nearby instantly. When it comes to safety and instruction, the Gonex, Fusion Motion, and Gymwell all included copious amounts of information on how to use their equipment effectively and safely. The OYO system has abundant extras online for using this unique piece of equipment, including many multi-week challenges and other life tips and advice.
Though we don't like to complain unnecessarily about any particular piece of gear we test, sometimes there's a glitch so glaring that we have no choice but to call it out. This is the case with the Gorilla Bow's included instructions and recommendations, which contradict each other in fundamental ways. As part of the included safety information, the manufacturer instructs the user in ALL CAPS to NEVER put the resistance bands under your feet as an anchor during a workout because the bands can slip out and snap back at you, causing injury. Yet, in the Gorilla Bow advertising and abundant workout videos, they advocate for doing exactly that. In fact, without anchoring the bands under your feet, there are very few exercise options available. While we can understand that the safety warning is likely for liability reasons (legally protecting the manufacturer in the event their product does actually injure someone), we think this such a glaring contradiction between safety guidelines and general usage instructions is woefully disingenuous and potentially dangerous.
Whether you're trying to save money on a gym membership, stay healthy without leaving home, or just looking for something to add variety to your exercise, there's a portable home gym for you. We sweated it out, testing each one and comparing them together to help you determine which one will guide you toward your fitness goals.
— Maggie Brandenburg