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45. Exercise Equipment: Home Gyms/Weight Equipment


This article is from the Fitness FAQ, by Jeff Gleixner (glex@cray.com) with numerous contributions by others.

45. Exercise Equipment: Home Gyms/Weight Equipment


Manufacturer: Vital Form

Where Purchased: Direct

Price: $1130 for complete unit with all options.
$699 for base unit.

This device is essentially a multi-exercise device based on a T-bar
row system. Weights are placed at one end of an arm; the other
end is attached to a vertical post which attaches a seat to the base.
An adjustable (height, distance from seat) rest is located between
the seat and the weights. Lifting attachments are attached to the
T-bar arm; load is adjusted by the amount of weight and where the
lift attachments are connected to the weight arm. The optional lat
tower is fastened behind the seat. The basic unit occupies about
48 inches by 24 inches.

I've been able to use the Hammer to perform about 50 different
lifts. It seems to provide a very good range of motion. The
position of the lift attachment on the weight arm can significantly
multiply the effect of the weights loaded on the arm. There are 11
lift positions on the arm. With 100# of plates on the arm, the
effective load varies from 131# (position 11) to 365# (position 1).
Not all positions can be used with all exercises.

The Hammer seems very durable, with the exception of a distance
scale which is used to position the movable rest--it's just tape &
wears off. The Lat tower is a great attachment, but it introduces
some lateral instability--the tower is about 80 inches high. There
is a post to hang excess weights behind the seat. It should be loaded
up to prevent the rear of the device from lifting when performing
cable curls with heavy weights.

I have modified the Hammer to serve as a Glute-Ham machine as
described by Michael Yessis by adding an adjustable foot platform
to the lat tower.

With weights removed, the Hammer is quite movable but since I
keep mine in one place I've mounted it to a heavy sheet of
plywood to provide additional stability. I've also developed
additional lifting devices to extend it.


Very easy to assemble. Little or no maintenance required.

Device is very simple--little can go wrong.

Gives the feeling of free weights.

Since the weights are never above you, no workout partner is

Extremely flexible. I use it to perform more than 60 different lifts.

Very amenable to creative modification to create new lifts.


Maximum plate capacity is about 150# (6x25 regular plates). This
should only be a problem for very serious lifters.

Lateral stability with lat tower.

You have to buy plates in addition to the machine--figure on 4x25,
2x10, 1x5, 1x2.5.

I find the press bar to be a little difficult to work with.

Yes, I would buy it again..
Good value for money.


... I bought a Parabody EX350 from the local dealer. I started with this
thing three times a week in mid January, so I'm just finishing my sixth
week with it.

I'm very glad that I talked the local dealer into delivering and setting
up this little contraption for free, though, since the assembly drawings
are virtually unreadable and the assembly looked rather complex.
However, the fellow from the dealer knew exactly what he was doing and
it all went fine.

I selected this machine since it seems particularly well built. ...
I wanted a serious weight machine right out of the starting blocks.
So many of the cheap units available just don't seem like they're intended
to be seriously used.

The Parabody EX350 has a very heavy frame (at least as home units go), good
pulley and cable parts, and good, heavy hardware. All of the mechanisms seem
to work smoothly and I have not noticed any wear or breaking except as
noted below. I'm also pleased with the minimal amount of setup and
reconfiguration that is required (as contrasted to comparable home units)
as you go through a workout.

After about three weeks with my Parabody EX350, I noticed some rather
bad wear abound the leg curl part. The dealer sent Steve back over (a
house call) and determined that I needed an extra washer. With that
installed, the mechanism seemed a bit tight for a while but now seems to
have worn in nicely.

My one complaint about the Parabody is that it comes with virtually no
instructions. If you don't have a good dealer who can show you how to
raise and lower the seats, attach the various parts, etc. you'll have a
hard time figuring it all out.

After three workouts a week on this thing, alternating with my NordicTrack,
I've noticed that God has again blessed my efforts with rather nice results.
I've also not gained any weight, so I must still be losing fat.

...[T]hough I have only had mine for about six weeks, [I can] give a
guarded recommendation to the Parabody EX350. [Info about unrelated
equipment deleted.]

BMI 9700

There are several moderately priced but good home gyms on the market.
I would recommend the BMI 9700 home gym for strength training. It offers
good resistance training up to 330 lbs and has exercises for both upper
and lower body. It will run you around $400-500. Good quality at a low
price. Of course it can't match more expensive, professional equipment.


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