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The incredible shrinking gym

Maybe Arnold and Sly can devote entire areas of their estates to legions of health club-quality strength machines, but what about the rest of us? Fortunately, as the demand for strength training rises among the masses, so have remarkably efficient and economical home gyms. This equipment will let you work most major muscle groups while tucking into a corner of your condo. Here are some of the best for less than $1,000.

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Cut-rate cutting edge

Hoist Prime 8: New entry-level weight-stack machine with leg station and unique articulating press arm.

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Likes: A quality health-club feel. Little guesswork: Exercises are easy to understand, weights easy to change. Very low price considering quality brand and capability to work the “prime eight” muscle groups: quads, hamstrings, abs, pecs, lats, delts, biceps and triceps. Includes a chest-supported row. Adjustable back pad lets you do a wide variety of pec flys and chest presses. Due to small footprint (3 1/2 feet by 5 1/2 feet) and low height (5 feet), it does not dominate room.

Dislikes: Lack of a true lat pull is only partially offset by cumbersome incline row. 150-pound weight stack is too light for some men. No ankle pulley for additional exercises.

Price: $599. (800) 548-5438; hoistfitness.com

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Value that’s

old-fashioned

Body Solid EXM-1500: Six-year-old entry-level weight stack with leg station and traditional lat pull.

Likes: Very low price, great value, good brand. Can do most popular exercises. Low pulley for rows and adductor and abductor leg exercises. Very small footprint (3 feet by 4 feet). Exercises easy to figure out, weights easy to change.

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Dislikes: 150-pound weight stack too light for some. Lacks articulating arms feature, so less functional resistance. The 7-foot height dominates room.

Price: $695. (800) 833-1227; bodysolid.com

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Flexible flexing

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Bowflex Power Pro: This popular brand has been marketed on infomercials for 20 years. Has a built-in adjustable bench. Weight-like resistance comes from the bending of cable-actuated composite “power rods.”

Likes: Tough “functional” strength workout; cables have no fixed path, so supporting muscles get worked. Wide variety of exercises possible, including rotator cuff, hip flexors, and adductor/abductor. Aerobic rowing on sliding seat. Easy to adjust “weights” once you learn the resistance of the various rods. Maximum weight equivalent of 220 pounds is adequate for most men. Equipment has wheels and can be folded up to store in closet or van or station wagon. Useful video included. Has a quality feel.

Dislikes: More expensive than most. Lat-pull tower and leg station options are an additional $200 each. Many positions are not obvious, so you’ll have to take some time to learn them.

Price: $999. (888) 567-0910; bowflex.com

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A newcomer

Weider Crossbow: Designed to compete with Bowflex but at half the price. Includes a built-in lat tower and leg station.

Likes: Bowflex-like “functional” workout, feel and exercise movements, with addition of a conventional lat pull, hamstring curl and leg extension. Folds up easily. 240 pounds of resistance, with optional upgrade to 440 pounds. Easy to change weights. Video and wall chart included.

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Dislikes: Not as portable as Bowflex. A new product, so long-term quality is not known.

Price: $499. (800) 260-8996; thecrossbow.com


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