Pros: Versatile, easy to use, folds, inexpensive.
Cons: Must remove the bench for squats, the hydraulic system isn't ideal.
While investigating the HealthMax Pro Home Gym for a reader who e-mailed me asking me for my thoughts I decided I would review this home gym. I saw that it had mixed reviews on epinions and was curious to get to know it.
The basic information:
The HealthMax Pro is an unusual piece. It works on a hydraulic system which I will explain later but suffice it to say that hydraulic systems are not often seen and in a couple of cases I havent liked them. The reason is because one often has to get off the machine to adjust the resistance which is the purpose of the hydraulic system.
The HealthMax Pro weighs 125 pounds. It measures 45 inches wide by 82 inches long by 60 inches height. The piece folds to 20 inches wide by 36 inches long by 72 inches high.
The bench seat has foam padding and is quite comfortable. It is 2 inches thick. The bench is 1 wide by 45" long. The piece is about 22 inches off the floor. The length is great but the bench is narrow so if you are a very large person you will not be comfortable and I will say now that the HealthMax Pro even at the incredible price of $400 is not for you. However the company says that a person weighing 300 pounds can use this home gym. It is made of heavy duty steel. If you are as tall as 6 feet 4 inches you should be fine using this as well.
There is a limited 1-year warranty on the home gym and a life time warranty on the power resistance cylinders. (The hydraulic system.)
The hydraulic system:
I am not sure how much of the mechanics you need or want to know about how the system works. I will briefly explain it though and then tell you how that translates into my workout. I found the hydraulic cylinders very easy to adjust. I only had to twist a dial to change my resistance level. Ok thats all well and good but if you know anything about hydraulic systems the resistance in terms of pounds of force is actually due to how fast I do an exercise.
The 12 settings gave me a range of 10 to 200 pounds of resistance. In reality it is my body that was moving the cylinders and I thought of the settings as more a guide to where I was one day and where I was several days later. Also in reality I had no idea how much weight I was pushing or pulling.
The cylinders continuously changed and adjusted to the force I was exerting with the same amount of resistance. For example when I was doing bicep curls, which I will explain below, at one point I couldnt lift the bar. So no matter where I had set the dial, the resistance level changed so I could do more curls but slower. The challenge is really in increasing my repetitions. I started the resistnace at 1 and could do the exercises very quickly with little resistance so basically I just changed the dial to 6 which made the resistance harder but then slowed me down. You really dont have to understand the concept of the hydraulic system at this point. Read on.
What you can do on the HealthMax Pro:
This home gym allowed me to do many exercises. However the company starts with 10 basic ones. As a personal trainer I have my favorites so Id like to walk you through a few of those using the HealthMax Pro.
I love working my biceps because they respond really well to weights. I found that I could get a fair workout on the HealthMax Pro. The first thing I had to do is remove what is called an ab roller. I may as well explain this before I remove it from the gym. The HealthMax Pro really does have an ab crunch exercise built in. A U shaped piece attaches to the leg extension on the front of the gym. In a prone position I held onto the U shaped piece and rolled up. I found it an effective way to do crunches without having to buy a machine or my telling you that crunches on the floor are just as effective.
Back to my biceps, which are the muscles on the front area of my upper arm. After my crunches with the ab roller I then easily removed the U shaped piece. My arms were resting on the leg extension pads. The leg extension handles act as the piece that I held to work my biceps.
There is a flaw here in my opinion especially for beginners. I feel that bicep curls should be done with your back against a pad. If you use a bicep machine you will have a pad behind you. If you use free weights you can sit on a bench with a back. This isnt a deal breaker but it would be nice if there were some allowance to be able to adjust the bench to give me a back. Another flaw is due to the nature of this home gym. Since I am using the bar of the leg extension I can only raise it a little bit and then it stops. In order to get the best workout I want a full range of motion as often as I can. (Unless I am purposefully doing partial repetitions.) Essentially the leg piece gets in the way of doing great bicep curls.
Another favorite of mine are lat pull downs (for the back). The HealthMax Pro allowed me to do a traditional lat pull down without any problems. There is a bar with handles. I pulled down on the handles and then raised them again just as I would do on a lat pull down machine.
HealthMax Pro gives 10 basic exercises that they suggest be done in a circuit. What that means is that they are done one right after the other and quickly. The others are leg extensions, leg curls, bench press, lying row, overhead press (free advice - avoid these if you have shoulder problems) and tricep pull downs.
From here there are many exercises that can be done either as a circuit or if you design your own program. Some of these include flyes which work your chest, squats, and bench presses. I was really impressed that I could do squats because there seemed to be no squat station as I would see on other gyms. What had to happen was that I had to remove the bench. This is not difficult but you will have to be motivated to do some of the more advanced exercises. Many years ago I had a home gym not too unlike this one except it screwed into the wall. (Theyve come a long way!) I tended to do the exercises that required the least moving around of parts but if you are willing they can be done.
The companys website is supposed to be used in addition to the manual you will get. In spite of the product page showing the manufacturers website as Fitness Quest that is incorrect. The parent company is Health FX America. The website is http://www.healthfxamerica.com/
This is not the first time I have encountered hydraulic cylinders. Tony Littles FreeStyle Gazelle Elite uses pistons. However there are only two and I had to get off the machine to change the resistance. Since the HealthMax Pro is a home gym you will be getting on and off anyway so changing the resistance isnt an issue. For most of the exercises the cylinders are in pairs. One is for a push mode and the other is for a pull mode. As I said there really is no way of knowing if the machine gives 200 pounds of resistance and I turn the dial to 4 if I am using 50 pounds of resistance. For those of you I will recommend this machine to it really doesnt matter.
My first reaction to this gym which I e-mailed to the reader was a thumbs up. I thought for the price it couldnt be beat. I am not familiar with HealthMax or the parent company. However I was told it is a reputable company by people I trust. After going back a second and third time I learned more and more about this home gym and like it including the ability to do squats.
I cannot believe the price. This is a fantastic piece not just for the beginner but for those who perhaps have been away from exercising for awhile or who do not lift free weights. Personally I am a gym rat and given a choice would pick a machine with cables/pulleys, a stack of weights or plates but I am writing this for you. If you are not a body builder and dont know what I mean by cables and pulleys I think you will like the HealthMax Pro.
Once you get into the rhythm of moving the bench and taking off the U bar, you wont even think about it. If you are doing a circuit (working your entire body in one session) then you should only be doing that 3 times a week anyway so moving pieces around isnt a hardship. If you are working various body parts on various days then you wont have to move the pieces around all that much either. You will be working your legs once or twice a week at the most thus having to move the bench very little.
I hope this has helped. I am going to rate the HealthMax Pro 4 stars. I would certainly buy it for the right person as a gift thus I would recommend it to you. I cant find anything wrong with it that isnt a function of the design of the piece (i.e. I dont like pistons) but I can't quite give it 5 stars.
Please feel free to leave me a comment or question. Thank you to the reader who asked me my opinion of this. I think it will be of help to others.
All my fitness equipment reviews can be found here.