Multi-station weight machines built for home exercise have steadily evolved over the last decades.
Years ago they were bulky, space-consuming metal monsters with very rigid single pivot movements and little in the way of proper biomechanics. Home exercisers usually don’t have the benefit of a personal trainer to coach them on how to position themselves while doing resistance training, so they rely on the machine to line them up properly and not place unnatural stress on their joints. Therefore it’s vitally important that a home gym machine positions the user to maximize the benefits of exercise while minimizing the possibility of joint damage. In addition to proper alignment, another factor critical to home users is space efficiency. Unlike commercial units found in hotels or schools which can have stations arranged on several sides, the home gym needs to provide a variety of exercises without taking up all the space in a spare bedroom or workout area.
One company that has found the solution to the problems of home strength training is Inspire Fitness, located in Anaheim, CA. They are an industry leader in designing home weight machines with space efficient footprints that provide consumers with tremendously effective exercises and exceptionally safe bio-mechanics. The Inspire M4 multi-gym is one such machine.
Inspire has listened to the demands of the home exercising public and, along with feedback from top personal trainers and fitness professionals, has developed a new type of machine known as a “hybrid” home gym. What exactly is a hybrid gym? Inspire has realized that people desire simplicity and familiarity when working out but they need functional fitness and exercises that work the body in ways that apply to day to day life movements or sports. Functional training involves the use of free moving cables for exercises that incorporate stabilizing muscles and more closely simulate real world activities. Think of it this way, when you pick up the groceries from the car or swing a golf club, there’s no bar that guides the movement. Your stabilizing muscles and core work together to make the process smooth and efficient. Purely functional machines are great but rely heavily on the user’s knowledge of fitness and exercise creativity to yield results. In contrast, the “hybrid” machines combine these benefits with familiar movements like leg extensions, leg curls, bench press, shoulder press, lat pulls, etc. These exercises are effective and are an easy way to get started toward achieving fitness goals. They can provide a solid base for a good total body routine. As the exerciser acclimates to the machine and strength training, they can then incorporate functional exercises into their routine. The M4 features the ability to do movements that simulate golf swings, dumbbell style chest presses, lunges, and an endless array of core developers. These exercises help the body move better, feel better and increase joint stability.
The M4 hybrid gym is like no other machine on the market. In an industry where most companies make cookie cutter versions of gyms that are marketed by their competition, Inspire has truly thought “outside the box” and come up with something new and effective. They have built a machine with wonderful exercise variety which rivals that of any commercial gym. Yet they’ve done it in a relatively small footprint that can fit into a corner of a spare bedroom or workout room. And Inspire has not compromised on safety. The bio-mechanics and body alignment of users on this machine is truly excellent.
Inspire hasn’t forgotten esthetics either. The frame has attractive round tubing with clean lines and a very polished and finished appearance. The oval seat pads are made of a solid urethane material that will not deteriorate. The pads can be washed with a damp cloth and come in 4 different colors to match your décor. Inspire’s cloth shrouds wrap each side of the M4 to give it a sleek look and hide the cables, pulleys and weight plates. The shrouds have 4 color options as well.
The M4 can be discussed in 4 major sections: the bench, the press arm, the cross over high pulleys and the adjustable high low single cable column:
- The bench is fully adjustable with decline, flat, incline and shoulder press settings that can be changed without having to get off the machine. The lumbar support has settings to accommodate users of any height. At the end of the bench is a very comfortable and bio-mechanically correct iso-lateral leg extension that allows the user to independently work the left and right legs and not favor – or cheat – either side. This bench also easily drops into a lying leg curl that correctly supports the hips. This station has handles to grasp while performing the leg curl exercise. Since the bench is free of obstruction by the machine, the exerciser can also use it with free-weight dumbbells for an even greater variety of training options.
- The M4 press arm is a perfect example of hybrid training. The press arm consists of two separate pivoting sides, left and right, which can be pressed together or one at a time. This iso-lateral training aspect is great for someone who has a dominant side or an existing injury as it lets each side develop independently. Both sides have quick-adjust thumb triggers to limit or extend the range of motion as desired. This feature is fantastic for fitting bigger, less flexible users as well as for people who want to really include a deep stretch in their movement. If someone wants to switch things up and involve more stabilizer training, the M4 press arm quickly converts into a comfortable free motion press for flyes, infinite chess press options, etc. If the user turns around on the bench, this versatile press arm creates a variety of rowing options – a chest supported one or two arm row and even a dumbbell style one arm row.
- The third area of the gym, the cross-over pulleys are truly amazing and set this gym apart from all others on the market. The bench easily swings out of the way and allows for a whole array of upper pulley exercises unique to this model. Never before has a home gym had the ability to offer a standing cable crossover movement like you’d see at a health club. These adjustable arms fan out from the machine and can be positioned close together for tricep pushdowns or wide apart for cable crossover work or rear shoulder exercises. Following the hybrid theme, these standing exercises involve more core activation than seated variations and are therefore excellent for developing overall stability and core strength.
- Arguably the most innovative station on the gym is perhaps the least impressive looking. The right hand vertical tower consists of a simple cable column with two floating pulleys that easily adjust anywhere from the floor to the very top of the gym. As you begin to experiment with this station you realize that each pulley has a ¼ to 1 weight ratio which allows the cable to extend about 12 feet away from the gym. This expansive range of motion opens the door to walking lunges, martial arts style punches, long range torso rotations, sports specific swings and throws, etc. Whether you’re performing alternate dumbbell curls at the bottom, inner/outer thigh raises in the middle or a “tennis serve” from the top, this cable column is limitless in the exercise variety it can provide.
This gym is perfect for a family or group of people with differing goals and experience levels because it provides each user with exercise options tailored to specific needs or fitness levels.
It’s tough to describe here the ingenuity and versatility of the Inspire Fitness “hybrid” M4 gym. Stop by the store and let me or one of the other fitness professionals at Premier Fitness Source demonstrate this amazing product. If you are in the market for something to tone and strengthen your body at home it will be a wise investment of your time to witness this machine in person and try it out yourself.
Premier Fitness Source, Atlanta
Fitness Consultant and Trainer with 23 years of experience in the specialty fitness industry.