Home gyms are all the rage these days, especially considering the price of gym memberships. With the average London gym now costing over £60 per month, its easy to see why people are deciding to kit out their spare rooms and garages with gym equipment. When it comes to achieving this aim from the strength and conditioning perspective, there are few more capable home gyms than the PowerTec workbench leverage range.
When it comes to cardio, things are typically quite easy. Theres a multitude of affordable, semi-commercial gym equipment available. We recently reviewed the Reebok ZR8 treadmill for example, and this provides a great, compact home gym treadmill. But what about kitting out your home gym from the strength and conditioning point of view?
Weights equipment has always been a real challenge. The old multi gyms were highly limited, with poor strength curves, limited weights stacks and a general lack of function. Alright for the occasional session, but ill suited to any serious home training. Dumbells and benches were a slightly better bet, but building a home gym setup with a good range of dumbbells is a costly exercise, and even when complete, the serious trainer would generally yearn for a wider range of function. This is where the Powertech leverage multi gym comes in.
NB: If you are after a good home dumbell set, then we highly recommend this 20KB home set by Confidence. Weights are weights, so there’s no need to be too picky, and at just £24, we consider these to be a steal for any home gym.
Powertec wb-ls workbench leverage gym
- Wide range of exercises that can be performed with a good strength arc
- Great feel on a wide selection of moves, especially those with the leverage arm
- Plate loading allows for micro-loading, delivering easy weight progression and long term results
- minimised use of cables and pulleys makes the machine a lot more robust, without slackening cables and breakable parts minimised.
- Great versatility – With a little imagination you can perform some inventive and novel moves – I’m happy to share some of my favourites in the comments below if of interest
- Lifetime warranty (for home/light commercial use) on all parts shows that this machine is built to last. It might well be the last piece of strength equipment that you need to buy for your home gym
- The pulley has a limited range of motion, which is especially apparent on long range moves like pulldowns and rows
- All moves start from the stretched or bottom position. For some moves this is fine, but starting squats from the fully crouched position is limiting in our opinion.
- Some degregation on pulleys: A rubber node that works to stop the cable from retracting up the main frame on low curls wore out after around 4 years of use for us. Powertech happily replaced it, but it shows that some parts do wear quicker than others. Thankfully the main structure is all solidly built leverage mechanisms, so the rest of the framework has lasted really well for us.
Leverage rather than cables and weight stacks:
A pet peeve with classic multi-gyms is the limited weight stack combined with the cable and pulley system. In my experience, the cables generally slacken over time, limiting the effective resistance. The weight stacks do not generally offer much in the way of incremental weight shifts – they’re normally staggered to jump up aggressively which can stall progress.
The Powertec workbench uses leverage rather than a built-in weight stack. So alongside the multi-gym you also purchase weight plates (olympic size), which you load onto the appropriate stacks for each exercise. This is not dissimilar to a Hammer strength machine, and the big bonus lies in the way that you can micro load the machine to ensure steady progression over time. I purchased a set of 1.25KG plates, meaning I could progress in increments of 2.5KG. This is infinitely better for longer term progress compared to trying to jump 10KG at a time.
Great strength arcs deliver unprecedented ‘feel’:
Generally speaking, multi-gyms try and pack up to 20 exercises into a machine that utilises only one leaver. The end result is a poor experience on all moves, because none are optimally positioned to offer the perfect strength arc for each muscle group. Often the same arm mechanism is used for back, chest and shoulder exercises, and the result is a lack of range of motion combined with poor loading.
This is where I really like the PowerTec leverage system. It is able to offer a wide range of exercises without sacrificing the strength arc. In fact several components are cleverly integrated, not least the weight stack on the cable movements. This is designed so that the angle of the weights matches the strength arc on common moves, such as rows, pulldowns and curls. This delivers a level of feel that i have never experienced on a multi-gym and frankly a level of feel that i have rarely felt on dedicated muscle group machines.
Powertec wb-ls exercises
Exercises on this piece of kit are executed via either the leverage arm or the pulley system.
The leverage arm:
One of the main features of this multi-gym is its leverage arm. The height of the arm is controlled via seven selection options, which optimise it for a range of specific weight training movements, including:
Decline, flat and incline chest presses: The feel is excellent on the decline move, but the one drawback is your bodies angle and its inclination to slide down the bench so that your head presses against the base of the machine. This means that your head can push into the low cable pulley, which is uncomfortable. This aside, the machine is particularly adept at pressing movements, and I have been able to set it up, through a combination of altering the bench angle and/or the leverage arm angle to deliver around 5-7 different pressing angles, all with a good stretch through to a nice contraction.
Shoulder press: The leverage arm can also be angled effectively for shoulder presses – intact i consider this to be the machines most effective movement. This is most likely because the machines leverage arm is at the optimal angle – working from 90 degrees upwards, allowing for the best utilisation of the weight. Whatever the reason, i am yet to find a machine that can replicate the stimulation and feel that i get when i use the Powertec machine for shoulder presses.
I have also found standing shoulder presses to work really well on this machine. Its not an advertised move, but its easily executed (especially as a push press, where you top half squat the bar up to get the move going).
Dips: I’m unsure to this day whether the machine was built with dips in mind, but if you set the leverage arm to its highest setting, it works pretty well for dips. The handles are quite narrow, making it better for tricep dips rather than chest dips, but this is a nice option. I have found dips on here to be much more challenging than regular dips – for example i will normally load up anywhere up to 25kg of additional weight for sets of 12 dips in my gym, yet on this machine I find bodyweight to be a big enough challenge. There are pros and cons to this, but you’re never going to get perfection on this kind of machine.
Squats: The leverage arm comes complete with a padded bar that connects onto each end of the leverage arm. Squats on this machine are a 6 out of 10 in my opinion. As the movement is long-range, you find that you cover a wide range of leverage angle. This, combined with the fact that you start from the bottom position (as you do on every move), limits the amount of weight you can effectively use. On the whole i’ve concluded that its a bonus to be able to do a halfway effective squat at all at home, but it would be nice if this machine could facilitate them slightly better, especially as they’re the king of strength training moves
The pulley system
The Powertec gym also comes complete with a high and low pulley. The machine comes with a lat pulldown bar, a D handle and a curl bar. Whilst the range of motion is a little short – especially for seated rows and pulldowns – this is a fairly smart set up. The angle of the weight stack, which reaches its maximum resistance at the strongest part of your strength range, makes up for the shortcomings in the ROM front. You may find that you have to choose between working the contraction part of the move verses the stretch part at times though.
Pulldowns: These are most effected by the shortened range of motion. I have found it most effective to set the seat angle to decline and then to work the stretch position on this movement. This allows me to pull the bar down to around chin height. Whilst it would be preferable to be able to pull down to the upper-chest, I still find that i get decent feel in this movement.
Rows: The ROM is too short to properly perform the fullest motion on this exercise. For example, you’d struggle to lean forward, bent at the waist (to emphasise the stretch) and then to row all the way back so that the handle touches your body. A bit like the lat pulldowns, you have to make some sacrifices here. I have found that the better set-up is to sit with slightly bent knees, using a slight lean forward and then to be able to pull the bar back to your body and squeeze for a count of three.
Curls, pushdowns and other short cable movements: These all work well, with great feel thanks to the angled weight stack and the lack of range of motion. A wide variety of curls, drag curls, one arm curls, push downs and overhead extensions can be adequately executed here. There are boundless possibilities when some imagination is used in exercise creation too.
Leg extension and curl: The Powertec wb-ls also comes with a plate-loadable leg curl and extension platform. This is quite an upright set-up, meaning you don’t get much in the way of stretch in the bottom position on extensions, but besides that it works quite well. There’s ample opportunities to ramp up the weights to maximise the stimulation too.
So theres our take on the Powertec workbench leverage multi gym review. On the whole we feel that its a mighty fine piece of home gym equipment. Its very space efficient, offers a huge range of movements whilst most movements feel more like your using a dedicated machine for that move, rather than a multi-move gym. All of that means that we don’t hesitate to recommend this equipment.
If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask us in the comments below, and we’ll do our best to answer them.