By Ed Pavelka
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Source: fitness equipment stores
Size: 83.5 in. high; 81.2 in. long; 42.8 in. wide
Weight: 545 lbs.
Option: Hoist VLP leg press (adds $750 to price, 33.7 in. to width)
How obtained: cold cash
RBR advertiser: no
Tested: 97 hours
Twenty-two years ago I bought a multigym made by a company called Continental. It was the E5 model, the best I could find, and cost about $1,100. It had a 180-pound weight stack moved by a cable and three pulleys. To do each exercise I had to unhook the cable and thread it into a different position.
I put that multigym in my basement and spent many hours doing for my upper body what pedaling did for my legs. Over time, the E5 broke down like a leather saddle after too many miles. The chrome wore off the vertical rods that guided the weight stack. The plastic rollers flattened on one side. Sticky friction increased resistance unless I kept the rods sprayed with silicone.
Last winter my wife Joleen wanted to work out with me. But even the lightest weight on the old E5 was too much for her in certain exercises, given the inefficiencies of that deteriorating machinery. And the cable system baffled her. We decided dumbbells were a better idea, and that led us to Northeast Fitness in Allentown, PA, where we went in intending to spend a few bucks and came out with a $2,499 Hoist V5 multigym.
All the Answers
Maybe the dumbbells are us. But after using the Hoist for nearly a hundred hours, we’re happy we splurged. The V5 was imposssible to resist because its features did such a good sales job in the showroom:
- super smooth exercise action
- practically no noise
- rock-solid stability
- no re-cabling to change exercises
- weight resistance light enough for an average woman but more than enough for an average man
As we’ve used the Hoist, we’ve found these pluses come with a nice bonus — almost no maintenance. In fact, I pulled out the owner’s manual for the first time when I sat down to write this review.
(That manual reminded me of one thing: If you buy a Hoist multigym, opt for professional installation like we did. When you see the assembly instructions or, more graphically, the scores of parts laid out on the floor, you’ll realize that the build cost is a bargain. We paid $75 and that included breaking down and removing the old E5.)
Hoist makes five V-series models of “single stack” home gyms, from V1 to V5. With one weight stack, only one person can use the machine at a time. That shouldn’t be a problem at home. It’s easy to alternate so that one person works while the other rests.
There are 19 pulleys in the system (unless I missed one or two) and probably 30 feet of cables. The V5 looks complex. But once it’s assembled, maintenance is limited to infrequently removing slack that develops from cable stretch. That’s as easy as turning a wrench. And you should occasionally put some slippery stuff (supplied) on the weight stack’s two chrome rods. That’s it. The Hoist has none of the misalignments, uneven wear and inefficiencies found in my old E5 and, I suspect, modern multigyms made by lower-quality companies.
What you see on the V5’s weight stack isn’t the weight you’re actually moving. This is a result of ratio variations in the pulley system. Only the lat pulldown is a true 100% of the poundage. Other exercises vary from 50% to 120%. A chart in the owner’s manual tells the effective weights. But really, the only thing that matters is the weight it takes to max out at the number of reps your program specifies. The Hoist comes with two 2.5-pound weights for fine-tuning the stack, which is made of 10-pound plates.
Articulating arms give the Hoist a clear advantage over basic multigyms like my old E5. Weight machines are sometimes derided because they lock the user into grooved movements. There is none of the balancing or coordination associated with lifting free weights, and so the benefits aren’t as complete. The Hoist’s arms are attached in a way that lets them move in four planes — forward/back, side-to-side, up/down and rotationally. This makes bench presses, for example, feel much the same as when using a barbell.
A large, laminated wall chart illustrates two dozen exercises using the Hoist’s various stations.
Several exercises are near duplicates, working the same muscles although in different orientations. For example, you can do pectoral flys using the bars or pectoral crossovers using a strap handle. You can do lat pulldowns or seated rows. You can do triceps pushdowns with the lat bar or you can do seated triceps extensions with strap handles.
The chart shows three variations of bench presses (allowed by the articulated arms) but the differences are so minor as to be insignificant. Maybe this is a way of padding the Hoist’s marketing potential — showing every possible movement even if there’s little distinction. One exercise, a seated shoulder press, isn’t really doable in proper position with hands extending overhead.
On the whole, though, it’s true that you can work every major upper- and lower-body muscle group on the V5, plus the abdominals. And because of the duplications, you can get a full-body workout by doing less than half of the exercises shown on the chart.
Also, half of the exercises are done while standing. That’s an advantage when weight training, according to ex-Olympic weightlifting coach and cyclist Harvey Newton, because “ground-based” exercise puts more healthful stress on bones. Machines that have you sitting for most exercises fail to do the complete job, Newton argues. They strengthen muscles but, like non-weight-bearing cycling itself, they don’t help in the fight against the bone-density maladies osteopenia and osteoporosis.
The Hoist lets you do leg extensions, hamstring curls and lateral kicks. We also ordered the optional $750 Hoist V-LP leg press. This bolts to the right side of the V5 and other Hoist multigyms. Its cable runs neatly internally and hooks into the V5 weight stack.
Thanks to cable/pulley ratios, the leg press multiples the weight stack by 220% to produce an effective max weight of 447 pounds. That should be more than enough even for roadies on a high-weight, low-rep program.
The V-LP is a well-made, all-metal accessory that works as smoothly as any leg press I’ve used. It’s low to the floor for easy on/off. Like the V5’s seat, this one adjusts to give me (6-foot-4) and my wife (5-7) equally good positions. The large foot plates pivot to take stress off ankles and allow a seated variation of toe raises.
If you’re committed to all-round, all-year fitness, the Hoist V5 is an investment worth considering. It’s a huge advance over your father’s multigym (like my old one). It’s simple to use and maintain, it’s quiet, and it’s effective. Add the leg press and you’ll need nothing more for the basic exercises that contribute to cycling strength and on-bike comfort.
Well, you shouldn’t need anything more after spending the price of a real nice road bike. The V5 is a major expense that will take a few years of avoiding health club memberships to recoup. But there’s also value in being able to work out how and when you like, with no time wasted for traveling or waiting for machines to be free. And your housemate can use it too.
Maybe the decision will come down to where the heck you can put the thing. For that, Hoist offers one of the coolest features we’ve seen on the internet — a “Space Planner” that lets you set a room’s dimensions, rearrange the furniture and see how the multigym fits best. Find it on the website.
Note: During the price checks for this review, we were told by a retailer that Hoist may be discontinuing the V5 Multigym and replacing it with a new product called the “Selectagym.” This would be similar to the V5 but more customizable with stations and attachments. At this writing in early December 2007, the Hoist website still shows the V5, so check with retailers for what’s next.
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