The Powertec Levergym is an incredibly compact and versatile piece of equipment for the garage gym bodybuilder, at a ridiculously fair price. You would be hard pressed to find anywhere near this functionality in almost any other options, without spending WAY more money, and dedicating WAY more space. Even with some really insane design flaws, and a few small quirks here and there, the Powertec Levergym is a staple in my garage today, and will continue to be for years to come.
I spent years of my commercial life teeter tottering between Bodybuilder and Powerlifter. Utilizing machines and strictly using the platform. When I started my garage gym I was in the more powerlifter-esque camp, so a few bars, some weights, a bench, and a rack got the job done. I started to lean back into my bodybuilding ways and quickly wanted to figure out a way to do the various accessory work that gave that skin stretching pump that only isolation and machines seem to do.
It took me a few years, but I finally had the space and set-up ready and tracked down a Powertec Levergym in April of 2017. Since then I’ve put it through the test of just about anything I could think of in my pursuit of getting the most bang for my buck. So here we go, after 1 year of use, these are my thoughts.
You’ll notice that my LeverGym went from Yellow to Black. It is the same unit, I just painted it. Fairly easy process to tape everything off and go to town. But, because of that, I won’t really touch on the powder coat finish.
For frame of reference, I have the 2016 Levergym with the 2014 Powertec Bench as the bench hadn’t been updated yet when the previous owner must have purchased the unit. If you find a used model, most function very similarly but have a few odds and ends of differences. Older models, the bench is attached and swivels out of the way, or might not have the unilateral arms. Keep that in mind while shopping the used market.
Note: I did a first impressions review within the first few months that you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nowpzcSBcqg
The Real Deal
First and foremost, I love this damn thing. Even with the laundry list of items below that I wish it had or did or didn’t do, the unit as a whole does what you’d want from a “home gym all-in-one”. You get a ton of different machine options for pressing, rowing, cables, squats, and more. You get some decent attachments for leg curls and extensions, preacher curls, etc. You can get tricky and add bands or chains, fat grips or grip force, adjust the chain length to do various low cable exercises, or even attempt some belt squats. You are likely limited by your imagination and creativity on the majority of work you can perform here. It should NOT, in my opinion, be a standalone unit. Barbells and free weight movements should be the core focus of your routine. However, the Powertec Levergym fills the gaps in a lot of ways for your typical bodybuilding routine and can help add some volume and variations into what can often become a stagnant revolving door of Squats, Bench, and Deadlift in a garage gym.
For basic discussion, here are the dimensions of the unit: H 81.7 x W 57.5 x L 81.4
Keep in mind, you’ll need an extra foot or so BEHIND the unit where the cable lever operates as it swings back. This includes the lever AND the 45lb plate you have on it.
If you plan to use any attachments, say the leg curl, you’ll need an extra foot or two out front.
And of course, just because the unit is 57.5 inches wide doesn’t mean you don’t need at least several inches on each side to be able to load plates. Ideally, you are able to stand on the side comfortably to load, not reach around and load.
So, for operating dimensions you are likely looking at just shy of 7 feet of clearance above, at least 5 feet from side to side (the more the better), and about 8 or 9 feet in total length from front to back.
After adding some weights on the pegs (a few 45s on each side will do) this unit is solid for all but the heaviest of squat sessions. You aren’t going to feel like you are lifting the unit off the ground or that adding weight to one side before the other will tip it over. I’ve had close to 300 lbs on the arms, done drop sets, done some nasty leg sets, single arm pressing, multiple rows, you name it. Slow and controlled or fast and explosive, you are good.
The arms are smooth. No issues with weird movement or clunky performance. Outside of a locked movement path (this is what we want anyway), they move just like a set of dumbbells would. If you go up, or down, or stay put, the arms do as told. They can also work independently, a great feature for getting creative on pressing or doing rows and other more single arm based exercises. I can’t preach enough how well the arms move compared to what you might expect in a home unit. The handles luckily can be used in both a “normal” pressing fashion, as well as neutral. I’d love to see an angled grip, but it isn’t a deal breaker.
The cable system is amazingly smooth as well. With limited pulleys I was concerned we’d run into one of two issues. They’d move really clunky and choppy, leaving movements feeling subpar. Or, you’d have huge gaps in how you could use the cables. For instance, some shorter home models have issues with face pulls as the weight doesn’t seem to glide on the pulley well. Same for things like low cable glute kick-backs, it’s so low on the low cable that it often falls out of the track. For the Powertec, I haven’t had these issues. The high and low pulleys offer plenty of options, and if you have a short strand of chain (think 6 inches to a foot) you open up a bunch more opportunities for things like low cable shoulder raises, various seated pulling, and more. With the added seat rollers to keep you down during lat pulldowns, the unit as a whole functions extremely well regardless of if you are doing face pulls, lat pulldowns, or low rows, or even super setting a high and low combo. Yes, you can use both the low and high cable in back-to-back function, assuming your weights are the same or you don’t mind making quick adjustments.
The bench has a ton of adjustment options, allowing you to go decline to full 90 degrees for overhead work, with about 8 adjustment points in-between. This allows for a full range of bench and pressing options, as well as various prone rows, curl options, allows you to use the low cable without removing the bench (so you can also do pulldowns as a superset), and more. It also makes the attachments better, as an upright bench suits leg extensions and preacher curls better, where as a flat or even slight decline bench supports leg curls.
The unit can handle 500 pounds on the arms, and 300 for the cable unit. Unless you are a beast, or trying to use this for your everything, that should be enough weight for most accessory style work.
With the unit being as compact as it is, it makes it easy to place in various areas in your gym and allows you to easily adjust weight either for super-sets, drop-sets, or multiple athletes.
The Levergym shines in its ability to provide a near commercial gym experience in a compact and affordable package. Stand-alone Lat Tower and Low Row combos take up as much space as this entire unit. Buy just one Hammer Strength piece for pressing, rows, or any other movement, and you are already over budget and out of space. Even without getting creative, just using what you get out of the base model package gives you access to 20+ variations of movements. You can hit legs, shoulders, chest, arms, and back without even buying anything extra.
I loved my IronMaster set-up for years, but this is truly a multi-functional badass in a garage gym setting.
One huge note to make, that I almost forgot, I’ve done zero maintenance on this unit since I’ve had it. No tightening of bolts (I’ve checked them, but nothing was loose), and zero oiling or replacements of anything. For something that is used a LOT in a garage setting (the unit sits right next to the garage door, so it gets plenty of weather, dust, leaves, etc. thrown at it.), I think that is really saying something.
The adjustments for the bench and the adjustments for the arms seem to be just slightly off. Meaning, I always feel like I’m either leaving an inch or two of ROM off the table, or I’m starting in a really low position and risking injury to my shoulders. Again, we are talking about accessory work here so the ROM is likely not the most important aspect. However, it’s an area I’d like to see them address. In a commercial setting you often have that little step press that raises the arms an inch or two to help with the start. The other issue with the adjustments is that you aren’t going to be moving quickly between different positions of the pressing arms. In other words, incline, to decline, to flat, to overhead, would require you to strip the plates between each exercise, adjust, and reload, rinse and repeat. It isn’t terrible, because even in a commercial gym you’d need multiple machines, but its something to keep in mind as a restriction.
The unit doesn’t come stock with band pegs. Why? I have no idea. Bands have been around awhile, and even the Body Solid unit has them. This would add some awesome functionality for pressing and rowing that I’m shocked isn’t standard.
The end caps on everything are kind of funky. Most of the pieces have these plastic end caps that like to pop off when sliding plates around. I’ve tried gluing, but it doesn’t seem to work permanently. The end caps for any kind of knee/leg attachment (such as where your knees go for lat pulldowns, or on the leg curl attachment), have these chrome plated end caps. They are terrible. They break regularly with any amount of pressure and honestly just look kind of out of place. There isn’t chrome anywhere else. Why there?
The unit has the ability to do single arm work, as I mentioned above, but the single arm function does produce a slightly less than ideal set-up with squats. When you get under the bar, it tends to wobble side to side, especially with more and more weight. This isn’t noticeable on bench or pressing at all, just with the squat pattern. I have to assume that the older models didn’t see this. It’s something to do with having just a little hole tolerance in the pin where you connect both arms together.
For some reason, the holes on the adjustment arms aren’t numbered. I keep a reference sheet nearby so I don’t have to guess if Incline is hole 2 on the bench, forward or backward adjustment, and hole 4 on the arms. Without this, you are counting every time. Not horrible, but stupid.
Keep in mind, this is a HOME unit. If you are much above 6 feet tall, or have crazy long arms or torso, you might be missing the top ranges for lat pulldowns. It works just fine for me at 6 feet, but its close. I mentioned in my MAG Grips review, that they produce a VERY solid full ROM, so that is always an option as well.
The attachments for the unit are really just, ok. The leg curl and leg extension for example are much less user friendly than the similar Ironmaster attachment. You can’t hop between leg curls and extensions as a superset due to the set-up. The locking mechanism for the attachments is pretty subpar too. You are trying to place a pop-pin, through a hole that you can’t see, because it’s INSIDE a black tube attached to the bench. I like that you have adjustment options for height for various athletes, but they NEED a different process here. I end up simply tightening the pin against the post half the time and calling it good enough.
I’d love to see them make an official Vertical Leg Press attachment like this one from Ironmaster I do a modified one with the squat bar, but a true platform would be fantastic.
Speaking of the squat bar, when you take it out of the arms, the little “plugs” seem to get caught on the rubber grips. It’s not huge, but having to adjust the rubber grips fairly regularly is actually kind of annoying after a while. Figure out how to “LOCK” the rubber grips in place, and we are good. Something like a metal washer on the end that clamps down would suffice.
My model also came with this “stability” platform attached. It was meant to give some more stability to the unit as you stand on it for squats and provide some “grip” to the ground. This thing entirely gets in the way of rolling the bench around, and really isn’t in the ideal spot for squats, so it’s just in the way.
The bench is the one piece of the unit that I’m just all around not happy with. It’s fairly lopsided and wobbles easily. Remember, garage gyms often times aren’t working with perfectly flat flooring, so the unit should be able to handle a couple of degrees of imperfection each way. The bench also has this adjustment where you move it from sitting in a backward position, or forward position. It’s nice to accommodate different things that you are doing, but it REALLY feels like they just couldn’t design a good bench, so they added this thing and went “Good enough?”
- Note: Powertec has an updated model of their bench. If they’d like to send it my way, I would gladly test it and update my thoughts. It “Looks” to be better. But at $300 on sale, I’m not about to take a chance and get no return, when quality used commercial benches pop up in my area for $200 and Rep Fitness and others offer excellent choices.
When you use the bench in a decline position, your head hits the low cable carabiner. Apparently no one even once tried this and said, “Hey, customers might not like metal jabbing into the top of their head while bench pressing.”
I regularly find I want the arms to be “stored” upright. This allows easier access to the high and low cable without any possibility of the arms being in the way. For whatever reason, there’s no built in way to do this. You can put them up, but any wiggle at all and they come crashing down (I figured this out the hard way). Very simple for them to drill an extra hole or a clip or something.
The little lat hook storage bars they have are useless. I get if you never intend on owning more than one lat attachment bar (why would you be that kind of person?), but it 100% gets in the way of attaching practically anything to it. Rope, lat bar, straps, close grip, etc. Those damn bars are just THERE.
The “HOW DID THIS PASS YOUR QA TEAM, THEY SHOULD ALL BE FIRED” award goes to:
The placement of the weight pegs. Put a few 45s or bumpers on there, and you now lose complete access to the lower TWO adjustment points for the arms and any kind of weight loading. Basically, if you weigh the unit down (which you most certainly should), you now can’t do machine deadlifts or a decent amount of row options, and likely much more. So you either need to buy their pieces that pin the unit to the floor with concrete anchors, deal with not having use of the bottom two settings, or simply deal with a really wobbly unit. The first time I did this I just sat there confused.
“I must be doing something wrong, there’s no way this is how this works!”
After about 10 minutes I just realized I wasn’t the idiot in this situation, that the design was just atrocious.
Ok, so my notes above about the bad stuff, I have mostly remedied (not all). Let’s look at how.
I rigged some band pegs up really easily with a few dollars and a trip to Home Depot. I’ve used them with a pretty decent amount of band tension and had zero issues.
For the Leg Curl attachment, I actually drilled an extra hole where the pin was regularly pressing against the metal. Not sure how this didn’t happen at the warehouse, but whatever.
For the bench, I found a bolt that fit pretty perfectly to go through the bench and Levergym attachment. This keeps the bench locked down WAY better than before. It essentially gives it a slight give (enough to accommodate a sloping floor) and that’s it. PERFECT! If you can’t find a bolt that is the right size, you can always order a piece from PowerTec.
I really don’t do decline work much anymore on the bench, I just like flat and incline better. But, if you want to do decline, an Airex pad fits perfectly between the tower and the bench and provides enough cushion to not trash your head.
To store the arms upright I now double wrap a band around them to keep them up. If I was DIY savvy enough, I’d drill a hole to make this happen, but I’m not there yet.
For the lat hooks, I just cut them off. I have a multi-tool from Harbor Freight that I cut them off with and found some little plastic end pieces for a drawer and gorilla glued them on. It looks relatively clean enough, and no more issues of it being in the way.
There are also some handles on the bench that kept getting in the way, so I took those off. Best part there is that those handles are what kept the lower portion of the seat attached to the metal frame! So I took some screws and handled that (the joys of DIY!).
I simply took a paint pen and numbered the holes on the arm adjustments. Simple and effective.
The final issue, the weight storage, I simply removed. I broke down and bought their floor anchoring pieces (3 of them), rented a hammer drill, and anchored my Levergym to the concrete. I then was able to remove the weight storage pegs and store the plates to the side on a toaster rack. The unit moves MUCH less in this fashion, I have full access to every adjustment position possible, and my weight plates are now actually useable (when used to weight down the unit, you kind of have to keep them there at all times).
I took the stability plate off, didn’t need it anymore once the unit was anchored.
The Belt Squat
If you’ve followed me on Instagram or YouTube, you’ve seen my attempts at rigging a Belt Squat set-up with this. It took a while and a few different brains for inspiration, but we got there. I now have a pretty legit belt squat that doesn’t take much time to set-up, that cost me next to nothing (had leftover materials for 99% of it), and can be loaded to about 300lbs or so without any issues.
Now, this thing isn’t perfect. You are rigging a unit that isn’t meant to do this, with a box, some extra cable, a pulley, and whatever you can to weigh it all down in place (my own body weight for example). If you have the space and the funds, get a damn dedicated belt squat. If you don’t, and you have a PowerTec Levergym, or only have room for one or the other, this is a decent replacement for a stand-alone unit.
Essentially, you need some cable to run from the top pulley down towards your feet and back up to your waist. You need a GOOD pulley to wrap that cable around, and then something to keep that pulley and cable in place. You do NOT want several hundred pounds of weight pulling that pulley out of place and thwapping you in the face. Then, you likely need some sort of box to elevate your stance so you can get a full ROM. Last piece of the puzzle is a belt squat belt, I highly recommend Spud Incs model. Depending on your set-up, you might find that an extra chain to help your set-up and dismount is crucial. Otherwise, you need to look at what materials, tools, and abilities you have. I won’t provide a detailed How-To as my box squat isn’t what I’d call perfect, but it was free.
Cost and Other Options
Body Solid makes a unit that is almost exactly the same. It looks like their bench design is a little different, they have band pegs, and it comes in a glossy red. If you have the opportunity to try out both, go for it. My guess is that they likely come from almost the same factory overseas, so the differences in performance are likely minimal. As always, I highly recommend checking your local used market. These are just affordable enough that they get bought by people trying to get into exercising, who then give up and sell the units at a fraction of the price. I got mine from a used equipment STORE for $600. But regardless, the price of the unit for what you get is crazy reasonable, even at a brand new price. Even with the aftermarket adjustments, I’m still under $750 for a piece of equipment that gets used 5 days a week, sometimes multiple times in a workout, and often by my wife as well. When my daughter starts lifting, this will be an easy way to get her into weights as we transition into free weights.
Different Point of View
If you are still with me, I want to point you towards a friend of mine’s review of the Powertec Levergym over at Garage-Gyms.com.
I bring up his review because he has a slightly different feeling about the unit than me, and with a potential big purchase like this I want you to be well informed. A few notes about John’s review:
Quote “In addition to anyone over say 6’1″ or so bumping their head on the top of the pulley, things just stop lining up well the taller you get.”
John is 6ft 4inches, and I’m a measly 6ft even. That extra 4 inches could potentially create some issues using the pulldown and getting full ROM, as well as other potential problems with using the unit for squats, etc. So, if you are clearing 6ft in height, take John’s notes very seriously.
Quote: “the cable portion of this tower is really the only thing that offers exercises that you couldn’t already tackle with a barbell.”
John isn’t what we would call a bodybuilder, if you read his article you can note how he uses the unit (and doesn’t). As I mentioned earlier in the review, I strongly believe that for a more bodybuilder style routine where machine work isn’t seen as accessories as much as a key component of your programming, the Levergym takes a completely different lens than as an “extra”.
Quote: “my experiences with them have left much to be desired.”
John mentioned poor dealings with Powertec through customer service. I actually had the opposite experience. Yes, their email system and service is non-existent, but over the phone was great. I had purchased the preacher curl attachment used and the person was missing 10+ pieces from a move. Powertec sent me all replacements for free, didn’t matter that I was the 2nd hand person. That said, I’d still take his recommendation on buying from Amazon.
Again, brand new the Powertec Levergym clears $1k, so I want to make sure you have a detailed understanding of what you are getting into.
Overall and Final Thoughts
Ok, so I spent a decent amount of time hating on a few things. Some of which drove me CRAZY!!! But at the end of the day, I’d still not look anywhere else for a unit like this. This thing kicks ass and every single day I get happier and happier with having it in my gym. When I have friends over or I tell people about it, they are shocked at how versatile, compact, and just plain badass it is. They are also shocked that they’ve never heard of it before (seriously Powertec, your Social Media and Marketing game is WHACK!!! I have friends that can help you, so let’s chat). Honestly, one of the biggest downfalls of the Powertec Levergym, I believe, is that it isn’t in enough garage gyms with some SERIOUS athletes. It looks like they end up in the hands of the guy who wants to lift, but doesn’t want to hurt himself, but wants to look badass and tell his friends he benches 300lbs. So the units just don’t go through the same brutal workouts, same level of scrutiny, and same level of product feedback and then revisions that serious garage gym athletes would provide. On top of that, as it’s pretty evident by their Social Media, I don’t think they employ a bunch of lifters either. So their R&D team, their engineers, etc. aren’t actually testing things the same way I do. If they did, at least a few of the really bad items wouldn’t have made it off the warehouse floor.
Powertec makes a larger model that offers a few pros, and a few cons. First, it has multiple stations so you can easily do supersets, a circuit, or have multiple lifters doing different things at once. It’s also so beefy you don’t need any help in keeping it secured to the floor. Last, you get a few of the attachments built in. On the flip side, the thing is HUGE. From a functionality stance, I believe it actually has slightly fewer options in terms of exercise selection than the Levergym does (it has a pulldown instead of cable set up for instance). Plus the cost, brand new at least, is considerably higher. I’d take the Levergym every time, even if the price was the same.
Because their bench is so ok, I’d highly recommend getting a better FI bench like one from Rep Fitness, a used commercial model, etc. if you are buying brand new (in other words, don’t buy their bench). If you want the leg curl and other attachments, try and find a bench from another retailer (Ironmaster for instance) that offers a lot of the same. If you already have a badass FI bench, perfect!
I would LOVE to see a company like Rep Fitness or my guys at Edge Fitness Systems remake this and put it through a valid QA process. Taking some of the feedback I have above and potentially shifting a few things around here and there, and you could likely make it even more compact, more functional, and all around more badass.
I’m not normally a fan of having to spend good money on something and then go out of your way to modify, cut, adjust, and retool it for it to function properly. In this case I make an exception solely because of the unit’s ability to do so much, and the things I’ve griped about and modified you could certainly just live with. Nothing makes the unit garbage or unusable. The biggest one, the weight storage pegs, is easily fixed with concrete anchors, attaching to a platform of sorts, or using some large plates to just keep it in place. Everything I did in the DIY category, would be fairly easy for most people with modest tools and abilities to accomplish.
One additional note, if you are simply looking to dabble in machine use occasionally, this is likely not your cup of tea. If you aren’t planning to do multiple variations of rows, cable work, pressing, shoulder work, legs, etc. on this thing every week, your money and space can be better used.
In the end, if you have the room to dedicate to a unit like this and you want some “commercial gym” style accessory work in your routine, I have absolutely ZERO qualms with highly recommending the Powertec Levergym. If they come out with a 2017 or 2018 unit and incorporate/ fix some or most of the issues I noted, even better! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see the Levergym in multiple posts each week. This thing won’t be leaving my gym anytime in the near future.
If you have a Powertec Levergym, let me know in the comments below, or tag me on Instagram. I love seeing what others are doing with the unit. on Instagram. A few people I know that are using theirs and loving it:
Want more? Check out my video review on YouTube.