Bowflex vs. Total Gym: Best Home Gyms Reviewed (2023)
What is the best home gym? We compared Bowflex to Total Gym to help you determine which brand fits your needs.
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It wasn't that long ago that we would have scoffed at the thought of gyms around the world shutting down, but a pandemic reminded us how unexpected life could be. Bowflex and Total Gym are solutions to this problem. These home gym brands are convenient and effective and are worth considering regardless of whether lockdowns are considered.
When I had my first kid, the other thing I realized is that I spent as much time driving to and from the gym as I did actually in the gym, and that didn't sit well with me. Time is limited, and like you, I want to maximize my time the best I can. I canceled my gym membership and bought home gym equipment, and haven't looked back since.
Bowflex Vs. Total Gym Comparison
But which brand should you choose? While these two home gym brands are best known, they don't work in the same way or have the same benefits. Our goal is to give you enough information to make a wise decision to fit your situation. Check out the side-by-side comparison table, or read the detailed reviews below.
Bowflex Home Gym Review
The technology utilized by Bowflex is a significant differentiation from Total Gym. Bowflex offers two different home gym systems, one of which uses weight plates and the other that uses the company's traditional power rods that provide resistance. Both home gyms accommodate more than 70 exercises and unlimited variations.
Product Options and Performance
The company offers a few different types of home gyms, including the fitness equipment with bending rods you have seen on infomercials and newer models that look similar to commercial gym equipment but is, of course, intended for home use. You can also add in the SelectTech adjustable free weights, which provide an entire suite of workouts that will rival any commercial gym.
One limitation of some fitness equipment is that it doesn't provide enough exercise variety. To truly progress your overall fitness and strength, you have to have exercise variability to work your muscles in new and different ways. Bowflex fitness equipment is all designed to facilitate variable workouts for the entire body.
Xtreme 2 SE Home Gym (X2SE)
TheBowflex Xtreme relies on a traditional approach to weight resistance provided by flexible rods. The equipment comes with two 5-pound rods, four 10-pound rods, two 30-pound rods, and two 50-pound rods, all of which total 210 pounds of total power rod resistance.
This is plenty of weight for the average person focused on increasing functional strength, but if you need more than that, You can add on either two 50-pound rods, which brings total resistance to 310 pounds, or four 50-pound rods, which would carry the total resistance to 410 pounds. This wide range of combinations will facilitate low-impact workouts or heavier workouts focused on building muscle mass.
There are more than 70 exercises that you can complete with the Xtreme system, and more than that if you get all of the attachments. The squat bar and ab crunch shoulder harness are included with the system, and the preacher curl and gym-style ab crunch attachments can be added on if you would like to do so.
The Xtreme system has an innovative no-change cable pulley system, which allows you to move between exercises without changing cables. Not only does this save time, but it will also help you keep your heart rate up.
If all of this seems overwhelming, you will also receive at least seven company-designed workout routines to help you get started. Once you have been through these seven routines, it should be much easier to design your routines, but there is no shortage of YouTube videos and blogs out there if you need some additional inspiration.
Bowflex Revolution Home Gym
This is an entirely different system than you might think of when initially considering Bowflex home gyms, but it is definitely worth considering. The Revolution Home Gym is perfect if you are ready to take resistance training to the next level. It’s a commercial-grade machine, with plenty of exercise variability, and should work for nearly any strength level.
The Revolution Home Gym was designed to accommodate over 100 exercises and as many as 400 variations. If you already have some muscle and are looking to take your fitness to the next level, then the Revolution home gym might be the best choice for you.
It is accessible for working every major muscle group and can even provide up to 600 lbs of resistance for the leg press station (depending on the selected upgrades). Most of the SpiraFlex workouts have a standard 220 lbs of resistance maximum, which is upgradable to 300 lbs if you are more advanced.
Instead of the signature power rods, the Revolution Home Gym has SpiraFlex technology designed for NASA. It provides resistance without relying on inertia (or gravity), so it should be safer than free weights. It’s designed to provide consistent and even resistance, without the jerking that sometimes causes injury with traditional weights.
The weight resistance is straightforward to adjust. In addition to the built-in functionality (leg press, leg extension, bench press, and Freedom Arms based workouts), a preacher curl accessory can be utilized to focus on those arms. The Freedom Arms can be set in ten different positions and are the main feature of the Revolution that enables so many different workouts.
SelectTech Adjustable Weights
While the Bowflex Home Gyms provide full-body workouts, some people prefer the feel of free weights or perhaps want to supplement their gym machines with free weights. Free weights work stabilization differently and enable you to move around a little more freely, but the trouble is that full free weight sets are expensive and take up a ton of space.
Bowflex sells adjustable free weights, including dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells, all under the SelectTech branding. The one-of-a-kind locking technology enables the user to lock-in selected weights while leaving in place unnecessary weight. This is an incredibly compact design that allows users to maximize their strength training and reach their fitness goals.
The most popular dumbbell set is adjustable between 5 and 52 lbs, while the heavier dumbbell set is adjustable between 10 and 90 lbs. A dumbbell stand with a media rack is also available, so you don't have to go all the way down to the floor after each rep. The Barbell set is adjustable between 20 and 80 lbs, and the Kettlebell set is adjustable between 8 and 40 lbs.
All of the SelectTech equipment provides ultimate versatility in a compact and relatively affordable design. Like free weights in a gym, the potential workout variations are limitless and accessible to any fitness level. The SelectTech technology reaches beyond the weights alone because there is also a SelectTech app that provides guided workouts and exercise programs.
Other Bowflex Products
In the age of Peloton, the Bowflex team offers every imaginable version of indoor cardio training, with JRNY technology available to compete with the Peloton-type experience. While we are focusing this article on fitness machines and weights, cardio will also be important for many to consider if they are building out a home gym.
Bowflex JRNY App - The first thing you need to know is that the brand now offers the JRNY app, which is an overall experience intended to facilitate the creation of custom workouts for every body type. This is a membership-based app available through many of the Bowflex machines as well as any smart device.
VeloCore - The VeloCore is a cutting edge take on the indoor cycle aimed directly at the likes of Peloton or SoulCycle. The significant innovation is that the VeloCore leans, which not only provides an intense core workout but also provides a more realistic training experience. The massive touchscreen works with the JRNY app and the peloton app, and other workout apps, plus Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and your favorite entertainment apps in case you want to catch up on your favorite show while grinding it out. If you are looking for a more affordable and simplistic spin bike, we recommend you check out our Yosuda bike review, but Bowflex has cheaper options as well. Still, if you are ready to get at it, choose the VeloCore and its advanced technology.
Max Total / Max Trainers - The Max Total (successor to Max Trainer) is a compact cardio machine that combines the benefits and experience of a stair-climber and an elliptical machine. If that sounds funky, you might just have to try to understand how effectively it works. Like the VeloCore, the Max Total works with the JRNY app. It’s one impressive and productive piece of equipmentfor anyone focused on weight loss above all else.
Treadmills - For anyone that likes the traditional and natural experience of running but prefers to do so in the climate-controlled safety of your own home, these treadmills get the job done. They have Comfort Tech deck cushioning, a SoftDrop folding system, and BlueTooth enabled devices that work with various apps, including the JRNY app.
TreadClimber - The TreadClimber is perfect for anyone that needs a walking workout but needs it to be as efficient and productive as possible. The TreadClimber is easy on the joints and burns up to 2.5X the calories of a treadmill.
Is Bowflex Worth The Money?
If you are looking to build out a home gym and want to get the most bang for your buck, there is no better choice than a Bowflex home gym. They were industry pioneers, and they continue to adapt as industry leaders as they continue to introduce new equipment and technology. This equipment is a worthy investment as you try to become the best version of yourself.SUMMARY PROS
- Variety of machines to choose from
- More expensive than some can afford
- Better for strength training than just bodyweight
- Accessible at multiple price points
- Industry-pioneering technology
- Fantastic relative value compared to full weight sets
- Can be safer than traditional options when used properly
- Exercise variability
Total Gym Home Gym Review
Some users may prefer the relative simplicity of bodyweight training, and we completely get that. If that's the case for you, then the Total Gym platform is the cream of the crop, the best product on the market. The ease of use can't be overstated, and while it is less complicated and expensive than some machines, it is substantially more effective than using something like resistance bands on their own.
Product Options and Performance
The Total Gym doesn't rely on NASA-age technology; instead, it depends on simple body weight to provide a full-body workout. While some might prefer traditional resistance training and old school versions of lifting weights, it’s truly amazing how much you can improve your fitness level by learning to use the weight of your body effectively.
Total Gym Supreme
If you want to keep the costs down, then start with the Total Gym Supreme. It’s the most affordable option, but still can be used for more than 60 exercises, and has a weight capacity of 275 pounds. It’s a budget-friendly home gym that still features 12 levels of resistance.
The unit comes with the ever-popular AbCrunch accessory, as well as the ribbed squat stand. One of the more exciting aspects of the Total Gym is that all models come with a nutritional program and meal plan. While this seems like an odd add-on, most people are looking for overall fitness inspiration, so we are all for it.
Total Gym XLS
The XLS model is the next step up in the Total Gym hierarchy. While the XLS only has six resistance levels, compared to the 12 levels offered by the Supreme model, over 80 exercises can be completed on the model. It also has a weight capacity of 400 lbs.
The XLS package comes with access to a basic package of seven popular workout routines that you can stream, plus a wall chart that will guide you through 35 Total Gym exercises at a glance. The workout guides will help lead you along your journey, and the combination of the various elements will facilitate any workout style.
As far as accessories, the XLS package comes with a Ribbed Squat Stand, a Wing Attachment, and the AbCrunch attachment. Perhaps our favorite feature from the XLS model is that it folds up into a compact design you can move out of the way.
Total Gym FIT
The FIT model and package start to get a little pricey, so if costs are a concern for you, but you like the Total Gym system, you might consider either the Supreme or XLS models. The FIT model includes 12 elevation levels, a 450-pound weight capacity, and over 85 exercises.
The FIT model comes with many of the attachments and accessories as the XLS model, plus a two-piece wing attachment, but we aren't sure it is worth an extra $500 or so over the XLS model. Any differences are negligible.
Total Gym GTS
This is the granddaddy of them all, at over twice the price as some other models. The GTS model includes a strength package that includes a Lat pulldown bar, retractable dip bars, a pull-up bar, and more. Despite its bulkier frame, the GTS model still folds up out of the way.
The GTS weighs 180 lbs, which is nearly three times as heavy as any other product, but it does support a maximum user weight of 650 lbs. Were not sure this practically means much other than to say it is built sturdy. It looks and feels that way too. When you look at the various Total Gym models side-by-side, the Supreme model looks flimsy, particularly in relation to the GTS model.
If you like the brand philosophy but want to work with heavier weights to target your muscular fitness, we recommend checking out the GTS model.
Other Total Gym Products
If you need a cardo option to complete your home gym, the brand has a machine that fits the company mold well.
Total Gym Row Trainer
The brand also sells a row trainer, which looks similar to the other products because of the inclined bench. The Row Trainer is built to work core stability and provide a little aerobic benefit from your home’s comfort. It’s the only rower that we know of that utilizes adjustable resistance based on an incline, which is how it fits in with the rest of the family of products. The Row Trainer can also be used to do non-traditional rowing exercises like bicep curls.
Do Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley Really Use The Total Gym?
Most people recognize the Total Gym brand because Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley act as company spokespersons. Perhaps the better question to ask is if the duo uses the Total Gym exclusively. The reality is that the system is a part of their overall health and wellness routines, but probably not their only fitness source. As an example, Chuck Norris is known for his love of martial arts and uses the system as a supplement to his martial arts routines.
Is Total Gym Worth The Money?
The price of these models varies wildly from the very affordable Supreme up to the costly GTS model. If you are drawn to the idea of relying on the weight of your body for strength building and exercise, then the Total Gym system will undoubtedly provide you with a good workout.SUMMARY PROS
- Relies on body-weight
- Feels awkward at first to some
- Foldable to save space
- Limited weight training below the GTS model
- Comes with a nutrition plan
- Versatile focus on functional strength
It's not lost on me that Bowflex equipment and the Total Gym are expensive investments. Of course, your health is one place it makes sense to invest. Still, there are other options, and not everyone has a few grand lying around.
You can spend much less money and build an awesome home gym by buying equipment that is more versatile and less bulky. In particular, we are big fans of the Terra-Core and the Gorilla Bow, because they are both affordable and highly versatile. The Terra-Core is a dynamic surface (air-filled bladder) that enhances the difficulty of everything from push-ups to squats. The Gorilla Bow combines the simplicity of resistance band training with the ancient form of the bow to create a dynamic strength training tool.
If we were consulting someone on developing a home gym, we would probably tell them to start with the Terra-Core and the Gorilla Bow. Both come with guided workouts, too, to help get you started. Check out our Terra-Core-Review and our Gorilla Bow Review to learn more regarding why these might effective alternatives to a Bowflex or Total Gym.
Proper Use And Personal Care
While Bowflex and Total Gym both have their unique place in the world of workout equipment, there is one thing they hold in common. It's important to use properly and take care of yourself. Be sure to follow manufacturer instructions, and employ proper recovery techniques. Stretching is very imporant, and we would also recommend that you consider using a massage gun to speed your recovery. We compared Hypervolt vs. Theragun to help you identify which might be the better option for you.
Bowflex Or Total Gym? Which is Better?
The beauty of these home gym systems is that they provide ultimate convenience and nearly all of the strength training variability you might at your local gym. Better yet, you don't have to keep a bunch of heavyweights hanging around in your garage to benefit from this convenience.
When choosing between Bowflex and the Total Gym, the choice in part comes down to your preferred workout style. While the Bowflex can be used for low impact exercises, it can also build muscle mass by relying on traditional weight resistance. The Total Gym depends almost entirely on resistance from your body’s weight.
While some people may prefer the simplicity, natural motions, and enhanced agility that the Total Gym provides, to us, the system seems dated and even a little gimmicky at times. Indeed, some people may prefer it, but we think the Bowflex system provides more effective strength training at any point of the spectrum.
Bowflex equipment allows for low-impact workouts, with as little as 5 lbs. of weight, just as quickly as it facilitates heavier weights, as much as 400lbs for an exercise. The latter being workouts truly focused on building muscle mass. On the other hand, Total Gym is much less variable, as the only two inputs are your body weight and the incline of a bench.
For these reasons, we recommend Bowflex for almost any situation, as it will accommodate nearly any fitness routine.
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