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Total Gym vs Bow flex [Article, Video]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Mar 24, 2020 9:00:00 AM

Total gym vs bow flex

Total Gym vs Bow flex [Article, Video]

The bow flex is the better one station home gym for intermediates, but more likely to break. The total gym has better space efficiency but lacks leg resistance options. It is more robust and the better option for beginners.

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Overview of the Total gym 

The total gym puts you on a bench which is attached to two pulleys and can slide back and forward. This sliding bench is attached to a little tower. The tower is the anchor and also helps to determine the resistance at which you train. The steeper the incline, the harder the workout. 
Depending on the model attachments you get the total gym is also enabled for squats and more exercises. You work the arms by doing pulley work while the legs can be worked with squats at an incline. After use, the total gym can be folded up and stored under a bed or in a closet. 
With pulley and sliding bench arrangement you can simulate many of the machines which you will find at a commercial gym. The total gym will not be a replacement for a cardio machine or free weights for athletes but can keep you fit if you are older or rehabilitating from injury. 

Pros of the to total gym 

The pros of the total gym are: 
  • Low footprint 
  • Low injury risk 
  • Versatile 
One pro of the total gym is that it has a relatively low footprint and can be stored away easily. If you live in a small apartment, the total gym will not take up an entire room of your already limited space all day. Just fold it up and put it next o the ironing board or under the bed. 
For an exercise machine that forms muscle and tones, the injury risk is very low. You can sit or lie on the bench depending on how comfortable you feel. There are no weights that can fall on you. The machine itself is also not too intimidating. A big bonus is that you can even use the total gym if your hips, knees or rest of your legs are not well enough for walking. 
The pulley mechanism makes this a versatile machine to be used in many directions and combinations. This way you can get a full-body workout out of this one machine. 

Cons of the total gym 

The cons of the total gym are: 
  • Low impact 
  • Prone to failure 
  • Hard for prolonged cardio 
Overall the total gym is pretty low impact as it only uses your body weight. This is more than enough to get in shape, but if you want to set world records and pack on muscle you will also need some free weights and proper runs outdoors or on a treadmill. Of you are in the senior citizen target group of the total gym that is probably not of interest but for commercial and home gym owners might want to consider this. A rogue echo bike is roughly the same price as a total gym. 
The pulleys and the sliding bench can break and it is usually hard to fix them yourself. They are also quite noisy after a good time of use. Combined with that the construction is light and foldable you get the benefit of mobility at the loss of stability. The total gym is still top of the line but more prone to error than a stationary machine. 
If your main goal is weight loss one of the best ways to get your goal is to do cardiovascular exercises for 20 minutes. If your joints are aching swimming might also be an option. On the total gym, you might be hard-pressed to do the same thing for 20 minutes. 

Alternatives to the total gym

Alternatives to the total gym are: 
The Rogue echo bike leaves out the impact of a treadmill while still being cardiovascular. If you can still cycle and mainly want to lose weight and stay fit this is your choice. It won't do as much for toning as the total gym. 
Kettlebells will take up less space and work as cardio and strength training. If you are still very to moderately fit they are a great option as they are better faster cheaper than the total gym in my opinion. 
The disadvantage is that they are quite hard to use. If you have some coordination problems or can’t take big swing movements you might want to opt for something which produces less g force. 
If you like the great outdoors and have your hips and legs in check a good pair of runners will do great things for you. Fresh air, meeting some people and staying fit. Go with this option if you are still mobile and do not want to stay at home. 

Overview of bow flex 

The bow flex is a multi-use home gym that uses flexible plastic as resistance. Hence the name bow flex. With this setup, you can do lat pulls, leg extensions and many variations of chest exercises. 
The resistance is regulated by hooking up multiple bows. What is interesting is that the exercise gets the hardest at full extension and is the easiest at the start of the exercise.  This is quite similar to working with resistance bands with a barbell. 
As the bow flex is a big station for multi-use it is not foldable and will take up some space. You also should be comfortable with having a lot of moving parts and using hooks to change the exercises. 

Pros of the bow flex 

The bow flex has the following pros:
  • Interesting resistance experience 
  • All in one station 
  • Quick to change setups 
The bow flex provides an interesting resistance which can help to build more explosiveness at the end of a movement. You will also get an all in one station for your home gym. With the pulley systems, you can quickly change setups and cover a wide variety of exercises. 

Cons of bow flex 

The cons of the bow flex are:
  • A lot of moving parts 
  • Not suitable for squats 
  • Big footprint 
The bow flex has a lot of moving parts that can break if used the wrong way. Especially the bow is costly to replace and easily broken when used the wrong way. The pulleys are also exposed and not encased. This way they break easier or the carabiners get lost. 
The bow flex does not provide a proper setup for back squats as the resistance is the least at the top and most at the bottom. It just doesn’t work. 
As the bow flex includes a bench and leg extension attachment it becomes quite long and therefore takes up a bit of space. Not every home gym owner will have the space for a bow flex. In addition, it can’t be folded up and stored under the bed or in the hot press. 

Alternatives of the bow flex 

Alternatives to the bow flex are 
  • Resistance bands 
  • Free weights 
  • Kettlebells 
Resistance bands will have a similar training experience than the bow flex. The only challenge will be to find the right place to anchor them in your house. If resistance bands rip they are cheap and easy to replace. You can also use them in combination with a barbell if you like to manipulate the resistance curve of your exercises. 
Free weights will provide more resistance and versatility but come at the cost of eating up more space for storage. Another advantage of multiple barbells and dumbbells is that more than one person can use them at the same time. 
Kettlebells are the ultimate small footprint gym. If you want to save the space and be able to just store your equipment in a cupboard, kettlebells are the way to go.

Total gym vs bow flex 

I personally think that the bow flex and the total gym cover very similar use cases. The bow flex wins for leg work at the cost of giving up more floor space. I personally would get a total gym over a bow flex because it is less likely to break down and takes up less space. 

Topics: Total gym