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Total Gym vs free weights [Article, Video]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Mar 22, 2020 9:00:00 AM

Total gym vs free weights

Total Gym vs free weights [Article, Video]

Free weights are better for athletes and sport enthusiasts with a lot of space. The total gym is better suited for people who want to stay generally fit and need to save space.

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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 free weights 

Free weights come in different shapes and forms. The most common ones are: 
Less common ones are 
The main use case for free weights is to add resistance to your exercises to stimulate muscle growth. With that, you will grow and get stronger. Free weights excel in adding extra weight to whatever you do. They do less good in versatility and space requirements. 

Pros of free weights 

The pros of free weights are: 
  • Scales to big weights 
  • Strict movement patterns 
  • Last for a long term 
Barbells and dumbbells can scale to hundreds of pounds. So even if you are very big strong it is very unlikely that you will hit the ceiling with a barbell or dumbbell in terms of resistance. Even though less common, kettlebells can also be had for up to 100kg. The sky is the limit with free weights when it comes to adding poundage. 
Barbells help with strict movement patterns and make it less likely to injure yourself because you move at a crazy angle or too rapidly. The injury risk with free weight training is relatively low compared to other team sports. Always check with your GP for health concerns. 
Free weights are almost indestructible. As long as you don’t drop them consistently from a high space, they will probably last for a lifetime. 

Cons of free weights 

The cons of free weights are: 
  • Space requirements 
  • Injury risk for overload
  • Lack of versatility 
The biggest point against free weights is that they take up quite a bit of space if you want variety. You will need to store the barbell, multiple dumbbells and the plates somewhere in your gym. For a commercial gym, this is fine as it has the added bonus that multiple people can work out at the same time. For a home gym it is often just clutter. 
Another disadvantage of free weights is injury risk because of overload. Just because the barbell can take up to 600 pounds it does not necessarily mean that you are ready for it. Injury can be the result, so go easy and take your time. 
The last pint on the list is the lack of versatility. Free weights can get quite boring over time unless you love the process. 

Alternatives to free weights 

Alternatives to free weights are: 
  • Battle ropes 
  • Weighted vests 
  • Resistance bands 
Battle ropes can be a good alternative to cross the chasm between endurance and strength training. They can be used as climbing ropes for strength and for slams and swings for endurance. 
Weighted vests are an alternative to add resistance to your bodyweight exercises without having to hold onto a barbell or dumbbell. Especially useful for pull-ups and dips or full-body workout routines which become too easy. 
Resistance bands can be used as a versatile tool to stretch and get ready for the day. If you have the right anchor in your house it also helps with strength exercises. 

Total gym vs free weights 

The total gym is a good alternative for anyone who can not work with free weights because they are too old or have a medical history that makes free weight training too strenuous. Free weights help your muscle growth to push to the next levels, give. That your diet is in order. 

Topics: Total gym