Are you tired of needing to leave the house and drive all the way to the gym to get a good workout? We've all been there - you wake up before work or get home after an eight-hour shift, only to discover you just want to sit on the couch. Changing and going out again feels like an impossible feat.
That's part of why home gym systems were created. For people who are serious about getting in shape, they're an invaluable investment. Home gym systems allow you to use one machine to do many different strength training and cardio exercises. There are a number of different options on the market.
Two of the most popular options are Total Gym and Bowflex. Both of these machines can give you access to several dozen different exercises. They both allow you to adjust and increase resistance as you build your strength.
So how do the systems differ? I've taken a look at how each works, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each. Both are excellent home gym designs, but the right one for you will vary depending on your needs.
Overview of Total Gym and Bowflex
Unique Total Gym Features
Unique Bowflex Features
Resistance Training System
Total Gym doesn't use a traditional weight system. This allows the machine to be much more compact and portable, since you don't have to lug heavy weights around. Rather than having a bulky and loud weight-pulling system, the machine is designed so your own body weight acts as the resistance.
As gravity pulls down on your body, you push back up against it. Each of the exercises is calibrated with this method in mind.
You do still have some control over the amount of resistance. The machine comes with adjustable angles. As you adjust the angles, you also adjust the amount of body weight that you're pulling at any given moment. This is an imprecise measurement that varies depending on your own weight. But it does still allow for some measurement of goals.
Bowflex also doesn't use traditional weights in its design. However, it's also not designed to use your body weight as resistance. This means that you can adjust your exercises with more precision, since the resistance isn't varied based on your own weight.
The system uses "power rods" as an alternative to weight-based systems. The rods are attached to cables. When you pull down on the cables, the rods bend and cause your muscles to experience resistance. When you let go, the rods straighten back up. This eliminates weight dropping and clanking.
Some of the benefits of this design include:
The lowest resistance level is five pounds. You can increase the resistance in increments all the way up to 210 pounds. The majority of machines have a cap at 210 pounds, but you can sometimes buy an additional kit to increase resistance further. This will be an additional cost, though.
Though both resistance training systems have distinct advantages over traditional weights, Bowflex comes out on top. The weight system allows for consistent tension and more precise adjustments. Total Gym, by comparison, has more imprecise measurements and makes it difficult to maintain tension through an entire rep.
Total Gym boasts more than eighty exercises that you can do, all using the adjustable gravity-based resistance system. These can be strength training or cardiovascular, depending on the way you do your reps. The company's website has training guides for every potential exercise broken into categories:
This means that you have dozens of ways to target specific muscle groups throughout the body, as well as to do a full body workout.
A typical Bowflex system comes with the ability to perform more than thirty exercises. There are tons of training guides on the internet with ideas for workouts to meet specific strength training goals. You also get a gym owner's manual that teaches you how to do each exercise.
The manual isn't as easy to peruse as the Total Gym website. However, it does give you exercises sorted into:
Winner: Total Gym
By adjusting your resistance and adding or detaching accessories, the Total Gym system allows you to do more than eighty exercises. Guides for each unique exercise are easy to find through the website. Bowflex also has a wide range of full-body exercises and workouts, but the machine isn't as versatile.
Bulk and Storage
The Total Gym system is streamlined and super easy to set up. Since it doesn't have any complicated weight or rod systems, you're good to go right away. Different accessories can be attached and detached to do certain exercises.
When you're done with your workout, the entire system can be folded up and stored away. This is wonderful if you need to save precious floor space.
The Bowflex system is bulky. You can't store it away, so you need a lot of open floor space for it to sit. The bench can fold up when not in use, but that doesn't save a whole lot of space.
Winner: Total Gym
Total Gym is infinitely easier to use if you need a system that can be stored when not in use. For those in small apartments or cramped rooms, it's a huge help.
Pros and Cons of Total Gym
Pros and Cons of Bowflex
Final Thoughts: Which is Better?
Both of these home gym systems offer a wide range of strength training and cardio exercises. Though they have different weight mechanisms, they both allow for resistance training that increases in increments. However, the different designs mean that each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Bowflex has been a pioneer in the home gym industry for years. It's practically a household name. This home gym system is best if you prefer convenience, have a lot of floor space, and don't mind some limitations. Most machines cap at 210 pounds of resistance and are bulky, but they're very easy to use and adjust.
Total Gym is a good choice for those who want a more versatile experience. There are more than eighty exercises, and the system can be easily folded and stored away. In addition, the machine has a higher weight capacity than many other exercise machines.