Although it's hard to look past the heavy marketing and infomercial-style hype, the Total Gym has been around for more than 30 years. With quick turnover between models, with one being retired to make room for another, and some models created specifically for sale through certain outlets or overseas markets, it's easy to get confused. But the Total Gym's long history, plus the continuing roll-out of new models and predominantly positive user reviews, indicate that the Total Gym manufacturers might just be doing something right.
Both Total Gym models work on the same principle: You sit or lie on a glideboard, mounted on inclined rails. The steeper the incline, the more of your body weight you're lifting as you push or pull on pulley handles, or an ankle cuff, to move the glideboard up the rails.
One of the biggest differentiating factors between Total Gym models is which accessories come standard. Instead of the Total Gym XL's upgraded squat stand, larger than the squat stand on other Total Gym models, the Total Gym Elite comes with a yoga bar, which has been re-branded as a Pilates bar for other Total Gym models. The Total Gym Elite also comes with dip bars and press-up bars that mount to either side of the rails, both accessories that can be purchased separately for the Total Gym XL.
The biggest cosmetic difference between the Total Gym XL and Total Gym Elite, aside from the squat stand on the XL and the yoga bar on the Elite, is the Elite's hourglass-shaped glide board. The hourglass shaping is relatively subtle, and serves no apparent purpose beyond aesthetics appeal.
Another major difference between the Total Gym XL and the Total Gym Elite, before they were both discontinued, was their availability. The Elite was originally available only through home shopping networks. The XL was available directly from the manufacturer and other retailers.
The Total Gym Elite is no longer available for purchase. When available, it retailed for between $300 and $400, considerably less than the Total Gym XL's original retail price tag of about $1,600. Originally available direct from the manufacturer and other retailers, as of July 2010 the Total Gym XL is only available occasionally as a restocked model, with a modified retail price of about $800.