The Soloflex and Bowflex gyms are similar home weight-training systems that were created in the late 1970s and popularized through television infomercials in the 1980s and 1990s. Each gym utilizes a tensioned-resistance system rather than heavy weight plates. Each gym can deliver a full-body workout, but the Soloflex is closer to a traditional free-weight workout. Selecting between the Bowflex and Soloflex is a matter of determining which system best fits your exercise goals and budget.
The Soloflex gym is only available in two different models: the muscle machine and retro muscle machine. Both gyms offer a similar number and style of exercises, but the retro gym is slightly lighter weight and mimics the original 1978 design of the gym. As of February 2011, Bowflex offers five different gym models on its website, which range in the number of exercises from 30 to more than 100.
The main resistance on a Soloflex machine comes from elastic weight straps. You attach the straps to pegs on the equipment arms and they stretch to exponentially increase the resistance as you exercise. Additionally, up to 500 lbs. of traditional weight plates can be added to the barbell arms on the Soloflex.
Most Bowflex gyms utilize bendable polymer rods, called power rods, for resistance. You clip cables to the ends of these rods, and when you pull on the cables, the rods bend to add resistance. The most expensive Bowflex machines use discs with wound elastic straps instead of power rods. Additional rods or discs can be added to the Bowflex machines for a maximum of 410 lbs. of resistance on most models.
Both gyms are capable of delivering a full-body workout. The Soloflex offers just over 30 different basic exercises, such as the bench press, leg press and various pull-down exercises for back development. Bowflex gyms beyond the Classic model offer at least 65 different exercises. The wider variety of exercise on the Bowflex allows you to create more varied workout programs, particularly if you want to circuit train or work out to lose weight instead of gain muscle. However, the Soloflex is a more stable machine and allows for body-weight exercises like dips and chin-ups, which the Bowflex cannot do.
Size and Cost
According to Exercise-Equipment-Review.com, one of the best features about the Soloflex is its compact size. Some Bowflex machines can measure more than 9 feet long, which is prohibitive if you do not have a large workout area. As of February 2011, a new Soloflex machine costs between $1,250 and $1,550, depending on the workout options it includes. Bowflex gyms come in a wider variety, costing anywhere between $649 and $2,999.