Choosing a home gym is similar to selecting an individual as a roommate and can prove to be a costly mistake if you don't pick one that fits your lifestyle and needs. The Bowflex and Total Gym are two of the most common home gyms advertised on television. While they both can offer full-body workouts, they do have significant differences that may affect which unit you decide to buy.
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The Bowflex Unit
The Bowflex tower unit features a seat with a lat pulldown bar positioned overhead, pulley handles just outside the width of the seat at chest height, ankle cuffs at the bottom of the unit, and a leg attachment. The resistance that your muscles have to overcome is provided by Power Rods, which when bent increase in tension. The standard Bowflex comes with 210 pounds of resistance, but if that's not enough, you can upgrade your unit to allow for 310 or 410 pounds of resistance.
A Look at the Total Gym
Instead of using the bending of Power Rods or a stack of weights, the Total Gym unit uses your body weight to provide resistance. The unit features an inclined glideboard that slides up and down. With two pulley handles at the top of the unit and a platform at the bottom, you can do both upper and lower body exercises. The resistance level for each exercise is dictated by your body weight and the incline of the glideboard. A greater incline means more gravity pulling your body weight. To decrease the resistance, you would decrease the percentage of your body weight you have to lift by lowering the incline level of the glideboard.
Comparison of Exercises
Despite the differences in how the machines work, both the Bowflex and Total Gym units allow you to do similar exercises. For example, you can do chest press and chest fly to work your chest, and lat rows, lat pulldowns and delt rows for your back. For your shoulders, you can do seated shoulder press and lat raise. Work your abs with resisted abdominal and oblique crunches. For your legs, both units allow you to do squats. Both the Bowflex and Total Gym have ankle cuffs that allow you to do leg extensions, leg curls, hip extensions, hip abductions and hip adductions. The difference is that you can doing the leg exercises standing with the Bowflex, but reclining with the Total Gym.
The Bowflex and Total Gym offer benefits depending on your strength levels. When you’re using the Total Gym, the amount of load that you can lift is limited by your body weight. The more you weigh, the greater the resistance potential. However, the Bowflex allows you greater options if you want to lift heavier weights. The Bowflex also allows you to make minor changes to the resistance by selecting more or fewer Power Rods. With the Total Gym, however, a change in the inline of the glideboard has the potential to significantly change the load you’re lifting. If you’re concerned with storage, the Total Gym folds down and can slide under a bed. The Bowflex, which is larger and heavier, needs to be in a permanent location.