Bowflex Home Gym
Bowflex are one of the most well known and respected companies in the home fitness market. They are highly regarded for their innovation as well as the high quality of their products. Even though they have branched into other areas, the basis of the brands is home gyms. In this article, we provide a comprehensive review of the best models in the Bowflex stable of home gyms.
The Bowflex concept of polymer rod resistance came from an Ethiopian engineering student who designed the resistance method after being inspired by bamboo bows in his native land. Bowflex of America was incorporated in 1986, releasing its first product, the Bowflex 2000X, shortly thereafter. The new technology became a hit and the company changed its name to Bowflex, Inc and became a publicly listed company.
New versions of the Bowflex were regularly rolled out. In 1999, the name of the company was again changed, this time to Direct Focus, Inc. The company then purchased several other fitness companies, including Nautilus, Schwinn and Stairmaster. They are now known as Nautilus, Inc.
There have been a number of recalls of Bowflex products. In January, 2004, 420,000 Bowflex machines were recalled due to mechanical problems. Another 800,000 were recalled in December of that year. The Consumer Product Safety Commission stated that the seats of Power Pro Bowflex machines could break and that the incline of the bench was potentially unsafe.
In December, 2007, 68,000 home gyms were recalled, with another 78,000 in 2009. There have been no recalls of Bowflex home gyms since then.
Bowflex Home Gyms
The Bowflex range of home gyms have introduced and cemented into the marketplace a unique form of resistance that millions of users prefer over traditional barbells, dumbbells and cables. This technology is built around flexible polymer power rods. These lightweight, compact rods provide you with the same resistance that you get from heavy weight plates.
The Power Rod system is based upon the workings of a bow and arrow. When you draw back the bowstring the effort required is minimal for the first third of the action. It then gets progressively harder until, during the final third of the pull, you are having to use full effort. It is similar with the Power Rods. During the first third of movement, you will feel about 30 percent of the resistance. This will progressively increase until you are feeling two thirds of the resistance at about the halfway mark and one hundred percent of it through the final third of the movement.
The power rod system provides you with a very smooth and fluid range of motion. In that regard, it is easier on your joints and connective tissue than free weights. The power rods themselves are made from a composite polymer material. They are sheathed with a protective rubber coating. Each individual rod is weighted, with typical weightings being as follows:
- 5 pounds
- 10 pounds
- 30 pounds
- 50 pounds
Most Bowflex home gyms provide you with a total potential max resistance of 210 pounds, with some of them being upgradeable to 310 and 410 pounds with the purchase of additional power rods.
The biggest benefit of the power rod system is that uses an elastic resistance similar to that of a rubber band. A study conducted by Dr. Jim Stoppani, compared the muscular strength and hypertrophy effects of using elastic resistance compared to conventional iron weight training. Here is what Stoppani concluded .
A program using elastic tubing resistance can provide similar benefits to a program that uses free-weight resistance, such as increased muscle strength, increase muscle tone and size and decreased body fat. In addition, a program that uses elastic tubing resistance can also provide benefits that are not offered by free-weight resistance programs, such as more functional strength, better injury prevention, greater ability to change muscle emphasis during exercises, greater muscle power development and easier use.
So how does the power rod technology compare to conventional free weights? As already mentioned, you do not get the true resistance for the full range of motion on the Power Rod system. For that reason it is not a true equivalent to the same weight on a plate. When you are doing a bench press with a bar the hardest part of the movement occurs about a third of the way up. Once you get past that point, it gets easier. This is the opposite to the Power Rod system. As a result the two exercises will feel very different. Many people prefer the Power Rods, but many others find it too unnatural.
The Power Rod system does not do as good a job as free weight in providing negative resistance. The negative part of my exercise is key to building muscle, which makes free weights a smarter choice if serious muscle building is your goal.
As far as user reviews on the power rod system, there have been a number of reports that they tend to lose their resistance over time. The rods do come with a 5-year warranty, but that coverage does not include normal wear and tear.
The Top 5 Up Close
The Bowflex PR1000 was brought out by Bowflex in 2008. A decade later it remains one of their most popular home gym models. This is one of Bowflex’s budget home gyms. However, it retains the high manufacturing standards that the company are known for. The framing is constructed from high grade commercial steel, with aircraft quality cabling throughout. High quality Durafirm leather padding covers the seat and back pads.
The power rod resistance level on the PR1000 maxes out at 210 pounds. This is one the Bowflex models in which you are not able to upgrade to a higher resistance level. That means that it is possible to outgrow this machine as your strength level increases. The resistances come in the standard 5, 10, 30 and 50 pound power rod increments.
The Bowflex PR1000 allows you to perform in excess of 30 exercises. You are able to do all of the standard weight exercise that you know from the gym including the bench press, lat pulldowns, shoulder press and bicep curls. You also get a rowing rail that adds a cardio aspect to your workout.
The PR1000 is compact and portable. It can be folded for ease of storage. Bowflex recommends taking out the power rods before folding the unit up, so you will also have to store these away somewhere. The dimensions of the PR1000 when set up for use are 84 x 38 x 81 inches. The minimum floor-space that is recommended is 103 x 80 x 82 inches. The shipping weight of the unit is 148 pounds.
Your purchase come with the following warranty:
- 1 year on the body of the machine
- 5 years on the power rods
- 60 days on parts
The Bowflex X2SE is a mid range home gym that sits between the two extremes of the PR1000 and the Revolution. It comes with the standard 210 pounds of power rod resistance. Unlike the PR1000, however, you can upgrade to either 310 or 410 pounds. You can do around 70 exercises on the X2SE, which is more than double that of the PR1000. It comes with high low and medium pulleys to allow you to work your body from a variety of angles.
The maximum user weight of the X2SE is 300 pounds. Its footprint is 53 x 49 x 82 feet, which is relatively modest, making it a good fit for people with limited apartment space. The unit weights in at 185 pounds, which is considerably less than most competing home gyms thanks to the power rods being very light weight. This unit comes with an ab crunch shoulder harness and a squat bar. You are also able to purchase the following accessories:
- Leg press
- Stirrup handle
- Ankle strap
The change between exercises is quick and easy on this machine. We were disappointed that it does not come with an instructional video that shows you how to use the machine.
The Revolution is the top of the line home gym from Bowflex. It allow you to perform more than a hundred exercises and introduces a brand new resistance system in the form of the Spiraflex resistance system.
The Spiraflex technology revolves around cleverly designed plates, each of which is constructed with a heavy duty elastic strap housed inside the plate. When you perform an exercise, the Spiraflex plates rotate around the center. This stretches the elastic strap and creates resistance. The plates combine with a mechanism inside the machine to create constant resistance throughout the entire range of motion. The result is a more consistent gym quality experience.
The Spiraflex plates look a lot like free weight plates. They are assigned a pound rating based on their resistance as follows:
- 5 pounds
- 10 pounds
- 20 pounds
- 40 pounds
Spiraflex weight plates are extremely lightweight and easy to use.
The original Bowflex Revolution provides you with 220 pounds of resistance. The XP Home Gym comes standard with 200 pounds of resistance. There is also an 80 pound upgrade available for each machine.
Spiraflex allows you to get resistance across a full range of motion. This is very different to the power rod system and means that you are able to get a longer time under tension on each and every repetition.
Unlike many home gyms, the Revolution provides you with some impressive leg training options, including a leg press and a weighted harness so that you can perform squats.
The Revolution comes with a high quality leg press station. It also provides you with a weighted harness set up so that you can simulate a heavy squat workout. The exercise range on this machine is greater than you find on most competitor home gyms. In addition, you are able to work an exercise from a number of different angles thanks to the independently moving arms allow for 10 position adjustments over a 170 degree range of movement.
The Bowflex Revolution provides you with a number of accessories units to extend your exercise options. These are:
- Tall Seat Back
- Leg Press Plate
- Leg Press Seat Back
- Preacher Curl Assembly
- Resistance packs
- Hand-grips & Foot Harnesses
Despite its many features, however, it is apparent that the Bowflex Revolution was not designed with tall users in mind. People who are 6’3” or taller will struggle to fit comfortably into many of the exercise configurations. Experienced lifters will also probably find that the max resistance on some heavy compound moves, such as the leg press, is not heavy enough for them.
The Bowflex Revolution is an expensive home gym, coming in at around double the price of competing models.
The BowFlex Max Trainer is a series of cross trainers that are designed to maximize your calorie burning through elliptical training. There are a number of Max Trainers, some of which are no longer available. The latest version is the Max Trainer M7. With the M7 you get an impact free workout that is very joint friendly. This is a multi use machine which has four built-in user profiles. Each user can also get customized workout programs.
Watchers of late night TV will be familiar with the Max Trainer’s famous 14-minute workout. This program is built into the M7, along with a speed version which lasts for just 7 minutes. You get 20 levels of resistance with this unit, which is quite a step up from the previous versions. The M5 maxed out at 16 levels with the M3 providing just 8.
The M7 is the only Max Trainer that provides wireless heart rate monitoring. You also get a media shelf so you can watch Netflix while you’re sweating. Your purchase of the Max Trainer M7 provides you with a 3-year warranty.
#5. Bowflex Training App
The Bowflex training app, Bowflex Connect, allows you to record, analyse and dissect your training results. When you first open the app you see the results of your last workout. You also get weekly stats and your highest achievements. If you swipe to the right you have a bunch of tabs including goals, awards, journals and settings. The journal allows you to keep track of all of your workouts. You can also link to MyFitnessPal. The Bowflex Connect app is an effective app for tracking your fitness activity and providing a new dimension to your training.
Other Flagship Bowflex Products:
Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells
Bowflex were one of the first companies to jump into the innovative new adjustable dumbbell market. Adjustable dumbbells consist of a platform on which sits a dumbbell handle and a number of selectorized weight stacks. There is a mechanism by which you can select the required weight. This set- up allows you to replace a whole rack of dumbbells with a single apparatus.
There are two adjustable dumbbells on the Bowflex range, the SelecTech 552 and the Selectech 1090.
Here’s what you get with the SelecTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbell set . . .
- Weight Range: 5-52.5 pounds per dumbbell
- Adjustable in increments of 2.5 pounds for first 25 pounds
- Adjustable in increments of 5 pounds after 25 pounds
- 15 weight settings as follows: 5. 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25,
- 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 52.5 pounds
- Bonus workout DVD included with purchase
- 6-weeks Fitness Results Guarantee
- 2-year warranty
- Dimensions of 8 inches (W) x 9 inches (H) x 15.75 (L)
There is no provision to add to the resistance on this dumbbell set. That means that it is possible to outgrow the set as you get stronger. To keep challenging yourself at that point you will have to upgrade to the SelecTech 1090. The 1090 goes up to 90 pounds per dumbbell.
Both of the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells make use of the SelecTech dial adjustment system. There is a dial at the end of each dumbbell which allows you to easily select the weight your require. Do the same on the other end of the dumbbell and then simply lift he weight off the rack. This adjustment can be done in a matter of seconds.
The SelecTech dumbbells are both high quality products that are made to Bowflex’s exacting standards. The base and stand are very solid while the brackets and core are made from heavy duty metal. The plates have a thick plastic coating that makes them very hard wearing.
Bowflex adjustable dumbbells have maintained the rounded look of conventional dumbbells. This is in contrast to the much squarer Powerblock brand, which is the main competitor in the marketplace. This makes Bowflex an easier transition from traditional dumbbells than Powerblock
The major negative on both the 552 and the 1090 is that they are longer than conventional dumbbells. At around 16 inches in length, it tends to get in your way when you are doing such exercises as seated dumbbell curls and side lateral raises.
When you buy either the SelecTech 552 or 1090, you will get an immediate 6-week Fitness Results Guarantee. If you don’t like the way that they feel, you can return it in the first six weeks. Over and above that you get a 2-year warranty on parts and labor.
The SelecTech 1090 is an advanced version of the 552. It goes up to 90 pounds (40.8 kg) on each dumbbell. The starting weight on the 1090 is 10 pounds, compared to 5 pounds with the 552.
The 1090 goes up in 5 pound increments as follows:
10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85 and 90 lb
The 1090 also increases the warranty from 2 years to 3 years.
Bowflex produce a range of high quality adjustable workout benches under the Seletech name. The most popular is the Bowflex Select Tech 5.1 Adjustable bench, which is an F/I/D bench that provides you with multi angle adjustment, generously padded back and seat covering and detachable leg restraints for working your abs.
For a full review of each of the Bowflex adjustable weight benches check out our side by side comparison of the Bowflex Weight Benches here.
The Bowflex range of home gyms offer a viable alternative to the conventional weights and plates home gym model. The Bowflex Power Rod system is a tried and proven resistance method, but it cannot fully replicate the feel and resistance of free weights. It’s a good choice for general fitness enthusiasts, but bodybuilders will be better off sticking to traditional barbells and dumbbells. The new Revolution Spiraflex system, however, is another story. This system seems to be on par with traditional training methods, but is a lot lighter and safer to use. If you can afford it, we definitely recommend trying out the Bowflex Revolution.
My name is Jim Roose. I'm a former competitive power lifter and gym owner. I've bought millions of dollars of fitness equipment over the last 20 years. This site is my way of giving back to the fitness community that's done so much for me. Every article on here is carefully researched and written by me. Leave a comment if you have any questions.