The Bowflex: Is It Worth All The Fuss And The Price Tag?
A Fitness Trainers' Review

Welcome to Cindy's review of the Bowflex. A fitness trainer has a look at an innovative home gym with a view to expaining the hoopla.

The Bowflex has become one of the largest selling pieces of exercise equipment of all time.

Having said that, let's examine the reasons for this popularity.

In a word... Infomercials!

Who hasn't seen at least part of one of those continuous commercials with all the ripped models/actors demonstrating and explaining the benefits of the this machine with the magic power rods. These TV spots are extremely well done and compelling. I mean, who wouldn't want to have a body like those folks? And if the Bowflex can do it, maybe you should have one too!

But is it as good as they claim?

In our humble opinion the answer is yes and no!

First, let's look at the positives...

The traditional 'power rod' Bowflex is a well-thought-out home gym that can work all the major muscle groups. Using 'power rods' rather than a conventional weight stack, the unit is much lighter than some home gyms which is a real advantage in shipping costs and in moving it around your house. The fact that it is relatively light and folds up means you don't have to dedicate a room, or part of one to a permanent installation.

As with any good home gym, it can be used safely by yourself . You won't need a spotter.

The Bowflex Ultimate 2 Home Gym (I found one for less money... here), which is the top-of-the-line power rod model with all the optional attachments, comes fully loaded with a Lat Pulldown Attachment to build upper-body strength, a Low Pulley/Squat Station for your glutes and core muscles, Leg Extension/Leg Curl Attachment for leg muscles and a built-in Adjustable Pulley System to vary how you target your muscle groups. The power rod resistance is 310 lbs. (upgradable to 410 lbs.) and this unit has something I haven't seen on many other multi-station home gyms and that is a built-in rowing machine. There are 95 different exercises that can be performed on the Ultimate 2.

All that and the convenience of foldup storage, and there is no question that this is a quality, versatile machine. The 6 week money-back trial period lets you check it out at no risk. They even have an online financing plan allowing you to buy it for as low a $38 per month, which is convenient because the price tag is a bit of a shocker. It certainly meets all the criteria that make for a recommended buy.


My only beef is the steep price tag. The model described above with all the bells and whistles comes in at over $2000 plus tax plus shipping directly from the Bowflex website. (Have a look at for Bowflex and you will find some much friendlier pricing. Amazon also gives the option of purchasing some used equipment at much reduced prices.) I don't really understand how a retailer can give better prices than the manufacturer, but it is certainly worth shopping around.

There are 4 different categories of models with several variations in each category bringing the total to 14 versions of this home gym. The differences, with the exception of the versatrainer, are in the power rod resistance and the options. Each option or upgrade costs extra. The lowest priced unit comes in at about $700 but does not not have the lat tower or the leg-curl attachment and only 210 lbs in resistance and therefore cannot deliver the same number of exercises (about half) as the Ultimate.

If you have thought longingly of having a Bowflex but balked at the price, there are a few things you should think about...

Laura Muney, Wellness Coach and featured model in the best selling book "Fit Over 40" as well as owner of ' Fitness and Wellness' puts it very well when she describes the Bowflex as follows..

"When I first saw the Bowflex, I laughed. It looked so small, so weak. After all, I could move it around the room by myself! But I was working at a facility which required me to take an advanced biomechanics course on video; the teacher was the former biomechanics specialist for National Association for Sports Medicine (NASM), Tom Purvis of Resistance Training Specialists. This extremely high-level biomechanics course taught about every joint, skeletal protrusion, and muscle; the course described proper joint and muscle action, as well as how gravity and resistance can be used to help (or hinder) the muscle actions.

I was quite surprised when the next segment of my biomechanics education was an advanced Tom Purvis lesson - with the Bowflex! I began to understand "resistance" fully, scientifically, and to consider the concept of gravity on weight training. Once I understood that "weight-training" was really using resistance of gravity... then the whole concept of training the muscles fell into place. The Bowflex isn't small or weak: it's simply designed for efficient use and portability.

Traditional weight training always needs to work against the resistance of gravity's pull downward; Bowflex uses the same idea of resistance, but in many planes of motion.

Additionally, the person using it has to learn to use the resistance (the weights) while stabilizing his/her own motion-path. A "motion path" is where you want your muscles to go. When pushing (or pulling) a weight, there are smaller muscles which help stabilize the bigger muscles. Sometimes the muscles are connected in the same muscle group, and sometimes they are in a different muscle group.

If a person had been using machines in the gym for a long time, those machines have been isolating the working muscles for each machine: the training-person doesn't isolate nor does he/she learn to stabilize the other muscles. Only free weights, cable-crossover and Bowflex (and other home resistance machines) teach you to stabilize other muscles; only free-motion resisted exercise can improve the entire body, not just isolated muscles.

For example: when someone does a "squat" exercise, the full motion is using the hamstrings (back of legs), the quadriceps (the front of thighs), and the gluteus muscles. What you may not realize are the stabilizer muscles in the feet, calves, obliques (sides of the tummy), transverse abs (a "girdle" running around the tummy and back: the "core"), erectors (the back muscles on either side of the spine) are working as well.

Only free-motion exercises will work so many muscles at once -- Bowflex is free-motion resisted exercise.

(note: It does allow for a squat exercise. You simply squat from the ground up - a resisted stand-up, not squatting from a standing position. Try it yourself and you will find it the same movement).

Before anyone considers me some pansy for not "hitting the [actual] iron", I've done plenty of iron. I work very hard in the gym and I come out panting and sweating like any other hard-working trainer. I've received compliments on my enthusiastic and thorough training methods, and, as a personal-trainer, I'm quite tough (but fair). I believe someone should be in the gym to work, and then get out of the gym to live. That's why I bought a Bowflex for my home... to have more time for living (outside of the gym)."

I found the best place for pricing is not necessarily from Bowflex directly. As you will see by the ad below, comes in way below the list price of over $2000 for the Revolution.

For all of the reasons set out above, if you are looking for a good home gym that doesn't take up much room, is portable and will give you a resistance workout similar to free weights, then the this one is recommended.

Click here to see our complete list of Exercise Equipment Reviews!

Return to top of page