Total Gym vs Bowflex – Are They Similar?

Total Gym and Bowflex are brands that produce all-in-one fitness machines and training systems.

You might know them from the TV as Total Gym and Bowflex commercials are often seen on shopping channels.

Things are a bit more complicated when it comes to choosing just one brand to purchase a fitness machine.

Total Gym or Bowflex – Which is better?

There’s an interesting story behind these 2 brands as each followed a different route to the final customer.

It was a few years ago that Chuck Norris endorsed the Total Gym training system and this led to a considerable increase in popularity and too fast brand awareness success.

Total Gym became the home training sensation among those who identified or who simply loved the action movie actor.

Bowflex had a different route and a long history. Established a few decades ago, Bowflex started selling fitness machines on TV. Users used to call the shopping channel to place an order.

Things evolved and Bowflex is now present online where it sells its fitness machines successfully.

Total Gym
Best Home Gyms On the Market!

Resistance system

All fitness machines are made with a resistance system. This can be good or bad, depending on your fitness goals only.

Comparing the resistance systems used by these 2 brands is somewhat incorrect as they are so different. At the same time, each has its pros and cons.

Total Gym – Bodyweight resistance

Bodyweight resistance is seen on Total Gym fitness machines.

Take Total Gym GTS as an example. It features 22 levels of resistance based on a hydraulic rail that raises and lowers the workout bench. You use your body weight to add or to remove resistance from your machine.

Total Gym GTS Resistance system

This also means the Total Gym GTS is a fitness machine that works with your body and not with other weights.

The more you weigh, the more strength you need to pull yourself on the machine. The higher the workout bench sits, the more strength you need to train.

Here are the main pros and cons of this resistance system.


  • A simple resistance system that doesn’t add unnecessary weight to the machine
  • Self-reliant training without dumbbells or weight plates
  • A compact design that allows the machine to save space when training at home


  • Limited strength and muscle gains potential

Bowflex – Power rods resistance

Bowflex uses a power rods resistance system.

If you’ve seen the Bowflex Power Pro you know how it looks. Multiple power rods of different resistance is added to the machine. They typically range between 5lbs and 30lbs in resistance.

Bowflex power rods resistance system

Connected to compact pulleys, they are used for all types of workouts that add more resistance to an exercise compared to bodyweight training.


  • You can change the resistance level from low to high even during the same exercise
  • Additional power rods can be uses at the same time for added resistance
  • A compact design that saves space normally attributed to the weights stack


  • Mild strength gain potential due to the limited 30lbs maximum weight resistance of a power rod

Muscle building potential

As seen from the comparison above, both Total Gym and Bowflex fitness machines use different resistance mechanisms.

As simple as they are, they come with some limitations in terms of muscle gain. Sure, you can gain some muscle with them through higher repetitions. Not every muscle growth stage is reached through high weights alone. But there’s a limit to how far you can go.

Total Gym reviews and Bowflex reviews show users who are in shape, but who didn’t gain too much muscle. The major fitness effect of these 2 brands’ fitness machines is body fat loss and added cardiovascular endurance results.

Fat loss potential

When it comes to fat loss, both of the brands are on top of their game.

These all-in-one fitness machines are made to be resilient under a high number of repetitions in each set, with each exercise.

This is what maintains an elevated heart rate and helps you burn off the extra calories.

Exercise variation

Exercise variations are not a problem for the products made by these brands.

The Total Gym GTS fitness machine supports around 200 exercises. The Bowflex Power Pro supports around 60 exercises. In reality, most users perform 4-6 exercises per workout.

Total Gym Exercises to Target Every Muscle Group

However, Bowflex only supports a maximum number of 100 exercises with its top-of-the-line Revolution Home Gym.

Total Gym
Best Home Gyms On the Market!

Price comparison

Since there are so many fitness machines made by these 2 brands, a direct price comparison becomes impossible.

However, you need to know you might have to add other purchases alongside your fitness machine, especially when training with a Total Gym product.

Since these machines are based on bodyweight exercises, you might also need a small pair of dumbbells to get in shape and to have the resistance you need for extra strength gains.

Design aspects

When it comes to how these fitness machines look, there’s a lot to discuss. Since aesthetics are always personal, we’re going to discuss how the design affects machine maintenance.

There’s a minimum to no maintenance needed on Total Gym and Bowflex fitness machines. However, you need to wipe them clean to remove sweat and dust from time to time.

This is very easy to do on the Total Gym training system. On Bowflex fitness machines, you need to remove the power rods to be able to fully wipe them and to remove all dust particles.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t have time for proper cleaning procedures, you’re going to be better off with a Total Gym fitness machine.

Total Gym vs Bowflex injury risks – What you need to know

Both manufacturers are known for producing safe fitness machines. But there are differences when it comes to the overall usability of their products.

At some point, fitness injuries become inevitable. Hopefully, you can avoid them altogether. In this comparison, the main injury risk comes from the resistance system.

The Bodyflex system uses power rods which can be troublesome if you walk into them. Otherwise, they have high flexibility and reviews show they don’t break regardless of how often you train.

Injuries on Total Gym fitness machines are also rare. There are no major reported injuries on Total Gym XLS or on Total Gym Fit.

Workout guidance

When you purchase one of the fitness machines from these brands you don’t know where to start.

It’s here that Total Gym has a slight advantage. It offers popular training DVDs where all of the exercises are properly explained and which allow you to follow the trainer for all types of workouts.

Total Gym popular training DVDs

Bowflex only offers printed guidebooks for some of its fitness machines which are a less interactive method of starting to train with their fitness machines.

Total Gym
Best Home Gyms On the Market!

Bodyweight training vs. resistance training

The main difference remains the resistance systems these home gyms work on. They are not superior nor inferior, just different. Bodyweight training is not new and it was the main method of getting in shape in the pre-dumbbell days.

People used to run, do pushups, and repeat squats to get in shape and to make their bodies stronger. If this is a philosophy that appeals to you, the normal step forward is to choose the Total Gym XLS to start your fitness journey.

Bowflex uses resistance rods, albeit of low weight. Resistance training shaped a new type of workout enthusiast. Those concerned about body aesthetics started to build new fitness machines that activated various muscles for proper strength and size gains that also made their bodies look better.

If this training philosophy appeals to you, there are good chances you’re going to feel very comfortable on the Bowflex Power Pro or one of the other fitness machines from the same brand.

The user is in command with both Total Gym and Bowflex fitness machines

It takes a consistent effort to get in shape. It’s not only about what you do when you train but what you do when you’re not training. Good healthy nutrition is key to staying in shape.

You can still be overweight if you eat large amounts of highly-processed foods even when training like Chuck Norris on the Total Gym fitness machine.

But if you’re eating the right foods, both of these brands offer machines that help you get in shape fast.

For example, Total Gym machines now come with telescoping squat stands. You can adjust the height of your squat so that you train with intensity according to your height. With room for customization, these machines are perfect for fitted exercise training.

They also support the extra effort you might be willing to put in to look good as well. For example, both machines from Total Gym and from Bowflex support core abs exercises.

Total Gym ships with scrunches, small attachments used to train abs. On the other side, Bowflex allows you to train your abs using the power rods already mounted on the machine.

It’s your motivation that matters the most in the end. Even if a fitness machine is perfect, it’s not a guarantee that you’re going to stay in shape. At the same time, you might even want to combine these machines with other fitness accessories such as resistance bands or dumbbells for a holistic approach to fitness.