Bowflex Vs. Total Gym: Which Is Your Best Bet?

Bowflex Vs. Total Gym, side by side

The options for strength training in the home are growing by the day. And while lifting free weights in the gym is one of the most commonly thought of ways to fix the physique, it’s certainly not the only one.

If you find yourself comparison the brands Bowflex and Total gym, we have some information here in which you are going to be interested. Both product lines have different models from which to choose, and each of these options gives its own unique benefits. That said, there are some substantive differences between the concepts behind the two lines, so it’s important to understand these before making a purchase.

  Bowflex Total Gym
Strength Building Potential Good Good
Equipment Size* Approximately                  53″ x 49″ x 83.25″ Approximately

90″ x 19″ x 43″
Exercise Variability Approximately 70+ Approximately 80+
External Resistance Pulley/Cables Pulley/Cables
Storability Good Good
Weight Capacity* 300 lbs. 400 lbs.
Ease Of Use Easy Easy
Agility Benefits Lower Yes
Check Price Check Price

*Precise sizing will depend on the version of machine you choose.


Now let’s take a closer look at the Bowflex vs. Total Gym so you can get a better picture what each of these is about.

Strength Building Potential

In terms of being able to build maximum strength, both machines rank equally, although there’s notable differences to observe. Consider that strength is ultimately a measure of how much weight, or resistance, one can move. Both machines use cables and pulleys to generate resistance up to impressive levels. The Total Gym can double as a bodyweight machine as well. That said, for traditional gym-goers accustomed to gauging progress by plates load onto a bar, these systems might take a bit of getting used to.

How high of a resistance level one can use for a particular exercise, for how many reps, or perhaps for what duration of time, would now the be the measure. While neither offer a powerlifting style of workout here, clearly the intent and goals of potential users are markedly different. By forcing movement against resistance, the body’s muscles do break down and then rebuild upon themselves bigger and stronger through hypertrophy. To that degree yes, both have good strength building potential. Do you want the strength of a rower? If so, consider the Total Gym. Or, perhaps more of a pressing movement? That’s more Bowflex.

One upfront advantage to the Total Gym is that it can double as a cardio unit by way of rowing. Rowing serves as a dynamic exercise in that it is both resistance and cardio, therefore strength and fat-loss. Aside from that, the biggest difference one will note upon first sight is the vertical versus the horizontal design. Most of the Bowflex machines offer an upright bench surrounded by options almost as if in a vertical cage. On the other hand, the Total Gym options function off a horizontal sled. Both units feature a plethora of attachments, although the Bowflex line-up’s options seem more obvious as first sight. The Total Gym does offer a comparable to anything offered by Bowflex, but it will be based off the sled-like rower.

To that extent, the difference comes down to personal preference. If you like the exercises most typically found in a commercial gym, you might find the Bowflex a more obvious fit. The Total Gym options can in fact replicate these, but you’ll probably have to think a little more. That said, many true home fitness enthusiasts like the idea of cable/pulley resistance and can readily see where the Total Gym’s rower-like build makes instant sense.

Equipment Size

Red and Black Bowflex EquipmentWhen buying for the home gym, size matters. In the match-up between the Bowflex machines and Total Gym, remember it’s a completely different layout. Each model is slight different in terms of inches, but ultimately you’re comparing horizontal and vertical. In terms of generalized inch-count, the Total Gym does take up less space due to the width and height. So it’s fair to say the Bowflex requires more space. However, the Total Gym comes with a number of attachments and those require storage.

It’s also worth noting that the Total Gym can easily fold up and be hidden away as well, which is a great option for those of you exercising in your living room. The last thing you want is a new piece of fitness equipment as your new décor.

The Bowflex however cannot be folded up, so you’ll need to keep it stationed wherever it happens to be. The Bowflex units are also pretty difficult to move about once placed, whereas the Total Gym could be relocated from the living room to the garage and up to the bedroom with ease.

Exercise Variability

Next let’s consider exercise variability. To this regard, the Bowflex probably wins out. Technically, one can perform as many, if not more, exercises on the Total Gym, but the attachments must be purchased and stored separately. Meanwhile, the exercise options afforded by the Bowflex lineup are pretty self-evident.

The biggest advantage to the Total Gym is that it can also function as a rower, which doubles as both strength and cardio. The same muscle groups can be hit with some creativity on the Bowflex, but there’s really no comparable cardio function.

Ease Of Use

Which machine is easier to use? The Bowflex vs. Total Gym? The winner of this would probably be the Bowflex for most people. It’s quite straightforward to sit on and begin doing your exercises.

The exercises with this machine are more like traditional gym exercises, the primary difference being in the mode of resistance that is being utilized. So if you are quite familiar with gym-based exercises, you should have no problem transitioning to the Bowflex. The Total Gym does comes with a number of different attachments for various exercises, but this requires switching up the parts, assembly, and disassembly. A little more thought has to go into it.

The Total gym however utilizes exercises that are much different and encompass a totally different movement pattern due to the fact that you are using bodyweight as resistance. So for this reason, some people may find that it’s not the most ideal if you are looking to pick up something and get started right away. Another advantage to the Total Gym in the category would be the fact that it’s easy to relocate. A smaller, lighter unit, it can be folded up easily and stored in a closet.

You will have to devote more time and attention to learning how to use the Total Gym, but it’s definitely easier to move about the home.

Ability Boosting Benefits

Red and Black Total GymOne area where the Total Gym shines is the ability to enhance your overall agility. Total Gym users will find that this machine works muscles they didn’t even know they had, and even those who are very fit may find themselves quite sore after doing a workout session.

This is thanks to the fact that you are calling all the smaller stabilization muscles into play with each movement pattern you complete, thus you will engage your core a lot more. The fact that this machine offers a rowing component is a huge plus, frankly. There are a lot of home fitness fans who might desire it for that reason alone, and then utilize the additional offerings from time to time.

The Bowflex machine is essentially a traditional resistance machine which uses cables and pulleys instead of stacks of weights. or plates. If you are looking to develop all around athleticism, the Total Gym may have a slight leg up on the Bowflex machine.

Injury Risk Profile

Which machine is more likely to leave you injured? When thinking about this, it all depends on how you use it. If you utilize good form, then you should have a fairly low injury risk on either machine provided you use appropriate time off between sessions to prevent overuse injuries.

If you use poor form however, that’s when your injury risk will go up. Some people may struggle to learn good form on the Total Gym machine, so the injury risk may be slightly higher here than on the Bowflex.

But, as long as you take good care, you should be able to avoid this issue.


Finally, when thinking about price, it’s hard to do a direct comparison because the price of these machines will vary so much depending on which model you choose. That said, across the board, it seems the Bowflex units are a bit pricier than the Total Gym lineup.

Do keep in mind that the Total Gym may not provide you with a one-stop-machine that does it all depending on what you want to do. Therefore, you may need to still supplement the machine with other separate exercises using typical dumbbells for instance. So this will need to be added to your overall gym set up costs.

Overall, the Bowflex gym is more comprehensive and should be all you really need if you don’t want to add anything else.

So there you have a quick comparison between the Bowflex vs. Total Gym. Both are great machines for home workouts and can help you gain strength and improve your overall conditioning level. Think about your own personal preferences, your needs, and your space limitations as you make the decision of which machine is right for you.


  • Sonja WASHINGTON November 6, 2020 at 3:48 pm from Magna, UT
    The Total Gym for me has been an easy to use body building machine. It's an all in one machine that works your entire body, from your arms to your legs. I recomend the Total Gym for anyone looking to reconfirm their body.
  • Michael Burk October 6, 2020 at 9:13 pm from Indiana
    I was a competitive power lifter .had a bowflex,just purchased a used total gym . No gym is better in everyway.bowflex will keep you in shape if you want to get bigger more defined muscles total gym

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