Review Of Power Rod And Revolution Systems

By PEERtrainer Editorial Team
Is Bowflex for Real?

If you’re a purveyor of fine late night television, you’ve almost certainly heard of the Bowflex system.  You’ve probably seen the infomercials with great looking people who have more muscles than the Himalayas have mountain tops; and no doubt by now, you have heard the testimonials of women who went from ‘big’ to ‘twig’ and men who went from ‘chunky’ to ‘hunky’ at the hands of their recently acquired Bowflex machine.

And most likely you’ve asked yourself sitting there late at night with your eyes glazed over- as we did- is this for real?  Can the Bowflex machine deliver the results it promises?

Well, our trusty PEERtrainer fitness team took the Bowflex to the test, and we’re happy to report that the answer is yes.  But, before you pull out your credit card and have your new Bowflex unit delivered to your door, there are some very important things to bear in mind before you make a final decision.

A few facts about Bowflex

Before we get deep into our review of the Bowflex system- actually systems, there are two for you to consider- there are a few interesting facts about Bowflex that we just learned, and that we thought you too might like to know. 

The first is that Bowflex is owned by the Nautilus company, the folks who have been putting fitness equipment in health clubs as long as there have been health clubs.  So there is no question that there is a grand history of innovation and experience behind the brand itself.  These folks are the grandpappies of the fitness industry.  They have also acquired Schwinn, the bicycles you may have grown up riding, and they now make high-quality stationary exercise bikes as well under that brand as well.   They also decided to acquire Stairmaster while they were at it.

Bowflex also has an extensive line of fitness equipment above and beyond the home gym systems most commonly featured in the infomercials.  They have a free weight dumbbell system called SelectTech, a hybrid treadmill/climber called TreadClimber, as well as a whole line of treadmills.  Shortly, we’ll be reviewing these products as well.

Bowflex Home Gym Options

Bowflex has two primary styles of home gyms.  The Power Rod Technology that you have seen in the infomercials for the past 20 years, and the newer Revolution Series.  They’re quite different from one another, and we’re going to give you the facts about each so you can make an intelligent buying decision.

Bowflex Power Rod Technology Models

This is the Bowflex system you have been watching on late night TV for the past 15 years.  It is built on their proprietary Power Rod progressive resistance technology.  It has a very unique feel to it that is quite different from lifting free weights, your own bodyweight, or your own bodyweight using a pulley and platform system like the Total Gym

To understand how this technology works, imagine a bow and arrow.  When you begin pulling the bow string back with the arrow, it is relatively easy to begin with, but gets much more difficult as you fully “load” the arrow.

The power rod technology is similar.  For instance, imagine you are lifting (or pressing, or pulling down…) a 100 pound rod.  During the initial 1/3 or so of the repetition, you are only lifting 60 lbs.  During the second 1/3 of the rep, you’re lifting 80 lbs.  Finally at the height of the rep, you’re lifting the full 100 lbs.  As you get to this height of the rep, the power rod gets tighter and tighter.  This is very different from the “smooth” feel of lifting a weight where you experience the full extension of the weight at the end of the rep.  It just has a different feel…again, imagine you’re pulling back the string of a bow.

In truth, the Bowflex Power Rod technology models, like the Total Gym systems, are probably best used for overall strength training and toning.  You can certainly get stronger and more solid using the Power Rods, but if adding muscle mass is your goal, then you should look at the Bowflex Revolution System, which we’ll review in a moment. 

The Power Rod systems currently come in four models.  The prices are listed here.  To read all the specs for each, CLICK HERE.  

Classic Home Gym Model:     $649
Xtreme SE:              $1299
Xtreme 2 SE:             $1599
Ultimate 2 (best selling):     $2499

Bowflex Revolution

The Revolution Systems are some truly kick-butt machines that give you the feel of lifting real weights. In fact, at the risk of sounding too hyperbolic, we’ll share what one of our fitness editorial team members said: in a word, “Awesome!”

This is definitely a top of the line home gym system.  Of course cost is a major consideration for all of us, but our honest opinion is that unless you’re really just looking for more of a toning type machine- in which case the Power Rod Technology models should do the job for you- it’s worth spending the extra money to get a Revolution system.  These are sturdy, rugged machines that will really do what you ask them to.  You’re going to be hard pressed to find a more compact system that does as much as the Bowflex Revolution. 

Another reason we like it is that it feels like a “real” piece of gym equipment.  Granted, it should at that price point, but like many of you we’re tired of home gym equipment that feels shaky and unstable and like it could fall apart on you at any moment. 

The Bowflex Revolution uses their proprietary SpiraFlex® Resistance Technology.  According to the Bowflex website:

Patented resistance technology duplicates the benefits of free weights. You'll feel the difference compared to other home gyms. 220 lbs. (100 kg) of resistance standard (upgradeable to 300 lbs. (136 kg) for upper body workouts. Up to 600 lbs. (272 kg) of resistance for lower body workouts (with upgrade).

That upgrade they mention will cost you an additional $99.00. 

Popular Mechanics magazine reviewed the Revolution, and here is what they had to say about it:

“We don't normally endorse anything sold via infomercials. But testing is believing and the Bowflex Revolution is the first Bowflex we've tried that lives up to its own hype. Using plates filled with coiling elastic straps - technology developed to fight muscle atrophy suffered by the International Space Station's occupants - this compact gym provides, smooth constant resistance for a huge range of exercises. The resistance plates are useful for isolating muscles and avoiding potential injuries, making this machine a perfect fit for physical therapy as well as standard workouts. The gym's footprint shrinks to 55x37 in. with the arms and bench folded - small enough for an apartment, or possibly a space station.”

Some additional features outlined on the Revolutions website:

All the strength equipment at your local gym in one machine.

➢    Upper Body Workouts - duplicate almost any exercise from your local gym. The Freedom Arms" adjust 170° to work muscles from various angles. Featuring a Preacher Curl attachment to isolate your biceps and work your upper arms more efficiently than is possible with free weights
➢    Lower Body Workouts - work the leg press station with up to 600 lbs. of resistance, (with upgrade) and a range and power unheard of in a home gym
➢    Core and Abs Workout - features so many ab exercises you could do a different one each day of the week.
➢    Cardio Workout - Built-in rowing machine for calorie-burning, cardiovascular warm-up and cool-down. Cardio is a key part of an overall fat burning strategy.
➢    The space-efficient design easily fits in areas and rooms with normal ceiling heights. Comes complete with:
o    Preacher Curl Attachment
o    5 Position Foot Harness
o    Hand Grips
o    Leg Press Plate
o    Instructional Manual
o    DVD Workout Video

It’s no wonder they were rated one of the top products my Men’s Health in 2005.  Here is the price breakdown of the Revolution machines.

Revolution XP:         $2499-$2877 (depending on accessories)
Revolution (best seller):     $2999

How To Purchase a Bowflex Revolution For The Best Price

Bowflex Home Gyms Summary

The two biggest decisions you need to make regarding a Bowflex system is what do you want to get out of it (meaning what kind of workout) and how much money do you want to spend?

If you’re just looking for a lighter machine for strength building, then you should be fine with a Power Rod model.  There is no question the will help you increase your strength and increase your overall muscle mass and tone.

But, if you’re looking to add some significant muscle to your body and get the kinds of muscles they profile in the infomercials, then the Revolution is your best bet.  Yes, it’s expensive, but if you’re really serious about getting in shape, or if you’re looking to transition out of a gym membership and starting to workout from home, then it really is a fantastic machine. 

This may be a useful way for you to think about it.  You can apply this formula to any home gym or piece of exercise equipment you are considering buying.

A typical gym membership costs $100/month (depending on the location and quality of the place).  If you shell out the money for a Revolution and cancel your gym membership, the machine is paid for in less than 3 years (and you can get it for $45/month).  The Revolution also comes with a 10 year warranty.  The bottom line is that Revolution is a quality product. If you want an excellent strength training machine in your house, this is a great choice.

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