Nautilus has been making Bowflex systems for about 20 years now — we’ve all seen the infomercials. Get the body you want in 60 days! Just 135 easy payments of $99.95 plus your soul and kidney. They’ve been on TV for as long as I can remember and if you’re like me, you’ve occasionally wondered whether or not there was any merit to the system.
Last year Bowflex introduced the Revolution, a system that mimics traditional weights through the use of various discs with built-in tension coils. It was a huge design change from its previous bar systems; a change that was enough to lure my parents into purchasing one. I’ve now had a few months to demo the unit and, in concurrence with our Fitness Week, I’d like to share with you some of my opinions.
The system arrived promptly after we ordered it, but there were problems. Due to the weight of the components, it seems to me that it is not secured adequately in its packaging. When it showed up, there were holes in the boxes and pieces had clearly fallen out — pieces that turned out to be important. Nevertheless we assembled the system until we realized that the main torque bar was one of the pieces that had been ejected.
Several phone calls and about week later, a replacement bar arrived and we were good to go. I was cautiously optimistic about the Revolution. I exercise avidly and, while I’m not a maniac about free weights, I tend to be somewhat apprehensive about new machines.
Out of the box, the system includes 220-pounds of discs, which can be expanded to 300-pounds with upgrades. It is capable of about 100 exercises, but I expect that a majority of them will be wasted on most people. I focused on the basics: bench, curls, leg extensions, etc. Now, it definitely does a lot of good, but it is rather awkward. Everything works through two pulleys through which there is no real sense of weight balance. Since it’s really just resistance, you’re not getting a workout as specific as you would from free weights, or even a machine with a fixed bar.
Another problem I experienced stems from the size of the machine. I’m about 6’3″ and the Revolution simply isn’t large enough for me. Leg press was entirely worthless because I couldn’t get enough extension out of it. I see that as being a major problem as plenty of people are over 6-feet. Additionally, there just isn’t enough weight included for leg press to begin.
Most awkward of all, is the preacher curl. To engage the preacher system, one connects the pulley cords to the leg extension then attaches a small tethered curl bar (as seen above). It truly feels ridiculous. I eschewed that method leaving the cords connected to arm section and simply bracing my curls off of my knee, one arm at a time. That worked a little better until it dawned on me that I was wasting my time and just picked up some dumbbells.
Finally, the most devastating blow against the Bowflex Revolution is its price tag. At $2,800, I really can’t even fathom recommending this product. There are about 1000 better options out there that cost at least $1000 less. Sure it’s convenient not having to goto a gym, but I think that’s a dangerous concession to make. In my experience, people who intend to exercise at home, exercise less than those who goto a gym. My parents are great examples of this. For the first year they were retired, they went to the gym nearly every day. Since they’ve gotten the Bowflex, they workout maybe once or twice a week — maybe.