Bowflex machines – do they really work?

Q: Dear Tom: What would be your take on the Bowflex machine? I’ve had a Bowflex machine (mostly collecting dust) for about three years now, but receiving your e-mails has gotten me motivated and focused on getting into shape again. I’m 41 and about 25 pounds overweight. I Enjoy reading your articles and the success stories, and I would appreciate your opinion on this.

A: I’m actually going to give you a link in just a minute to read someone else’s full review of Bowflex. Why? Because it’s really hard for me to give an impartial review of Bowflex for two reasons:

(1) I have never used a Bowflex (don’t ever plan to, either because I love training on free weights in a gym, rather than on a machine at home)

(2) I’m a bodybuilder, so I’m partial to using mostly free weights with a mix of cable movements and other machines in the gym as adjuncts to my barbell and dumbbell work. This is what is best for me given my goals.

What’s most important is that you include some type of resistance training. Whether the resistance you use is free weights, weight stack machines or a Bowflex machine is up to you.

Many people who want to lose fat leave out the resistance training, thinking that the only thing they need is a “diet.” A diet is the LAST thing you need when you want to lose body fat. What you need is to build your muscle with resistance training and burn the fat with cardio and nutrition (good “nutrition” is NOT the same thing as going on a diet!)

Nutrition + resistance training + cardio training = results

That is the magical combination… the same combination that I recommend in my Burn The Fat, Feed the Muscle program.

If you want to use Bowflex as the resistance training part of this equation, that is fine, just keep a few things in mind:

No machine on the face of the Earth will ever be a complete substitute for free weights (barbells and dumbbells) and no machine will ever surpass the effectiveness of free weights. Machines, including Bowflex, can certainly give you some results, but don’t think for a moment that these machines are in some way “technologically” superior to free weights.

The reason home gym machines like Bowflex are so popular is because free weights aren’t as marketable. In fact, they probably scare a lot of people away – particularly women (who, ironically, need to pump iron the most!)

Infomercial-sold fitness equipment can be made to appear very sexy and glitzy. Hot bodies are flashed all over the TV screen and promises are made that you will look like the models in just 20 minutes, 3 days a week, yadda yadda,etc., etc.

But machines are not a substitute for time, patience, hard work and discipline. No technological innovation in fitness equipment is going to cut your training time while increasing your results. For example, I dare anyone to come up with a machine that is more effective for developing the lower body than squatting with a barbell on your shoulders.

If you’re going to use a Bowflex or any similar contraption, my best advice is to add a set of barbells and dumbbells too. Then, you have a nice well-rounded little home gym setup, and infinitely more variety than the machine alone.

By the way, I noticed that Bowflex recently released a set of multi-poundage dumbbells called “Select Tech.” I have not used the Bowflex Select Tech dumbbells, but I do own a set of Powerblock Dumbbells. Powerblocks (and Select Tech Dumbbells, which appear to be the same thing), are one of those ingenious inventions that make you say, “why didn’t I think of that.”

These dumbbells are great for space-saving in home gyms, because the single set of selectorized dumbbells can replace 8 sets of regular dumbbells.

Ok, enough of my rambling.. I said I would give you a link to someone else’s Bowflex review…

Lauren Muney is a friend of mine who I met when she became a contributing author to my “Fit Over 40″ e-book which was released in early 2005. Lauren is one of the over 40 “success stories” featured in the book.

Well, not only is Lauren over forty and extremely F.I.T., she also happens to be a “Bowflex Trainer.” In fact, she was the trainer for the “Bowflex Grandmother” who was featured in all the TV commercials.

Lauren wrote a great review of Bowflex on her Physical Mind Website from the perspective of someone who owns and uses a Bowflex and trains others on Bowflex as well.

Although I’m a little more of a Muscle-head than she is and I prefer pumping my iron, I think she wrote a fair and very informative review. Here’s the web page:www.physicalmind.com/bowflex.htm

Here’s the web page to find out more about Fit Over 40: Role Models For Excellence At Any Age: www.fitover40.com