This new generation of home gyms goes beyond big bulky machines and offers something home exercisers can (and will) actually use for building strength, muscle and endurance. Below are the real standouts for the Bowflex Revolution XP.
My favorite thing about the XP is its size. At only 5'5" x 3'2", the XP is perfect if you have the world's tiniest exercise space like I do. You can even use it if you have low ceilings although, if you add the optional lat tower, it raises the height from 6'1" to 6'11". Bowflex recommends you have an available workout space of 7' x 5'4", but I had less than that and didn't run into any problems.
Variety of Exercises
While most home gyms offer the usual moves (chest press, lat pulldown, leg extension, etc.), the XP offers 90 different exercises all by making simple adjustments to the arms and/or pulley system. The reason you have so much variety is because of all the adjustments available and the special type of resistance used.
Another stand-out is the SpiraFlex resistance technology (used on the International Space Station). The included plates have heavy-gauge elastic straps that tighten around a central pivot coil during exercise, doing away with heavy weight stacks.
How it Works
One of the bigger learning curves, as with any machine, is with how to adjust it. The XP is surprisingly simple, even if it looks complicated. The arms adjust in 10 different positions from top to bottom by simply pushing in the handle and moving it to the desired number. The manual includes these number settings for all the exercises shown, so you don't have to guess. You can also adjust the handles so that they're longer or shorter, adding more range of motion for different exercises.
The pulleys offer another way to change where the resistance comes from. You can attach the cable to the arms or to the lower pulleys at the base for moves like bicep curls, woodchops, squats and lunges. There's a squat harness included, a removable leg attachment for curls and extensions, and a foot harness for inner and outer thigh, quad and glute exercises.
You can also raise, lower or remove the seat and back pad to change your position. It may sound confusing, but the included manual and DVD show you exactly how to adjust the machine to get the resistance in just the right place for each move. After a few practice workouts, the adjustments become second nature.
This is another easy adjustment. You push the weight onto the bar, turn it while pushing it and the plate interlocks with the other weights. The plates come in 5, 10, 20 and 40 pound increments for up to 200 lbs, but you can order more plates if you need them.
You may find that the hardest part is figuring out how much weight to use. Because the tension is constant (unlike with dumbbells), you'll find the moves more challenging. Also, you're working each side of the body independently and there's no fixed path of motion, so you have to use your own muscles to stabilize the body. This makes the exercises very functional for the real world. The DVD is very helpful in learning proper positioning for the moves.
You can also order additional accessories if you like - the lat tower is an extra $299 and there's also a rack ($199) to store your weights. There's an optional Ab Back Pad which, in my opinion, is a waste of money ($75) since the back pad that comes with it works fine. They do mention that the Ab Back Pad is curved to offer better support for the ab exercises, so use your own judgment there.
Pros and Cons
- Higher Learning Curve. Because there are so many options, you'll need to invest some time in learning how to adjust the machine and how to choose the right amount of weight.
- Challenging Resistance. If you're used to traditional machines, this type of resistance may feel much harder. Beginners may find it uncomfortable at first.
- Price. At about $2,299, this machine isn't cheap but it isn't overpriced either for what you get in return. It's comparable to many multi-station home gyms.
- Compact size. It's great to have a quality strength machine that takes up very little space.
- Instructional videos and manual. The instructional DVD goes through a variety of exercises with detailed instructions by a personal trainer. The manual includes tons of exercises, workouts and other great weight loss and diet info.
- Variety. Everything on the XP is adjustable so you can change an exercise instantly. Do a seated chest press then remove the seat, adjust the arms and do a standing press to add a different challenge. Stand, sit, kneel, use an exercise ball, try one arm at a time or try any number of options to change the exercises. You work in every plane of motion which is perfect for functional training.