In 2004 the only BowFlex® option I was aware of had “bows”, hence the name. Well actually the manufacturers and marketers call them "rods", and these “rods” are hardened rubber/plastic/synthetic material that bends with the resistance allocated to a weight. So the 10 lb rod gives you 10 lbs of resistance, the 30 lb rod gives you 30 lbs of resistance and the 50 lb rod gives you 50 lbs of resistance. Or at least that is the case when the BowFlex® first arrives at your home and you set it up.
When I first purchased this product, it arrived at my house in a box in multiple pieces and these things often do. I was putting it together when a friend showed up unexpectedly, chuckling about how it will turn rapidly into a “very expensive clothes line”. I can gladly say that is not the case and I have consistently and continuously used the BowFlex® throughout all of the years I have owned it. It has travelled across the country and back and although slightly awkward, is actually quite easy to move. It has wheels so you can tip it back and roll it along. This I must say is a very helpful design feature.
But since this is a review of the product itself, I suppose I should comment a little more on the product’s ability to function as advertised, as in how do the workouts work and are they worth the money. When I purchased this product in 2004 it was the next to the top of the line model and was somewhere in the range of $1500 to $2000. I don’t remember the exact cost, but I remember considering it an “investment in my health and wellbeing,” so I was not about to let it become “very expensive clothes line.” I set it up, and I did use it. I used it often in fact. So often, that over time the rods started to lose their resistance. I don’t leave the rods hooked up when I am done with my workouts, lest they receive unnecessary bending while not in use, but they still have lost resistance over time. Now when we work out we talk in terms of whether we will use the “hard 50,” (the 50 lb rod which is still quite firm and resistant) or the “easy 50” (the 30 lb rod combined with the two 10 lb rods all of which have lost a lot of their resistance). There is clearly a difference between the resistances of these 50’s. I don’t’ know what weights we are actually lifting most of the time, but we still use it. And we still use it often.
I suppose if you recognize the fact that the rods lose resistance over time, you can work around it, but it is certainly not ideal. It’s a good gym for home use for someone who doesn’t really care much about what weight they are lifting, but I certainly would not recommend it for a serious lifter since you can’t really gauge your progress.
Perhaps the newer models have remedied this problem and the rods are created out of a more durable material, and I am quite certain that the BowFlex Revolution® system that came out within the past few years eliminates the problem completely. I can’t be certain, but I imagine that the interlocking plates that define the BowFlex Revolution® don’t get lighter after multiple uses so although it is more expensive than the systems with the rod technology, it’s probably a better choice for the long term. Assuming that you actually use the product with any sort of regularity, you will theoretically get stronger and therefore need more weight and not less. Since the rods lose resistance, over time your original 30 lbs of resistance becomes 25 lbs so to get the same workout weight you must add the 5 lb rod. This, may be good for the ego because it appears that you are adding weight when in fact is just a little bit of a pain in the butt since you never really know how much weight you are lifting (or how much resistance you are resisting).
And may I please add that 20 minutes 3 times a week will not make an average person look like the BowFlex® advertisements claim. To look like that one must completely overhaul their life, do hours of cardio exercise every week, lift weights several times per week and have exceptionally perfect eating habits. Let me put it this way, unless you spend a lot of time doing other physical activities or have some sort of freaky genetics, you will not look like an Adonis using the BowFlex® 20 minutes 3 times a week. It’s just not possible no matter what the claims are and the testimonies say. Sorry BowFlex®, you have served me relatively well, but get real, no one really believes those claims of instant perfection, do they?