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Bowflex Power Pro XTL - Minor Flaws, But a Great Home Gym

Pros A truly complete home gym, effective.
Cons Leg attachment and lat attachment probably not worth it. Might not be good for beginners.
Recommended it? Yes
The Bottom Line:  Awesome home gym that's worth the price.
For many years now I've been trying to stay in shape with aerobics and weight training. Since we moved to our new home, I now live way too far from a gym to make it practical to join, so I thought the Bowflex might be just the ticket to help me stay in shape at home. I took the plunge and purchased the Bowflex Power Pro XTL online at

I was told it would take about four weeks for delivery as they were backed up with orders. My Bowflex arrived almost exactly four weeks to the day I placed the order. It arrived in three separate boxes; a box for the Bowflex, a box for the lat attachment, and a box for the leg attachment.

~ Assembly

I was worried about assembly, but with hubby's help got it all put together in about 1-2 hours total. No real problems or huge frustrations with assembly. They even provide an 800 number to call if you need help assembling your Bowflex.

~ Printed Material

The Owner's Manual and Fitness Guide contains descriptions of all the exercises you can do with the Bowflex, showing pictures of how to perform each exercise. I believe, however, prior experience with either free weights or using weight machines is important. Already knowing how to properly perform a triceps kickback, for instance, allows you to find the proper form on the Bowflex. Beginners could have trouble doing the exercises correctly just from looking at the pictures. There is a short video that comes with the Bowflex package that is helpful, but it doesn't demonstrate all the exercises.

The Guide contains several different workout scenarios to fit your goals; e.g. The 20 Minute Better Body Workout, Advanced General Conditioning, 20 Minute Upper/Lower Body Workout, Body Building Workout, Circuit Training - Anaerobic/Cardiovascular Workout, True Aerobic Circuit Training, Strength Training.

The Fitness Guide gives picture demonstrations of exercises in muscle groups, such as Chest Exercises, Shoulder Exercises, Back Exercises, Leg Exercises, etc. This is helpful while you are becoming familiar with the variety of exercises you can do with the Bowflex.

A poster also came with the package showing a general workout which you can put on the wall for quick reference.

The Fitness Guide contains a section on the Bowflex Body Leanness Program for losing weight, which includes how to calculate lean body mass and eating guidelines.

~ The Bowflex System

The Bowflex resistance system utilizes "Power Rods". These Power Rods are made from a special composite material and covered with a black rubber coating. Each rod is marked with its "weight". The standard Bowflex comes with one pair of 5 pound rods, two pair of 10 pound rods, one pair of 30 pound rods, and one pair of 50 pound rods, for a total of 210 pounds of resistance. Additional sets of 50 pound Power Rods are available at extra cost.

You choose the resistance weight you want to utilize in any particular exercise by hooking the Power Rods to the cables. And you may use one rod or several rods in any combination to get your desired resistance level.

Important Note: The resistance weight of the rods is NOT the same as what you would be lifting with ordinary weights. With free weights, for instance, I can do a 15 pound biceps curl, but the with Power Rods I can do 20 to 25 pounds.

The Bowflex bench is quite versatile. The bench can be set flat or at an incline. Once the bench is removed, which is very easy to do, the small seat that remains can be set to slide. This setting is used for the aerobic row, and for certain other exercises. I've found the bench to be comfortable and supportive. The resisted ab crunches on the bench at an incline are killer!

The power rods give you a workout as intense as any you could get in the gym. And because it's so easy to change the "weight" and setups, you can keep your heart rate up throughout the entire workout. (After you become familiar with it anyway.)

The handgrips have a strap that you can put around your ankle or foot for legwork. Ladies, I love this! Great for leg raises, hip abduction, kickbacks, inner thighs.

The Bowflex also comes with a leg press belt, which is used to do the leg press and seated hamstring curl exercises. Sometimes the belt can be uncomfortable, as it kind of cuts into your back, particularly when you're pressing a heavier weight.

~ Attachments

The Bowflex XTL comes with a lat attachment and a leg attachment. I'm disappointed with the leg attachment, though. It adds a couple of feet to the overall length of the machine, and it only gives you two more exercises. And you can still hit the quads and hamstrings without it. Although if you're really into body building, the leg attachment definitely targets the legs more precisely.

The lat attachment definitely targets the lats better, but it makes the machine about 8 inches taller. Keep this in mind for your space requirements. If you're into body building, then it's probably worth it, but I don't use it much.

Another optional attachment that is available, but does not come with the XTL, is the "Purvis" Pec Bar. This attachment is designed to enhance the bench press and shoulder press exercises by changing the angle of resistance. I do not have this attachment, so I cannot comment on its effectiveness.

~ Folding Up the Bowflex

If you need to move the Bowflex it folds up fairly easy. That's one good thing about not having bulky, heavy weights to deal with. The leg attachment must be removed before folding up the machine, and stored separately. And it's pretty bulky, so you need a good deal of space to store this attachment. The lat attachment does not need to be removed to fold up the Bowflex, but it's very tall with this attachment on, about 7 feet high, so make sure you've got the space to store it. But let's face it, if you can have it setup somewhere all ready to go, you're more apt to use it!

~ What I Don't Like

I've had an annoying problem with one of the rubber stoppers on the cable which comes loose and goes past the pulley, creating a bumpy feel. I've jammed that sucker back in place as hard as I can, but it will still occasionally come loose. That bugs the heck out of me!

Also included with the Bowflex are some stick-on traction pads. Talk about cheesy! The so-called traction rubbed off in about an hour. I don't know why they even bothered, because they are totally worthless.

~ Final Thoughts and Recommendations

The Bowflex Power Pro XTL is perfect for someone who cannot get to the gym and wants to stay in shape. For best results, as with any weight training program, you must be motivated and consistent. If you follow any of the Bowflex workouts described in the fitness guide consistently, you will most definitely see results.

I would not recommend the Bowflex for someone brand new to strength training, as finding the correct position to work the targeted muscles can be difficult.

Overall I think it's worth the price - a super home gym that doesn't take up a lot of space.

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