Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley pitch the Total Gym home exercise machine, a simple device that promises a variety of exercises for the entire body. You sit or lie on an incline board that glides on tracks, using pulleys and your own body weight to work legs, chest, abdominals, arms and more.
Reviews for many home fitness machines are pretty iffy, but we found plenty of balanced reviews saying the Total Gym works well for beginner or intermediate exercisers, although it does have a few drawbacks (and it's expensive).
Owners like the fact that the Total Gym comes fully assembled. Beginning exercisers report that they are able to start working out right away, although some find the Total Gym tricky to get on and off. A few owners report that parts wear out quickly, but most say the build quality of Total Gym models is perfectly adequate.
The most common complaint is that the Total Gym doesn't fold up or store as easily as the ads make it seem. Several users note that the Total Gym is too long (one model is more than 8.5 feet long) to set up in a small room, let alone slide under the bed. Others say the Total Gym is awkward and heavy, and we read some reports of injuries sustained when trying to fold it. A few reviewers say long hair gets caught in the sliders.
Although the Total Gym does allow a wide range of exercises, some experienced users say it's too easy and that owners may get bored with this simple machine. Bodybuilding experts say it isn't for those who want really bulky muscles. A few users complain about having to change the position of the incline, handgrips, footgrips, etc. every time they want to do a new exercise.
We found professional reviews of the Total Gym at PeerTrainer.com and BodybuildingForYou.com. FormerFatGuy.com and ExerciseEquipmentExpert.com also have reviews, but are dated (although ExerciseEquipmentExpert.com does review one current model). User reviews at Amazon.com and Epinions.com round out the review picture.
This review describes the features of the Total Gym and includes testing by this website's staff. They "found it a great form of exercise," although they admit that most of the people who tested it like bodyweight-style exercises, which is what Total Gym uses. It isn't for bulking up or building bone density, they say. It excels at overall strength-building. They like its ease of use and flexibility of options and say they really can't find any negatives about it.
Review: The Total Gym -- This Is A Great Piece of Equipment, Habib Wicks
This article features a good overview of what to expect from a Total Gym, and links to another article to help readers choose between the many Total Gym models. The verdict: It's a decent machine for overall fitness, but not for those who want to get serious about developing bulky muscles.
Review: Total Gym 1000, Total Gym 1500, 1700 Club, Total Gym 2000 and Total Gym 3000 Reviews, Editors of BodybuildingForYou.com
This review of the Total Gym 1000 is mostly positive, although reviewer Scott Bird admits that he isn't using it to "build large slabs of muscle." He finds it more effective than a bodyweight workout, though, and is "very good at what it does." He likes the versatility and effectiveness of the setup, but doesn't see the point of some of the extras such as hooks, pins, cables and plates, so he recommends a lower-end model for consumers. Bird's bottom line: "I love this thing."
Review: Review: Total Gym 1000, Scott Bird, Aug. 12, 2007
Five different Total Gym models receive reviews posted at Epinions.com. The Total Gym 1500 earns a 4 out of 5 star rating in more than two dozen owner-written reviews, while the Total Gym 1000 gets 3 out of 5 stars in more than one dozen reviews. The other models reviewed -- the 1400 and 1700 -- only get a handful of reviews, but similar star ratings.
Review: Total Gym, Contributors to Epinions.com
5. Exercise Equipment Expert.com
Bret Spottke, a personal trainer, reviews dozens of home fitness devices including several Total Gym models (some of which are outdated). His reviews concentrate on the models' features and there is no mention of actual testing. Spottke always recommends a competing Bayou Fitness machine over the Total Gym.
Review: Home Gym Reviews, Bret Spottke
Several Total Gym models -- including some older models -- are sold and reviewed at Amazon.com. All earn high ratings, but some models have only one review posted. However, although criticism and negative reviews are included, many of the reviews are suspiciously gushy.
Review: Total Gym, Contributors to Amazon.com