The Pitch: A total body workout in just 10 to 20 minutes a day!
The Verdict: Yes, it will help you get and stay fit, but there is a much cheaper alternative.
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.
The Total Gym gets a lot of love from owners, who say that, while a full body workout takes closer to 30 minutes to an hour, you can split up different areas of the body and get a decent number of reps in over a 20 minute period. This home gym seems to be best for beginner or intermediate exercisers some experienced users say it's too easy and that you may get bored with this simple machine. It's also not a good fit for people who are taller than 6 feet; taller users report that it's not as comfortable and they can't get full extension on some of the exercises. Bodybuilding experts also say it isn't for those who want to bulk up -- in other words, you're not going to end up looking like Chuck Norris. However, it will be effective for establishing and/or maintaining baseline fitness.
Owners like the fact that the Total Gym comes fully assembled and you can start working out right away. It gets very good reviews for durability and for its sturdy construction. It has a maximum user weight limit of 400 pounds -- very high for a glideboard-style gym.
The main problem we -- and many other reviewers have -- with the Total Gym is the price. At about $740, it's much more expensive that the nearly identical Weider Ultimate Body Works (Est. $130), which also gets excellent reviews from users. In addition, the Weider includes a set of resistance bungees you can engage for up to 50 pounds of additional resistance, a feature the Total Gym XLS lacks. However, the Weider has a user upper weight limit of only 250 pounds. We compare these two glideboard-style gyms more thoroughly in our separate report on Home Gyms.
We also see complaints that the Total Gym doesn't fold up or store as easily as the ads make it seem. Several users note that, at 7.5 feet, the Total Gym is too long to set up in a small room, let alone slide under the bed. Others say the Total Gym is awkward and heavy.
There are a couple of optional exercise guides that will help you with the proper form when using your Total Gym, the Total Gym Exercise Chart (Est. $20), the Total Gym Training Deck with Holder (Est. $45) and the Total Gym 6-8 Minute Workout DVD (Est. $25). Depending upon where you purchase the Total Gym, these may be included in the package. However, any of those guides will work with the Weider Ultimate Body Works as well. Our advice would be to buy the Weider and put the $600 you save toward a cheap treadmill or elliptical trainer, which we also cover in separate reports.
Total Gym XLS Trainer Reviews
The Total Gym XLS Trainer earns an impressive 4.6-star overall average rating from more than 280 reviewers. Many say they've used it to start an exercise program and have lost weight and gained muscle. It's reported as durable, easy to set up and use, and owners say it offers a good variety of exercises.
Review: Total Gym XLS Trainer, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of January 2015
More than 3760 users review the Total Gym XLS, giving it an overall rating of 4.6 stars out of 5, and 98 percent would recommend it to a friend. Most say it's an excellent value and is a great tool for general fitness, although not for serious bodybuilding or weightlifting.
Review: Total Gym XLS with FREE AbCrunch Attachment, Contributors to Walmart.com, As of January 2015
Wes McDermott is less than impressed with the Total Gym XLS, giving it a 2 star rating out of 5. He notes that he would not recommend it at all, and that it's too expensive and too poorly built to bother with. Elsewhere in the site he notes that the Weider Ultimate Body Works is a better value.
Review: Total Gym XLS Review, Wes McDermott, Sept. 1, 2013