Good old Bowflex. I think we can agree that they are major players in the home fitness equipment industry. They make a lot of different kinds of equipment, some of which are good, some not so good.
In this review, we’re looking at Bowflex’s only power tower: The Bowflex Body Tower. We’ll examine the range of exercises you can do on this power tower, how well it’s designed and the quality of materials, how easy it is to put together and then start using, and the value for money it offers. By the end of the article, you’ll know if it’s right for you and your home workout space.
If you don’t want to read the detailed review, then here’s the short version:
The Bowflex Body Tower offers an unrivalled range of exercises, owing to a number of unique features, most notably the adjustable dip bars and the attached handles and slings.For the most part it’s well-designed and built with good quality materials. There’s one major exception: It’s extremely short – just 77 inches (6’5 ft, 195.5 cms). Not suitable for tall people, very suitable for people with low ceilings. The quality of construction is good. Frame and materials are great. Very easy to put together, especially with 2 people. Simple to do the 15+ possible exercises. you’ll pay more for it than other power towers, but it’s still good value for money. Overall a very good option.
Ok, let’s get into the detailed review!
Bowflex Body Tower Review
The Bowflex Body Tower fits into the beginner / intermediate range of power towers. It’s not the most heavy duty power tower you’re going to find, and you almost certainly won’t find one in your local gym. It’s also not the most lightweight and is designed primarily for use in a home gym. Although Bowflex have the Body Tower on their website for *cough* $399, you’ll be able to get it for significantly less elsewhere. Expect to pay between $180 and $250 for it, depending on whether you can get it on sale or not. For that money, it’s comparable to the Stamina 1700 Power Tower and the Xmark XM-4432 VKR Power Tower, both of which are very good alternatives.
We’d like to say right from the outset, that the Bowflex Body Tower is absolutely not suitable for you if you’re 6’5 ft or taller and you want to do pull ups with it. Simple as that. The pull up bar is only 6’5 ft tall, meaning you’ll be the same height as it. Unless you have relatively short arms, you’ll be able to reach the pull up bar while kneeling, which will prevent you from doing full-range pull ups. That’s definitely the biggest drawback of this power tower.
The Bowflex Body Tower also has an extremely wide footprint. It’s dimensions are 50 inches wide (4’2 ft; 127 cm) x 51 inches deep (4’3 ft; 129.5 cm) x 77 inches tall (6’2 ft; 195.5 cm). As you can see from the images below, the angled base makes it very wide, and although you’re unlikely to run out of room (unless you have a very small workout space), it’s something to keep in mind. As we’ll discuss later, the wide base and short height help to make it arguably the most stable power tower in it’s range.
Bowflex Body Tower
|Range of exercises|
|Design and quality|
|Ease of assembly|
|Ease of use|
|Value for money|
Range of exercises
If we could give the Bowflex Body Tower 6 stars for the range of exercises, we would. It has a number of additional functions that greatly increase the number of things you can do with it, and they really set it apart from the competition. In particular, the ability to adjust the height of the dip bars, as well as the addition of handles that hang from the dip bars, means that you can get a pretty solid full-body workout. In comparison, most other power towers only allow for a good upper body and core workout. Here are the main exercises you can do and the muscles they are intended to work :
Pull ups / chin ups
Use the pull up bar to do pull ups and chin ups, both of which will mainly work your latissimus dorsi (lats) and biceps and to a lesser extent your trapezius, posterior deltoids, abdominals, and pectoralis muscles (pecs). You can vary the width of your grip between wide and standard (shoulder width). Unfortunately, due to the shape of the pull up bar and the placement of the rubber handgrip, you can’t really do narrow grip pull ups. Varying the width of your grip will change the extent to which each muscle is worked (for example, wide grip pull ups work the lower part of the lats more intensely than standard grip pull ups).
The dip station will work your pecs, anterior deltoids and triceps. Varying the angle of your dips will also alter the degree to which the various muscles are worked. The more you bend your torso forward, the more you work your pecs. A more upright torso works the triceps more intensely.
Vertical knee raises
By hooking your arms through the slings that attach to the bottom of the pull up bar, you’ll be able to do vertical knee raises, which will give your abdominal muscles a good workout. The dip bars can also be used to do unassisted vertical knee raises, which will give you a more intense abdominal workout (similar to hanging leg / knee raises).
By adjusting the dip bars all the way to the lowest position and slipping your feet underneath the back padded section that sits between them, you can also do crunches. These will give you a good ab workout and are ideal for beginners who may not be able to do vertical knee raises yet.
Decline push ups
Placing your feet on the padded backrest allows you to do decline push ups. Decline push ups are more challenging than regular push ups, as they primarily work the upper portion (also known as the ‘clavicular head’) of your pectoral muscles (pecs). You can adjust the height of the dip bars to change the level of difficulty of the decline push ups. The higher your feet are, the more challenging they will be.
Supine rows (also called ‘inverted rows’) are done on the Body Tower using the handles that attach below the dip bars. With your feet placed on the ground, pull your body upward to complete the movement. Supine rows primarily work the lats and trapezius and to a lesser extent, the biceps. The angle of your body changes the difficulty of the exercise. The more upright your body, the easier they are. You can perform your rows facing toward the power tower (as in the image to the right), or facing away from it (like the image below). Doing them facing away from the tower will be more difficult, as you won’t be able to place your feet on the base to support yourself.
By lowering the adjustable dip bars to the appropriate height, you can use the padded backrest as a support to do single-leg squats. This exercise is excellent for working the gluteals (butt muscles), hamstrings and quadriceps (thigh muscles).
Design and quality
One of the hallmarks of Bowflex equipment is their clever design. Aside from the height, the Body Tower is no different. It’s a really well-designed power tower.
We’ve already mentioned that the 77 inch (6’5 ft) height of the pull up bar makes the Bowflex Body Tower very much unsuitable for tall people. Most other power towers are 7 ft or taller, making the Body Tower the shortest power tower you’re going to find.
The low height of the Body Tower means that everyone except for very short people, are going to have to bend their knees in order to use the pull up bar properly. And while this is annoying for some, it also means that this power tower can be used in rooms with low ceilings. Eight foot ceilings don’t leave quite enough clearance above most power towers, but they’ll be plenty high enough for the Bowflex. Also, because the pull up and dip bars are on the same side, the Body Tower can be pushed hard up against a wall or into a corner of your home workout space, which will save room.
Another benefit of having a low pull up bar, is that it puts the centre of gravity closer to the ground, which combined with the wide base and weight of the frame, makes the Body Tower one of the most stable power towers available. We’ll discuss the stability in more detail a bit later, but suffice to say, you should experience very little wobble when doing pull ups and dips.
The rest of the Body Tower is otherwise well-designed.
The adjustable dip bars, or ‘EZ-Adjust’ bars as they’re called are a great feature. Being able to move them up and down to accomodate your height is really handy. If you’re unable to do full bodyweight dips, you can set the bars to a low position and do dips with your feet on the ground. The different heights are also useful for adjusting the difficulty of your supine rows (higher = easier), decline push ups (higher = harder) and single-leg squats (higher = harder).
The quality of the Bowflex Body Tower materials is very good. The steel frame has a lot of weight to it and should feel nice and sturdy. With a maximum weight capacity of 300 lbs (136 kgs), you can expect to get a lot of good workouts from it without ever having to worry about it bending or breaking. The frame itself has a 5-year warranty, but honestly, this thing will probably last longer than you.
The rest of the components are also high quality, and come with a 1-year warranty. The VKR slings are really good, and the D-rings and carabiners that fix them to the frame are strong. The same is true of the handles that attach below the dip bars.
The padded backrest is good quality – no complaints there. The padded handgrips on the pull up bar and dip bars could be a little thicker to add some extra comfort, but all-in-all they work just fine.
Ultimately, the Bowflex Body Tower is a well-designed and strongly built piece of equipment.
Ease of assembly
We’ll start by saying that because this power tower is quite heavy (120 lbs; 54.4 kgs), you’ll find things much easier if you get someone to help you assemble it. You can do it alone, so don’t sweat if you don’t have a helper, but it will make things go smoother if you do.
All-in-all, assembling the Bowflex Body Tower is pretty straightforward. With two people, it’ll likely take 30 – 45 minutes. If you’re on your own, plan for 60+ minutes to put it together. The assembly manual guides you through a 9-step process, however actually putting the power tower together happens in 6 steps. The last 3 steps are saved for attaching the slings and handles, attaching the placard, and doing a ‘final inspection’. Yeah, probably could have done without those steps, but anyway.
The instructions are clear and easy to follow, and consist of written instructions accompanied by exploded diagrams. If for any reason yours comes without instructions, you can get them here.
As with all equipment like this, it’s a very good idea to assemble this power tower in the space that you’re going to use it. It will be extremely difficult to get it through doorways or up and down stairs otherwise, and disassembling and then reassembling it will also be a bit of a pain.
Below are some additional tips to help you get it together as easily as possible:
- If you have a socket set, this will come in handy, and at least one adjustable wrench is a must. This is because the included hex wrench is small and not very useful. A 6mm hex key is also included.
- Wait until you have the power tower fully assembled before completely tightening all the bolts. This applies to almost all fitness equipment that requires assembly, and will ensure that it is level.
Once it’s together, you should have a pretty good-looking power tower to workout on.
Ease of use
For the most part, the Bowflex Body Tower is very easy to use. Aside from some of it’s additional features, it’s a pretty standard power tower, and functions much the same as any other. As we’ve already mentioned, the height makes this power tower suitable for some and not for others. If you’re quite tall and really don’t like having to bend your legs much when doing pull ups, then don’t get this power tower. If you’re shorter, and don’t mind having to bend your legs much, or you have very low ceilings, then the Body Tower will be ideal.
The dip bars are good quality and easy to use. A couple of points here are:
- Because the dip bars and pull bar are on the same side, you’ll need to perform your dips facing away from the station to avoid hitting your head on the pull up bar. This is common with single-sided power towers.
- The dip bars are approximately 21 inches apart, centre-to-centre. This makes them among the more narrow dip bars. For most people, this is good and allows you to keep your elbows tight against your body while doing dips, which prevents excessive strain on the shoulder. For people with very broad shoulders, however, it can feel a little cramped.
One way in which the Body Tower does differ from most of the competition is in the use of slings for the vertical knee raise station. The vertical knee raise stations on other power towers, and most you’ll find at a commercial gym, use arm rests on the dip bars and a back rest. If this is the type you’re used to, then using the slings might be a bit of an adjustment, but all-in-all the two styles aren’t terribly different. On that point, the slings do reduce the amount of strain placed on your shoulders as they don’t have to support your body weight.
Next, we want to discuss the stability of the Bowflex Body Tower.
Most beginner / intermediate range power towers have an issue with stability. It’s almost unavoidable. These kinds of power towers need to be light enough to get into your home and assemble easily, but this means there has to be a trade off in how stable they are. Generally, power towers will wobble back and forth, especially when doing dips. And although they’re very unlikely to tip over (unless you seriously misuse them), this wobbling can be a bit distracting for some people.
The Body Tower is significantly more stable than many other power towers, owing to the fact that it is relatively heavy, has a very wide base, and is quite short. Let us be clear though, you will almost certainly feel a small amount of movement (wobbling, shaking, or rocking) when using this power tower. The fact of the matter is that the Body Tower weighs 120 lbs. If you weigh more than 120 lbs, you will cause this thing to move a little when you’re using it.
If this concerns you, there are a few things you can do:
- Get a more heavy duty (and expensive) power tower, like this one.
- Make sure the Body Tower is on level, solid floor, and place some protective foam flooring beneath the base. This will help with the stability, as well as protect your floors from damage. You may want to get some extra tiles as well to make sure the entire base has flooring beneath it.
- Try placing some sandbags or heavy weight plates on the base to give it some extra weight. This will work most effectively if you are experiencing a lot of wobbling / rocking, and can be done in addition to, or as an alternative to, the foam flooring.
- Make sure you have the dip bars adjusted to the lowest comfortable height when performing dips.
Finally, this power tower IS NOT suitable for doing advanced bodyweight movements like muscle-ups, and it’s certainly not suitable for doing kipping pull ups (i.e., the crossfit style pull ups).
By and large, the Bowflex Body Tower is a pleasure to use, and performs better than most of the competition.
Value for money
Yes, the Body Tower is at the higher end of the price range for beginner / intermediate power towers, but it is also at the higher end for quality. You generally get what you pay for with power towers, and we think that this one will be a very good investment in your health, fitness, and physique. If you can get it on sale for less than about $220, it’s an absolute steal. It’ll help you do a lot of good workouts for a number of years, and so it presents good value for money.
Overall, if you’re looking to add a strong, high-quality power tower to your home workout space then the Bowflex Body Tower is a great option. It offers an exceptional range of exercises, is well-designed and built with good quality materials, and is quick and easy to assemble and use. You’ll pay a bit more for it, but in the end you’ll get what you pay for. If you go with this power tower, we’re confident that it’ll be a good addition to your home workout space. If you’re a particularly tall individual, consider a different, taller power tower, such as the Stamina 1700 Power Tower, Xmark XM-4432 VKR Power Tower, or even the Weider Power Tower.
If you’re interested in the Bowflex Body Tower, check the current price here.
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All the best with your home workouts. Remember, when it comes to our health and fitness, we can make the effort or we can make excuses, but we can’t make both.
THFF (The Home Fit Freak)