Home gym equipment has always been convenient, but in a pandemic-ridden world, it seems more and more that having a home gym is a better option than a gym membership. Bowflex and NordicTrack are two of the game’s biggest players and have many more options than some of the slick newcomers.
It’s hard to think about shared gym equipment in the same way we might have before 2020. Certainly, many people are careful to wipe down equipment after using it, but not all are. Not only that, but for many people, driving to and from the gym doubles the time commitment necessary to exercise. Investing in quality home gym equipment solves both of these problems.
NordicTrack vs. Bowflex Comparison
But which brand should you choose? That depends on several factors, including whether you need strength training equipment, cardio equipment, or both. Each brand has its specialties, as well as unique benefits worth considering. Check out the side-by-side comparison and recommendations, followed by detailed reviews for additional information.
Bowflex or NordicTrack? Which is better?
In the age of Peloton, Bowflex and NordicTrack have both started to evolve positively. Bowflex JRNY is a guided cardio app that creates a customized workout for each user. It’s available on the touchscreen of the brand’s equipment and also available on smart devices. The iFit coach is Nordictrack’s version of interactive training. Nordictrack’s app offer’s guided running, cycling, hiking, rowing, cross-training, and strength building.
Since JRNY is focused on cardio at this point, NordicTrack’s iFit coach is the more all-encompassing experience, which might be worth considering before you purchase your workout equipment.
Of course, these apps will help you reach your fitness goals, but you still need the right training equipment. Both brands offer solid equipment, but each shines in different areas. Keep reading below for detailed reviews, but these are our recommendations:
You might think of the brand’s flexible rod gym equipment when you hear the name Bowflex, but they have much more to offer. There are multiple cardio machine models to consider, such as the leaning indoor bike called the VeloCore, and two different strength training fitness equipment types. Whatever your goals might be, the brand offers equipment to help you take it to the next level.
Naturally, strength training is only one component of home exercise, and many professionals recommend some combination of strength training and cardio. If you are interested in adding cardio equipment to your home gym, Bowflex has nearly any option you might need.
The Bowflex TreadClimber is an interesting option for anyone looking for a low-impact cardio experience. The TreadClimber offers a 3-in-1 walking workout, considered much more efficient than a treadmill. Despite being as much as 2.5X as efficient as a treadmill, the TreadClimber is easy on your joints since it doesn’t require the jarring motion experienced when running.
There is a budget-friendly version of the TreadClimber, as well as a more advanced version. The price difference between the two models is that big, though, and the advanced version includes longer warranties, so it might make sense to spend the extra money here.
To give you an indication of what the workout is like, the TreadClimber’s maximum speed is 4.5 mph (7.2 kph), compared to the treadmill’s maximum speed at 12 mph. So even though the TreadClimber provides an intense cardio workout, the maximum speeds should give you an indication it really is a different type of workout.
The Bowflex TreadClimber is a great option for someone that wants to burn calories efficiently but is either intimidated by running or needs to be careful with their joints.Updated Note: The Bowflex TreadClimber may no longer be available. We recommend you consider the Max Trainer or Max Total as the most comparable Bowflex products.
Max Trainer / Max Total
The company has done an excellent job of creating unique cardio experiences. The TreadClimber does this, as does the Max Trainer, named “Most Versatile Machine” by Men’s Health. If you like to split your time between the elliptical trainer and the stair stepper, then the Max Trainer is the best machine for you because it blends the motions from those two separate machines into one.
In fact, if you normally use standard ellipticals at the gym, we recommend you consider the Max Trainer or Max Total for your at-home gym because of their efficient calorie burn. While we understand ellipticals’ popularity, the Max Trainer is an advanced fitness machine that is similarly easy on the joints.
While the TreadClimber is designed to be both low-impact and efficient, the Max Trainer is intended to be a little more high-energy. Some like to maximize calorie burning with HIIT workouts, and this machine would be a fantastic addition to any HIIT routine.
The Max Trainer aesthetically sits more upright and compact, which is nice if you are short on space. And the M6 Max Trainer console is backlit, creating a viewer-friendly media experience.
The most advanced model is called the Max Total and includes a built-in touch screen and two free months of Bowflex JRNY if you want to check out workout routines tailored to your needs. These machines facilitate a different type of motion, for sure, but it is efficient and effective. The Max Total is the swiss-army knife of cardio machines if you are looking for something a little different.
VeloCore Indoor Bike
If you thought JRNY was a direct response to the Peloton-type experience, then check out the VeloCore. The Bowflex VeloCore has a stationary bike mode and a leaning bike mode, which you can choose if you want to engage your core and other stabilizing muscles into your cardio routine.
One interesting thing is that you can download the Peloton app onto the touchscreen (as well as other streaming apps like Disney+ and Netflix). So if you are partial to Peloton’s trainers but want to develop increased stability and core strength using the Velocore, that is something you can do. And the full-color HD touch-screen consoles help facilitate an engaging experience.
Indoor cycling is a unique cardio workout that enables you to shred your leg muscles and push your lungs to the brink while still allowing the bike to support some of your weight. For this reason, we are partial to indoor cycling, at least as part of a cross-training routine, and highly recommend the VeloCore.
When you clip into VeloCore pedals, you will be allowed to push yourself to new heights every day. Sure, you can roll out an easy workout, but you can also flip the switch and stretch your VO2 max in unique ways.
As a side note, Bowflex has more basic indoor bikes, too. The key difference is they don’t lean to the side, and they also feature a built-in tablet holder instead of a built-in tablet. While we appreciate the convenience and price of the BYOD (bring your own device) model, the remaining features don’t stack up to the VeloCore.
Of course, running is the original cardio workout, and it is still one of our favorite workouts. We love that you can lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement on a whim, but outdoor running still has its limitations. Weather can certainly dampen your plans, and some areas aren’t developed well for running (with proper sidewalks and road shoulders). Treadmills solve these problems and allow you to mix up your workout routine.
The most advanced treadmill reaches inclines as high as 15%, and speeds as high as 12 mph. The treadmill deck is cushioned with Comfort Tech, and the machine is BlueTooth enabled so that it will connect with both smart devices and heart rate monitors.
It’s a great machine, but it is worth noting NordicTrack’s treadmills reach inclines as high as 40% and has a few other features you might want to check out. Additionally, NordicTrack has multiple options to fit any price point. Both companies offer streaming workouts for running.
Why spend so much time in the gym when you can get the same results at home? The Bowflex Xtreme offers an alternative that feels more authentic than equipment from the local gym but provides a more controlled experience than free weights. Of course, if you prefer the rigidity and security of commercial equipment, the Revolution is an advanced alternative featuring NASA technology.
Xtreme 2 SE Home Gym
If you’ve spent much time watching infomercials, then you have most likely seen Bowflex’s namesake equipment with flexible rods. The newest model is called the Bowflex Xtreme, and it features an ergonomically designed seat and an innovative system that allows you to switch between exercises without changing cables.
We are big fans of Bowflex’s power rod resistance system because most workouts are less rigid than you might experience with commercial-type workout equipment, yet safer and more secure feeling than most free weight workout routines.
The standard Xtreme model comes with 210 lbs of resistance; however, it is expandable to include as much as 410 lbs of resistance if you add power rods. You can complete more than 70 exercises using the Bowflex Xtreme, and it comes with a squat bar and ab crunch shoulder harness. The built-in Lat Tower offers an angled lat bar for building strong back and shoulder muscles.
This is truly one of the most innovative pieces of home workout equipment ever designed, and it is versatile, so you can keep incorporating new workouts over time.
Revolution Home Gym
If you like the feel of commercial gym equipment, but don’t want to go to the local gym anymore, then you would be wise to consider the Bowflex Revolution Home Gym. The Revolution doesn’t utilize the same flexible rod technology used by the brand’s signature equipment. Instead, the Revolution uses SpiraFlex, a plating technology developed for NASA to provide resistance training independent of gravity.
The machine provides resistance without inertia, eliminating the jerking motions associated with free weights that sometimes cause injury. While you still need to follow any instructions and guidance, the Revolution provides a more stable resistance training experience.
This might be the closest workout experience to what you would find at the local gym, and with over 400 variations of 100 exercises, it is incredibly versatile.
Is Bowflex Worth The Money?
Regardless of whether you are most interested in strength training or cardio, Bowflex equipment is worth the investment, and now the brand offers their JRNY app for guided cardio workouts. Our only gripe is that the app only provides cardio workouts at this point, but aside from that, Bowflex equipment is designed for useful versatility.SUMMARY PROS
- Variety of machines to choose from
- More expensive than some can afford
- Better for strength training than just bodyweight
- Multitude of cardio options
- Accessible at multiple price points
- Industry-pioneering technology
- Fantastic relative value compared to full weight sets
- Can be safer than traditional options when used properly
- Exercise variability
NordicTrack is an interesting comparison to Bowflex because the former started with cardio machines and ventured into strength training, while the latter did the opposite. Still, both brands have a reputable history and plenty of options to help you burn calories, build muscle, and reach your fitness goals. NordicTrack might be most well known for their standard ellipticals, but they have plenty more to offer. Start with the cardio, but don’t overlook the strength training equipment.
While the brand’s strength equipment is slick, that’s probably not what they are best known for, and they have something for everyone. Runners love the treadmills, the rowing machines offer a full-body workout, and the elliptical trainers are low-impact.
If you have ever used a rower, I need not explain what a complete body workout the exercise is. Not only is rowing a fantastic cardio workout, but it feels like it works for every muscle group in your body. This is especially true with NordicTrack’s trainer-led classes. The iFit rower classes offer a little something for everybody, from HIIT training to endurance training. And with a wide selection of instructors, including an Olympic medalist, you can find the personality that works best for you.
The feature that sets the NordicTrack iFit experience apart is the live interaction. Like some of the other iFit equipment, the live trainers can remotely adjust your digital resistance as they lead you through the rowing workout.
There are currently rowing machines available at 3 different price points. Some of the models’ differences include the touch screens’ size and whether the monitor swivels. The swiveling monitor makes it easier to complete other iFit workouts next to your rowing machine.
Some people love using an elliptical trainer because of the adaptable stride. In contrast, other people find the motion awkward, but if you are looking for a low-impact cardio exercise, it is hard to beat NordicTrack’s elliptical trainers. To start with, they have quite a wide selection of machines to choose from. Like all of NordicTrack’s cardio equipment, they have commercial-grade equipment you can add to your home gym, but they all sell budget-friendly models.
The company sells a few different types of elliptical trainer machines, including the ever-popular NordicTrack Freestride, which can be used with a stair stepper motion, traditional elliptical motion, or treadmill-like motion. This elliptical trainer equipment also features iFit live interactive technology so that trainers can adjust the machine’s incline and resistance remotely.
Of course, if you aren’t in the mood for trainer-led workouts, you can also use the integrated Google Maps workout technology to run anywhere in the world. After all, who doesn’t want to run on trails in Hawaii?
One feature that we really appreciate about the NordicTrack Freestride series is that the strides can be auto-adjusted from 0” to 32”, which really helps to eliminate the awkward, ill-fitting feeling some people experience on an elliptical trainer at the local gym. The adjustable stride feature is a big deal if you want to get the most out of your workout. Uncomfortable stride lengths can cause frustration and even pain and might even make you regret your purchase. And we definitely don’t want that!
The NordicTrack Spacesaver series offers a rear-drive elliptical trainer, which isn’t quite as wide as the Freestride series. The various models have different weight capacities, with the advanced Freestride reaching a weight capacity of 375 lbs. Regardless of which model elliptical trainer you choose, the inertia-enhanced flywheels and magnetic resistance, combined with low-impact elliptical motion, create an effective workout for anyone that needs to be careful with the joints.
The brand has a few different bike-styles to choose from, including the recumbent series bikes I have never seen anywhere other than a gym. The studio cycles include touch screens as large as 22 inches, which can swivel to the side to be used for other iFit workouts.
If we are honest here, we prefer Bowflex’s VeloCore by a substantial margin. The ability to lean on the bike, plus the ability to tap into the Peloton platform via the app, is too much of a game-changing combination to overlook. NordicTrack’s bikes are well built and versatile but missing a few characteristics the VeloCore has to offer.
Still, cycling workouts are some of the best cardiovascular workouts around. You can go hard while still protecting your joints. And anecdotally, I like cycling workouts if I am feeling off my game because I can sit if needed while still working hard. On the other hand, if I am running and feel weak or off my game, I might stop altogether. Plus, the iFit instructor-led workouts will keep you motivated.
NordicTrack treadmills are considered industry-leading machines for a reason. They feature declines as much as 6% and inclines as high as 40%. Like the Bowflex treadmill, the NordicTrack treadmills go as fast as 12 mph, which is booking it. With 10 treadmills to choose from, there are touch screens in various sizes and console speakers to keep you motivated while you run.
With the integrated iFit technology, you can run with a personal trainer on the console screen or jog along famous world trails. If you want to increase your daily activity, there are plenty of options to choose from.
The treadmills feature new quiet drive incline technology, and through the interactive trainer technology, allows your trainer to digitally adjust your incline, decline, and speed for you. If you need a little extra motivation while working out, this is a pretty great feature.
There are quite a few treadmill options, so you might wonder what the difference between the various treadmills are. The most noticeable difference is that the cheaper models have a very basic tablet screen, while the most expensive units have much more advanced console technology. While the console differences are most noticeable, there are other smaller differences like the cushion technology and the possible inclines.
Is there one treadmill we recommend? It really depends on your budget and your needs. The more expensive treadmills have the best cushioning and most workout versatility, but a more affordable model will get the job done if you are on a tight budget. We are sure you will adjust to the less advanced console or potentially use your own tablet.
The first thing you will notice is that NordicTrack strength training equipment looks slightly different from traditional equipment. There is no attached bench to sit on. That doesn’t mean it is any less effective, but it might take a minute to wrap your head around. If you are looking to build lean muscle, though, both of their machines have great features.
The Vault is very similar to another brand called The Mirror. The advantage The Vault has over The Mirror is that the mirror face slides away from a cabinet where you can keep all of your dumbbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands. The company sells one package with all of the equipment you need to fill up the NordicTrack Vault and one package with just the Vault itself.
The Vault’s front features a reflective surface so that you can watch our form while still following the guided iFit workouts. And honestly, the interactive iFit experience is key here, so it makes sense that the Vault comes with a 1-year membership for your family. The ability to move around while you work out results in one of the most personalized workout experiences money can buy. It definitely provides a versatility level that traditional strength training machines would be hard-pressed to match.
The vertical storage system is great if you have limited space. It definitely keeps your workout area decluttered, but the versatility is where the value is. The NordicTrack Vault includes iFit workout routines for yoga, strength training, pilates, mindfulness, sculpting, interval training, lifting, and HIIT training. All of the routines are led on a smart HD touchscreen, and the reflective front helps you ensure you are mirroring the proper form.
In terms of workout routines, the Vault’s versatility is hard to beat. The workout variety will keep you interested, and keep your muscles engaged in continually new ways. One major advantage that the Vault has over the other strength equipment is that you can get a cardiovascular workout and build strength at the same time. It is harder to get a cardiovascular workout sitting on a bench like you would with Bowflex equipment.
NordicTrack’s Fusion CST is an exciting option because it features magnetic resistance sufficient for building muscle mass and includes iFit routines that will help you burn calories boot camp style. The resistance levels can be adjusted with the touch of a finger.
One of the innovative features is that professional trainers can digitally adjust your resistance to maximize your workout with live interactive training. And if you are a fan of workout stats, the iFit BlueTooth chest strap is included to provide insightful feedback. The flywheel works using silent magnetic resistance (SMR) and is easy for you and your live instructor to adjust.
While Bowflex’s power rods were innovative in their own right, the NordicTrack Fusion CST is innovative in completely different ways. The magnetic resistance flywheels have 20 resistance settings, providing plenty of versatility. Some may prefer seated workouts, but many people enjoy the fast pace guided workouts, which keep the user fully engaged.
While the design isn’t quite as compact and sleek as the Vault, it is still futuristic compared to traditional gym equipment, and the gains are there to match. The Fusion CST shows you don’t have to work out in the same way your parents and grandparents did decades ago.
Is NordicTrack Worth The Money?
The company makes durable equipment, frequently found in commercial gyms. NordicTrack equipment is a worthy investment if you are looking to build out your home gym. If you are looking for an innovative strength building and sculpting routine, then the Vault is an excellent place to start, and all of the NordicTrack cardio equipment is top-tier equipment. And don’t forget that the iFit coaches may provide the extra drive you need to get the most from your workout.SUMMARY PROS
- Innovative strength training
- More expensive than some can afford
- Multitude of cardio options
- Accessible at multiple price points
- Full body workout with rower
- Exercise variability
Best Home Gym: Bowflex or NordicTrack?
Where Bowflex shines with traditional muscle-building equipment, NordicTrack shines with the cardio equipment. The Bowflex Xtreme is an innovative fitness machine that not only changed late-night infomercials but is also very effective at building muscle. If you are looking to build muscle, NordicTrack’s Vault is also innovative and offers tons of workouts, but we prefer the Bowflex machines, which include a bench to sit on and can be used for more traditional strength building.
The NordicTrack rower offers a complete body workout, while the NordicTrack FreeStride Ellipticals are excellent for low-impact rides. And while the FreeStride offers a low-impact workout you expect from ellipticals, this innovative machine engages the whole body more than most alternative ellipticals. We also appreciate the NordicTrack workouts guided by an iFit coach.
Bowflex’s Max Total is the most versatile cardo machine we have reviewed, though, and can also be very easy on the joints. Of course, in our review, the best overall cardio experience is the Bowflex VeloCore, which is an immersive experience.
Both brands make solid equipment, so the important thing is to decide and develop a new routine. Get moving, and build the body you deserve.
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