Giving the Total Flex a total test

28 Mar

Both the seat and back of the Total Flex can adjust to different angles, using spring locks (visible on lower crossbar), enabling the user to perform more than 50 gym exercises. (Geoff Meeker photo)

March 28, 2011

By Geoff Meeker

I’m not a big fan of infomercials, though sometimes, while surfing, I will stop and listen to the pitch.

Usually, I can smell a rip off a mile away.

The only time I ever purchased through an infomercial was back in 1998, when I ordered a set of Billy Blanks Tae Bo workout tapes (in VHS). Turns out, they were a wise purchase. I worked out to those tapes at least five times a week for close to 10 years, and literally wore them out. And, as it turns out, that edition is no longer available.

Well, recently, the Total Flex home gym – another fitness product – grabbed my attention.

The biggest selling point is its small size. The Total Flex takes up as much room as a small armchair, but – according to the ad – can do everything a larger, expensive home gym can do. It even folds flat for storage. This is important, because shrinking space in my house has forced me to put my bench press and other equipment into deep storage. If this device works as described, it is an ideal, space-saving alternative.

The other selling point for Total Flex is versatility. The seat and seat back pivot and lock in five positions, creating 25 possible configurations. If claims hold up, the device can serve as a flat bench, an incline bench, and 23 other positions that allow you to perform more than 50 gym exercises.

The device simulates weight lifting through the use of elastic cables. I watched the infomercial, fascinated. It looked like a great idea, and the quality – as near as I could tell on TV – appeared to be there. The price was about $275, with a 30-day, money-back guarantee. I reached for the phone…

The call started well enough. Name, address, Visa number, a few words about the guarantee. But then, the up-sell started. The attendant asked if I wanted the optional leg exercise system, for $45. Um, no. My legs are in pretty good shape.

Did I want the optional head-rest, for $29? (Honestly. I hate it when they try to up-sell stuff.) I said, “What’s that for?”

“For your head,” he said, sarcastically. That was it. I told him I didn’t like how this call was going, cancelled the purchase, and hung up. I went online (, skipped the optional stuff, and closed the sale – without having to deal with a rude salesperson.

My order arrived last week. I can offer a preliminary review of how the device works, and how it feels. However, whether it delivers on its promise, to help me “shed pounds, trim inches and get a lean sexy look,” will be revealed over the fullness of time.

Along with two hand-grips, the kit includes Velcro-wraps that go around ankles, for leg exercises. There is an impressive set of eight over-sized cardboard exercise charts, focusing on upper body, lower body, total body, core, stretch and other workouts, which store in a handy cardboard sleeve. A workout DVD is also included.

The unit is quite portable, but not lightweight. Construction feels solid, and the metal frame looks sturdy.

I am impressed by the seats. I was expecting glossy vinyl, the kind that crack easily, with cheap foam inside. But the cushions are thin and surprisingly firm, with a heavy vinyl covering that feels thick and durable. It’s hard to predict a lifespan for the product, but at least it doesn’t feel flimsy.

The weight training is enabled by six tension bands (three per side), which are colour-coded for light, medium and heavy resistance. This is my only concern about the Total Flex. They are fabric-covered rubber bands – bungee cords, essentially – so one can’t predict how long they will last. And I’ve noticed already that they don’t resist enough on exercises like the bench press (I’m an average guy, not a body builder). However, on lighter routines, such as the lateral raise, I can definitely feel the burn.

A more informed review will be forthcoming, after my 30-day trial, but I can say this much with confidence: a small or unfit person, who is more interested in toning and tightening, will likely love this unit. A serious body builder – male or female – would find the resistance levels inadequate.

And, sorry, there will be no “before and after” picture – not unless the Total Flex can make me look like the people in that infomercial.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at


One Response to “Giving the Total Flex a total test”

  1. Simone June 12, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    Any update on your thoughts, results or dislikes after using it?

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