The Total Flex is worth a second look

25 Apr

April 25, 2011

By Geoff Meeker

Four weeks ago, I told you about the Total Flex home gym, which I purchased through an infomercial.

I bought against my better instincts because I was impressed by the Total Flex concept. It’s compact, yet can adjust to perform more than 50 gym exercises. (To see the device in action, visit totalflex.ca and watch some of the videos there.)

I promised to report back just before the 30-day trial period ended, to let you know my verdict. So here goes…

First, the downsides, and there are some. The Total Flex uses tensions bands – bungee cords, really – to supply resistance, rather than free weights. There are two sets of three bands – with light, medium and heavy resistance – which you use in combination and, if you’re feeling pumped, all three together.

Which raises an issue I flagged four weeks ago: I’m not the world’s most physical guy, but on certain exercises, such as the bench press, I needed to use all three bands to create resistance that was even slightly challenging. If you’re already toned and strong, you’ll find the resistance levels inadequate for many exercises.

Also, the nature of the bands means that tension is lightest, the closer you are to the base. This was a problem on the bench press, again. When using free weights, there is that point when you can feel the stretch and burn, just before beginning the lift, with the bar right on your chest. However, with the Total Flex, there’s no such effect because there is barely any tension in that position.

As well, I don’t know how long the bands will last before going slack or breaking. I did call the 1-800 number and confirmed that replacement bands are available.

Finally, the two Velcro-fastening ankle straps, for leg exercises, are pretty much useless. They worked okay on the lightest tension band, but the Velcro tore free whenever I added more resistance. This is not a deal breaker for me, because I exercise my legs in other ways, but it might be for you.

There are upsides, however. I’ve been using the Total Flex almost every day for the last month and that, in itself, speaks volumes. I’m actually using the darned thing! Furthermore, I LIKE it. The machine really is a joy to use.

First, the exercises are presented clearly, with easy to follow directions, on a set of eight oversized instruction cards. There is a DVD included, which I did watch but never used, because the instruction cards are adequate.

Second, the machine is as simple to use as the infomercial claims. The angles of the seat adjust with a flick of the wrist, allowing the user to switch in seconds, from bench press to bicep curl to seated row, and so on.

This, to me, is the most important feature of the Total Flex. Anyone who has worked out in the gym, using free weights, knows the amount of work involved in changing weights and adjusting hardware settings, between exercises. It’s not fun. And the Total Flex eliminates that headache completely. You can move seamlessly, from one exercise to the next, with minimal fuss and bother.

Of the eight instruction cards, I have settled into a routine that combines two – the upper body and core workouts – into one session. It takes about 90 minutes to get through it, but I always feel fantastic afterward – pleasantly exhausted but totally pumped. (I work out my legs by walking the dog and using the elliptical.)

As you’ve probably surmised, I am keeping the Total Flex. Any exercise machine that maintains my interest like this can only be a good thing, and I intend to keep using it.

As noted, the Total Flex is not great for the bench press. However, it varies from good to excellent for most other exercises. The tension bands add just the right resistance for a variety of lifts, pulls, twists, crunches and extensions, and I can feel the beginnings of a “six pack” forming (hidden, still, under a layer of fat). And the muscle tone in my upper body is noticeably better than 30 days ago.

If you order the Total Flex, I suggest doing it online and don’t purchase ANY of the extras that are available. The basic package is all you need. It comes to $278 with shipping, which is not bad compared to what you pay for a yearly gym membership. But the same rule applies: you have to use it!

I will update you on how the Total Flex and I perform in the months ahead. Perhaps it will wear out or I will grow weary of it. Or maybe, just maybe, I will end up looking like one of those models in the infomercial.

Hey, a person can dream, right?

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 http://www.thetelegram.com.

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7 Responses to “The Total Flex is worth a second look”

  1. Rachel August 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Thanks for your review Geoff! I was curious about how this product would really perform. Are you still as happy with it almost a year later?

    • geoffmeeker August 28, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

      No Rachel, I don’t use it anymore. I have moved on to free weights. If you are serious about weightlifting you will quickly outgrow this device, unless you have a lighter, smaller frame and really just want to stay toned. As noted in the review, I found that some exercises lost their resistance as I developed strength.

  2. Wilma May 3, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    How long did u use total flex before u decided to stop? How much did u lose — pounds? Inches on ur waist?

    Saw the infomercial awhile ago & i was thinking of buying it..

    I am a very inactive person but wanted to change that though

    • Shekinah Star November 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

      I have the thane system. I am 58 yr old and for me it is perfect. I normally hate to exercise but this is just perfect for me. Geoff is right. If one is serious, this is not the machine, but if you are like me and want to keep my joints moving and stay toned, its perfect.

      • Shekinah Star November 8, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

        I could not find a 1800 number anywhere on the information received. Need bands. where do I find it?

      • geoffmeeker November 9, 2014 at 11:38 pm #

        The only contact info I have on hand is 1-877-771-7017 or email customercare@thane.ca.

  3. Viveca May 10, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

    I accidentally bought a knock off version first. When I needed to replace the cords for the leg extension type exercises, I ordered the accessory package in order to get the cords. That included the headrest and leg extension. I first noticed that it was higher quality and those accessories didn’t fit the total flex that I had!!! Because I had some issues with my original machine, I decided to spend the extra money and buy the Thane Total Flex. I must say that it is a much higher quality piece of equipment.

    I am a personal trainer (specializing in women, baby boomers, and seniors). I not only use this machine for my clients, but I use it also. It is very versatile and we can replicate many exercises that you do with machines at the gym.

    I also have a Pilates Power Gym. Between these two pieces of equipment, medicine balls, kettlebells, free weights, etc. We can fit a lot into the small exercise studio I have in my home!

    Even if I didn’t have all these other things, free weights and the Thane Total Flex would be more than sufficient!!

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