Q: “My goal is to build lean muscle size and strength. Is the Total Gym a good tool to help me accomplish this? Can I use The Total Gym for bodybuilding?

A: For those who are not serious about sticking to a bodybuilding-style program and just want to be a bit more active, I could see The Total Gym having some potential use.

Not everyone is looking to fully maximize their muscle size and strength gains. Some people just want to be more active, have a healthy hobby or stay in decent shape, and that’s totally fine.

However, if you’re even remotely serious about building a significant amount of muscle, strength and transforming your physique, The Total Gym is not going to be ideal for bodybuilding purposes.

Here’s why…

With The Total Gym, the trainee is either seated or lying down on a pad that can be set at various angles (causing it to become more or less steep).

The trainee then grabs a hold of two independent cables and performs the exercises by lifting his/her own bodyweight.

The difficulty of the exercise can be manipulated by setting the pad at various angles in which you can lift as low as 4% of your bodyweight all the way up to 60%.

This is the first major drawback to The Total Gym machine.

The ability of an individual to make continual increases in muscle size/strength relies on consistent progression in weight/reps over time.

Every bodybuilding program is essentially a strength training program at heart, and all bodybuilders should be placing their primary focus on adding more weight to the bar over time.

The problem is that using 60% of your bodyweight will quite simply not be enough for many of the most important exercises that one can perform.

For example, most bodybuilders can perform chin-ups using at least 100% of their bodyweight, and can squat and bench press well beyond that.

Once the individual has reached the point where 60% of the bodyweight can be easily lifted, their progress will be dead in the water. The individual will not be able to make any further increases in resistance, and therefore will essentially outgrow the machine.

The second major drawback of using The Total Gym for bodybuilding purposes is in exercise selection.

While The Total Gym does allow for a variety of exercises to be performed, it just doesn’t come close to the basic, proven and tested lifts that barbells and dumbbells provide.

Because of the simplicity of the machine, there are only a small number of lifts that can be performed relative to basic gym equipment.

What’s the bottom line on the use of The Total Gym for bodybuilding?

With limited resistance and limited exercises, The Total Gym has far too many limitations and is most certainly not a tool for serious bodybuilders or athletes.

If you just want to stay more active and burn a few more calories then it may have some use, but for anyone looking to make a serious body transformation, traditional free weights and machines are a far better choice.

– Sean

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