Pros: compact; relatively inexpensive; (potentially) lots of exercises
Cons: no longer manufactured; hard to assemble
I bought this model from Sears in 2001. I believe the EXM-1200S is the successor model. The main difference seems to be a 200-lb weight stack on the -1200S versus a 150-lb stack on the -1100S. Other than that, the pictures I've seen make them look almost identical.
Neither model is listed on Body-Solid's own website any more. Buying these new may be limited to whatever stock is currently available on retail shelves; otherwise the used/secondhand market may be the only route. Either way, assembly will be required, and that is not a minor task (more below).
This particular home gym appealed to me for four main reasons: it was relatively inexpensive compared to other home gyms ($450 after a 10% discount), it seemed to offer a large number of exercises (Sears had a video running on this model that claimed "hundreds"), it was relatively compact, both in area and height (some machines I looked at in the $500-1000 range were too tall to fit into the room I had in mind), and as a cable-machine rather than free-weight, I felt I could use it by myself (ie., I wouldn't need a "spotter" for heavier weights).
The -1100S came in two boxes, a small one containing 155 lbs of weights (15 10-lb weights and one 5-lb weight) and a larger one containing everything else. Nuts, bolts and a set of hex wrenches were all included in a blister pack in the larger box. Assembly took several hours. The assembly instructions had two or three outright errors in them. These were minor and the correct procedure could be puzzled out, but it took a bit of time.
The instructions include a number of full-page diagrams of the -1100S in various states of assembly. These are not numbered or otherwise identified; the instructions make numerous mentions of "as shown" but do not indicate which diagram they are speaking of:
STEP 8: Attach H-leg press plate to P-linkage frame using (2) A4-3/8"X2 3/4" hex head bolt, (2)C1-3/8" washer, and (2)B3-3/8"nylon lock nut. Attach (2)D2-2X2 end cap to H-leg press plate as shown.
That's one of the shortest steps, and it's one of the easiest. "As shown" means finding the diagram that shows both the "H-leg press plate" and "P-linkage frame" first.
The most fiddly bit was matching up the cable to the weight stack. The "T-selector-bar" attaches to the end of the cable and fits into the weight stack. A screw then lets you adjust the position of the selector bar so its holes line up with the holes in the weight stack. You then insert a key into the holes corresponding to the weight you want to deal with, thus linking the weight stack to the cable. I never did get these precisely lined up because it seemed to me that the adjustment screw had to be let out dangerously far (in danger of failing far) in order to make it perfect (so now I just lift on the cable in order to line up the holes when I want to change weights).
Whew! For a couple of weeks after that the assembly remained the most complete workout the -1100S gave me. That was exhausting!
For the most part the materials and workmanship of the -1100S appear good. The leg band used with the chain for some exercises is an exception. This has frayed and on occasion its velcro closure gives way in use. It has not failed outright, but I would not be surprised if it eventually does (and I have no idea where I would get a replacement).
All the parts were present (except the ones where the instructions were in error). They fit together easily (once I figured out what they were talking about). There's even a small bottle of white touch-up paint included for repairing small scratches.
I was surprised that there was only a single sheet of "basic exercises", consisting of fourteen named diagrams of a human figure using the gym in some position with a double-ended arrow indicating the direction of motion. Although the "F-press-frame" used in most of the exercises can be placed in any of four positions on the gym (two for upward resistance, two for downward), none of the diagrams indicates which position is being used.
Some of the exercises shown I can't figure out. The "tricep press down" shows the individual apparently lifting weight. Some of them I don't like - the "ab crunch" uses a chain attached to the cable/pulley system instead of the press frame, and if I do it the way it appears to be illustrated the chain digs into my back.
Some of the exercises possible with the -1100S aren't mentioned at all as "basic exercises". The -1100S includes a "preacher pad", but "preacher curls" are not illustrated.
I haven't checked lately for these lately, but in 2001 Body Solid's website had many more exercises listed for the -1100S. These instructions were much better (they showed which of the four press frame positions they meant, for one thing), and there were in fact more than 100 exercises described.
If you think that they might have put all those exercises in a single file, say in Adobe *.PDF format, for easy downloading, though, you'd be wrong. Nope, if you wanted one, you had to download and print it. If you wanted another, you had to download and print it. If you wanted...but you get the idea.
That turned out to be too much work for me. I just made up a little routine of ten of the basic exercises (ones I can understand and that don't punish me to perform) that I repeat three times in a workout. Most of the exercises I do are, in fact, the same as the ones I used to do on the Universal gym in high school.
Long Term Use
I've had this gym for about two years now and used it about 100 times, or about once a week (not that steadily actually, but in fits and spurts), or about $4.50 per use. So far it hasn't done as much for my weight as I hoped, but I'm certainly stronger than when I started.
Maintenance has been minimal, limited mostly to wiping off the frame and (especially) the pads with a damp cloth from time to time. Occasionally I have to tighten a few bolts. As mentioned, the leg band used with some exercises has frayed a bit. A small piece has broken off the corner of one of the weights. Other than that, the gym looks and behaves pretty much the same as when I first put it together.
Overall I'm not dissatisfied with this machine, but I'll be ecstatic only when my weight and the cost-per-use both decline quite a bit. It is with reluctance I must admit those depend mostly on my own self-discipline - one of those "you get out of it what you put into it" deals. I hate those :)
After about 180 uses of the EXM-1100s (I keep track in a notebook), part "D18 - 4240mm Steel Cable" broke. One end of this cable is attached to the screw that connects the cable to the weight stack selector bar, the other end is crimped to an eyebolt that connects to parts used for arm and leg exercises. The break came exactly where the eyebolt was crimped on.
Replacement parts can be ordered directly from Body-Solid. Their website advertises that you can send them e-mail about part replacement, but when I did I got a note back telling me to call their 800- number instead. I did not spend terribly long on hold. Service was friendly and competent.
The replacement cable cost $25 including shipping, which was about what I expected before I called.
Replacing the cable was not terribly difficult, but it did mean disassembling some parts, threading the cable, and then reassembling. The screw that connects to the selector bar goes in much further with this new cable. Operation now seems a bit smoother, possibly because there is less slack to take up before the weights move (repeated jerking as slack was taken up may, in fact, be what eventually caused the old cable to fail).
I learned a couple of other things from talking to the customer service rep. First, the EXM-1100s was sold exclusively by Sears. Second, the site www.life-flex.com is devoted to the EXM-1100s. At the time of this writing there are detailed descriptions of about 120 exercises (they still must be accessed one at a time). There are also downloadable images of the assembly instructions.
Given that the rest of the site is mainly a sales blurb for the EMX-1100s, and that Sears no longer sells it, it's an open question how long this site will remain up. But it's there now.