I've owned a Soloflex for close to ten years now (as of Oct '05), and throughout this time have used two Bowflex's (for significant periods of time on both occasions), free-weights and weight machines in gyms of all types (mechanical and electrical) for comparison. Although the Soloflex has a few strong points, several glaring design flaws far out-weigh the good. In the time I've owned it I've used it on a limited basis as I'm quite disappointed with the machine overall and honestly feel that other potential buyers will be as well. I definitely would NOT recommend this machine to anyone, regardless of their physical fitness goals. In the interest of trying to be fair and honest I'll discuss some of its strong points before I just tear it to shreds. The strong points are as follows; (1) Compactness- Taking into consideration the number of exercises you can perform with it, it's actually rather impressive how compact and ingeniously simple the basic design is, especially compared to the Bowflex and other home gyms of good quality. Forget the cheap, cheesy ones, they're an even bigger waste of time and money than the Soloflex! I would say this is a unique feature of the Soloflex. I haven't seen another machine that does what this does in a more compact design. (2) Durability- I'm convinced the only thing that could break this thing and its attachments, (EXCLUDING the positively ridiculous 'rubber weight straps') is a direct hit from a 2000lb bomb. A 1000-pounder would probably just scratch the paint. LOL! This is another unique feature, even when compared to higher priced home gyms. (3) Isometric (A.K.A. Iso) tension/resistance- put in simple terms, Iso means using a form of resistance for strength maintenance/gains other than gravity. You can't use momentum/acceleration forces to 'cheat' the resistance and conversely, momentum can't multiply the weight during a loss of control (near failure) and hurt you. This is why Iso resistance is usually insisted upon by physicians or trainers for those recovering from injury/surgical procedures or beginning strength trainers. This is not a unique feature and without a doubt the Soloflexs' biggest design flaw. Other (but not all) Iso machines' forms of resistance are VASTLY superior. More on that later. (4) Safety/Lack of need of a spotter- with a few exceptions the machine generally serves as a fairly stable platform making it almost impossible to lose balance and fall or drop a weight on you. You can lift really hard going to total failure (critical for maximum gains) and do so totally worry-free. This is not a unique feature as other machines are similarly safe/stable and some are considerably more stable. This benefit is primarily over free-weights. That's about it for the 'good' stuff.
Recommend this product?
My complaints about the machine are as follows; (1) Uncomfortable- I'm 6'0 and the bench is too high for me and especially for women. The bench is hard and very uncomfortable. It's also too short. Lying while doing ham curls is awkward and while benching, trying to simply scoot your body towards the main frame in an attempt to effectively hit your lower pecs without having to re-configure the bench/bar is impossible unless you're very short and trying to slide away from it to hit your upper pecs is like torture. The pads that are on the leg extension and that go on the bar during squats are so hard they leave bruises on me. They might as well be made of wood! (2) Attachments are awkward/heavy- The leg extension is heavy, clumsy, hurts like the dickens when you bang your shins with it and a pain to install. It also increases the height of the bench even further making the machine more uncomfortable when performing other exercises. Having to remove/install it greatly diminishes your ability to quickly/easily go to different exercises. The frame is a little under 6' tall so having to lift the clumsy butterfly attachment over it can be a challenge for smaller individuals. And be careful not to pinch the heck out of your fingers against the pin it rests on. (3) Unstable- With the additional weight of the leg extension on the machine, it's prone to tipping forward when trying to get into position and exercising. Remember I said it would take a bomb to break this thing? That's because it's constructed of very thick, heavy metal. You would think the weight of it would make it stable, but the imbalance (design flaw) causes it to tip. If it were to go over, it would come down with quite a crash. Taking into consideration that while it's crashing your legs are tangled up in the extension device, don't count on any attempts at evasive maneuvers being successful. You're going down with it. When doing pull-ups be VERY careful not to swing your body. The silly little device you put on the back of the frame (it normally holds up the end of the bench) doesn't help much. Keep the kids away and by-standers beware! (4) Noisy- The metal-on-metal pivot of the bar pin squeals loudly. It's incredibly annoying. You can try to put grease on it, but then you get grease on your hands and other things, and the pin doesn't want stay in place. (5) Danger/Lack of advertised free weight adaptability- It positively amazes me, that in todays litigious society, wherein you can be sued for leaving cookies on someones door step, that a manufacturer would mass produce a device as dangerous as this and encourage it's use! The silly little bars meant to hold free weights that slide into the ends of the hollow main bar cannot be securely or permenantly affixed. They literally slide in and just hang there. In the brochure it states that you can load up to 500lbs of weights on the bar. With what?! The slide-in bars are so small there's absolutely no way the weights would fit. Not to mention they're so thin (and not securely attached) I wouldn't feel safe putting as little as 100lbs on them! Even if you stacked enough 45's on the main bar itself, you simply wouldn't have enough room for you to perform any exercises. Soloflex claims you can put 500lbs of weights on the machine and I don't see how it's possible. That's just deceptive and misleading if not out-right false advertising. Perhaps a class-action lawsuit against Soloflex is in order. (6) Rubber 'Weight Straps'- By far the worst feature of the Soloflex. These things just ab-so-lutely SUCK! In order to truly understand what worthless pieces of garbage these things, and therefore the entire machine itself truly is, allow me to explain how imperative it is that you know exactly how much weight/resistance you're working against. When you're training for gains in strength and/or endurance it is absolutely critical that you monitor your progress with reliable data, and adjust your diet/work out routine accordingly. If you start to see a trend of any of the following, either individually or in combination, you must immediately review your data to assess what the problem may be; (1) a loss of accurately measured strength/endurance or athletic performance (2) a decrease in bodyweight not attributable to body fat loss (indicating you're losing muscle) OR an increase in body weight not attributable to muscle gain (indicating you're getting fatter). One of the things that you will review to know what change to make is your lifting/strength training pattern. If it's inaccurate you'll be chasing your tail trying to fix what you 'think' is the problem, while the action you're taking is making the problem worse! Here's just one small example of many I could use to illustrate my point. You note an increase in body weight -That means you're either (A) consuming excess calories for the exercise program you're on, and your body is storing those excess calories as fat OR (B) you're consuming too little calories for the exercise program you're on, activating your bodies starvation response and your body is literally consuming it's own muscle-BAAAAD! In the starvation response mode your body will try to store more fat while slowing down it's calorie requirements, i.e. consuming muscle. How would we attempt to ascertain which of the two it might be? A quick and easy way you might try is to ask am I getting stronger or weaker? You can't do more (or equal) work with diminishing muscle mass, and if a quick perusal of your false data leads you to believe that you're maintaining/gaining in strength, and you don't do a body fat analysis (because your info seems to be indicating you're not getting weaker), you'll mistakenly determine the problem is excess calories. We'll say example B is true, but you think it's example A due to your false information. When you cut calories (and you're already in a critical calorie deficiency) and the result you expect is a loss of fat with no loss of muscle, and when you finally do do a body fat analysis, and realize you've lost muscle and gained fat you're going to wonder what the heck is going on.How can I be getting stronger with less muscle and why am I getting fatter when my info doesn't lead me to believe I'm in critical calorie deficiency (i.e. getting fatter and weaker)? At this point total confusion and frustration sets in! Here's how this relates to the rubber bands Soloflex uses. The rubber bands fatigue and weaken with use. If you're analyzing your weight lifting progress and see that you're able to do a certain weight for increased reps, or even a higher weight for the same number of reps as the lighter weight you did a week or so ago, you mistakenly think you're getting stronger. When in fact you're just working against less resistance. And the longer you continue down that wrong road the worse your condition gets. In addition to that, the stupid things constantly crack or break. Also, the resistance is extremely inconsistent between the straps. If you want to load the machine with 50lbs and use the four 10lb and two 5lb straps, you'll find that when you try to use the the two 25lb straps alone (to get 50lbs) you'll find the resistance is radically different (higher). There was a time I remember that on my piece of garbage I could use the stack of 4-10's and 2-5's and perform several sets of curls, but when I put the 2-25's on I could barely move the bar! If you're trying to step up from 50 to 60lbs of resistance, you can't!! This is true of all the straps and given the fact that they're always weakening, how can you accurately assess if you're getting stronger or not? How can you precisely determine how much weight your lifting? It doesn't do any good to keep buying new straps because the resistance is always totally different from new to old straps and the new straps will weaken and break with use. They are also kind of expensive considering how often you would have to replace them. Like I said, they totally SUCK! There are quite a few other complaints I have about the Soloflex but I don't have the desire to write them all out. I think I've provided you with enough info that you will avoid this thing like the plague. With the exception of falling for the Carleton Sheets real estate 'personal coaching program' (to the tune of over $2,000), and having a divorce lawyer take me for $1,400 and doing almost nothing, I've never felt so ripped off in my life.
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