This is a review of the three Bowflex home gym rowing machine models; the Revolution, Blaze, and PR1000.
I purchased my first Bowflex home gym in 1987 and have been using them on and off ever since then. As a result, I am very familiar with how the unique Bowflex Power Rod system works and have an intimate knowledge of this home gym brand. I’ve also used and compared the rowing function on the PR1000 and Blaze personally.
In this review, I’ll bring all of that personal experience to the table and combine it with the hours of research I’ve undertaken to bring the most reliable, honest, and comprehensive review of Bowflex rowing machines you’ll find online.
I found the three Bowflex rowing machine functions to be adequate for beginners who are wanting to do some rowing as part of their overall resistance training workout. Of the three rowers, the Revolution gives the best rowing performance due to its having footplates to provide more secure foot positioning.
However, none of these three rowing machines are suitable for experienced rowers due to their lack of rail length, improper ergonomics, and jerky rowing action that lacks fluidity.
In the following paragraphs, I will go into detail on the pros and cons of these three home gyms. In addition to discussing the rowing features, I will also review the home gym features of each machine. In the process, I will compare the three machines and let you know what type of trainer each model is best suited for.
Keep reading to get the definitive lowdown on the Bowflex range of rowing machines.
What is a Bowflex Home Gym Machine
Let’s make it clear at the outset – to call the three machines we are about to analyze rowing machines is a bit of a stretch; they are more correctly, home multigyms with a built-in rowing station.
Of the three machines, the PR1000 and Blaze make use of the unique Bowflex Power Rod resistance system while the Revolution uses newer technology to provide resistance, which Bowflex calls Spiraflex.
The three Bowflex home gyms have a removal portion of the seat, which is the large padded back support. With this removed, the smaller part of the seat that your butt rests on can slide up and down the seat rail. This provides the ability to perform a rowing movement.
In addition to rowing, the Bowflex home gyms allow you to simulate nearly every resistance exercise that you can do in a commercial gym.
How to Row on a Bowflex machine
To use your Bowflex home gym as a rowing machine, it needs to provide the ability to slide up and down on the seat rail. You will have to remove the latest section of the back/ seat pad to leave you with a seat that glides along the seat rail.
Sit on the seat facing the machine and grab the handles. Of the three machines reviewed here, only the Revolution provides you with footplates to place your feet on. With the Blaze and the PR 1000, you will simply have to rest your feet on the frame of the machine. In this position, you can simulate a rowing action.
Bowflex Revolution Home Gym
The Bowflex Revolution is the top-of-the-line home gym that is currently produced by Bowflex. Unlike previous models it does not use the familiar Power Rod resistance system, introducing a patented new system, which they have called Spiraflex. The maximum resistance that this system is capable of producing is 220 pounds, though it can be upgraded to 280 pounds. You can do more than a hundred resistance exercises on the Revolution.
The Spiraflex resistance system is based on technology developed for the International Space Station. The lack of gravity in space made it impossible for fitness-minded astronauts to train with traditional weights. As a result, the space engineers at NASA set their minds on developing a way that they could get in a good workout in a weightless environment.
The Spiraflex system involves a series of specially designed plates that house an elastic strap. When you pull on the resistance cable, the plates spin and the strap stretches to create the resistance. A patented mechanism inside the plates ensures that you receive constant tension over the entire range of exercise motion. As with the Powerflex system, however, there is no eccentric, or negative resistance, with this system.
Each Spiraflex plate has a designated weight rating based on its resistance level. The Revolution comes with the following resistance…
- 5 pounds
- 10 pounds
- 20 pounds
- 40 pounds
Despite having different weight ratings, the plates all weigh the same and are the same size. This makes it faster and safer to load and unload your weights than if you were using traditional free weights.
Unlike many home gyms, the Bowflex Revolution comes with a leg press station to allow you to perform a range of lower body exercises. The bench can be adjusted for incline and decline angles as well as flat. There is also a preacher curl attachment that comes as standard.
The arms on the Revolution are adjustable to 10 positions and can be moved through a 170-degree range of motion.
The rowing function of the Revolution makes use of the sliding seat rail and the seat portion of the back support. You also get dedicated foot pedestals to position and lock in your feet. This allows you to get a secure hold on your body as you drive into the row. The cables and handles of the machine are used as your rowing resistance.
The Bowflex Revolution rowing machine function is quite limiting in terms of the ability to get a full rowing motion. In fact, that is a general problem with this machine, which is not really built for people over 6’2”.
While the Revolution provides the best rowing simulation of the three home gyms reviewed here, the action is not comparable to what you would get on an air, magnetic, or water rower. There is considerable lag on the return and you are likely to have to put up with a stuttery row if you are planning to go at it for more than 5 minutes.
Assembly of the Bowflex Revolution will take some serious time and energy. You will need to dedicate between six and eight hours to the project and it would pay to have a buddy alongside you. Bowflex provides you with all the tools to do the job but the assembly instructions are not as clear as they could be.
Your purchase of the Bowflex Revolution home gym is covered by a 10-year warranty on the machine and Spiraflex plates.
The Bowflex Revolution is not available from the official website. Various resellers offer it at a range of prices. However, the standard non-discounted price seems to be $2899.00. In terms of a full-function home gym with a cardio function that is not an unreasonable price, though still on the high side.
Bowflex Blaze Home Gym
The Bowflex Blaze sits between the Revolution and the PR 1000 in terms of its functionality. You can do around 60 exercises on this machine. Unlike the Revolution, this machine makes use of the Power Rod resistance system that Bowflex created and has been using for half a century. The Power Rods, which work in a way that is similar to the resistance created when a bow bends, provide you with a total resistance of 210 pounds. This can be upgraded at the owner’s expense to 410 pounds.
The Bowflex Blaze allows you to get in a full-body workout, though it does not come with a leg press station. There is, however, a leg curl and leg extension station. You also get a lat pulldown station and multi-adjustable pulley stations to allow you to simulate the cable pulley machine exercises that can be done in the gym.
The rowing function of the Blaze works in a similar way to the Revolution. The difference is that there are no footplates or straps to secure your feet to. As a result, you are not able to achieve any lower body hold as you drive into the row. This makes it difficult to achieve the fluid rowing action that you expect to get on a quality rowing machine.
The Power Rod Resistance System
The Power Rod resistance system was introduced by Bowflex back in the 1980s. It makes use of a bow and arrow resistance setup. As the Power Rod flexes, the resistance changes. During the first third of the range of motion, the resistance is quite light. During the next third of the range, it increases in intensity to reach its maximum strength level during the final third of the range of motion.
The strength curve is, unfortunately, the very opposite of the natural strength curve of human muscles. A muscle is strongest at the start of the range of motion and weakest at the end of that range. That makes the Power Rod system less than ideal in terms of optimizing muscle and strength growth.
Another problem with the Power Roed system is that it provides very little in the way of eccentric, or negative, resistance. Yet, it is during the negative, or lowering part, of the rep that much of the growth potential of the exercise occurs.
For these reasons, the Power Rod system is not as beneficial as a conventional weight-based resistance system for building muscle and getting stronger.
The Bowflex Blaze will require a couple of hours to assemble. Having a friend to help you will make the process a lot easier than trying to do it by yourself. You should be able to negotiate your way through the assembly instructions, though they could be easier to interpret.
You get the following warranty coverage when you buy the Bowflex Blaze …
- 1 year on the body of the machine
- 5 years on the power rods
- 60 days on parts
The Bowflex Blaze can be purchased from several resellers at an average price of $720. That represents good value for a machine that provides you with the capability to do more than 60 exercises and has a max weight equivalence of 210 pounds.
Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym
The Bowflex PR1000 is a pared-down version of the Blaze, providing you with around a 30 exercise capability. You get the same 210 pound Power Rod resistance as with the Blaze. The PR1000 provides you with the following Power Rod weight divisions …
- 5 pounds
- 10 pounds
- 30 pounds
- 50 pounds
The PR1000 is the most compact of the three machines, especially when folded for storage. The dimensions of the machine are 84” x 38”x 81”, requiring a floor space of 103” x 80 x 82”.
Taking into account the fact that this is the budget model in the Bowflex Home Gym range, the PR1000 has a pretty impressive frame. It is made from high spec commercial steel. The tension cables used are constructed from high-strength braided steel. Bowflex claims that the Power Rods are stronger than steel, a claim which has been borne out over the last 50 years of user experience.
The rowing machine function of the PR1000 is very similar to that of the Bowflex Blaze. It makes use of the sliding rail on the seat and does not provide you with any way to lock in your feet. The range of motion is quite limiting so people over 6’2” will struggle to get a full extension on the drive.
The PR1000 will arrive in a box so you will have to assemble it yourself. The instructions are pretty easy to follow and you should dedicate around 2 hours to do the job.
Bowflex provides you with the following Power Rod warranty cover …
- 1 year on the body of the machine
- 5 years on the power rods
- 60 days on parts
The price of the PR1000 fluctuates between $499 and $549 depending on where you buy it from. That represents good value when you take into account that you get more than 30 exercises at a resistance maximum of 210 pounds, along with a cardio training option.
Should you Buy A Bowflex Rower?
Unless you are a beginner exerciser, looking for a casual row to supplement your main resistance training efforts, I do not recommend buying a Bowflex Rower. Here’s a summary of the reasons why I do not recommend a Bowflex Rower …
- None of the three Bowflex rowing machines can provide you with a fluid, jerk-free rowing motion with no stuttering and a seamless transition between the row and the return.
- There is no way to lock down your feet on the Blaze and PR1000 machines. As a result, you cannot achieve a secure drive.
- None of the machines allow for a complete range of rowing movement.
- They all have somewhat of a lag in the rowing return.
A Bowflex Rower is for you if:
- You are a beginner exerciser who is wanting a non-serious row to intersperse your resistance training
- You want to focus on the resistance training aspects of the machine
A Bowflex Rower is not for you if:
- You’re an experienced rower who is looking for a rower that simulates rowing on air or water
- You’re looking for an effective cardiovascular workout
- You do not like the Power Rod or SpiraFlex resistance system
- Are taller than 6’2”
The three Bowflex Rowing Machines that we have reviewed – the Revolution, Blaze, and PR1000 – are not really rowing machines at all. They are multifunction home gyms with a rowing machine function added to them.
In my humble opinion, the Bowflex people have added this feature without seriously wanting to deliver a quality rowing experience. Rather, the ability to market a resistance multigym that also provides a cardio training station delivers a unique selling point.
If you are looking for a serious rowing machine to get in your cardio home workouts, then you should look beyond the Bowflex range. You will be far better off with a stand-alone rowing machine that is designed specifically for the purpose. The one I recommend is the Concept2 RowErg, which provides a very smooth, fluid ergonomically advanced rowing experience on a solid, durable machine. You can also check out our list of the best rowing machines.
In terms of being home gyms, the three Bowflex machines certainly offer plenty of functionality with between 30 exercises on the PR1000 and more than a hundred on the Revolution. Keep in mind, though, that you will be using a unique type of resistance in either the Power Rods or the Spiraflex system. These feel quite different from using either free weight or plate stack machines.
I recommend finding a place where you can try out the machine before committing to it in order to see how much you like this type of resistance system.
Check out the Bowflex range of home gym/rowing machines.