Bowflex offers two pulley-based resistance mechanisms for its home gyms: progressive resistance from flexible Power Rods, which offer more resistance the more you flex them, and trademarked SpiraFlex resistance plates, which contain polymers that flex and twist to create linear — or constant — resistance as you lift.
These technologies are patented, and there's nothing else quite like them on the market. Still, you can approximate some characteristics of the Bowflex experience with other home gym brands.
Linear vs. Progressive
If you prefer the linear resistance of SpiraFlex plates, Soloflex offers simplistic home gyms with heavy-duty polymer weight straps that also produce linear resistance. According to the Soloflex website, weight straps harness the stored energy in the rubber to provide the resistance of free weights. Similar to Bowflex machines, the elasticity of rubber protects your ligaments by dampening shock.
Bio Force also offers linear resistance from a hydraulic system. According to the Bio Force website, gyms feature Total Nitrocell Technology which includes "nitrogen-charged" hydraulic resistance cylinders. This provides the resistance of free weights, but with an equal amount of pressure throughout each lift.
Another trademark of Bowflex gyms is their pulley system, which forces your body to stabilize the handles as you push or pull. The Total Gym offers a similar feel, with your body — perched on the gym's gliding board acting as the resistance.
Many other manufacturers such as Weider, PowerLine and Marcy offer home gyms with pulley stations in addition to the lever-based stations that characterize traditional home gyms.
If you like the feel of the progressive resistance from Bowflex's Power Rods, you might enjoy working out with elastic resistance bands, which also provide progressive resistance.
Heavy duty latex bands come in a variety of resistance levels. Using anchors and different handle configurations, you can perform almost any exercise you could do on a home gym.