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How to Use a Bowflex

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The Bowflex Body Plan, developed by Ellington Darden, PhD, is a great way to develop upper body strength, flexibility and endurance while burning off excess body fat. Follow these tips to use your Bowflex to the greatest advantage.

1) Get Comfortable With the Bowflex System

Read the instruction manual that comes with your Bowflex system, and watch any videos provided. Spend time familiarizing yourself with how the machine works. Sit on it, fiddle with the controls and don't proceed until you're comfortable with using and properly operating the system.

2) Set the Resistance

The Bowflex system allows you to set a resistance of up to 400 pounds, so choose a resistance that makes your muscles feel fatigued after eight to twelve repetitions. This level of resistance will vary from person to person, so you'll need to experiment a little. If you don't get enough resistance or don't perform enough reps, you won't push your muscles to their limit. Therefore, you won't encourage any new muscle growth. If you have too much resistance or too many reps, your muscles will fail from lack of oxygen and you still won't encourage any new muscle growth.

3) Perform the Exercises Correctly

Bowflex exercises should be done in a smooth, slow and controlled manner. Jerking, bumping or bouncing movements put you at risk of injury. Perform each exercise until your muscles are burning and you can no longer do any more repetitions.

4) Stagger Your Workouts

Don't workout your whole body all at once on the same day, and definitely don't repeat the same exercises day after day. Stagger your workouts a little; work one muscle group on one day, then allow it to rest the next day while you work another muscle group. If you don't allow your muscles time to recover after a workout, then you risk overworking them and damaging them by overtraining.

If you want to perform full body workouts on the Bowflex, give yourself between two and four days' recovery time before performing another full body Bowflex workout. Many Bowflex users choose a Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule. If you're new to the Bowflex, using it may fatigue your muscles more and you may need to give yourself the full four days' recovery period before working out on the Bowflex again.

5) Work Larger Muscles First and Smaller Muscles Last

Focus on working your larger muscles before you begin to work on the smaller ones. Always workout your lower body before moving on to your upper body. In the lower body, work out your thighs, calves and upper waist in that order. In the upper body, work out your chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps in that order.

6) Increase Resistance and Repetitions Gradually

When your original Bowflex workout begins to seem easy to you, it's time to increase your resistance. Continue to perform the same number of repetitions, but gradually increase the resistance so that you're experiencing muscle fatigue at the end of your workouts.

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