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Is The Bowflex HVT Machine A Smart Buy? [A Review]

bowflex hvt review

Bowflex’s HVT Machine was designed with a rather ambitious goal in mind- to create a home gym that can effectively combine both strength training and cardio workouts in a single machine.

To do this, Bowflex basically designed a functional trainer that can pair nicely with streaming workouts.

Highlights of the HVT include 3 independent sets of pulleys, 16 levels of magnetic resistance, and a free app that gives you access to 50 different trainer-led workouts.

The result is an impressive fitness machine that’s got what it takes to provide some pretty serious workouts, but when it comes to strength training, the HVT might not be the best choice.

To help you decide whether or not the Bowflex HVT is a smart investment for your home gym, this review will take a close look at everything this gym has (and doesn’t have) going for it.

After reading, you’ll know everything you need to in order to make the right call.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The Bowflex HVT Machine

As far as I can tell, Bowflex was the first company to try this. And by this, I mean developing a functional trainer designed to pair with streaming workout videos.

NordicTrack came out with one too, the Fusion CST, which is very similar.

In theory, it sounds like a great idea. Streaming workout apps are all the craze now, with Peloton and iFit becoming increasingly popular every year.

I wonder if commercial gyms have noticed a decline in new memberships? With it becoming easier and easier to workout at home, I would think they would start noticing a difference.

Maybe that’s a good idea for an article in the future?

Anyway, Bowflex is one of the most recognizable names in home fitness. If anybody can make this idea work, it seems like they could.

Bowflex is famous for their multi-functional home gyms that use their patented power rod resistance. But they also offer a bunch of other products, like treadmills, bikes, and the HVT.

Comparatively speaking, their HVT machine is one of their more affordable home gyms (it’s usually on sale).

By the way, HVT stands for “hybrid velocity training”. This really just means interval training with an emphasis on full body moves with short rest periods in between.

This circuit style of working out has been around for a long time and it works great, especially for burning fat and losing weight.

Pros

  • Pretty compact footprint
  • 3 sets of pulleys
  • 3 built-in workouts
  • Compatible with free HVT app with trainer-led workouts
  • Heart rate monitor compatible
  • USB charging port
  • 16 levels of magnetic resistance
  • Air resistance
  • User friendly console
  • Great price (on sale)

Cons

  • Not enough resistance for heavy strength training
  • Short warranty

Frame

First impression- the Bowflex HVT is a sleek looking gym with an attractive color scheme. I know looks have nothing to do with function, but it’s always nice when fitness equipment looks fun to use.

This gym comes with a pretty compact frame, taking up a footprint of roughly: 45.2″ x 65.3″ x 83″ (L x W x H).

As you can see, this is a pretty tall and narrow unit, but keep in mind you have to consider the space necessary to perform all the exercises too.

Fully assembled, this gym weighs about 180 lb, which is actually on the lighter side (compared to the Fusion CST that weighs about 400 lb).

You’ll appreciate this when it comes time to move this thing, but during use less frame weight means less stability. That said, I haven’t come across many user complaints regarding instability.

The HVT has a max user weight capacity of 300 lb. A heavier frame might allow a higher limit, but this is high enough to safely accommodate most folks.

The platform decking you stand on might be the reason Bowflex kept the weight capacity where it is.

The HVT is designed with 3 sets of pulleys at different heights (upper, middle, lower). This is nice because it gives you the ability to perform a vast library of moves, utilizing the resistance at different levels.

This is the biggest advantage of a traditional functional trainer. Most traditional functional trainers consist of a dual stack of weights and a set of adjustable pulleys.

The pulleys on the HVT aren’t adjustable, but the 3 locations included are the 3 most commonly used positions. I prefer adjustable pulleys because you can find tune the position to fit anyone perfectly.

The frame also has handlebars attached that allow you to grab on for stability during certain moves. You could also attach resistance bands to them for even more exercise variety.

Overall, the Bowflex HVT comes with a sturdy frame and smooth acting pulleys. Adjustable pulley positions would be great, but the 3 independent sets offer plenty of versatility.

Features

The Bowflex HVT comes with the following features:

3 Built In Workouts

This gym doesn’t come with a ton of pre-programmed workouts, but it comes with enough to get you started in case you don’t want to use the free app.

The included workouts are: sprint, circuit, and builder. The first 2 are more traditional interval training workouts, emphasizing series of work and rest to keep the heart rate up, while the last (as the name implies) is geared more around strength training.

The sprint workout is the shortest, taking only about 18 min to complete. The other 2 take about 21 min to complete.

Manual Mode

If you don’t feel like following a workout routine, you get choose manual mode where you get to do your own thing. Choose from over 50 exercises available and make your own workout.

The timer will keep track of your total workout time, but there are no other cues provided. Simply set the resistance wherever you want it and start working.

Free HVT App

This gym is designed to be used with the free streaming app. Through the app, you get access to 50 different trainer-led workouts. The app syncs with the gym, so the HVT is giving you cues for rest and work times based on the workout you choose.

Through the app, you can also track all your workout data, as well as make up your own workouts and save them.

The free HVT app can communicate with MyFitnessPal, making it easy to keep track of all your data. You can also download the Bowflex Toolbox app, which will tell you when it’s time to do a software update for your gym.

Heart Rate Monitoring

The HVT is compatible with chest strap heart rate monitors that operate in the 4.5 kHz – 5.5 kHz range, although one isn’t included. The monitor you use must be uncoded and Polar compatible.

In this price range, it’s not too disappointing that one isn’t included (but it would be a nice surprise).

USB Charging Port

There’s a USB charging port built-into the tablet holder, making it really convenient to hook your smart device up and charge it while you follow along, ensuring you don’t completely drain your battery during your workouts.

16 Magnetic Resistance Levels

The resistance you work against on the HVT is created with the combination of a magnetic system and a fan, giving you the benefits of both.

Air resistance is great because the harder and faster you pull, the more resistance you feel. Magnetic resistance is nice because it’s quiet and consistent (not dependent on speed).

The HVT comes with 16 levels of magnetic resistance which you can easily adjust by turning the dial on the middle of the console.

Even though this gym combines magnetic and air resistance systems, all users seem to agree the resistance provided isn’t nearly enough for heavy strength training.

Which is ok, because this gym isn’t designed with this type of high load, low rep exercise in mind. This gym is designed more for interval training, with the goal of burning calories and toning up in as little time as possible.

If you’re looking to bulk up, this isn’t the right home gym for ya.

Coaching Console

The console has a unique cueing aspect to it- there are rows of lights that indicate what exercise and what round of your circuit you’re on when performing the built-in or app workouts.

The timer also counts the time left for each exercise, making it easy to keep track of where you are in your workouts.

6 Handles

This gym comes with 6 standard handles, one for each pulley attachment. The handles are pretty standard, comparable to the ones you’d find at any local gym.

It would be nice if Bowflex threw in some ankle straps, but none are included. You could always buy your own separately. You could also use other attachments, like a tricep rope or straight bar if you like.

Assembly

Even though the main body of the frame comes pre-assembled, there’s still quite a bit of assembly that needs doing to get the HVT up and running.

You’ll be responsible for attaching the base, attaching all the pulley arms, and some cable routing.

That said, the Bowflex instruction manual does a great job of keeping the process pretty straightforward. The included images are large and easy to see and there are written directions for each step.

There are a lot of steps to go through, but putting this gym together shouldn’t be too bad. According to Bowflex, if you can assemble IKEA furniture, you shouldn’t have any problems with this.

When in doubt, you can always pay for professional assembly, but I imagine most fairly handy people will be able to get the job done themselves.

Warranty

The Bowflex HVT comes with the following warranty:

  • 2 year frame
  • 2 year parts (including electronics)
  • 90 day labor

The frame warranty is pretty short here. I’d like to see a lifetime frame guarantee. The parts warranty is pretty standard, especially for a gym in this price range.

90 days on labor is also short, but this is a pretty budget friendly gym, relatively speaking.

Overall, this isn’t a great warranty, but for the price it’s not too unexpected.

Final Thoughts

Bowflex had a pretty ambitious goal when they came up with the HVT machine- combining strength training and cardio in a single home gym that is fitness app friendly.

All things considered, I think this gym works pretty well for what it’s designed for.

This gym is more than capable of providing a solid HIIT style workout. It’s effectively designed for full body workouts and I think a lot of folks will enjoy following the trainer-led workouts through the app.

For those who haven’t used fitness apps before, they do help with motivation.

The frame is solid and I like that it comes with 3 sets of pulleys to choose from- this gives you a lot of exercise variety. The console is simple and very user friendly as well.

The warranty could be longer, but that’s forgivable considering the low sale price.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that this gym doesn’t provide enough resistance for high-weight, low rep lifting. If you’re looking for a gym that can offer that, this isn’t it.

But Bowflex didn’t design the HVT for this type of exercise. It’s been designed for full body interval training, with the goal of burning calories and fat.  And to that extent, I think Bowflex was successful.

 

Will

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