Whether you’ve got a Bowflex home gym already or are thinking of buying one, you’ll be glad to hear these awesome machines are great for building muscle and strength.
Bowflex started making their unique home gyms in the mid-1980s, and they’ve been popular ever since. They even get a mention in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when Star-Lord Peter Quill says he’s going to use one to get in shape!
What makes Bowflex home gyms so special is their use of flexible “power rods” for resistance. Using power rods for resistance means no clanging weights, and the machines themselves are compact and light.
By combining rods and changing pulleys, you can train virtually every muscle in your body, replicating most freeweight and machine exercises in the comfort of your own home.
In terms of resistance and the number of exercises available, that depends on the Bowflex home gym model you own. However, even the basic models are very versatile and should provide more than enough overload to increase your muscle size and strength.
Of course, even the best Bowflex home gym will only produce results if you use it often enough and follow a suitable program.
And that’s where this article comes in!
This Bowflex workout routine is designed for beginner and intermediate lifters and will build muscle and strength throughout your body. It uses the famous push-pull-legs split, which is arguably one of the most flexible and effective ways to organize your training.
- What is The Push-Pull-Legs Split?
- Bowflex Workout One – Push
- Bowflex Workout Two – Pull
- Bowflex Workout Three – Legs
- Bowflex Workout – FAQs
- Bowflex Workout – Closing Thoughts
What is The Push-Pull-Legs Split?
Bodybuilding workouts often divide your body into different muscle groups, such as chest day, shoulder day, arm day, and leg day. This is called a bro split. While such an approach can be effective, it can also be time-consuming and inflexible.
With the push-pull-legs or PPL split, exercises are grouped by movements, and you can alter the training frequency based on your needs and goals.
In simple terms, the push workouts train your chest, shoulders, and triceps, and the pull workouts target your back, traps, and biceps. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the leg days train your lower body!
The PPL split ensures that all your major muscles are trained equally and at least once per week, which is optimal for building a strong, muscular body.
It’s then up to you how many times you train, and you can do anywhere from three to six workouts per week.
For example, beginners will probably do best with three workouts per week, i.e.:
- Monday – Push
- Wednesday – Pull
- Friday – Legs
However, more experienced lifters can do six workouts per week, i.e.:
- Monday – Push
- Tuesday – Pull
- Wednesday – Legs
- Thursday – Push
- Friday – Pull
- Saturday – Legs
Intermediate exercisers can use a rolling approach to their Bowflex workouts and organize their programs to train four or five times per week, i.e.:
Four workouts per week
Five workouts per week
Whichever training frequency you choose, you can use the PPL split to build strength and muscle mass in equal measure.
Bowflex Workout One – Push
Workout one starts with everyone’s favorite muscle group to train – the chest. Once your chest is sufficiently tired, it’s time to move onto your shoulders and, finally, your triceps.
1. Chest press
While you can’t do barbell bench presses on a Bowflex home gym, you can do the next best thing – chest presses. This exercise is a lot like doing bench presses with dumbbells, so you can be sure it’s effective.
Do four sets of 8-15 repetitions to fry your pecs.
2. Chest fly
The Bowflex chest fly trains your chest just like dumbbell flies but without resorting to freeweights. This is an isolation exercise, which means it only involves one joint. Use moderate resistance and focus on moving through a full range of motion and squeezing your pecs at the top of each rep.
Do three sets of 12-20 reps of this exercise.
Finish your pecs with a couple of sets of push-ups. While this isn’t a Bowflex exercise, it’s such a good chest-builder that it deserves a place in your push-day workout. Take each set to muscular failure to drive your pecs to their limit and stimulate as much growth as possible. Consider using push-up handles to increase your range of motion and get even more from your final chest exercise.
Do two sets of as many reps as possible (AMRAP).
4. Shoulder press
Overhead presses are one of the best ways to build broader, more muscular shoulders. They hit all three of your deltoid heads, with an emphasis on the anterior or front fibers. Bowflex shoulder presses look and feel a lot like seated dumbbell shoulder presses.
Do three sets of 8-15 reps to light up your deltoids.
5. Lateral raise
Bowflex lateral raises target your medial or side deltoid. This is the deltoid head that gives your shoulders their width. Using a Bowflex keeps your muscles under near-constant tension, which means this exercise is very similar to cable lateral raises.
Do two sets of 12-20 reps to cap your shoulders and finish your delt workout.
6. Triceps pushdown
The last exercise in your push workout is triceps pushdown, which is an isolation exercise for the muscles on the back of your upper arms. You’ve used your triceps during all the previous pushing exercises, so it won’t take much to tire them out, and a couple of hard sets should be all you need.
Do two sets of 12-20 reps to finish off your triceps and bring your workout to a close.
Bowflex push workout summary
|1||Chest press||4||8-15||90 seconds|
|2||Chest fly||3||12-20||60 seconds|
|4||Shoulder press||3||8-15||90 seconds|
|5||Lateral raise||2||12-20||60 seconds|
|6||Triceps pushdown||2||12-20||60 seconds|
Bowflex Workout Two – Pull
Today’s workout is all about your lats, traps, and biceps. A lot of lifters neglect their backs and spend far too much time training their chests. This is a BIG mistake! A well-developed back is not only very impressive but is also crucial for posture and shoulder health.
1. Lat pulldowns
As the name suggests, lat pulldowns work your lats. However, in this instance, lat is actually short for lateral and not latissimus dorsi! Regardless, get the most from this exercise by lifting your chest and driving your elbows down and back. Imagine you are trying to touch your hips with your elbows, and you’ll feel your lats working harder.
Do three sets of 8-15 repetitions of this key lat-building exercise.
2. Seated rows
Your lats have two main functions – shoulder adduction and shoulder extension. Lat pulldowns mostly involve adduction, so you need to include rows in your workouts to maximize shoulder extension. Rows make your back thicker, while pulldowns tend to make it wider. That’s why you need pulldowns AND rows in your back-building workouts.
Do three sets of 8-15 repetitions to build a ticker, more muscular upper back.
Shrugs work your traps, which are your upper back muscles. Your traps have three sets of fibers – upper, middle, and lower. Shrugs mainly work the upper traps. Don’t worry, though; your middle and lower traps have been trained already during pulldowns and rows.
Do three sets of 12-20 reps to pump up your upper traps and get yoked!
4. Two-handed curl
There isn’t a bodybuilder alive who doesn’t want bigger, more muscular biceps. The biceps are arguably the most famous muscle in the human body, and even non-lifters know where it is and how to flex it. Because the biceps are such an important muscle, you’ll be training it with not one but two Bowflex exercises.
Do three sets of 8-15 repetitions to build bigger, more muscular biceps.
5. Concentration curl
Your final pull-day concentration curl exercise is designed to push your biceps to their limit and trigger maximal growth. Use your free arm to help you pump out a couple of reps past failure. This is called forced reps and is a great way to increase workout intensity.
Do two sets of 12-20 reps to leave your biceps pumped to the max and thoroughly (but pleasantly) exhausted.
Bowflex pull workout summary
|1||Lat pulldown||3||8-15||90 seconds|
|2||Seated row||3||8-15||90 seconds|
|4||Two-handed curl||3||8-15||90 seconds|
|5||Concentration curls||2||12-20||60 seconds|
Bowflex Workout Three – Legs
Leg training is something that most people either love or hate. Regardless of your opinion, every lifter should pay as much attention to their legs as they do to their upper body. Like the meme says, friends don’t let friends skip leg day!
1. Leg extensions
Doing leg extensions first in your workout serves two purposes – it’ll warm up your knees and pre-fatigue your quadriceps to make the following leg exercises more challenging and effective. That’s important because the Bowflex leg press is not especially heavy, and strong lifters may find it too easy if their quads are fresh.
Do three sets of 12-20 reps of this quadriceps-centric leg exercise.
2. Leg press
While squats are arguably the best leg exercise a bodybuilder can do, leg presses come a close second. With no bar resting on your shoulders, leg presses are often more comfortable than squats and may be safer for some lifters as there is less stress on your lower back.
However, it’s important to note that not all Bowflex gyms have a leg press attachment. If you can’t do leg presses, do goblet squats with your heels slightly raised instead.
Do three sets of 8-12 reps of this effective total leg builder.
3. Leg curls
Where leg extensions work your quadriceps, leg curls hit your hamstrings. Located on the back of your thighs, the hamstrings make up close to half your upper leg mass, so it’s important not to neglect them. Leg curls are one of the best ways to isolate and emphasize this powerful group of muscles.
Do three sets of 12-20 reps to beat your hamstrings into submission.
4. Hip thrusts
Bowflex machines offer a lot of upper body exercises but not so many for your legs. As such, this workout includes a couple of non-Bowflex exercises to ensure your lower body gets trained as much as your upper body. Hip thrusts target your glutes and hamstrings, making them a vital exercise.
Do three sets of 8-12 reps to push your posterior chain muscles to the max.
5. Alternating lunges
After squats and leg presses, lunges are one of the best exercises you can do for your legs. However, you can’t do them using your Bowflex home gym. Use this exercise to finish off your legs, and make sure you train both legs equally. Expect to feel lunges in your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
Do three sets of 12-20 reps per leg to bring your leg workout to a satisfying end.
Bowflex leg workout summary
|1||Leg extension||3||12-20||60 seconds|
|2||Leg press||3||8-12||90 seconds|
|3||Leg curl||3||12-20||60 seconds|
|4||Hip thrust||3||8-12||90 seconds|
|5||Alternating lunge||3||12-20 per leg||60 seconds|
Bowflex Workout – FAQs
Do you have a question about our PPL Bowflex workout? No problem – we’ve got the answers!
1. How often can I do this Bowflex workout?
You can do this push-pull-legs Bowflex workout anywhere from three to six times per week. Adjust your workout frequency based on your energy and the time you have available. You don’t even need to train the same number of times every week. For example, you might train three times one week and five the next.
However, training less than three times a week will not produce much in the way of results, so treat this as a minimum.
2. How do I do the exercises in this program?
You’ll need to consult your Bowflex home gym user manual to find out how to do the exercises in our PPL program. Actual exercise performance will depend on which model you’ve got.
Lost your manual? No problem – you can download a replacement from this page.
3. Is this a bulking or cutting workout plan?
You can use almost any workout for bulking or cutting. That’s because the most important factor for building muscle or burning fat is your diet, not your training program. So, for example, to build muscle and bulk up, you need to consume more calories than you burn, which is called a calorie surplus.
In contrast, to burn fat and get lean, you need a calorie deficit, meaning you must consume fewer calories than you need to maintain your current weight.
So, train hard and adjust your diet to match your body composition goals. Eat more to bulk and less to cut.
4. Can I change the exercises in these Bowflex workouts?
You are free to change any of the exercises provided you choose similar movements. For example, if you don’t want to do the two-handed curl, you could do preacher curls instead. While the name is different, both exercises hit the same muscles.
However, resist the temptation to change the exercises too often – consistent workouts generally produce better results.
5. Is the number of reps really all that important, and can I do more or less?
Contrary to what a lot of people think, the number of reps you do is not all that important. We used to believe that, to build muscle, you had to stick to the 6-12 rep range, but studies suggest that you can build muscle by doing as many as 30 reps per set (1).
That said, you must take your sets to within a couple of reps of failure to trigger muscle growth. Unfortunately, easy sets won’t get the job done.
So, feel free to do more than the prescribed number of reps, but avoid doing fewer than six per set, as very low reps are not as effective for building muscle. However, you must train to failure (or close to it) to build bigger muscles.
6. Do I need to use supplements with these workouts?
While you don’t have to use supplements to build muscle and get stronger, some products may be helpful. For example, they may help you train harder or longer, recover better between workouts, or improve your general health.
However, their effect is usually quite small.
Good options include:
- BCAAs and EAAs – for recovery and muscle growth
- Creatine – for energy and muscle building
- Pre-workouts – for fast-acting energy and better workouts
- Protein powder – for recovery and muscle growth
- ZMA – for better sleep and hormone optimization
Remember, though, that even the best supplements won’t help if you aren’t training hard, eating right, and getting plenty of sleep.
7. Where do core exercises fit into the push-pull-legs workout?
You can add some core training to any of the workouts. However, PPL purists might want to do abs on their push days and lower back on their pull days, but that’s only one of the available options.
So, don’t worry too much about where or when you train your core – just do a couple of exercises 2-3 times per week, and you’ll be golden.
8. Can you really build muscle with a Bowflex home gym?
Your body is truly amazing. It’s made from over 600 bones, 206 muscles, and dozens of individual organs. But, despite this complexity, your body is also kind of dumb and cannot really distinguish between different types of exercise.
For example, your muscles don’t know (or care!) whether you are doing squats with a barbell on your back or using a leg press machine. They just know tension and work, and providing you take your muscles near to failure, they will respond by getting stronger and bigger.
Bowflex Workout – Closing Thoughts
Buying a Bowflex for your home gym makes a lot of sense. They’re versatile, don’t take up a lot of space, and are adjustable to suit all levels of strength and experience. It’s no wonder they’ve been so popular for such a long time!
However, buying a Bowflex is only the first step – you must commit to using it regularly and following an appropriate training program.
While you could design your own, you don’t have to, and our push-pull-legs Bowflex workout is a great place to start.
So, choose your training frequency and get to work. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with just a few months of consistent training.
1- PubMed: Effects of resistance training performed to repetition failure or non-failure on muscular strength and hypertrophy: A systematic review and meta-analysis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33497853/