The Total Gym XLS is the top-of-the-line home gym system in a collection that also features the bestselling 1900 and 1400 models.
But being their flagship model also means it’s in a different price category to these earlier designs, as well as the home gym from Vigorfit. So how does it compare, and which represents the best value for money?
In this review we’ll be taking a look at the design features, cushioning, accessory options, upgrades, and customer review feedback to help you decide if this is the best choice for your own home gym.
We’ll also be making some important comparisons with the Vigorfit system to see if it’s really the best home gym for the money.
Whether it’s for strength, weight loss, muscle tone, or endurance, workout variation is a necessity if you want to consistently achieve new fitness goals.
This is due to a number of reasons, ranging from increases in motivation to preventing muscle adaptation and reaching a plateau.
Using 1,000 lb rated vinyl coated cables and a smooth running pulley system, the Total Gym XLS is a workout machine that helps you maintain this workout variation with over 80 exercise options through multiple planes of movement.
This means that unlike lever systems and smith machines, you’re not forced to follow a fixed path when pressing or pulling the weight, resulting in a greater activation of your stabilizer muscles (abs, obliques, hips, etc.).
The Glideboard and head support are well padded and wide enough to support the full 400 lb weight capacity without issues with stability, even at higher inclines.
With such a wide range of exercise options it’s possible to train both upper and lower body muscles in a very short space of time, and even as part of a superset if needed.
The durable nylon strap handles have been coated with a soft synthetic rubber padding to improve your grip and protect your hands, and are interchangeable with attachments such as ankle holders.
It’s this smooth cable motion and versatility of the cable attachments and accessories that shows how features from larger multi gym setups have been successfully condensed into an effective workout machine with a smaller footprint.
The Total Gym XLS is also designed around a sturdy frame and rail construction, using 1 1/4″ x 2″ steel tubing for strength and stability, and chrome-plated upper rails and powder coated lower rails for improved aesthetic appeal.
Total Gym XLS Trainer – Features Summary
- Total Gym XLS is Total Gym’s top-of-the-line home fitness system and is great for ages 8 to 80 – the entire family can get a full body workout on 1 machine. Works with all fitness levels from beginner to advanced.
- Includes Wing Attachment, Leg Pull Accessory, Ribbed Squat Stand, 5 Workout DVDs, Exercise Chart, Training Deck, and Nutritional/Meal Planning Guide.
- 400 lb. weight capacity
- Over 80 exercises to work all of your major muscle groups – cardio, strength training, circuit training and stretching, all on one machine.
- No assembly required, universal home gym folds for easy storage.
Comfort and cushioning
Although you’re not going to have weight pressing down on you like you would with a barbell bench press, it’s still important to find a home gym that’s both versatile and comfortable.
That’s why the Glideboard and head support have been upholstered with a non-tear vinyl covering, which wraps over the 1.5″ high-density foam padding to keeps your body supported. You also have the thicker and wider padded sections at each end of the Glideboard to provide additional comfort for your head, neck, and lower back.
This is a feature that only became a part of the Total Gym home gyms from the 1900 model onwards, and isn’t included with either the 1100 or 1400 models.
Comparison with the Vigorfit home gym system
The 300 XL from Vigorfit features a similar design to the Total Gym XLS, with up to 440 lbs of resistance and 107 gym quality exercises.
Both feature very similar designs in terms of their folding frame and range of incline settings. But there are also a number of important differences, including the price, which is often several hundred dollars lower than the Total Gym model.
With the Vigorfit the Glideboard has a weight plate bar fitted to each side as standard, whereas it’s classed as an optional addition for the XLS.
Which has the most exercises?
Whether or not the Vigorfit truly has a wider range of exercise options is difficult to prove, but they use a very similar pulley system and incline options so it’s hard to see how it could have. Particularly as the Total Gym model also has the wing attachment for core workouts and dip handles available.
The 300 XL does have attachments of its own as well, but they tend to match what the Total Gym offers. This includes their pull up bar, push up bar, and leg rope system.
The surface area of the squat stand is a little larger than the XLS, with more space on each side of the bar that attaches it for standing calf raises.
Which offers more resistance?
However, what’s interesting is in the amount of resistance each unit claims to offer.
The Vigorfit claims their maximum incline angle uses 72% of your bodyweight, compared to 54% for the Total Gym’s highest setting.
We’ve also seen no mention of power bands from Total Gym, whereas Vigorfit have their Power Band Sub Assembly, allowing you to add bands with a combined resistance of 188 lbs.
When you add this to the body weight and weight from any weight plates you load on, it’s easy to see where they get their 440 lbs of resistance from.
Who has the best warranty coverage?
Vigorfit offer what they call a ‘Bumper to Bumper’ lifetime warranty. We’ve seen the lifetime warranty before with Total Gym, but what’s important here is that it covers all parts.
The parts warranty on the Total Gym XLS is only for 6 months, so Vigorfit appear to be the clear winner from that perspective.
Which is best for taller users?
The Total Gym supports a maximum user height of 6’2″. We tend to see recommended user height ranges a lot with fitness equipment recently, particularly home gyms like these and inversion therapy tables.
With inversion tables it’s often more of a recommendation and not a strict limitation, but with the Total Gym we’ve read reviews where people taller than 6’2″ have had a hard time getting the most out of some exercises.
The key difference is that the Vigorfit supports users up to 6’5″ tall, making it the better option for taller users.
What about comfort?
The Vigorfit gym uses 2″ high density foam with a tear-resistant vinyl. Although the Total Gym offers similar quality and durability with the covering of the padding, the density is a little lower, at 1.5 inches.
Exercises and workout ideas
One of the great benefits of the Total Gym XLS is its versatility. By simply changing your position or switching an attachment you have access to over 80 different low-impact exercises, for complete full body workouts.
But if you haven’t used a cable gym of this type before, it might not be clear what these exercises are, how to perform them, and which work best for the different muscle groups.
That’s why Total Gym have also included a number of DVDs to help walk you through your first program, which feature a combination of circuit training, cardiovascular, and strength building workouts.
What’s your target rep range?
As with most resistance training, workouts on the XLS include what’s known as weight-dependent exercise. In this case though it’s your bodyweight and gravity that create the resistance, and not weight plates, bands, or power rods.
But if you’re training for a specific rep range, how can you influence the resistance to make sure you stay within it?
Reducing the incline will reduce the resistance, allowing you to reach higher rep ranges. Likewise, by increasing the incline you’ll also increase the resistance and the number of reps you can perform will be lower.
So what happens if you’re too strong for the highest incline?
If the Glideboard rail is set at the highest position and you’re still performing too many reps above your target range, you’ll need to purchase the Weight Bar attachment and start loading on weight plates.
Providing you don’t exceed the 400 lb capacity, this can make the exercises much more challenging, and could help you reach the 8-12 reps for muscle building, or lower 4-6 rep ranges for strength building.
Quick, customizable workouts
Although traditional FID (Flat, Incline, Decline) benches are great for supporting the heavier weights in compound exercises, they often require much more space. It also takes much longer to get setup, and unless you’re willing to spend closer to $1000 you won’t find one that supports both compound and isolation movements.
With the Total Gym XLS you can adjust the resistance by simply raising and lowering the position of the glide rail, which is held securely in place with a locking pin.
There’s no need for bulky weight plate trees, adding and removing locking collars, or protective foam floor tiles to prevent damage to flooring if you drop the weight.
This also saves on time, with 10-minute workouts a possibility if you are short on time and want to include just a couple of exercises in a quick superset or core training routine.
You’re also not faced with recurring membership fees or a queue for your favourite equipment like you can be at commercial gyms.
The bottom line is if you’re looking for a low-impact routine to get toned, assist with weight loss, or as part of a physical therapy program, the Total Gym XLS trainer has everything you need for full body workouts.
However, you are going to be much stronger on the leg press than the shoulder press, which could mean pre-exhausting the muscles with leg curls and isolation movements, or using the Weight Bar attachment is necessary.
The following upper and lower body exercises are just a few of the 80+ exercise options available, and can be used to target your hamstrings, arms, shoulders, core, back, glutes, hips, calves, and much more.
Most of the movements can be performed with the standard interchangeable handles, but some will also require the wing or ankle attachment.
- Stomach crunches
- Pull Ups
- Cable row
- Lying tricep extension
- Shoulder press
- Bicep curl
- Leg curls
- Hip adductions
- Calf raises
- Single leg squats
Expand your workouts with optional accessories
The Total Gym XLS Trainer is part of a growing trend of fitness equipment that lets you build on the base model with a range of accessory options.
This allows you to customize your workout experience beyond the simple weight plate or power rod upgrades, with attachments such as press up and dip bars.
For free weight dumbbell workouts the Ironmaster Super Bench has proven popular, with a 1,000 lb weight capacity and attachment options ranging from dip bars to a lat pulldown.
But what accessories are available for the XLS Universal Home Gym, where you rely on cables and bodyweight to create the resistance?
- Press Up Bars – A set of outward pointing bars that allow you to perform this classic chest exercise with an increasing level of intensity.
- Dip Bars – Attaching one on either side of the frame means you can add dips to the list of potential exercises, training your triceps, shoulders, and chest
- Weight Bar – This is perhaps the most exciting of the attachments. Threading through the underside of the Glideboard you’re able to load weight plates onto each side and increase the resistance beyond your body weight (to a limit of 400 lbs total)
- Leg Pull – Although it takes some additional assembly to get setup, the Leg Pull allows you to isolate your quads and hamstrings with exercises like standing hamstring curls and isolateral leg extensions.
- Pilates Kit – In a similar way to the Leg Pull, this arrives with the pulley/D-ring assembly already setup
- Wing Attachment – When this is clipped into position and attached to the support column, you’re able to slide your feet underneath the wing and perform ab exercises.
Ease of assembly and storage options
It’s no secret that home gyms can take a considerable time to get setup, but it’s usually not due to poor assembly instructions. They’re simply large pieces of equipment that require multiple boxes and the construction of one or more bulky weight plate towers.
The Total Gym XLS avoids these issues by using a combination of gravity and bodyweight to create the resistance you need with its multiple incline settings.
This means that Total Gym have been able to do almost all of the assembly before you even unpack the box. All that’s left is to extend the frame from its folded setting and raise the Glide Board up to your desired incline level.
There are a couple more steps involved if you want to take advantage of the wing attachment for crunches and sit ups, but nothing complex. All you need to do is slide a couple of hitch pins through the brackets on the Wing and make sure they pass through holes in the rail.
Despite the small amount of assembly, Total Gym have provided a complete step-by-step guide with detailed drawings to show how each of the parts fits together. This includes the fitting of the optional accessories we mentioned earlier.
Folding and storage options
Due to the simple folding design, collapsing the Total Gym XLS down is just as quick and easy as the assembly.
The 22 lb Glideboard is held securely in position with a similar locking pin design to the ones we’ve seen on a number of inversion tables. This prevents any unwanted movement and the potential to catch fingers in the moving parts when folding the frame.
So how much space do you need?
Even with its solid construction and high weight capacity, the fact that the rails can fold against the Glideboard and stand upright using the squat stand for balance means you don’t need much space.
The footprint itself measures just 19″ (W) x 9″ (L). If for any reason you need the frame to fold to even more compact dimensions, the squat stand and Glideboard can be removed and the parts can lay almost flat on top of each other for easy storage under a bed.
You also have the transport wheels to make transporting the 82 lb frame weight easier if required.
YouTube video showing the Total Gym XLS
As their top-of-the-line model, the Total Gym XLS currently has hundreds of online customer reviews, with the vast majority leaving a rating of 80% or higher.
This is considerably more than their earlier 1400 and 1100 models, so what is it that’s making people want to spend more on a higher priced design?
The best way to find an accurate answer is to go to the source, which is why we read through each of the reviews listed on leading ecommerce sites like Amazon, and created the lists of pros and cons below.
Reading through this many reviews is certainly time consuming, which is why these are meant as a quick reference guide to the most unique, meaningful, and relevant features and issues raised by other reviewers.
- Low impact exercises make the Total Gym XLS ideal for anyone going through rehabilitation as a recovery phase for rebuilding muscle after sickness or injury
- Recruits a wide range of muscle groups in each exercise, saving time and optimizing your workout
- Improves coordination and balance compared to the traditional seated position adopted with most selectorized home gyms
- Activating core muscles throughout each exercise boosts your metabolism, leading to improved weight loss and cardio-endurance when paired with a healthy diet
- Complete cushioning and support for your back
- A clear upgrade over the earlier 1100 model
- Limited points of failure – no bands, rods, or weight stacks to setup and maintain
- Attachments are available separately, keeping the base price lower but giving you more exercise options if you need them
- Quick and easy to adjust the resistance
- High weight capacity means you can use the Glideboard in conjunction with your bodyweight and an additional weight plate
- Wide range of exercise options for every muscle group
- Arrives almost fully assembled
- Folds down to a compact size if space is an issue
- Shorter warranty provided on parts compared to the frame
- Padding not as thick as the Vigorfit design
- Not suitable for anyone taller than 6’2″
- A small number of people reported issues with the bearings in the transport wheels, where they’ll lock instead of spin when rolling
- Didn’t provide as much resistance as some reviewers hoped for. The weight can actually be increased using the optional Weight Bar attachment, allowing the addition of weight plates on either side. It may be that they weren’t aware of this upgrade.
What’s covered by the warranty?
- Frame: Lifetime
- Moving parts: 6 months
Something worth bearing in mind is that the lifetime warranty only applies to the original owner. This isn’t something unique to Total Gym, and we’ve actually seen it mentioned on everything from multi gyms to elliptical trainers.
Not so much of an issue if you’re buying from new, but certainly something to think about before buying a used or refurbished model.
Replacement parts are available but only for 6 months. The user manual also includes a clears parts list and diagram to help you easily identify the correct part number.
- Leg pull accessory
- Wing attachment
- Upgraded squat stand
- Training deck
- Start It Up! Instructional DVD
- 6-8 Minute Workouts DVD
- Simple at-a-glance exercise wall chart with 35 exercises
- Smart Training DVD
- Body Makeover DVD
- Dan Isaacson’s Nutritional Program & Meal Plan
- Beginner Program with Todd Durkin
- Intermediate Program with Todd Durkin
- 5-Day Advanced Program with Todd Durkin