First, let's explain what exactly an all-in-one exercise system is. If you were to go to a gym and spend an hour using the various machines and weight-training stations, you would, in essence, be giving your body a total workout. All-in-one exercise equipment strives to provide a similar experience. The difference is, an all-in-one exercise system bundles the various workouts in one package. Have you ever seen one of those machines at a gym with cables, pulleys and bars dangling over benches? That's the professional version of an all-in-one exercise system. But those systems are big and heavy -- not to mention expensive. They're really not practical for home use. But several manufacturers offer all-in-one exercise systems more commonly referred to as home gyms.
A good home gym will have enough features to provide you with a well-rounded strength training program. In other words, a good home gym should be able to work out the muscles in your arms, shoulders, back, stomach and legs. All-in-one exercise systems are designed to work out multiple muscle groups using the same feature. Many times, the way you use the feature is what dictates the muscle trained. It's also important to understand the difference between user-defined and machine-defined exercises. Machine-defined motion is limited to set planes of motion, whereas user-defined motion isn't limited to a particular direction. An example of user-defined movement is lifting a dumbbell. To better illustrate these two principles, think of the last time you lifted something heavy. Did it throw you off balance? If you lifted the same weight using a cable and a pulley, you wouldn't need to worry about the weight moving laterally because it was on a set plane - up or down. This is defined by the machine.
All-in-one exercise systems use weights and pulley and cable systems to provide the resistance needed for weight training. They're usually comprised of stacks of weights that slide on rails along with adjustable pulley systems that are designed to provide the exercises.
These machines can also incorporate other types of resistance mechanisms such as springs, friction, hydraulics or elasticity. Two of the most popular brands of these resistant all-in-one exercise systems on the market today are the Bowflex and Total Gym systems. The Bowflex system uses polymer-based rods the company calls Power Rods to create tension and replaces traditional iron weights with this technology. The Total Gym uses body weight to provide resistance. First, you lie down on a cushion that resembles a sled, which is mounted on rails. To exercise, you pull the weight of your own body up and down the rails using ropes and pulleys. The Bowflex and Total Gym systems both offer a way to work out without using weights.
In the next section, we'll learn about some of the benefits and drawbacks of all-in-one exercise systems.