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Although the name 'HIIT' has not been around for very long, the actual type of training involved while doing HIIT has been around for centuries. HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training, and if you're looking for a way to lose fat in a short amount of time all while minimizing muscle loss, then there are few conditioning workouts more effective.
The idea behind HIIT is that you alternate low to moderate intensity work with high-intensity, all-out effort work. Let's take running, for instance, for 15 seconds you could sprint, and then for the remaining 45 seconds of the minute, you could simply walk. It's difficult, but also effective.
So effective in fact, that research has shown that "HIIT has been shown to burn adipose tissue more effectively than low-intensity exercise - up to 50% more efficiently" according to MuscleMedia.
Although running is an effective form of HIIT Training, the HVT from Bowflex allows you to do HIIT Training for nearly every movement you could imagine. As we'll detail, the HVT is a versatile machine that combines the effectiveness of HIIT workouts with incredible exercise versatility.
Although we consider the HVT by Bowflex to be a compact machine for its versatility, it does have quite a few moving parts. Therefore, as you would imagine, it takes some time to assemble.
The boxes from Bowflex showed up on my doorstep quickly after being shipped. I say boxes because yes, there was more than one (very large) box. Thankfully, I was able to have someone else assemble it while I watched and documented the internal workings.
I've met some great people through reviewing gym equipment, and this is a prime example. Not only did these good ol' boys from Kansas work fast, but they did so with a smile. It took them a little less than an hour, and I enjoyed their company while they probably enjoyed watching me struggle while working out.
The Bowflex HVT is a much better machine than I'd expected.
Bowflex is known in the home gym world for making complete home gyms that are compact and effective. They're not made for powerlifters, Olympic Weightlifters, or CrossFitters, but are designed for the person that wants a great workout from a reliable machine that doesn't occupy an entire room in their house.
The Bowflex HVT is the next generation of Bowflex machine that takes various methods of resistance employed by machines we've reviewed in the past, and combines them into one, easy to use and honestly, very effective machine.
Let's start from the ground up regarding its construction and then get into the performance aspects.
One thing to understand about Bowflex is that they are a large company apart of an even larger company. Similar to what we see with Nike shoes, you won't often find bad quality control with a Bowflex product. Due to their market power, they are able to control all parts of the manufacturing process and will perfect a piece of equipment before it comes to market.
You see this rather plainly in the fact that even though they're so well-known, they only produce a few, highly regarded products. For instance, their adjustable dumbbells are one of the best value products currently available.
Knowing all of this, I expected the Bowflex HVT to be a high-quality product, and it is, but what I didn't expect was how tough of a workout the HVT could provide.
The HVT is a rather large machine, however, when comparing its size to the amount of work that can be done on the machine, it doesn't take much space at all. For most home gym owners that are seeking general health, you could easily get away with having only the Bowflex HVT and a set of adjustable dumbbells.
The spot where nearly all of your work will be performed is on the large, obtuse-shaped platform that extends out from the HVT tower.
The platform of the HVT features individual slats of hard plastic that allows for proper footing and a large enough space to complete most workouts. I say most workouts because although you can get by staying on the platform, there are some exercises I found that benefited from me taking a step off, like lunges for example.
The individual slats that make up the platform had grooves and a gritty texture that can be used barefoot, but I would suggest footwear while training on the HVT. One reason for this is because the slats are not perfectly compressed against each other. Although there is little movement between the slats, there is some, and I would be wary of getting my skin pinched between the tiles. This could easily be remedied by placing some foam in between one of the slats. However, it hasn't caused many problems for me.
The platform sits on adjustable risers that encircle the platform. The risers allow the platform to be adjusted when placed on uneven surfaces and provide sure footing. Although small, this is something many companies overlook and is important for home gym owners as our surfaces are not always flat.
As you can see from the up close photo, there is aluminum outlining the platform that gives it rigidity for all of the force that will hopefully be applied by the user (you must use the machine to gain its benefits.)
At the base of the tower in view of all who use it, there is one part of the resistance that the Bowflex HVT provides--a flywheel.
For anyone that has used a Concept 2 product or the Schwinn Airdyne, you're well aware of the torture that a simple flywheel fan can provide. Although it looks innocent, a flywheel can absolutely destroy anyone whose confidence overcomes their abilities. As you pull on any of the three pairs of handles on the Bowflex, the flywheel begins spinning in a mesmerizing fashion. Go too hard, and that mesmerizing wheel will make you wake up and wonder where you are.
The idea behind a flywheel is the faster you go, the more air resistance the fan has, and therefore the harder, it is for you to complete whatever work you're doing. It's one of the best methods for conditioning machines and is used by many of the top equipment manufacturers in the world.
That said, the HVT is not a machine designed solely for conditioning, but one that is also designed to increase strength. Sure a flywheel can increase strength, but in reality, more resistance is needed to have true strength gains.
So, I introduce to you the magnetic flywheel that occupies the back of the machine. The HVT features 16 levels of resistance that are all determined by how close the magnet is to the flywheel. This is where the claim that strength can be built by using the HVT comes from--because it can. The magnetic resistance does get difficult, and although I'd like to know the resistance in pounds, the various levels from 1-16 give you a good idea of where you're at.
To increase the resistance of the magnetic flywheel, you simply turn the knob, and a digital signal is sent to the magnet telling it to get closer to the flywheel. It's a beautiful thing.
The digital panel is where the magic happens, and I'm not surprised to see Bowflex innovate once again in the home gym space.
For most, if not all pieces of training equipment the way resistance is applied either through friction (think sled sprints) or with weight applied. To increase the resistance on a barbell, for instance, plates must be applied. The Bowflex HVT allows the simple twist of a dial to increase resistance almost immediately so you can get back to your workout.
The Bowflex HVT provides four types of programs:
The goal of all the work is to get a good cardio workout in with the benefits of resistance that should increase strength. The Sprint Program is as you would guess, a much faster-paced and heavy-breathing workout than say the Builder Program that is designed for just that, building strength and increasing hypertrophy.
The Bowflex HVT has a well-lit screen and round counters that will guide you through your rest and work intervals. For those that just want to get in, sweat, and get out, the HVT is perfect. There's no thought on programming that has to take place, and there are various additional workouts that can be done through the app or the manual that's provided.
The top of the screen tells you how many rounds and what type of exercise you should be doing. These include everything from squats to presses to pushdowns and more that correspond to the color on the screen.
The screen will tell you how much time you have left in your work out and whether you should be working or resting. Although at first it may look complicated, it's actually very easy to follow after a couple of workouts and allows less thought to be put on what to do and more on how to do it (aka train with correct form.)
The simplicity of the layout is excellent, and I also like the fact that you can have multiple people working at once. With the simple press of a button, you can switch to the next user (up to four at a time.)
Moving on from the screen, the way the workout is accomplished is through six handles that are attached to ropes that wrap around the flywheels.
There are two on the bottom, two at chest level, and two above. The positioning of the handles allows for seemingly every type of movement you can think of including overhead press, something I wasn't sure the machine would be capable of.
The handles are high quality and have a rubber finish that allows for a solid grip even while sweating.
The handles attach to the cables using a simple carabiner and a small plastic ball allows you to interchange handles easily.
Bowflex had to have gone through many prototypes to get a complex machine like this to be as simple for the user as it is. Although I've used Bowflex machines in the past, I never recall there being as much attention to detail as there is on this machine.
There's even a spot for your water bottle.
As shown, the construction of the HVT will allow it to be used for many years to come. Stabilizer bars keep the tower secure to the platform, and this is not a unit meant to be rolled around, but left in place.
Now that I've gone through the ins and outs of how to use it and its build quality, I'd like to speak on the actual use of the machine.
I have a lot of training equipment. It comes with the territory of reviewing every type of equipment available, and as such, I see a lot of variety. Although I prefer the barbell for strength training, not everyone does or has space for a rack, bar, and plates. The HVT is a capable machine to increase your conditioning to an astounding level, burn body fat like you wouldn't believe, and can have some strength increasing properties.
This all comes down to you actually using the machine, however. Bowflex's are often purchased and left to become a coat hanger. The HVT is a capable machine, as long as you use it.
The Sprint Program was my favorite as I like to use the machine mainly for conditioning. Doing eighteen minutes of HIIT training is no joke, especially when you're going from upper body to lower body to full body movements. The upper handles allow you to use the machine similar to a SkiErg while the bottom handles allow for presses, deadlifts, jumps, and more. The handles along your shoulders are perfect for standing chest presses as well as rows.
The Bowflex HVT is as capable as you want it to be; it can take whatever you can throw at it, you just have to decide how hard you want to go!
As with any piece of equipment, there are areas in which we feel could be improved. The Bowflex HVT although a stout and effective machine, could be made better.
One of the main areas we'd like to see improvement is the platform. The slats that make up the platform are a good idea for its unique shape, but there is too much space between them which can cause you to slip if not fully planted or even worse pinch your skin.
The next area we'd like to see improved is the resistance. Although the resistance is variable in very small increments, we would like to see even more resistance for those who want to use the machine primarily for strength training.
Finally, we would like to see an option similar to the Concept 2 SkiErg that allows it to be mounted to the wall without the platform.
These are all minor improvements, but areas in which we would be remiss not to mention.
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