Is the Total Gym Appropriate for Osteoporosis Exercises?

A reader of this blog recently asked me the following question related to osteoporosis exercise equipment, exercise for osteoporosis at home,  and specifically a popular piece of workout gear called the Total Gym:

“I am considering buying the Total Gym for my home. Do you think that it will give me the range of exercises to assist me in battling osteoporosis?”

Good question. I like the Total Gym — but I do not love it.

Total Gym for Osteoporosis

What I Like About the Total Gym

Things that I like about the Total Gym:

  • Easy to set up.
  • Requires limited space usage.
  • Reasonably priced
  • Well constructed (at least the older models I have seen).
  • Good range of exercise choices.

What I Do Not Like About the Total Gym

However, there are things I do not love about it. I especially do not like a number of issues in regards to Exercises for Osteoporosis:

  • For the exercises which are done lying face up on the bench you do not use your erector spinae (deep back muscles) as much as if you did the same exercise without the support or with the support of a burst resistant exercise ball.
  • Not many options for the hip.
  • The pulleys are great but they do not provide your skeleton with as much “loading” (or weight bearing) as you would get by lifting free weights.

Below is a video from the Total Gym YouTube channel demonstrating the use of the device. I encourage you to look at the video, but I would advise you against doing the following activities if you have osteoporosis, osteopenia or low bone density:

  • High Kneeling Singe Arm Tricep Extension
  • Surfer Lat Pull with Shoulder Extension
  • Abdominal Crunch
  • Isometric Crunch with Bicycle Legs
  • High Kneeling Torso Rotation

Several Alternative Options to the Total Gym

  • Remember, an osteoporosis exercise program that incorporates weight bearing, improves balance, reduces fracture risk and generally is beneficial to your bones does not require that you invest in expensive equipment or go to the gym.
  • The MelioGuide Exercise for Better Bones Program is designed to be self directed (or even better if used with the help of a trained health professional) and does not require much equipment.
  • If you do go to the gym, I recommend that you look at my video on 8 Gym Exercises for Osteoporosis.
  • If you really want a piece of equipment for home use, money is not an obstacle, and you favor a pulley system then I prefer the Inspire Fitness Inspire Functional Trainer FT-1 over the Total Gym because it provides many more options than the Total Gym product.
  • The Inspire Fitness Inspire Functional Trainer FT-1 costs about $2,300 (Canadian) or $2,200 (US).  In Canada, you can find it a Fitness Depot. US buyers can find it on Amazon.
  • If you have any other questions related to osteoporosis exercise equipment or exercise for osteoporosis at home, feel free to post a comment below.


  1. Theresa Hunter says

    I recently purchased, read through and am now starting the Active Level Exercise Program. For the strength exercises, you advise using as much weight as will tire your muscles at the end of 10 reps. Understood. What I’m wondering is if there is a maximum amount of weight one shouldn’t exceed for something like the floor pullovers or standing bicep curl. Also, what do you think of using free weights to do a shoulder press?

  2. says

    As long as you are able to keep good posture and form there is no “maximum amount of weight”. One person may be challenged with 4 pounds while another will need 20 pounds to be challenged – both are good amounts of weight as long as they are challenged for their level. At the Beginner Level, I suggest that individuals begin with a weight that allows them to fatigue by the 12th repetition. If you have not been lifting consistently you may want to start with a weight that allows you reach 12. However, I would encourage you to move to heavier weights within month to 6 weeks of starting. Bones need the additional load to be “stimulated”.
    As for the shoulder press, I believe you are referring to the overhead lift. This exercise has been included in the Athletic and Elite Programs using free weights. I prefer free weights over machines as they have the added benefit of incorporating the spinal muscles and deeper shoulder stabilizers.
    I wish you good progress with your program.

  3. Jeri Thiede says

    Don’t know if you still monitor, but question about advice for using the Total Gym (which I have an older one). Recently diagnosed with osteoporosis of my hips. Amazingly my spine was okay, except that I do have degenerative disk disease, have had lumbar laminectomy and fusion and chronic pain. Also have fibromyalgia for many years. My rheumatologist (whom I see for the fibro) does not want me to do weight-bearing exercises. I cannot get other equipment and really cannot afford to join a gym. Can you suggest types of exercises I can do to help my hips?

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