Exercises for Total Gym – 29 Favorites

There is quite a large variety of exercises for Total Gym to challenge trainees of all levels. It is an amazing piece of equipment that offers something for everyone from the average Joe to the elite athlete.

Below in no particular order are some of my favorite exercises for it:

1. Around the Worlds

This is one of my all time favorite exercises for Total Gym. It’s a great upper body developer that targets primarily your lats (the back muscles) your chest (pectorals) and triceps/abdominal muscles secondary. When done in a fast motion, Around the Worlds will also give you a good cardio workout, increasing your heart rate thus benefiting your heart and lungs turning this exercise into a major fat burner. This exercise can be done two ways: clockwise/counter-clockwise.

2. Pullovers

This is another great all around upper body developer with more emphasis put on the abdominal muscles, chest, back and triceps. This, when done in a fast motion, turns into a great cardio exercise as well. Simply lay flat on your back, arms stretched out overhead.

Now pull your arms straight over your body, hands end up near your hips and raise your shoulders up off the bench, pushing your hands towards the floor and crunching your stomach. Squeeze your stomach while in the contracted position.

3. Iron Crosses

This exercise targets the back muscles and chest. It resembles a gymnast iron cross on the gymnastic rings. This is a great upper body developer and is one of the ÒBIG 3Ó exercises for Total Gym (like the 2 above) that can be used as a multi exerciser: strength building/cardio

The Around the Worlds/ Pullovers/ Iron Crosses are the 3 most important exercises we can do on this machine.

To do the Iron Cross simply lay back on the total gym, stretch your arms out to your side, about shoulder level and now pull your arms straight down to your hips. Bring them back up again and repeat.

4. Scare Crows

Targets the rear deltoids and trapezoids, with secondary focus on the back muscles. You must pay close attention to your balance while on your knees. Sit your butt down on your heals and with your arms stretched out in front of you simply pull them straight back, squeezing your shoulder blades together.

5. High Pulls

There are quite a few back exercises that can you can do the Total Gym. This exercise is a great overall upper back developer primarily targeting the traps and upper back muscles (mainly the rhomboids).

To perform this exercise simply sit back with your arms stretched out in front of you with an overhand grip. Now pull your elbows up and straight back towards the top of your head. One way to keep proper form is to pretend you are elbowing someone behind you. Pull them at and angle, always upward towards the head never straight back. Pulling straight back targets a different area.

6. One Arm Rows

By performing a single movement you can put more emphasis on the targeted muscle. It is a good lat builder while hitting the biceps secondarily. Pretend you are pulling back on a bow and be sure to turn your body with the pull. This allows you to put more emphasis on the muscle. Another great thing about working single exercises is that it allows you to build up a lagging body part that might not be up to par with your other side; left bicep may be stronger than the right bicep. This fixes that problem.

7. Two Arm Rows

Very similar to the single version except you will be using both arms to pull with instead of only one arm. The mechanics are the same for the movement: stretch out your arms and then pull back your elbows at roughly chest height and squeeze your shoulder blades.

An alternate version of the exercise is to take an underhand grip (palms facing up) and perform the exercise in this manner. Some experts feel that you get a better stretch and contraction on the muscle thus leading to more growth.

8. Punch Crunches

This is a unique exercise for the Total Gym and is what I call a combo movement. It is a combo of a crunch/sit-up and a twist. You will hold both handles with an overhand grip and keep your feet planted flat on the machine. With your legs slightly spread apart and hands by your sides crunch up towards your knees and at the same time twist to either the left or the right bringing one of your hands in between your legs. Do the same with the other side. When you do these make sure to squeeze the oblique (side of stomach) for a hard contraction. When done fast this is another great cardio move that will turn up the fat burning furnace.

9. Front Raises

Primary target is the front of the shoulder (known as the front deltoid). This is an exercise that can be used with both arms simultaneously or singularly. Both versions are fine. Simply sit straight up, with a tight stomach, arms straight down by your side. Now simply raise your arms up above your head while keeping them as straight as you can. Return to the starting position.

10. Punches

Keep your hands up by the side of your face as if you were protecting yourself in a boxing match. Your elbows should be tight to your ribs and hands placed at cheek level. Take an overhand grip on the handles and now throw a punch with one hand. Return that hand to the starting position and do the same with the other hand. You can do this exercise slowly or fast. It is great for shoulder and triceps development.

11. Skull Crushers

Targets the triceps. With an overhand grip on both handles keep your elbows in tight. You should be looking at the back of your hands. Press both of your hands out at an upward angle, towards the ceiling. Now bring both of your hands back to your forehead. Repeat. Do not push your hands down towards your waist. Pay close attention to the angle you press at. Look at the picture for proper demonstration.

12. Triceps Pushdown

This is similar to the skull-crusher but this time you will be pushing your hands down between your legs and bringing them back up right under your chest. You will see in the picture the difference between pushdowns and skull-crushers. The exercises both work the triceps but the angle in which they are worked is different.

13. Chest Crossovers

A great chest development exercise for the Total Gym. Lay flat on your back with your arms stretched out about shoulder level. Your palms should be face down. Now bring both hands down and across your body, in front of your stomach. Once you do this squeeze and contract the chest muscles. This is an awesome finishing exercise that pumps blood in the muscle giving it a massive pump.

14. Dips (without extra attachment)

dips without extra attachment

Dips are one of the best upper body exercises you can do. The dip focuses on the shoulders, triceps and chest. Do a dip on the total gym simply lay down with your back flat against the pad. Keep the handles by your side with a neutral, palms facing in towards your hips grip. Now simply press the handles down in a straight line. At the finish of the move flex and squeeze your triceps and chest muscles.

Only go down to where you are comfortable. Sometimes due to a persons range of motion some may experience discomfort in the shoulder. This can be fixed by shortening the range of motion you use till you build up the proper strength and flexibility needed. Your legs can be up in the air or flat on the bench. It does not matter.

15. Dips (with dip attachment)

dips with dip attachment

The mechanics are the same as the dips above. The only difference is that your hands are already placed in the proper placement.

16. Lat Swims

Lat Swims

I love this movement for building the back muscles – and its one of most unique exercises for the Total Gym. You will lay down flat on your stomach with your arms straight out by your sides. Keep your chest flat on the bench and simulate a frog stroke you would do in the water when swimming. Bring your hands from shoulder level back down to your hips while flexing your back muscles at the completion of the move. This will also hit the triceps a little bit.

17. Tricep Extensions

Tricep Extensions

Take the same position you were in for the lat swim. You may use either an overhand or underhand grip. Keeping your elbows tight to your sides all your going to do is push back your forearms towards your legs (as seen in the picture) This will hit the triceps muscles. The triceps are the bigger part of the arm.

18. Two Handed Bicep Curl

Two Handed Bicep Curl

There are many variations of curling exercises for the Total Gym you can do. In my opinion, a curl is a curl. But, depending on which way you place your hands, you can give the exercise a little kick. This version represents the Barbell Curl. Sit on the bench with an underhand grip on the handles. Keep your elbows by your sides throughout the move. All that moves is your forearm. Do not allow your elbows to come forward. Keep your palms facing up at all times. At the top of the exercise flex and squeeze your biceps.

19. Single Concentration Curl

Single Concentration Curl

Everything is the same as the curl above except you will be curling one hand at a time and you will be curling across your body like the picture shows. This allows us to focus on one arm instead of two further isolating the muscle.

The difference is your arms will be out in front of you and your palms will be facing each other. You will curl the hand at an angle across your body.

20. Decline Curl

Decline Curl

Working the muscle from different angles is a great way to shock the muscle into new growth. Lay flat on your back with your head down at the bottom of the machine. Your feet can be anyway you like them. Keeping your elbows by your sides, palms facing up simply curl your hands up to your shoulders. The mechanics of the move are the same as the 2 handed bicep curl. The only difference is that you are laying down and this gives you a different type of stretch in the muscle.

21. Behind the Back Curl

Behind the Back Curl

Everything is the same except that you will be pulling the handles from behind you. Your elbows still stay locked next to your sides throughout the movement. This is another great exercise for the tremendous stretch you get.

22. Big Dog Curls

Big Dog Curls

This is a great exercise to pump up the biceps. Your range of motion is cut in half. You will lay on your stomach with the backs of your forearms flat on the bench. Palms will be up. Now, simply curl your arm up to the shoulder and return your forearm back to the bench. Once your forearm touches the bench, curl up again. This will give you an enormous pump. The alternate version of this is to do the curl one at a time.

23. Arm Wrestler Curls

Arm Wrestler Curls

This is a lot like the concentration curl except you will be doing the same motion as the big dog curls. This means that your arms will be flat on the bench with the back of your forearms touching the bench. The difference here is that again your hands will be facing one another. You then simply curl your arms at an angle like you were trying to arm wrestle someone.

24. Wrist Curls

Wrist Curls

Lay down on your stomach with your forearms flat against the bench, allowing your hands to hang a little off the top of the bench. With your palms facing the sky simply curl your wrists up and down, flexing your forearms. This is a great forearm developer.

25. Chest Presses

Chest Presses

This exercise for Total Gym simulates the popular barbell bench press. The primary target worked is the chest muscles with the triceps being worked indirectly. Sit straight up with your back facing the tower of the total gym. Now with an overhand grip and palms facing the floor, keep your hands right at your armpits. Do not drop below your armpit height. Press out and slightly up towards your chin and return to the starting position of your armpits. If you drop to low then more stress will be put on the front deltoids and this is not what we are working. Take deep breaths with each repetition and exhale on the push out. Again, really flex the chest muscles while in the contracted position.

26. Chest Flies

Chest Flies

The difference here is that instead of pressing out and up as you did in the chest press, I want you to bring your arms out to your sides, slightly bent. Focus on pulling your elbows back. Now bring your hands in, touching them together like you were giving someone a bear hug. Your palms will be facing each other. The rest of the mechanics of the exercise are the same as the chest press.

27. Pullover Crunch

Pullover Crunch

Areas worked are the abdominal muscles and the lat muscles. While lying on your back with your arms stretched out above your head all you do is bring your arms straight forward toward your hips. Once your arms get to the finish point, squeeze the abdominal muscles for 5 seconds and return to the starting point. Key point: Make sure to raise your shoulders up off the bench when you are at the finish point of the exercise. This allows us to put more emphasis on the abdominal muscles. Key point 2: pay close attention to curling your pelvis up towards your chest when completing the movement.

28. Push Through

Push Through

This is another abdominal exercise for Total Gym that really isolates the muscle. The mechanics are pretty much the same as the Abdominal pullover except your arms are stretched out in front of you and are between your legs instead of over your head. Simply roll your shoulders forward and push your hands towards your feet. Again, squeeze the abdominal muscles for a count of 5 seconds in the contracted position.

29. Leg Curls

Leg Curls

Targets the hamstring muscles (back of the upper legs). You may do this sitting (requires more abdominal strength) or lying down; the preferred method for beginners. You will need the Wing attachment to place your feet into. Now lay your body straight back. I prefer to put my hands on my hips but you can place your hands wherever you feel comfortable. Now pull your butt up to your heels as far as you can. At the top of the exercise, focus on tightening the hamstring muscles. This will put a strong emphasis on your hamstrings and to some degree your gluteus (the butt).

As I said at the beginning, this is a one of a kind piece of equipment. It does not matter your strength level as it has something for everyone from the new person just starting out to the advanced trainee. Exercises for the Total Gym are only limited to your imagination and the simplicity of moving from one to the next is a breeze. I look forward to showing you more of my training with this great piece of exercise equipment. Stay tuned as I will have video and your questions answered in the coming months.  Meanwhile, take advantage of Free Shipping + 10% off the Total Gym® 2000, 3000, and XLS (using code: 11001 at checkout) today. Act Now!

Keep the Faith,

Mike “The Machine” Bruce

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61 thoughts on “Exercises for Total Gym – 29 Favorites

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  5. Hi Fantastic article – Exercises for Total Gym – 29 Favorites, I usally don’t take the time to placing comments on articales however identified this specific articale to be really helpfull.

    • I can testify it is not a bunch of bollocks.  I’ve shed 24 pounds in 2 1/2 months, my reps and sets have both increased.  Mentally it has given me something to feel good about, and is keeping me on track to a proper lifestyle and off drugs.  That and that alone makes this machine worth 1000x what I paid for it.  I will be alive and healthy to see my daughters grow up and graduate….priceless.

      • Awesome Brett!

        This is great to hear. I’m proud of you. Yes the machine is not junk, it is one of the better pieces out there that is not a gimmick.

        I have one in my gym and train my clients on it regularly.

        Drugs are no good, all they do is cause you pain in the long run. Keep staying on the right path and learn to love life.

        Have a great weekend and keep me posted on your success.


    • I guess you didn’t take my advice I first offered because your still here plaguing our society with your idiotic banter.

      I’ll try one more time….Smash your head repeatedly into a stone wall until you are finally unconcious (doing the world a favor) then you can dream that you have grown up to be a big boy and learned some manners and respect about how to conduct yourself out in public.

  6. Hi,
    Just discovered your site this past week as i searched for Total Gym routines.  i’m 56 years old and have lost and kept off 60 lbs over the last 4 years.  Still too heavy (5′ 10″, 210 lbs.) but healthier.  Was in a gym but got bored so went back to my basement with a seldom used Total gym 1000, and I am trying to utilize it.  My attention span is short, so i am doing timed circuits with about 4 exercises.  Would a circuit of  Around the Worlds/ Pullovers/ Iron Crosses, with a treadmill burst added in be good.

    Thanks for your site and info 

    • Yes sir that sounds like a great combo to burn fat and build muscular endurance. Tyr some tabata circuits with those 4 exercises such as 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest in between sets. Do 8 total sets,
      that will be nasty and fun at the same time.

  7. I’m thinking of getting a Total Gym. I live in Australia, and they’re pretty expensive. I’ve been doing a fair bit of research, found this site, and am impressed with the clarity that you show exercises that look effective. Thanks for going to effort! Plenty of sites say the Total Gym is totally….well, not good.

    One question for me is, I have carpal tunnel syndrome, so hanging on tight, flexing my wrists heaps makes my fingers go numb and means by hands can be pretty unusable for days. Problem. Went to the gym last week, got a program, told the trainer my problem and he promptly gave me heaps of dumbell exercises! The worst possible and he couldn’t get his head around something more creative.

    I’m wondering how tight I need to clench with my hands to do pulling motions – is it possible to pull and keep your fingers straight ie kind of balance the handle/grip in the centre of your palm?
    Have been putting on weight since I can’t cycle and kayak like I used to….
    Any advice would be appreciated?

  8. Great post, Mike.  I just got my Total Gym 3000 last week, and your descriptions are both educational and motivational.

    I regret to inform you that the wrong pictures are posted for Exercise #8.  I read through the description several times, baffled, until I realized that the pictures are the same as Exercise #9 (same link and all).

    It would be great to have the right pictures, so I can be sure that I understand the Punch Crosses.

    Thanks & kind regards,

    • Ok, thank you for the notice. I will let my webmaster know. I’m not sure that I shot pictures of the punch crosses. If not I will shoot a short video this week showing the exercise.

      Keep the Faith,

  9. Fantastic article! It was really interesting. I’ll be checking back here again soon! Keep up the good work!

  10. This is awesome. Do you have any videos of this work out or anything on YouTube with the total gym?  I would really like to get some video on a great work out I can fallow. 

  11. I have been training in gyms with weights on-and-off for most of my life.  I have made some reasonable gains over the years (although I’m not a tank like you :-) ) but I haven’t trained for the last couple of years or so due to business commitments – really early starts and late finishes mean the gyms are always closed when I’m available :-(.  As I won’t be able to get back to a gym anytime soon, I took the plunge and bought a Total Gym XLS, hoping what they said is true.  I’m in Australia too and they’re pretty expensive here, but I figure it’s going to last me many years if it works so it will be worth it. 

    Well after having one for only a short period I can say it’s everything they say it is.  The workouts are great!  Anyone who says the Total Gym doesn’t work either hasn’t actually used one, or is doing something very wrong.  The only downside I have found is that it’s hard to give the legs a real good workout with squats and calf raises, although the one legged squats would be good with the optional weight bar.

    Thanks for the excellent article.  Looking forward to more about the Total Gym.

    • Thanks for checking out my site.

      I plan on putting out a DVD on the Total Gym. I plan is to do a 5 part series, for beginners, intermediate and then advanced. The 4th and 5th dvds will be for the advanced trainee who wants to take their training to an even higher level.

      I plan to start shooting these next week.

      Keep the Faith,

  12. Hello. I stumbled across this site while looking for workouts for the total gym. Thank you for this resource it is very helpful.
    One thing I am confused on is the 1. Around the Worlds. I am not sure what the correct motions are. This is the first I have heard of this exercise, and would like to know more. It sounds great.
    Thank you for your time.

    • Around the worlds are simply done by doing a pullover and then bringing the arms around in a circle either clockwise or counter clockwise. Think of the windmill exercise that can be seen in many warm ups of athletes when they move their arms around in big circles forward and backward. I hope this helps.

  13. Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources
    back to your weblog? My website is in the very same area of interest as yours and
    my users would truly benefit from some of the information you provide here.
    Please let me know if this ok with you. Cheers!

  14. I been using total gym for past 3 month and not seeing any result, my target is my upper body can u plz give me some tips 
    Thank…. Tom Tom  

    • Tom,

      check out my Total Gym section on the front of the website. I give a variety of workouts there that you can use. I’m sure one of them will help you achieve your goals.


  15. Awesome stuff. I had a total gym sitting around collecting dust, but after a serious injury I am using it for rehab and fell in love with it again. I was surfing for a chest isolation routines and stumbled onto this site.
    I have added this to my favorites…. great stuff that should convince anyone what a great machine this is for the home.

  16. Hey Mike, 
    Thanks so much for this posting. I recently got a total gym machine but was concerned that it wouldn’t really be efficient enough for somebody trying to gain muscle. I’m use to working out in the gym and doing High Intensity weight training. But after looking at your illustrated post I tried a few of the exercises this week and I’ve been feeling the hurt… in a good way, of course. 
    So thanks, and please keep the post coming and If you’ve got video that would be awesome. 
    Thanks again Machine, 

    • Dominic, thanks for commenting. The TG is awesome. Last week I put 5 of my clients through a tough workout on the total gym. What type of video would you like to see? I had planned on doing a dvd centered around the total gym and my personal workouts but then I was told I could not sell it for fear of copyright infringement. I may just go buy a off brand tg and film the dvd anyway.

      Get back with me and I’ll shoot some video for you guys.


  17. So glad I have found this. I bought a Weider machine similar to total gym a few months ago and have struggled with using it consistently because I wasn’t real sure about a good routine and what exercises to use.  This machine came with virtually nothing as far as a work out program goes. I feel like I will be able to put together a really good workout program from your examples, I’m off to do some dips and iron crosses. Thanks Mike!

  18. I’ve had my TG for 15 years. It’s been in storage for about 13 after I hurt myself. 
    I am not a big dieter, hate veggies and realize that exercise is going the be the only salvation to my weight problem. I have decided to break out my TG from its wraps. 
    I need to get rid of my Michelin Man physique and lose 60 lbs. I don’t want to be the buffest guy at the bar but I want to be off a lot of diabetes and cardiac medication that I take.
    I want a routine that I can repeat 3-4 times a week (ADD means never having….oh a shiny object!) ADD means that repeating the same routine every time MAKES it routine and more likely to be repeated.
    Any help designing a routine for my TG would be appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Thanks for the question Michael,

      I suggest you go to the main page of the site and type in Total Gym in the search button. I have a beginners program there that you can follow.
      Hope this helps.

  19. I ordered this today.  My only concern is that I may be advanced for it.  Then I saw your website.  So I guess my silly question is: is this going to be too easy? Can you really make it challenging?  I lift regularly and wanted something new.   Sometimes I order DVDs and think they are too easy.  I don’t want to be disappointed.  I also love pilates which made this seem like a good idea.  And one last question – is it difficult to assemble?  I’ve read mixed reviews.

    • Maria, I can only tell you that I use the Total gym in my training facility with many of my clients. It works, is very durable and can give even the most seasoned, advanced trainee a workout. The assembly is really easy. Not hard at all. The company even has a straight bar so that you can add weight to the machine once you reach that level. I’m currently working on putting out a DVD with workouts using an off brand Total Gym (this will keep me from getting into trouble for copyright infringement) Try some of my workouts I have listed here on the site. I can only speak out of my personal experience. I wish I was an affiliate or sponsored athlete with the Total Gym as much as I promote it LOL If you have questions about it, shoot me a message and I’ll gladly help you with regards to set up. Keep the Faith, Machine

  20. I’ve been in gyms for 25 years lifting about 1 million lbs in those years & a little over 3 moths ago I left the gym & bought a Total Gym. Love this thing; happen to stumble across your workout routine & included it into my existing & I gotta tell ya, I have soreness (a good soreness) like I’ve never felt before. Your Total Gym routine works great. At this point, I want to stay toned & in shape. Thanks.

    • Awesome! I’m with you on this. After many years of putting my body through tough training the Total Gym was a great refresher/rehabilitation for my achy muscles. I get a great workout with it and feel it has preserved me to be able to still train and get a great pump.
      Kind regards,Machine

      • Hi Machine; You mentioned the straight bar in an above comment; I have the XLS & you may or may not know that you can take the straight bar & insert into the top (side) holes on the bench & then just run your cables under the bar to get an actual laying down bench press for chest as well as other workouts for other body parts using the bar there .

          • Hey Machine;
            Here is one more; great for lower chest. Sit at the very top of the bench, your back toward the tower. Then get in a kneeling position (little bit of balance needed here) then sit  back on your legs, arms straight at side behind you a little, then with arms straight at sides lift up straight towards your forehead. Same concept as in the gym (jungle gym), lower raises with cables.

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