If you are like most people who want to workout at home, the two main things you are concerned the most with are (lack of) available space and (low) budget.
The good news is that you no longer need a large space or a big budget. You can get a very effective workout at home using a portable home gym, such as the Gorilla Bow.
We review the Gorilla Bow to find out if it’s really the best portable gym out there, and what are its flaws. We also include reviews of 5 portable exercise tools that are excellent alternatives to the Gorilla Bow.
The premise of the Gorilla Bow is that you can work out anywhere you want. It takes very little space, costs much less than home gym machines, and you can take it everywhere you want.
Use it at home, to get a complete full-body workout, or if you don’t want to trade your gym membership for anything, just use it when you can’t (or don’t want to) go to the gym.
If there’s anything that the Gorilla Bow pride itself with is the portability and freedom to workout wherever you want. It’s small enough to pack for your next vacation, or maybe you want to sneak in a biceps workout at work.
- Full Gorilla Bow review
- Top 5 Gorilla Bow alternatives
FULL REVIEW OF THE GORILLA BOW
What's so special about the Gorilla Bow?
There was a time when you needed to buy large bulky and expensive home gym equipment in order to get a good home workout, but that is history.
The Gorilla Bow is one of the most comprehensive portable fitness tools you can buy. If you’re looking for a compact, lightweight fitness machine, this one will give you a full-body workout at home or away.
Just like an actual bow, the Gorilla Bow has two main parts: the rigid frame and the elastic bands.
The thick aluminum frame is shaped like the handle of a bow with prongs on both ends. The prongs are where you attach the bands that give this machine its resistance.
The resistance bands are made out of very strong rubber, which keeps them stretchy yet sturdy. You use them to the full extent of their length without worrying about a tear.
To make it easier to transport, you can take the travel version apart and carry it around in the provided travel bag. Even if you mostly only “travel” to the office and back, the travel Bow is great for getting in a few reps when you feel like you’re falling asleep at your desk. (Or: Even if these days, you mostly only “travel” downstairs and back, the travel version is great for getting in a few reps when you feel like you’re falling asleep at your home office.)
The basic Gorilla Bow comes with four bands. They have the respective equivalent of 10, 20, 30, and 50 pounds of resistance. You can combine different bands to adjust the resistance as needed up to a total of 110 lbs.
If that’s not enough for you and you need more resistance, Gorilla also offers two additional heavy-duty bands that you can buy separately. These simulate 80 and 90 pounds of resistance. You can use all these bands in any combination to get as much resistance as you need.
If you’re worried the bow might snap under such high resistance, the manufacturer says it was tested safe with up 400 pounds of tension.
That’s pretty impressive for an exercise tool that weighs only six pounds and fits in one hand.
The Gorilla Bow lite is the most affordable option. It has less resistance and it’s enough to get a good light to moderate workout. It’s more in the ‘stay fit’ category.
For most women and even men looking for a light workout, the Gorilla Bow Lite will be enough. It’s also much cheaper than the regular version. If you want to get a hard workout you would want the regular or travel version instead.
How does it work?
The bow has a three-pronged claw at each end that looks kind of like a curved rake. The two slots between the prongs are what keep the bands in place.
Each end of each resistance band is wrapped in a black protective covering. Underneath the covering is a thick round bulb designed to keep the band from slipping past the claws at the ends of the bow.
To use the machine, you need to loop the bulbs at each end of the bands into the claws at each end of the bow. Each slot can hold either one or two bulbs. This means you can use your bow with as many as four resistance bands at once.
Once your bands are attached to your bow, you’re ready to go. Hold the bow in your hands, anchor the bands under your feet or behind your back and start lifting!
Is the Gorilla Bow worth it?
Yes, we think it’s well worth it, and after you finish reading our review you’ll understand why. The design of the Gorilla Bow is unique, and it’s definitely a head-turner. It makes you look like a Viking warrior on a rampage, where regular resistance bands make you look more like a CrossFitter on a budget.
If you work out at your work or anywhere where other people may see you, expect people to come and ask what it is.
The surface is subtly textured, which helps you grip it better but also just looks cool. Although you can get it in various colors, our favorite is the deep matte black.
The Bow feels strong and solid, not like another cheap exercise toy. It’s not heavy enough to be cumbersome, but it has enough weight in your hands to feel like it can withstand a brutal workout (and it does).
Although it probably won’t be able to replace a full commercial gym, you can definitely get an effective and intense workout and build some muscle.
If you are used to working out with heavy weights at the gym, you can use the Gorilla Bow as an alternative whenever you don’t have access to a gym. It’s a great portable strength training device that can maintain your strength and preserve your muscle when going to the gym is not possible.
Switching exercises and resistance is so fast that it’s also great for high-intensity exercise and metabolic overload training. You get the full range of exercises with very little rest between sets.
It’s great for developing your core too. Because the Bow anchors to your own body, you’ll activate your core muscles with practically every exercise you do. This has the added benefit of helping to improve your balance much better than a stationary machine.
The Bow also works well for stretching exercises. It can help you regain your full range of movement if your muscles have atrophied or you’ve lost flexibility due to an injury. You can start as light as you need to and work your way back up to normal.
In theory, just like with regular weights, your progress is only limited by your level of strength. As long as you stay under the hefty weight limit, you can combine bands to get the exact tension you need for where you are in the recovery or strength-building process.
Another plus is that the elastic lifting motion is smoother than lifting weights. This will be welcome news to any sore joints or tendons you may have.
Is it the best portable home gym?
There are many things to say in favor of the Gorilla Bow, it is, without doubt, one of the best tools to exercise wherever you want and whenever you want.
Its 400 pounds of maximum resistance makes the Gorilla Bow our champion in a pound-for-pound ranking of compact portable exercise machines.
We list in this review many things we like about the Gorilla Bow, and we are not the only ones. We also found numerous positive reviews of the Gorilla Bow on Amazon and Reddit.
In its price, weight, and size range, you won’t find any other machine that can give you this much resistance. The other portable tools with similar resistance are either heavier, bigger, or more expensive.
Although it’s less stable than a stationary workout machine, it’s hard to find another portable workout tool that gives you this much stability. Most of the other mobile gyms need to be anchored to some external fixtures like a door. Door anchoring is less convenient and makes it harder to keep good form.
The length of the Bow’s handle gives you a larger variety of grips than most other portable home gyms. It’s especially handy if you like doing chest or back exercises that require a wide grip. The bar’s length also makes it easier to hold onto if your workout involves core exercises that make you bend your whole body in weird directions.
How to use the Gorilla Bow
Using the Gorilla Bow is quite intuitive. We’ll explain how in writing, but in practicality it’s very easy to use.
To get started, you need to string the bow. If you’re not familiar with stringing an actual bow, here’s an easy way to do it.
- Slip the bulb at one end of one band between the prongs at one end of the bow.
- Turn the bow over so the loaded end is on the ground. Step on that end so the bulb can’t slip out.
- While stepping on the loaded end of the bow, stretch the other end of the band up until you can slip the other bulb into the claw at the other end of the bow
- The tension will now keep both ends in place.
If you load it with multiple bands, you can change the resistance quickly for combination exercises or drop sets.
Here’s an example:
- Load all four bands, 10, 20, 30 and 50 pounds, onto the bow. Each slot can hold two bands.
- To lift 10 pounds, step on the 10-pound band only. Let the other bands hang free.
- Now you can quickly change the resistance to 20 pounds by taking your foot off the 10-pound band and stepping on only the 20 instead.
- Repeat for any weight you want by stepping on the correct combination of bands and letting the others hang free. The bands are color-coded by weight to make them easier to identify.
- This works in both directions. You can increase or decrease the resistance progressively.
If you want to lift all four bands together, the Gorilla Bow comes with a nylon sleeve that you can wrap around the bands to keep them from separating. This will prevent the danger of one band slipping out and accidentally snapping back in your face. It will also keep them from pinching you during exercises like chest presses where you need to anchor the bands to your back.
Although the surface of the bow has a non-slip texture, you can still do exercises that use a rotating grip, like bicep curls and overhead tricep extensions. Just keep your hands a bit loose and feel the texture rolling forward and backward in your palms as you perform the motion.
For more great tips on how to use your Gorilla Bow with the correct form, here is an example from the manufacturer of a 25-minute long full-body HIIT workout.
If you want to get a bit more creative with your Bow, here is an independent instruction video with some out-of-the-box exercise ideas.
The exercises you can do
You can do full-body home workouts, and there are so many exercises you can perform, and they are all included in the manual. While there is no point in listing them all here, we want to mention the basic ones.
To lift upward, step on the bands. This lets you do curls, rows, squats, presses, and triceps extensions.
To push downward, anchor the bands around your shoulders. This lets you do triceps and lat pushdowns.
To push forward, anchor the bands behind your back. This is good for chest presses.
You can also use the Bow for sit-ups or rowing exercises by sitting on the floor and anchoring the bands under your glutes or behind your outstretched feet.
Full Body Gorilla Bow Workout
Here’s an example of a full-body workout:
- Shoulder presses
- Upright rows
- Sit down incline presses
- T’s and Y’s (using the bands)
- Bent over single-arm rows
- Biceps Curls
- Overhead triceps extensions
Can you build muscle with the Gorilla Bow
Yes, you can build muscle, but it also depends on your current strength level. If you are just starting out with strength training you can definitely pack some muscle. However, if you are already very strong it may be a bit harder.
You should have no problem to grow your biceps, triceps, and delts. However with bigger muscles groups such as chest or back it will be more challenging, albeit still possible.
For packing muscle for larger muscle groups you’ll want to invest in the heavier Gorilla Bow extra set of resistance bands.
Even if you load up all the bands that come with the basic Gorilla Bow, you’ll probably only feel a moderate chest workout. This also goes for squats and deadlifts. Some muscle groups just need a lot of weight to feel the burn and stimulate hypertrophy (muscle fiber growth).
Here’s a tip, you can work smaller muscles with the Gorilla, and work larger muscles using makeshift homemade weights with just a little bit of creativity. For example you can get a good chest workout using weights or just bodyweight.
We recommend that you first start with the basic Gorilla Bow and only purchase the additional bands if the basic set feels too easy for you for large muscles exercises.
Gorilla Bow for travel
The Gorilla Bow’s regular version is one solid piece that measures about five and a half feet long. Their travel version comes apart into three different pieces, each about 21 inches long.
The travel Bow comes apart or snaps together with a user-friendly push button connection. The bridges are secure and well-made, so you won’t have to worry about them working loose when you’re working out.
The three 21-inch pieces fit easily into the travel bag that comes with this version. Various users told us they had no problems bringing their disassembled Bow through airport security.
Because it anchors to your body, you won’t need much space to work out on the go. You and your Bow can easily do an entire full-body workout in the space beside the single bed of any regular hotel room.
It’s also ideal for getting quick exercise breaks in your office cubicle. Just beware of the admiring stares from your jealous colleagues.
Some of the drawbacks of the Gorilla Bow
Although the Gorilla Bow is our pound-for-pound champion, it’s not for everybody. Let’s see some of the things that can make the Gorilla Bow less appealing. If you consider some of these deal breakers, we’ll also review some of the best alternatives.
- The Bow uses variable tension. This means the resistance is easier at the beginning of the motion and gets harder as the bands get stretched. When the bands are at peak stretch, the resistance is at its heaviest, then it gets easier as you relax the stretch. This makes it hard to complete the full motion, especially at the end of a set of reps.
- If you like consistent tension throughout the entire range of motion, you may want to look at some of the alternatives below. On the other hand, using a machine with resistance bands makes it harder to cheat. Unlike with free weights, you can’t change your form to complete the motion. You just have to push through it.
- Some exercises need anchoring the Bow to your bare skin. For example, when doing horizontal chest presses, you anchor the Bow to your back, and this may cause discomfort or even bruising. There’s an easy fix though, if you bruise easily, you can use a towel for padding or try out one of our alternatives portable gym machines.
- If you like the idea of the Gorilla Bow, but you’re put off by the price or maximum weight, we’ve listed a few alternatives that are either cheaper or have more resistance. However, as with anything, they may have their own downsides. They may be respectively less portable, less comprehensive, more expensive, or less flexible.
- The resistance bands on the Gorilla Bow are made from latex rubber. If you have an allergy to latex, you should consider one of the alternatives below that doesn’t use latex bands.
Finally, if the Gorilla Bow is out of stock or unavailable for whatever reason, it’s a good time to check the other options.
TOP 5 GORILLA BOW ALTERNATIVES
While the Gorilla Bow is a great portable strength training solution, it’s not the only option. We’ve listed here some of our favorite compact home gyms.
The best alternatives we are going to review are:
We’ll compare each of these against the Gorilla Bow to see where it excels or falls short.
Body Boss 2.0 vs. Gorilla Bow
The BodyBoss 2.0 is also based around resistance bands. Instead of a bow-shaped frame, it has a flat, rectangular base that you anchor the bands to and stand on while exercising.
The BodyBoss rivals the Gorilla Bow in stability and variety. You can get a full-body workout with good form and not too much wiggling. The BodyBoss even has a maximum resistance of 500 pounds, 100 more than the Bow.
Because the BodyBoss is anchored to the ground, it really shines in lifting exercises. However, if you want to do pulldowns or horizontal pushing exercises, you’ll have to anchor it to a doorway.
At 18 pounds, the BodyBoss is three times as heavy as the Gorilla Bow. Although the whole apparatus fits into the base, which folds up into a box with a handle, it’s still bulkier than the travel Bow. We consider both the BodyBoss 2.0 and Gorilla Bow very portable. Still, if you have limited carry-on space or weight, the Bow is smaller and lighter.
X3 Bar vs. Gorilla Bow
The X3 Bar is a lot like the Gorilla Bow. It’s based around a rigid handle attached to an elastic resistance band. You can step on the band, anchor it to your body or attach it to a floor base.
The X3’s maximum resistance is listed at 500 pounds, but the company says they regularly use it with as much as 1000 pounds of resistance (though we don’t even know who can lift that much).
The X3’s handle is a lot shorter than the Bow on the Gorilla Bow. If you have wrist or shoulder problems or just prefer a wide grip, you should stick with the Bow.
Both the Gorilla Bow and X3 Bar are made from high-quality materials. The major downside of the X3 has to be its price, it is a lot more expensive than the Gorilla Bow.
TRX vs. Gorilla Bow
The TRX training system has made its name as one of the best low-impact mobile training based around suspension. It gets its resistance from your own body weight plus gravity. It is so popular that it is also available in many commercial gyms.
It’s basically two thick, adjustable straps and two handles. You anchor one end to something high, then hold the handles in various positions to lift your body weight using various isolated muscle groups.
Like the Gorilla Bow, the TRX’s system is great for toning and stretching. Its resistance is limited by what you weigh. This means that unless you weigh 400 pounds, you’ll probably get more resistance from the Gorilla Bow.
The entire TRX kit weighs less a pound, much lighter than the Gorilla Bow, and quite frankly than any other portable gym training tool. This makes the TRX even better than the Bow for traveling. It also has a much smaller total area than the Gorilla Bow, even the disassembled travel version.
The TRX major disadvantage is that you need to find something high to anchor it to. This can be a deal-breaker for many people. If you don’t like having to constantly find something high to anchor to, you’ll probably be happier with the slightly more expensive self-anchoring Gorilla Bow.
Gorilla Bow vs. Regular Resistance Bands
If you’re really on a tight budget for price or space, you can buy a regular set of resistance bands with no framing device. These usually come with a variety of color-coded weight classes, a set of handles and a door anchor.
Resistance bands alone will be cheaper, smaller, and lighter than a Bow. The external anchoring will make it a bit harder to do horizontal or pulldown exercises. It will also be a slow and a bit more involved to switch between exercises using just bands with no frame.
Another advantage the all-in-one Gorilla Bow has is that it’s easier to keep good form. The length and heft of the Bow’s handle make the lifting motion feel closer to free weights. It’s also easier to maintain a stable left/right balance for exercises using both arms.
Dumbbells vs. Gorilla Bow
The main advantage dumbbells have over the Gorilla Bow is their uniform tension. Where the Bow’s elastic bands start easy at the beginning of the motion and end close to impossible, the dumbbells’ weight stays the same throughout the entire motion.There are also certain exercises that feel more awkward with the Bow than with dumbbells. Chest presses, for instance, are possible, but if you relax the tension too much, the bands slip out of position and you have to put them back in place. The heavier the resistance you use with the Gorilla Bow, the more awkward these exercises will be.
For traveling though, the Gorilla Bow beats dumbbells hands down. Its size and weight allow you to fit as much as 400 pounds of resistance into your carry-on. To do this with dumbbells, you’d actually have to bring a 400-pound carry-on, which is not even an option.
By now, after you finished reading our review of the Gorilla Bow, you should be convinced of its many benefits.
It’s not just about being portable. It has notable benefits over other home exercise equipment, even if you only plan to use it at home. There are more pros than cons to the Gorilla Box. However, if for some reason the Bow doesn’t appeal to you, the alternatives such as the BodyBoss 2.0, TRX, or an inexpensive set of resistance bands are all excellent portable gym solutions.