The SelectTech 2080 Barbell with Curl Bar arrives in a box weighing more than 115 pounds. My husband and I assembled the bars and base in about 50 minutes. The base accommodates one bar at a time; we stored the barbell there and put the curl bar on the floor next to it.
I did a variety of workouts over a five-week span, experimenting with a range of exercises, sets, and repetitions using both bars. Each of the bars is 1.1 inch in diameter with a lightly knurled texture that provides a decent amount of grip without being overly harsh. With just an 8-pound set of dumbbells at my disposal while working out at home since mid-March, I was eager to lift heavier, and I enjoyed the Bowflex’s versatility. Some days I focused on lower repetitions and higher loads for exercises like deadlifts and overhead shoulder presses. Other days I grouped four or five exercises together, performing them in succession for a specific length of time each with short breaks in between. I had fun with it and enjoyed incorporating some heavier weight training back into my routine. But I ran into a few snags. This was surprising, since at this price ($550) one would expect a fairly quirk-free experience. (To lift a regular barbell, after all, you just need to, well, lift it.)
Both the barbell and the curl bar increase by 10-pound increments with each turn of the adjustment dials. This approach is similar to that of fixed-weight barbells, which traditionally increase by 10 pounds per bar. For the progression of certain exercises, however, we found a full 10-pound jump too aggressive. For instance, an overhead shoulder press at 40 pounds wasn’t challenging enough, but at 50 pounds it was too much; a bent-over row presented a similar situation. A subtler rate of increase would have been just right. (The company’s SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells increase by 2.5 pounds for the first 25 pounds and 5 pounds after that.) But again, this preference depends on your goals and current strength levels.
Certain exercises that are shown as SelectTech 2080 options on its exercise-demonstration videos may be limited depending on your fitness level and goals. I back squatted relatively comfortably but wasn’t able to progress to the load I wanted for a more strength-focused workout because I couldn’t get into the position safely. (Instead of stepping under a barbell suspended on a rack and preparing for the lift, with the Bowflex this exercise requires lifting the barbell over your head and positioning it on your shoulders—a move that is neither safe nor possible at a certain point.)
To work around this problem, I changed key variables, decreasing the load, increasing the repetitions and sets, or decreasing the rest periods between exercises to get my desired workout. When the 80-pound maximum failed to adequately challenge me on a deadlift, I increased the…