For guys who need that muscle-swelling fix you can only get from pumping iron, building up your own home gym became a necessity over the lockdown. The pandemic shut down gyms pretty much all across the country (with some states still mandating closures), forcing fitness fanatics to get serious about maximizing their home gym space. That need fits in perfectly with Bowflex’s SelectTech line, which offers lots of options and weight selection in a compact form tailor-made for tight home workout rooms. Bowflex’s first foray into the space-saving fitness gear came with its dumbbells, which provide 5 to 52.5 pounds of weight in a shoebox-size footprint per dumbbell. Next came some super-cool kettlebells. And now, its latest innovation is the SelectTech 2080 Barbell with Curl Bar, which ups the compact, total gym gear-fest for your home.
(Note that these were released in October 2020, but with the pandemic’s ongoing stranglehold on supplies and shipping, they are just now coming in stock, and even then they can be hard to find or are backordered for months.)
What It Is
Building off of the solid and user-friendly designs of Bowflex’s previous adjustable weight sets, the 2080 gives you 20 to 80 pounds in 10-pound increments with the choice of using a standard straight bar or a curl (or EZ) bar. The curl bar, with its W-shaped design, is meant to help relieve pressure on your wrists when doing exercises like standing curls, seated preacher curls, and lying triceps extensions. The weight plates sit at an angle in the plastic holders and have three small hooks that latch into each other, which allow them to be joined or separated by turning the smooth dial at either end of the bars—one plate is permanently attached to the bars for your lowest weight of 20 pounds.
Setup is a little more involved than with the Bowflex kettlebells or dumbbells, which are basically ready to be swung and curled the instant they come out of the box. For the barbells, you’ll need to assemble the base, consisting of a metal frame and two plastic buckets that hold the weights. It takes a little finagling to get the distance between the plastic holders precise enough to allow for easy adjustment of the dial and proper hook-up of the weights, but that takes just a few minutes of tightening and loosening the bolts holding the trays to the frame. Once you get it dialed in, the system works perfectly, allowing for easy selection of weight and quick transitions between the curl bar and the straight bar.
For those who don’t want to lift the barbells off of the floor every time they work out or decide to change weights, Bowflex offers a Media Stand that brings the weights up off of the ground to a height of 2.5 feet and includes a slanted slab where you can place a tablet or smartphone for workout inspiration or training videos. And Bowflex gives you access to 14 free vids that provide basic instructions on standard barbell exercises like bent rows, curls, overhead presses, dead lifts, and triceps extensions.
Admittedly 80 pounds is not a lot of weight for doing maximally effective squats for most guys, or for really testing your strength in other moves, but Bowflex also offers an upgrade of 40 more pounds for $149, making for a max weight of 120 pounds. Also not heavy iron, but enough to challenge you in your home for arm exercises and single-leg exercises like lunges and deadlifts.
Why We Like It
The option of both bars is a great choice to have included and, once you get it set up properly, it works well when you want to pick a new weight. The adjustment knob is smooth and easy to turn, and has a plus or minus on either side of the clear window which shows the weight in kilos and pounds. The bars have deep knurling just like on the gym-grade bars at your usual spot, and feel solid and strong, just like the bars that you’re most familiar with.
Though the system is not going to really challenge the hardcore gym rats who got shut out of their favorite pain palace, it is robust enough to offer most everyone enough weight (especially with the upgrade) to build muscle, maintain some mass, and get a good swole on, all in the comfort of your home. And at less than 5 feet long and about a foot wide and high, while giving you the equivalent of 14 barbells (with fixed weights), it’s the perfect addition to your growing home gym.
All is not perfect with the 2080 SelectTech system. Traditional barbells that are standalone and can be loaded up with all manner of weight plates utilizing collars that hold the weights on a ball-bearings. This allows the weights to move with the momentum of you lifting and thrusting and pushing the weights around, making for a more pleasant and less stressful (on the hands and wrists) workout. This mostly comes into play with swinging exercises like curls and extensions.
With barbells that have fixed weights, and the Bowflex 2080s, you don’t get that relief and ease of movement. And since the Bowflex barbells used almost square plates, which can feel ungainly, some movements can feel awkward and frustrating, especially if you like to use a looser grip. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker, and you’ll quickly get used to the oddness of swinging the barbells, knowing when and how to adjust your grip to make movements as smooth as possible.