Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE Reviewed and Rated
The Xtreme 2 SE, complete with the blatant misspelling, is an example of Bowflex doing what it does best: it is a home use multi-gym that saves space and time by using elastic power rods instead of weight plates or barbells. You can get a full-body workout in just a half-hour a day or so, and the machine will behave and not take up too much space when you are not using it. Bowflex made its bones with machines like the Xtreme 2SE. Now diversified, you can buy weight benches, selectorized dumbbells, and indoor cycles from the Nautilus subsidiary. But the company has never strayed far from its flagship gym systems, which it updates constantly according to market forces and customer desires.
There are no pulleys to change in the Xtreme 2SE, making it different from many other Bowflex units before it. The point of difference is that, without having to stop and adjust the pulleys, you can maintain your training heart rate while moving efficiently from one muscle group to another. There are over 70 exercises to cycle through, so it is easy to believe you can nail your workout every time and get a bit stronger day by day.
Do not have to pull on different cables or make adjustments when moving between muscle groups
210 pounds of power rod resistance on the base model
Power rods have a less joint impact and may alleviate pain when used instead of free weights
Overhead lat tower includes an angled bar with contoured handgrips
Can do squats and dedicated leg exercises from the lower pulley station
Has a leg extension station in addition to the lower body bottom pulleys
Comes with base and optional attachments for squats, crunches, preacher curls, and extra ab crunches
Have to pay extra to upgrade resistance to 310 or 410 pounds--can not add in lower increments
The machine is expensive enough that it may have to serve as your entire gym (or almost)
Other than the height, the Xtreme 2 SE has a fairly small footprint. It is about 4.5 feet long and just over 4 feet wide. Keep in mind that you will need more space than that, because of the room for movement during exercise. The assembled unit weighs 185 pounds, with a max user weight of 300 pounds.
We mentioned heart rate in our introduction. The Xtreme 2SE is a straight strength machine. There are no cardio attachments and no room for anything like a sliding rower seat. But despite prevailing wisdom, all exercise involves cardio. Just like running on a treadmill will strengthen your legs, lifting weight will have some benefit to your heart. With the 2SE, you have a unique chance to move quickly enough through your circuit that your heart rate stays consistently up. This may save you even more time if you are not having to perform separate cardio workouts.
We should point out that you have a couple of options when it comes to ab exercises on the machine. The first one is the ab crunch shoulder harness, which comes standard with your purchase. To use it, you snap two straps onto the ends of the dual cables. The straps look like the ones on a school backpack. When you bend at the hips from a seated or standing position, you get an ab burn similar to the motion of common gym machines. The straps are good at not locking you into a prescribed range of motion, which can cause injury over time and limit your progress.
The other ab exercise is called the gym style ab crunch. With this, you can actually grasp handles on either side of you and mimic a gym crunch machine more closely. The gym style ab crunch isolates the large muscles in your abs, while also giving your back a workout.
Those dual cables we talked about are also what you use for attaching your arms, hands, wrists, and ankles to the resistance. There are d-rings on the cable ends, and you can change your exercise by changing the straps that attach to the d-rings.
The unit requires extensive assembly. Try as we might, we could not find directions even in the user's manual. But then we got smart and Googled "Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE assembly instructions." There is an entire separate manual just with assembly instructions, which gives an idea of how involved the process is. But the directions are clear, and several Amazon buyers said they got the unit together, without professional help, in less than 8 hours. If you want professional help, you can pay for a Bowflex-trained technician on the Bowflex site. Their help is not cheap, though.
If you are not mechanically inclined, it may be wise to have a friend come out and help you. You will need an array of tools, including several types of wrenches and a utility knife. Bowflex includes Allen wrenches, but none of the other required tools. If you are considering purchasing the 2 SE, it will be worth your time to find the assembly instructions and make sure you have all the tools you need before you start.
Looking at the main manual, and its 45 pages of illustrations, we can promise your routines will not get stale and that you really can hit every single muscle group if you work out with the Bowflex 5 times a week. The unit is expensive, prohibitively so for some, but Bowflex is not in the business of gimmicks or empty promises. The company offers a multiyear warranty against defects on all units. The warranty does not cover wear and tear. The steel frame and thick padding of the 2 SE are durable, so the machine will last a long time as long as you use it according to directions. There is some maintenance required, mostly wiping down and visually inspecting key areas. The manual outlines these tasks as well as the numerous safety precautions.
Why It Is Different
Within the Bowflex world, the Xtreme 2 SE stands out for the sheer number of exercises you can do with it. Also, there is little to no transition time since none of the pulleys need adjusting. Instead of having one set of pulleys, and making you move your body to accommodate their placement, the 2 SE has six pulley stations that, along with the interchangeable handles and attachments, will work out as many muscle groups as you want to, each day, with lowered incidence of fatigue and joint pain. Just make sure to rotate out and do not work out the same muscle group each day.