If you’re looking for the best adjustable dumbbell available at a medium price, you can’t beat the Bowflex Select Tech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells.
If you’re serious about strength training at home, you need the equipment that’s best suited to this. Consensus around the Bowflex SelectTech is very positive. Bowflex are one of the market leaders when it comes to serious, high-quality exercise equipment, and their SelectTech dumbbells are a highlight of their range. If you want a dumbbell that feels and looks great, with a design focused on optimizing your workout, then look no further.
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 is our Top Pick because its range of great features puts it ahead of all other contenders. One of its biggest selling points is its custom dial system, which allows you to change weight quickly and easily at any time. The SelectTech 552 is a great pair of adjustable dumbbells. This major discount is probably because the SelectTech 552 is a 2009 model, but we think it still beats much newer models. Also available is the SelectTech 1090, a single larger dumbbell. The SelectTech 552 gets our Top Pick spot, due to the additional versatility and flexibility allowed by the pair set up, as well as the excellent bargain of the cost price.
The Step-up Pick is suitable for those who are ready to pay extra for a top of the range product. Our Step-up Pick is the
Ironmaster 75 lb Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System.
This is a premium dumbbell, with a price tag to match. If you’re in the market for a top-end product, though, the Ironmaster is a great one to go for. For the price, you get a stand along with the pair of dumbbells, which stores them conveniently using less than 2 square feet. These dumbbells really are built to last; their extra heavy duty construction features welded steel and chrome handles, and will last you for many years.
The Budget Pick is the product that we feel gives the best performance for a lower price – maintaining really high standards while being a bit easier on the wallet. Our Budget Pick is the PowerBlock GF-SPDBLK24 Adjustable SpeedBlock Dumbbell. The Speedblock is a great set of dumbbells. They’re compact and easy to store. The dumbbells feature a convenient adjustor pin mechanism for changing weights, with a range of 3 to 24 pounds on each dumbbell. This should be sufficient for most people’s needs, though it should be said that hardcore weightlifters might need dumbbells that hold more weight than this.
Table of Contents
- Why choose an adjustable dumbbell?
- Plan your workout
- Criteria for our picks
- Our top pick
- Flaws but not deal breakers
- Step-up pick
- Budget pick
- Specialized picks
- The Competition
- Frequently asked questions
- Wrapping it up
Why choose an adjustable dumbbell?
When it comes to strength training, dumbbells are probably the single most important item of equipment. With a good set of dumbbells, you can train all of your muscle groups using a range of different exercises, focusing on each group in turn more efficiently than with barbells. However, a set of conventional dumbbells, like those usually found at the gym, take up a lot of space as they involve several individual weights stored on a rack. Other models come with a range of different weights which can be attached to a single bar, consuming less space, but require time and effort to change these weights. This can be very disruptive to your workout. Adjustable dumbbells that include a bespoke mechanism for quick weight-changing are a good solution to these problems. They give the same range of weights, take up less space, and the best ones allow you to change weights quickly and easily, with minimum disturbance to your workout.
If you’re investing in a really good set of adjustable dumbbells, it’s important that you know how to get the most out of them. No doubt you’re already familiar with much of the wide variety of exercises that use dumbbells to build your body, but perhaps some new ones can also be added to your repertoire. A wide variety of material and information is available to help you establish the workout routine that’s best for you.
Different dumbbell exercises focus on different muscle groups. As well as this, some exercises are most suitable for building muscle mass, whereas others should be used for firming and toning your physique, or reducing body fat. You should plan your workout accordingly, depending on what your main priorities are.
Criteria for our picks
Making the right choice of dumbbell needs several factors to be taken into consideration. Our picks are based on the performance of each dumbbell, according to the following important criteria:
There is a pretty wide price range across the market for adjustable dumbbells. They vary from the cheapest at under a hundred dollars, to the top end at several hundred, with a full range in between. As such, we have focused mainly on mid-range dumbbells, with price tags between the two ends of the spectrum. We’ve chosen the dumbbells that we feel give the best value for money, and are suitable for serious working out in a home environment.
Ease of use
The key advantage of adjustable dumbbells over the traditional types is the weight-changing mechanism. It allows you to adjust the weight level easily, avoiding the issues of storage and convenience that come with traditional dumbbells. We’ve assessed the weight-changing mechanism of each dumbbell, and considered it in making our selections. All of our picks feature really good systems for changing weight, giving the greatest convenience to your workout.
Obviously a very important factor; you need dumbbells that will give you safe, problem-free workouts over many years of use, with strong components that will not break. We have considered this carefully in choosing our picks.
Range of features
We’ve looked carefully at a wide range of adjustable dumbbells, and our choices all have a great design and features that combine to give a productive, efficient and comfortable workout.
Top Pick: Bowflex Select Tech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
The Bowflex Select Tech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells really is hard to beat, and represents terrific value for money for its range of features. One great advantage is its flexibility. Whereas some dumbbells are more geared toward muscle-building, ‘pumping iron’ workouts, and others work better for aerobic conditioning workouts such as calisthenics, the SelectTech’s versatile design allows it to perform very well for both kinds of workouts.
Its weight-changing system is simple but effective, and one of the best out there. At the end of each dumbbell is a dial, which you turn to get the desired weight level. Turning the dial to a particular setting retains the necessary weight plates, while the rest are left behind. In this way you can adjust weight easily and smoothly, causing minimal disturbance to your workout program. The dumbbells can be adjusted to 15 different weight settings, ranging from 5 to 52.5 lbs. For the first 25 lbs, the weight can be adjusted in increments of 2.5 lbs. Because the SelectTech 552’s mechanism lets you adjust the weights separately on each side of the dumbbell, you can even have one side heavier than the other. Obviously you want even weight on both sides of the dumbbell for most exercises, but there are some types of dumbbell exercise which work well with an uneven weight configuration, such as hammer curls, and a few that require it, such as pronations, supinations and deviations.
The high quality of the SelectTech 552’s weight-changing mechanism makes it one of the safest products on the market. Another feature that ensures safety is the weight plates themselves, which are held securely in place by metal tabs. A problem with some adjustable dumbbell models is that plastic tabs are used to hold the plates in place; repeated strain over time can eventually cause these tabs to fail, so the plates fall off the dumbbell during your workout. This is obviously a significant safety hazard. The SelectTech 552’s sturdy metal tabs ensure safety over many years of use. This is an improvement in the 2009 model over the 2008 model, which does feature plastic tabs. If you decide to buy the SelectTech 552, make sure that you’re getting the 2009 model.
As well as its sturdy, durable construction, other design features of the SelectTech 552 also make it ideal for working out at home. The handles of the dumbbells have a great ergonomic shape, with a little extra thickness in the centre than on the edges near the weights. They’re also ridged for a firmer, better grip. In terms of visual appearance, these dumbbells are smooth and sleek, and will look great in your living room or den.
Included in the asking price for the SelectTech 552 is a workout DVD, ‘Secrets of the 4 Step Rep.’ It gives instructions for more than 30 exercises, with 80 variations, allowing you to develop a complete workout program that builds all the muscle groups of your body.
Amazon’s customer reviews for the SelectTech 552 are overwhelmingly positive. The SelectTech 552 is the best-selling adjustable dumbbell on Amazon; throughout its long list of laudatory reviews, a majority of users of this product state that they would gladly recommend it to others, and that it gives the best value for money on the market.
Flaws but not deal breakers
One downside of the SelectTech 552 is the fixed length of the dumbbells. If you have particularly large or small hands, it might be a problem for you that the length can’t be adjusted. However, the length of the SelectTech 552 dumbbells will be suitable for most people.
Also, some users report durability problems with the 2008 model of the SelectTech 552, due to the eventual failure of its plastic tabs that hold the weights in place. It is important to make sure you get the 2009 model, which features much stronger metal tabs.
Step-up Pick: Ironmaster 75 lb Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System
Ironmaster 75 lb Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System may come with a high price tag attached, but if you are willing to pay a bit extra for your home workout kit, then you’ll really feel the advantages offered by this premium product. It’s one of the best pieces of weight training equipment you can buy; highly durable, easy to use, and designed to give you the ability to do a huge range of exercises, for productive and effective workouts.
These dumbbells have a deceptively simple design, with minimal components and moving parts, as well as an all-metal construction. This gives them the advantage of real heavy-duty durability. They’ll last a lifetime, and it doesn’t matter if you drop them. Each dumbbell’s weight can be adjusted between 10 and 75 lbs, using a Quick-Lock pin system.
This design of the Quick-Lock is also geared toward adaptability. The weight plates are compatible with any standard 1′ diameter barbells and handles, so you can double up on your equipment if you want to use a barbell as well. The Quick-Lock shares with the SelectTech the advantage of customizable weight distribution. You load each side of the dumbbell independently, so you can make one side of the dumbbell heavier than the other for those exercises where this is suitable, or keep an even weight for the majority of exercises.
Also, a range of extra accessories and extension products are available for the Quick-Lock. If the top weight of 75lbs on each dumbbell isn’t enough for you, add-on kits are available that increase the weight to 120lbs, and then to 165lbs (if you have arms like tree trunks!), using additional weight plates and extra-long Quick-Lock pins.
You can get Fat Grip Adaptor Handles for thick bar training, which allows you to increase the diameter of the dumbbell’s handle for improved grip and forearm development. Two sizes of Fat Grip Adaptor are available, which increase the original Quick-Lock handle’s diameter of 1.25′ to 1.5′ and 2′ respectively. The Ironmaster Quick-Lock Kettlebell Attachment uses the same weight plates as the dumbbells to make a kettlebell ‘ a different piece of weight training equipment, involving extra muscle activity and greater calorie burning. Finally, if you don’t already have barbell handles, you can get both EZ-Curl Bar and Straight Bar attachments for the Quick-Lock, which use the same weight plates to make barbells.
Investing in these accessories for the Quick-Lock will certainly run into money, but will set you up with a full range of high-quality weight training equipment.
One potential downside of the Quick-Lock is its weight adjustment system. It’s not that the system is especially difficult to use; it’s fairly user-friendly, but does take a little more effort than the systems of some other adjustable dumbbells. You have to place the number of plates for your desired weight against each side of the dumbbell handle, and then fix them to the handle with a Quick-Lock pin through the centre hole of the plates. This process takes a minute or two ‘ not really a big problem, but more disruptive than the instant weight-changing mechanisms of dumbbells such as the SelectTech. On the other hand, the Quick-Lock pin system means that there is absolutely no risk of the plates coming loose during your workout, even with repeated explosive lifting.
Budget Pick: PowerBlock GF-SPDBLK24 Adjustable SpeedBlock Dumbbell
If you’re keen to save money, but still want a really decent set of home dumbbells, then the PowerBlock GF-SPDBLK24 Adjustable SpeedBlock Dumbbell is a great one to go for.
The Speedblock’s weight-changing mechanism uses a weight selector pin, which gives adjustments of 3lb increments between 3 and 24lbs on each dumbbell. This is a very efficient system, whereby each weight has a handle that fits inside the handle of the weight above it, and the weight selector pin lets you change the weight quickly and easily. It’s essentially quite similar to the selector pin mechanism you’ve probably used on weight training machines at the gym.
These dumbbells are designed to optimize use of space, so they’re a good choice for home use if space is an issue. As well as the main space-saving measure of multiple weights used by the same dumbbell, the square shape of the dumbbells allows more weight to fit into a smaller space. This means that the Speedblock dumbbells are smaller than adjustable dumbbells, of equivalent weight, that feature a rounded design. The Speedblock set is quite suitable for family use, as its compactness means it can be used properly by people with widely differing physiques.
The design of the Speedblock also makes safety a priority. The selector pin is magnetic, which helps to hold it safely in place, as well as an elastic band as a backup measure in place. The Speedblock dumbbells also feature a padded handle, which helps to protect your wrists from injury.
Aesthetically, you’ll have to decide whether the design of the Speedblock appeals to you or not. In maximizing efficient use of space, PowerBlock have created a product that looks quite different to a traditional dumbbell. However, even though it has a blocky, cuboid shape, users report that it performs great for exercises.
The limited weight capacity is one flaw of the Speedblock dumbbells. A maximum weight of 24lbs on each dumbbell is enough for most users, but those who are weight training at a more serious level may require a set of dumbbells with a bigger upper weight limit. This, along with the Speedblock’s safety focus and compact design, place it in the ‘great for all the family’ category. It’s a great set of equipment for most workout purposes, but heavy weightlifters might need something a bit bigger. (See below for info on PowerBlock Elite dumbbells.)
For most of our picks, we’ve tended towards fairly high-end dumbbells, with a high upper weight level, suitable for quite serious weight training over many years. However, you might want more basic, lighter adjustable dumbbells instead, at a lower cost. Perhaps you’re new to weight training and want to start small, or perhaps you want dumbbells that are suitable for physical therapy rather than heavy weightlifting.
ProForm 25lb Adjustable Dumbbell Set
If this is the case, the ProForm 25lb Adjustable Dumbbell Set is a good bet. For its price you get a pair of dumbbells with a maximum total weight of 25lbs (12.5 lbs each) which adjust in 2.5lb increments using a simple pin mechanism. Their design is compact and solid, and a storage tray for each dumbbell is included.
Weider Speed Weight Adjustable Dumbbells
Another good option for a more basic adjustable dumbbell set is the Weider Speed Weight Adjustable Dumbbell. They’re fairly similar to ProForm’s product in both appearance and performance, but are currently available at the slightly cheaper price. Again, you get a pair of dumbbells in a storage tray, each adjustable between .5 and 12lbs. The adjustment system uses knobs at the end of the dumbbells.
For our picks, we’ve chosen the adjustable dumbbells that we think have qualities that put them ahead of the rest. But the decisions haven’t been easy. There are a lot of great adjustable dumbbells on the market today, and although we’ve given top status to our main picks, there are many others worth considering. Here’s a run-through of some of the competition:
PowerBlock Elite 50 Pounds Dumbbells Set
PowerBlock Elite 50 Pounds Dumbbells Set is basically a heavier version of PowerBlock’s Speedblock model, our Budget Pick. Featuring the same square design and selector pin mechanism, the Elite model has 16 possible weight adjustments over a weight range of 5-50 lbs per dumbbell. If you want an even heavier workout, further extension packs are available that take the top weight up to 70 or 90 lbs. If the compact, space-efficient PowerBlock design appeals to you, but you want more weight than is offered by the Speedblock, then the Elite is the way to go.
Ironmaster 45 lb Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System
In a similar vein, the Ironmaster 45 lb Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System is a lighter version of our Step-up Pick, Ironmaster 75 lb Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System. This is a good option if you like the look of the premium 75lb Quick-Lock, but don’t need as much weight on each dumbbell. It sports the same features, such as the Quick-Lock weight adjustment system and chrome-plated welded steel construction, but has a smaller weight range of 5 – 45lbs. The price tag is also lighter but it should be noted that this model doesn’t come with its own stand.
Bayou Fitness Pair of Adjustable 50 lb Dumbbells
Another adjustable dumbbell option is the Bayou Fitness Pair of Adjustable dumbbells. These dumbbells use a slide system to adjust weight, with nine possible adjustments between 10lbs and 50 lbs. Although Bayou doesn’t have as high a profile as Bowflex or Powerblock, these dumbbells are a solid, good quality product. They are very durable, with a heavy duty chrome plated steel construction, and come with their own storage trays.
Universal Powerpak Adjustable Dumbbells with Stand ‘ 4-45 lbs
Universal Powerpak Adjustable Dumbbells are another very good set of equipment. Their current price includes a stand and workout guide along with the pair of dumbbells. This model uses a dial system ‘ you turn a dial at the end of each dumbbell, for quick and easy weight adjustment. Each dumbbell has a weight range of 4 to 45 lbs, adjustable in 5lb increments. This product has strong safety features, with a proprietary plate locking mechanism to prevent accidents and a thermoplastic rubber handle that gives a non-slip, comfortable grip.
StairMaster Twistlock Adjustable Dumbbells (100 Pounds)
StairMaster Twistlock Adjustable Dumbbells (100 Pounds) are a bit more expensive, but do have a range of great features that justify this premium price. The Twistlock weight changing mechanism is one of the most user-friendly on the market. It lets you change weight simply by placing the dumbbells in their tray and adjusting the dial on the side ‘ you don’t even have to let go of the dumbbell to do it. The weight range goes from 5 lbs to 50lbs on each dumbbell. The Twistlock’s design is compact, with a strong, attractive appearance.
Frequently asked questions
Is it really worth spending extra for adjustable dumbbells, when the traditional kind costs less?
Obviously only you can make this decision, but here are some factors to consider. With an adjustable dumbbell, you’re paying a bit extra for convenience of use, and ease of storage. Traditional dumbbell setups involve either a set of several individual dumbbells of varying weights, or different weights that need to be unscrewed and re-attached to the pole. The first type takes up a lot of space, and the second type means constantly having to go through a laborious process of weight changing, especially if the dumbbells are used by different people who work out with different weight levels. Unless there’s plenty of spare space at home, many people decide that it’s worth investing in an adjustable dumbbell in the long term, to ensure great workouts over many years.
Do adjustable dumbbells require much maintenance?
You don’t need to do too much to maintain your adjustable dumbbells, as a good quality set is made of very strong materials and built to last. However, taking care with a few small steps will ensure that nothing goes wrong with your equipment, and that you can have problem-free workouts for years to come. Firstly, make sure that you keep your dumbbells clean. Wiping them with a cloth every few days ensures that sweat, dust and other debris will not build up and interfere with the moving parts. Secondly, when the dumbbells are not in use make sure they are stored in a dry place away from direct sunlight. This prevents rust and fading. Finally, you should carry out a checkup of your dumbbell’s moving parts, every few months. Making sure that all the small components of the locking pin mechanism are moving properly will remove any risk of injury from a malfunctioning dumbbell. If you follow all these steps, your adjustable dumbbell should keep you going for a lifetime.
Wrapping it up
We’ve looked at a lot of adjustable dumbbells during this review, focusing mostly on mid-range equipment that is suitable for home use, while meeting the needs of those who are serious about working out. We’ve kept our standards high, reviewing only very good quality dumbbells. The Bowflex Select Tech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells stands out as the best adjustable dumbbell of the pack. Of course, this quality doesn’t necessarily come cheap; up to several hundred dollars might seem like a lot to pay. But if you do invest in a good quality set of equipment, you’ll reap the rewards, with really great workouts over many years that will keep your physique in peak condition.