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  • Bowflex SelectTech 552

  • How We Tested Adjustable Dumbbells

  • What You Should Know About Buying Adjustable Dumbbells

  • Other Adjustable Dumbbells We Tested

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A man picking up a Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbell.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

We love how easy the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells are to use.

Best Overall
Bowflex SelectTech 552

The Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells are our favorite adjustable dumbbells for their easy-to-use design, variety of weights, and good looks.

One of the biggest pros that sets the Bowflex dumbbells apart is how easy it is to re-rack them. Adjustable dumbbells typically come in a tray that holds the plates not in use, and when that tray is smaller, the plates have a tendency to crash into each other and get stuck while replacing the dumbbells. The Bowflex dumbbells are exceptionally easy to re-rack because the tray separates the weight plates from each other. This made for the most enjoyable experience of any of the dumbbells we tested, and is the main reason Bowflex came out on top.

The Bowflex dumbbells also have one of the widest varieties of weights, ranging from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds and replacing 15 pairs of dumbbells. They increase in 2.5-pound increments up to 25 pounds, and 5-pound increments after that. The smaller weight increases made a huge difference in my workout. Before these tests, I hadn’t regularly lifted weights for about a year, so being able to increase the load by 2.5 pounds instead of 5 or 10 pounds allowed me to progress more comfortably and avoid potentially straining myself.

The Bowflex dumbbells have lightweight, hollow-feeling handles, which I was worried would feel flimsy or unreliable, but they were surprisingly comfortable and sturdy throughout my workouts. The material covering the handle didn’t leave a rubbery feeling or any residue on my palms after a workout, which was the case with more than a few pairs on this list. The Bowflex dumbbells are also one of the few pairs that looked cool (for a set of weights, at least), which wasn’t a huge focus during our tests, but is a nice bonus.

But these dumbbells aren’t perfect. Across the category, adjustable dumbbells have several different mechanisms for changing the weight. On some you twist the handle, and on others you twist a knob on the end. Typically, either of these methods will change the weight on both sides of the handle at once. But with the Bowflex dumbbells, you have to twist a knob on each end of the weight, or else you’ll end up with an uneven load. I got used to this method of adjustment quickly, but it took slightly longer to do and wasn’t the most convenient during faster-paced workouts where rest breaks are short or nonexistent.

The Bowflex dumbbells are also slightly longer than some of the other pairs, due to the fact that the weight plates are spaced apart from each other. This increased length can feel uncomfortable during some movements for those with a smaller frame like me. I found the benefits outweigh the initial awkward feel, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Pros

  • Easy to use

  • Adjust in 2.5-pound increments

  • Smooth to re-rack

Cons

  • Takes longer than some to adjust weight

How We Tested Adjustable Dumbbells

A woman using the Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

We put these dumbbells through multiple rounds of testing to see which ones stood out.

The Tester

I’m Esther Bell, Reviewed’s health and fitness writer. Pre-pandemic, I enjoyed lifting weights at the gym but haven’t done so regularly for about a year now. I'd never used adjustable dumbbells before these tests, and was looking for a pair that would be fun to use and could satisfy people of all fitness levels.

The Tests

Before diving into any workouts, we made a list of qualities we wanted in a pair of adjustable dumbbells—the main one being how easy they are to use. If you’re using one pair of dumbbells for an entire workout, you want them to slide smoothly in and out of their trays, be comfortable to hold and maneuver in all sorts of exercises, and have a variety of weight options that are quick and seamless to switch between. Once we established what we were looking for, I completed three 20- to 30-minute sessions doing a variety of exercises with each pair to evaluate how they worked.

What You Should Know About Buying Adjustable Dumbbells

A close-up of a Core Home Fitness adjustable dumbbell
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

We took the weight range into account during testing.

Adjustable dumbbells are a great investment for folks looking to lift heavier weights at home while saving precious floor space. Instead of having five or more sets of dumbbells lying around, you have just one—albeit slightly larger—pair that you can use for multiple exercises. They may also save you money, as investing in individual pairs of dumbbells from 5 to 50 pounds (a typical range of the adjustable dumbbells we tested) could cost significantly more than the one pair of adjustables.

Related content

There are a few factors to consider when purchasing a pair of adjustable dumbbells, the first being the weight options and increments. Most of the dumbbells we tested maxed out at 50 pounds each. That may sound like a lot, but if you’re lifting weights regularly, you’ll find yourself squatting or deadlifting 100 pounds (both dumbbells) sooner than you think. On the other end of the load conversation, some dumbbells increase by 2.5 pounds, some by 5 pounds, and some by 10 pounds. Smaller weight increases allow you to perform a wider variety of exercises more comfortably, and let you avoid feeling like you don’t have the right equipment for certain moves.


Other Adjustable Dumbbells We Tested

Product image of Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Set
Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Set

The Core Home Fitness adjustable dumbbells were a close contender to the Bowflex SelectTech 552. These have a metal rod that lengthens from within the handle to secure to additional plates when you increase the load, which makes them appreciably shorter than the Bowflex weights especially at the lower end of the 50-pound max. The heavy-duty rod also makes them feel like a sturdy, long-lasting set.

However, to create a more compact pair of dumbbells, Core Home Fitness sacrificed having some separation between the weight plates in their tray. You have to be careful picking up and replacing these dumbbells, as the plates tend to knock against one another, get stuck in place, or fall over, making it trickier to get the dumbbells back into the tray.

The Core Home Fitness dumbbells increase by increments of 5 pounds (not the 2.5 you get with Bowflex), and I was able to complete a variety of exercises comfortably with them, even as I wished I could dial into 12.5 pounds or 17.5 pounds for certain moves. To alter the loaded weight, you twist the handle—one direction increases the weight, the other decreases. This method is easy and quick, but I found the bar mechanism occasionally got stuck while adjusting the weight and required a bit of jiggling to get it to “lock” into place. The handle is also covered with a rubbery material that I found grippy during my workouts but unpleasant after: It left a sticky feeling on my hands that wouldn’t wash off with soap and water or a Lysol wipe.

Pros

  • Feel sturdy

  • Load adjusts with a simple twist of the handle

Cons

  • Difficult to re-rack

  • Poor quality handle coating

Product image of Weider Select-A-Weight Adjustable 50 Pound Dumbbell
Weider Select-A-Weight Adjustable 50 Pound Dumbbell

As the least expensive option we tested, I wasn’t sure if Weider’s dumbbells would hold up to pairs that cost more than twice as much, but their quality pleasantly surprised me. They were comfortable to use during my workouts, easy to hold, and didn’t get stuck in the tray at any point.

The Weider dumbbells use a pin atop the weight plates to change the heaviness. To alter the load, you pull the pin up, slide it over to your desired weight from 10 to 50 pounds, and drop it back into place. It's easy to do, if not as quick as the Core Fitness weights, and this pair felt secure throughout my workout.

These dumbbells lost points for increasing in weight increments of 10 pounds, which made them less useful for certain exercises compared to pairs that increased by 2.5 or 5 pounds. Additionally, the handles left my hands feeling tacky after my workout.

Pros

  • Easy to change weight

  • Feel secure while exercising

Cons

  • Too few weight options

  • Leave a sticky residue on palms

Product image of Powerblock Pro EXP 50
Powerblock Pro EXP 50

The PowerBlock Pro Series dumbbells, which range from 5 to 50 pounds, tested exceptionally well for some of its features, but the drawbacks to this set of weights were equally major.

On the plus side, this boxy pair felt the best in my hands during my tests. The material coating the handles is grippy without feeling grossly rubbery, and these dumbbells seem heavy duty, like they would hold up over time. They were secure, sturdy, and felt like the highest quality dumbbells we tested.

My biggest gripe with the PowerBlock dumbbells is they are overly complicated to use. These have a distinct cube shape, and the weight plates are square, connected by color-coded rails that sit in front of and behind the handle, and stack inside one another. There is a goal post-shaped pin that sits horizontally between the rails. To change the weight by 10 pounds, you move the pin to the correct color rail (which you can find labeled on top of the weights).

But changing the weight by 2.5 or 5 pounds is where it gets tricky. Below the handle, there are two similarly sized cylinders. Within each of these hollow tubes, there are removable 2.5-pound weights. To remove these smaller weights, you lift a small lever on the inside of the dumbbells, which opens a covering about 45 degrees, just enough to let the cylindrical weights slide out. Once you remove one or two of those weights, you can reset the dumbbells and adjust the pin to your desired weight. For example, if you remove one of the 2.5 weights, you can set the dumbbell to 20 pounds and lift 17.5 pounds.

Using the PowerBlock Pro dumbbells requires some math and some planning ahead. I found it easiest to take out one or two of the 2.5 pound weights at a time, adjust the pin with those weights out, and then reload them and complete your exercises that can be done at the 10 pound increments, to avoid loading and unloading the 2.5-pound weights multiple times. This, of course, means that I did my exercises out of their usual order, which could affect the quality of my workout or even the achievement of my goals. It was also frustrating when I forgot one of the exercises I wanted to do at say, 12.5 pounds, and had to go back and readjust the removable weights to finish my workout.

Their distinctive block shape was uncomfortable to use during some exercises as the side rails prevented my arms from moving as freely as I'd like. Additionally, any exercise I did with 10-pound setting felt awkward as the weight isn’t evenly distributed. When set for that weight, half of the weight comes from the handle and weight plates, and the other half comes from those pesky cylindrical weights below the handle. Because of this, you can feel that the weight is concentrated at the bottom of the dumbbell where the removable weights are, which makes for uncomfortable movements.

What’s more, the PowerBlock Pros are the only pair with a notable weight discrepancy. We weighed each of the dumbbells we tested at 10 and 50 pounds for raw accuracy and consistency from one dumbbell to the other. While most were accurate, PowerBlock’s “10-pound” dumbbells turned out to weigh 12.5 and 12.6 pounds each, a whopping 25% error. (And yes, I triple-checked I was reading the weight display correctly.)

Pros

  • Feel secure

  • Made with comfortable materials

Cons

  • Overly-complicated to use

  • Cube shape feels awkward

Product image of Flybird 55lbs Adjustable Dumbbell
Flybird 55lbs Adjustable Dumbbell

The Flybird dumbbells, which adjust from 11 to 55 pounds, are some of the more compact dumbbells we tested. The handles are made of a lightweight plastic that I assumed would be flimsy but felt surprisingly secure throughout my workouts. However, these dumbbells weren’t very easy to use and I had some frustrations while testing them.

The Flybird dumbbells increase by weight increments of 11 pounds, the heaviest and least useful of any of the dumbbells we tested. To adjust the weight, you twist the handle (like the Core Home Fitness ones), but I found the handle got stuck while changing weights frequently. While the weight plates shifted slightly while I was replacing the dumbbell in its tray, it wasn’t too inconvenient. In the end, these dumbbells would get the job done but aren’t an outstanding pair.

Pros

  • Feel secure while exercising

  • Compact

Cons

  • Weight increases in 11-pound increments

  • Tricky to change weight

Product image of NordicTrack Select-A-Weight 55 Lb. Dumbbell Set
NordicTrack Select-A-Weight 55 Lb. Dumbbell Set

The NordicTrack Select-A-Weight dumbbells were comfortable and felt fairly sturdy, but were disappointing, particularly as they rang in as the most expensive pair on the list. These dumbbells have a weight range of 10 to 55 pounds, and use a similar “pull-the-pin” adjustment method as the Weider dumbbells to change the weight by 10 pounds. They also have an additional dial on the inside of the weights that lets you add on 2.5 or 5 pounds for more nuance.

While the pin is easy to move, the dial is awkward and inconvenient to use. Additionally, the weight display on the tray is too small and difficult to read. While you can load 20 pounds on the dumbbell by placing the pin in the correct spot, you can increase that to 22.5 or 25 pounds by turning the dial. Both the highest and lowest weight options are unnecessarily listed in one tiny space on the tray, and having two weights listed for each plate is confusing. The NordicTrack dumbbells are also difficult to replace in their trays, as the weight plates shift around and get stuck almost every time you use them.

Pros

  • Many weight options

Cons

  • Difficult to replace in the rack

  • Awkward to change weight

Product image of Ativafit 55 Lbs Adjustable Dumbbell
Ativafit 55 Lbs Adjustable Dumbbell

The first thing to know about the Ativafit dumbbells is that the weight is measured in kilograms, which required me to do a bit of math because I’m not used to the metric system. For starters, I had to remember that one kilogram equals 2.2 pounds (not the easiest value to run calculations around), and the weights increase in 2.5-kilogram increments, which translates roughly to 5.5 pounds. This means that the lightest weight is 5.5 pounds and the heaviest, 25 kilograms, equals about 55 pounds.

The design of the adjustments makes this infinitely worse, as twisting the dials in one direction elicits increases from 5 kilograms to 10 kilograms to 15, and so on; twisting back to the start in the opposite direction gives you 2.5 kilograms, then increases to 7.5 kilograms, 12.5 kilograms, 17.5 kilograms. Not only that, you must depress a safety-lock button while turning the knobs. It’s not intuitive and makes selecting your weight more difficult than it needs to be.

Overall, I had an extremely difficult time using these dumbbells, as they also got stuck on the other weight plates almost every time I replaced them in their tray. Additionally, the handle has a sticky rubbery feel to it that’s uncomfortable to touch.

Pros

  • Plenty of weight options

Cons

  • Difficult to adjust weight

  • Plates get stuck in the tray

Meet the tester

Esther Bell

Esther Bell

Staff Writer, Health and Fitness

Esther is a writer at Reviewed covering all things health and fitness.

See all of Esther Bell's reviews

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