Raise your hand if you’ve seen a corner — or perhaps more than that — of your bedroom or living room morph into a glorified weight rack over the past two years.
That’s where adjustable dumbbells can be so valuable. Allowing you a wide range of loads in a small package, adjustable weights provide the convenience of a home workout station without sprawling across half your bedroom floor. In this Best Fit showdown, Men’s Health fitness editor Brett Williams, NASM, and fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, pit the Bowflex SelectTech 552 and the PowerBlock Pro Series Expandable against each other to see how each adjustable dumbbell set performs.
While the Bowflex dumbbell and its textured handle is the better choice for doing biceps curls — an absolute must for dumbbell workouts — that’s counterbalanced by the extreme durability of the Powerblocks, which can take more of a pounding (not that you should be dropping your valuable dumbbells, especially if you have neighbors below you).
“The structure and distribution of weight is not like a traditional dumbbell, so I’m not anticipating getting that really, really good rotation when I’m doing some of my motions with the PowerBlocks,” says Eb, who has a garage gym setup in his own home. “This seems like a very load implement. [The Bowflex dumbbells seem] like something where if I’m in front of the TV I can easily see myself trying to get diesel, ”continues Eb. For those doing apartment circuits like Brett, this type of setup might come in more handy.
As Eb points out, for anyone looking to lift heavy, the Bowflex’s max weight clocking out at 52 pounds may not prove ideal for the presses, deadlifts, and other exercises that might require more load to make progress.
Here are the key specs of each adjustable dumbbells set:
Bowflex SelectTech 552
- 5 to 52.5 pounds (2.5 pound increments)
- Dial turn adjustment
- Grippy handle
- More budget-friendly option
PowerBlock Pro Series Expandable
- 5 to 50 pounds (2.5 pound increments)
- Expansion packs up to 90 pounds available
- Pull-and-slide adjustment
- More expensive
Nuts and bolts out of the way, the duo dive into testing the two pairs of adjustable dumbbells. For Brett and his at-home training situation in a smaller apartment, he gives the edge to the Bowflex weights, especially for the smooth transition between weight loads and the space-saving design. Eb, meanwhile is more keen on the PowerBlocks, mainly due to their ability to grow with him as he trains — the unit can take expansions of up to 90 pounds. He also cites their durability and weight distribution as a plus (though he concedes they aren’t great curling dumbbells).
Check out the full video above to see the weights in action, learn more about their specs, and find out which training moves are best suited for each product.
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