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The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells are arguably the most popular adjustable dumbbells in the world. They’re quick to change, available everywhere, have a decent max weight, and are priced extremely affordably. Although I prefer other adjustables above these for various reasons, if you’re on a budget, the 552’s are a tremendous value, although not without some quirks.
In my quest to help home gym owners find the best adjustable dumbbells for their training, I’d be remiss to not review the Bowflex SelectTech 552’s. These dumbbells are extremely popular, largely because they’re priced so competitively. I love how quick they are to change in weight and how cheap they are, but there are definitely some issues with durability and the lack of upgradeability that causes them to be beat out by competitors that we’ve reviewed like Powerblocks as well as Ironmasters. Let’s get into the review.
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells are a prime example of the company's focus on budget-friendly equipment for the home gym owner. The 552’s are not the best adjustable dumbbells on the market, but, for the price point, they’re a tremendous value.
Some of the specs...
The weights can be adjusted from 5 to 52.5 pounds in increments of 2.5 pounds up to 25-pound increments and then more random weight adjustments after that.
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells come with selection dials, which enable you to adjust the weights with ease. This means that switching from one exercise to another is pretty straightforward; all you need to do is turn the dial and you can amend the resistance so the weight can be gradually increased (think progressive overloading and linear progression.)
The SelectTech series of dumbbells include the 552’s (this review) and the 1090’s. Both sit in a plastic stand that allows the excess weights that aren’t in use to be left in the tray when the dumbbells are used. This is the same for the 840 Adjustable Kettlebell which we’ve reviewed.
Adjustable dumbbells are the obvious choice for a home gym and the 552’s are a proven model, although with some quirks. Let’s discuss what I like...
Although a bit unique in their design in comparison to traditional fixed dumbbells, the Bowflex 552 Adjustable Dumbbells do a lot well when you compare them to their price and their competition.
Out of all the adjustable dumbbells I’ve tested and reviewed (I currently have 12 in my garage gym and more elsewhere) I’d say that these are among the best value adjustable dumbbells for those one a budget. When it comes to price, the value of the 552’s are pretty hard to beat (which is kind of Bowflex’s sweet spot, anyways.)
Available for less than $350, shipped, they represent a piece of equipment that can provide a ton of fitness in a small package for a great value(which is kind of the value proposition of all adjustable db’s.) When compared with the competition, the price savings are evident. For example, Ironmaster Quick-Lok Adjustable Dumbbells are priced at $429 for a lighter weight set and the Powerbock Sport Series is $350, but without the cost of shipping.
Outside of the price point, the greatest feature is their ease of adjustment. In our opinion, the only pair of dumbbells that’s easier to adjust is the NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells which we’ve reviewed. It took around 7 seconds to adjust from the base weight of 5 LB up to the max of 52.5 LB.
This is one of the best features of the entire SelectTech series including the 1090’s and the Bowflex 840 Kettlebell that we’ve reviewed. The selector dials on the ends of the dumbbells are smooth and adjust very quickly. They give an audible noise that they weight has changed that, as silly as it sounds, is extremely satisfying. I’ve found myself turning them more than necessary just because it feels and sounds good (I’m aware that’s ridiculous.)
This quick changing of the weight allows supersets to happen much quicker than loadable dumbbells or even some adjustable dumbbells like Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells allow.
I’ve found that most people using Bowflex dumbbells are looking more at general fitness training or bodybuilding type of movements. This makes the ability to adjust the weight quickly imperative.
One thing that SelectTech’s allow that not even most dumbbell racks in commercial gyms is offering weight increments in 2.5 LB. The 552’s adjust by 2.5 lbs every click of the dial for the first 25 lbs and then 5 LB thereafter.
The ability to increase the weight in finer detail allows the trainee to increase the weight slower prolonging an oncoming plateau. A primary component of strength training is linear progression, essentially adding more weight to your lifts each workout, so the more refined progression, the better.
They have a cool design and they are very compact compared to a full set of dumbbells, which means they won’t take up a lot of space in your home. Boasting a sleek red and black design, the dumbbells look great as well, which is always a nice touch as the equipment you enjoy looking at, will be used more often.
The trays allow the dumbbells to be placed in many different places and if the dial is placed between weight increments, the entire carriage can be moved by holding the dumbbell handle. Something we think is ideal for those that move their equipment from say a closet where they store equipment to their workout area.
Again, it’s all about that convenience factor when it comes to working out from home, and you can tell that this is something Bowflex has taken into account. Placing it in the tray is pretty fast and doesn’t require a ton of time to line up after you’ve done it a few times.
The handle is about 5”, which is similar to fixed dumbbells and makes it feel balanced in the hand. One feature that Bowflex markets that doesn’t matter much to me, but may to you is that the dumbbells are also quiet during use because there are no metal weight plates clanking. This can be beneficial though if you workout early in the morning and you don’t want to wake up others in the house.
The SelectTech 552’s have been on the market for over a decade with thousands of positive reviews and many people that are big fans of the design.
As is the case with most of the home equipment that we try out, we do feel that there are some areas where the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells could improve. So, here are some of the things that we weren’t big fans of:
The 552’s (as well as the 1090’s) are very bulky, even at a lighter weight. It’s the same length no matter the weight used, so it’s always pretty wide. This makes it difficult on certain movements like bench presses, rows, and curls. When you compare the length of the 5 LB SelectTech 552 Dumbbell and a 5 LB fixed dumbbell, it’s quite comical to see the difference. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but be aware that it can be annoying.
In addition to the length, at 52.5 LB max weight, it’s still too light for many. A lot of people will find that it’s better for accessory movements or high reps. I think this is a given as you’ll know before buying if it’s too light, but for many men I talk to, they find they outgrow the set. This brings me to another downside…
The Bowflex 552’s aren’t upgradeable. Dumbbells like Powerblocks and Ironmasters can increase in weight over time as your strength and pocketbook increases. The 552’s are 52.5 LB at their max weight and can never be heavier.
Another part of the 552’s that we’re not fans of is the amount of plastic used, which leads to a shortened lifespan and obviously is not great in terms of the environment either. The inside connector pieces are plastic and have shown that they can crack, potentially dropping a weight plate and causing injury, so please do be mindful regarding this. The stand is also plastic and can crack. While there is no denying that this is one of the most affordable products on the market, this has come at a cost of using plastic, so durability is compromised to a degree.
The handle has a rubber grip that ends up spinning and can be pulled off. It’s very annoying. Knurling would be a marked improvement and not the nippling “knurl” found on the 1090’s handles as it’s no good either.
Lastly, the SelectTech Dumbbells will break if you drop them. Of course, no one intends to drop their dumbbells, but it can happen, especially if you’re pushing yourself. However, if you do this, they could break and it will void your warranty.
If you’re on a budget and don’t plan on ever lifting more than 52.5 LB, the SelectTech 552’s are a tremendous value.
Although I’ve pointed out a lot of things I’m not a big fan of, there’s still a lot to like. The weight is quick to change, the price is very affordable, and they are somewhat durable if you treat them with care.
I am a fan of 552’s, just know that you get what you pay for.
Finally, we will round off by taking a look at how the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells shapes up against the competition:
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells vs Powerblock Dumbbells
The Powerblock Dumbbells are very easy to adjust, just like the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells are. They use a unique, patented click system, which works very well. The Powerblocks Elite set, however, will go up to 90 lbs and is upgradeable.
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells also offer quieter use, as the Powerblocks dumbbells can rattle a little bit.
However, I prefer the Powerblocks Elite Set for most.
If you’d like to see our comprehensive review on Powerblocks, check it out here.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells vs Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells
Ironmaster Adjustable Dumbells are more suitable if you’re looking for a larger weight range, as they go from 5 lbs to 75 lbs standard. There are also additional kits available, which can bring the maximum up to 120lbs and 165 lbs. They also have the 2.5 lbs increments, like the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells.
On the flip side, the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells are more affordable and you do not need to go through the hassle of working out how much metal to add every time. For those that lift heavy, I recommend the Ironmasters.
You can find our full, in-depth review on Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells here.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells vs NUOBELL Dumbbells
Finally, the NUOBELL Dumbbells boast a strong, steel construction, which appeals to many, yet they are a lot more expensive than the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells. The NUOBELL has a maximum weight of 80 lbs.
The NUOBELL’s are also the only dumbbells that are faster to change the weight than the Bowflex’s. I think the SelectTechs are a better value, although they’re very different dumbbells as their price points and max weight are vastly different.
Check out our detailed review on NUOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells here.
How does the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbell feel versus a traditional dumbbell?
Fixed dumbbells are a lot more compact and are quieter to use. The 552’s aren’t as well balanced as they’re a lot longer than fixed dumbbells, like the REP Rubber Hex Head Dumbbells in my garage gym, but you’ll get used to it after a few workouts.
How heavy do the Bowflex 552 Dumbbells go?
The weights can be adjusted from 5 to 52.5 lbs.
Is the handle grippy?
Yes, the handle features a rubber grip. However, do be mindful that the grip is prone to ending up spinning and can be pulled off. I would prefer metal knurling like is found on a barbell.
What weight increments are possible with the Bowflex 552 Dumbbell?
The weights can be adjusted from 5 to 52.5 lbs in increments of 2.5 lbs up to the first 25 lbs. After this, the increments are 5 lbs.
Are they durable?
To a degree; they are made from plastic, which shortens their lifespan, so you do need to be mindful of this when using the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells. However, I would avoid dropping them at all costs and if you treat them carefully, they should prove to last a long time. Do expect some scuffs and scratches on the plastic weights that attach to the handles though.
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