Adjustable dumbbells are the perfect addition to P90X. They are compact, easy to adjust, and offer just about as much resistance as you need. The two main choices out there are Bowflex’s Selecttechs and Powerblocks. There are other brands (LifeSmart, Wieder, Ironmaster, etc), but Selecttechs and Powerblocks are the two biggest names in adjustable dumbbells. I have owned — and used — both brands, so this will be a very honest review from my experience with both.
I blogged about this a while ago, but I keep getting questions! When you have been at this a while, you will looking for some bigger weights.
I am currently blessed enough to have a full set of real dumbbells from 5 to 100 lbs. I was given this awesome set by a big group of friends and Team Beachbody Coaches. I still can’t believe what an amazing gift they gave me. It’s awesome to get to have such an arsenal or weight! The downside of real dumbbells is obviously their price and the amount of space they take up. Otherwise, they rock!
Powerblock Adjustable Dumbbells
Powerblocks are nice adjustable dumbbells. They are well made and offer a lot of options. There are sets that range from 5-24lbs, all the way to 10-175lbs set! The sets all adjust weight by replacing the dumbbell in the base and removing an indexing bar that determines how many “plates” get lifted off the base. There are also smaller weights that can be inserted and removed from the handles to make smaller adjustments. They are very compact dumbbells. In fact, the size is the biggest benefit of the Powerblocks. They don’t take up as much room as other adjustable dumbbells.
However, there are also some major drawbacks to the Powerblocks. First and foremost, you have to plan on basically using only 10 lb increments for anything above 30 lbs. Sure, it’s possible to go 35, 45, etc, but to do so you literally have to remove weights from inside the handle apparatus. If you have 3 minutes to fiddle with it, great, but when trying to keep up with P90X or any other fast moving program, forget about it! More specifically, to get a 5 lb increment, you have to insert and remove the 2.5 lb bars from the base handle. You have to pull the pin from all of the plates, open the selector gate, and remove or add the two 2.5 lbs bars depending on if you want to go up 5 lbs or down. I never do this because it’s simply too much of a hassle and time loss. I only use my Powerblocks for 10 lb increments when super-setting with my Bowflex.
Selecttech Adjustable Dumbbells
Selecttechs are also really nice adjustable dumbbells. You can either by the 552 model dumbbells or the 1090s. The 552s offer a selectable weight range from 5 to 52.5 lbs. (2.5 lb. increments the first 25 lbs.). You change weights by returning the dumbbell to the base and turning a dial to the poundage you want. It really can’t get much easier than that. Selecttechs are a little longer than in most cases (this is the biggest drawback in my opinion).
My praise for Selecttechs is that they are fast! You can change weights in an instant. It is truly just a turn of a dial and you are ready to go. Compared to adjusting weights on the Powerblocks, I find that adjusting the pins for the Powerblocks takes me about twice as long as adjusting the dial on the Bowflex. This is another reason I always grab for the Bowflex as my default dumbbells, and use the Powerblocks as my “overflow” or super-set choice.
Selecttechs and Powerblock Adjustable Dumbbells Head to Head
So how do they compare?
Quality – Both are extremely well made. They aren’t like real dumbbells where you can drop them, but with regular care, they will both last a LONG time.
Size – Again it depends. If you get the 1090 Selecttechs, they are rather long and large. But then again, so are the Powerblock U-90s Stage II. Size really shouldn’t be a deciding factor for anyone between these brands. If you want really small dumbbells, Powerblock does have a 2.5 – 20 lb option (U-20s). Those will be very small and compact.
Easy of Use – That has go to the Selecttechs. As mentioned above, the new and larger Powerblocks are a bit of a pain to make small adjustments. Selecttechs are really as easy as spinning a dial.
Cost – I will try to compare apples to apples here: normally 552s sell for $349. The Powerblock U-90 Stage I (which are also 5-50lbs) sell for $379. Now you can always get sales on both the Selecttech and Powerblock adjustable dumbbells, so these are really too close to call. What does favor Selecttechs is that Bowflex runs very good deals, very regularly. For example, you can get a stand for $10 and freeing shipping right now if you bundle either the 552s or 1090s with a stand (normally $140).
Expandability – Powerblock wins here hands down. You have to pick the appropriate initial set, but you can really expand your weights with Powerblocks. The U-90s for example can be expanded all the way up to 125 lbs a hand! There is even a new heavy weight set (must buy a new set of Powerblocks) that range all the way up to 175 lbs a hand… that is intense.
Extras – I would call Powerblock and Bowflex pretty even here as well. Both companies offer sturdy, well made stands and benches. The Powerblock bench is actually the bench that Beachbody picked for the Body Beast program. It is rock solid and Beachbody has it priced right!
Final Verdict on Adjustable Dumbbells
I am going to have to give it to the Selecttechs. There isn’t an easier, nicer set of adjustable dumbbells out on the market. Most people can spend years with 5-52.5 lbs. I made it work like that forever. When 52.5 wasn’t enough weight (like for lawnmowers), I did more reps. If you find a deal, go with the 1090s right off the bat. With all that being said, if you find a gently used pair of Powerblocks on Craigslist for next to nothing, do NOT pass them up! I don’t think you would ever be disappointed by them. It is just my opinion and experience that between the two, I would prefer the ease of Selecttechs.
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